During the 19th Century, a third class of citizenry emerged in New Orleans which found itself caught between a rock and a hard place. These individuals were called Free Men of Colour and they were a mix of those who fled Saint Domingue (now Haiti) and former slaves who had managed to buy their freedom. Most often called Creoles, these people were neither part of the lowest class of slaves nor were they as high as the whites who dominated the South. Still, they dominated the city in their own way, bringing richness to a city that many would come to view as the most European city in America.
Out of this world of inbetween classes stepped the quadroons and octoroons of society. Being one fourth and one eighth black respectively, these women were of the most exotic beauty and sexual prowess. While New Orleans was pretty liberal in their views of slaves and free people of colour, the acceptance had its limits. The primary limitation imposed on Creoles – and these quadroons and octoroons specifically – was that there were to be no mixed marriages. Instead, quadroons and octoroons were mistresses for the white businessmen of the city. They lived lavish lives, often set up in their own mansions with slaves of their own and pretty much any desire fulfilled except that of marriage.
Enter into this world one octoroon named Julie, sex toy and secret lover to a wealthy Frenchman residing in the French Quarter on Royal Street. The Frenchman was young and unmarried and Julie fell deeply and desperately in love with her master. He seemed to return the feelings in equal measure, so in Julie’s eyes, marriage was the next logical step. Julie was, as with most other girls of her status, well-educated, young and exotically beautiful. That she was 1/8th black was of little consequence, or so she thought.
Many arguements ensued until finally the Frenchman devised a test that he believed would put an end to the matter simply because he didn’t think Julie would follow through with his demand. But Julie was desperate to prove herself and agreed to the test without knowing what he had in mind. His proposal was that to prove her love to him, she must stand outside naked until he returned that night to take her to bed. Julie immediately undressed and stepped out onto the balcony and into one of the coldest, wettest December nights the city had experienced in years.
Julie waited patiently on the balcony of the fourth floor of the home while her lover entertained a friend who had come for a visit. Heavy drinking ensued between the men and by the time Julie’s lover made his way up to the bedroom, he was too drunk to recall that Julie stood outside in the frigid rain waiting for him to put an end to the test and agree to marriage. He passed out on the bed, not to waken until morning.
As the sun rose with the new day, the Frenchman woke and recalled the test he’d put forth to his lover. Surely she hadn’t spent the whole night out on the balcony waiting for him to return? He recalled the freezing rain of the night before and hoped that she had simply come back inside and returned home a little angry at his drunken forgetful state. But when he opened the curtains of the French doors leading out onto the balcony, he saw her there, curled up, frozen and quite dead.
Versions of the Story:
Ghost of the Octoroon Mistress
The Octoroon Mistress
My Ghost Story, Chapter 2
Octoroon’s House (734 Royal Street)
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