On the beautiful island of Martinique, many years ago, lived a French Creole family by the name of DuPres. Andre DuPres, one of the island's most prosperous plantation owners, was a widower and the father of two, attractive daughters with very different personalities. The oldest, Angelique DuPres, had piercing blue eyes and straw-colored hair, and was groomed to manage a household by both Andre and his spinster sister, Countess Natalie DuPres, who came to live with them after Andre's wife died. Angelique was a quiet, intuitive, and serious young lady. She wasn't what her father had expected at birth, meaning that she wasn't the son he wanted, leading him to have a sort of civil relationship with her while he spoiled her sister, Josette, rotten. He involved Angelique in his business affairs, mainly explaining the cropping cycles, harvest times, and teaching her to manage the accounts for crops bought and sold from their plantation. Unlike her father, Angelique was not indifferent to the sufferings of the slaves her family owned, but she had to keep her mouth shut and look the other way. However, what her father was unaware of was that she also 'looked the other way' when one or two slaves escaped in the night, praying for their safe journey. If they were caught and brought back, she would beg her father to have mercy upon them, sometimes to no avail. She could only do what she could.
Her younger sister, Josette DuPres, was two years her junior and Angelique's complete opposite. She had reddish-brown hair, big brown eyes, and was frivolous. She cared for no one's interests but her own selfish concerns, was careless, superficial, and threw enormous tantrums when she didn't get her way. Since she was Andre's favorite, there would usually be constant bickering between Angelique, Andre, and Natalie, and especially between Angelique and Josette. The most controversial topic of their arguments was Josette's naughty habit of stealing Angelique's personal property like parasols, jewelry, and if it happens to fit, her older sister's dresses and shoes. Because she would put on the innocent look to her father, and claimed to have to want it so much that she would die if she doesn't have it, Andre would allow Josette to keep them, and promise Angelique replacements. Other times when Josette would 'accidentally' break Angelique's prized figurines, Josette would claim that she didn't mean to break them, leading Andre to pat the dubious child on her head, assuring her that Angelique would forgive her. Usually, Angelique's forgiveness would be followed by a fiery glare while Josette would look triumphant behind their father's back. There was also a time when there was a dog that Angelique had wanted, but Josette ended up getting it instead. One day, the girl hit the dog with her parasol repeatedly, causing the abused animal to bite her hand. She cried to her father, who shot the poor dog dead in the side, enraging Angelique, who defended the creature's actions. Andre dismissed her pleas, and told her that the dog was a menace, and deserved to die.
The only ally that Angelique had was her Aunt Natalie, who would comfort the girl by telling her that Josette's comeuppance will arrive one day. Although Angelique was comforted by that, she would still pray to God, "How long?" whenever Josette had claimed or broken another one of her possessions. Yet, that was how things continued for a long time: Josette took or destroyed something of Angelique's, and Andre excused it, always finishing with some barely-placated offering of a replacement for the item.
But when they got older, Angelique being twenty-three and Josette being twenty-one, things for Angelique began to change a little. While Josette was surrounded by various suitors, Angelique was courted by a handsome, generous, son of a local jeweler named Georges DuBois. Unlike the other young men who courted her, Georges was sensitive, thoughtful, attentive, and sympathetic to her plight with her sister. Josette called him a bore, and Andre thought that Angelique should choose a plantation owner to marry. However, Angelique, like her aunt, followed her own mind and heart, with Natalie's support, inheriting her aunt's free spirit. When the young man asked for her hand, Andre gave his blessings since he patronized his family's business, and Angelique didn't hesitate to say yes. She was so blissfully happy that she thought that no one, not even Josette, or anything could ruin her happiness. She was going to marry the man with whom she was madly in love, and finally have her own household without Josette's constant interferences. Unfortunately, even he was taken from her. Not by Josette, but by Death.
On her wedding day, the DuPres and DuBois families waited outside the chapel for the groom, who was late for his own wedding. His parents told the bride's father that he had some important business to look after, and would arrive as soon as possible. Yet, as both families were becoming impatient and irritably hot on that summer afternoon, a man hurriedly rode up on his horse to the DuBois family. The man jumped down from his steed and alarmingly grabbed Monsieur DuBois by his arms, speaking incoherently. The DuPres knew that something was wrong when Madame DuBois fell to the ground, wailing sorrowfully. Angelique shook her head, denying to herself that something had befallen her fiancé, as Andre ran over to the screaming family to find out what happened. As soon as Monsieur DuBois left in his carriage with the man, leaving his wife in his brother's care, Andre walked back to his family slowly, his head hanging as though he was carrying a heavy burden to unload upon his daughter. He stood before her, gathering what he was going to say.
"Angelique, ma cherie, Georges' carriage ran off the road into a ditch. He is dead."
Whether it was from the heat, the shock of the news, or both, the bride fell forward into her father's arms, unconscious. While Andre and Natalie tried to revive her, Josette, turned from the wedding party, gave a secretive smirk at her own sister's expense.
For the next two months, Angelique secluded herself in her bedroom, even taking her meals there. If any visitors or a DuBois family member came by to visit, they would have to leave messages, cards, and flowers with Natalie. Then one day, her father knocked on her door.
She slightly turned in her chair. "Come in."
When Andre came inside, he saw his daughter sitting in front of the window, wearing a black gown and having her hair neatly coiffed, staring bitterly into the beautiful mountain scenery and multi-colored waters from the setting sun.
He closed the door behind him. "Angelique?"
"Papa," she numbly answered.
"Don't you think that it's time to come out of this mourning, and out of your room?"
"You didn't come out of your room for months after Maman died, Papa. How could you ask me to do that sort of thing?"
"Because you were not his widow, Angelique," he answered, agitated.
"I feel like a widow, monsieur," she said, dryly. "I know that he wasn't my husband, but he was my true love,which is something you should know personally."
Struck to the core, Andre lowered his head, his hands clasped behind his back, and walked towards his grieving daughter. He stood next to her chair, looking out the window with Angelique, unable to look at her.
"Angelique, do you remember Barnabas and Jeremiah Collins? The gentlemen from America?"
How could she forget? It's been two years since they last set foot in her home, on the island's soil. Because of some sort of business arrangement that was unbeknownst to Angelique, Andre DuPres had arranged for the Collins gentlemen to spend six months as guests in his plantation home so that Barnabas could tutor his daughters in the English language while Jeremiah monitored his progress, by order of the Collins' patriarch, Joshua Collins, and discuss whatever contracts the businessmen agreed upon. At the end of that time period, both sisters were able to show proficiency in speaking and writing in the new language. However, as noted by their language tutor, Angelique was starved for more knowledge of this universal language. She usually sought Barnabas' help while searching for words to express herself and those when it concerned finances and crops. Also, she wanted to surprise Georges at the time by writing him a love letter in English since he was more skilled in the language than her.
Angelique saw Barnabas as her advantage for learning, but was annoyed that her younger sister had developed an infatuation for him, and that he would reciprocate with light flirtation. To Angelique, Barnabas was a sophisticated, handsome, cultured gentleman, but she sensed that he relished his status as, as he once taught her the phrase, 'the cream of the crop' in his social circle, which automatically made him uninteresting. Especially the way he held up his chin higher than her father's snobbish friends and associates.
However, Jeremiah Collins was different. He was a visionary gentleman and an aspiring architect, filled with ideas and a curiosity for how her home and other buildings were put together. She knew that if he could, he would have been outside analyzing the columns that held up her home every day from sunup to sundown. When he would sit through an hour of watching his nephew teach Angelique and Josette, the older sister would catch him, from the corner of her eye, nodding off, and then catching himself with a start, making her smile with amusement. She sympathized with him for sitting through a lecture of a language that he already knew. She found herself entirely drawn to him.
One afternoon, while coming out unto the porch, Angelique caught Jeremiah caressing the banister and columns of the porch, carried away by his thoughts.
"The banister was constructed from iron," she said, startling him. "And the columns are made from the whitest of marble."
He smiled. "I know." He continued to caress the columns. "This is a magnificent house, mademoiselle."
Angelique nodded a thank-you. "My grandfather had this house built on the backs of his slaves. I find it very distasteful."
"But this is your home, mademoiselle," said Jeremiah, coming up the marble steps.
"It doesn't mean that I have to like it. I long for the day in which I may become mistress of my own home, able to do as I want and to run my home as I please."
He stood in front of her, staring into her narrowed blue eyes. "I believe that I can empathize with you."
"I don't understand, monsieur."
"I mean that I understand how you feel."
Angelique raised her eyebrow. "Oh? How could you understand, monsieur?"
He answered, "Because I long to have my own home again."
"Again?" she questioned, showing him a seat on the porch. They both sat down together.
"Yes," he said. "You see, mademoiselle, I recently lost my wife a year ago. I built her a two-story home as a wedding present for her. It wasn't as grand as my brother's home, but it was our home. We loved each other dearly."
"I am sorry for your loss, monsieur," said Angelique, quietly. "May I ask what was her name?"
"Laura," replied he. "Her name was Laura. She died when our home burned down."
Angelique gasped, covering her mouth. "Oh, monsieur! That's horrible! I'm sorry for asking you about her. It must be awful to remember such a thing!"
Jeremiah looked straight ahead, his eyes watering. "Thank you. I-I wasn't at home at the time, and she was seriously ill. I'm not sure how the fire started, but by the time I got home, the whole house collapsed from the flames. I shouldn't had left her alone, and I wouldn't had if my brother did not insist that I go over plans for his new storage house and… well, the rest is history. I still blame myself for her death."
"But it wasn't your fault, monsieur," assured Angelique. "You couldn't have known."
"But she was ill, mademoiselle! I should have stayed, waited until morning!" he protested. Then realizing his tone, he apologized. "I am sorry. I-I shouldn't had raised my voice at you. It wasn't right. But still, it should have been me."
Angelique replied, "Don't talk that way, monsieur. I shall say a prayer for you tonight before I go to bed."
Jeremiah turned to her, chuckling bitterly. "I haven't heard anyone say that they would pray for me since…forever. My sister, Abigail, prayed for me every day. Now, she's married to some minister, and is traveling all over New England 'preaching the good word of God'.
"You sound as if you don't believe in God."
"I do believe in God, mademoiselle. But If He cared, why didn't He save Laura?"
Noting the resentment in his voice, Angelique sighed. "None of us can know God's purpose for how things turn out in our lives, but we have to trust that He works for our good."
"You are naïve, mademoiselle," he said, flatly.
"Monsieur, I do believe that He does so. Just like I believe that He'll bring me out of this house one day. I often wished that I was not my father's daughter because he doesn't love me. He seems to prefer my sister over me."
Surprised that Angelique felt that way, Jeremiah said, "I'm sure he does love you, mademoiselle. You're intelligent, kind, sweet, and incredibly beautiful-"
"What was that you said, monsieur?" asked Angelique, not sure if she heard him correctly.
He looked determinedly into her eyes. "I said that you are incredibly beautiful, mademoiselle."
Angelique looked down at her folded hands. "I'm spoken for."
"I forgot," said Jeremiah, disappointed, looking away. "Anyway, I'm sure that your father does love you."
"If that was true, why does he spoil Josette rotten? Why does he let her get away with stealing my belongings and my father telling me that he'll replace what she stolen, instead of making her give them back to me?" She bitterly smirked. "She had always been his 'golden child'."
Jeremiah mused. "I can say the same for my nephew."
Angelique smiled. "I still could hardly believe that he is your nephew and not your brother. You are so close in age to each other!"
"Sometimes it happens that way. I often envy him because he'll be lord and master over Collinwood someday, and I'll be his dependent. Unless I can get established as a prominent architect."
"I believe that you can do it," encouraged Angelique. "You Collins men seem to be the ambitious type. You can achieve anything you want and gain what you most desire."
His brown eyes burrowed into hers. "Not…everything."
They sat quietly, averting their eyes, until he spoke. "I appreciate your faith in me. I didn't really expect it from you since I always thought that both you and Mademoiselle Josette had an infatuation for Barnabas."
"Why would you think that?" she asked, curious.
"In New England, he is quite popular with the ladies of all stations of life. He has some sort of… charismatic charm, so to speak, in which he's able to draw them all to himself. I never knew a woman who didn't take a second look at him."
"Well, monsieur, Josette is impressionable, but I am not."
"I've noticed," he said, softly.
Angelique's heart leapt within her. Although her heart was with Georges, she felt a kinship with this man, understanding his feelings towards his nephew and his desire to be his own man. They talked and laughed until dinner, coming to the point of being on a first-name basis, and finding themselves clasping hands, bonded by their shared hurt and being overshadowed by their respective relatives.
Yet, from around the corner of the porch, Barnabas Collins watched their interaction, unnoticed. He was amazed to find that Mademoiselle Angelique could be light-hearted, easy-going, and able to trade compliments. But with his uncle, not him. What was wrong with him? He tried to be friendly with her, but Angelique would not respond to him in the manner he expected. She would respond with a straight face, followed by a pleasant 'thank-you.' He had no problems in charming her younger sister and was becoming more enamored with Josette by the moment. Yet, in spite of himself, Barnabas Collins was also becoming more intrigued with the blonde enigma known as Angelique DuPres.