Here is another brief excerpt from The Last Day of Forever, where Ethan is describing some of his family history.
My mother was the daughter of a Creole planter from New Orleans. My grandfather was a widower, having lost his two older children and later his wife to yellow fever. He took to strong drink and soon fell upon hard times. As a result of flooding two years in a row, he suffered disastrous crop failures and tried gambling to make up the losses. He proved to be as poor a gambler as he was a planter and quickly got so deep in debt he lost his land.
My mother was well educated, having been left in the care of the Ursuline nuns for her education. Not only was she intelligent, but she was also one of the most beautiful young ladies in New Orleans. She had long black hair and dark eyes to melt the heart of the hardest man. However, beauty and intelligence counted for little among the pseudo-aristocracy of New Orleans if you were without property, deep in debt, and your honor despoiled. In spite of this, she was in love with the son of a wealthy planter. The two young lovers spoke secretly of marriage, though she was barely sixteen, and he was seventeen at the time. The boy’s father would not have entertained for even a moment the suggestion that his son was contemplating marriage to the daughter of a pauper.
When Morgan Davis arrived in New Orleans, my grandfather and his daughter danced one step ahead of his creditors. Within hours of stepping off the boat, Morgan met my grandfather, who in spite of his poverty still dressed as if he were a man of means. The two struck up a casual conversation in one of the local coffee houses, and over brandy laced with bitters served in what the Creoles called a coquetier, Morgan spoke frankly of his plight. In about as much time as it takes to tell it, my mother was quite literally sold to Morgan like one of the Negroes. My grandfather’s debts were settled, and he was left with a small sum of money to start over. In exchange, my sixteen-year-old mother, sight unseen, was to become Morgan’s new bride.
It will surprise the reader to discover that Analee went along with this arrangement with only a brief protest. Now, you might ask yourself why my mother would consent to such if she were in love with another man? The answer is really quite simple: she had no other choice. She loved her father, and she knew the marriage to her young beau was impossible under the circumstances. Morgan offered financial relief for her father and a restoration of his honor only she could deliver by agreeing to the arrangement. Though older, Morgan was a handsome and wealthy gentleman, and could be quite charming when it suited him, and it suited him at this time. Thus, Analee did not find him totally unattractive.
“Honor” is a word you will see used often in this story. It is variously described as an unsullied reputation free from even the suggestion of impropriety, with perseverance in the face of adversity, unbowed by suffering, and a high disdain for those who hold to a lower standard. Honor is not viewed lightly in the Creole culture of Louisiana. It is like a magic badge bestowed by the gods. Its mere possession endows its holder with special powers and prestige, and with this often comes the right connections and at least the appearance of wealth. Personal and business relationships hinge on honor. With it you are someone; without it you are no one. Thus, the possession of honor is valuable currency. However, hypocrisy is often its stable mate, and honor can become the handmaiden of many less than honorable deeds.