Grand Duchess floats back to town

The last time I heard from the GD was during the French Quarter Festival, when her neighbor delivered a message to me from an alert Duchess, who spied me from her balcony. That post
As I know that the Duchess locks up her house for the summer and takes long trips east and west (“never South or North my dear; there’s been entirely too much traffic in THOSE directions over the years”), I was surprised when I noticed the curtains blowing out from her 3rd story. I rang the bell and was admitted warmly by her live-in, Miss Maude who looked fresh as a daisy in the 96 degrees, as all true New Orleans ladies do.
I knew to wait for the Duchess in the cool, darkish middle room on the second floor, which is where she receives guests in the summer. I sat in the large wicker chair after making myself a lemon ginger drink from the tall pitcher, mixed together with ice from the bar freezer and mint from her glorious garden.
garden description

I could hear the muted chatter from nearby streets and feel the fans churning above me. The second floor seems cooled by old-fashioned architecture and strategic breezes rather than too-large air conditioning machines (as the Duchess calls them).
I sat relaxing and cooling and opened my eyes when I smelled verbena. The Duchess had entered and was shooing one of the fattest of her cats to the next room. Soon after, she sat in her usual straight-backed chair across from me.
“I am surprised to see you home in the summer, Duchess”
We believe that in moments of high drama, our citizens need us to be alert.
“I assume you are referring to the historic river levels?”
We are referring to the Mississippi and Atchafalaya river levels, yes. It is our wish that no one suffers on behalf of the village’s residents, but unfortunately, this time some will suffer to save the old city. We hope that our cousins in the Louisiana provinces know that our gratitude and empathy rises to them at this time
“Do you believe the levees will hold?”
We have personally inspected the levee in our village and believe it is safe. However, I cannot vouchsafe for the other villages surrounding ours and hope their royal servants are taking their citizens safety seriously.
“Duchess, I do not believe the other neighborhoods have a Duke or Duchess such as yourself that watch over them.”
(She looked at me sharply as if to gauge my seriousness and then shook her head sorrowfully)
If that is true, our concern is profound for those places. We hope that someday they can restore a personage to serve their needs.
In any case, we must all remember that water is both our saviour and our curse. We cannot control the mighty rivers forever, so must live in such a way as to not draw their ire and still prepare for the days that the water will change its course. We have been thinking a great deal on this subject and offer these decrees:


All villagers must teach each other basic swimming techniques.

All villagers should keep a flotation device available.

The staff of Loyola Avenue must ask for widow’s walks or wrapping galleries to be built on all new buildings above one story.

Second and third floor windows must have an exit path.

Those villagers with means should store expandable ladders of 15 feet or more on second floors or in attics. Rope ladders are more useful but must be inspected regularly for strength. (DW-I mentioned the usefulness and long life of nylon rope, an idea which pleased the Duchess and she begged me to insert the word nylon to the decree above.)

All villagers should make the acquaintance of at least one neighbor who seems to be alone and then to be responsible for that person in times of environmental or federal crisis.

After her decrees were stated, she rose, bade me to follow her into her library and showed me a brass bell and a beautiful old oar from a small boat. She told me they had been given to her by a grateful river pilot many years ago. As she went to ask Maude to show me out, I noticed an first English edition of Mark Twain’s “Life on the Mississippi” near the items and surreptitiously opened it to find this confounding inscription:

To the gracious lady downriver who watches over us all. Mark Twain

To read the original post explaining our Duchess:
Duchess

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About DW

New Orleans resident, writer, activist. Public market consultant.

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