When Laetitia walked into the kitchen of the Emerald Victorian to make coffee, her thoughts were on France. Was it the French Roast coffee in the packet? Maybe it was because of the prevalence of French place names she encountered after crossing into Canada, or perhaps it was that when she had returned to her apartment after conducting yesterday’s tour, she found a postcard from her grandmother.
The image on the front of the card was from an 1891 poster of Moulin Rouge: La Goulue by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. For some reason, Laetitia found La Goulue—the famous can-can dancer at the Moulin Rouge—fascinating. Her real name was Louise Weber. She acquired her stage name, translated as “the Glutton,” because she liked to dance among the tables of the Moulin Rouge, grabbing patrons’ drinks and gulping them down. Her panties, revealed when she raised her skirt and petticoats during the can-can, had a red heart embroidered over the groin. Sadly, after a number of years as the headliner and top-paid performer at Moulin Rouge, La Goulue died, alcoholic and destitute.
Laetitia’s mental sojourn in nineteenth-century France was brief. She took her tour group to visit an archeological site on the shores of Spednic Lake, on the border between Maine and New Brunswick. The area became known as Skedaddle Ridge during the 1860s, when residents of Maine fled across the border to avoid being drafted into the American Civil War. Afterward the Mind’s Eye group explored the lake in rented canoes before heading off to Manners Sutton, their destination for the evening. The community was named after John Manners-Sutton, Third Viscount Canterbury, who served as Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick from 1854 to 1861.
The bar conversation at happy hour was mostly in French. New Brunswick borders Quebec, where Quebecois French is the primary language, and Nova Scotia, where English is predominant. Laetitia had studied French in high school, but was hardly fluent. Fortunately Anaïs, the woman at the adjacent bar stool, spoke both languages. She had majored in art history and knew a great deal about Toulouse-Lautrec and La Goulue. As they were talking about Laetitia’s postcard and La Goulue, it seemed to be one of those “Speak of the devil and he doth appear” situations. A very cute girl began flitting from table to table, picking up drinks and gulping them down. “That’s Abril,” said Anaïs. “She’s a shameless flirt. If she isn’t careful, she will become an alcoholic like La Goulue.” On her way back to the hotel, Laetitia wrote the limerick of the day.
Young Abril is cute as a button
And the flirt of the town Manners Sutton
She’s a bit of a clown
As she throws the drinks down
Like that French cancan dancer, “the Glutton.”