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A Romance of the Republic by Lydia Maria Francis Child

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"But what kind souls they are, to do so much for us!" responded Rosa.
"If such good friends hadn't been raised up for us in these dreadful
days, what _should_ we have done?"

Here Madame came hurrying in to say, "Mr. Duroy and the boys have
come. We must change dresses before the whistler goes by."

The disguises were quickly assumed; and the metamorphosis made Rosa
both blush and smile, while her volatile sister laughed outright. But
she checked herself immediately, saying: "I am a wicked little wretch
to laugh, for you and your friends may get into trouble by doing all
this for us. What shall you tell them about us when you get back from
Nassau?"

"I don't intend to tell them much of anything," replied Madame. "I
may, perhaps, give them a hint that one of your father's old friends
invited you to come to the North, and that I did not consider it my
business to hinder you."

"O fie, Madame!" said Floracita; "what a talent you have for
arranging the truth with variations!"

Madame tried to return a small volley of French pleasantry; but the
effort was obviously a forced one. The pulses of her heart were
throbbing with anxiety and fear; and they all began to feel suspense
increasing to agony, when at last the whistled tones of _Ca ira_ were
heard.

"Now don't act as if you were afraid," whispered Madame, as she put
her hand on the latch of the door. "Go out naturally. Remember I am my
cousin, and you are the boys."

They passed through the garden into the street, feeling as if some
rough hand might at any instant seize them. But all was still, save
the sound of voices in the distance. When they came in sight of the
carriage, the driver began to bum carelessly to himself, "Who goes
there? Stranger, quickly tell!"

"A friend. Good night,"--sang the disguised Madame, in the same
well-known tune of challenge and reply. The carriage door was
instantly opened, they entered, and the horses started at a brisk
pace. At the house where the driver stopped, they were received as
expected guests. Their disguises were quickly exchanged for dresses
from their carpet-bags, which had been conveyed out in Madame's boxes,
and smuggled into the carriage by their invisible protector. Flora,
who was intent upon having things seem a little like a wedding, made
a garland of orange-buds for her sister's hair, and threw over her
braids a white gauze scarf. The marriage ceremony was performed at
half past ten; and at midnight Madame was alone with _her protegees_
in the cabin of the ship Victoria, dashing through the dark waves
under a star-bright sky.

CHAPTER VI.

Mr. Fitzgerald lingered on the wharf till the vessel containing his
treasure was no longer visible. Then he returned to the carriage,
and was driven to his hotel. Notwithstanding a day of very unusual
excitement and fatigue, when he retired to rest he felt no inclination
to sleep. Rosabella floated before him as he had first seen her, a
radiant vision of beauty surrounded by flowers. He recalled the shy
pride and maidenly modesty with which she had met his ardent glances
and impassioned words. He thought of the meek and saddened expression
of her face, as he had seen it in these last hurried interviews, and
it seemed to him she had never appeared so lovely. He remembered with
a shudder what Madame Guirlande had said about the auction-stand. He
was familiar with such scenes, for he had seen women offered for
sale, and had himself bid for them in competition with rude, indecent
crowds. It was revolting to his soul to associate the image of Rosa
with such base surroundings; but it seemed as if some fiend persisted
in holding the painful picture before him. He seemed to see her
graceful figure gazed at by a brutal crowd, while the auctioneer
assured them that she was warranted to be an entirely new and
perfectly sound article,--a moss rosebud from a private royal
garden,--a diamond fit for a king's crown. And men, whose upturned
faces were like greedy satyrs, were calling upon her to open her ruby
lips and show her pearls. He turned restlessly on his pillow with a
muttered oath. Then he smiled as he thought to himself that, by saving
her from such degradation, he had acquired complete control of her
destiny. From the first moment he heard of her reverses, he had felt
that her misfortunes were his triumph. Madly in love as he had been
for more than a year, his own pride, and still more the dreaded scorn
of proud relatives, had prevented him from offering marriage; while
the watchful guardianship of her father, and her dutiful respect to
his wishes, rendered any less honorable alliance hopeless. But now he
was her sole protector; and though he had satisfied her scruples by
marriage, he could hide her away and keep his own secret; while she,
in the fulness of her grateful love, would doubtless be satisfied
with any arrangement he chose to make. But there still remained some
difficulties in his way. He was unwilling to leave his own luxurious
home and exile himself in the British West Indies; and if he should
bring the girls to Georgia, he foresaw that disastrous consequences
might ensue, if his participation in their elopement should ever be
discovered, or even suspected. "It would have been far more convenient
to have bought them outright, even at a high price," thought he; "but
after the Signor repeated to me that disgusting talk of Bruteman's,
there could be no mistake that he had _his_ eye fixed upon them; and
it would have been ruinous to enter into competition with such a
wealthy _roue_ as he is. He values money no more than pebble-stones,
when he is in pursuit of such game. But though I have removed them
from his grasp for the present, I can feel no security if I bring them
back to this country. I must obtain a legal ownership of them; but how
shall I manage it?" Revolving many plans in his mind, he at last fell
asleep.

His first waking thought was to attend a meeting of the creditors at
noon, and hear what they had to say. He found ten or twelve persons
present, some of gentlemanly appearance, others hard-looking
characters. Among them, and in singular contrast with their
world-stamped faces, was the ingenuous countenance of Florimond
Blumenthal. Three hundred dollars of his salary were due to him, and
he hoped to secure some portion of the debt for the benefit of the
orphans. A few individuals, who knew Mr. Fitzgerald, said, "What, are
you among the creditors?"

"I am not a creditor," he replied, "but I am here to represent the
claims of Mr. Whitwell of Savannah, who, being unable to be present in
person, requested me to lay his accounts before you."

He sat listening to the tedious details of Mr. Royal's liabilities,
and the appraisement of his property, with an expression of listless
indifference; often moving his fingers to a tune, or making the motion
of whistling, without the rudeness of emitting a sound.

Young Blumenthal, on the contrary, manifested the absorbed attention
of one who loved his benefactor, and was familiar with the details of
his affairs. No notice was taken of him, however, for his claim was
small, and he was too young to be a power in the commercial world. He
modestly refrained from making any remarks; and having given in his
account, he rose to take his hat, when his attention was arrested by
hearing Mr. Bruteman say: "We have not yet mentioned the most valuable
property Mr. Royal left. I allude to his daughters."

Blumenthal sank into his chair again, and every vestige of color
left his usually blooming countenance; but though Fitzgerald was on
tenter-hooks to know whether the escape was discovered, he betrayed no
sign of interest.

Mr. Bruteman went on to say, "We appraised them at six thousand
dollars."

"Much less than they would bring at auction," observed Mr. Chandler,"
as you would all agree, gentlemen, if you had seen them; for they are
fancy articles, A No. 1."

"Is it certain the young ladies are slaves?" inquired Blumenthal, with
a degree of agitation that attracted attention toward him.

"It _is_ certain," replied Mr. Bruteman. "Their mother was a slave,
and was never manumitted."

"Couldn't a subscription be raised, or an appeal be made to some court
in their behalf?" asked the young man, with constrained calmness
in his tones, while the expression of his face betrayed his inward
suffering. "They are elegant, accomplished young ladies, and their
good father brought them up with the greatest indulgence."

"Perhaps you are in love with one or both of them," rejoined Mr.
Bruteman. "If so, you must buy them at auction, if you can. The law is
inexorable. It requires that all the property of an insolvent debtor
should be disposed of at public sale."

"I am very slightly acquainted with the young ladies," said the
agitated youth; "but their father was my benefactor when I was a poor
destitute orphan, and I would sacrifice my life to save _his_ orphans
from such a dreadful calamity. I know little about the requirements of
the law, gentlemen, but I implore you to tell me if there isn't _some_
way to prevent this. If it can be done by money, I will serve any
gentleman gratuitously any number of years he requires, if he will
advance the necessary sum."

"We are not here to talk sentiment, my lad," rejoined Mr. Bruteman.
"We are here to transact business."

"I respect this youth for the feeling he has manifested toward his
benefactor's children," said a gentleman named Ammidon. "If we _could_
enter into some mutual agreement to relinquish this portion of the
property, I for one should be extremely glad. I should be willing to
lose much more than my share, for the sake of bringing about such an
arrangement. And, really, the sale of such girls as these are said to
be is not very creditable to the country. If any foreign travellers
happen to be looking on, they will make great capital out of such a
story. At all events, the Abolitionists will be sure to get it into
their papers, and all Europe will be ringing changes upon it."

"Let 'em ring!" fiercely exclaimed Mr. Chandler. "I don't care a damn
about the Abolitionists, nor Europe neither. I reckon we can manage
our own affairs in this free country."

"I should judge by your remarks that you were an Abolitionist
yourself, Mr. Ammidon," said Mr. Bruteman. "I am surprised to hear
a Southerner speak as if the opinions of rascally abolition-
amalgamationists were of the slightest consequence. I consider
such sentiments unworthy any Southern _gentleman_, sir."

Mr. Ammidon flushed, and answered quickly, "I allow no man to call in
question my being a gentleman, sir."

"If you consider yourself insulted, you know your remedy," rejoined
Mr. Bruteman. "I give you your choice of place and weapons."

Mr. Fitzgerald consulted his watch, and two or three others followed
his example.

"I see," said Mr. Ammidon, "that gentlemen are desirous to adjourn."

"It is time that we did so," rejoined Mr. Bruteman. "Officers have
been sent for these slaves of Mr. Royal, and they are probably now
lodged in jail. At our next meeting we will decide upon the time of
sale."

Young Blumenthal rose and attempted to go out; but a blindness came
over him, and he staggered against the wall.

"I reckon that youngster's an Abolitionist," muttered Mr. Chandler.
"At any rate, he seems to think there's a difference in niggers,--and
all such ought to have notice to quit."

Mr. Ammidon called for water, with which he sprinkled the young man's
face, and two or three others assisted to help him into a carriage.

Another meeting was held the next day, which Mr. Fitzgerald did not
attend, foreseeing that it would be a stormy one. The result of it was
shown in the arrest and imprisonment of Signor Papanti, and a vigilant
search for Madame Guirlande. Her cousin, Mr. Duroy, declared that he
had been requested to take care of her apartments for a few weeks, as
she was obliged to go to New York on business; that she took her young
lady boarders with her, and that was all he knew. Despatches were
sent in hot haste to the New York and Boston police, describing the
fugitives, declaring them to be thieves, and demanding that they
should be sent forthwith to New Orleans for trial. The policeman who
had been employed to watch Madame's house, and who had been induced to
turn his back for a while by some mysterious process best known to
Mr. Fitzgerald, was severely cross-examined and liberally pelted with
oaths. In the course of the investigations, it came out that Florimond
Blumenthal had visited the house on the day of the elopement, and that
toward dusk he had been seen lingering about the premises, watching
the windows. The story got abroad that he had been an accomplice in
helping off two valuable slaves. The consequence was that he received
a written intimation that, if he valued his neck, he had better quit
New Orleans within twenty-four hours, signed Judge Lynch.

Mr. Fitzgerald appeared to take no share in the excitement. When he
met any of the creditors, he would sometimes ask, carelessly, "Any
news yet about those slaves of Royal's?" He took occasion to remark to
two or three of them, that, Signor Papanti being an old friend of his,
he had been to the prison to see him; that he was convinced he had no
idea where those girls had gone; he was only their music-teacher, and
such an impetuous, peppery man, that they never would have thought of
trusting him with any important secret. Having thus paved the way, he
came out with a distinct proposition at the next meeting. "I feel a
great deal of sympathy for Signor Papanti," said he. "I have been
acquainted with him a good while, and have taken lessons of him, both
in music and Italian; and I like the old gentleman. He is getting ill
in prison, and he can never tell you any more than he has told you.
Doubtless he knew that Madame intended to convey those girls to the
North if she possibly could; but I confess I should have despised him
if he had turned informer against the daughters of his friend, who had
been his own favorite pupils. If you will gratify me by releasing him,
I will make you an offer for those girls, and take my chance of ever
finding them."

"What sum do you propose to offer?" inquired the creditors.

"I will pay one thousand dollars if you accede to my terms."

"Say two thousand, and we will take the subject under consideration,"
they replied.

"In that case I must increase my demands," said he. "I have reason
to suspect that my friend the Signor would like to make a match with
Madame Guirlande. If you will allow her to come back to her business
and remain undisturbed, and will make me a sale of these girls, I
don't care if I do say two thousand."

"He has told you where they are!" exclaimed Mr. Bruteman, abruptly;
"and let me tell you, if you know where they are, you are not acting
the part of a gentleman."

"He has not told me, I assure you, nor has he given me the slightest
intimation. It is my firm belief that he does not know. But I am
rather fond of gambling, and this is such a desperate throw, that it
will be all the more exciting. I never tried my luck at buying slaves
running, and I have rather a fancy for experimenting in that game
of chance. And I confess my curiosity has been so excited by the
wonderful accounts I have heard of those nonpareil girls, that I
should find the pursuit of them a stimulating occupation. If I should
not succeed, I should at least have the satisfaction of having done a
good turn to my old Italian friend."

They asked more time to reflect upon it, and to hear from New York
and Boston. With inward maledictions on their slowness, he departed,
resolving in his own mind that nothing should keep him much longer
from Nassau, come what would.

As he went out, Mr. Chandler remarked: "It's very much like him. He's
always ready to gamble in anything."

"After all, I have my suspicion that he's got a clew to the mystery
somehow, and that he expects to find those handsome wenches," said Mr.
Bruteman. "I'd give a good deal to baffle him."

"It seems pretty certain that _we_ cannot obtain any clew," rejoined
Mr. Ammidon, "and we have already expended considerable in the effort.
If he can be induced to offer two thousand five hundred, I think we
had better accept it."

After a week's absence in Savannah and its vicinity, making various
arrangements for the reception of the sisters, Mr. Fitzgerald returned
to New Orleans, and took an early opportunity to inform the creditors
that he should remain a very short time. He made no allusion to his
proposed bargain, and when they alluded to it he affected great
indifference.

"I should be willing to give you five hundred dollars to release my
musical friend," said he. "But as for those daughters of Mr. Royal, it
seems to me, upon reflection, to be rather a quixotic undertaking to
go in pursuit of them. You know it's a difficult job to catch a slave
after he gets to the North, if he's as black as the ace of spades; and
all Yankeedom would be up in arms at any attempt to seize such white
ladies. Of course, I could obtain them in no other way than by
courting them and gaining their goodwill."

Mr. Bruteman and Mr. Chandler made some remarks unfit for repetition,
but which were greeted with shouts of laughter. After much dodging
and doubling on the financial question, Fitzgerald agreed to pay two
thousand five hundred dollars, if all his demands were complied with.
The papers were drawn and signed with all due formality. He clasped
them in his pocket-book, and walked off with an elastic step, saying,
"Now for Nassau!"

CHAPTER VII.

The scenery of the South was in the full glory of June, when Mr.
Fitzgerald, Rosa, and Floracita were floating up the Savannah River in
a boat manned by negroes, who ever and anon waked the stillness of
the woods with snatches of wild melody. They landed on a sequestered
island which ocean and river held in their arms. Leaving the servants
to take care of the luggage, they strolled along over a carpet of
wild-flowers, through winding bridle-paths, where glances of bright
water here and there gleamed through the dark pines that were singing
their sleepy chorus, with its lulling sound of the sea, and filling
the air with their aromatic breath. Before long, they saw a
gay-colored turban moving among the green foliage, and the sisters at
once exclaimed, "Tulipa!"

"Dear Gerald, you didn't tell us Tulee was here," said Rosa.

"I wanted to give you a pleasant surprise," he replied.

She thanked him with a glance more expressive than words. Tulipa,
meanwhile, was waving a white towel with joyful energy, and when
she came up to them, she half smothered them with hugs and kisses,
exclaiming: "The Lord bless ye, Missy Rosy! The Lord bless ye, Missy
Flory! It does Tulee's eyes good to see ye agin." She eagerly led the
way through flowering thickets to a small lawn, in the midst of which
was a pretty white cottage.

It was evident at a glance that she, as well as the master of the
establishment, had done her utmost to make the interior of the
dwelling resemble their old home as much as possible. Rosa's piano was
there, and on it were a number of books which their father had
given them. As Floracita pointed to the ottomans their mother had
embroidered, and the boxes and table she had painted, she said: "Our
good friend the Signor sent those. He promised to buy them."

"He could not buy them, poor man!" answered Fitzgerald, "for he was in
prison at the time of the auction; but he did not forget to enjoin it
upon me to buy them."

A pleasant hour was spent in joyful surprises over pretty novelties
and cherished souvenirs. Rosa was full of quiet happiness, and
Floracita expressed her satisfaction in lively little gambols. The sun
was going down when they refreshed themselves with the repast Tulipa
had provided. Unwilling to invite the merciless mosquitoes, they sat,
while the gloaming settled into darkness, playing and singing melodies
associated with other times.

Floracita felt sorry when the hour of separation for the night came.
Everything seemed so fearfully still, except the monotonous wash of
the waves on the sea-shore! And as far as she could see the landscape
by the light of a bright little moon-sickle, there was nothing but
a thick screen of trees and shrubbery. She groped her way to her
sleeping-apartment, expecting to find Tulee there. She had been there,
and had left a little glimmering taper behind a screen, which threw a
fantastic shadow on the ceiling, like a face with a monstrous nose. It
affected the excitable child like some kind of supernatural presence.
She crept to the window, and through the veil of the mosquito-bar she
dimly saw the same thick wall of greenery. Presently she espied a
strange-looking long face peering out from its recesses. On their
voyage home from Nassau, Gerald had sometimes read aloud to them
from "The Midsummer Night's Dream." Could it be that there were such
creatures in the woods as Shakespeare described? A closet adjoining
her room had been assigned to Tulee. She opened the door and said,
"Tulee, are you there? Why don't you come?" There was no answer. Again
she gave a timid look at the window. The long face moved, and a
most unearthly sound was heard. Thoroughly frightened, she ran out,
calling, "Tulee! Tulee! In the darkness, she ran against her faithful
attendant, and the sudden contact terrified her still more.

"It's only Tulee. What is the matter with my little one?" said the
negress. As she spoke, the fearful sound was heard again.

"O Tulee, what is that?" she exclaimed, all of a tremble.

"That is only Jack," she replied.

"Who's Jack?" quickly asked the nervous little maiden.

"Why, the jackass, my puppet," answered Tulee. "Massa Gerald bought
him for you and Missy Rosy to ride. In hot weather there's so many
snakes about in the woods, he don't want ye to walk."

"What does he make that horrid noise for?" asked Flora, somewhat
pacified.

"Because he was born with music in him, like the rest of ye," answered
Tulee, laughing.

She assisted her darling to undress, arranged her pillows, and kissed
her cheek just as she had kissed it ever since the rosy little mouth
had learned to speak her name. Then she sat by the bedside talking
over things that had happened since they parted.

"So you were put up at auction and sold!" exclaimed Flora. "Poor
Tulee! how dreadfully I should have felt to see you there! But Gerald
bought you; and I suppose you like to belong to _him_."

"Ise nothin' to complain of Massa Gerald," she answered; "but I'd like
better to belong to myself."

"So you'd like to be free, would you?" asked Flora.

"To be sure I would," said Tulee. "Yo like it yerself, don't ye,
little missy?"

Then, suddenly recollecting what a narrow escape her young lady had
had from the auction-stand, she hastened with intuitive delicacy to
change the subject. But the same thought had occurred to Flora; and
she fell asleep, thinking how Tulee's wishes could be gratified.

When morning floated upward out of the arms of night, in robe of
brightest saffron, the aspect of everything was changed. Floracita
sprang out of bed early, eager to explore the surroundings of their
new abode. The little lawn looked very beautiful, sprinkled all
over with a variety of wild-flowers, in whose small cups dewdrops
glistened, prismatic as opals. The shrubbery was no longer a dismal
mass of darkness, but showed all manner of shadings of glossy green
leaves, which the moisture of the night had ornamented with shimmering
edges of crystal beads. She found the phantom of the night before
browsing among flowers behind the cottage, and very kindly disposed to
make her acquaintance. As he had a thistle blossom sticking out of his
mouth, she forthwith named him Thistle. She soon returned to the
house with her apron full of vines, and blossoms, and prettily tinted
leaves. "See, Tulee," said she, "what a many flowers! I'm going
to make haste and dress the table, before Gerald and Rosa come to
breakfast." They took graceful shape under her nimble fingers, and,
feeling happy in her work, she began to hum,

"How brightly breaks the morning!"

"Whisper low!" sang Gerald, stealing up behind her, and making her
start by singing into her very ear; while Rosa exclaimed, "What a
fairy-land you have made here, with all these flowers,_pichoncita
mia_"

The day passed pleasantly enough, with some ambling along the
bridle-paths on Thistle's back, some reading and sleeping, and a good
deal of music. The next day, black Tom came with a barouche, and they
took a drive round the lovely island. The cotton-fields were all
abloom on Gerald's plantation, and his stuccoed villa, with spacious
veranda and high porch, gleamed out in whiteness among a magnificent
growth of trees, and a garden gorgeous with efflorescence. The only
drawback to the pleasure was, that Gerald charged them to wear thick
veils, and never to raise them when any person was in sight. They made
no complaint, because he told them that he should be deeply involved
in trouble if his participation in their escape should be discovered;
but, happy as Rosa was in reciprocated love, this necessity of
concealment was a skeleton ever sitting at her feast; and Floracita,
who had no romantic compensation for it, chafed under the restraint.
It was dusk when they returned to the cottage, and the thickets were
alive with fire-flies, as if Queen Mab and all her train were out
dancing in spangles.

A few days after was Rosa's birthday, and Floracita busied herself
in adorning the rooms with flowery festoons. After breakfast, Gerald
placed a small parcel in the hand of each of the sisters. Rosa's
contained her mother's diamond ring, and Flora's was her mother's gold
watch, in the back of which was set a small locket-miniature of
her father. Their gratitude took the form of tears, and the
pleasure-loving young man, who had more taste for gayety than
sentiment, sought to dispel it by lively music. When he saw the smiles
coming again, he bowed playfully, and said: "This day is yours, dear
Rosa. Whatsoever you wish for, you shall have, if it is attainable."

"I do wish for one thing," she replied promptly. "Floracita has found
out that Tulee would like to be free. I want you to gratify her wish."

"Tulee is yours," rejoined he. "I bought her to attend upon you."

"She will attend upon me all the same after she is free," responded
Rosa; "and we should all be happier."

"I will do it," he replied. "But I hope you won't propose to make _me_
free, for I am happier to be your slave."

The papers were brought a few days after, and Tulee felt a great deal
richer, though there was no outward change in her condition.

As the heat increased, mosquitoes in the woods and sand-flies on the
beach rendered the shelter of the house desirable most of the
time. But though Fitzgerald had usually spent the summer months in
travelling, he seemed perfectly contented to sing and doze and trifle
away his time by Rosa's side, week after week. Floracita did not find
it entertaining to be a third person with a couple of lovers. She had
been used to being a person of consequence in her little world; and
though they were very kind to her, they often forgot that she was
present, and never seemed to miss her when she was away. She had led
a very secluded life from her earliest childhood, but she had never
before been so entirely out of sight of houses and people. During the
few weeks she had passed in Nassau, she had learned to do shell-work
with a class of young girls; and it being the first time she had
enjoyed such companionship, she found it peculiarly agreeable. She
longed to hear their small talk again; she longed to have Rosa to
herself, as in the old times; she longed for her father's caresses,
for Madame Guirlande's brave cheerfulness, for the Signor's peppery
outbursts, which she found very amusing; and sometimes she thought
how pleasant it would be to hear Florimond say that her name was the
prettiest in the world. She often took out a pressed geranium blossom,
under which was written "Souvenir de Florimond "; and she thought
_his_ name was very pretty too. She sang Moore's Melodies a great
deal; and when she warbled,

"Sweet vale of Avoca! how calm could I rest
In thy bosom of shade, with the friend I love best!"

she sighed, and thought to herself, "Ah! if I only _had_ a friend
to love best!" She almost learned "Lalla Rookh" by heart; and she
pictured herself as the Persian princess listening to a minstrel in
Oriental costume, but with a very German face. It was not that the
child was in love, but her heart was untenanted; and as memories
walked through it, it sounded empty.

Tulee, who was very observing where her affections were concerned,
suspected that she was comparing her own situation with that of Rosa.
One day, when she found her in dreamy revery, she patted her silky
curls, and said: "Does she feel as if she was laid by, like a fifth
wheel to a coach? Never mind! My little one will have a husband
herself one of these days."

Without looking up, she answered, very pensively: "Do you think I ever
shall, Tulee? I don't see how I can, for I never see anybody."

Tulipa took the little head between her black hands, and, raising
the pretty face toward her, replied: "Yes, sure, little missy. Do ye
s'pose ye had them handsome eyes for nothin' but to look at the moon?
But come, now, with me, and feed Thistle. I'm going to give him a
pailful of water. Thistle knows us as well as if he was a Christian."

Jack Thistle was a great resource for Tulee in her isolation, and
scarcely less so for Flora. She often fed him from her hand, decorated
him with garlands, talked to him, and ambled about with him in the
woods and on the sea-shore. The visits of black Tom also introduced a
little variety into their life. He went back and forth from Savannah
to procure such articles as were needed at the cottage, and he always
had a budget of gossip for Tulee. Tom's Chloe was an expert
ironer; and as Mr. Fitzgerald was not so well pleased with Tulee's
performances of that kind, baskets of clothes were often sent to
Chloe, who was ingenious in finding excuses for bringing them back
herself. She was a great singer of Methodist hymns and negro songs,
and had wonderful religious experiences to tell. To listen to her and
Tom was the greatest treat Tulee had; but as she particularly prided
herself on speaking like white people, she often remarked that she
couldn't understand half their "lingo." Floracita soon learned it to
perfection, and excited many a laugh by her imitations.

Tulee once obtained Rosa's permission to ride back with Tom, and spend
a couple of hours at his cabin near "the Grat Hus," as he called his
master's villa. But when Mr. Fitzgerald heard of it, he interdicted
such visits in the future. He wished to have as little communication
as possible between the plantation and the lonely cottage; and if he
had overheard some of the confidences between Chloe and Tulee,
he probably would have been confirmed in the wisdom of such a
prohibition. But Tom was a factotum that could not be dispensed with.
They relied upon him for provisions, letters, and newspapers.

Three or four weeks after their arrival he brought a box containing a
long letter from Madame Guirlande, and the various articles she had
saved for the orphans from the wreck of their early home. Not long
afterward another letter came, announcing the marriage of Madame and
the Signor. Answering these letters and preparing bridal presents for
their old friends gave them busy days. Gerald sometimes ordered new
music and new novels from New York, and their arrival caused great
excitement. Floracita's natural taste for drawing had been cultivated
by private lessons from a French lady, and she now used the pretty
accomplishment to make likenesses of Thistle with and without
garlands, of Tulee in her bright turban, and of Madame Guirlande's
parrot, inscribed, "_Bon jour, jolie Manon_!"

One day Rosa said: "As soon as the heat abates, so that we can use our
needles without rusting, we will do a good deal of embroidery, and
give it to Madame. She sells such articles, you know; and we can make
beautiful things of those flosses and chenilles the good soul saved
for us."

"I like that idea," replied Flora. "I've been wanting to do something
to show our gratitude."

There was wisdom as well as kindness in the plan, though they never
thought of the wisdom. Hours were whiled away by the occupation, which
not only kept their needles from rusting, but also their affections
and artistic faculties.

As the tide of time flowed on, varied only by these little eddies and
ripples, Gerald, though always very loving with Rosa, became somewhat
less exclusive. His attentions were more equally divided between the
sisters. He often occupied himself with Floracita's work, and would
pick out the shades of silk for her, as well as for Rosa. He more
frequently called upon her to sing a solo, as well as to join in
duets and trios. When the weather became cooler, it was a favorite
recreation with him to lounge at his ease, while Rosa played, and
Floracita's fairy figure floated through the evolutions of some
graceful dance. Sometimes he would laugh, and say: "Am I not a lucky
dog? I don't envy the Grand Bashaw his Circassian beauties. He'd give
his biggest diamond for such a dancer as Floracita; and what is his
Flower of the World compared to my Rosamunda?"

Floracita, whose warm heart always met affection as swiftly as one
drop of quicksilver runs to another, became almost as much attached to
him as she was to Rosa. "How kind Gerald is to me!" she would say to
Tulee. "Papa used to wish we had a brother; but I didn't care for one
then, because he was just as good for a playmate. But now it _is_
pleasant to have a brother."

To Rosa, also, it was gratifying to have his love for her overflow
upon what was dearest to her; and she would give him one of her
sweetest smiles when he called her sister "Mignonne" or "Querida."
To both of them the lonely island came to seem like a happy home.
Floracita was not so wildly frolicsome as she was before those
stunning blows fell upon her young life; but the natural buoyancy of
her spirits began to return. She was always amusing them with "quips
and cranks." If she was out of doors, her return to the house would be
signalized by imitations of all sorts of birds or musical instruments;
and often, when Gerald invited her to "trip it on the light, fantastic
toe," she would entertain him with one of the negroes' clumsy,
shuffling dances. Her sentimental songs fell into disuse, and were
replaced by livelier tunes. Instead of longing to rest in the "sweet
vale of Avoca," she was heard musically chasing "Figaro here! Figaro
there! Figaro everywhere!"

Seven months passed without other material changes than the changing
seasons. When the flowers faded, and the leafless cypress-trees were
hung with their pretty pendulous seed-vessels, Gerald began to make
longer visits to Savannah. He was, however, rarely gone more than a
week; and, though Rosa's songs grew plaintive in his absence, her
spirits rose at once when he came to tell how homesick he had been. As
for Floracita, she felt compensated for the increased stillness by the
privilege of having Rosa all to herself.

One day in January, when he had been gone from home several days, she
invited Rosa to a walk, and, finding her desirous to finish a letter
to Madame Guirlande, she threw on her straw hat, and went out half
dancing, as she was wont to do. The fresh air was exhilarating, the
birds were singing, and the woods were already beautified with every
shade of glossy green, enlivened by vivid buds and leaflets of reddish
brown. She gathered here and there a pretty sprig, sometimes
placing them in her hair, sometimes in her little black silk apron,
coquettishly decorated with cherry-colored ribbons. She stopped before
a luxuriant wild myrtle, pulling at the branches, while she sang,

"When the little hollow drum beats to bed,
When the little fifer hangs his head,
When is mute the Moorish flute--"

Her song was suddenly interrupted by a clasp round the waist, and a
warm kiss on the lips.

"O Gerald, you've come back!" she exclaimed. "How glad Rosa will be!"

"And nobody else will be glad, I suppose?" rejoined he. "Won't you
give me back my kiss, when I've been gone a whole week?"

"Certainly, _mon bon frere_," she replied; and as he inclined his face
toward her, she imprinted a slight kiss on his cheek.

"That's not giving me back _my_ kiss," said he. "I kissed your mouth,
and you must kiss mine."

"I will if you wish it," she replied, suiting the action to the
word. "But you needn't hold me so tight," she added, as she tried
to extricate herself. Finding he did not release her, she looked up
wonderingly in his face, then lowered her eyes, blushing crimson. No
one had ever looked at her so before.

"Come, don't be coy, _ma petite_," said he.

She slipped from him with sudden agility, and said somewhat sharply:
"Gerald, I don't want to be always called _petite_; and I don't want
to be treated as if I were a child. I am no longer a child. I am
fifteen. I am a young lady."

"So you are, and a very charming one," rejoined he, giving her a
playful tap on the cheek as he spoke.

"I am going to tell Rosa you have come," said she; and she started on
the run.

When they were all together in the cottage she tried not to seem
constrained; but she succeeded so ill that Rosa would have noticed it
if she had not been so absorbed in her own happiness. Gerald was all
affection to her, and full of playful raillery with Flora,--which,
however, failed to animate her as usual.

From that time a change came over the little maiden, and increased as
the days passed on. She spent much of her time in her own room; and
when Rosa inquired why she deserted them so, she excused herself
by saying she wanted to do a great deal of shell-work for Madame
Guirlande, and that she needed so many boxes they would be in the way
in the sitting-room. Her passion for that work grew wonderfully, and
might be accounted for by the fascination of perfect success; for her
coronets and garlands and bouquets and baskets were arranged with so
much lightness and elegance, and the different-colored shells were so
tastefully combined, that they looked less like manufactured articles
than like flowers that grew in the gardens of the Nereids.

Tulee wondered why her vivacious little pet had all of a sudden become
so sedentary in her habits,--why she never took her customary rambles
except when Mr. Fitzgerald was gone, and even then never without her
sister. The conjecture she formed was not very far amiss, for Chloe's
gossip had made her better acquainted with the character of her master
than were the other inmates of the cottage; but the extraordinary
industry was a mystery to her. One evening, when she found Floracita
alone in her room at dusk, leaning her head on her hand and gazing out
of the window dreamily, she put her hand on the silky head and said,
"Is my little one homesick?"

"I have no home to be sick for," she replied, sadly.

"Is she lovesick then?"

"I have no lover," she replied, in the same desponding tone.

"What is it, then, my pet? Tell Tulee."

"I wish I could go to Madame Guirlande," responded Flora. "She was so
kind to us in our first troubles."

"It would do you good to make her a visit," said Tulee, "and I should
think you might manage to do it somehow."

"No. Gerald said, a good while ago, that it would be dangerous for us
ever to go to New Orleans."

"Does he expect to keep you here always?" asked Tulee. "He might just
as well keep you in a prison, little bird."

"O, what's the use of talking, Tulee!" exclaimed she, impatiently. "I
have no friends to go to, and I _must_ stay here." But, reproaching
herself for rejecting the sympathy so tenderly offered, she rose and
kissed the black cheek as she added, "Good Tulee! kind Tulee! I _am_ a
little homesick; but I shall feel better in the morning."

The next afternoon Gerald and Rosa invited her to join them in a drive
round the island. She declined, saying the box that was soon to be
sent to Madame was not quite full, and she wanted to finish some more
articles to put in it. But she felt a longing for the fresh air, and
the intense blue glory of the sky made the house seem prison-like. As
soon as they were gone, she took down her straw hat and passed out,
swinging it by the strings. She stopped on the lawn to gather some
flame-colored buds from a Pyrus Japonica, and, fastening them in the
ribbons as she went, she walked toward her old familiar haunts in the
woods.

It was early in February, but the warm sunshine brought out a
delicious aroma from the firs, and golden garlands of the wild
jasmine, fragrant as heliotrope, were winding round the evergreen
thickets, and swinging in flowery festoons from the trees. Melancholy
as she felt when she started from the cottage, her elastic nature was
incapable of resisting the glory of the sky, the beauty of the earth,
the music of the birds, and the invigorating breath of the ocean,
intensified as they all were by a joyful sense of security and
freedom, growing out of the constraint that had lately been put upon
her movements. She tripped along faster, carolling as she went an
old-fashioned song that her father used to be often humming:--

"Begone, dull care!
I prithee begone from me!
Begone, dull care!
Thou and I shall never agree!"

The walk changed to hopping and dancing, as she warbled various
snatches from ballets and operas, settling at last upon the quaint
little melody, "Once on a time there was a king," and running it
through successive variations.

A very gentle and refined voice, from behind a clump of evergreens,
said, "Is this Cinderella coming from the ball?"

She looked up with quick surprise, and recognized a lady she had
several times seen in Nassau.

"And it is really you, Senorita Gonsalez!" said the lady. "I thought
I knew your voice. But I little dreamed of meeting you here. I
have thought of you many times since I parted from you at Madame
Conquilla's store of shell-work. I am delighted to see you again."

"And I am glad to see you again, Mrs. Delano," replied Flora; "and I
am very much pleased that you remember me."

"How could I help remembering you?" asked the lady. "You were a
favorite with me from the first time I saw you, and I should like very
much to renew our acquaintance. Where do you live, my dear?"

Covered with crimson confusion, Flora stammered out: "I don't live
anywhere, I'm only staying here. Perhaps I shall meet you again in the
woods or on the beach. I hope I shall."

"Excuse me," said the lady. "I have no wish to intrude upon your
privacy. But if you would like to call upon me at Mr. Welby's
plantation, where I shall be for three or four weeks, I shall always
be glad to receive you."

"Thank you," replied Flora, still struggling with embarrassment. "I
should like to come very much, but I don't have a great deal of time
for visiting."

"It's not common to have such a pressure of cares and duties at your
age," responded the lady, smiling. "My carriage is waiting on the
beach. Trusting you will find a few minutes to spare for me, I will
not say adieu, but _au revoir_."

As she turned away, she thought to herself: "What a fascinating child!
What a charmingly unsophisticated way she took to tell me she would
rather not have me call on her! I observed there seemed to be some
mystery about her when she was in Nassau. What can it be? Nothing
wrong, I hope."

Floracita descended to the beach and gazed after the carriage as
long as she could see it. Her thoughts were so occupied with this
unexpected interview, that she took no notice of the golden drops
which the declining sun was showering on an endless procession of
pearl-crested waves; nor did she cast one of her customary loving
glances at the western sky, where masses of violet clouds, with edges
of resplendent gold, enclosed lakes of translucent beryl, in which
little rose-colored islands were floating. She retraced her steps to
the woods, almost crying. "How strange my answers must appear to her!"
murmured she. "How I do wish I could go about openly, like other
people! I am so tired of all this concealment!" She neither jumped,
nor danced, nor sung, on her way homeward. She seemed to be revolving
something in her mind very busily.

After tea, as she and Rosa were sitting alone in the twilight, her
sister, observing that she was unusually silent, said, "What are you
thinking of, Mignonne?"

"I am thinking of the time we passed in Nassau," replied she, "and of
that Yankee lady who seemed to take such a fancy to me when she came
to Madame Conquilla's to look at the shell-work.

"I remember your talking about her," rejoined Rosa. "You thought her
beautiful."

"Yes," said Floracita, "and it was a peculiar sort of beauty. She
wasn't the least like you or Mamita. Everything about her was violet.
Her large gray eyes sometimes had a violet light in them. Her hair was
not exactly flaxen, it looked like ashes of violets. She always wore
fragrant violets. Her ribbons and dresses were of some shade of
violet; and her breastpin was an amethyst set with pearls. Something
in her ways, too, made me think of a violet. I think she knew it, and
that was the reason she always wore that color. How delicate she was!
She must have been very beautiful when she was young."

"You used to call her the Java sparrow," said Rosa.

"Yes, she made me think of my little Java sparrow, with pale
fawn-colored feathers, and little gleams of violet on the neck,"
responded Flora.

"That lady seems to have made a great impression on your imagination,"
said Rosa; and Floracita explained that it was because she had never
seen anything like her. She did not mention that she had seen that
lady on the island. The open-hearted child was learning to be
reticent.

A few minutes afterward, Rosa exclaimed, "There's Gerald coming!"
Her sister watched her as she ran out to meet him, and sighed, "Poor
Rosa!"

CHAPTER VIII.

A week later, when Gerald had gone to Savannah and Rosa was taking her
daily siesta, Floracita filled Thistle's panniers with several little
pasteboard boxes, and, without saying anything to Tulee, mounted and
rode off in a direction she had never taken, except in the barouche.
She was in search of the Welby plantation.

Mrs. Delano, who was busy with her crochet-needle near the open
window, was surprised to see a light little figure seated on a donkey
riding up the avenue. As soon as Floracita dismounted, she recognized
her, and descended the steps of the piazza to welcome her.

"So you have found the Welby plantation," said she. "I thought you
wouldn't have much difficulty, for there are only two plantations on
the island, this and Mr. Fitzgerald's. I don't know that there are any
other _dwellings_ except the huts of the negroes." She spoke the last
rather in a tone of inquiry; but Flora merely answered that she had
once passed the Welby plantation in a barouche.

As the lady led the way into the parlor, she said, "What is that you
have in your hand, my dear?"

"You used to admire Madame Conquilla's shell-work," replied Flora,"
and I have brought you some of mine, to see whether you think I
succeed tolerably in my imitations." As she spoke, she took out a
small basket and poised it on her finger.

"Why, that is perfectly beautiful!" said Mrs. Delano. "I don't know
how you could contrive to give it such an air of lightness and grace.
I used to think shell-work heavy, and rather vulgar, till I saw those
beautiful productions at Nassau. But you excel your teacher, my dear
Miss Gonsalez. I should think the sea-fairies made this."

Four or five other articles were brought forth from the boxes and
examined with similar commendation. Then they fell into a pleasant
chat about their reminiscences of Nassau; and diverged from that
to speak of the loveliness of their lonely little island, and the
increasing beauty of the season. After a while, Flora looked at her
watch, and said, "I must not stay long, for I didn't tell anybody I
was going away."

Mrs. Delano, who caught a glimpse of the medallion inserted in the
back, said: "That is a peculiar little watch. Have you the hair of
some friend set in it?"

"No," replied Flora. "It is the likeness of my father." She slipped
the slight chain from her neck, and placed the watch in the lady's
hand. Her face flushed as she looked at it, but the habitual paleness
soon returned.

"You were introduced to me as a Spanish young lady," said she, "but
this face is not Spanish. What was your father's name?"

"Mr. Alfred Royal of New Orleans," answered Flora.

"But _your_ name is Gonsalez," said she.

Flora blushed crimson with the consciousness of having betrayed the
incognito assumed at Nassau. "Gonsalez was my mother's name," she
replied, gazing on the floor while she spoke.

Mrs. Delano looked at her for an instant, then, drawing her gently
toward her, she pressed her to her side, and said with a sigh, "Ah,
Flora, I wish you were my daughter."

"O, how I wish I was!" exclaimed the young girl, looking up with a
sudden glow; but a shadow immediately clouded her expressive face,
as she added, "But you wouldn't want me for a daughter, if you knew
everything about me."

The lady was obviously troubled. "You seem to be surrounded by
mysteries, my little friend," responded she. "I will not ask you for
any confidence you are unwilling to bestow. But I am a good deal
older than you, and I know the world better than you do. If anything
troubles you, or if you are doing anything wrong, perhaps if you were
to tell me, I could help you out of it."

"O, no, I'm not doing anything wrong," replied Floracita, eagerly. "I
never did anything wrong in my life." Seeing a slight smile hovering
about the lady's lips, she made haste to add: "I didn't mean exactly
that. I mean I never did anything _very_ wrong. I'm cross sometimes,
and I have told some _fibititas_; but then I couldn't seem to help it,
things were in such a tangle. It comes more natural to me to tell the
truth."

"That I can readily believe," rejoined Mrs. Delano. "But I am not
trying to entrap your ingenuousness into a betrayal of your secrets.
Only remember one thing; if you ever do want to open your heart to any
one, remember that I am your true friend, and that you can trust me."

"O, thank you! thank you!" exclaimed Flora, seizing her hand and
kissing it fervently.

"But tell me one thing, my little friend," continued Mrs. Delano. "Is
there anything I can do for you now?"

"I came to ask you to do something for me," replied Flora; "but you
have been so kind to me, that it has made me almost forget my errand.
I have very particular reasons for wanting to earn some money. You
used to admire the shell-work in Nassau so much, that I thought, if
you liked mine, you might be willing to buy it, and that perhaps you
might have friends who would buy some. I have tried every way to think
how I could manage, to sell my work."

"I will gladly buy all you have," rejoined the lady, "and I should
like to have you make me some more; especially of these garlands of
rice-shells, trembling so lightly on almost invisible silver wire."

"I will make some immediately," replied Flora. "But I must go, dear
Mrs. Delano. I wish I could stay longer, but I cannot."

"When will you come again?" asked the lady.

"I can't tell," responded Flora, "for I have to manage to come here."

"That seems strange," said Mrs. Delano.

"I know it seems strange," answered the young girl, with a kind of
despairing impatience in her tone. "But please don't ask me, for
everything seems to come right out to you; and I don't know what I
ought to say, indeed I don't."

"I want you to come again as soon as you can," said Mrs. Delano,
slipping a gold eagle into her hand. "And now go, my dear, before you
tell me more than you wish to."

"Not more than I wish," rejoined Floracita; "but more than I ought. I
_wish_ to tell you everything."

In a childish way she put up her lips for a kiss, and the lady drew
her to her heart and caressed her tenderly.

When Flora had descended the steps of the piazza, she turned and
looked up. Mrs. Delano was leaning against one of the pillars,
watching her departure. Vines of gossamer lightness were waving round
her, and her pearly complexion and violet-tinted dress looked lovely
among those aerial arabesques of delicate green. The picture impressed
Flora all the more because it was such a contrast to the warm and
gorgeous styles of beauty to which she had been accustomed. She smiled
and kissed her hand in token of farewell; the lady returned the
salutation, but she thought the expression of her face was sad, and
the fear that this new friend distrusted her on account of unexplained
mysteries haunted her on her way homeward.

Mrs. Delano looked after her till she and her donkey disappeared among
the trees in the distance. "What a strange mystery is this!" murmured
she. "Alfred Royal's child, and yet she bears her mother's name. And
why does she conceal from me where she lives? Surely, she cannot
be consciously doing anything wrong, for I never saw such perfect
artlessness of look and manner." The problem occupied her thoughts for
days after, without her arriving at any satisfactory conjecture.

Flora, on her part, was troubled concerning the distrust which
she felt must be excited by her mysterious position, and she was
continually revolving plans to clear herself from suspicion in
the eyes of her new friend. It would have been an inexpressible
consolation if she could have told her troubles to her elder sister,
from whom she had never concealed anything till within the last few
weeks. But, alas! by the fault of another, a barrier had arisen
between them, which proved an obstruction at every turn of their daily
intercourse; for while she had been compelled to despise and dislike
Gerald, Rosa was always eulogizing his noble and loving nature, and
was extremely particular to have his slightest wishes obeyed. Apart
from any secret reasons for wishing to obtain money, Floracita was
well aware that it would not do to confess her visit to Mrs. Delano;
for Gerald had not only forbidden their making any acquaintances,
but he had also charged them not to ride or walk in the direction of
either of the plantations unless he was with them.

Day after day, as Flora sat at work upon the garlands she had
promised, she was on the watch to elude his vigilance; but more than a
week passed without her finding any safe opportunity. At last Gerald
proposed to gratify Rosa's often-expressed wish, by taking a sail to
one of the neighboring islands. They intended to make a picnic of it,
and return by moonlight. Rosa was full of pleasant anticipations,
which, however, were greatly damped when her sister expressed a
decided preference for staying at home. Rosa entreated, and Gerald
became angry, but she persisted in her refusal. She said she wanted to
use up all her shells, and all her flosses and chenilles. Gerald swore
that he hated the sight of them, and that he would throw them all
into the sea if she went on wearing her beautiful eyes out over them.
Without looking up from her work, she coolly answered, "Why need you
concern yourself about _my_ eyes, when you have a wife with such
beautiful eyes?"'

Black Tom and Chloe and the boat were in waiting, and after a flurried
scene they departed reluctantly without her.

"I never saw any one so changed as she is," said Rosa. "She used to
be so fond of excursions, and now she wants to work from morning till
night."

"She's a perverse, self-willed, capricious little puss. She's been too
much indulged. She needs to be brought under discipline," said Gerald,
angrily whipping off a blossom with his rattan as they walked toward
the boat.

As soon as they were fairly off, Flora started on a second visit to
the Welby plantation. Tulee noticed all this in silence, and shook her
head, as if thoughts were brooding there unsafe for utterance.

Mrs. Delano was bending over her writing-desk finishing a letter, when
she perceived a wave of fragrance, and, looking up, she saw Flora on
the threshold of the open door, with her arms full of flowers.

"Excuse me for interrupting you," said she, dropping one of her little
quick courtesies, which seemed half frolic, half politeness. "The
woods are charming to-day. The trees are hung with curtains of
jasmine, embroidered all over with golden flowers. You love perfumes
so well, I couldn't help stopping by the way to load Thistle with an
armful of them."

"Thank you, dear," replied Mrs. Delano. "I rode out yesterday
afternoon, and I thought I had never seen anything so beautiful as the
flowery woods and the gorgeous sunset. After being accustomed to the
splendor of these Southern skies, the Northern atmosphere will seem
cold and dull."

"Shall you go to the North soon?" inquired Flora, anxiously.

"I shall leave here in ten or twelve days," she replied; "but I may
wait a short time in Savannah, till March has gone; for that is a
blustering, disagreeable month in New England, though it brings you
roses and perfume. I came to Savannah to spend the winter with my
friends, Mr. and Mrs. Welby; but I have always taken a great fancy to
this island, and when they were suddenly called away to Arkansas by
the illness of a son, I asked their permission to come here for a few
weeks and watch the beautiful opening of the spring. I find myself
much inclined to solitude since I lost a darling daughter, who died
two years ago. If she had lived, she would have been about your age."

"I am _so_ sorry you are going away," said Flora. "It seems as if I
had always known you. I don't know what I shall do without you. But
when you go back among your friends, I suppose you will forget all
about poor little me."

"No, my dear little friend, I shall never forget you," she replied;
"and when I come again, I hope I shall find you here."

"I felt troubled when I went away the other day," said Flora. "I
thought you seemed to look sadly after me, and I was afraid you
thought I had done something wicked, because I said you wouldn't wish
I were your daughter if you knew everything about me. So I have come
to tell you my secrets, as far as I can without betraying other
people's. I am afraid you won't care anything more about me after I
have told you; but I can't help it if you don't. Even that would be
better than to have you suspect me of being bad."

Mrs. Delano drew an ottoman toward her, and said, "Come and sit here,
dear, and tell me all about it, the same as if I were your mother."

Floracita complied; and resting one elbow on her knee, and leaning
her cheek upon the hand, she looked up timidly and wistfully into the
friendly face that was smiling serenely over her. After a moment's
pause, she said abruptly: "I don't know how to begin, so I won't begin
at all, but tell it right out. You see, dear Mrs. Delano, I am a
colored girl."

The lady's smile came nearer to a laugh than was usual with her. She
touched the pretty dimpled cheek with her jewelled finger, as she
replied: "O, you mischievous little kitten! I thought you were really
going to tell me something about your troubles. But I see you are
hoaxing me. I remember when you were at Madame Conquilla's you always
seemed to be full of fun, and the young ladies there said you were a
great rogue."

"But this is not fun; indeed it is not," rejoined Flora. "I _am_ a
colored girl."

She spoke so earnestly that the lady began to doubt the evidence of
her own eyes. "But you told me that Mr. Alfred Royal was your father,"
said she.

"So he was my father," replied Flora; "and the kindest father that
ever was. Rosa and I were brought up like little princesses, and we
never knew that we were colored. My mother was the daughter of a rich
Spanish gentleman named Gonsalez. She was educated in Paris, and was
elegant and accomplished. She was handsomer than Rosa; and if you were
to see Rosa, you would say nobody _could_ be handsomer than she is.
She was good, too. My father was always saying she was the dearest and
best wife in the world. You don't know how he mourned when she died.
He couldn't bear to have anything moved that she had touched. But
_cher papa_ died very suddenly; and first they told us that we were
very poor, and must earn our living; and then they told us that our
mother was a slave, and so, according to law, we were slaves too. They
would have sold us at auction, if a gentleman who knew us when papa
was alive hadn't smuggled us away privately to Nassau. He had been
very much in love with Rosa for a good while; and he married her, and
I live with them. But he keeps us very much hidden; because, he says,
he should get into lawsuits and duels and all sorts of troubles with
papa's creditors if they should find out that he helped us off. And
that was the reason I was called Senorita Gonsalez in Nassau, though
my real name is Flora Royal."

She went on to recount the kindness of Madame Guirlande, and the
exciting particulars of their escape; to all of which Mrs. Delano
listened with absorbed attention. As they sat thus, they made a
beautiful picture. The lady, mature in years, but scarcely showing the
touch of time, was almost as fair as an Albiness, with serene lips,
and a soft moonlight expression in her eyes. Every attitude and every
motion indicated quietude and refinement. The young girl, on the
contrary, even when reclining, seemed like impetuosity in repose for
a moment, but just ready to spring. Her large dark eyes laughed and
flashed and wept by turns, and her warmly tinted face glowed like the
sunlight, in its setting of glossy black hair. The lady looked down
upon her with undisguised admiration while she recounted their
adventures in lively dramatic style, throwing in imitations of the
whistling of _Ca ira_, and the tones of the coachman as he sang, "Who
goes there?"

"But you have not told me," said Mrs. Delano, "who the gentleman was
that married your sister. Ah, I see you hesitate. No matter. Only tell
me one thing,--is he kind to you?"

Flora turned red and pale, and red again.

"Let that pass, too," said the lady. "I asked because I wished to know
if I could help you in any way. I see you have brought some more boxes
of shell-work, and by and by we will examine them. But first I want to
tell you that I also have a secret, and I will confide it to you that
you may feel assured I shall love you always. Flora, dear, when your
father and I were young, we were in love with each other, and I
promised to be his wife."

"So you might have been my Mamita!" exclaimed Floracita, impetuously.

"No, not _your_ Mamita, dear," replied Mrs. Delano, smiling. "You
call me the Java sparrow, and Java sparrows never hatch gay little
humming-birds or tuneful mocking-birds. I might tell you a long story
about myself, dear; but the sun is declining, and you ought not to be
out after dusk. My father was angry about our love, because Alfred was
then only a clerk with a small salary. They carried me off to Europe,
and for two years I could hear nothing from Alfred. Then they told
me he was married; and after a while they persuaded me to marry Mr.
Delano. I ought not to have married him, because my heart was not in
it. He died and left me with a large fortune and the little daughter
I told you of. I have felt very much alone since my darling was taken
from me. That void in my heart renders young girls very interesting to
me. Your looks and ways attracted me when I first met you; and when
you told me Alfred Royal was your father, I longed to clasp you to my
heart. And now you know, my dear child, that you have a friend ever
ready to listen to any troubles you may choose to confide, and
desirous to remove them if she can."

She rose to open the boxes of shell-work; but Flora sprung up, and
threw herself into her arms, saying, "My Papasito sent you to me,--I
know he did."

After a few moments spent in silent emotion, Mrs. Delano again spoke
of the approaching twilight, and with mutual caresses they bade each
other adieu.

Four or five days later, Floracita made her appearance at the Welby
plantation in a state of great excitement. She was in a nervous
tremor, and her eyelids were swollen as if with much weeping. Mrs.
Delano hastened to enfold her in her arms, saying: "What is it, my
child? Tell your new Mamita what it is that troubles you so."

"O, _may_ I call you Mamita?" asked Flora, looking up with an
expression of grateful love that warmed all the fibres of her friend's
heart. "O, I do so need a Mamita! I am very wretched; and if you don't
help me, I don't know what I _shall_ do!"

"Certainly, I will help you, if possible, when you have told me your
trouble," replied Mrs. Delano.

"Yes, I will tell," said Flora, sighing. "Mr. Fitzgerald is the
gentleman who married my sister; but we don't live at his plantation.
We live in a small cottage hidden away in the woods. You never saw
anybody so much in love as he was with Rosa. When we first came here,
he was never willing to have her out of his sight a moment. And Rosa
loves him so! But for these eight or ten weeks past he has been making
love to me; though he is just as affectionate as ever with Rosa. When
she is playing to him, and I am singing beside her, he keeps throwing
kisses to me behind her back. It makes me feel so ashamed that I can't
look my sister in the face. I have tried to--keep out of his way. When
I am in the house I stick to Rosa like a burr; and I have given up
riding or walking, except when he is away. But there's no telling
when he _is_ away. He went away yesterday, and said he was going to
Savannah to be gone a week; but this morning, when I went into the
woods behind the cottage to feed Thistle, he was lurking there. He
seized me, and held his hand over my mouth, and said I _should_ hear
him. Then he told me that Rosa and I were his slaves; that he bought
us of papa's creditors, and could sell us any day. And he says he will
carry me off to Savannah and sell me if I don't treat him better. He
would not let me go till I promised to meet him in Cypress Grove
at dusk to-night. I have been trying to earn money to go to Madame
Guirlande, and get her to send me somewhere where I could give
dancing-lessons, or singing-lessons, without being in danger of being
taken up for a slave. But I don't know how to get to New Orleans
alone; and if I am his slave, I am afraid he will come there with
officers to take me. So, dear new Mamita, I have come to you, to see
if you can't help me to get some money and go somewhere."

Mrs. Delano pressed her gently to her heart, and responded in tones of
tenderest pity: "Get some money and go somewhere, you poor child! Do
you think I shall let dear Alfred's little daughter go wandering
alone about the world? No, darling, you shall live with me, and be my
daughter."

"And don't you care about my being colored and a slave?" asked
Floracita, humbly.

"Let us never speak of that," replied her friend. "The whole
transaction is so odious and wicked that I can't bear to think of it."

"I do feel so grateful to you, my dear new Mamita, that I don't know
what to say. But it tears my heart in two to leave Rosa. We have never
been separated for a day since I was born. And she is so good, and she
loves me so! And Tulee, too. I didn't dare to try to speak to her. I
knew I should break down. All the way coming here I was frightened
for fear Gerald would overtake me and carry me off. And I cried so,
thinking about Rosa and Tulee, not knowing when I should see them
again, that I couldn't see; and if Thistle hadn't known the way
himself, I shouldn't have got here. Poor Thistle! It seemed as if my
heart would break when I threw the bridle on his neck and left him to
go back alone; I didn't dare to hug, him but once, I was so afraid. O,
I am so glad that you will let me stay here!"

"I have been thinking it will not be prudent for you to stay here,
my child," replied Mrs. Delano. "Search will be made for you in the
morning, and you had better be out of the way before that. There are
some dresses belonging to Mrs. Welby's daughter in a closet up stairs.
I will borrow one of them for you to wear. The boat from Beaufort to
Savannah will stop here in an hour to take some freight. We will go to
Savannah. My colored laundress there has a chamber above her wash-room
where you will be better concealed than in more genteel lodgings. I
will come back here to arrange things, and in a few days I will return
to you and take you to my Northern home."

The necessary arrangements were soon made; and when Flora was
transformed into Miss Welby, she smiled very faintly as she remarked,
"How queer it seems to be always running away."

"This is the last time, my child," replied Mrs. Delano. "I will keep
my little bird carefully under my wings."

When Flora was in the boat, hand in hand with her new friend, and no
one visible whom she had ever seen before, her excitement began to
subside, but sadness increased. In her terror the poor child had
scarcely thought of anything except the necessity of escaping
somewhere. But when she saw her island home receding from her, she
began to realize the importance of the step she was taking. She fixed
her gaze on that part where the lonely cottage was embowered, and
she had a longing to see even a little whiff of smoke from Tulee's
kitchen. But there was no sign of life save a large turkey-buzzard,
like a black vulture, sailing gracefully over the tree-tops. The
beloved sister, the faithful servant, the brother from whom she had
once hoped so much, the patient animal that had borne her through so
many pleasant paths, the flowery woods, and the resounding sea, had
all vanished from her as suddenly as did her father and the bright
home of her childhood.

The scenes through which they were passing were beautiful as Paradise,
and all nature seemed alive and jubilant. The white blossoms of
wild-plum-trees twinkled among dark evergreens, a vegetable imitation
of starlight. Wide-spreading oaks and superb magnolias were lighted up
with sudden flashes of color, as scarlet grosbeaks flitted from tree
to tree. Sparrows were chirping, doves cooing, and mocking-birds
whistling, now running up the scale, then down the scale, with an
infinity of variations between. The outbursts of the birds were the
same as in seasons that were gone, but the listener was changed.
Rarely before had her quick musical ear failed to notice how they
would repeat the same note with greater or less emphasis, then flat
it, then sharp it, varying their performances with all manner of
unexpected changes. But now she was merely vaguely conscious of
familiar sounds, which brought before her that last merry day in her
father's house, when Rosabella laughed so much to hear her puzzle the
birds with her musical vagaries. Memory held up her magic mirror, in
which she saw pictured processions of the vanished years. Thus the
lonely child, with her loving, lingering looks upon the past, was
floated toward an unknown future with the new friend a kind Providence
had sent her.

CHAPTER IX.

Rosa was surprised at the long absence of her sister; and when the sun
showed only a narrow golden edge above the horizon, she began to feel
anxious. She went to the kitchen and said, "Tulee, have you seen
anything of Floracita lately? She went away while I was sleeping."

"No, missy," she replied. "The last I see of her was in her room, with
the embroidery-frame before her. She was looking out of the window, as
she did sometimes, as if she was looking nowhere. She jumped up and
hugged and kissed me, and called me 'Dear Tulee, good Tulee.' The
little darling was always mighty loving. When I went there again, her
needle was sticking in her work, and her thimble was on the frame, but
she was gone. I don't know when she went away. Thistle's come back
alone; but he does that sometimes when little missy goes rambling
round."

There was no uneasiness expressed in her tones, but, being more
disquieted than she wished to acknowledge, she went forth to search
the neighboring wood-paths and the sea-shore. When she returned, Rosa
ran out with the eager inquiry, "Is she anywhere in sight?" In reply
to the negative answer, she said: "I don't know what to make of it.
Have you ever seen anybody with Floracita since we came here?"

"Nobody but Massa Gerald," replied Tulee.

"I wonder whether she was discontented here," said Rosa. "I don't see
why she should be, for we all loved her dearly; and Gerald was as kind
to her as if she had been his own sister. But she hasn't seemed like
herself lately; and this forenoon she hugged and kissed me ever so
many times, and cried. When I asked her what was the matter, she said
she was thinking of the pleasant times when _Papasito querido_ was
alive. Do you think she was unhappy?"

"She told me once she was homesick for Madame Guirlande," replied
Tulee.

"Did she? Perhaps she was making so many things for Madame because she
meant to go there. But she couldn't find her way alone, and she knew
it would be very dangerous for either of us to go to New Orleans."

Tulee made no reply. She seated herself on a wooden bench by the open
door, swinging her body back and forth in an agitated way, ever and
anon jumping up and looking round in all directions. The veil of
twilight descended upon the earth, and darkness followed. The two
inmates of the cottage felt very miserable and helpless, as they sat
there listening to every sound. For a while nothing was heard but the
dash of the waves, and the occasional hooting of an owl. The moon rose
up above the pines, and flooded earth and sea with silvery splendor.

"I want to go to the plantation and call Tom," said Rosa; "and there
is such bright moonshine we might go, but I am afraid Gerald would be
displeased."

Tulee at once volunteered to bring out Thistle, and to walk beside her
mistress.

Both started at the sound of footsteps. They were not light enough for
Floracita, but they thought it might be some one bringing news. It
proved to be the master of the house.

"Why, Gerald, how glad I am! I thought you were in Savannah,"
exclaimed Rosa. "Have you seen anything of Floracita?"

"No. Isn't she here?" inquired he, in such a tone of surprise, that
Tulee's suspicions were shaken.

Rosa repeated the story of her disappearance, and concluded by saying,
"She told Tulee she was homesick to go to Madame."

"She surely wouldn't dare to do that," he replied.

"Massa Gerald," said Tulee, and she watched him closely while she
spoke, "there's something I didn't tell Missy Rosy, 'cause I was
feared it would worry her. I found this little glove of Missy Flory's,
with a bunch of sea-weed, down on the beach; and there was marks of
her feet all round."

Rosa uttered a cry. "O heavens!" she exclaimed, "I saw an alligator a
few days ago."

An expression of horror passed over his face. "I've cautioned her not
to fish so much for shells and sea-mosses," said he; "but she was
always so self-willed."

"_Don't_ say anything against the little darling!" implored Rosa.
"Perhaps we shall never see her again."

He spoke a few soothing words, and then took his hat, saying, "I am
going to the sea-shore."

"Take good care of yourself, dear Gerald!" cried Rosa.

"No danger 'bout that," muttered Tulee, as she walked out of hearing.
"There's things with handsomer mouths than alligators that may be more
dangerous. Poor little bird! I wonder where he has put her."

His feelings as he roamed on the beach were not to be envied. His mind
was divided between the thoughts that she had committed suicide,
or had been drowned accidentally. That she had escaped from his
persecutions by flight he could not believe; for he knew she was
entirely unused to taking care of herself, and felt sure she had no
one to help her. He returned to say that the tide had washed away the
footprints, and that he found no vestige of the lost one.

At dawn he started for the plantation, whence, after fruitless
inquiries, he rode to the Welby estate. Mrs. Delano had requested
the household servants not to mention having seen a small young lady
there, and they had nothing to communicate.

He resolved to start for New Orleans as soon as possible. After a
fortnight's absence he returned, bringing grieved and sympathizing
letters from the Signor and Madame; and on the minds of all, except
Tulee, the conviction settled that Floracita was drowned. Hope
lingered long in her mind. "Wherever the little pet may be, she'll
surely contrive to let us know," thought she. "She ain't like the poor
slaves when _they_'re carried off. She can write." Her mistress
talked with her every day about the lost darling; but of course such
suspicions were not to be mentioned to her. Gerald, who disliked
everything mournful, avoided the subject entirely; and Rosabella,
looking upon him only with the eyes of love, considered it a sign of
deep feeling, and respected it accordingly.

But, blinded as she was, she gradually became aware that he did not
seem exactly like the same man who first won her girlish love. Her
efforts to please him were not always successful. He was sometimes
moody and fretful. He swore at the slightest annoyance, and often
flew into paroxysms of anger with Tom and Tulee. He was more and more
absent from the cottage, and made few professions of regret for such
frequent separations. Some weeks after Flora's disappearance, he
announced his intention to travel in the North during the summer
months. Rosabella looked up in his face with a pleading expression,
but pride prevented her from asking whether she might accompany him.
She waited in hopes he would propose it; but as he did not even think
of it, he failed to interpret the look of disappointment in her
expressive eyes, as she turned from him with a sigh.

"Tom will come with the carriage once a week," said he; "and either he
or Joe will be here every night."

"Thank you," she replied.

But the tone was so sad that he took her hand with the tenderness of
former times, and said, "You are sorry to part with me, Bella Rosa?"

"How can I be otherwise than sorry," she asked, "when I am all alone
in the world without you? Dear Gerald, are we always to live thus?
Will you never acknowledge me as your wife?"

"How can I do it," rejoined he, "without putting myself in the power
of those cursed creditors? It is no fault of mine that your mother was
a slave."

"We should be secure from them in Europe," she replied. "Why couldn't
we live abroad?"

"Do you suppose my rich uncle would leave me a cent if he found out I
had married the daughter of a quadroon?" rejoined he. "I have met with
losses lately, and I can't afford to offend my uncle. I am sorry,
dear, that you are dissatisfied with the home I have provided for
you."

"I am not dissatisfied with my home," said she. "I have no desire to
mix with the world, but it is necessary for you, and these separations
are dreadful."

His answer was: "I will write often, dearest, and I will send you
quantities of new music. I shall always be looking forward to the
delight of hearing it when I return. You must take good care of your
health, for my sake. You must go ambling about with Thistle every
day."

The suggestion brought up associations that overcame her at once. "O
how Floracita loved Thistle!" she exclaimed. "And it really seems as
if the poor beast misses her. I am afraid we neglected her too much,
Gerald. We were so taken up with our own happiness, that we didn't
think of her so much as we ought to have done."

"I am sure I tried to gratify all her wishes," responded he. "I have
nothing to reproach myself with, and certainly you were always a
devoted sister. This is a morbid state of feeling, and you must try to
drive it off. You said a little while ago that you wanted to see how
the plantation was looking, and what flowers had come out in the
garden. Shall I take you there in the barouche to-morrow?"

She gladly assented, and a few affectionate words soon restored her
confidence in his love.

When the carriage was brought to the entrance of the wood the next
day, she went to meet it with a smiling face and a springing step. As
he was about to hand her in, he said abruptly, "You have forgotten
your veil."

Tulee was summoned to bring it. As Rosa arranged it round her head,
she remarked, "One would think you were ashamed of me, Gerald."

The words were almost whispered, but the tone sounded more like a
reproach than anything she had ever uttered. With ready gallantry he
responded aloud, "I think so much of my treasure that I want to keep
it all to myself."

He was very affectionate during their drive; and this, combined with
the genial air, the lovely scenery, and the exhilaration of swift
motion, restored her to a greater sense of happiness than she had felt
since her darling sister vanished so suddenly.

The plantation was in gala dress. The veranda was almost covered with
the large, white, golden-eyed stars of the Cherokee rose, gleaming out
from its dark, lustrous foliage. The lawn was a sheet of green velvet
embroidered with flowers. Magnolias and oaks of magnificent growth
ornamented the extensive grounds. In the rear was a cluster of negro
huts. Black picaninnies were rolling about in the grass, mingling
their laughter with the songs of the birds. The winding paths of the
garden were lined with flowering shrubs, and the sea sparkled in the
distance. Wherever the eye glanced, all was sunshine, bloom, and
verdure.

For the first time, he invited her to enter the mansion. Her first
movement was toward the piano. As she opened it, and swept her hand
across the keys, he said: "It is sadly out of tune. It has been
neglected because its owner had pleasanter music elsewhere."

"But the tones are very fine," rejoined she. "What a pity it shouldn't
be used!" As she glanced out of the window on the blooming garden and
spacious lawn, she said: "How pleasant it would be if we could live
here! It is so delightful to look out on such an extensive open
space."

"Perhaps we will some time or other, my love," responded he.

She smiled, and touched the keys, while she sang snatches of familiar
songs. The servants who brought in refreshments wondered at her
beauty, and clear, ringing voice. Many dark faces clustered round
the crack of the door to obtain a peep; and as they went away they
exchanged nudges and winks with each other. Tom and Chloe had
confidentially whispered to some of them the existence of such a lady,
and that Tulee said Massa married her in the West Indies; and they
predicted that she would be the future mistress of Magnolia Lawn.
Others gave it as their opinion, that Massa would never hide her as
he did if she was to be the Missis. But all agreed that she was a
beautiful, grand lady, and they paid her homage accordingly. Her
cheeks would have burned to scarlet flame if she had heard all their
comments and conjectures; but unconscious of blame or shame, she gave
herself up to the enjoyment of those bright hours.

A new access of tenderness seemed to have come over Fitzgerald; partly
because happiness rendered her beauty more radiant, and partly because
secret thoughts that were revolving in his mind brought some twinges
of remorse. He had never seemed more enamored, not even during the
first week in Nassau, when he came to claim her as his bride. Far down
in the garden was an umbrageous walk, terminating in a vine-covered
bower. They remained there a long time, intertwined in each other's
arms, talking over the memories of their dawning consciousness of
love, and singing together the melodies in which their voices had
first mingled.

Their road home was through woods and groves festooned with vines,
some hanging in massive coils, others light and aerial enough for
fairy swings; then over the smooth beach, where wave after wave leaped
up and tossed its white foam-garland on the shore. The sun was sinking
in a golden sea, and higher toward the zenith little gossamer clouds
blushingly dissolved in the brilliant azure, and united again, as if
the fragrance of roses had floated into form.

When they reached the cottage, Rosa passed through the silent little
parlor with swimming eyes, murmuring to herself: "Poor little
Floracita! how the sea made me think of her. I ought not to have been
so happy."

But memory wrote the record of that halcyon day in illuminated
manuscript, all glowing with purple and gold, with angel faces peeping
through a graceful network of flowers.

CHAPTER X.

Rosabella had never experienced such loneliness as in the months
that followed. All music was saddened by far-off echoes of past
accompaniments. Embroidery lost its interest with no one to praise the
work, or to be consulted in the choice of colors and patterns. The
books Gerald occasionally sent were of a light character, and though
they served to while away a listless hour, there was nothing in them
to strengthen or refresh the soul. The isolation was the more painful
because there was everything around her to remind her of the lost and
the absent. Flora's unfinished embroidery still remained in the frame,
with the needle in the last stitch of a blue forget-me-not. Over the
mirror was a cluster of blush-roses she had made. On the wall was a
spray of sea-moss she had pressed and surrounded with a garland of
small shells. By the door was a vine she had transplanted from the
woods; and under a tree opposite was a turf seat where she used to
sit sketching the cottage, and Tulee, and Thistle, and baskets of
wild-flowers she had gathered. The sight of these things continually
brought up visions of the loving and beautiful child, who for so many
years had slept nestling in her arms, and made the days tuneful with
her songs. Then there was Gerald's silent flute, and the silken
cushion she had embroidered for him, on which she had so often seen
him reposing, and thought him handsome as a sleeping Adonis. A letter
from him made her cheerful for days; but they did not come often,
and were generally brief. Tom came with the carriage once a week,
according to his master's orders; but she found solitary drives so
little refreshing to body or mind that she was often glad to avail
herself of Tulee's company.

So the summer wore away, and September came to produce a new aspect of
beauty in the landscape, by tinging the fading flowers and withering
leaves with various shades of brown and crimson, purple and orange.
One day, early in the month, when Tom came with the carriage, she told
him to drive to Magnolia Lawn. She had long been wishing to revisit
the scene where she had been so happy on that bright spring day; but
she had always said to herself, "I will wait till Gerald comes." Now
she had grown so weary with hope deferred, that she felt as if she
could wait no longer.

As she rode along she thought of improvements in the walks that she
would suggest to Gerald, if they ever went there to live, as he had
intimated they might. The servants received her with their usual
respectful manner and wondering looks; but when she turned back to
ask some question, she saw them whispering together with an unusual
appearance of excitement. Her cheeks glowed with a consciousness that
her anomalous position was well calculated to excite their curiosity;
and she turned away, thinking how different it had been with her
mother,--how sheltered and protected she had always been. She
remembered how very rarely her father left home, and how he always
hastened to return. She stood awhile on the veranda, thinking sadly,
"If Gerald loves me as Papasito loved Mamita, how can he be contented
to leave me so much?" With a deep sigh she turned and entered the
house through an open window. The sigh changed at once to a bright
smile. The parlor had undergone a wondrous transformation since she
last saw it. The woodwork had been freshly painted, and the walls were
covered with silvery-flowered paper. Over curtains of embroidered lace
hung a drapery of apple-green damask, ornamented with deep white-silk
fringe and heavy tassels. "How kind of Gerald!" murmured she. "He has
done this because I expressed a wish to live here. How ungrateful I
was to doubt him in my thoughts!"

She passed into the chamber, where she found a white French bedstead,
on which were painted bouquets of roses. It was enveloped in roseate
lace drapery, caught up at the centre in festoons on the silver arrow
of a pretty little Cupid. From silver arrows over the windows there
fell the same soft, roseate folds. Her whole face was illuminated with
happiness as she thought to herself: "Ah! I know why everything has a
tinge of _roses_. How kind of him to prepare such a beautiful surprise
for me!"

She traversed the garden walks, and lingered long in the sequestered
bower. On the floor was a bunch of dried violets which he had
placed in her belt on that happy day. She took them up, kissed them
fervently, and placed them near her heart. That heart was lighter than
it had been for months. "At last he is going to acknowledge me as his
wife," thought she. "How happy I shall be when there is no longer any
need of secrecy!"

The servants heard her singing as she traversed the garden, and
gathered in groups to listen; but they scattered as they saw her
approach the house.

"She's a mighty fine lady," said Dinah, the cook.

"Mighty fine lady," repeated Tom; "an' I tell yer she's married to
Massa, an' she's gwine to be de Missis."

Venus, the chambermaid, who would have passed very well for a bronze
image of the sea-born goddess, tossed her head as she replied: "Dunno
bout dat ar. Massa does a heap o' courtin' to we far sex."

"How yer know dat ar?" exclaimed Dinah. "Whar d' yer git dem
year-rings?" And then there was a general titter.

Rosabella, all unconscious in her purity, came up to Tom while the
grin was still upon his face, and in her polite way asked him to have
the goodness to bring the carriage. It was with great difficulty that
she could refrain from outbursts of song as she rode homeward; but
Gerald had particularly requested her not to sing in the carriage,
lest her voice should attract the attention of some one who chanced to
be visiting the island.

Her first words when she entered the cottage were: "O Tulee, I am _so_
happy! Gerald has fitted up Magnolia Lawn beautifully, because I told
him I wished we could live there. He said, that day we were there,
that he would try to make some arrangement with Papasito's creditors,
and I do believe he has, and that I shall not have to hide much
longer. He has been fitting up the house as if it were for a queen.
Isn't he kind?"

Tulee, who listened rather distrustfully to praises bestowed on the
master, replied that nobody could do anything too good for Missy Rosy.

"Ah, Tulee, you have always done your best to spoil me," said she,
laying her hand affectionately on the shoulder of her petted servant,
while a smile like sunshine mantled her face. "But do get me something
to eat. The ride has made me hungry."

"Ise glad to hear that, Missy Rosy. I begun to think 't want no use to
cook nice tidbits for ye, if ye jist turned 'em over wi' yer fork, and
ate one or two mouthfuls, without knowing what ye was eatin'."

"I've been pining for Gerald, Tulee; and I've been afraid sometimes
that he didn't love me as he used to do. But now that he has made
such preparations for us to live at Magnolia Lawn, I am as happy as a
queen."

She went off singing, and as Tulee looked after her she murmured to
herself: "And what a handsome queen she'd make! Gold ain't none
too good for her to walk on. But is it the truth he told her about
settling with the creditors? There's never no telling anything by
what _he_ says. Do hear her singing now! It sounds as lively as Missy
Flory. Ah! that was a strange business. I wonder whether the little
darling _is_ dead."

While she was preparing supper, with such cogitations passing through
her mind, Rosa began to dash off a letter, as follows:--

"DEARLY BELOVED,--I am so happy that I cannot wait a minute without
telling you about it. I have done a naughty thing, but, as it is the
first time I ever disobeyed you, I hope you will forgive me. You told
me never to go to the plantation without you. But I waited and waited,
and you didn't come; and we were so happy there, that lovely day, that
I longed to go again. I knew it would be very lonesome without you;
but I thought it would be some comfort to see again the places where
we walked together, and sang together, and called each other all
manner of foolish fond names. Do you remember how many variations you
rung upon my name,--Rosabella, Rosalinda, Rosamunda, Rosa Regina? How
you did pelt me with roses! Do you remember how happy we were in the
garden bower? How we sang together the old-fashioned canzonet, 'Love
in thine eyes forever plays'? And how the mocking-bird imitated your
guitar, while you were singing the Don Giovanni serenade?

"I was thinking this all over, as I rode alone over the same ground
we traversed on that happy day. But it was so different without the
love-light of your eyes and the pressure of your dear hand, that I
felt the tears gathering, and had all manner of sad thoughts. I feared
you didn't care for me as you used to do, and were finding it easy
to live without me. But when I entered the parlor that overlooks the
beautiful lawn, all my doubts vanished. You had encouraged me to hope
that it might be our future home; but I little dreamed it was to be
so soon, and that you were preparing such a charming surprise for me.
Don't be vexed with me, dearest, for finding out your secret. It made
me _so_ happy! It made the world seem like Paradise. Ah! I _knew_ why
everything was so _rose_-colored. It was so like _you_ to think of
that! Then everything is so elegant! You knew your Rosamunda's taste
for elegance.

"But Tulee summons me to supper. Dear, good, faithful Tulee! What a
comfort she has been to me in this lonesome time!"

* * * * *

"Now I have come back to the pretty little writing-desk you gave me,
and I will finish my letter. I feel as if I wanted to write to you
forever, if I can't have you to talk to. You can't imagine how
lonesome I have been. The new music you sent me was charming; but
whatever I practised or improvised took a solemn and plaintive
character, like the moaning of the sea and the whispering of the
pines. One's own voice sounds so solitary when there is no other voice
to lean upon, and no appreciating ear to listen for the coming chords.
I have even found it a relief to play and sing to Tulee, who is always
an admiring listener, if not a very discriminating one; and as for
Tom, it seems as if the eyes would fly out of his head when I play
to him. I have tried to take exercise every day, as you advised;
but while the hot weather lasted, I was afraid of snakes, and the
mosquitoes and sand-flies were tormenting. Now it is cooler I ramble
about more, but my loneliness goes everywhere with me. Everything is
so still here, that it sometimes makes me afraid. The moonlight looks
awfully solemn on the dark pines. You remember that dead pine-tree?
The wind has broken it, and there it stands in front of the evergreen
grove, with two arms spread out, and a knot like a head with a hat
on it, and a streamer of moss hanging from it. It looks so white and
strange in the moonlight, that it seems as if Floracita's spirit were
beckoning to me.

"But I didn't mean to write about sad things. I don't feel sad now;
I was only telling you how lonely and nervous I _had_ been, that
you might imagine how much good it has done me to see such kind
arrangements at Magnolia Lawn. Forgive me for going there, contrary
to your orders. I did so long for a little variety! I couldn't have
dreamed you were planning such a pleasant surprise for me. Sha'n't we
be happy there, calling one another all the old foolish pet names?
Dear, good Gerald, I shall never again have any ungrateful doubts of
your love.

"_Adios, luz de mes ojos_. Come soon to

"Your grateful and loving

"ROSA."

That evening the plash of the waves no longer seemed like a requiem
over her lost sister; the moonlight gave poetic beauty to the pines;
and even the blasted tree, with its waving streamer of moss, seemed
only another picturesque feature in the landscape; so truly does
Nature give us back a reflection of our souls.

She waked from a refreshing sleep with a consciousness of happiness
unknown for a long time. When Tom came to say he was going to
Savannah, she commissioned him to go to the store where her dresses
were usually ordered, and buy some fine French merino. She gave him
very minute directions, accompanied with a bird-of-paradise pattern.
"That is Gerald's favorite color," she said to herself. "I will
embroider it with white floss-silk, and tie it with white silk cord
and tassels. The first time we breakfast together at Magnolia Lawn I
will wear it, fastened at the throat with that pretty little knot of
silver filigree he gave me on my birthday. Then I shall look as bridal
as the home he is preparing for me."

The embroidery of this dress furnished pleasant occupation for many
days. When it was half finished, she tried it on before the mirror,
and smiled to see how becoming was the effect. She queried whether
Gerald would like one or two of Madame Guirlande's pale amber-colored
artificial nasturtiums in her hair. She placed them coquettishly by
the side of her head for a moment, and laid them down, saying to
herself: "No; too much dress for the morning. He will like better the
plain braids of my hair with the curls falling over them." As she sat,
hour after hour, embroidering the dress which was expected to produce
such a sensation, Tulee's heart was gladdened by hearing her sing
almost continually. "Bless her dear heart!" exclaimed she; "that
sounds like the old times."

But when a fortnight passed without an answer to her letter, the
showers of melody subsided. Shadows of old doubts began to creep over
the inward sunshine; though she tried to drive them away by recalling
Gerald's promise to try to secure her safety by making a compromise
with her father's creditors. And were not the new arrangements at
Magnolia Lawn a sign that he had accomplished his generous purpose?
She was asking herself that question for the hundredth time, as she
sat looking out on the twilight landscape, when she heard a well-known
voice approaching, singing, "C'est l'amour, l'amour, l'amour, qui fait
le monde a la ronde"; and a moment after she was folded in Gerald's
arms, and he was calling her endearing names in a polyglot of
languages, which he had learned from her and Floracita.

"So you are not very angry with me for going there and finding out
your secret," inquired she.

"I _was_ angry," he replied; "but while I was coming to you all my
anger melted away."

"And you do love me as well as ever," said she. "I thought perhaps so
many handsome ladies would fall in love with you, that I should not be
your Rosa _munda_ any more."

"I have met many handsome ladies," responded he, "but never one worthy
to bear the train of my Rosa Regina."

Thus the evening passed in conversation more agreeable to them than
the wittiest or the wisest would have been. But it has been well said,
"the words of lovers are like the rich wines of the South,--they are
delicious in their native soil, but will not bear transportation."

The next morning he announced the necessity of returning to the North
to complete some business, and said he must, in the mean time, spend
some hours at the plantation. "And Rosa dear," added he, "I shall
really be angry with you if you go there again unless I am with you."

She shook her finger at him, and said, with one of her most expressive
smiles: "Ah, I see through you! You are planning some more pleasant
surprises for me. How happy we shall be there! As for that rich uncle
of yours, if you will only let me see him, I will do my best to make
him love me, and perhaps I shall succeed."

"It would be wonderful if you did not, you charming enchantress,"
responded he. He folded her closely, and looked into the depths of her
beautiful eyes with intensity, not unmingled with sadness.

A moment after he was waving his hat from the shrubbery; and so he
passed away out of her sight. His sudden reappearance, his lavish
fondness, his quick departure, and the strange earnestness of his
farewell look, were remembered like the flitting visions of a dream.

CHAPTER XI.

In less than three weeks after that tender parting, an elegant
barouche stopped in front of Magnolia Lawn, and Mr. Fitzgerald
assisted a very pretty blonde young lady to alight from it. As
she entered the parlor, wavering gleams of sunset lighted up the
pearl-colored paper, softened by lace-shadows from the windows. The
lady glanced round the apartment with a happy smile, and, turning to
the window, said: "What a beautiful lawn! What superb trees!"

"Does it equal your expectations, dear?" he asked. "You had formed
such romantic ideas of the place, I feared you might be disappointed."

"I suppose that was the reason you tried to persuade me to spend our
honeymoon in Savannah," rejoined she. "But we should be so bored with
visitors. Here, it seems like the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve
had it all to themselves, before the serpent went there to make
mischief. I had heard father and mother tell so much about Magnolia
Lawn that I was eager to see it."

"They visited it in spring, when it really does look like Paradise,"
replied he. "It has its beauties now; but this is not the favorable
season for seeing it; and after we have been here a few days, I think
we had better return to Savannah, and come again when the lawn is
carpeted with flowers."

"I see your mind is bent upon not staying here," answered she; "and I
suppose it _would_ be rather tiresome to have no other company than
your stupid little Lily Bell."

She spoke with a pouting affectation of reproach, and he exclaimed,
"Lily, darling!" as he passed his arm round her slender waist, and,
putting aside a shower of pale yellowish ringlets, gazed fondly into
the blue eyes that were upturned to his.

They were interrupted by the entrance of Venus, who came to ask their
orders. "Tell them to serve supper at seven, and then come and show
your mistress to her dressing-room," he said. As she retired, he
added: "Now she'll have something to tell of. She'll be proud enough
of being the first to get a full sight of the new Missis; and it _is_
a sight worth talking about."

With a gratified smile, she glanced at the pier-glass which reflected
her graceful little figure, and, taking his arm, she walked slowly
round the room, praising the tasteful arrangements. "Everything has
such a bridal look!" she said.

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