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A Romance of the Republic by Lydia Maria Francis Child

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A ROMANCE OF THE REPUBLIC

BY

L. MARIA CHILD

1867

TO

THE FATHER AND MOTHER OF

COL. R.G. SHAW,

THE EARLY AND EVER-FAITHFUL FRIENDS OF FREEDOM AND EQUAL RIGHTS,

THIS VOLUME

IS MOST RESPECTFULLY AND AFFECTIONATELY

INSCRIBED

BY

THE AUTHOR.

PART FIRST.

CHAPTER I.

"What are you going to do with yourself this evening, Alfred?" said Mr.
Royal to his companion, as they issued from his counting-house in New
Orleans. "Perhaps I ought to apologize for not calling you Mr. King,
considering the shortness of our acquaintance; but your father and I
were like brothers in our youth, and you resemble him so much, I can
hardly realize that you are not he himself, and I still a young man.
It used to be a joke with us that we must be cousins, since he was a
King and I was of the Royal family. So excuse me if I say to you, as
I used to say to him. What are you going to do with yourself, Cousin
Alfred?"

"I thank you for the friendly familiarity," rejoined the young man.
"It is pleasant to know that I remind you so strongly of my good
father. My most earnest wish is to resemble him in character as much
as I am said to resemble him in person. I have formed no plans for the
evening. I was just about to ask you what there was best worth seeing
or hearing in the Crescent City."

"If I should tell you I thought there was nothing better worth seeing
than my daughters, you would perhaps excuse a father's partiality,"
rejoined Mr. Royal.

"Your daughters!" exclaimed his companion, in a tone of surprise. "I
never heard that you were married."

A shadow of embarrassment passed over the merchant's face, as he
replied, "Their mother was a Spanish lady,--a stranger here,--and she
formed no acquaintance. She was a woman of a great heart and of rare
beauty. Nothing can ever make up her loss to me; but all the joy that
remains in life is centred in the daughters she has left me. I should
like to introduce them to you; and that is a compliment I never before
paid to any young man. My home is in the outskirts of the city; and
when we have dined at the hotel, according to my daily habit, I will
send off a few letters, and then, if you like to go there with me, I
will call a carriage."

"Thank you," replied the young man; "unless it is your own custom to
ride, I should prefer to walk. I like the exercise, and it will give a
better opportunity to observe the city, which is so different from our
Northern towns that it has for me the attractions of a foreign land."

In compliance with this wish, Mr. Royal took him through the principal
streets, pointing out the public buildings, and now and then stopping
to smile at some placard or sign which presented an odd jumble of
French and English. When they came to the suburbs of the city, the
aspect of things became charmingly rural. Houses were scattered here
and there among trees and gardens. Mr. Royal pointed out one of them,
nestled in flowers and half encircled by an orange-grove, and said,
"That is my home. When I first came here, the place where it stands
was a field of sugar-canes; but the city is fast stretching itself
into the suburbs."

They approached the dwelling; and in answer to the bell, the door was
opened by a comely young negress, with a turban of bright colors
on her head and golden hoops in her ears. Before the gentlemen had
disposed of their hats and canes, a light little figure bounded from
one of the rooms, clapping her hands, and exclaiming, "Ah, Papasito!"
Then, seeing a stranger with him, she suddenly stood still, with a
pretty look of blushing surprise.

"Never mind, Mignonne," said her father, fondly patting her head.
"This is Alfred Royal King, from Boston; my namesake, and the son of
a dear old friend of mine. I have invited him to see you dance. Mr.
King, this is my Floracita."

The fairy dotted a courtesy, quickly and gracefully as a butterfly
touching a flower, and then darted back into the room she had left.
There they were met by a taller young lady, who was introduced as "My
daughter Rosabella." Her beauty was superlative and peculiar. Her
complexion was like a glowing reflection upon ivory from gold in the
sunshine. Her large brown eyes were deeply fringed, and lambent with
interior light. Lustrous dark brown hair shaded her forehead in little
waves, slight as the rippling of water touched by an insect's wing. It
was arranged at the back of her head in circling braids, over which
fell clusters of ringlets, with moss-rose-buds nestling among them.
Her full, red lips were beautifully shaped, and wore a mingled
expression of dignity and sweetness. The line from ear to chin was
that perfect oval which artists love, and the carriage of her head was
like one born to a kingdom.

Floracita, though strikingly handsome, was of a model less superb than
her elder sister. She was a charming little brunette, with laughter
always lurking in ambush within her sparkling black eyes, a mouth like
"Cupid's bow carved in coral," and dimples in her cheeks, that well
deserved their French name, _berceaux d'amour_.

These radiant visions of beauty took Alfred King so much by
surprise, that he was for a moment confused. But he soon recovered
self-possession, and, after the usual salutations, took a seat offered
him near a window overlooking the garden. While the commonplaces of
conversation were interchanged, he could not but notice the floral
appearance of the room. The ample white lace curtains were surmounted
by festoons of artificial roses, caught up by a bird of paradise. On
the ceiling was an exquisitely painted garland, from the centre
of which hung a tasteful basket of natural flowers, with delicate
vine-tresses drooping over its edge. The walls were papered with
bright arabesques of flowers, interspersed with birds and butterflies.
In one corner a statuette of Flora looked down upon a geranium covered
with a profusion of rich blossoms. In the opposite corner, ivy was
trained to form a dark background for Canova's "Dancer in Repose,"
over whose arm was thrown a wreath of interwoven vines and
orange-blossoms. On brackets and tables were a variety of natural
flowers in vases of Sevres china, whereon the best artists of France
had painted flowers in all manner of graceful combinations. The
ottomans were embroidered with flowers. Rosabella's white muslin dress
was trailed all over with delicately tinted roses, and the lace around
the corsage was fastened in front with a mosaic basket of flowers.
Floracita's black curls fell over her shoulders mixed with crimson
fuchsias, and on each of her little slippers was embroidered a
bouquet.

"This is the Temple of Flora," said Alfred, turning to his host.
"Flowers everywhere! Natural flowers, artificial flowers, painted
flowers, embroidered flowers, and human flowers excelling them
all,"--glancing at the young ladies as he spoke.

Mr. Royal sighed, and in an absent sort of way answered, "Yes, yes."
Then, starting up, he said abruptly, "Excuse me a moment; I wish to
give the servants some directions."

Floracita, who was cutting leaves from the geranium, observed his
quick movement, and, as he left the room, she turned toward their
visitor and said, in a childlike, confidential sort of way: "Our dear
Mamita used to call this room the Temple of Flora. She had a great
passion for flowers. She chose the paper, she made the garlands for
the curtains, she embroidered the ottomans, and painted that table so
prettily. Papasito likes to have things remain as she arranged them,
but sometimes they make him sad; for the angels took Mamita away from
us two years ago."

"Even the names she gave you are flowery," said Alfred, with an
expression of mingled sympathy and admiration.

"Yes; and we had a great many flowery pet-names beside," replied she.
"My name is Flora, but when she was very loving with me she called me
her Floracita, her little flower; and Papasito always calls me so now.
Sometimes Mamita called me _Pensee Vivace_."

"In English we call that bright little flower Jump-up-and-kiss-me,"
rejoined Alfred, smiling as he looked down upon the lively little
fairy.

She returned the smile with an arch glance, that seemed to say, "I
sha'n't do it, though." And away she skipped to meet her father, whose
returning steps were heard.

"You see I spoil her," said he, as she led him into the room with a
half-dancing step. "But how can I help it?"

Before there was time to respond to this question, the negress with
the bright turban announced that tea was ready.

"Yes, Tulipa? we will come," said Floracita.

"Is _she_ a flower too?" asked Alfred.

"Yes, she's a flower, too," answered Floracita, with a merry little
laugh. "We named her so because she always wears a red and yellow
turban; but we call her Tulee, for short."

While they were partaking of refreshments, she and her father were
perpetually exchanging badinage, which, childish as it was, served to
enliven the repast. But when she began to throw oranges for him to
catch, a reproving glance from her dignified sister reminded her of
the presence of company.

"Let her do as she likes, Rosa dear," said her father. "She is used to
being my little plaything, and I can't spare her to be a woman yet."

"I consider it a compliment to forget that I am a stranger," said Mr.
King. "For my own part, I forgot it entirely before I had been in the
house ten minutes."

Rosabella thanked him with a quiet smile and a slight inclination of
her head. Floracita, notwithstanding this encouragement, paused in her
merriment; and Mr. Royal began to talk over reminiscences connected
with Alfred's father. When they rose from table, he said, "Come here,
Mignonne! We won't be afraid of the Boston gentleman, will we?"
Floracita sprang to his side. He passed his arm fondly round her, and,
waiting for his guest and his elder daughter to precede them, they
returned to the room they had left. They had scarcely entered it, when
Floracita darted to the window, and, peering forth into the twilight,
she looked back roguishly at her sister, and began to sing:--

"Un petit blanc, que j'aime,
En ces lieux est venu.
Oui! oui! c'est lui meme!
C'est lui! je l'ai vue!
Petit blanc! mon bon frere!
Ha! ha! petit blanc si doux!"

The progress of her song was checked by the entrance of a gentleman,
who was introduced to Alfred as Mr. Fitzgerald from Savannah. His
handsome person reminded one of an Italian tenor singer, and his
manner was a graceful mixture of _hauteur_ and insinuating courtesy.
After a brief interchange of salutations, he said to Floracita,
"I heard some notes of a lively little French tune, that went so
trippingly I should be delighted to hear more of it."

Floracita had accidentally overheard some half-whispered words which
Mr. Fitzgerald had addressed to her sister, during his last visit,
and, thinking she had discovered an important secret, she was disposed
to use her power mischievously. Without waiting for a repetition of
his request, she sang:--

"Petit blanc, mon bon frere!
Ha! ha! petit blanc si doux!
Il n'y a rien sur la terre
De si joli que vous."

While she was singing, she darted roguish glances at her sister, whose
cheeks glowed like the sun-ripened side of a golden apricot. Her
father touched her shoulder, and said in a tone of annoyance, "Don't
sing that foolish song, Mignonne!" She turned to him quickly with a
look of surprise; for she was accustomed only to endearments from him.
In answer to her look, he added, in a gentler tone, "You know I told
you I wanted my friend to see you dance. Select one of your prettiest,
_ma petite_, and Rosabella will play it for you."

Mr. Fitzgerald assiduously placed the music-stool, and bent over the
portfolio while Miss Royal searched for the music. A servant lighted
the candelabra and drew the curtains. Alfred, glancing at Mr. Royal,
saw he was watching the pair who were busy at the portfolio, and that
the expression of his countenance was troubled. His eyes, however,
soon had pleasanter occupation; for as soon as Rosa touched the piano,
Floracita began to float round the room in a succession of graceful
whirls, as if the music had taken her up and was waltzing her along.
As she passed the marble Dancing Girl, she seized the wreath that was
thrown over its arm, and as she went circling round, it seemed as
if the tune had become a visible spirit, and that the garland was a
floating accompaniment to its graceful motions. Sometimes it was held
aloft by the right hand, sometimes by the left; sometimes it was
a whirling semicircle behind her; and sometimes it rested on her
shoulders, mingling its white orange buds and blossoms with her shower
of black curls and crimson fuchsias. Now it was twined round her head
in a flowery crown, and then it gracefully unwound itself, as if it
were a thing alive. Ever and anon the little dancer poised herself for
an instant on the point of one fairy foot, her cheeks glowing with
exercise and dimpling with smiles, as she met her father's delighted
gaze. Every attitude seemed spontaneous in its prettiness, as if the
music had made it without her choice. At last she danced toward her
father, and sank, with a wave-like motion, on the ottoman at his feet.
He patted the glossy head that nestled lovingly on his knee, and
drawing a long breath, as if oppressed with happiness, he murmured,
"Ah, Mignonne!"

The floating fairy vision had given such exquisite pleasure, that all
had been absorbed in watching its variations. Now they looked at
each other and smiled. "You would make Taglioni jealous," said Mr.
Fitzgerald, addressing the little dancer; and Mr. King silently
thanked her with a very expressive glance.

As Rosabella retired from the piano, she busied herself with
rearranging a bouquet she had taken from one of the vases. When Mr.
Fitzgerald stationed himself at her side, she lowered her eyes with a
perceptibly deepening color. On her peculiar complexion a blush showed
like a roseate cloud in a golden atmosphere. As Alfred gazed on the
long, dark, silky fringes resting on those warmly tinted cheeks, he
thought he had never seen any human creature so superbly handsome.

"Nothing but music can satisfy us after such dancing," said Mr.
Fitzgerald. She looked up to him with a smile; and Alfred thought the
rising of those dark eyelashes surpassed their downcast expression, as
the glory of morning sunshine excels the veiled beauty of starlight.

"Shall I accompany you while you sing, 'How brightly breaks the
morning'?" asked she.

"That always sings itself into my heart, whenever you raise your eyes
to mine," replied he, in a low tone, as he handed her to the piano.

Together they sang that popular melody, bright and joyful as sunrise
on a world of blossoms. Then came a Tyrolese song, with a double
voice, sounding like echoes from the mountains. This was followed
by some tender, complaining Russian melodies, novelties which Mr.
Fitzgerald had brought on a preceding visit. Feeling they were too
much engrossed with each other, she said politely, "Mr. King has not
yet chosen any music."

"The moon becomes visible through the curtains," replied he. "Perhaps
you will salute her with 'Casta Diva.'"

"That is a favorite with us," she replied. "Either Flora or I sing it
almost every moonlight night."

She sang it in very pure Italian. Then turning round on the
music-stool she looked at her father, and said, "Now, _Papasito
querido_, what shall I sing for you?"

"You know, dear, what I always love to hear," answered he.

With gentle touch, she drew from the keys a plaintive prelude, which
soon modulated itself into "The Light of other Days." She played and
sang it with so much feeling, that it seemed the voice of memory
floating with softened sadness over the far-off waters of the past.
The tune was familiar to Alfred, but it had never sung itself into his
heart, as now. "I felt as I did in Italy, listening to a vesper-bell
sounding from a distance in the stillness of twilight," said he,
turning toward his host.

"All who hear Rosabella sing notice a bell in her voice," rejoined her
father.

"Undoubtedly it is the voice of a belle," said Mr. Fitzgerald.

Her father, without appearing to notice the commonplace pun, went on
to say, "You don't know, Mr. King, what tricks she can play with her
voice. I call her a musical ventriloquist. If you want to hear the
bell to perfection, ask her to sing 'Toll the bell for lovely Nell.'"

"Do give me that pleasure," said Alfred, persuasively.

She sang the pathetic melody, and with voice and piano imitated to
perfection the slow tolling of a silver-toned bell. After a short
pause, during which she trifled with the keys, while some general
remarks were passing, she turned to Mr. Fitzgerald, who was leaning on
the piano, and said, "What shall I sing for _you_?" It was a simple
question, but it pierced the heart of Alfred King with a strange new
pain. What would he not have given for such a soft expression in those
glorious eyes when she looked at _him_!

"Since you are in a ventriloqual mood," answered Mr. Fitzgerald,
"I should like to hear again what you played the last time I was
here,--Agatha's Moonlight Prayer, from _Der Freyschuetz_."

She smiled, and with voice and instrument produced the indescribably
dreamy effect of the two flutes. It was the very moonlight of sound.

"This is perfectly magical," murmured Alfred. He spoke in a low,
almost reverential tone; for the spell of moonlight was on him, and
the clear, soft voice of the singer, the novelty of her peculiar
beauty, and the surpassing gracefulness of her motions, as she swayed
gently to the music of the tones she produced, inspired him with a
feeling of poetic deference. Through the partially open window came
the lulling sound of a little trickling fountain in the garden, and
the air was redolent of jasmine and orange-blossoms. On the pier-table
was a little sleeping Cupid, from whose torch rose the fragrant
incense of a nearly extinguished _pastille_. The pervasive spirit of
beauty in the room, manifested in forms, colors, tones, and motions,
affected the soul as perfume did the senses. The visitors felt they
had stayed too long, and yet they lingered. Alfred examined the
reclining Cupid, and praised the gracefulness of its outline.

"Cupid could never sleep here, nor would the flame of his torch ever
go out," said Mr. Fitzgerald; "but it is time _we_ were going out."

The young gentlemen exchanged parting salutations with their host and
his daughters, and moved toward the door. But Mr. Fitzgerald paused on
the threshold to say, "Please play us out with Mozart's 'Good Night.'"

"As organists play worshippers out of the church," added Mr. King.

Rosabella bowed compliance, and, as they crossed the outer threshold,
they heard the most musical of voices singing Mozart's beautiful
little melody, "Buona Notte, amato bene." The young men lingered near
the piazza till the last sounds floated away, and then they walked
forth in the moonlight,--Fitzgerald repeating the air in a subdued
whistle.

His first exclamation was, "Isn't that girl a Rose Royal?"

"She is, indeed," replied Mr. King; "and the younger sister is also
extremely fascinating."

"Yes, I thought you seemed to think so," rejoined his companion.
"Which do you prefer?"

Shy of revealing his thoughts to a stranger, Mr. King replied that
each of the sisters was so perfect in her way, the other would be
wronged by preference.

"Yes, they are both rare gems of beauty," rejoined Fitzgerald. "If I
were the Grand Bashaw, I would have them both in my harem."

The levity of the remark jarred on the feelings of his companion, who
answered, in a grave, and somewhat cold tone, "I saw nothing in the
manners of the young ladies to suggest such a disposition of them."

"Excuse me," said Fitzgerald, laughing. "I forgot you were from the
land of Puritans. I meant no indignity to the young ladies, I assure
you. But when one amuses himself with imagining the impossible, it is
not worth while to be scrupulous about details. I am _not_ the Grand
Bashaw; and when I pronounced them fit for his harem, I merely meant
a compliment to their superlative beauty. That Floracita is a
mischievous little sprite. Did you ever see anything more roguish than
her expression while she was singing 'Petit blanc, mon bon frere'?"

"That mercurial little song excited my curiosity," replied Alfred.
"Pray what is its origin?"

"I think it likely it came from the French West Indies," said
Fitzgerald. "It seems to be the love-song of a young negress,
addressed to a white lover. Floracita may have learned it from her
mother, who was half French, half Spanish. You doubtless observed
the foreign sprinkling in their talk. They told me they never spoke
English with their mother. Those who have seen her describe her as a
wonderful creature, who danced like Taglioni and sang like Malibran,
and was more beautiful than her daughter Rosabella. But the last part
of the story is incredible. If she were half as handsome, no wonder
Mr. Royal idolized her, as they say he did."

"Did he marry her in the French Islands?" inquired Alfred.

"They were not married," answered Fitzgerald. "Of course not, for she
was a quadroon. But here are my lodgings, and I must bid you good
night."

These careless parting words produced great disturbance in the spirit
of Alfred King. He had heard of those quadroon connections, as one
hears of foreign customs, without any realizing sense of their
consequences. That his father's friend should be a partner in such an
alliance, and that these two graceful and accomplished girls should by
that circumstance be excluded from the society they would so greatly
ornament, surprised and bewildered him. He recalled that tinge in
Rosa's complexion, not golden, but like a faint, luminous reflection
of gold, and that slight waviness in the glossy hair, which seemed
to him so becoming. He could not make these peculiarities seem less
beautiful to his imagination, now that he knew them as signs of
her connection with a proscribed race. And that bewitching little
Floracita, emerging into womanhood, with the auroral light of
childhood still floating round her, she seemed like a beautiful
Italian child, whose proper place was among fountains and statues
and pictured forms of art. The skill of no Parisian _coiffeur_ could
produce a result so pleasing as the profusion of raven hair, that
_would_ roll itself into ringlets. Octoroons! He repeated the word
to himself, but it did not disenchant him. It was merely something
foreign and new to his experience, like Spanish or Italian beauty. Yet
he felt painfully the false position in which they were placed by the
unreasoning prejudice of society.

Though he had had a fatiguing day, when he entered his chamber he felt
no inclination to sleep. As he slowly paced up and down the room, he
thought to himself, "My good mother shares the prejudice. How could
I introduce them to _her_?" Then, as if impatient with himself, he
murmured, in a vexed tone, "Why should I _think_ of introducing them
to my mother? A few hours ago I didn't know of their existence."

He threw himself on the bed and tried to sleep; but memory was
too busy with the scene of enchantment he had recently left. A
catalpa-tree threw its shadow on the moon-lighted curtain. He began to
count the wavering leaves, in hopes the monotonous occupation would
induce slumber. After a while he forgot to count; and as his spirit
hovered between the inner and the outer world, Floracita seemed to be
dancing on the leaf shadows in manifold graceful evolutions. Then he
was watching a little trickling fountain, and the falling drops were
tones of "The Light of other Days." Anon he was wandering among
flowers in the moonlight, and from afar some one was heard singing
"Casta Diva." The memory of that voice,

"While slept the limbs and senses all,
Made everything seem musical."

Again and again the panorama of the preceding evening revolved through
the halls of memory with every variety of fantastic change. A light
laugh broke in upon the scenes of enchantment, with the words, "Of
course not, for she was a quadroon." Then the plaintive melody of
"Toll the bell" resounded in his ears; not afar off, but loud and
clear, as if the singer were in the room. He woke with a start, and
heard the vibrations of a cathedral bell subsiding into silence. It
had struck but twice, but in his spiritual ear the sounds had been
modulated through many tones. "Even thus strangely," thought he, "has
that rich, sonorous voice struck into the dream of my life,"

Again he saw those large, lustrous eyes lowering their long-fringed
veils under the ardent gaze of Gerald Fitzgerald. Again he thought of
his mother, and sighed. At last a dreamless sleep stole over him, and
both pleasure and pain were buried in deep oblivion.

CHAPTER II.

The sun was up before he woke. He rose hastily and ordered breakfast
and a horse; for he had resolved the day before upon an early ride. A
restless, undefined feeling led him in the same direction he had taken
the preceding evening. He passed the house that would forevermore be
a prominent feature in the landscape of his life. Vines were gently
waving in the morning air between the pillars of the piazza, where he
had lingered entranced to hear the tones of "Buena Notte." The bright
turban of Tulipa was glancing about, as she dusted the blinds. A
peacock on the balustrade, in the sunshine, spread out his tail into a
great Oriental fan, and slowly lowered it, making a prismatic shower
of topaz, sapphires, and emeralds as it fell. It was the first of
March; but as he rode on, thinking of the dreary landscape and
boisterous winds of New England at that season, the air was filled
with the fragrance of flowers, and mocking-birds and thrushes saluted
him with their songs. In many places the ground was thickly strewn
with oranges, and the orange-groves were beautiful with golden fruit
and silver flowers gleaming among the dark glossy green foliage.
Here and there was the mansion of a wealthy planter, surrounded by
whitewashed slave-cabins. The negroes at their work, and their black
picaninnies rolling about on the ground, seemed an appropriate part of
the landscape, so tropical in its beauty of dark colors and luxuriant
growth.

He rode several miles, persuading himself that he was enticed solely
by the healthy exercise and the novelty of the scene. But more
alluring than the pleasant landscape and the fragrant air was the hope
that, if he returned late, the young ladies might be on the piazza,
or visible at the windows. He was destined to be disappointed. As he
passed, a curtain was slowly withdrawn from one of the windows and
revealed a vase of flowers. He rode slowly, in hopes of seeing a face
bend over the flowers; but the person who drew the curtain remained
invisible. On the piazza nothing was in motion, except the peacock
strutting along, stately as a court beauty, and drawing after him
his long train of jewelled plumage. A voice, joyous as a bobolink's,
sounded apparently from the garden. He could not hear the words, but
the lively tones at once suggested, "Petit blanc, mon bon frere." He
recalled the words so carelessly uttered, "Of course not, for she was
a quadroon," and they seemed to make harsh discord with the refrain of
the song. He remembered the vivid flush that passed over Rosa's face
while her playful sister teased her with that tuneful badinage. It
seemed to him that Mr. Fitzgerald was well aware of his power, for
he had not attempted to conceal his consciousness of the singer's
mischievous intent. This train of thought was arrested by the inward
question, "What is it to _me_ whether he marries her or not?"
Impatiently he touched his horse with the whip, as if he wanted to
rush from the answer to his own query.

He had engaged to meet Mr. Royal at his counting-house, and he was
careful to keep the appointment. He was received with parental
kindness slightly tinged with embarrassment. After some conversation
about business, Mr. Royal said: "From your silence concerning your
visit to my house last evening, I infer that Mr. Fitzgerald has given
you some information relating to my daughters' history. I trust, my
young friend, that you have not suspected me of any intention to
deceive or entrap you. I intended to have told you myself; but I had a
desire to know first how my daughters would impress you, if judged by
their own merits. Having been forestalled in my purpose, I am afraid
frankness on your part will now be difficult."

"A feeling of embarrassment did indeed prevent me from alluding to
my visit as soon as I met you this morning," replied Alfred; "but no
circumstances could alter my estimate of your daughters. Their beauty
and gracefulness exceed anything I have seen."

"And they are as innocent and good as they are beautiful," rejoined
the father. "But you can easily imagine that my pride and delight in
them is much disturbed by anxiety concerning their future. Latterly,
I have thought a good deal about closing business and taking them to
France to reside. But when men get to be so old as I am, the process
of being transplanted to a foreign soil seems onerous. If it were as
well for _them_, I should greatly prefer returning to my native New
England."

"They are tropical flowers," observed Alfred. "There is nothing
Northern in their natures."

"Yes, they are tropical flowers," rejoined the father, "and my wish is
to place them in perpetual sunshine. I doubt whether they could ever
feel quite at home far away from jasmines and orange-groves. But
climate is the least of the impediments in the way of taking them
to New England. Their connection with the enslaved race is so very
slight, that it might easily be concealed; but the consciousness of
practising concealment is always unpleasant. Your father was more free
from prejudices of all sorts than any man I ever knew. If he were
living, I would confide all to him, and be guided implicitly by his
advice. You resemble him so strongly, that I have been involuntarily
drawn to open my heart to you, as I never thought to do to so young a
man. Yet I find the fulness of my confidence checked by the fear of
lowering myself in the estimation of the son of my dearest friend. But
perhaps, if you knew all the circumstances, and had had my experience,
you would find some extenuation of my fault. I was very unhappy when I
first came to New Orleans. I was devotedly attached to a young lady,
and I was rudely repelled by her proud and worldly family. I was
seized with a vehement desire to prove to them that I could become
richer than they were. I rushed madly into the pursuit of wealth, and
I was successful; but meanwhile they had married her to another, and I
found that wealth alone could not bring happiness. In vain the profits
of my business doubled and quadrupled. I was unsatisfied, lonely, and
sad. Commercial transactions brought me into intimate relations with
Senor Gonsalez, a Spanish gentleman in St. Augustine. He had formed an
alliance with a beautiful slave, whom he had bought in the French West
Indies. I never saw her, for she died before my acquaintance with him;
but their daughter, then a girl of sixteen, was the most charming
creature I ever beheld. The irresistible attraction I felt toward her
the first moment I saw her was doubtless the mere fascination of the
senses; but when I came to know her more, I found her so gentle, so
tender, so modest, and so true, that I loved her with a strong and
deep affection. I admired her, too, for other reasons than her beauty;
for she had many elegant accomplishments, procured by her father's
fond indulgence during two years' residence in Paris. He was wealthy
at that time; but he afterward became entangled in pecuniary
difficulties, and his health declined. He took a liking to me, and
proposed that I should purchase Eulalia, and thus enable him to cancel
a debt due to a troublesome creditor whom he suspected of having an
eye upon his daughter. I gave him a large sum for her, and brought her
with me to New Orleans. Do not despise me for it, my young friend. If
it had been told to me a few years before, in my New England home,
that I could ever become a party in such a transaction, I should have
rejected the idea with indignation. But my disappointed and lonely
condition rendered me an easy prey to temptation, and I was where
public opinion sanctioned such connections. Besides, there were kindly
motives mixed up with selfish ones. I pitied the unfortunate father,
and I feared his handsome daughter might fall into hands that would
not protect her so carefully as I resolved to do. I knew the freedom
of her choice was not interfered with, for she confessed she loved me.

"Senor Gonsalez, who was more attached to her than to anything else
in the world, soon afterward gathered up the fragments of his
broken fortune, and came to reside near us. I know it was a great
satisfaction to his dying hours that he left Eulalia in my care, and
the dear girl was entirely happy with me. If I had manumitted her,
carried her abroad, and legally married her, I should have no remorse
mingled with my sorrow for her loss. Loving her faithfully, as I did
to the latest moment of her life, I now find it difficult to explain
to myself how I came to neglect such an obvious duty. I was always
thinking that I would do it at some future time. But marriage with a
quadroon would have been void, according to the laws of Louisiana;
and, being immersed in business, I never seemed to find time to take
her abroad. When one has taken the first wrong step, it becomes
dangerously easy to go on in the same path. A man's standing here is
not injured by such irregular connections; and my faithful, loving
Eulalia meekly accepted her situation as a portion of her inherited
destiny. Mine was the fault, not hers; for I was free to do as I
pleased, and she never had been. I acted in opposition to moral
principles, which the education of false circumstances had given her
no opportunity to form. I had remorseful thoughts at times, but I am
quite sure she was never troubled in that way. She loved and trusted
me entirely. She knew that the marriage of a white man with one of her
race was illegal; and she quietly accepted the fact, as human
beings do accept what they are powerless to overcome. Her daughters
attributed her olive complexion to a Spanish origin; and their only
idea was, and is, that she was my honored wife, as indeed she was in
the inmost recesses of my heart. I gradually withdrew from the few
acquaintances I had formed in New Orleans; partly because I was
satisfied with the company of Eulalia and our children, and partly
because I could not take her with me into society. She had no
acquaintances here, and we acquired the habit of living in a little
world by ourselves,--a world which, as you have seen, was transformed
into a sort of fairy-land by her love of beautiful things. After I
lost her, it was my intention to send the children immediately to
France to be educated. But procrastination is my besetting sin; and
the idea of parting with them was so painful, that I have deferred and
deferred it. The suffering I experience on their account is a just
punishment for the wrong I did their mother. When I think how
beautiful, how talented, how affectionate, and how pure they are, and
in what a cruel position I have placed them, I have terrible writhings
of the heart. I do not think I am destined to long life; and who will
protect them when I am gone?"

A consciousness of last night's wishes and dreams made Alfred blush
as he said, "It occurred to me that your eldest daughter might be
betrothed to Mr. Fitzgerald."

"I hope not," quickly rejoined Mr. Royal. "He is not the sort of man
with whom I would like to intrust her happiness. I think, if it were
so, Rosabella would have told me, for my children always confide in
me."

"I took it for granted that you liked him," replied Alfred; "for you
said an introduction to your home was a favor you rarely bestowed."

"I never conferred it on any young man but yourself," answered Mr.
Royal, "and you owed it partly to my memory of your honest father, and
partly to the expression of your face, which so much resembles his."
The young man smiled and bowed, and his friend continued: "When I
invited you, I was not aware Mr. Fitzgerald was in the city. I am
but slightly acquainted with him, but I conjecture him to be what is
called a high-blood. His manners, though elegant, seem to me flippant
and audacious. He introduced himself into my domestic sanctum; and, as
I partook of his father's hospitality years ago, I find it difficult
to eject him. He came here a few months since, to transact some
business connected with the settlement of his father's estate, and,
unfortunately, he heard Rosabella singing as he rode past my house. He
made inquiries concerning the occupants; and, from what I have heard,
I conjecture that he has learned more of my private history than I
wished to have him know. He called without asking my permission,
and told my girls that his father was my friend, and that he had
consequently taken the liberty to call with some new music, which he
was very desirous of hearing them sing. When I was informed of this,
on my return home, I was exceedingly annoyed; and I have ever since
been thinking of closing business as soon as possible, and taking my
daughters to France. He called twice again during his stay in the
city, but my daughters made it a point to see him only when I was
at home. Now he has come again, to increase the difficulties of my
position by his unwelcome assiduities."

"Unwelcome to _you_" rejoined Alfred; "but, handsome and fascinating
as he is, they are not likely to be unwelcome to your daughters. Your
purpose of conveying them to France is a wise one."

"Would I had done it sooner!" exclaimed Mr. Royal. "How weak I have
been in allowing circumstances to drift me along!" He walked up and
down the room with agitated steps; then, pausing before Alfred, he
laid his hand affectionately on his shoulder, as he said, with solemn
earnestness, "My young friend, I am glad your father did not accept my
proposal to receive you into partnership. Let me advise you to live in
New England. The institutions around us have an effect on character
which it is difficult to escape entirely. Bad customs often lead
well-meaning men into wrong paths."

"That was my father's reason for being unwilling I should reside in
New Orleans," replied Alfred. "He said it was impossible to exaggerate
the importance of social institutions. He often used to speak of
having met a number of Turkish women when he was in the environs of
Constantinople. They were wrapped up like bales of cloth, with two
small openings for their eyes, mounted on camels, and escorted by the
overseer of the harem. The animal sound of their chatter and giggling,
as they passed him, affected him painfully; for it forced upon him the
idea what different beings those women would have been if they had
been brought up amid the free churches and free schools of New
England. He always expounded history to me in the light of that
conviction; and he mourned that temporary difficulties should prevent
lawgivers from checking the growth of evils that must have a blighting
influence on the souls of many generations. He considered slavery a
cumulative poison in the veins of this Republic, and predicted that it
would some day act all at once with deadly power."

"Your father was a wise man," replied Mr. Royal, "and I agree with
him. But it would be unsafe to announce it here; for slavery is a
tabooed subject, except to talk in favor of it."

"I am well aware of that," rejoined Alfred. "And now I must bid you
good morning. You know my mother is an invalid, and I may find letters
at the post-office that will render immediate return necessary. But
I will see you again; and hereafter our acquaintance may perhaps be
renewed in France."

"That is a delightful hope," rejoined the merchant, cordially
returning the friendly pressure of his hand. As he looked after the
young man, he thought how pleasant it would be to have such a son;
and he sighed deeply over the vision of a union that might have been,
under other circumstances, between his family and that of his old
friend. Alfred, as he walked away, was conscious of that latent,
unspoken wish. Again the query began to revolve through his mind
whether the impediments were really insurmountable. There floated
before him a vision of that enchanting room, where the whole of life
seemed to be composed of beauty and gracefulness, music and flowers.
But a shadow of Fitzgerald fell across it, and the recollection of
Boston relatives rose up like an iceberg between him and fairy-land.

A letter informing him of his mother's increasing illness excited
a feeling of remorse that new acquaintances had temporarily nearly
driven her from his thoughts. He resolved to depart that evening; but
the desire to see Rosabella again could not be suppressed. Failing to
find Mr. Royal at his counting-room or his hotel, he proceeded to his
suburban residence. When Tulipa informed him that "massa" had not
returned from the city, he inquired for the young ladies, and was
again shown into that parlor every feature of which was so indelibly
impressed upon his memory. Portions of the music of _Cenerentola_ lay
open on the piano, and the leaves fluttered softly in a gentle breeze
laden with perfumes from the garden. Near by was swinging the beaded
tassel of a book-mark between the pages of a half-opened volume. He
looked at the title and saw that it was Lalla Rookh. He smiled, as he
glanced round the room on the flowery festoons, the graceful tangle
of bright arabesques on the walls, the Dancing Girl, and the Sleeping
Cupid. "All is in harmony with Canova, and Moore, and Rossini,"
thought he. "The Lady in Milton's Comus _has_ been the ideal of my
imagination; and now here I am so strangely taken captive by--"

Rosabella entered at that moment, and almost startled him with the
contrast to his ideal. Her glowing Oriental beauty and stately grace
impressed him more than ever. Floracita's fairy form and airy motions
were scarcely less fascinating. Their talk was very girlish. Floracita
had just been reading in a French paper about the performance of _La
Bayadere_, and she longed to see the ballet brought out in Paris.
Rosabella thought nothing could be quite so romantic as to float on
the canals of Venice by moonlight and listen to the nightingales; and
she should _so_ like to cross the Bridge of Sighs! Then they went into
raptures over the gracefulness of Rossini's music, and the brilliancy
of Auber's. Very few and very slender thoughts were conveyed in their
words, but to the young man's ear they had the charm of music; for
Floracita's talk went as trippingly as a lively dance, and the sweet
modulations of Rosabella's voice so softened English to Italian sound,
that her words seemed floating on a liquid element, like goldfish
in the water. Indeed, her whole nature seemed to partake the fluid
character of music. Beauty born of harmonious sound "had passed into
her face," and her motions reminded one of a water-lily undulating on
its native element.

The necessity of returning immediately to Boston was Alfred's apology
for a brief call. Repressed feeling imparted great earnestness to the
message he left for his father's friend. While he was uttering it, the
conversation he had recently had with Mr. Royal came back to him with
painful distinctness. After parting compliments were exchanged, he
turned to say, "Excuse me, young ladies, if, in memory of our fathers'
friendship, I beg of you to command my services, as if I were a
brother, should it ever be in my power to serve you."

Rosabella thanked him with a slight inclination of her graceful head;
and Floracita, dimpling a quick little courtesy, said sportively, "If
some cruel Blue-Beard should shut us up in his castle, we will send
for you."

"How funny!" exclaimed the volatile child, as the door closed after
him. "He spoke as solemn as a minister; but I suppose that's the way
with Yankees. I think _cher papa_ likes to preach sometimes."

Rosabella, happening to glance at the window, saw that Alfred King
paused in the street and looked back. How their emotions would have
deepened could they have foreseen the future!

CHAPTER III.

A year passed away, and the early Southern spring had again returned
with flowers and fragrance. After a day in music and embroidery, with
sundry games at Battledoor and The Graces with her sister, Floracita
heard the approaching footsteps of her father, and, as usual, bounded
forth to meet him. Any one who had not seen him since he parted from
the son of his early New England friend would have observed that he
looked older and more careworn; but his daughters, accustomed to see
him daily, had not noticed the gradual change.

"You have kept us waiting a little, Papasito," said Rosabella, turning
round on the music-stool, and greeting him with a smile.

"Yes, my darling," rejoined he, placing his hand fondly on her head.
"Getting ready to go to Europe makes a deal of work."

"If we were sons, we could help you," said Rosabella.

"I wish you _were_ sons!" answered he, with serious emphasis and a
deep sigh.

Floracita nestled close to him, and, looking up archly in his face,
said, "And pray what would you do, papa, without your nightingale and
your fairy, as you call us?"

"Sure enough, what _should_ I do, my little flower?" said he, as with
a loving smile he stooped to kiss her.

They led him to the tea-table; and when the repast was ended, they
began to talk over their preparations for leaving home.

"_Cher papa_, how long before we shall go to Paris?" inquired
Floracita.

"In two or three weeks, I hope," was the reply.

"Won't it be delightful!" exclaimed she. "You will take us to see
ballets and everything."

"When I am playing and singing fragments of operas," said Rosabella,
"I often think to myself how wonderfully beautiful they would sound,
if all the parts were brought out by such musicians as they have in
Europe. I should greatly enjoy hearing operas in Paris; but I often
think, Papasito, that we can never be so happy anywhere as we have
been in this dear home. It makes me feel sad to leave all these pretty
things,--so many of them--"

She hesitated, and glanced at her father.

"So intimately associated with your dear mother, you were about to
say," replied he. "That thought is often present with me, and the idea
of parting with them pains me to the heart. But I do not intend they
shall ever be handled by strangers. We will pack them carefully and
leave them with Madame Guirlande; and when we get settled abroad, in
some nice little cottage, we will send for them. But when you have
been in Paris, when you have seen the world and the world has seen
you, perhaps you won't be contented to live in a cottage with your old
Papasito. Perhaps your heads will become so turned with flattery, that
you will want to be at balls and operas all the time."

"No flattery will be so sweet as yours, _cher papa_," said Floracita.

"No indeed!" exclaimed Rosa. But, looking up, she met his eye, and
blushed crimson. She was conscious of having already listened to
flattery that was at least more intoxicating than his. Her father
noticed the rosy confusion, and felt a renewal of pain that unexpected
entanglements had prevented his going to Europe months ago. He
tenderly pressed her hand, that lay upon his knee, and looked at her
with troubled earnestness, as he said, "Now that you are going to make
acquaintance with the world, my daughters, and without a mother to
guide you, I want you to promise me that you will never believe any
gentleman sincere in professions of love, unless he proposes marriage,
and asks my consent."

Rosabella was obviously agitated, but she readily replied, "Do you
suppose, Papasito, that we would accept a lover without asking you
about it? When _Mamita querida_ died, she charged us to tell you
everything; and we always do."

"I do not doubt you, my children," he replied; "but the world is full
of snares; and sometimes they are so covered with flowers, that the
inexperienced slip into them unawares. I shall try to shield you from
harm, as I always have done; but when I am gone--"

"O, don't say that!" exclaimed Floracita, with a quick, nervous
movement.

And Rosabella looked at him with swimming eyes, as she repeated,
"Don't say that, _Papasito querido_!"

He laid a hand on the head of each. His heart was very full. With
solemn tenderness he tried to warn them of the perils of life. But
there was much that he was obliged to refrain from saying, from
reverence for their inexperienced purity. And had he attempted to
describe the manners of a corrupt world, they could have had no
realizing sense of his meaning; for it is impossible for youth to
comprehend the dangers of the road it is to travel.

The long talk at last subsided into serious silence. After remaining
very still a few moments, Rosabella said softy, "Wouldn't you like to
hear some music before you go to bed, _Papasito mio_?"

He nodded assent, and she moved to the piano. Their conversation had
produced an unusually tender and subdued state of feeling, and she
sang quietly many plaintive melodies that her mother loved. The
fountain trickling in the garden kept up a low liquid accompaniment,
and the perfume of the orange-groves seemed like the fragrant breath
of the tones.

It was late when they parted for the night. "_Bon soir, cher papa_"
said Floracita, kissing her father's hand.

"_Buenas noches, Papasito querido_" said Rosabella, as she touched his
cheek with her beautiful lips.

There was moisture in his eyes as he folded them to his heart and
said, "God bless you! God protect you, my dear ones!" Those melodies
of past times had brought their mother before him in all her loving
trustfulness, and his soul was full of sorrow for the irreparable
wrong he had done her children.

The pensive mood, that had enveloped them all in a little cloud the
preceding evening, was gone in the morning. There was the usual
bantering during breakfast, and after they rose from table they
discussed in a lively manner various plans concerning their residence
in France. Rosabella evidently felt much less pleasure in the prospect
than did her younger sister; and her father, conjecturing the reason,
was the more anxious to expedite their departure. "I must not linger
here talking," said he. "I must go and attend to business; for there
are many things to be arranged before we can set out on our travels,"

"_Hasta luego, Papasito mio_" said Rosabella, with an affectionate
smile.

"_Au revoir, cher papa_" said Floracita, as she handed him his hat.

He patted her head playfully as he said, "What a polyglot family we
are! Your grandfather's Spanish, your grandmother's French, and your
father's English, all mixed up in an _olla podrida_. Good morning, my
darlings."

Floracita skipped out on the piazza, calling after him, "Papa, what
_is_ polyglot?"

He turned and shook his finger laughingly at her, as he exclaimed, "O,
you little ignoramus!"

The sisters lingered on the piazza, watching him till he was out of
sight. When they re-entered the house, Floracita occupied herself with
various articles of her wardrobe; consulting with Rosa whether any
alterations would be necessary before they were packed for France.
It evidently cost Rosa some effort to attend to her innumerable
questions, for the incessant chattering disturbed her revery. At
every interval she glanced round the room with a sort of farewell
tenderness. It was more to her than the home of a happy childhood; for
nearly all the familiar objects had become associated with glances and
tones, the memory of which excited restless longings in her heart. As
she stood gazing on the blooming garden and the little fountain, whose
sparkling rills crossed each other in the sunshine like a silvery
network strung with diamonds, she exclaimed, "O Floracita, we shall
never be so happy anywhere else as we have been here."

"How do you know that, _sistita mia_?" rejoined the lively little
chatterer. "Only think, we have never been to a ball! And when we get
to France, Papasito will go everywhere with us. He says he will."

"I should like to hear operas and see ballets in Paris," said
Rosabella; "but I wish we could come back _here_ before long."

Floracita's laughing eyes assumed the arch expression which rendered
them peculiarly bewitching, and she began to sing,--

"Petit blanc, mon bon frere!
Ha! ha! petit blanc si doux!
Il n'y a rien sur la terre
De si joli que vous.

"Un petit blanc que j'aime--"

A quick flush mantled her sister's face, and she put her hand over the
mischievous mouth, exclaiming, "Don't, Flora! don't!"

The roguish little creature went laughing and capering out of the
room, and her voice was still heard singing,--

"Un petit blanc que j'aime."

The arrival of Signor Papanti soon summoned her to rehearse a music
lesson. She glanced roguishly at her sister when she began; and as she
went on, Rosa could not help smiling at her musical antics. The old
teacher bore it patiently for a while, then he stopped trying to
accompany her, and, shaking his finger at her, said, "_Diavolessa_!"

"Did I make a false note?" asked she, demurely.

"No, you little witch, you _can't_ make a false note. But how do you
suppose I can keep hold of the tail of the Air, if you send me chasing
after it through so many capricious variations? Now begin again, _da
capo_"

The lesson was recommenced, but soon ran riot again. The Signor became
red in the face, shut the music-book with a slam, and poured forth a
volley of wrath in Italian, When she saw that he was really angry, she
apologized, and promised to do better. The third time of trying, she
acquitted herself so well that her teacher praised her; and when
she bade him good morning, with a comic little courtesy, he smiled
good-naturedly, as he said, "_Ah, Malizietta_!"

"I knew I should make Signor Pimentero sprinkle some pepper,"
exclaimed she, laughing, as she saw him walk away.

"You are too fond of sobriquets," said Rosa. "If you are not careful,
you will call him Signor Pimentero to his face, some day."

"What did you tell me _that_ for?" asked the little rogue. "It will
just make me do it. Now I am going to pester Madame's parrot."

She caught up her large straw hat, with flying ribbons, and ran to the
house of their next neighbor, Madame Guirlande. She was a French lady,
who had given the girls lessons in embroidery, the manufacture of
artificial flowers, and other fancy-work. Before long, Floracita
returned through the garden, skipping over a jumping-rope. "This is
a day of compliments," said she, as she entered the parlor, "Signor
Pimentero called me _Diavolessa_; Madame Guirlande called me _Joli
petit diable_; and the parrot took it up, and screamed it after me, as
I came away."

"I don't wonder at it," replied Rosa. "I think I never saw even you so
full of mischief."

Her frolicsome mood remained through the day. One moment she assumed
the dignified manner of Rosabella, and, stretching herself to the
utmost, she stood very erect, giving sage advice. The next, she was
impersonating a negro preacher, one of Tulipa's friends. Hearing a
mocking-bird in the garden, she went to the window and taxed his
powers to the utmost, by running up and down difficult _roulades_,
interspersed with the talk of parrots, the shrill fanfare of trumpets,
and the deep growl of a contra-fagotto. The bird produced a grotesque
fantasia in his efforts to imitate her. The peacock, as he strutted up
and down the piazza, trailing his gorgeous plumage in the sunshine,
ever and anon turned his glossy neck, and held up his ear to listen,
occasionally performing his part in the _charivari_ by uttering a
harsh scream. The mirthfulness of the little madcap was contagious,
and not unfrequently the giggle of Tulipa and the low musical laugh of
Rosabella mingled with the concert.

Thus the day passed merrily away, till the gilded Flora that leaned
against the timepiece pointed her wand toward the hour when their
father was accustomed to return.

CHAPTER IV.

Floracita was still in the full career of fun, when footsteps were
heard approaching; and, as usual, she bounded forth to welcome her
father. Several men, bearing a palanquin on their shoulders, were
slowly ascending the piazza. She gave one glance at their burden, and
uttered a shrill scream. Rosabella hastened to her in great alarm.
Tulipa followed, and quickly comprehending that something terrible had
happened, she hurried away to summon Madame Guirlande. Rosabella, pale
and trembling, gasped out, "What has happened to my father?"

Franz Blumenthal, a favorite clerk of Mr. Royal's, replied, in a low,
sympathizing tone, "He was writing letters in the counting-room this
afternoon, and when I went in to speak to him, I found him on the
floor senseless. We called a doctor immediately, but he failed to
restore him."

"O, call another doctor!" said Rosa, imploringly; and Floracita almost
shrieked, "Tell me where to _go_ for a doctor."

"We have already summoned one on the way," said young Blumenthal, "but
I will go to hasten him";--and, half blinded by his tears, he hurried
into the street.

The doctor came in two minutes, and yet it seemed an age. Meanwhile
the wretched girls were chafing their father's cold hands, and holding
sal-volatile to his nose, while Madame Guirlande and Tulipa were
preparing hot water and hot cloths. When the physician arrived, they
watched his countenance anxiously, while he felt the pulse and laid
his hand upon the heart. After a while he shook his head and said,
"Nothing can be done. He is dead."

Rosabella fell forward, fainting, on the body. Floracita uttered
shriek upon shriek, while Madame Guirlande and Tulipa vainly tried to
pacify her. The doctor at last persuaded her to swallow some valerian,
and Tulipa carried her in her arms and laid her on the bed. Madame
Guirlande led Rosa away, and the two sisters lay beside each other, on
the same pillows where they had dreamed such happy dreams the night
before. Floracita, stunned by the blow that had fallen on her so
suddenly, and rendered drowsy by the anodyne she had taken, soon fell
into an uneasy slumber, broken by occasional starts and stifled sobs.
Rosabella wept silently, but now and then a shudder passed over her,
that showed how hard she was struggling with grief. After a short
time, Flora woke up bewildered. A lamp was burning in the farther part
of the room, and Madame Guirlande, who sat there in spectacles and
ruffled cap, made a grotesque black shadow on the wall. Floracita
started up, screaming, "What is that?" Madame Guirlande went to her,
and she and Rosa spoke soothingly, and soon she remembered all.

"O, let me go home with _you_" she said to Madame "I am afraid to stay
here."

"Yes, my children," replied the good Frenchwoman. "You had better both
go home and stay with me to-night."

"I cannot go away and leave _him_ alone," murmured Rosa, in tones
almost inaudible.

"Franz Blumenthal is going to remain here," replied Madame Guirlande,"
and Tulipa has offered to sit up all night. It is much better for you
to go with me than to stay here, my children."

Thus exhorted, they rose and began to make preparations for departure.
But all at once the tender good-night of the preceding evening rushed
on Rosa's memory, and she sank down in a paroxysm of grief. After
weeping bitterly for some minutes, she sobbed out, "O, this is worse
than it was when Mamita died. Papasito was so tender with us then; and
now we are _all_ alone."

"Not all alone," responded Madame. "Jesus and the Blessed Virgin are
with you."

"O, I don't know where _they_ are!" exclaimed Flora, in tones of wild
agony. "I want my Papasito! I want to die and go to my Papasito."

Rosabella folded her in her arms, and they mingled their tears
together, as she whispered: "Let us try to be tranquil, Sistita. We
must not be troublesome to our kind friend. I did wrong to say we were
all alone. We have always a Father in heaven, and he still spares us
to love each other. Perhaps, too, our dear Papasito is watching over
us. You know he used to tell us Mamita had become our guardian angel."

Floracita kissed her, and pressed her hand in silence. Then they made
preparations to go with their friendly neighbor; all stepping very
softly, as if afraid of waking the beloved sleeper.

The sisters had lived in such extreme seclusion, that when sorrow came
upon them, like the sudden swoop and swift destruction of a tropical
storm, they had no earthly friend to rely upon but Madame Guirlande.
Only the day before, they had been so rich in love, that, had she
passed away from the earth, it would have made no distressing change
in their existence. They would have said, "Poor Madame Guirlande! She
was a good soul. How patient she used to be with us!" and after a day
or two, they would have danced and sung the same as ever. But one day
had so beggared them in affection, that they leaned upon her as their
only earthly support.

After an almost untasted breakfast, they all went back to the
desolated home. The flowery parlor seemed awfully lonesome. The piano
was closed, the curtains drawn, and their father's chair was placed
against the wall. The murmur of the fountain sounded as solemn as a
dirge, and memories filled the room like a troop of ghosts. Hand in
hand, the bereaved ones went to kiss the lips that would speak to them
no more in this world. They knelt long beside the bed, and poured
forth their breaking hearts in prayer. They rose up soothed and
strengthened, with the feeling that their dear father and mother were
still near them. They found a sad consolation in weaving garlands and
flowery crosses, which they laid on the coffin with tender reverence.

When the day of the funeral came, Madame Guirlande kept them very near
her, holding a hand of each. She had provided them with long veils,
which she requested them not to remove; for she remembered how
anxiously their father had screened their beauty from the public gaze.
A number of merchants, who had known and respected Mr. Royal, followed
his remains to the grave. Most of them had heard of his quadroon
connection, and some supposed that the veiled mourners might be his
daughters; but such things were too common to excite remark, or to
awaken much interest. The girls passed almost unnoticed; having, out
of respect to the wishes of their friend, stifled their sobs till they
were alone in the carriage with her and their old music-teacher.

The conviction that he was not destined to long life, which Mr. Royal
had expressed to Alfred King, was founded on the opinion of physicians
that his heart was diseased. This furnished an additional motive for
closing his business as soon as possible, and taking his children to
France. But the failure of several houses with which he was connected
brought unexpected entanglements. Month by month, these became more
complicated, and necessarily delayed the intended emigration. His
anxiety concerning his daughters increased to an oppressive degree,
and aggravated the symptoms of his disease. With his habitual desire
to screen them from everything unpleasant, he unwisely concealed from
them both his illness and his pecuniary difficulties. He knew he could
no longer be a rich man; but he still had hope of saving enough of his
fortune to live in a moderate way in some cheap district of France.
But on the day when he bade his daughters good morning so cheerfully,
he received a letter informing him of another extensive failure, which
involved him deeply. He was alone in his counting-room when he read
it; and there Franz Blumenthal found him dead, with the letter in his
hand. His sudden exit of course aroused the vigilance of creditors,
and their examination into the state of his affairs proved anything
but satisfactory.

The sisters, unconscious of all this, were undisturbed by any anxiety
concerning future support. The necessity of living without their
father's love and counsel weighed heavily on their spirits; but
concerning his money they took no thought. Hitherto they had lived
as the birds do, and it did not occur to them that it could ever be
otherwise. The garden and the flowery parlor, which their mother had
created and their father had so dearly loved, seemed almost as much a
portion of themselves as their own persons. It had been hard to think
of leaving them, even for the attractions of Paris; and now _that_
dream was over, it seemed a necessity of their existence to live on in
the atmosphere of beauty to which they had always been accustomed. But
now that the sunshine of love had vanished from it, they felt lonely
and unprotected there. They invited Madame Guirlande to come and live
with them on what terms she chose; and when she said there ought to be
some elderly man in the house, they at once suggested inviting their
music-teacher. Madame, aware of the confidence Mr. Royal had always
placed in him, thought it was the best arrangement that could be made,
at least for the present. While preparations were being made to effect
this change, her proceedings were suddenly arrested by tidings that
the house and furniture were to be sold at auction, to satisfy the
demands of creditors. She kept back the unwelcome news from the girls,
while she held long consultations with Signor Papanti. He declared
his opinion that Rosabella could make a fortune by her voice, and
Floracita by dancing.

"But then they are so young," urged Madame,--"one only sixteen, the
other only fourteen."

"Youth is a disadvantage one soon outgrows," replied the Signor. "They
can't make fortunes immediately, of course; but they can earn a living
by giving lessons. I will try to open a way for them, and the sooner
you prepare them for it the better."

Madame dreaded the task of disclosing their poverty, but she found it
less painful than she had feared. They had no realizing sense of what
it meant, and rather thought that giving lessons would be a pleasant
mode of making time pass less heavily. Madame, who fully understood
the condition of things, kept a watchful lookout for their interests.
Before an inventory was taken, she gathered up and hid away many
trifling articles which would be useful to them, though of little or
no value to the creditors. Portfolios of music, patterns for drawings,
boxes of paint and crayons, baskets of chenille for embroidery, and a
variety of other things, were safely packed away out of sight, without
the girls' taking any notice of her proceedings.

During her father's lifetime, Floracita was so continually whirling
round in fragmentary dances, that he often told her she rested on her
feet less than a humming-bird. But after he was gone, she remained
very still from morning till night. When Madame spoke to her of
the necessity of giving dancing-lessons, it suggested the idea of
practising. But she felt that she could not dance where she had been
accustomed to dance before _him_; and she had not the heart to ask
Rosa to play for her. She thought she would try, in the solitude of
her chamber, how it would seem to give dancing-lessons. But without
music, and without a spectator, it seemed so like the ghost of dancing
that after a few steps the poor child threw herself on the bed and
sobbed.

Rosa did not open the piano for several days after the funeral; but
one morning, feeling as if it would be a relief to pour forth the
sadness that oppressed her, she began to play languidly. Only requiems
and prayers came. Half afraid of summoning an invisible spirit, she
softly touched the keys to "The Light of other Days." But remembering
it was the very last tune she ever played to her father, she leaned
her head forward on the instrument, and wept bitterly.

While she sat thus the door-bell rang, and she soon became conscious
of steps approaching the parlor. Her heart gave a sudden leap; for her
first thought was of Gerald Fitzgerald. She raised her head, wiped
away her tears, and rose to receive the visitor. Three strangers
entered. She bowed to them, and they, with a little look of surprise,
bowed to her. "What do you wish for, gentlemen?" she asked.

"We are here concerning the settlement of Mr. Royal's estate," replied
one of them. "We have been appointed to take an inventory of the
furniture."

While he spoke, one of his companions was inspecting the piano, to see
who was the maker, and another was examining the timepiece.

It was too painful; and Rosa, without trusting herself to speak
another word, walked quietly out of the room, the gathering moisture
in her eyes making it difficult for her to guide her steps.

"Is that one of the daughters we have heard spoken of?" inquired one
of the gentlemen.

"I judge so," rejoined his companion. "What a royal beauty she is!
Good for three thousand, I should say."

"More likely five thousand," added the third. "Such a fancy article as
that don't appear in the market once in fifty years."

"Look here!" said the first speaker. "Do you see that pretty little
creature crossing the garden? I reckon that's the other daughter."

"They'll bring high prices," continued the third speaker. "They're
the best property Royal has left. We may count them eight or ten
thousand, at least. Some of our rich fanciers would jump at the chance
of obtaining _one_ of them for that price." As he spoke, he looked
significantly at the first speaker, who refrained from expressing any
opinion concerning their pecuniary value.

All unconscious of the remarks she had elicited, Rosa retired to her
chamber, where she sat at the window plunged in mournful revery.
She was thinking of various articles her mother had painted and
embroidered, and how her father had said he could not bear the thought
of their being handled by strangers. Presently Floracita came running
in, saying, in a flurried way, "Who are those men down stairs, Rosa?"

"I don't know who they are," replied her sister. "They said they came
to take an inventory of the furniture. I don't know what right they
have to do it. I wish Madame would come."

"I will run and call her," said Floracita.

"No, you had better stay with me," replied Rosa. "I was just going to
look for you when you came in."

"I ran into the parlor first, thinking you were there," rejoined
Floracita. "I saw one of those men turning over Mamita's embroidered
ottoman, and chalking something on it. How dear papa would have felt
if he had seen it! One of them looked at me in such a strange way! I
don't know what he meant; but it made me want to run away in a minute.
Hark! I do believe they have come up stairs, and are in papa's room.
They won't come here, will they?"

"Bolt the door!" exclaimed Rosa; and it was quickly done. They sat
folded in each other's arms, very much afraid, though they knew not
wherefore.

"Ah!" said Rosa, with a sigh of relief, "there is Madame coming." She
leaned out of the window, and beckoned to her impatiently.

Her friend hastened her steps; and when she heard of the strangers who
were in the house, she said, "You had better go home with me, and stay
there till they are gone."

"What are they going to do?" inquired Floracita.

"I will tell you presently," replied Madame, as she led them
noiselessly out of the house by a back way.

When they entered her own little parlor, the parrot called out, "_Joli
petit diable_!" and after waiting for the old familiar response, "_Bon
jour, jolie Manon_!" she began to call herself "_Jolie Manon_!" and to
sing, "_Ha! ha! petit blanc, mon bon frere_!" The poor girls had no
heart for play; and Madame considerately silenced the noisy bird by
hanging a cloth over the cage.

"My dear children," said she, "I would gladly avoid telling you
anything calculated to make you more unhappy. But you _must_ know the
state of things sooner or later, and it is better that a friend should
tell you. Your father owed money to those men, and they are seeing
what they can find to sell in order to get their pay."

"Will they sell the table and boxes Mamita painted, and the ottomans
she embroidered?" inquired Rosa, anxiously.

"Will they sell the piano that papa gave to Rosa for a birthday
present?" asked Flora.

"I am afraid they will," rejoined Madame.

The girls covered their faces and groaned.

"Don't be so distressed, my poor children," said their sympathizing
friend. "I have been trying to save a little something for you. See
here!" And she brought forth some of the hidden portfolios and boxes,
saying, "These will be of great use to you, my darlings, in helping
you to earn your living, and they would bring almost nothing at
auction."

They thanked their careful friend for her foresight. But when she
brought forward their mother's gold watch and diamond ring, Rosa said,
"I would rather not keep such expensive things, dear friend. You know
our dear father was the soul of honor. It would have troubled him
greatly not to pay what he owed. I would rather have the ring and the
watch sold to pay his debts."

"I will tell the creditors what you say," answered Madame, "and they
will be brutes if they don't let you keep your mother's things. Your
father owed Signor Papanti a little bill, and he says he will try to
get the table and boxes, and some other things, in payment, and then
you shall have them all. You will earn enough to buy another piano by
and by, and you can use mine, you know; so don't be discouraged, my
poor children."

"God has been very good to us to raise us up such friends as you and
the Signor," replied Rosa. "You don't know how it comforts me to have
you call us your children, for without you we should be all alone in
the world."

CHAPTER V.

Such sudden reverses, such overwhelming sorrows, mature characters
with wonderful rapidity. Rosa, though formed by nature and habit to
cling to others, soon began to form plans for future support. Her
inexperienced mind foresaw few of the difficulties involved in the
career her friends had suggested. She merely expected to study and
work hard; but that seemed a trifle, if she could avoid for herself
and her sister the publicity which their father had so much dreaded.

Floracita, too, seemed like a tamed bird. She was sprightly as ever in
her motions, and quick in her gestures; but she would sit patiently at
her task of embroidery, hour after hour, without even looking up to
answer the noisy challenges of the parrot. Sometimes the sisters,
while they worked, sang together the hymns they had been accustomed
to sing with their father on Sundays; and memory of the missing voice
imparted to their tones a pathos that no mere skill could imitate.

One day, when they were thus occupied, the door-bell rang, and they
heard a voice, which they thought they recognized, talking with
Madame. It was Franz Blumenthal. "I have come to bring some small
articles for the young ladies," said he. "A week before my best
friend died, a Frenchwoman came to the store, and wished to sell some
fancy-baskets. She said she was a poor widow; and Mr. Royal, who
was always kind and generous, commissioned her to make two of her
handsomest baskets, and embroider the names of his daughters on them.
She has placed them in my hands to-day, and I have brought them myself
in order to explain the circumstances."

"Are they paid for?" inquired Madame.

"I have paid for them," replied the young man, blushing deeply; "but
please not to inform the young ladies of that circumstance. And,
Madame, I have a favor to ask of you. Here are fifty dollars. I want
you to use them for the young ladies without their knowledge; and I
should like to remit to you half my wages every month for the same
purpose. When Mr. Royal was closing business, he wrote several letters
of recommendation for me, and addressed them to well-established
merchants. I feel quite sure of getting a situation where I can earn
more than I need for myself."

"_Bon garcon_!" exclaimed Madame, patting him on the shoulder. "I will
borrow the fifty dollars; but I trust we shall be able to pay you
before many months."

"It will wound my feelings if you ever offer to repay me," replied the
young man. "My only regret is, that I cannot just now do any more for
the daughters of my best friend and benefactor, who did so much for me
when I was a poor, destitute boy. But would it be asking too great a
favor, Madame, to be allowed to see the young ladies, and place in
their hands these presents from their father?"

Madame Guirlande smiled as she thought to herself, "What is he but a
boy now? He grows tall though."

When she told her _protegees_ that Franz Blumenthal had a message
he wished to deliver to them personally, Rosa said, "Please go and
receive it, Sistita. I had rather not leave my work."

Floracita glanced at the mirror, smoothed her hair a little, arranged
her collar, and went out. The young clerk was awaiting her appearance
with a good deal of trepidation. He had planned a very nice little
speech to make; but before he had stammered out all the story about
the baskets, he saw an expression in Flora's face which made him feel
that it was indelicate to intrude upon her emotion; and he hurried
away, scarcely hearing her choked voice as she said, "I thank you."

Very reverently the orphans opened the box which contained the
posthumous gifts of their beloved father. The baskets were
manufactured with exquisite taste. They were lined with quilled
apple-green satin. Around the outside of one was the name of Rosabella
embroidered in flowers, and an embroidered garland of roses formed the
handle. The other bore the name of Floracita in minute flowers, and
the handle was formed of _Pensees vivaces_. They turned them round
slowly, unable to distinguish the colors through their swimming tears.

"How like Papasito, to be so kind to the poor woman, and so thoughtful
to please us," said Rosabella. "But he was always so."

"And he must have told her what flowers to put on the baskets," said
Floracita. "You know Mamita often called me _Pensee vivace_. O, there
never _was_ such a Papasito!"

Notwithstanding the sadness that invested tokens coming as it were
from the dead, they inspired a consoling consciousness of his
presence; and their work seemed pleasanter all the day for having
their little baskets by them.

The next morning witnessed a private conference between Madame and the
Signor. If any one had seen them without hearing their conversation,
he would certainly have thought they were rehearsing some very
passionate scene in a tragedy.

The fiery Italian rushed up and down the room, plucking his hair;
while the Frenchwoman ever and anon threw up her hands, exclaiming,
"_Mon Dieu! Mon Dieu_!"

When the violence of their emotions had somewhat abated, Madame said,
"Signor, there must be some mistake about this. It cannot be true. Mr.
Royal would never have left things in such a way."

"At your request," replied the Signor, "I went to one of the
creditors, to ask whether Mr. Royal's family could not be allowed to
keep their mother's watch and jewels. He replied that Mr. Royal
left no family; that his daughters were slaves, and, being property
themselves, they could legally hold no property. I was so sure my
friend Royal would not have left things in such a state, that I told
him he lied, and threatened to knock him down. He out with his pistol;
but when I told him I had left mine at home, he said I must settle
with him some other time, unless I chose to make an apology. I told
him I would do so whenever I was convinced that his statement was
true. I was never more surprised than when he told me that Madame
Royal was a slave. I knew she was a quadroon, and I supposed she was a
_places_, as so many of the quadroons are. But now it seems that Mr.
Royal bought her of her father; and he, good, easy man, neglected to
manumit her. He of course knew that by law 'the child follows the
condition of the mother,' but I suppose it did not occur to him that
the daughters of so rich a man as he was could ever be slaves. At all
events, he neglected to have manumission papers drawn till it was too
late; for his property had become so much involved that he no longer
had a legal right to convey any of it away from creditors."

Madame swung back and forth in the vehemence of her agitation,
exclaiming, "What _is_ to be done? What _is_ to be done?"

The Italian strode up and down the room, clenching his fist, and
talking rapidly. "To think of that Rosabella!" exclaimed he,--"a
girl that would grace any throne in Europe! To think of _her_ on the
auction-stand, with a crowd of low-bred rascals staring at her, and
rich libertines, like that Mr. Bruteman--Pah! I can't endure to think
of it. How like a satyr he looked while he was talking to me about
their being slaves. It seems he got sight of them when they took an
inventory of the furniture. And that handsome little witch, Floracita,
whom her father loved so tenderly, to think of her being bid off to
some such filthy wretch! But they sha'n't have 'em! They sha'n't have
'em! I swear I'll shoot any man that comes to take 'em." He wiped the
perspiration from his forehead, and rushed round like a tiger in a
cage.

"My friend," replied Madame, "they have the law on their side; and if
you try to resist, you will get yourself into trouble without doing
the girls any good. I'll tell you what we must do. We must disguise
them, and send them to the North."

"Send them to the North!" exclaimed the Italian. "Why, they'd no more
know how to get there than a couple of kittens."

"Then I must go with them," replied Madame; "and they must be got out
of this house before another day; for now that we know of it, we shall
be watched."

The impetuous Italian shook her hand cordially. "You have a brave
heart, Madame," said he. "I should rather march up to the cannon's
mouth than tell them such news as this."

The bewildered Frenchwoman felt the same dread of the task before her;
but she bravely said, "What _must_ be done, _can_ be done."

After some further talk with the Signor concerning ways and means,
she bade him good morning, and sat still for a moment to collect her
thoughts. She then proceeded to the apartment assigned to the orphans.
They were occupied with a piece of embroidery she had promised to
sell for them. She looked at the work, praised the exactness of the
stitches and the tasteful shading of the flowers; but while she
pointed out the beauties of the pattern, her hand and voice trembled.

Rosabella noticed it, and, looking up, said, "What troubles you, dear
friend?"

"O, this is a world of trouble," replied Madame, "and you have had
such a storm beating on your young heads, that I wonder you keep your
senses."

"I don't know as we could," said Rosa, "if the good God had not given
us such a friend as you."

"If any _new_ trouble should come, I trust you will try to keep up
brave hearts, my children," rejoined Madame.

"I don't know of any new trouble that _can_ come to us now," said
Rosa, "unless you should be taken from us, as our father was. It seems
as if everything else had happened that _could_ happen."

"O, there are worse things than having _me_ die," replied Madame.

Floracita had paused with her thread half drawn through her work, and
was looking earnestly at the troubled countenance of their friend.
"Madame," exclaimed she, "something has happened. What is it?"

"I will tell you," said Madame, "if you will promise not to scream
or faint, and will try to keep your wits collected, so as to help me
think what is best to be done."

They promised; and, watching her countenance with an expression of
wonder and anxiety, they waited to hear what she had to communicate.
"My dear children," said she, "I have heard something that will
distress you very much. Something neither you nor I ever suspected.
Your mother was a slave."

"_Our_ mother a slave!" exclaimed Rosa, coloring vehemently. "_Whose_
slave could she be, when she was Papasito's wife, and he loved her so?
It is impossible, Madame."

"Your father bought her when she was very young, my dear; but I know
very well that no wife was ever loved better than she was."

"But she always lived with her own father till she married papa," said
Floracita. "How then _could_ she be his slave?"

"Her father got into trouble about money, my dear; and he sold her."

"Our Grandpapa Gonsalez sold his daughter!" exclaimed Rosa. "How
incredible! Dear friend, I wonder you can believe such things."

"The world is full of strange things, my child,--stranger than
anything you ever read in story-books."

"If she was only Papasito's slave," said Flora, "I don't think Mamita
found _that_ any great hardship."

"She did not, my dear. I don't suppose she ever thought of it; but a
great misfortune has grown out of it."

"What is it?" they both asked at once.

Their friend hesitated. "Remember, you have promised to be calm," said
she. "I presume you don't know that, by the laws of Louisiana, 'the
child follows the condition of the mother.' The consequence is, that
_you_ are slaves, and your father's creditors claim a right to sell
you."

Rosabella turned very pale, and the hand with which she clutched a
chair trembled violently. But she held her head erect, and her look
and tone were very proud, as she exclaimed, "_We_ become slaves! I
will die rather."

Floracita, unable to comprehend this new misfortune, looked from one
to the other in a bewildered way. Nature had written mirthfulness in
the shape of her beautiful eyes, which now contrasted strangely with
their startled and sad expression.

The kind-hearted Frenchwoman bustled about the room, moving chairs,
and passing her handkerchief over boxes, while she tried hard to
swallow the emotions that choked her utterance. Having conquered in
the struggle, she turned toward them, and said, almost cheerfully:
"There's no need of dying, my children. Perhaps your old friend can
help you out of this trouble. We must disguise ourselves as gentlemen,
and start for the North this very evening."

Floracita looked at her sister, and said, hesitatingly: "Couldn't you
write to Mr. Fitzgerald, and ask _him_ to come here? Perhaps he could
help us."

Rosa's cheeks glowed, as she answered proudly: "Do you think I would
_ask_ him to come? I wouldn't do such a thing if we were as rich and
happy as we were a little while ago; and certainly I wouldn't do it
now."

"There spoke Grandpa Gonsalez!" said Madame. "How grand the old
gentleman used to look, walking about so erect, with his gold-headed
cane! But we must go to work in a hurry, my children. Signor Papanti
has promised to send the disguises, and we must select and pack such
things as it is absolutely necessary we should carry. I am sorry now
that Tulee is let out in the city, for we need her help.

"She must go with us," said Flora. "I can't leave Tulee."

"We must do as we can," replied Madame. "In this emergency we can't do
as we would. _We_ are all white, and if we can get a few miles from
here, we shall have no further trouble. But if we had a negro with
us, it would lead to questions, perhaps. Besides, we haven't time to
disguise her and instruct her how to perform her part. The Signor will
be a good friend to her; and as soon as we can earn some money, we
will send and buy her."

"But where can we go when we get to the North?" asked Rosa.

"I will tell you," said Floracita. "Don't you remember that Mr. King
from Boston, who came to see us a year ago? His father was papa's best
friend, you know; and when he went away, he told us if ever we were in
trouble, to apply to him, as if he were our brother."

"Did he?" said Madame. "That lets in a gleam of light. I heard your
father say he was a very good young man, and rich."

"But Papasito said, some months ago, that Mr. King had gone to Europe
with his mother, on account of her health," replied Rosa. "Besides,
if he were at home, it would be very disagreeable to go to a young
gentleman as beggars and runaways, when he was introduced to us as
ladies."

"You must put your pride in your pocket for the present, Senorita
Gonsalez," said Madame, playfully touching her under the chin. "If
this Mr. King is absent, I will write to him. They say there is a man
in Boston, named William Lloyd Garrison, who takes great interest in
slaves. We will tell him our story, and ask him about Mr. King. I did
think of stopping awhile with relatives in New York. But it would be
inconvenient for them, and they might not like it. This plan pleases
me better. To Boston we will go. The Signor has gone to ask my cousin,
Mr. Duroy, to come here and see to the house. When I have placed you
safely, I will come back slyly to my cousin's house, a few miles from
here, and with his help I will settle up my affairs. Then I will
return to you, and we will all go to some secure place and live
together. I never starved yet, and I don't believe I ever shall."

The orphans clung to her, and kissed her hands, as they said: "How
kind you are to us, dear friend! What shall we ever do to repay you?"

"Your father and mother were generous friends to me," replied Madame;
"and now their children are in trouble, I will not forsake them."

As the good lady was to leave her apartments for an indefinite time,
there was much to be done and thought of, beside the necessary packing
for the journey. The girls tried their best to help her, but they were
continually proposing to carry something because it was a keepsake
from Mamita or Papasito.

"This is no time for sentiment, my children," said Madame. "We must
not take anything we can possibly do without. Bless my soul, there
goes the bell! What if it should be one of those dreadful creditors
come here to peep and pry? Run to your room, my children, and bolt the
door."

A moment afterward, she appeared before them smiling, and said: "There
was no occasion for being so frightened, but I am getting nervous with
all this flurry. Come back again, dears. It is only Franz Blumenthal."

"What, come again?" asked Rosa. "Please go, Floracita, and I will come
directly, as soon as I have gathered up these things that we must
carry."

The young German blushed like a girl as he offered two bouquets, one
of heaths and orange-buds, the other of orange-blossoms and fragrant
geraniums; saying as he did so, "I have taken the liberty to bring
some flowers, Miss Floracita."

"My name is Miss Royal, sir," she replied, trying to increase her
stature to the utmost. It was an unusual caprice in one whose nature
was so childlike and playful; but the recent knowledge that she was a
slave had made her, for the first time, jealous of her dignity. She
took it into her head that he knew the humiliating fact, and presumed
upon it.

But the good lad was as yet unconscious of this new trouble, and the
unexpected rebuke greatly surprised him. Though her slight figure and
juvenile face made her attempt at majesty somewhat comic, it was quite
sufficient to intimidate the bashful youth; and he answered, very
meekly: "Pardon me, Miss Royal. Floracita is such a very pretty name,
and I have always liked it so much, that I spoke it before I thought."

The compliment disarmed her at once; and with one of her winning
smiles, and a quick little courtesy, she said: "Do you think it's a
pretty name? You _may_ call me Floracita, if you like it so much."

"I think it is the prettiest name in the world," replied he. "I used
to like to hear your mother say it. She said everything so sweetly! Do
you remember she used to call me Florimond when I was a little boy,
because, she said, my face was so florid? Now I always write my name
Franz Florimond Blumenthal, in memory of her."

"I will always call you Florimond, just as Mamita did," said she.

Their very juvenile _tete-a-tete_ was interrupted by the entrance of
Madame with Rosa, who thanked him graciously for her portion of the
flowers, and told him her father was so much attached to him that she
should always think of him as a brother.

He blushed crimson as he thanked her, and went away with a very warm
feeling at his heart, thinking Floracita a prettier name than ever,
and happily unconscious that he was parting from her.

He had not been gone long when the bell rang again, and the girls
again hastened to hide themselves. Half an hour elapsed without their
seeing or hearing anything of Madame; and they began to be extremely
anxious lest something unpleasant was detaining her. But she came at
last, and said, "My children, the Signor wants to speak to you."

They immediately descended to the sitting-room, where they found the
Signor looking down and slowly striking the ivory head of his cane
against his chin, as he was wont to do when buried in profound
thought. He rose as they entered, and Rosa said, with one of her
sweetest smiles, "What is it you wish, dear friend?" He dropped a thin
cloak from his shoulders and removed his hat, which brought away a
grizzled wig with it, and Mr. Fitzgerald stood smiling before them.

The glad surprise excited by this sudden realization of a latent hope
put maidenly reserve to flight, and Rosa dropped on her knees before
him, exclaiming, "O Gerald, save us!"

He raised her tenderly, and, imprinting a kiss on her forehead, said:
"Save you, my precious Rose? To be sure I will. That's what I came
for."

"And me too," said Flora, clinging to him, and hiding her face under
his arm.

"Yes, and you too, mischievous fairy," replied he, giving her a less
ceremonious kiss than he had bestowed on her sister. "But we must talk
fast, for there is a great deal to be done in a short time. I was
unfortunately absent from home, and did not receive the letter
informing me of your good father's death so soon as I should otherwise
have done. I arrived in the city this morning, but have been too busy
making arrangements for your escape to come here any earlier. The
Signor and I have done the work of six during the last few hours.
The creditors are not aware of my acquaintance with you, and I have
assumed this disguise to prevent them from discovering it. The Signor
has had a talk with Tulee, and told her to keep very quiet, and not
tell any mortal that she ever saw me at your father's house. A passage
for you and Madame is engaged on board a vessel bound to Nassau,
which will sail at midnight. Soon, after I leave this house, Madame's
cousin, Mr. Duroy, will come with two boys. You and Madame will assume
their dresses, and they will put on some clothes the Signor has
already sent, in such boxes as Madame is accustomed to receive, full
of materials for her flowers. All, excepting ourselves, will suppose
you have gone North, according to the original plan, in order that
they may swear to that effect if they are brought to trial. When I go
by the front of the house whistling _Ca ira_, you will pass through
the garden to the street in the rear, where you will find my servant
with a carriage, which will convey you three miles, to the house of
one of my friends. I will come there in season to accompany you on
board the ship."

"O, how thoughtful and how kind you are!" exclaimed Rosa. "But can't
we contrive some way to take poor Tulee with us?"

"It would be imprudent," he replied. "The creditors must be allowed to
sell her. She knows it, but she has my assurance that I will take good
care of her. No harm shall come to Tulee, I promise you. I cannot go
with you to Nassau; because, if I do, the creditors may suspect my
participation in the plot. I shall stay in New Orleans a week or ten
days, then return to Savannah, and take an early opportunity to sail
for Nassau, by the way of New York. Meanwhile, I will try to manage
matters so that Madame can safely return to her house. Then we will
decide where to make a happy home for ourselves."

The color forsook Rosa's cheeks, and her whole frame quivered, as she
said, "I thank you, Gerald, for all this thoughtful care; but I cannot
go to Nassau,--indeed I cannot!"

"Cannot go!" exclaimed he. "Where _will_ you go, then?"

"Before you came, Madame had made ready to take us to Boston, you
know. We will go there with her."

"Rosa, do you distrust me?" said he reproachfully. "Do you doubt my
love?"

"I do not distrust you," she replied; "but"--she looked down, and
blushed deeply as she added--"but I promised my father that I would
never leave home with any gentleman unless I was married to him."

"But, Rosa dear, your father did not foresee such a state of things
as this. Everything is arranged, and there is no time to lose. If you
knew all that I know, you would see the necessity of leaving this city
before to-morrow."

"I cannot go with you," she repeated in tones of the deepest
distress,--"I _cannot_ go with you, for I promised my dear father the
night before he died."

He looked at her for an instant, and then, drawing her close to him,
he said: "It shall be just as you wish, darling. I will bring a
clergyman to the house of my friend, and we will be married before you
sail."

Rosa, without venturing to look up, said, in a faltering tone: "I
cannot bear to bring degradation upon you, Gerald. It seems wrong to
take advantage of your generous forgetfulness of yourself. When you
first told me you loved me, you did not know I was an octoroon, and
a--slave."

"I knew your mother was a quadroon," he replied; "and as for the rest,
no circumstance can degrade _you_, my Rose Royal."

"But if your plan should not succeed, how ashamed you would feel to
have us seized!" said she.

"It _will_ succeed, dearest. But even if it should not, you shall
never be the property of any man but myself."

"_Property_!"! she exclaimed in the proud Gonsalez tone, striving to
withdraw herself from his embrace.

He hastened to say: "Forgive me, Rosabella. I am so intoxicated with
happiness that I cannot be careful of my words. I merely meant to
express the joyful feeling that you would be surely mine, wholly
mine."

While they were talking thus, Floracita had glided out of the room to
carry the tidings to Madame. The pressure of misfortune had been so
heavy upon her, that, now it was lifted a little, her elastic spirit
rebounded with a sudden spring, and she felt happier than she had ever
thought of being since her father died. In the lightness of her heart
she began to sing, "_Petit blanc, mon bon frere_!" but she stopped at
the first line, for she recollected how her father had checked her in
the midst of that frisky little song; and now that she knew they were
octoroons, she partly comprehended why it had been disagreeable to
him. But the gayety that died out of her voice passed into her steps.
She went hopping and jumping up to Madame, exclaiming: "What do you
think is going to happen now? Rosabella is going to be married right
off. What a pity she can't be dressed like a bride! She would look so
handsome in white satin and pearls, and a great lace veil! But here
are the flowers Florimond brought so opportunely. I will put the
orange-buds in her hair, and she shall have a bouquet in her hand."

"She will look handsome in anything," rejoined Madame. "But tell me
about it, little one."

After receiving Flora's answers to a few brief questions, she
stationed herself within sight of the outer door, that she might ask
Fitzgerald for more minute directions concerning what they were to do.
He very soon made his appearance, again disguised as the Signor.

After a hurried consultation, Madame said: "I do hope nothing will
happen to prevent our getting off safely. Rosabella has so much
Spanish pride, I verily believe she would stab herself rather than go
on the auction-stand."

"Heavens and earth! don't speak of that!" exclaimed he, impetuously.
"Do you suppose I would allow my beautiful rose to be trampled by
swine. If we fail, I will buy them if it costs half my fortune. But we
shall _not_ fail. Don't let the girls go out of the door till you hear
the signal."

"No danger of that," she replied. "Their father always kept them like
wax flowers under a glass cover. They are as timid as hares." Before
she finished the words, he was gone.

Rosabella remained where he had left her, with her head bowed on the
table. Floracita was nestling by her side, pouring forth her girlish
congratulations. Madame came in, saying, in her cheerly way: "So you
are going to be married to night! Bless my soul, how the world whirls
round!"

"Isn't God _very_ good to us?" asked Rosa, looking up. "How noble and
kind Mr. Fitzgerald is, to wish to marry me now that everything is so
changed!"

"_You_ are not changed, darling," she replied; "except that I think
you are a little better, and that seemed unnecessary. But you must be
thinking, my children, whether everything is in readiness."

"He told us we were not to go till evening, and it isn't dark yet,"
said Floracita. "Couldn't we go into Papasito's garden one little
minute, and take one sip from the fountain, and just one little walk
round the orange-grove?"

"It wouldn't be safe, my dear. There's no telling who may be lurking
about. Mr. Fitzgerald charged me not to let you go out of doors.
But you can go to my chamber, and take a last look of the house and
garden."

They went up stairs, and stood, with their arms around each other,
gazing at their once happy home. "How many times we have walked in
that little grove, hand in hand with Mamita and Papasito! and now they
are both gone," sighed Rosa.

"Ah, yes," said Flora; "and now we are afraid to go there for a
minute. How strangely everything has changed! We don't hear Mamita's
Spanish and papa's English any more. We have nobody to talk _olla
podrida_ to now. It's all French with Madame, and all Italian with the
Signor."

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