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"He was dead, honey/' said Henry softly. "This Willie Morton, he wasn't no Creole—he was a sort of light brown-skin man, did portering jobs around hotels and clubs and things—a nice type of fellow." Jelly Roll preferred not to remember his porter father at all, but chose to say he invented the name Morton for business reasons.
"Just how Willie Morton died, I can't tell you,9' Said uncle Henry. "Off traveling somewhere. I think he drowned. Anyhow, Louise didn't live long after that. She was always healthy, but the pneumonia took her. Yes, it did. . . .*
"After that," Amede said "Ferd stayed most of the time with his godmother, Eulalie Echo. Used to love to stay Uptown with her. Lalee, he called her."
"Did you know her, M. Monette?" I asked Henry.
"I reckon so," he grinned. "I knew her so well, the first child I had birthed, she birthed it for me! She was a girl friend of mine for three years while she lived next door to the Monette house. Then she went back to Paul Echo and they moved in the Garden District.* I believe later on she married this Ed Hunter, drove a coal cart. . . ."
In the South you have to know people mighty well before they will talk about voodoo and old Henry hooted at the idea that Lalee had been a practitioner. Yet it seemed to me that perhaps old Henry was suspiciously overemphatic in his protests that voodoo was just humbug.
"No, Lalee was nothing of the kind," he said, while old man Colas smiled quietly to himself, "But she was crazy about that boy, much as if he was her own son. She sent him to professors and she pushed and advised him in every way to perfect himself on the piano. The family wanted to make a bricklayer of him, but Ferd was too smooth and clever a fellow. He preferred to sit in the parlor out of the sun and play piano. And he got to be the very best. At least that's what I hear. I never heard him actually play in life."
* To the corner o£ Fourth and Howard only a trumpet toot from Perdido St, Louis Armstrong's hangout.