For chapter one of this classic HIBK tale, as imagined by the Passing Tramp, see here
In the vast, old-fashioned kitchen of Brulee Hall, ancestral home to generations of proud and tempestuous Brulee gourmands, Creme sprinkled cinnamon and ginger over the cornmeal and milk mixture that was the base of the Brulee family's hasty pudding, renowned throughout Bayou Brulee--and several adjacent bayous even.
Soon in the still elegant, if admittedly now somewhat dilapidated, dining room of Brulee Hall Creme would present a steaming, mouth-watering pudding to the assembled guests who had gathered to welcome Creme's former fiancee, strapping Boeuf Bourguignon, and his new bride, Creme's very own stepsister, Star (Anise) Bourguignon, on their return home from their honeymoon in the delightful and fascinating Dutch town of Vlaardingen, home of the world's largest herring festival.
As the warm, pungent smell of cinnamon and ginger tickled Creme's delicate, aristocratic nostrils, Creme thought back to that day--could it really just have been a few days ago--when she had returned to Brulee Hall to see the man she had always dearly loved married to the woman she would have dearly loved to shove head first into the hasty pudding she was making. Well, just a little bit, anyway.
Creme in the event had not been able to attend Boeuf and Star's wedding after all. Creme's beloved great-aunt, dear old Vicky Soise, for whom Creme served as companion, had come down with yet another one of her sudden, painful attacks of gout, forcing kindhearted Creme to stay with the ailing lady for two weeks, until the worst of the perils had passed.
When she had recovered somewhat, darling Aunt Vicky had insisted, in that endearing imperious way she had, that Creme personally deliver to Boeuf and Star her wedding present of five dozen solid silver herring forks, just the thing for a young couple recently returned from the Vlaardingen Herring Festival.
"You can never have enough herring forks, child!" boomed indomitable Aunt Vicky from the depths of her sickbed. "Give Boeuf a peck for me, and for goodness' sake, don't go and kill Star!"
Words Star was to remember long after that succession of bloodcurdling
horrors at Brulee Hall had culminated in Creme's fearful midnight quest
to the Brulee family cemetery, where Creme had discovered, to her
uttermost terror, that it really was true: you can't have enough herring forks
It had been old Gumbo, the loyal Cajun family servant to the Brulees for more years than Creme could remember, who had greeted Creme at the massive double doors of Brulee Hall.
"Oh, Miss Creme, can it really be you?" cried Gumbo. "Thank heaven you're here!"
"Oh, Gumbo," answered Creme, tears pricking her eyes at the staunch loyalty of this good old retainer, "It is indeed I, your little Creme! It's good to be back, though I wish...."
"I reckon I knows what you wish, Miss Creme," answered Gumbo, crafty in her unsophisticated yet rustically charming country way, "And I sure does wish it too! What Master Boeuf, a rare fine man if ever there was one, sees in that Miss Star with all her highfalutin airs and graces, when everybody round these parts knows what her momma was--a shameless hussy and a gold digger to boot--I'm sure I can't say!"
"Hush, Gumbo," chided Creme. "I know you mean well--and I can't say I really disagree with you--but we mustn't talk of these things. For Boeuf's sake, if for no other reason."
Muttering that there was a thing or two that she could tell Creme about that Star, you couldn't pull the wool over old Gumbo's eyes, the faithful Gumbo led Creme to Creme's old childhood bedroom, once the precious sanctuary where a young Creme--though admittedly shy, such a lovely and sweet-natured child--had dreamed her fond, adolescent dreams of life happily ever after with Boeuf, though now only a poignant reminder of dreams dashed and hopes hurled down to the floor and stomped with Star's stiletto heels.
"Aren't there other servants?" Creme queried curiously. "Surely Star can't expect you, an old woman, to manage Brulee Hall all alone, especially when she now has Boeuf's cattle fortune at her beck and call."
"I'd sooner run Brulee Hall all by my lonesome than have to rely on them two no-goods she brought with her back from some of them foreign parts!" spat Gumbo disgustedly.
"Those two who?" queried Creme, wondering in her head whether that sounded quite right and thinking how tiresome it was being the lead genteel character in a Golden Age mystery and thus expected always to speak properly.
"Those two who?" quoted Gumbo, who was thankful not to have to worry about those things, being a rustic local color type. "I'll tell you who two, Miss Creme! Why, that nasty, sneaking butler, Bovril--from England
I here tell--and that French maid Bernaise--a saucy one she is, always prying and peeping about! They'll be back soon--don't trust neither of 'em whiles you're here, Miss Creme!"
"I don't expect that I shall be here very long," mused Creme, making a melancholy moue. "Star will probably find that too many cooks spoil Boeuf's broth....How is Boeuf, by the by?"
"Oh, Miss Creme! He's aged but he's handsomer than ever! To me he don't look too happy, though...with her
, that is."
"Hush, Gumbo! We mustn't speak of such things."
But could it be true,
Creme wondered to herself.
But even if it were true, Boeuf now was married to Star
He was her lawful wedded husband
and she was his awful wedded wife
Boeuf had even honeymooned with Star at the Vlaardingen herring festival
You couldn't get more married than that!
Resolutely Creme decided that she must not let false hopes rise. She deftly changed the subject.
"Who else will be staying at the house, Gumbo?"
"Besides you, Miss Creme, there's your Daddy's old law man, Mister Chowder, and Mister Haricot Vert--you remember him, don't you, Miss Creme?"
Haricot Vert! Of course she remembered handsome Hari Vert! The Verts were an old, aristocratic family from one of the neighboring bayous, Bayou Vert.
Hari Vert had always looked so dashing in his green jacket when he came to take Creme riding! People had thought he and young Creme might make a match of it someday, until Hari had inherited his wealthy lifelong bachelor uncle's whisk factory in Chicago and moved away, leaving an open field in which the brash Boeuf had boldly grazed. It had been years since she had seen Hari--what would he be like today?
And old Clem Chowder, that salty and sagacious Brulee family lawyer and friend. Originally from New England (of fine stock that went all the way back to the Mayflower), Clem had long ago established a successful practice in New Orleans, where he did a brisk bushiness with people from all the best bayous. It was Clem's legal expertise, Creme recalled, that had rescued Brulee Hall from the more importunate of the Brulee Hall creditors. Dear, old Clem Chowder!
"Well, I have things to be seeing to, Miss Creme," said the practical Gumbo, breaking into Creme's reverie. "You'll be wanting to take a nap, I reckon?"
"No, Gumbo, I find my memories assail me. I believe I shall take a stroll around the grounds of Brulee Hall. When will everyone be here?"
"Not for some hours yet, Miss Creme."
Creme contemplatively wandered out to the veranda, thinking of times long ago at Brulee Hall. Mint juleps on the lawn....All those hasty puddings....Hari Vert in his green riding jacket....And Bouef....
Bouef and Star....