I Ain’t Afraid of No Black Bird, Part VIII:A Profile of Our Villainess, Eureka Deveraux

You will recall, dear reader, one young Eureka, whom we left after Imago the raven had plucked out her eye. This is her story, or rather, how it begins….

Miss Eureka Deveraux went through life without a name until she was at least eight years old, or so run the rumours among the young men of London Town. Until then she was referred to only as “Darlin’” by her dear Daddy and “Petit “ by her sweet Maman. They just couldn’t find a name in either of their languages for anything as lovely as she. Often Mr. Deveraux would stretch his braces and let them slap up against his chest: it was a good match which he had made. The result of Mr. Deveraux’s transaction with the former Miss Vivie de Chanson was a baby girl as fine as French Soufflé and as prickly as a Southern rose.

And then came a very special day.

Maman’s old friend –the French poet known only as Deblou –came to visit Daddy’s plantation in search of peace for his lungs and his suffering mind (which of course bore the weight of the whole of France). He hadn’t written a poem in over a year; not a sonnet, not a stanza, not a verse. Maman had said that ‘The American South’ – a blank, unthinking slate compared to France – would clear his head.

But, as it turns out, his head wasn’t to be cleared, it was to be filled. Filled with words once again! Setting eyes on the eight year old girl, he proclaimed her, quite instantly, to be his muse. Every night one could hear the voice of Deblou, accent as swishy as a ruffled skirt, proclaiming the philosopher’s “Eureka!” And since then the name has stuck.

But word of muses spreads fast, and by the time Eureka was twelve, the Deveraux Estate had become a circus for fops seeking Southern hospitality. So Terrence Deveraux stretched and slapped his braces as he was wont to do and shipped himself and his family off to terrible, dreary old England, where, he had heard, the climate much resembled the people – mild-mannered for the most part, and of a formal and suppressed passion.

Little did they know that a scruffy little raven, not quite yet dead, and more or less alive, was to mark their poor Eureka for good…

One month after the brutal plucking of her eye by the bird, she still lies in bed, buried under pink frills, her curls in a white bonnet. Daddy, wanting to please his darlin’ princess, brings her a pretty parcel wrapped up in hearts and ribbons. He places it by her limp wrist and leaves the room. In distraction it is opened and out comes the finest eye-patch old money can buy from the tailors: white silk edged in the daintiest lace trimming. Right in the middle hovers a real gambling man’s ace – fiery red and trumping all.

Eureka blinks, unsure. In steps Maman, who kneels down to hold her Eureka’s hand, shaking it with imploring vigour. She begins, in her soothing voice,

– “Oh Eurheka, Eurheka, my dear Petit, do not wallou zo…life, z’it haz dealt you a bad card, but only zat you may pick z’anoder ace!”

Vivie Deveraux’s head collapses onto the bed, weeping. Eureka gingerly pulls the eye patch over her head and looks into the mirror above her vanity. Eureka is ginger no more….