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A Romance of the Republic by Lydia Maria Francis Child

Part 3 out of 7

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"Of course," replied he; "when I have such a fair Lily Bell for a
bride, I wish to have her bower pearly and lily-like. But here is
Venus come to show you to your dressing-room. I hope you will like the
arrangements up stairs also."

She kissed her hand to him as she left the room, and he returned the
salute. When she had gone, he paced slowly up and down for a few
moments. As he passed the piano, he touched the keys in a rambling
way. The tones he brought out were a few notes of an air he and
Rosabella had sung in that same room a few months before. He turned
abruptly from the instrument, and looked out from the window in the
direction of the lonely cottage, Nothing was visible but trees and a
line of the ocean beyond. But the chambers of his soul were filled
with visions of Rosa. He thought of the delightful day they had spent
together, looking upon these same scenes; of their songs and caresses
in the bower; of her letter, so full of love and glad surprise at the
bridal arrangements she supposed he had made for her, "I really hope
Lily won't insist upon staying here long," thought he; "for it is
rather an embarrassing position for me."

He seated himself at the piano and swept his hand up and down the
keys, as if trying to drown his thoughts in a tempest of sound. But,
do what he would, the thoughts spoke loudest; and after a while he
leaned his head forward on the piano, lost in revery.

A soft little hand touched his head, and a feminine voice inquired,
"What are you thinking of, Gerald?"

"Of you, my pearl," he replied, rising hastily, and stooping to
imprint a kiss on the forehead of his bride.

"And pray what were you thinking about _me_?" she asked.

"That you are the greatest beauty in the world, and that I love you
better than man ever loved woman," rejoined he. And so the game of
courtship went on, till it was interrupted by a summons to supper.

When they returned some time later, the curtains were drawn and
candles lighted. "You have not yet tried the piano," said he, as he
placed the music-stool.

She seated herself, and, after running up and down the keys, and
saying she liked the tone of the instrument, she began to play and
sing "Robin Adair." She had a sweet, thin voice, and her style of
playing indicated rather one who had learned music, than one whose
soul lived in its element. Fitzgerald thought of the last singing he
had heard at that piano; and without asking for another song, he began
to sing to her accompaniment, "Drink to me only with thine eyes." He
had scarcely finished the line, "Leave a kiss within the cup, and
I'll not ask for wine," when clear, liquid tones rose on the air,
apparently from the veranda; and the words they carried on their wings
were these:--

"Down in the meadow, 'mong the clover,
I walked with Nelly by my side.
Now all those happy days are over,
Farewell, my dark Virginia bride.
Nelly was a lady;
Last night she died.
Toll the bell for lovely Nell,
My dark Virginia bride."

The bride listened intensely, her fingers resting lightly on the keys,
and when the sounds--died away she started up, exclaiming, "What a
voice! I never heard anything like it."

She moved eagerly toward the veranda, but was suddenly arrested by her
husband. "No, no, darling," said he. "You mustn't expose yourself to
the night air."

"Then do go out yourself and bring her in," urged she. "I must hear
more of that voice. Who is she?"

"One of the darkies, I suppose," rejoined he. "You know they all have
musical gifts."

"Not such gifts as that, I imagine," she replied. "Do go out and bring
her in."

She was about to draw the curtain aside to look out, when he nervously
called her attention to another window. "See here!" he exclaimed. "My
people are gathering to welcome their new missis. In answer to Tom's
request, I told him I would introduce you to them to-night. But you
are tired, and I am afraid you will take cold in the evening air; so
we will postpone the ceremony until to-morrow."

"O, no," she replied, "I would prefer to go now. How their black faces
will shine when they see the glass beads and gay handkerchiefs I have
brought for them! Besides, I want to find out who that singer is. It's
strange you don't take more interest in such a voice as that, when
you are so full of music. Will you have the goodness to ring for my
shawl?"

With a decision almost peremptory in its tone, he said, "No; I had
rather you would _not_ go out." Seeing that his manner excited some
surprise, he patted her head and added: "Mind your husband now, that's
a good child. Amuse yourself at the piano while I go out."

She pouted a little, but finished by saying coaxingly, "Come back
soon, dear." She attempted to follow him far enough to look out on the
veranda, but he gently put her back, and, kissing his hand to her,
departed. She raised a corner of the curtain and peeped out to catch
the last glimpse of his figure. The moon was rising, and she could see
that he walked slowly, peering into spots of dense shadow or thickets
of shrubbery, as if looking for some one. But all was motionless and
still, save the sound of a banjo from the group of servants. "How I
wish I could hear that voice again!" she thought to herself. "It's
very singular Gerald should appear so indifferent to it. What can be
the meaning of it?"

She pondered for a few minutes, and then she tried to play; but not
finding it entertaining without an auditor, she soon rose, and,
drawing aside one of the curtains, looked out upon the lovely night.
The grand old trees cast broad shadows on the lawn, and the shrubbery
of the garden gleamed in the soft moonlight. She felt solitary
without any one to speak to, and, being accustomed to have her whims
gratified, she was rather impatient under the prohibition laid upon
her. She rung the bell and requested Venus to bring her shawl. The
obsequious dressing-maid laid it lightly on her shoulders, and holding
out a white nubia of zephyr worsted, she said, "P'r'aps missis would
like to war dis ere." She stood watching while her mistress twined the
gossamer fabric round her head with careless grace. She opened the
door for her to pass out on the veranda, and as she looked after her
she muttered to herself, "She's a pooty missis; but not such a gran'
hansom lady as turrer." A laugh shone through her dark face as she
added, "'T would be curus ef she should fine turrer missis out dar."
As she passed through the parlor she glanced at the large mirror,
which dimly reflected her dusky charms, and said with a smile: "Massa
knows what's hansome. He's good judge ob we far sex."

The remark was inaudible to the bride, who walked up and down the
veranda, ever and anon glancing at the garden walks, to see if Gerald
were in sight. She had a little plan of hiding among the vines when
she saw him coming, and peeping out suddenly as he approached. She
thought to herself she should look so pretty in the moonlight, that he
would forget to chide her. And certainly she was a pleasant vision.
Her fairy figure, enveloped in soft white folds of muslin, her
delicate complexion shaded by curls so fair that they seemed a portion
of the fleecy nubia, were so perfectly in unison with the mild
radiance of the evening, that she seemed like an embodied portion of
the moonlight. Gerald absented himself so long that her little plan
of surprising him had time to cool. She paused more frequently in
her promenade, and looked longer at the distant sparkle of the sea.
Turning to resume her walk, after one of these brief moments of
contemplation, she happened to glance at the lattice-work of the
veranda, and through one of its openings saw a large, dark eye
watching her. She started to run into the house, but upon second
thought she called out, "Gerald, you rogue, why didn't you speak to
let me know you were there?" She darted toward the lattice, but the
eye disappeared. She tried to follow, but saw only a tall shadow
gliding away behind the corner of the house. She pursued, but found
only a tremulous reflection of vines in the moonlight. She kept on
round the house, and into the garden, frequently calling out, "Gerald!
Gerald!" "Hark! hark!" she murmured to herself, as some far-off tones
of "Toll the bell" floated through the air. The ghostly moonlight,
the strange, lonely place, and the sad, mysterious sounds made her a
little afraid. In a more agitated tone, she called Gerald again. In
obedience to her summons, she saw him coming toward her in the
garden walk. Forgetful of her momentary fear, she sprang toward him,
exclaiming: "Are you a wizard? How did you get there, when two minutes
ago you were peeping at me through the veranda lattice?"

"I haven't been there," he replied; "but why are you out here, Lily,
when I particularly requested you to stay in the house till I came?"

"O, you were so long coming, that I grew tired of being alone. The
moonlight looked so inviting that I went out on the veranda to watch
for you; and when I saw you looking at me through the lattice, I ran
after you, and couldn't find you."

"I haven't been near the lattice," he replied. "If you saw somebody
looking at you, I presume it was one of the servants peeping at the
new missis."

"None of your tricks!" rejoined she, snapping her fingers at him
playfully. "It was _your_ eye that I saw. If it weren't for making you
vain, I would ask you whether your handsome eyes could be mistaken for
the eyes of one of your negroes. But I want you to go with me to that
bower down there."

"Not to-night, dearest," said he. "I will go with you to-morrow."

"Now is just the time," persisted she. "Bowers never look so pretty
as by moonlight. I don't think you are very gallant to your bride to
refuse her such a little favor."

Thus urged, he yielded, though reluctantly, to her whim. As she
entered the bower, and turned to speak to him, the moonlight fell full
upon her figure. "What a pretty little witch you are!" he exclaimed.
"My Lily Bell, my precious pearl, my sylph! You look like a spirit
just floated down from the moon."

"All moonshine!" replied she, with a smile.

He kissed the saucy lips, and the vines which had witnessed other
caresses in that same bower, a few months earlier, whispered to each
other, but told no tales. She leaned her head upon his bosom, and
looking out upon the winding walks of the garden, so fair and peaceful
in sheen and shadow, she said that her new home was more beautiful
than she had dreamed. "Hark!" said she, raising her head suddenly, and
listening. "I thought I heard a sigh."

"It was only the wind among the vines," he replied. "Wandering about
in the moonlight has made you nervous."

"I believe I _was_ a little afraid before you came," said she. "That
eye looking at me through the lattice gave me a start; and while I was
running after your shadow, I heard that voice again singing, 'Toll the
bell.' I wonder how you can be so indifferent about such a remarkable
voice, when you are such a lover of music."

"I presume, as I told you before, that it was one of the darkies,"
rejoined he. "I will inquire about it to-morrow."

"I should sooner believe it to be the voice of an angel from heaven,
than a darky," responded the bride. "I wish I could hear it again
before I sleep."

In immediate response to her wish, the full rich voice she had invoked
began to sing an air from "Norma," beginning, "O, how his art deceived
thee!"

Fitzgerald started so suddenly, he overturned a seat near them.
"Hush!" she whispered, clinging to his arm. Thus they stood in
silence, she listening with rapt attention, he embarrassed and
angry almost beyond endurance. The enchanting sounds were obviously
receding.

"Let us follow her, and settle the question who she is," said Lily,
trying to pull him forward. But he held her back strongly.

"No more running about to-night," he answered almost sternly. Then,
immediately checking himself, he added, in a gentler tone: "It is
imprudent in you to be out so long in the evening air; and I am really
very tired, dear Lily. To-morrow I will try to ascertain which of the
servants has been following you round in this strange way."

"Do you suppose any servant could sing _that_?" she exclaimed.

"They are nearly all musical, and wonderfully imitative," answered he.
"They can catch almost anything they hear." He spoke in a nonchalant
tone, but she felt his arm tremble as she leaned upon it. He had never
before made such an effort to repress rage.

In tones of tender anxiety, she said: "I am afraid you are very tired,
dear. I am sorry I kept you out so long."

"I am rather weary," he replied, taking her hand, and holding it in
his. He was so silent as they walked toward the house, that she feared
he was seriously offended with her.

As they entered the parlor she said, "I didn't think you cared about
my not going out, Gerald, except on account of my taking cold; and
with my shawl and nubia I don't think there was the least danger of
that. It was such a beautiful night, I wanted to go out to meet you,
dear."

He kissed her mechanically, and replied, "I am not offended, darling."

"Then, if the blue devils possess you, we will try Saul's method of
driving them away," said she. She seated herself at the piano, and
asked him whether he would accompany her with voice or flute. He tried
the flute, but played with such uncertainty, that she looked at him
with surprise. Music was the worst remedy she could have tried to
quiet the disturbance in his soul; for its voice evoked ghosts of the
past.

"I am really tired, Lily," said he; and, affecting a drowsiness he did
not feel, he proposed retiring for the night.

The chamber was beautiful with the moon shining through its
rose-tinted drapery, and the murmur of the ocean was a soothing
lullaby. But it was long before either of them slept; and when they
slumbered, the same voice went singing through their dreams. He was in
the flowery parlor at New Orleans, listening to "The Light of other
Days"; and she was following a veiled shadow through a strange garden,
hearing the intermingled tones of "Norma" and "Toll the bell."

It was late in the morning when she awoke. Gerald was gone, but
a bouquet of fragrant flowers lay on the pillow beside her. Her
dressing-gown was on a chair by the bedside, and Venus sat at the
window sewing.

"Where is Mr. Fitzgerald?" she inquired.

"He said he war gwine to turrer plantation on business. He leff dem
flower dar, an' tole me to say he 'd come back soon."

The fair hair was neatly arranged by the black hands that contrasted
so strongly with it. The genteel little figure was enveloped in a
morning-dress of delicate blue and white French cambric, and the
little feet were ensconced in slippers of azure velvet embroidered
with silver. The dainty breakfast, served on French porcelain, was
slowly eaten, and still Gerald returned not. She removed to the
chamber window, and, leaning her cheek on her hand, looked out upon
the sun-sparkle of the ocean. Her morning thought was the same with
which she had passed into slumber the previous night. How strange it
was that Gerald would take no notice of that enchanting voice! The
incident that seemed to her a charming novelty had, she knew not why,
cast a shadow over the first evening in their bridal home.

CHAPTER XII.

Mr. Fitzgerald had ordered his horse to be saddled at an earlier hour
than Tom had ever known him to ride, except on a hunting excursion,
and in his own mind he concluded that his master would be asleep at
the hour he had indicated. Before he stretched himself on the floor
for the night, he expressed this opinion to the cook by saying, "Yer
know, Dinah, white folks is allers mighty wide awake de night afore
dey gits up."

To his surprise, however, Mr. Fitzgerald made his appearance at the
stable just as he was beginning to comb the horse. "You lazy black
rascal," he exclaimed, "didn't I order you to have the horse ready by
this time?"

"Yes, Massa," replied Tom, sheering out of the way of the upraised
whip; "but it peers like Massa's watch be leetle bit faster dan de sun
dis ere mornin'."

The horse was speedily ready, and Tom looked after his master as he
leaped into the saddle and dashed off in the direction of the lonely
cottage. There was a grin on his face as he muttered, "Reckon Missis
don't know whar yer gwine." He walked toward the house, whistling,
"Nelly was a lady."

"Dat ar war gwine roun' an' roun' de hus las' night, jes like a
sperit. 'Twar dat ar Spanish lady," said Dinah.

"She sings splendiferous," rejoined Tom, "an' Massa liked it more dan
de berry bes bottle ob wine." He ended by humming, "Now all dem happy
days am ober."

"Better not let Massa hear yer sing dat ar," said Dinah. "He make yer
sing nudder song."

"She's mighty gran' lady, an' a bery perlite missis, an' Ise sorry fur
her," replied Tom.

Mr. Fitzgerald had no sense of refreshment in his morning ride. He
urged his horse along impatiently, with brow contracted and lips
firmly compressed. He was rehearsing in his mind the severe reprimand
he intended to bestow upon Rosa. He expected to be met with tears and
reproaches, to which he would show himself hard till she made contrite
apologies for her most unexpected and provoking proceedings. It was
his purpose to pardon her at last, for he was far enough from wishing
to lose her; and she had always been so gentle and submissive, that he
entertained no doubt the scene would end with a loving willingness to
accept his explanations, and believe in his renewed professions. "She
loves me to distraction, and she is entirely in my power," thought he.
"It will be strange indeed if I cannot mould her as I will."

Arrived at the cottage, he found Tulee washing on a bench outside the
kitchen. "Good morning, Tulee," said he. "Is your mistress up yet?"

"Missy Rosy ha'n't been asleep," she answered in a very cold tone,
without looking up from her work.

He entered the house, and softly opened the door of Rosa's sleeping
apartment. She was walking slowly, with arms crossed, looking
downward, as if plunged in thought. Her extreme pallor disarmed him,
and there was no hardness in his tone when he said, "Rosabella!"

She started, for she had supposed the intruder was Tulee. With head
proudly erect, nostrils dilated, and eyes that flashed fire, she
exclaimed, "How dare you come here?"

This reception was so entirely unexpected, that it disconcerted him;
and instead of the severe reproof he had contemplated, he said, in an
expostulating tone: "Rosa, I always thought you the soul of honor.
When we parted, you promised not to go to the plantation unless I was
with you. Is this the way you keep your word?"

"_You_ talk of honor and promises!" she exclaimed.

The sneer conveyed in the tones stung him to the quick. But he made an
effort to conceal his chagrin, and said, with apparent calmness: "You
must admit it was an unaccountable freak to start for the plantation
in the evening, and go wandering round the grounds in that mysterious
way. What could have induced you to take such a step?"

"I accidentally overheard Tom telling Tulee that you were to bring
home a bride from the North yesterday. I could not believe it of you,
and I was too proud to question him. But after reflecting upon it, I
chose to go and see for myself. And when I _had_ seen for myself, I
wished to remind you of that past which you seemed to have forgotten."

"Curse on Tom!" he exclaimed. "He shall smart for this mischief."

"Don't be so unmanly as to punish a poor servant for mentioning a
piece of news that interested the whole plantation, and which must of
course be a matter of notoriety," she replied very quietly. "Both he
and Tulee were delicate enough to conceal it from me."

Fitzgerald felt embarrassed by her perfect self-possession. After a
slight pause, during which she kept her face averted from him, he
said: "I confess that appearances are against me, and that you have
reason to feel offended. But if you knew just how I was situated, you
would, perhaps, judge me less harshly. I have met with heavy losses
lately, and I was in danger of becoming bankrupt unless I could keep
up my credit by a wealthy marriage. The father of this young lady is
rich, and she fell in love with me. I have married her; but I tell you
truly, dear Rosa, that I love you more than I ever loved any other
woman."

"You say she loved you, and yet you could deceive her so," she
replied. "You could conceal from her that you already had a wife. When
I watched her as she walked on the veranda I was tempted to reveal
myself, and disclose your baseness."

Fitzgerald's eyes flashed with sudden anger, as he vociferated, "Rosa,
if you ever dare to set up any such claim--"

"If I _dare_!" she exclaimed, interrupting him in a tone of proud
defiance, that thrilled through all his nerves.

Alarmed by the strength of character which he had never dreamed she
possessed, he said: "In your present state of mind, there is no
telling what you may dare to do. It becomes necessary for you to
understand your true position. You are not my wife. The man who
married us had no legal authority to perform the ceremony."

"O steeped in falsehood to the lips!" exclaimed she. "And _you_ are
the idol I have worshipped!"

He looked at her with astonishment not unmingled with admiration.
"Rosa, I could not have believed you had such a temper," rejoined he.
"But why will you persist in making yourself and me unhappy? As long
as my wife is ignorant of my love for you, no harm is done. If you
would only listen to reason, we might still be happy. I could manage
to visit you often. You would find me as affectionate as ever; and I
will provide amply for you."

"_Provide_ for me?" she repeated slowly, looking him calmly and
loftily in the face. "What have you ever seen in me, Mr. Fitzgerald,
that has led you to suppose I would consent to sell myself?"

His susceptible temperament could not withstand the regal beauty of
her proud attitude and indignant look. "O Rosa," said he, "there is no
woman on earth to be compared with you. If you only knew how I idolize
you at this moment, after all the cruel words you have uttered, you
surely would relent. Why will you not be reasonable, dearest? Why not
consent to live with me as your mother lived with your father?"

"Don't wrong the memory of my mother," responded she hastily. "She
was too pure and noble to be dishonored by your cruel laws. She would
never have entered into any such base and degrading arrangement as
you propose. She couldn't have lived under the perpetual shame of
deceiving another wife. She couldn't have loved my father, if he had
deceived her as you have deceived me. She trusted him entirely, and in
return he gave her his undivided affection."

"And I give you undivided affection," he replied. "By all the stars
of heaven, I swear that you are now, as you always have been, my Rosa
Regina, my Rosa _munda_."

"Do not exhaust your oaths," rejoined she, with a contemptuous curl of
the lip. "Keep some of them for your Lily Bell, your precious pearl,
your moonlight sylph."

Thinking the retort implied a shade of jealousy, he felt encouraged
to persevere. "You may thank your own imprudence for having overheard
words so offensive to you," responded he. "But Rosa, dearest, you
cannot, with all your efforts, drive from you the pleasant memories of
our love. You surely do not hate me?"

"No, Mr. Fitzgerald; you have fallen below hatred. I despise you."

His brow contracted, and his lips tightened. "I cannot endure this
treatment," said he, in tones of suppressed rage. "You tempt me too
far. You compel me to humble your pride. Since I cannot persuade you
to listen to expostulations and entreaties, I must inform you that my
power over you is complete. You are my slave. I bought you of your
father's creditors before I went to Nassau. I can sell you any day I
choose; and, by Jove, I will, if--"

The sudden change that came over her arrested him. She pressed one
hand hard upon her heart, and gasped for breath. He sank at once on
his knees, crying, "O, forgive me, Rosa! I was beside myself."

But she gave no sign of hearing him; and seeing her reel backward into
a chair, with pale lips and closing eyes, he hastened to summon Tulee.
Such remorse came over him that he longed to wait for her returning
consciousness. But he remembered that his long absence must excite
surprise in the mind of his bride, and might, perhaps, connect itself
with the mysterious singer of the preceding evening. Goaded by
contending feelings, he hurried through the footpaths whence he had so
often kissed his hand to Rosa in fond farewell, and hastily mounted
his horse without one backward glance.

Before he came in sight of the plantation, the perturbation of his
mind had subsided, and he began to think himself a much-injured
individual. "Plague on the caprices of women!" thought he. "All this
comes of Lily's taking the silly, romantic whim of coming here to
spend the honeymoon. And Rosa, foolish girl, what airs she assumes! I
wanted to deal generously by her; but she rejected all my offers as
haughtily as if she had been queen of Spain and all the Americas.
There's a devilish deal more of the Spanish blood in her than I
thought for. Pride becomes her wonderfully; but it won't hold out
forever. She'll find that she can't live without me. I can wait."

Feeling the need of some safety-valve to let off his vexation, he
selected poor Tom for that purpose. When the obsequious servant came
to lead away the horse, his master gave him a sharp cut of the whip,
saying, "I'll teach you to tell tales again, you black rascal!"
But having a dainty aversion to the sight of pain, he summoned the
overseer, and consigned him to his tender mercies.

CHAPTER XIII.

If Flora could have known all this, the sisters would have soon been
locked in each other's arms; but while she supposed that Rosa
still regarded Mr. Fitzgerald with perfect love and confidence, no
explanation of her flight could be given. She did indeed need to be
often reminded by Mrs. Delano that it would be the most unkind thing
toward her sister, as well as hazardous to herself, to attempt any
communication. Notwithstanding the tenderest care for her comfort
and happiness, she could not help being sometimes oppressed with
homesickness. Her Boston home was tasteful and elegant, but everything
seemed foreign and strange. She longed for Rosa and Tulee, and Madame
and the Signor. She missed what she called the _olla-podrida_ phrases
to which she had always been accustomed; and in her desire to behave
with propriety, there was an unwonted sense of constraint. When
callers came, she felt like a colt making its first acquaintance
with harness. She endeavored to conceal such feelings from her kind
benefactress; but sometimes, if she was surprised in tears, she
would say apologetically, "I love you dearly, Mamita Lila; but it is
dreadful to be so far away from anybody that ever knew anything about
the old times."

"But you forget that I do know something about them, darling," replied
Mrs. Delano. "I am never so happy as when you are telling me about
your father. Perhaps by and by, when you have become enough used to
your new home to feel as mischievous as you are prone to be, you will
take a fancy to sing to me, 'O, there's nothing half so sweet in life
as love's _old_ dream.'"

It was beautiful to see how girlish the sensible and serious lady
became in her efforts to be companionable to her young _protegee_. Day
after day, her intimate friends found her playing battledoor or the
Graces, or practising pretty French romanzas, flowery rondeaux, or
lively dances. She was surprised at herself; for she had not supposed
it possible for her ever to take an interest in such things after her
daughter died. But, like all going out of self, these efforts brought
their recompense.

She always introduced the little stranger as "Miss Flora Delano, my
adopted daughter." To those who were curious to inquire further, she
said: "She is an orphan, in whom I became much interested in the West
Indies. As we were both very much alone in the world, I thought the
wisest thing we could do would be to cheer each other's loneliness."
No allusion was ever made to her former name, for that might have
led to inconvenient questions concerning her father's marriage; and,
moreover, the lady had no wish to resuscitate the little piece of
romance in her own private history, now remembered by few.

It was contrary to Mrs. Delano's usual caution and deliberation to
adopt a stranger so hastily; and had she been questioned beforehand,
she would have pronounced it impossible for her to enter into such a
relation with one allied to the colored race, and herself a slave. But
a strange combination of circumstances had all at once placed her in
this most unexpected position. She never for one moment regretted
the step she had taken; but the consciousness of having a secret to
conceal, especially a secret at war with the conventional rules of
society, was distasteful to her, and felt as some diminution of
dignity. She did not believe in the genuineness of Rosa's marriage,
though she deemed it best not to impart such doubts to Flora. If Mr.
Fitzgerald should marry another, she foresaw that it would be her duty
to assist in the reunion of the sisters, both of whom were slaves.
She often thought to herself, "In what a singular complication I have
become involved! So strange for me, who have such an aversion to all
sorts of intrigues and mysteries." With these reflections were mingled
anxieties concerning Flora's future. Of course, it would not be well
for her to be deprived of youthful companionship; and if she mixed
with society, her handsome person, her musical talent, and her
graceful dancing would be sure to attract admirers. And then, would it
be right to conceal her antecedents? And if they should be explained
or accidentally discovered, after her young affections were engaged,
what disappointment and sadness might follow!

But Flora's future was in a fair way to take care of itself. One day
she came flying into the parlor with her face all aglow. "O Mamita
Lila," exclaimed she, "I have had such a pleasant surprise! I went to
Mr. Goldwin's store to do your errand, and who should I find there but
Florimond Blumenthal!"

"And, pray, who is Florimond Blumenthal?" inquired Mrs. Delano.

"O, haven't I told you? I thought I had told you all about everybody
and everything. He was a poor orphan, that papa took for an
errand-boy. He sent him to school, and afterward he was his clerk. He
came to our house often when I was a little girl; but after he grew
tall, papa used to send an old negro man to do our errands. So I
didn't see him any more till _cher papa_ died. He was very kind to us
then. He was the one that brought those beautiful baskets I told you
of. Isn't it funny? They drove him away from New Orleans because they
said he was an Abolitionist, and that he helped us to escape, when he
didn't know anything at all about it. He said he heard we had gone to
the North. And he went looking all round in New York, and then he came
to Boston, hoping to see us or hear from us some day; but he had about
done expecting it when I walked into the store. You never saw anybody
so red as he was, when he held out his hand and said, in such a
surprised way, 'Miss Royal, is it you?' Just out of mischief, I told
him very demurely that my name was Delano. Then he became very formal
all at once, and said, 'Does this silk suit you, Mrs. Delano?' That
made me laugh, and blush too. I told him I wasn't married, but a kind
lady in Summer Street had adopted me and given me her name. Some other
customers came up to the counter, and so I had to come away."

"Did you ask him not to mention your former name?" inquired Mrs.
Delano.

"No, I hadn't time to think of that," replied Flora; "but I _will_ ask
him."

"Don't go to the store on purpose to see him, dear. Young ladies
should be careful about such things," suggested her maternal friend.

Two hours afterward, as they returned from a carriage-drive, Flora had
just drawn off her gloves, when she began to rap on the window, and
instantly darted into the street. Mrs. Delano, looking out, saw her on
the opposite sidewalk, in earnest conversation with a young gentleman.
When she returned, she said to her: "You shouldn't rap on the windows
to young gentlemen, my child. It hasn't a good appearance."

"I didn't rap to young gentlemen," replied Flora. "It was only
Florimond. I wanted to tell him not to mention my name. He asked me
about my sister, and I told him she was alive and well, and I couldn't
tell him any more at present. Florimond won't mention anything I
request him not to,--I know he won't."

Mrs. Delano smiled to herself at Flora's quick, off-hand way of doing
things. "But after all," thought she, "it is perhaps better settled
so, than it would have been with more ceremony." Then speaking aloud,
she said, "Your friend has a very blooming name."

"His name was Franz," rejoined Flora; "but Mamita called him
Florimond, because he had such pink cheeks; and he liked Mamita so
much, that he always writes his name Franz Florimond. We always had so
many flowery names mixed up with our _olla-podrida_ talk. _Your_ name
is flowery too. I used to say Mamita would have called you Lady Viola;
but violet colors and lilac colors are cousins, and they both suit
your complexion and your name, Mamita Lila."

After dinner, she began to play and sing with more gayety than she
had manifested for many a day. While her friend played, she practised
several new dances with great spirit; and after she had kissed
good-night, she went twirling through the door, as if music were
handing her out.

Mrs. Delano sat awhile in revery. She was thinking what a splendid
marriage her adopted daughter might make, if it were not for that
stain upon her birth. She was checked by the thought: "How I have
fallen into the world's ways, which seemed to me so mean and heartless
when I was young! Was _I_ happy in the splendid marriage they made for
_me_? From what Flora lets out occasionally, I judge her father felt
painfully the anomalous position of his handsome daughters. Alas! if
I had not been so weak as to give him up, all this miserable
entanglement might have been prevented. So one wrong produces another
wrong; and thus frightfully may we affect the destiny of others, while
blindly following the lead of selfishness. But the past, with all its
weaknesses and sins, has gone beyond recall; and I must try to write a
better record on the present."

As she passed to her sleeping-room, she softly entered the adjoining
chamber, and, shading the lamp with her hand, she stood for a moment
looking at Flora. Though it was but a few minutes since she was
darting round like a humming-bird, she was now sleeping as sweetly as
a babe. She made an extremely pretty picture in her slumber, with the
long dark eyelashes resting on her youthful cheek, and a shower of
dark curls falling over her arm. "No wonder Alfred loved her so
dearly," thought she. "If his spirit can see us, he must bless me
for saving his innocent child." Filled with this solemn and tender
thought, she knelt by the bedside, and prayed for blessing and
guidance in the task she had undertaken.

The unexpected finding of a link connected with old times had a
salutary effect on Flora's spirits. In the morning, she said that she
had had pleasant dreams about Rosabella and Tulee, and that she didn't
mean to be homesick any more. "It's very ungrateful," added she, "when
my dear, good Mamita Lila does so much to make me happy."

"To help you keep your good resolution, I propose that we go to the
Athenaeum," said Mrs. Delano, smiling. Flora had never been in a
gallery of paintings, and she was as much pleased as a little child
with a new picture-book. Her enthusiasm attracted attention, and
visitors smiled to see her clap her hands, and to hear her little
shouts of pleasure or of fun. Ladies said to each other, "It's plain
that this lively little _adoptee_ of Mrs. Delano's has never been much
in good society." And gentlemen answered, "It is equally obvious that
she has never kept vulgar company."

Mrs. Delano's nice ideas of conventional propriety were a little
disturbed, and she was slightly annoyed by the attention they
attracted. But she said to herself, "If I am always checking the
child, I shall spoil the naturalness which makes her so charming." So
she quietly went on explaining the pictures, and giving an account of
the artists.

The next day it rained; and Mrs. Delano read aloud "The Lady of the
Lake," stopping now and then to explain its connection with Scottish
history, or to tell what scenes Rossini had introduced in _La Donna
del Lago_, which she had heard performed in Paris. The scenes of the
opera were eagerly imbibed, but the historical lessons rolled off
her memory, like water from a duck's back. It continued to rain and
drizzle for three days; and Flora, who was very atmospheric, began
to yield to the dismal influence of the weather. Her watchful friend
noticed the shadow of homesickness coming over the sunlight of her
eyes, and proposed that they should go to a concert. Flora objected,
saying that music would make her think so much of Rosabella, she was
afraid she should cry in public. But when the programme was produced,
she saw nothing associated with her sister, and said, "I will go if
you wish it, Mamita Lila, because I like to do everything you wish."
She felt very indifferent about going; but when Mr. Wood came forward,
singing, "The sea, the sea, the open sea!" in tones so strong and full
that they seemed the voice of the sea itself, she was half beside
herself with delight. She kept time with her head and hands, with a
degree of animation that made the people round her smile. She, quite
unconscious of observation, swayed to the music, and ever and anon
nodded her approbation to a fair-faced young gentleman, who seemed to
be enjoying the concert very highly, though not to such a degree as to
be oblivious of the audience.

Mrs. Delano was partly amused and partly annoyed. She took Flora's
hand, and by a gentle pressure, now and then, sought to remind her
that they were in public; but she understood it as an indication of
musical sympathy, and went on all the same.

When they entered the carriage to return home, she drew a long breath,
and exclaimed, O Mamita, how I have enjoyed the concert!"

"I am very glad of it," replied her friend. "I suppose that was Mr.
Blumenthal to whom you nodded several times, and who followed you to
the carriage. But, my dear, it isn't the custom for young ladies to
keep nodding to young gentlemen in public places."

"Isn't it? I didn't think anything about it," rejoined Flora. "But
Florimond isn't a gentleman. He's an old acquaintance. Don't you find
it very tiresome, Mamita, to be always remembering what is the custom?
I'm sure _I_ shall never learn."

When she went singing up stairs that night, Mrs. Delano smiled to
herself as she said, "What _am_ I to do with this mercurial young
creature? What an overturn she makes in all my serious pursuits and
quiet ways! But there is something singularly refreshing about the
artless little darling."

Warm weather was coming, and Mrs. Delano began to make arrangements
for passing the summer at Newport; but her plans were suddenly
changed. One morning Flora wished to purchase some colored crayons to
finish a drawing she had begun. As she was going out, her friend said
to her, "The sun shines so brightly, you had better wear your veil."

"O, I've been muffled up so much, I do detest veils," replied Flora,
half laughingly and half impatiently. "I like to have a whole world
full of air to breathe in. But if you wish it, Mamita Lila, I will
wear it."

It seemed scarcely ten minutes after, when the door-bell was rung with
energy, and Flora came in nervously agitated.

"O Mamita!" exclaimed she, "I am so glad you advised me to wear a
veil. I met Mr. Fitzgerald in this very street. I don't think he saw
me, for my veil was close, and as soon as I saw him coming I held my
head down. He can't take me here in Boston, and carry me off, can he?"

"He shall not carry you off, darling; but you must not go in the
street, except in the carriage with me. We will sit up stairs, a
little away from the windows; and if I read aloud, you won't forget
yourself and sing at your embroidery or drawing, as you are apt to do.
It's not likely he will remain in the city many days, and I will try
to ascertain his movements."

Before they had settled to their occupations, a ring at the door made
Flora start, and quickened the pulses of her less excitable friend. It
proved to be only a box of flowers from the country. But Mrs. Delano,
uneasy in the presence of an undefined danger, the nature and extent
of which she did not understand, opened her writing-desk and wrote the
following note:--

"MR. WILLARD PERCIVAL.

"Dear Sir,--If you can spare an hour this evening to talk with me on a
subject of importance, you will greatly oblige yours,

"Very respectfully,

"LILA DELANO"

A servant was sent with the note, and directed to admit no gentleman
during the day or evening, without first bringing up his name.

While they were lingering at the tea-table, the door-bell rang, and
Flora, with a look of alarm, started to run up stairs. "Wait a moment,
till the name is brought in," said her friend. "If I admit the
visitor, I should like to have you follow me to the parlor, and remain
there ten or fifteen minutes. You can then go to your room, and when
you are there, dear, be careful not to sing loud. Mr. Fitzgerald shall
not take you from me; but if he were to find out you were here, it
might give rise to talk that would be unpleasant."

The servant announced Mr. Willard Percival; and a few moments
afterward Mrs. Delano introduced her _protegee_. Mr. Percival was too
well bred to stare, but the handsome, foreign-looking little damsel
evidently surprised him. He congratulated them both upon the relation
between them, and said he need not wish the young lady happiness in
her new home, for he believed Mrs. Delano always created an
atmosphere of happiness around her. After a few moments of desultory
conversation, Flora left the room. When she had gone, Mr. Percival
remarked, "That is a very fascinating young person."

"I thought she would strike you agreeably," replied Mrs. Delano. "Her
beauty and gracefulness attracted me the first time I saw her; and
afterward I was still more taken by her extremely _naive_ manner.
She has been brought up in seclusion as complete as Miranda's on the
enchanted island; and there is no resisting the charm of her impulsive
naturalness. But, if you please, I will now explain the note I sent
to you this morning. I heard some months ago that you had joined the
Anti-Slavery Society."

"And did you send for me hoping to convert me from the error of my
ways?" inquired he, smiling.

"On the contrary, I sent for you to consult concerning a slave in whom
I am interested."

"_You_, Mrs. Delano!" he exclaimed, in a tone of great surprise.

"You may well think it strange," she replied, "knowing, as you do,
how bitterly both my father and my husband were opposed to the
anti-slavery agitation, and how entirely apart my own life has been
from anything of that sort. But while I was at the South this winter,
I heard of a case which greatly interested my feelings. A wealthy
American merchant in New Orleans became strongly attached to a
beautiful quadroon, who was both the daughter and the slave of a
Spanish planter. Her father became involved in some pecuniary trouble,
and sold his daughter to the American merchant, knowing that they were
mutually attached. Her bondage was merely nominal, for the tie of
affection remained constant between them as long as she lived; and he
would have married her if such marriages had been legal in Louisiana.
By some unaccountable carelessness, he neglected to manumit her. She
left two handsome and accomplished daughters, who always supposed
their mother to be a Spanish lady, and the wedded wife of their
father. But he died insolvent, and, to their great dismay, they found
themselves claimed as slaves under the Southern law, that 'the child
follows the condition of the mother.' A Southern gentleman, who was in
love with the eldest, married her privately, and smuggled them both
away to Nassau. After a while he went there to meet them, having
previously succeeded in buying them of the creditors. But his conduct
toward the younger was so base, that she absconded. The question I
wish to ask of you is, whether, if he should find her in the Free
States, he could claim her as his slave, and have his claim allowed by
law."

"Not if he sent them to Nassau," replied Mr. Percival. "British soil
has the enviable distinction of making free whosoever touches it."

"But he afterward brought them back to an island between Georgia and
South Carolina," said Mrs. Delano. "The eldest proved a most loving
and faithful wife, and to this day has no suspicion of his designs
with regard to her sister."

"If he married her before he went to Nassau, the ceremony is not
binding," rejoined Mr. Percival; "for no marriage with a slave is
legal in the Southern States."

"I was ignorant of that law," said Mrs. Delano, "being very little
informed on the subject of slavery. But I suspected trickery of some
sort in the transaction, because he proved himself so unprincipled
with regard to the sister."

"And where is the sister?" inquired Mr. Percival.

"I trust to your honor as a gentleman to keep the secret from every
mortal," answered Mrs. Delano. "You have seen her this evening."

"Is it possible," he exclaimed, "that you mean to say she is your
adopted daughter?"

"I did mean to say that," she replied. "I have placed great confidence
in you; for you can easily imagine it would be extremely disagreeable
to me, as well as to her, to become objects of public notoriety."

"Your confidence is a sacred deposit," answered he. "I have long been
aware that the most romantic stories in the country have grown out of
the institution of slavery; but this seems stranger than fiction. With
all my knowledge of the subject, I find it hard to realize that such
a young lady as that has been in danger of being sold on the
auction-block in this republic. It makes one desirous to conceal that
he is an American."

"My principal reason for wishing to consult you," said Mrs. Delano,
"is, that Mr. Fitzgerald, the purchaser of these girls, is now in the
city, and Flora met him this morning. Luckily, she was closely veiled,
and he did not recognize her. I think it is impossible he can have
obtained any clew to my connivance at her escape, and yet I feel a
little uneasy. I am so ignorant of the laws on this subject, that I
don't know what he has the power to do if he discovers her. Can he
claim her here in Boston?"

"He could claim her and bring her before the United States Court,"
replied Mr. Percival; "but I doubt whether he _would_ do it. To claim
such a girl as _that_ for a slave, would excite general sympathy
and indignation, and put too much ammunition into the hands of us
Abolitionists. Besides, no court in the Free States could help
deciding that, if he sent her to Nassau, she became free. If he should
discover her whereabouts, I shouldn't wonder if attempts were made to
kidnap her; for men of his character are very unscrupulous, and there
are plenty of caitiffs in Boston ready to do any bidding of their
Southern masters. If she were conveyed to the South, though the courts
_ought_ to decide she was free, it is doubtful whether they _would_ do
it; for, like Achilles, they scorn the idea that laws were made for
such as they."

"If I were certain that Mr. Fitzgerald knew of her being here, or
that he even suspected it," said Mrs. Delano, "I would at once
take measures to settle the question by private purchase; but the
presumption is that he and the sister suppose Flora to be dead, and
her escape cannot be made known without betraying the cause of it.
Flora has a great dread of disturbing her sister's happiness, and she
thinks that, now she is away, all will go well. Another difficulty is,
that, while the unfortunate lady believes herself to be his lawful
wife, she is really his slave, and if she should offend him in any way
he could sell her. It troubles me that I cannot discover any mode of
ascertaining whether he deserts her or not. He keeps her hidden in the
woods in that lonely island, where her existence is unknown, except to
a few of his negro slaves. The only white friends she seems to have in
the world are her music teacher and French teacher in New Orleans. Mr.
Fitzgerald has impressed it upon their minds that the creditors of her
father will prosecute him, and challenge him, if they discover that he
first conveyed the girls away and then bought them at reduced prices.
Therefore, if I should send an agent to New Orleans at any time to
obtain tidings of the sister, those cautious friends would doubtless
consider it a trap of the creditors, and would be very secretive."

"It is a tangled skein to unravel," rejoined Mr. Percival. "I do
not see how anything can be done for the sister, under present
circumstances."

"I feel undecided what course to pursue with regard to my adopted
daughter," said Mrs. Delano. "Entire seclusion is neither cheerful nor
salutary at her age. But her person and manners attract attention and
excite curiosity. I am extremely desirous to keep her history secret,
but I already find it difficult to answer questions without resorting
to falsehood, which is a practice exceedingly abhorrent to me, and a
very bad education for her. After this meeting with Mr. Fitzgerald,
I cannot take her to any public place without a constant feeling of
uneasiness. The fact is, I am so unused to intrigues and mysteries,
and I find it so hard to realize that a young girl like her _can_ be
in such a position, that I am bewildered, and need time to settle my
thoughts upon a rational basis."

"Such a responsibility is so new to you, so entirely foreign to your
habits, that it must necessarily be perplexing," replied her visitor.
"I would advise you to go abroad for a while. Mrs. Percival and I
intend to sail for Europe soon, and if you will join us we shall
consider ourselves fortunate."

"I accept the offer thankfully," said the lady. "It will help me out
of a present difficulty in the very way I was wishing for."

When the arrangement was explained to Flora, with a caution not to go
in the streets, or show herself at the windows meanwhile, she made no
objection. But she showed her dimples with a broad smile, as she said,
"It is written in the book of fate, Mamita Lila, 'Always hiding or
running away.'"

CHAPTER XIV.

Alfred R. King, when summoned home to Boston by the illness of his
mother, had, by advice of physicians, immediately accompanied her to
the South of France, and afterward to Egypt. Finding little benefit
from change of climate, and longing for familiar scenes and faces,
she urged her son to return to New England, after a brief sojourn in
Italy. She was destined never again to see the home for which she
yearned. The worn-out garment of her soul was laid away under a
flowery mound in Florence, and her son returned alone. During the two
years thus occupied, communication with the United States had been
much interrupted, and his thoughts had been so absorbed by his dying
mother, that the memory of that bright evening in New Orleans recurred
less frequently than it would otherwise have done. Still, the veiled
picture remained in his soul, making the beauty of all other women
seem dim. As he recrossed the Atlantic, lonely and sad, a radiant
vision of those two sisters sometimes came before his imagination with
the distinctness of actual presence. As he sat silently watching the
white streak of foam in the wake of the vessel, he could see, as in
a mirror, all the details of that flowery parlor; he could hear the
continuous flow of the fountain in the garden, and the melodious tones
of "Buena Notte, amato bene."

Arrived in Boston, his first inquiry of the merchants was whether they
had heard anything of Mr. Royal. He received the news of his death
with a whirl of emotions. How he longed for tidings concerning the
daughters! But questions would of course be unavailing, since their
existence was entirely unknown at the North. That Mr. Royal had died
insolvent, and his property had been disposed of at auction, filled
him with alarm. It instantly occurred to him how much power such
circumstances would place in the hands of Mr. Fitzgerald. The thought
passed through his mind, "Would he marry Rosabella?" And he seemed to
hear a repetition of the light, careless tones, "Of course not,--she
was a quadroon." His uneasiness was too strong to be restrained, and
the second day after his arrival he started for New Orleans.

He found the store of his old friend occupied by strangers, who could
only repeat what he had already heard. He rode out to the house where
he had passed that never-to-be-forgotten evening. There all was
painfully changed. The purchasers had refurnished the house with
tasteless gewgaws, and the spirit of gracefulness had vanished. Their
unmodulated voices grated on his ear, in contrast with the liquid
softness of Rosabella's tones, and the merry, musical tinkling of
Floracita's prattle. All they could tell him was, that they heard the
quadroons who used to be kept there by the gentleman that owned the
house had gone to the North somewhere. A pang shot through his soul as
he asked himself whether they remembered his offer of assistance, and
had gone in search of him. He turned and looked back upon the house,
as he had done that farewell morning, when he assured them that he
would be a brother in time of need. He could hardly believe that all
the life and love and beauty which animated that home had vanished
into utter darkness. It seemed stranger than the changes of a dream.

Very sad at heart, he returned to the city and sought out a merchant
with whom his father had been accustomed to transact business. "Mr.
Talbot," said he, "I have come to New Orleans to inquire concerning
the affairs of the late Mr. Alfred Royal, who was a particular friend
of my father. I have been surprised to hear that he died insolvent;
for I supposed him to be wealthy."

"He was generally so considered," rejoined Mr. Talbot. "But he was
brought down by successive failures, and some unlucky investments, as
we merchants often are, you know."

"Were you acquainted with him," asked Alfred.

"I knew very little of him, except in the way of business," replied
the merchant. "He was disinclined to society, and therefore some
people considered him eccentric; but he had the reputation of being a
kind-hearted, honorable man."

"I think he never married," said Alfred, in a tone of hesitating
inquiry, which he hoped might lead to the subject he had at heart.

But it only elicited the brief reply, "He was a bachelor."

"Did you ever hear of any family not legitimated by law?" inquired the
young man.

"There was a rumor about his living somewhere out of the city with a
handsome quadroon," answered the merchant. "But such arrangements are
so common here, they excite no curiosity."

"Can you think of any one who had intimate relations with him, of whom
I could learn something about that connection?"

"No, I cannot. As I tell you, he never mixed with society, and people
knew very little about him. Ha! there's a gentleman going by now, who
may be able to give you some information. Hallo, Signor Papanti!"

The Italian, who was thus hailed, halted in his quick walk, and, being
beckoned to by Mr. Talbot, crossed the street and entered the store.

"I think you brought a bill against the estate of the late Mr. Alfred
Royal for lessons given to some quadroon girls. Did you not?" inquired
the merchant.

Having received an answer in the affirmative, he said: "This is
Mr. King, a young gentleman from the North, who wishes to obtain
information on that subject. Perhaps you can give it to him."

"I remember the young gentleman," replied the Signor. "Mr. Royal did
introduce me to him at his store."

The two gentlemen thus introduced bade Mr. Talbot good morning, and
walked away together, when Mr. King said, "My father and Mr. Royal
were as brothers, and that is the reason I feel interested to know
what has become of his daughters."

The Italian replied, "I will tell _you_, sir, because Mr. Royal told
me you were an excellent man, and the son of his old friend."

Rapid questions and answers soon brought out the principal features of
the sisters' strange history. When it came to the fact of their being
claimed as slaves, Mr. King started. "Is such a thing possible in this
country?" he exclaimed. "Girls so elegant and accomplished as they
were!"

"Quite possible, sir," responded the Signor. "I have known several
similar instances in this city. But in this case I was surprised,
because I never knew their mother was a slave. She was a singularly
handsome and ladylike woman."

"How was it possible that Mr. Royal neglected to manumit her?"
inquired the young man.

"I suppose he never thought of her otherwise than as his wife, and
never dreamed of being otherwise than rich," rejoined the Signor."
Besides, you know how often death does overtake men with their duties
half fulfilled. He did manumit his daughters a few months before his
decease; but it was decided that he was then too deeply in debt to
have a right to dispose of any portion of his property."

"Property!" echoed the indignant young man. "Such a term applied to
women makes me an Abolitionist."

"Please not to speak that word aloud," responded the Italian. "I was
in prison several weeks on the charge of helping off those interesting
pupils of mine, and I don't know what might have become of me, if Mr.
Fitzgerald had not helped me by money and influence. I have my own
opinions about slavery, but I had rather go out of New Orleans before
I express them."

"A free country indeed!" exclaimed the young man, "where one cannot
safely express his indignation against such enormities. But tell me
how the girls were rescued from such a dreadful fate; for by the
assurance you gave me at the outset that they needed no assistance, I
infer that they were rescued."

He listened with as much composure as he could to the account of Mr.
Fitzgerald's agency in their escape, his marriage, Rosabella's devoted
love for him, and her happy home on a Paradisian island. The Signor
summed it up by saying, "I believe her happiness has been entirely
without alloy, except the sad fate of her sister, of which we heard a
few weeks ago."

"What has happened to her?" inquired Alfred, with eager interest.

"She went to the sea-shore to gather mosses, and never returned,"
replied the Signor. "It is supposed she slipped into the water and was
drowned, or that she was seized by an alligator."

"O horrid!" exclaimed Alfred. "Poor Floracita! What a bright, beaming
little beauty she was! But an alligator's mouth was a better fate than
slavery."

"Again touching upon the dangerous topic!" rejoined the Signor. "If
you stay here long, I think you and the prison-walls will become
acquainted. But here is what used to be poor Mr. Royal's happy home,
and yonder is where Madame Papanti resides,--the Madame Guirlande I
told you of, who befriended the poor orphans when they had no other
friend. Her kindness to them, and her courage in managing for them,
was what first put it in my head to ask her to be my wife. Come in and
have a _tete-a-tete_ with her, sir. She knew the girls from the time
they were born, and she loved them like a mother."

Within the house, the young man listened to a more prolonged account,
some of the details of which were new, others a repetition. Madame
dwelt with evident satisfaction on the fact that Rosa, in the midst
of all her peril, refused to accept the protection of Mr. Fitzgerald,
unless she were married to him; because she had so promised her
father, the night before he died.

"That was highly honorable to her," replied Mr. King; "but marriage
with a slave is not valid in law."

"So the Signor says," rejoined Madame. "I was so frightened and
hurried, and I was so relieved when a protector offered himself, that
I didn't think to inquire anything about it. Before Mr. Fitzgerald
made his appearance, we had planned to go to Boston in search of you."

"Of _me_!" he exclaimed eagerly. "O, how I wish you had, and that I
had been in Boston to receive you!"

"Well, I don't know that anything better could be done than has been
done," responded Madame. "The girls were handsome to the perdition
of their souls, as we say in France; and they knew no more about the
world than two blind kittens. Their mother came here a stranger, and
she made no acquaintance. Thus they seemed to be left singularly alone
when their parents were gone. Mr. Fitzgerald was so desperately in
love with Rosabella, and she with him, that they could not have been
kept long apart any way. He has behaved very generously toward
them. By purchasing them, he has taken them out of the power of the
creditors, some of whom were very bad men. He bought Rosa's piano, and
several other articles to which they were attached on their father's
and mother's account, and conveyed them privately to the new home he
had provided for them. Rosabella always writes of him as the most
devoted of husbands; and dear little Floracita used to mention him as
the kindest of brothers. So there seems every reason to suppose that
Rosa will be as fortunate as her mother was."

"I hope so," replied Mr. King. "But I know Mr. Royal had very little
confidence in Mr. Fitzgerald; and the brief acquaintance I had with
him impressed me with the idea that he was a heartless, insidious man.
Moreover, they are his slaves."

"They don't know that," rejoined Madame. "He has had the delicacy to
conceal it from them."

"It would have been more delicate to have recorded their manumission,"
responded Mr. King.

"That would necessarily involve change of residence," remarked the
Signor; "for the laws of Georgia forbid the manumission of slaves
within the State."

"What blasphemy to call such cruel enactments by the sacred name of
law!" replied the young man. "As well might the compacts of robbers to
secure their plunder be called law. The walls have no ears or tongues,
Signor," added he, smiling; "so I think you will not be thrust in jail
for having such an imprudent guest. But, as I was saying, I cannot
help having misgivings concerning the future. I want you to keep a
sharp lookout concerning the welfare of those young ladies, and to
inform me from time to time. Wheresoever I may happen to be, I will
furnish you with my address, and I wish you also to let me know where
you are to be found, if you should change your residence. My father
and Mr. Royal were like brothers when they were young men, and if
my father were living he would wish to protect the children of his
friend. The duty that he would have performed devolves upon me. I will
deposit five thousand dollars with Mr. Talbot, for their use, subject
to your order, should any unhappy emergency occur. I say _their_ use,
bearing in mind the possibility that Floracita may reappear, though
that seems very unlikely. But, my friends, I wish to bind you, by the
most solemn promise, never to mention my name in connection with this
transaction, and never to give any possible clew to it. I wish you
also to conceal my having come here to inquire concerning them. If
they ever need assistance, I do not wish them to know or conjecture
who their benefactor is. If you have occasion to call for the money,
merely say that an old friend of their father's deposited it for their
use."

"I will solemnly pledge myself to secrecy," answered the Signor; "and
though secrets are not considered very safe with women, I believe
Madame may be trusted to any extent, where the welfare of these girls
is concerned."

"I think you might say rather more than that, my friend," rejoined
Madame. "But that will do. I promise to do in all respects as the
young gentleman has requested, though I trust and believe that his
precautions will prove needless. Mr. Fitzgerald is very wealthy, and I
cannot suppose it possible that he would ever allow Rosabella to want
for anything."

"That may be," replied Mr. King. "But storms come up suddenly in
the sunniest skies, as was the case with poor Mr. Royal. If Mr.
Fitzgerald's love remains constant, he may fail, or he may die,
without making provision for her manumission or support."

"That is very true," answered the Signor. "How much forecast you
Yankees have!"

"I should hardly deserve that compliment, my friends, if I failed to
supply you with the necessary means to carry out my wishes." He put
two hundred dollars into the hands of each, saying, "You will keep me
informed on the subject; and if Mrs. Fitzgerald should be ill or in
trouble, your will go to her."

They remonstrated, saying it was too much. "Take it then for what you
_have_ done," replied he.

When he had gone, Madame said, "Do you suppose he does all this on
account of the friendship of their fathers?"

"He's an uncommon son, if he does," replied the Signor. "But I'm glad
Rosabella has such a firm anchor to the windward if a storm should
come."

Mr. King sought Mr. Talbot again, and placed five thousand dollars in
his hands, with the necessary forms and instructions, adding: "Should
any unforeseen emergency render a larger sum necessary, please to
advance it, and draw on me. I am obliged to sail for Smyrna soon, on
business, or I would not trouble you to attend to this."

Mr. Talbot smiled significantly, as he said, "These young ladies must
be very charming, to inspire so deep an interest in their welfare."

The young man, clad in the armor of an honest purpose, did not feel
the point of the arrow, and answered quietly: "They _are_ very
charming. I saw them for a few hours only, and never expect to see
them again. Their father and mine were very intimate friends, and I
feel it a duty to protect them from misfortune if possible." When the
business was completed, and they had exchanged parting salutations, he
turned back to say, "Do you happen to know anything of Mr. Fitzgerald
of Savannah?"

"I never had any acquaintance with him," replied Mr. Talbot; "but
he has the name of being something of a _roue_, and rather fond of
cards."

"Can the death of Floracita be apocryphal?" thought Alfred. "Could he
be capable of selling her? No. Surely mortal man could not wrong that
artless child."

He returned to his lodgings, feeling more fatigued and dispirited than
usual. He had done all that was possible for the welfare of the woman
who had first inspired him with love; but O, what would he not have
given for such an opportunity as Fitzgerald had! He was obliged to
confess to himself that the utter annihilation of his hope was more
bitter than he had supposed it would be. He no longer doubted that
he would have married her if he could, in full view of all her
antecedents, and even with his mother's prejudices to encounter. He
could not, however, help smiling at himself, as he thought: "Yet how
very different she was from what I had previously resolved to choose!
How wisely I have talked to young men about preferring character to
beauty! And lo! I found myself magnetized at first sight by mere
beauty!"

But manly pride rebelled against the imputation of such weakness. "No,
it was not mere outward beauty," he said to himself. "True, I had no
opportunity of becoming acquainted with the qualities of her soul,
but her countenance unmistakably expressed sweetness, modesty, and
dignity, and the inflexions of her voice were a sure guaranty for
refinement."

With visions of past and future revolving round him, he fell
asleep and dreamed he saw Rosabella alone on a plank, sinking in a
tempestuous sea. Free as he thought himself from superstition, the
dream made an uncomfortable impression on him, though he admitted that
it was the natural sequence of his waking thoughts.

CHAPTER XV.

Rosa came out of her swoon in a slow fever accompanied with delirium.
Tulee was afraid to leave her long enough to go to the plantation in
search of Tom; and having no medicines at hand, she did the best thing
that could have been done. She continually moistened the parched
tongue with water, and wiped the hot skin with wet cloths. While she
was doing this, tears fell on her dear young mistress, lying there
so broken and helpless, talking incoherently about her father and
Floracita, about being a slave and being sold. This continued eight or
ten days, during which she never seemed to recognize Tulee's presence,
or to be conscious where she was. She was never wild or troublesome,
but there were frequent restless motions, and signs of being afraid
of something. Then such a heavy drowsiness came over her, that it
was difficult to arouse her sufficiently to swallow a spoonful of
nourishment. She slept, and slept, till it seemed as if she would
sleep forever. "Nature, dear goddess," was doing the best she could
for the poor weak body, that had been so racked by the torture of the
soul.

Three weeks passed before Mr. Fitzgerald again made his appearance
at the lonely cottage. He had often thought of Rosa meanwhile, not
without uneasiness and some twinges of self-reproach. But considering
the unlucky beginning of his honeymoon at Magnolia Lawn, he deemed it
prudent to be very assiduous in his attentions to his bride. He took
no walks or drives without her, and she seemed satisfied with his
entire devotion; but a veiled singing shadow haunted the chambers of
her soul. When she and her husband were occupied with music, she half
expected the pauses would be interrupted by another voice; nor was
he free from fears that those wandering sounds would come again. But
annoyed as he would have been by the rich tones of that voice once
so dear to him, his self-love was piqued that Rosa took no steps to
recall him. He had such faith in his power over her, that he had been
daily hoping for a conciliatory note. Tom had been as attentive to the
invalid as his enslaved condition would admit; but as Tulee said very
decidedly that she didn't want Massa Fitzgerald to show his face
there, he did not volunteer any information. At last, his master said
to him one day, "You've been to the cottage, I suppose, Tom?"

"Yes, Massa."

"How are they getting on there?"

"Missy Rosy hab bin bery sick, but she done better now."

"Why didn't you tell me, you black rascal?"

"Massa hab neber ax me," replied Tom.

Mr. Fitzgerald found some food for vanity in this news. He presumed
the illness was caused by love for him, which Rosa found herself
unable to conquer. This idea was very pleasant to him; for it was not
easy to relinquish the beautiful young creature who had loved him so
exclusively. Making a pretext of business, he mounted his horse and
rode off; throwing a farewell kiss to his bride as he went. For
greater security, he travelled a few moments in another direction, and
then sought the sequestered cottage by a circuitous route. Tulee was
vexed at heart when she heard him, as he came through the woods,
humming, "_C'est l'amour, l'amour_"; and when he entered the cottage,
she wished she was a white man, that she could strike him. But when he
said, "Tulee, how is your mistress?" she civilly answered, "Better,
Massa."

He passed softly into Rosa's room. She was lying on the bed, in a
loose white robe, over which fell the long braids of her dark hair.
The warm coloring had entirely faded from her cheeks, leaving only
that faintest reflection of gold which she inherited from her mother;
and the thinness and pallor of her face made her large eyes seem
larger and darker. They were open, but strangely veiled; as if shadows
were resting on the soul, like fogs upon a landscape. When Gerald bent
over her, she did not see him, though she seemed to be looking at him.
He called her by the tenderest names; he cried out in agony, "O Rosa,
speak to me, darling!" She did not hear him. He had never before been
so deeply moved. He groaned aloud, and, covering his face with his
hands, he wept.

When Tulee, hearing the sound, crept in to see whether all was well
with her mistress, she found him in that posture. She went out
silently, but when she was beyond hearing she muttered to herself,
"Ise glad he's got any human feelin'."

After the lapse of a few moments, he came to her, saying, "O Tulee, do
you think she's going to die? Couldn't a doctor save her?"

"No, Massa, I don't believe she's going to die," replied Tulee; "but
she'll be very weak for a great while. I don't think all the doctors
in the world could do poor Missy Rosy any good. It's her soul that's
sick, Massa; and nobody but the Great Doctor above can cure that."

Her words cut him like a knife; but, without any attempt to excuse the
wrong he had done, he said: "I am going to Savannah for the winter. I
will leave Tom and Chloe at the plantation, with instructions to do
whatever you want done. If I am needed, you can send Tom for me."

The melancholy wreck he had seen saddened him for a day or two; those
eyes, with their mysterious expression of somnambulism, haunted him,
and led him to drown uncomfortable feelings in copious draughts of
wine. But, volatile as he was impressible, the next week saw him the
gayest of the gay in parties at Savannah, where his pretty little
bride was quite the fashion.

At the cottage there was little change, except that Chloe, by
her master's permission, became a frequent visitor. She was an
affectionate, useful creature, with good voice and ear, and a little
wild gleam of poetry in her fervid eyes. When she saw Rosa lying there
so still, helpless and unconscious as a new-born babe, she said,
solemnly, "De sperit hab done gone somewhar." She told many stories of
wonderful cures she had performed by prayer; and she would kneel by
the bedside, hour after hour, holding the invalid's hand, praying,
"O Lord, fotch back de sperit! Fotch back de sperit! Fotch back de
sperit!" she would continue to repeat in ascending tones, till they
rose to wild imploring. Tulee, looking on one day, said, "Poor Missy
Rosy don't hear nothin' ye say, though ye call so loud."

"De good Lord up dar, He hars," replied Chloe, reverently pointing
upward; and she went on with the vehement repetition. These
supplications were often varied with Methodist hymns and negro
melodies, of which the most common refrain was, "O glory! glory!
glory!" But whether singing or praying, she made it a point to hold
the invalid's hand and look into her eyes. For a long while, the
spirit that had gone somewhere showed no signs of returning, in
obedience to the persevering summons. But after several weeks had
elapsed, there was a blind groping for Chloe's hand; and when it was
found, Tulee thought she perceived something like a little flickering
gleam flit over the pale face. Still, neither of the nurses was
recognized; and no one ever knew what the absent soul was seeing and
hearing in that mysterious somewhere whither it had flown. At last,
Chloe's patient faith was rewarded by a feeble pressure of her hand.
Their watchfulness grew more excited; and never did mother welcome the
first gleam of intelligence in her babe with more thrilling joy, than
the first faint, quivering smile on Rosa's lips was welcomed by those
anxious, faithful friends. The eyes began to resume their natural
expression. The fog was evidently clearing away from the soul, and
the sunshine was gleaming through. The process of resuscitation was
thenceforth constant, though very slow. It was three months after
those cruel blows fell upon her loving heart before she spoke and
feebly called them by their names. And not until a month later was
she able to write a few lines to quiet the anxiety of Madame and the
Signor.

A few days before her last ghostly visit to Magnolia Lawn, she
had written them a very joyful letter, telling them of Gerald's
preparations to acknowledge her as his wife, and make her the mistress
of his beautiful home. They received the tidings with great joy, and
answered with hearty congratulations. The Signor was impatient
to write to Mr. King; but Madame, who had learned precaution and
management by the trials and disappointments of a changing life,
thought it best to wait till they could inform him of the actual fact.
As Rosa had never been in the habit of writing oftener than once in
four or five weeks, they felt no uneasiness until after that time had
elapsed; and even then they said to each other, "She delays writing,
as we do, until everything is arranged." But when seven or eight weeks
had passed, Madame wrote again, requesting an immediate answer. Owing
to the peculiar position of the sisters, letters to them had always
been sent under cover to Mr. Fitzgerald; and when this letter arrived,
he was naturally curious to ascertain whether Madame was aware of his
marriage. It so happened that it had not been announced in the only
paper taken by the Signor; and as they lived in a little foreign
world of their own, they remained in ignorance of it. Having read the
letter, Mr. Fitzgerald thought, as Rosa was not in a condition to read
it, it had better be committed to the flames. But fearing that Madame
or the Signor might come to Savannah in search of tidings, and that
some unlucky accident might bring them to speech of his bride, he
concluded it was best to ward off such a contingency. He accordingly
wrote a very studied letter to Madame, telling her that, with her
knowledge of the world, he supposed she must be well aware that the
daughter of a quadroon slave could not be legally recognized as the
wife of a Southern gentleman; that he still loved Rosa better than any
other woman, but wishing for legal heirs to his hereditary estate, it
was necessary for him to marry. He stated that Rosa was recovering
from a slow fever, and had requested him to say that they must not
feel anxious about her; that she had everything for her comfort, had
been carefully attended by two good nurses, was daily getting better,
and would write in a few weeks; meanwhile, if anything retarded her
complete recovery, he would again write.

This letter he thought would meet the present emergency. His plans
for the future were unsettled. He still hoped that Rosa, alone and
unprotected as she was, without the legal ownership of herself, and
subdued by sickness and trouble, would finally accede to his terms.

She, in her unconscious state, was of course ignorant of this
correspondence. For some time after she recognized her nurses, she
continued to be very drowsy, and manifested no curiosity concerning
her condition. She was as passive in their hands as an infant, and
they treated her as such. Chloe sung to her, and told her stories,
which were generally concerning her own remarkable experiences; for
she was a great seer of visions. Perhaps she owed them to gifts of
imagination, of which culture would have made her a poet; but to her
they seemed to be an objective reality. She often told of seeing
Jesus, as she walked to and from the plantation. Once she had met him
riding upon Thistle, with a golden crown upon his head. One evening he
had run before her all the way, as a very little child, whose shining
garments lighted up all the woods.

Four months after the swift destruction of her hopes, Rosa, after
taking some drink from Tulee's hand, looked up in her face, and said,
"How long have I been sick, dear Tulee?"

"No matter about that, darling," she replied, patting her head fondly.
"Ye mustn't disturb your mind 'bout that."

After a little pause, the invalid said, "But tell me how long."

"Well then, darling, I didn't keep no 'count of the time; but Tom says
it's February now."

"Yer see, Missy Rosy," interposed Chloe, "yer sperit hab done gone
somewhar, an' yer didn't know nottin'. But a booful angel, all in
white, tuk yer by de han' an' toted yer back to Tulee an' Chloe. Dat
ar angel hab grat hansum eyes, an' she tole me she war yer mudder;
an' dat she war gwine to be wid yer allers, cause twar de will ob de
Lord."

Rosa listened with a serious, pleased expression in her face; for the
words of her simple comforter inspired a vague consciousness of some
supernatural presence surrounding her with invisible protection.

A few hours after, she asked, with head averted from her attendant,
"Has any one been here since I have been ill?"

Anxious to soothe the wounded heart as much as possible, Tulee
answered: "Massa Gerald come to ask how ye did; and when he went to
Savannah, he left Tom and Chloe at the plantation to help me take care
of ye."

She manifested no emotion; and after a brief silence she inquired
for letters from Madame. Being informed that there were none, she
expressed a wish to be bolstered up, that she might try to write a few
lines to her old friend. Chloe, in reply, whispered something in her
ear, which seemed to surprise her. Her cheeks flushed, the first
time for many a day; but she immediately closed her eyes, and tears
glistened on the long, dark lashes. In obedience to the caution of
her nurses, she deferred any attempt to write till the next week. She
remained very silent during the day, but they knew that her thoughts
were occupied; for they often saw tears oozing through the closed
eyelids.

Meanwhile, her friends in New Orleans were in a state of great
anxiety. Mr. Fitzgerald had again written in a strain very similar to
his first letter, but from Rosa herself nothing had been received.

"I don't know what to make of this," said Madame. "Rosa is not a
girl that would consent to a secondary position where her heart was
concerned."

"You know how common it is for quadroons to accede to such double
arrangements," rejoined the Signor.

"Of course I am well aware of that," she replied; "but they are
educated, from childhood, to accommodate themselves to their
subordinate position, as a necessity that cannot be avoided. It was
far otherwise with Rosa. Moreover, I believe there is too much of
Grandpa Gonsalez in her to submit to anything she deemed dishonorable.
I think, my friend, somebody ought to go to Savannah to inquire into
this business. If you should go, I fear you would get into a duel.
You know dear Floracita used to call you Signor Pimentero. But Mr.
Fitzgerald won't fight _me_, let me say what I will. So I think I had
better go."

"Yes, you had better go. You're a born diplomate, which I am not,"
replied the Signor.

Arrangements were accordingly made for going in a day or two; but they
were arrested by three or four lines from Rosa, stating that she was
getting well, that she had everything for her comfort, and would write
more fully soon. But what surprised them was that she requested them
to address her as Madame Gonsalez, under cover to her mantuamaker in
Savannah, whose address was given.

"That shows plainly enough that she and Fitzgerald have dissolved
partnership," said Madame; "but as she does not ask me to come, I will
wait for her letter of explanation." Meanwhile, however, she wrote
very affectionately in reply to the brief missive, urging Rosa to come
to New Orleans, and enclosing fifty dollars, with the statement that
an old friend of her father's had died and left a legacy for his
daughters. Madame had, as Floracita observed, a talent for arranging
the truth with variations.

The March of the Southern spring returned, wreathed with garlands, and
its pathway strewn with flowers. She gave warm kisses to the firs and
pines as she passed, and they returned her love with fragrant sighs.
The garden at Magnolia Lawn had dressed itself with jonquils,
hyacinths, and roses, and its bower was a nest of glossy greenery,
where mocking-birds were singing their varied tunes, moving their
white tail-feathers in time to their music. Mrs. Fitzgerald, who was
not strong in health, was bent upon returning thither early in the
season, and the servants were busy preparing for her reception. Chloe
was rarely spared to go to the hidden cottage, where her attendance
upon Rosa was no longer necessary; but Tom came once a week, as he
always had done, to do whatever jobs or errands the inmates required.
One day Tulee was surprised to hear her mistress ask him whether
Mr. Fitzgerald was at the plantation; and being answered in the
affirmative, she said, "Have the goodness to tell him that Missy Rosy
would like to see him soon."

When Mr. Fitzgerald received the message, he adjusted his necktie at
the mirror, and smiled over his self-complacent thoughts. He had hopes
that the proud beauty was beginning to relent. Having left his wife in
Savannah, there was no obstacle in the way of his obeying the summons.
As he passed over the cottage lawn, he saw that Rosa was sewing at the
window. He slackened his pace a little, with the idea that she might
come out to meet him; but when he entered the parlor, she was still
occupied with her work. She rose on his entrance, and moved a chair
toward him; and when he said, half timidly, "How do you do now, dear
Rosa?" she quietly replied, "Much better, I thank you. I have sent for
you, Mr. Fitzgerald, to ask a favor."

"If it is anything in my power, it shall be granted," he replied.

"It is a very easy thing for you to do," rejoined she, "and very
important to me. I want you to give me papers of manumission."

"Are you so afraid of me?" he asked, coloring as he remembered a
certain threat he had uttered.

"I did not intend the request as any reproach to you," answered she,
mildly; "but simply as a very urgent necessity to myself. As soon
as my health will permit, I wish to be doing something for my own
support, and, if possible, to repay you what you expended for me and
my sister."

"Do you take me for a mean Yankee," exclaimed he indignantly, "that
you propose such an account of dollars and cents?"

"I expressed my own wishes, not what I supposed you would require,"
replied she. "But aside from that, you can surely imagine it must be
painful to have my life haunted by this dreadful spectre of slavery."

"Rosa," said he earnestly, "do me the justice to remember that I did
not purchase you as a slave, or consider you a slave. I expended money
with all my heart to save my best-beloved from misfortune."

"I believe those were your feelings then," she replied. "But let the
past be buried. I simply ask you now, as a gentleman who has it in his
power to confer a great favor on an unprotected woman, whether you
will manumit me."

"Certainly I will," answered he, much discomposed by her cool business
tone.

She rose at once, and placed the writing-desk before him. It was the
pretty little desk he had given her for a birthday present.

He put his finger on it, and, looking up in her face, with one of his
old insinuating glances, he said, "Rosa, do you remember what we said
when I gave you this?"

Without answering the question, she said, "Will you have the goodness
to write it now?"

"Why in such haste?" inquired he. "I have given you my promise, and do
you suppose I have no sense of honor?"

A retort rose to her lips, but she suppressed it. "None of us can be
sure of the future," she replied. "You know what happened when my dear
father died." Overcome by that tender memory, she covered her eyes
with her hand, and the tears stole through her fingers.

He attempted to kiss away the tears, but she drew back, and went on to
say: "At that time I learned the bitter significance of the law, 'The
child shall follow the condition of the mother.' It was not mainly on
my own account that I sent for you, Mr. Fitzgerald. I wish to secure
my child from such a dreadful contingency as well-nigh ruined me and
my sister." She blushed, and lowered her eyes as she spoke.

"O Rosa!" he exclaimed. The impulse was strong to fold her to his
heart; but he could not pass the barrier of her modest dignity.

After an embarrassed pause, she looked up bashfully, and said,
"Knowing this, you surely will not refuse to write it now."

"I must see a lawyer and obtain witnesses," he replied.

She sighed heavily. "I don't know what forms are necessary," said she.
"But I beg of you to take such steps as will make me perfectly secure
against any accidents. And don't delay it, Mr. Fitzgerald. Will you
send the papers next week?"

"I see you have no confidence in me," replied he, sadly. Then,
suddenly dropping on his knees beside her, he exclaimed, "O Rosa,
don't call me Mr. again. Do call me Gerald once more! Do say you
forgive me!"

She drew back a little, but answered very gently: "I do forgive you,
and I hope your innocent little wife will never regret having loved
you; for that is a very bitter trial. I sincerely wish you may be
happy; and you may rest assured I shall not attempt to interfere
with your happiness. But I am not strong enough to talk much. Please
promise to send those papers next week."

He made the promise, with averted head and a voice that was slightly
tremulous.

"I thank you," she replied; "but I am much fatigued, and will bid you
good morning." She rose to leave the room, but turned back and added,
with solemn earnestness, "I think it will be a consolation on your
death-bed if you do not neglect to fulfil Rosa's last request." She
passed into the adjoining room, fastened the door, and threw herself
on the couch, utterly exhausted. How strange and spectral this meeting
seemed! She heard his retreating footsteps without the slightest
desire to obtain a last glimpse of his figure. How entirely he had
passed out of her life, he who so lately was _all_ her life!

The next day Rosa wrote as follows to Madame and the Signor:--

"Dearest and best friends,--It would take days to explain to you all
that has happened since I wrote you that long, happy letter; and at
present I have not strength to write much. When we meet we will talk
about it more fully, though I wish to avoid the miserable particulars
as far as possible. The preparations I so foolishly supposed were
being made for me were for a rich Northern bride,--a pretty,
innocent-looking little creature. The marriage with me, it seems, was
counterfeit. When I discovered it, my first impulse was to fly to you.
But a strange illness came over me, and I was oblivious of everything
for four months. My good Tulee and a black woman named Chloe brought
me back to life by their patient nursing. I suppose it was wrong, but
when I remembered who and what I was, I felt sorry they didn't let
me go. I was again seized with a longing to fly to you, who were as
father and mother to me and my darling little sister in the days of
our first misfortune. But I was too weak to move, and I am still far
from being able to bear the fatigue of such a journey. Moreover, I am
fastened here for the present by another consideration. Mr. Fitzgerald
says he bought us of papa's creditors, and that I am his slave. I have
entreated him, for the sake of our unborn child, to manumit me, and he
has promised to do it. If I could only be safe in New Orleans, it is
my wish to come and live with you, and find some way to support myself
and my child. But I could have no peace, so long as there was the
remotest possibility of being claimed as slaves. Mr. Fitzgerald may
not mean that I shall ever come to harm; but he may die without
providing against it, as poor papa did. I don't know what forms are
necessary for my safety. I don't understand how it is that there is no
law to protect a defenceless woman, who has done no wrong. I will
wait here a little longer to recruit my strength and have this matter
settled. I wish it were possible for you, my dear, good mother, to
come to me for two or three weeks in June; then perhaps you could take
back with you your poor Rosa and her baby, if their lives should be
spared. But if you cannot come, there is an experienced old negress
here, called Granny Nan, who, Tulee says, will take good care of me.
I thank you for your sympathizing, loving letter. Who could papa's
friend be that left me a legacy? I was thankful for the fifty dollars,
for it is very unpleasant to me to use any of Mr. Fitzgerald's money,
though he tells Tom to supply everything I want. If it were not for
you, dear friends, I don't think I should have courage to try to live.
But something sustains me wonderfully through these dreadful trials.
Sometimes I think poor Chloe's prayers bring me help from above; for
the good soul is always praying for me.

"Adieu. May the good God bless you both.

"Your loving and grateful

"ROSABELLA."

* * * * *

Week passed after week, and the promised papers did not come. The
weary days dragged their slow length along, unsoothed by anything
except Tulee's loving care and Madame's cheering letters. The piano
was never opened; for all tones of music were draped in mourning, and
its harmonies were a funeral march over buried love. But she enjoyed
the open air and the fragrance of the flowers. Sometimes she walked
slowly about the lawn, and sometimes Tulee set her upon Thistle's
back, and led him round and round through the bridle-paths. But out
of the woods that concealed their nest they never ventured, lest they
should meet Mrs. Fitzgerald. Tulee, who was somewhat proud on her
mistress's account, was vexed by this limitation. "I don't see why ye
should hide yerself from her," said she. "Yese as good as she is; and
ye've nothin' to be shamed of."

"It isn't on my own account that I wish to avoid her seeing me,"
replied Rosa. "But I pity the innocent young creature. She didn't know
of disturbing my happiness, and I should be sorry to disturb hers."

As the weeks glided away without bringing any fulfilment of
Fitzgerald's promise, anxiety changed to distrust. She twice requested
Tom to ask his master for the papers he had spoken of, and received
a verbal answer that they would be sent as soon as they were ready.
There were greater obstacles in the way than she, in her inexperience,
was aware of. The laws of Georgia restrained humane impulses by
forbidding the manumission of a slave. Consequently, he must either
incur very undesirable publicity by applying to the legislature for a
special exception in this case, or she must be manumitted in another
State. He would gladly have managed a journey without the company of
his wife, if he could thereby have regained his former influence with
Rosa; but he was disinclined to take so much trouble to free her
entirely from him. When he promised to send the papers, he intended to
satisfy her with a sham certificate, as he had done with a counterfeit
marriage; but he deferred doing it, because he had a vague sense of
satisfaction in being able to tantalize the superior woman over whom
he felt that he no longer had any other power.

CHAPTER XVI.

Madame's anxiety was much diminished after she began to receive
letters in Rosa's own handwriting; but, knowing the laws of Georgia,
and no longer doubtful concerning Fitzgerald's real character, she
placed small reliance upon his promise of manumission. "This is
another of his deceptions," said she to the Signor. "I have been
thinking a good deal about the state of things, and I am convinced
there will be no security in this country for that poor girl. You have
been saying for some time that you wanted to see your beautiful Italy
again, and I have the same feeling about my beautiful France. We each
of us have a little money laid up; and if we draw upon the fund Mr.
King has deposited, we can take Rosabella to Europe and bring her out
as a singer."

"She would have a great career, no doubt," replied the Signor; "and I
was going to suggest such a plan to you. But you would have to change
your name again on my account, Madame; for I was obliged to leave
Italy because I was discovered to be one of the Carbonari; and though
fifteen years have elapsed, it is possible the watchful authorities
have not forgotten my name."

"That's a trifling obstacle," resumed Madame. "You had better give
notice to your pupils at once that you intend to leave as soon as
present engagements are fulfilled. I will use up my stock for fancy
articles, and sell off as fast as possible, that we may be ready to
start for Europe as soon as Rosa has sufficient strength."

This resolution was immediately acted upon; but the fates were
unpropitious to Madame's anticipated visit to the lonely island. A few
days before her intended departure, the Signor was taken seriously
ill, and remained so for two or three weeks. He fretted and fumed,
more on her account than his own, but she, as usual, went through the
trial bravely. She tried to compensate Rosa for the disappointment,
as far as she could, by writing frequent letters, cheerful in tone,
though prudently cautious concerning details. Fearing that Mr.
Fitzgerald's suspicions might be excited by an apparent cessation of
correspondence, she continued to write occasionally under cover to
him, in a style adapted to his views, in case he should take a fancy
to open the letters. The Signor laughed, and said, "Your talent for
diplomacy is not likely to rust for want of use, Madame." Even Rosa,
sad at heart as she was, could not help smiling sometimes at the
totally different tone of the letters which she received under
different covers.

She had become so accustomed to passive endurance, that no murmur
escaped her when she found that her only white friend could not come
to her, as she had expected. Granny Nan boasted of having nursed many
grand white ladies, and her skill in the vocation proved equal to her
pretensions. Only her faithful Tulee and the kind old colored mammy
were with her when, hovering between life and death, she heard the cry
that announced the advent of a human soul. Nature, deranged by bodily
illness and mental trouble, provided no nourishment for the little
one; but this, which under happier circumstances would have been a
disappointment, called forth no expressions of regret from the patient
sufferer. When Tulee held the babe before her in its first dress, she
smiled faintly, but immediately closed her eyes. As she lay there, day
after day, with the helpless little creature nestling in her arms,
the one consoling reflection was that she had not given birth to a
daughter. A chaos of thoughts were revolving through her mind; the
theme of all the variations being how different it was from what it
might have been, if the ideal of her girlhood had not been shattered
so cruelly. Had it not been for that glimmering light in the future
which Madame so assiduously presented to her view, courage would have
forsaken her utterly. As it was, she often listened to the dash of the
sea with the melancholy feeling that rest might be found beneath its
waves. But she was still very young, the sky was bright, the earth was
lovely, and she had a friend who had promised to provide a safe asylum
for her somewhere. She tried to regain her strength, that she might
leave the island, with all its sad reminders of departed happiness.
Thinking of this, she rose one day and wandered into the little
parlor to take a sort of farewell look. There was the piano, so long
unopened, with a whole epic of love and sorrow in its remembered
tones; the pretty little table her mother had painted; the basket she
had received from her father after his death; Floracita's paintings
and mosses; and innumerable little tokens of Gerald's love. Walking
round slowly and feebly in presence of all those memories, how
alone she felt, with none to speak to but Tulee and the old colored
mammy,--she, who had been so tenderly cared for by her parents, so
idolized by him to whom she gave her heart! She was still gazing
pensively on these souvenirs of the past, when her attention was
arrested by Tom's voice, saying: "Dar's a picaninny at de Grat Hus.
How's turrer picaninny?"

The thought rushed upon her, "Ah, that baby had a father to welcome it
and fondle it; but _my_ poor babe--" A sensation of faintness came over
her; and, holding on by the chairs and tables, she staggered back to
the bed she had left.

Before the babe was a fortnight old, Tom announced that he was to
accompany his master to New Orleans, whither he had been summoned by
business. The occasion was eagerly seized by Rosa to send a letter
and some small articles to Madame and the Signor. Tulee gave him very
particular directions how to find the house, and charged him over and
over again to tell them everything. When she cautioned him not to let
his master know that he carried anything, Tom placed his thumb on the
tip of his nose, and moved the fingers significantly, saying: "Dis ere
nigger ha'n't jus' wakum'd up. Bin wake mos' ob de time sense twar
daylight." He foresaw it would be difficult to execute the commission
he had undertaken; for as a slave he of course had little control over
his own motions. He, however, promised to try; and Tulee told him she
had great confidence in his ingenuity in finding out ways and means.

"An' I tinks a heap o' ye, Tulee. Ye knows a heap more dan mos'
niggers," was Tom's responsive compliment. In his eyes Tulee was in
fact a highly accomplished person; for though she could neither read
nor write, she had caught the manners and speech of white people,
by living almost exclusively with them, and she was, by habit, as
familiar with French as English, beside having a little smattering of
Spanish. To have his ingenuity praised by her operated as a fillip
upon his vanity, and he inwardly resolved to run the risk of a
flogging, rather than fail to do her bidding. He was also most loyal
in the service of Rosa, whose beauty and kindliness had won his heart,
before his sympathy had been called out by her misfortunes. But none
of them foresaw what important consequences would result from his
mission.

The first day he was in New Orleans, he found no hour when he could be
absent without the liability of being called for by his master. The
next day Mr. Bruteman dined with his master, and Tom was in attendance
upon the table. Their conversation was at first about cotton crops,
the prices of negroes, and other business matters, to which Tom paid
little attention. But a few minutes afterward his ears were wide open.

"I suppose you came prepared to pay that debt you owe me," said Mr.
Bruteman.

"I am obliged to ask an extension of your indulgence," replied Mr.
Fitzgerald. "It is not in my power to raise that sum just now."

"How is that possible," inquired Mr. Bruteman, "when you have married
the daughter of a Boston nabob?"

"The close old Yankee keeps hold of most of his money while he lives,"
rejoined his companion; "and Mrs. Fitzgerald has expensive tastes to
be gratified."

"And do you expect me to wait till the old Yankee dies?" asked Mr.
Bruteman. "Gentlemen generally consider themselves bound to be prompt
in paying debts of honor."

"I'll pay you as soon as I can. What the devil can you ask more?"
exclaimed Fitzgerald. "It seems to me it's not the part of a gentleman
to play the dun so continually."

They had already drank pretty freely; but Mr. Bruteman took up
a bottle, and said, "Let us drink another glass to the speedy
replenishing of your purse." They poured full bumpers, touched
glasses, and drank the contents.

There was a little pause, during which Mr. Bruteman sat twirling
his glass between thumb and finger, with looks directed toward his
companion. All at once he said, "Fitzgerald, did you ever find those
handsome octoroon girls?"

"What octoroon girls?" inquired the other.

"O, you disremember them, do you?" rejoined he. "I mean how did that
bargain turn out that you made with Royal's creditors? You seemed to
have small chance of finding the girls; unless, indeed, you hid them
away first, for the purpose of buying them for less than half they
would have brought to the creditors,--which, of course, is not to be
supposed, because no gentleman would do such a thing."

Thrown off his guard by too much wine, Fitzgerald vociferated, "Do you
mean to insinuate that I am no gentleman?"

Mr. Bruteman smiled, as he answered: "I said such a thing was not to
be supposed. But come, Fitzgerald, let us understand one another. I'd
rather, a devilish sight, have those girls than the money you owe me.
Make them over to me, and I'll cancel the debt. Otherwise, I shall be
under the necessity of laying an attachment on some of your property."

There was a momentary silence before Mr. Fitzgerald answered, "One of
them is dead."

"Which one?" inquired his comrade.

"Flora, the youngest, was drowned."

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