The answer may lie in the case of Monsieur Boullemet and his violent passion for one of his slaves. Boullemet was married to a strict woman of high morals who would not brook any errors from her slaves. Madame Boullemet established a reputation for personally punishing even the slightest mistakes. She was not well liked in her home.
The illicit object of Monsieur Boullemet’s affection was a quadroon of exceeding beauty whose given name was Pauline. The brief notation of this incident in Gumbo Ya~Ya says that Pauline was “… a statuesque … beauty with flashing black eyes and pale golden skin.” Monsieur Boullemet’s infatuation with Pauline knew no bounds and they quickly became lovers after she entered his household on Bayou Saint Jean.
Pauline was both manipulative and ambitious. After capturing her master’s heart she encouraged him to distance himself from his wife and children. Boullemet moved his wife out of her bedroom and put Pauline there in her stead. By degrees, Pauline became mistress of the mansion while Madame Boullemet and her three children were moved to a small cabinet off the kitchen.
When Monsieur was called away to the east, Pauline made her final move. She stripped her former mistress and her three little ones of their clothes and chained them to the walls of the little cabinet. She tortured them mercilessly with hot coals and a bullwhip, according to what Madame Boullemet would later tell authorities. Pauline denied the family food and they wasted away in their hot, airless prison.
Eventually, friends of Madame Boullemet began to wonder about her when she did not appear in church or make her usual calls. The
police paid a visit to the home and, though Pauline insisted that the entire family had gone east with Monsieur, a search of the house revealed the wretched state of Madame and her children. Pauline was taken into custody and hanged in the city. Saxon tells us that five thousand of New Orleans ’ citizens turned out to see her die. New Orleans
What became of the Boullemet family, aside from the imposition of a relatively steep fine upon Monsieur, is not known. Pauline, though, is said to haunt the shores of Bayou St. John, her long hair flowing out in the breeze, a noose around her swanlike neck and her eyes glowing like the hot coals she had once applied to her lover’s wife. The story goes that seeing this specter can cause a pregnant woman to miscarry and a man to lose his “ability to perform”. Thus they say that even in death Pauline continues to assert her ambitions on all who witnessed her demise and their posterity.
Header: The Octoroon by John Bell