It is purported that if you go into the Louisiana Bayou, you may find an old cabin sitting on the Atchafalaya Basin. It leans sadly, as rotting structures do. Its boards are intertwined with dark green vines, and it is surrounded by moss-covered cypress trees and saw Palmetto blades.
Traders and fishermen report on a certain night each year,this small cabin comes to life. The darkened windows light from within and two women can be heard whispering and gently laughing. It is said these two women are Marie and her daughter Rapadeen.
During the Great Depression, Marie, her husband, son Guillaume and Rapadeen lived near the Atchafalaya Basin. The husband braved the Basin everyday fishing and trapping to make a living for his family. But the Basin has no respect for any human and, one day, Rapadeen’s daddy went into the Basin and never returned.
Soon the small family was near starvation. Marie quickly became ill from the endless struggle against the merciless swamp. Rapadeen’s brother, Guillaume, was just a boy and a thin, frail child at that. It fell to Rapadeen to take care of the family.
Rapadeen learned much from her daddy. She trapped, fished and gathered moss to dry and sell or trade for goods. But the work took its toll. Most days Rapadeen came home with bleeding hands and an aching back. In spite of Rapadeen’s hard work, the small family spent many nights hungry.
Rapadeen was a beautiful, dark haired, dark eyed girl and dreamed of leaving the swamp and all its hardships behind.
Marie knew her child wanted to leave and was vulnerable to the first no-good scoundrel who came along. She warned Rapadeen against the scallywags and conmen who would take advantage of such a beautiful girl. She told Rapadeen to guard herself and hold out for a good, hardworking man who would take care of her.
Rapadeen argued with her Mama. “You don’t know me! You want me to stay in this swamp, marry a man from here and worry if I’ll eat at night or if he’ll ever come home. You don’t know me at all!”
The arguments between mother and daughter grew more intense until anger, as it can, replaced the deep love between them.
As chance would have it, Rapadeen met the no-good scoundrel her mother spoke of while she was poling the swamp in search of food for the family.
He approached her in his small skiff, in love with her beauty but not her.
Rapadeen remembered her mama’s warning, but fell in love with this conman hiding out from the law.
The chance meeting turned to frequent ones. They made plans to run away together.
Rapadeen was over the moon with happiness. She dreamed of marrying her handsome suitor and going to live with him in New Orleans where he would buy her fancy dresses and a fancy house.
The man had other plans. He would take her to New Orleans, of course. But he would not marry her. He would pass her around some of his friends for fun and money. He felt this only right since during the Great Depression one made money any way they could.
Mama Marie sensed something wrong with Rapadeen. She decided it was time to introduce her to young men, and she planned a celebration for the occasion. The word was sent out.
Rapadeen told her mother she did not want to go to any party.
Marie organized the party anyway, hoping Rapadeen would change her mind once she was caught up in the excitement of it all.
On the day of the get-together, Rapadeen did her cores lazily and dreamed of her new life. Tonight was the time to leave.
“Rapadeen, come in here and set the table for the party!”
Rapadeen came out of her daydream and did as she was told.
The party started early evening. Rapadeen waited.
When the music and the dancing began, Rapadeen snuck away from the small cabin. She looked back and caught a glimpse of her mama dancing with Guillaume.
Mama looks so young and beautiful tonight. She thought.
A tear trickled down her cheek as she got in her small boat and poled through the darkness to a small island, deep in the swamp.
Her young man was to signal with a lantern when she was close. Rapadeen reached the island. She tied up her small boat to a cypress tree felled by lightning. She slowly climbed onto the slippery tree and ever-so-slowly made her way to the island across the small channel the tree spanned.
She saw a light in the distance and called out to her beau to wait. She called out three more times, but no answer.
A whirring sound caught her attention. Rapadeen’s eyes widened as she saw a blue ball spinning toward her, spitting fire.
“FI-FO-LET.” She cried the name of an evil spirit said to haunt the swamps, looking to take souls.
Rapadeen turned and tried to hurry back across the tree. She put one foot in front of the other, then slipped. She tumbled into the water. She went down and fought to come back up. She fought until her breath ran out. She relaxed. Rapadeen saw her daddy and knew everything would be ok. He took her as she breathed her last breath.
The ghost light screeched as it missed taking a soul. Then, it heard a noise.
“Rapadeen?” A male voice called out. “Is that you?”
The ghost light shot toward the unsuspecting man. It was the last anyone saw of the scoundrel from New Orleans.
Marie knew her daughter was dead. She grieved because their last words had been harsh, unforgiving ones. Marie prayed for a sign that her daughter had forgiven her and was alright in the afterlife.
On the one-year anniversary of Rapadeen’s death, Marie had a dream: Rapadeen came to her. Each embraced the other and both forgave and were forgiven.
Marie awoke when she heard a clatter of dishes in the small cabin. She mustered her courage, lit her kerosene lamp and tiptoed toward the kitchen.
She gasped. The sweet smell of flowers filled the air. The table was set, like company was coming for party, and a large bouquet of red roses adorned the center of it. Marie knew Rapadeen had been there, if only for a moment.
Marie lived long enough to see her son grow up and be married. She lived in peace with the knowledge of the forgiveness between she and beloved Rapadeen.
So ends the story of Marie and Rapadeen. A story of a mother’s undying love for her daughter.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
©Mary Ann Poll
Source: The Haunted Bayou and Other Cajun Ghost Stories by J.J. Reneaux