The Creole Princess
rose and reluctantly backed toward the doorway, the strong scent of spirits overpowered the sickroom smell. She turned.
    His face was awful in its grief. Pushing Lyse aside, he stumbled into the room, grabbed fistfuls of his own hair, bent double as if he were the one in death throes.
    Lyse felt Grandmére pull her out of the room. In the kitchen, she flung her arms around Grandmére’s waist and burrowed into her in an attempt to block out the sound of Papa’s sobs.
    Grandmére held her tight for a minute, then gently led her out to the gallery. “Let’s sit on the steps. I have something for you.”
    “I don’t need a present,” Lyse said as she plopped down beside her grandmother on the top step. All she wanted was her mother. She crossed her arms over her knees and laid her head on them. She could still hear Papa crying through the open window.
    “No, it’s something my maman gave me when I needed it. Now it’s time to pass it on to you.”
    Lyse turned her head. “Which maman?” According to family legend, Grandmére had been adopted as an infant, her real mother being Grossmére Geneviève’s unmarried sister Aimée.
    “The one who loved me enough to give me her Bible and teach me to revere its author.”
    Lyse frowned, trying to disentangle Grandmére’s meaning. “Grossmére Geneviève?” she guessed.
    “Yes. She came to Louisiana when it was little more than a rotten fort and an Indian village or two. People say she came just to marry my papa, but she really came because of this Bible. She believed every word of it and read it every day.”
    “Like you do?”
    Smiling, Grandmére leaned over and picked up the Bible, which had been lying on the seat of one of the rocking chairs on the gallery. She sat there every morning as the sun came up, reading and rocking and praying under her breath. “I wanted to be just like her.”
    Grandmére was the happiest person Lyse knew. She slowly reached for the Bible. It was heavy, leatherbound, scarred from years of use. It pressed on her lap with the weight of wisdom. “Will you help me understand it? Grandpére says I’m smart, but—” she looked doubtfully at the Bible—“there’s an awful lot of big words in there.”
    Grandmére nodded. “There’s hard truth and stories of cruelty and evil as well, but there will also be help and encouragement when you need it. And stories of heroes who lived for God. Women who followed him even when their lives were difficult. GenevièveLanier was a woman like that. She had to keep her faith quiet for a time, but God protected her.”
    Lyse had heard the stories of the Huguenot persecution in France, how Geneviève and her sister Aimée had gotten on a boat with twenty-three other French brides-to-be, to come to New France and choose husbands from among the king’s explorers. Tristan Lanier had been a man among men, one of Bienville’s trusted advisors. When the settlement was moved downriver from the twenty-seven-mile bluff, he had been instrumental in choosing the present location. Still, he and Geneviève had built their home apart from the fort so that they could practice their Reformist faith without interference from the king’s Catholic prescriptions.
    “Why didn’t God protect Maman from the fever?” she asked.
    “Lyse, everyone dies, some sooner than others. We cannot know what lies behind God’s mighty purposes for those who love him. What you can know is that he is with you always, even now. He understands your grief, he weeps with you, he will hold you through it. Look at me, little one.” Grandmére took Lyse’s chin. “You must keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, no matter what happens.”
    Remembering that scene, Lyse looked at her brother with new eyes. He hadn’t been as close to Grandmére as she. No wonder he had a hard time with faith and forgiveness.
    Simon put an uncharacteristically gentle hand on her shoulder. “It was a hard time for us all, cher . Grandpére submitted to the

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