Tempest and Sunshine
By Mary J. Holmes New York J. H. Sears & Company 1909
Chapter I Chapter II Chapter III Chapter IV Chapter V Chapter VI Chapter VII Chapter VIII Chapter IX Chapter X Chapter XI Chapter XII Chapter XIII Chapter XIV Chapter XV Chapter XVI Chapter XVII Chapter XVIII Chapter XIX Chapter XX Chapter XXI Chapter XXII Chapter XXIII Chapter XXIV Chapter XXV Chapter XXVI
TEMPEST AND SUNSHINE
MR. WILMOT ARRIVES AT MR. MIDDLETON'S
It was the afternoon of a bright October day. The old town clock had just tolled the hour of four, when the Lexington and Frankfort daily stage was heard rattling over the stony pavement in the small town of V——, Kentucky. In a few moments the four panting steeds were reined up before the door of The Eagle, the principal hotel in the place. "Mine host," a middle-aged, pleasant-looking man, came hustling out to inspect the newcomers, and calculate how many would do justice to his beefsteaks, strong coffee, sweet potatoes and corn cakes, which were being prepared in the kitchen by Aunt Esther.
This good dame divided her time between squeezing the steaks, turning the corn cakes, kicking the dogs and administering various cuffs to sundry little black urchins, who were on the lookout to snatch a bit of the "hoe cake" whenever they could elude the argus eyes of Aunt Esther. When the rattling of the stage was heard, there ensued a general scrambling to ascertain which would be first to see who had come. At length, by a series of somersaults, helped on by Aunt Esther's brawny hand, the kitchen was cleared and Aunt Esther was "monarch of all she surveyed."
The passengers this afternoon were few and far between, for there was but one inside and one on the box with the driver. The one inside alighted and ordered his baggage to be carried into the hotel. The stranger was a young man, apparently about twenty-five years of age. He was tall, well-proportioned and every way prepossessing in his appearance. At least the set of idlers in the barroom thought so, for the moment he entered they all directed their eyes and tobacco juice toward him!
By the time he had uttered a dozen words, they had come to the conclusion that he was a stranger in the place and was from the East. One of the men, a Mr. Edson, was, to use his own words, "mighty skeary of Northern folks," and as soon as he became convinced that the stranger was from that way, he got up, thinking to himself, "Some confounded Abolitionist, I'll warrant. The sooner I go home and get my gang together, the better 'twill be." But on second thought he concluded that "his gang" was safe, for the present at least; so he'd just sit down and hear what his neighbor, Mr. Woodburn, was saying to the newcomer.
The Kentuckians are as famous as the Yankees for inquisitiveness, but if they inquire into your history, they are equally ready to give theirs to you, and you cannot feel as much annoyed by the kind, confiding manner with which a Kentuckian will draw you out, as by the cool, quizzing way with which a Yankee will "guess" out your affairs.
On the present occasion, Mr. Woodburn had conjectured the young man's business, and was anxious to know who he was, and, if possible, to render him assistance. It took but a short time for the stranger to tell that he was from the East, from New York; that his name was Wilmot, and that he was in quest of a school; and in as short a time Mr. Woodburn had welcomed young Wilmot to Kentucky, but expressed his regrets that he did not come sooner, for all the schools were engaged. "But," added he, "you had better remain around here awhile and get acquainted, and then there will be no doubt of your eventually getting a situation. Meantime, as you are a stranger here, you are welcome to make my house your home."
Such kindness from an entire stranger was unlooked for by Wilmot. He knew not what to make of it; it was so different from the cold, money-making men of the North. He tried to stammer out his thanks, when Mr. Edson interrupted him by nudging Mr. Woodburn and saying: "Don't you mind old Middleton. He's been tarin' round after a Yankee teacher these six weeks. I reckon this chap'll suit."
Mr. Woodburn hesitated. He did not like to send Mr. Wilmot to such a place as Mr. Middleton's, for though Mr. Middleton was a very kind man, he was very rough and uncouth in his manner and thought his money much better applied when at interest than when employed to make his house and family more comfortable.
At length Mr. Woodburn replied: "True, I did not think of Mr. Middleton, but I hardly like to send a stranger there. However, Mr. Wilmot, you must not judge all Kentuckians by him, for though he is very hospitable to strangers, he is extremely rough."
Mr. Wilmot thanked them for their information and said he thought he would go to Mr. Middleton's that night.
"Lord knows how you'll get there," said Mr. Edson.
"Why, is it far?" asked Wilmot.
"Not very far," said Mr. Edson, "little better than four miles, but a mighty mean road at any time and a heap worse since the rains. For a spell you can get on right smart, but then, again, you'll go in co-slush!"
Mr. Wilmot smiled, but said he "thought he would try the road if Mr. Edson would give him the direction."
Then followed a host of directions, of which the most prominent to Wilmot were, that "about two miles from the house is an old hemp factory, full of niggers, singing like all fury; then comes a piece of woods, in the middle of which is a gate on the left hand; open that gate and follow the road straight till you come to the mightiest, mean-looking house you ever seen, I reckon; one chimbley tumbled down, and t'other trying to. That is Middleton's."
Here Mr. Woodburn said, "That as the road was so bad, and it was getting late, Mr. Wilmot had better stay at his house that night and the next day they would send him to Middleton's."
Before Mr. Wilmot had time to reply, Mr. Edson called out, "Halloo! Just in time, Wilmot!" Then rushing to the door he screamed, "Ho! Jim Crow, you jackanapes, what you ridin' Prince full jump down the pike for? Say, you scapegrace, come up here!"
Mr. Wilmot looked from the window and saw a fine looking black boy of about sixteen years of age riding a beautiful horse at full speed through the street. He readily divined that the boy was the property of Mr. Edson, and as he had brought from home a little abolitionism safely packed away, he expected to see a few cuffs dealt out to the young African. But when the young hopeful, at the command of his master, wheeled his horse up to the door, gave a flourish with his rimless old hat and a loud whistle with his pouting lips, Mr. Wilmot observed that his master gave the bystanders a knowing wink, as much as to say, "Isn't he smart?" Then turning to the boy he said, "How now, you Jim, what are you here for, riding Prince to death?"
"I begs marster's pardon berry much," said the negro, "but you see how I done toted all the taters you told me, and missis she 'vise me to ride Prince a leetle, 'case he's gettin' oneasy like when Miss Carline rides him."
"Likely story," said Mr. Edson; "but for once you are in the way when I want you. You know where Mr. Middleton lives?"
"Yes, marster, reckon I does."
"Well, this young man wants to go there. Now jump down quick and help him on. Do you hear?"
"Yes, marster," said the negro, and in a moment he was on the ground, holding the stirrup for Mr. Wilmot to mount.
Wilmot hesitated for two causes. The first was, he was not a good horseman and did not like to attempt mounting the spirited animal before so many pairs of eyes. He looked wistfully at the horse block, but did not dare propose having the horse led up to it. The second reason was he did not know whether to accept or decline the kindness of Mr. Edson; but that man reassured him by saying:
"Come! What are you waiting for? Jump up. I'd a heap rather Jim would go with you than ride Prince to death."
Here Mr. Woodburn spoke. He knew that New York people were, comparatively speaking, inferior riders, and he conjectured why Mr. Wilmot hesitated; so he said:
"Here, Jim, lead the horse up to the block for the gentleman"; then turning to the bystanders, said, as if apologizing for Wilmot: "You know it is so thickly settled in New York that they do not ride as much as we do, and probably the young man has always been at school."
This was satisfactory to the white portion of the audience, but not to the group of blacks, who were assembled at the corner of the house. They thought it a shame not to be a good rider and when they saw the awkward manner in which Mr. Wilmot finally mounted the horse and the ludicrous face of Jim Crow as he sprang up behind him, they were, as they afterward told Aunt Esther, "dreffully tickled and would have larfed, sartin, if they hadn't knowed marster would have slapped their jaws."
"And sarved you right," was the rejoinder of Aunt Esther.
But to return to Mr. Edson. As soon as Mr. Wilmot, Jim and Prince had disappeared, he felt a return of his fears concerning the "confounded Abolitionist." Thought he, "What a fool I was to let Prince and Jim Crow, too, go off with that ar' chap! Thar's Prince, worth a hundred and fifty, and Jim, at the least calculation, 'll fetch eight hundred. Well, anyway, they can't get far on that dirt road, so if Jim isn't home by nine, I'll go after 'em, that's so." Having settled the matter thus satisfactorily in his own mind, he called for his horse and started for home.
Meantime Mr. Wilmot was slowly wending his way toward Mr. Middleton's. It took but a short time for him to ascertain that the road was fully equal to the description given of it by Mr. Edson. At times he could scarcely keep his head, and he felt conscious, too, that the black machine behind him was inwardly convulsed with laughter at his awkward attempts to guide the horse in the best part of the road. At length he ventured a remark:
"Jim, is this animal ugly?"
"Ugly! Lor' bless you, marster, is you blind? As handsome a creetur as thar is in the country!"
Mr. Wilmot understood that he had used the word ugly in its wrong sense, so he said:
"I do not mean to ask if the horse is ill-looking, but is he skittish?"
"If marster means by that will he throw him off, I don't think he will as long as I'm on him, but sometimes he is a leetle contrary like. Reckon marster ain't much used to ridin'."
By this time they had reached the gate spoken of by Mr. Edson. To Mr. Wilmot's great surprise the horse walked tip to it and tried to open it with his mouth! Mr. Wilmot was so much amused that he would not suffer Jim to get down and open the gate, as he wished to see if the horse could do it.
"Oh, yes, marster, he'll do it easy," said the negro; and sure enough, in a moment the well-trained animal lifted the latch and pushed open the gate! But it was a rickety old thing, and before Prince had got fairly through it tumbled down, hitting his heels and causing him to jump sideways, so as to leave Mr. Wilmot riding the gate and Jim Crow in quiet possession of the saddle! With a great effort Jim forced down his desire to scream and merely showed twenty-eight very large, white teeth.
Springing from the horse he offered to assist Mr. Wilmot to mount again, but he had no inclination to do so. He preferred walking the rest of the way, he said, and as he could now easily find the house, Jim could return home. This was not what Jim wanted. He had anticipated a nice time in relating his adventures to Mr. Middleton's negroes, but as Mr. Wilmot slipped a quarter into his hand, he felt consoled for the loss of his "yarn"; so mounting Prince again, he gave his old palm leaf three flourishes round his head, and with a loud whoop, started the horse with a tremendous speed down the road and was soon out of sight, leaving Mr. Wilmot to find his way alone through the wood. This he found no difficulty in doing, for he soon came in sight of a house, which he readily took for Mr. Middleton's.
It was a large, old-fashioned stone building, with one chimney fallen down, as Mr. Edson had said, and its companion looked likely to follow suit at the first high wind. The windows of the upper story were two-thirds of them destitute of glass, but its place was supplied by shingles, which kept the cold out if they did not let the light in. Scattered about the yard, which was very large, were corn cribs, hay racks, pig troughs, carts, wagons, old plows, horses, mules, cows, hens, chickens, turkeys, geese, negroes, and dogs, the latter of which rushed ferociously at Mr. Wilmot, who was about to beat a retreat from so uninviting quarters, when one of the negroes called out, "Ho, marster, don't be feared, 'case I'll hold Tiger." So Wilmot advanced with some misgivings toward the negro and dog.
He asked the negro if his master were at home.
"No, sar, marster's done gone away, but Miss Nancy, she's at home. Jist walk right in thar, whar you see the pile of saddles in the entry."
Accordingly, Mr. Wilmot "walked in where the pile of saddles were," and knocked at a side door. It was opened by a very handsome young girl, who politely asked the stranger to enter. He did so and found within a mild-looking, middle-aged lady, whose dark eyes and hair showed her at once to be the mother of the young lady who had opened the door for him.
Mrs. Middleton, for she it was, arose, and offering her hand to the stranger, asked him to be seated in the large stuffed chair which stood before the cheerful blazing fire. In a few moments he had introduced himself, told his business and inquired for Mr. Middleton.
"My husband is absent," said Mrs. Middleton, "but he will be at home tonight and we shall be glad to have you remain with us till tomorrow at least, and as much longer as you like, for I think Mr. Middleton will be glad to assist you in getting a school."
Mr. Wilmot accepted the invitation and then looked round the room to see if the interior of the house corresponded with the exterior, It did not, for the room, though large, was very comfortable. The floor was covered with a bright-colored home-made carpet. In one corner stood a bed, the counterpane of which was as white as snow, and the curtains of the windows were of the same hue. In another corner was a small bookcase, well filled with books and on a stand near a window were several house plants.
He concluded that the books and the plants were the property of the young lady, whom Mrs. Middleton introduced to him as her eldest daughter Julia. She was an intelligent-looking girl, and Mr. Wilmot instantly felt interested in her, but when he attempted to converse with her, she stole quietly out of the room, leaving her mother to entertain the visitor.
At last supper was brought in by old Aunt Judy, who courtesied so low to the "young marster," that she upset the coffee pot, the contents of which fell upon a spaniel, which lay before the fire. The outcries of the dog brought Miss Julia from the kitchen, and this time she was accompanied by her younger sister, Fanny, who together with Julia and Aunt Judy, lamented over the wounded animal.
"I didn't go to do it, sartin, Miss July," said Aunt Judy, "Lor' knows I didn't."
"Who said you did, you black thing, you?" said Julia, who in her grief for her favorite, and her anger at Aunt Judy, forgot the stranger, and her bashfulness, too. "You were careless, I know you were," she continued, "or you never could have tipped the coffee over in this manner."
"Never mind, sister," said Fanny, "never mind; of course, Aunt Judy didn't mean to do it, for she likes Dido as well as we do."
"Lor' bless Miss Fanny's sweet face, that I do like Dido," said Aunt Judy.
"Yes, that you do," repeated Julia mockingly, "just as though you could like anything."
Here Mrs. Middleton interposed and ordered Julia and Fanny to take their seats at the table, while Judy cleared away all traces of the disaster. Julia complied with an ill-grace, muttering something about "the hateful negroes," while Fanny obeyed readily, and laughingly made some remark to Mr. Wilmot about their making so much ado over a dog, "but," said she, "we are silly girls, and of course do silly things. Probably we shall do better when we get old like you—no, like mother, I mean."
Here she stopped, blushing deeply at having called Mr. Wilmot old, when in fact she thought him quite young, and very handsome—in short, "just the thing." She thought to herself, "There, I've done it now! Julia and I have both introduced ourselves to him in a pretty light, but it's just like me—however, I'll not say another word tonight!"
The little incident of the coffee pot gave Mr. Wilmot something of an insight into the character and disposition of the two girls. And surely nothing could have been more unlike than their personal appearance, as they sat side by side at the supper table. Julia was about seventeen years of age and was called very handsome, for there was something peculiarly fascinating in the ever-varying expression of her large black eyes. She was a brunette, but there was on her cheek so rich and changeable a color that one forgot in looking at her, whether she were dark or light. Her disposition was something like her complexion—dark and variable. Her father was a native of South Carolina, and from him she inherited a quick, passionate temper. At times she was as gentle as a lamb, but when anything occurred to trouble her, all her Southern blood boiled up, and she was as Fanny said, "always ready to fire up at a moment's warning." Mr. Middleton called her "Tempest," while to Fanny he gave the pet name of "Sunshine," and truly, compared with her sister, Fanny's presence in the house was like a ray of sunshine.
She was two years younger than Julia and entirely different from her, both in looks and disposition. Her face was very pale and her bright golden hair fell in soft curls around her neck and shoulders, giving her something the appearance of a fairy. Her eyes were very large and very dark blue, and ever mirrored forth the feelings of her soul.
By the servants Julia was feared and dreaded; but Fanny was a favorite with all. Not a man, woman or child on the plantation but was ready to do anything for "darling Miss Fanny." And they thought, too, every one must love her as well as they did, for they said "she showed by her face that she was an angel." This was the opinion of the blacks, and it was also the partially formed opinion of Mr. Wilmot before he finished his supper; and yet he could not help thinking there was something wondrously attractive in the glance of Julia's large, dark eyes.
After supper he tried to engage the girls in conversation in order to ascertain which had the better mind. He found Fanny most ready to converse. She had forgotten her resolution not to talk, and before the evening was half spent seemed perfectly well acquainted with him. She had discovered that his name was Richard, that he had a sister Kate, who called him Dick, that he was as yet possessor of his own heart, but was in danger of losing it! The compliment Fanny very generously gave to her sister Julia, because she observed that Mr. Wilmot's eyes were often directed toward the corner where the dark beauty sat, silent and immovable.
Julia had taken but little part in the conversation and Mr. Wilmot's efforts to "draw her out" had proved ineffectual. She felt piqued that Fanny should engross so much attention and resolved on revenge; so she determined to show Mr. Wilmot that she could talk but not upon such silly subjects as pleased Fanny. Accordingly, when books were mentioned, she seemed suddenly aroused into life. She was really very intelligent and a very good scholar. She had a great taste for reading, and what books she could not prevail on her father to buy, she would borrow, so she had a tolerably good knowledge of all the standard works. Mr. Wilmot was surprised and pleased to find her so well informed and in the spirited conversation which followed poor Fanny was cast entirely into the background.
Fanny, however, attributed it to her sister's superior knowledge of Latin, and inwardly "thanked her stars" that she knew nothing of that language further than the verb Amo, to love. The practical part of that verb she understood, even if she did not its conjugation. She sat quietly listening to Mr. Wilmot and her sister, but her cogitations were far different from what Julia's had been.
Fanny was building castles—in all of which Mr. Wilmot and Julia were the hero and heroine. She gazed admiringly at her sister, whose face grew handsomer each moment as she became more animated, and she thought, "What a nice-looking couple Julia and Mr. Wilmot would make! And they would be so happy, too—that is if sister didn't get angry, and I am sure she wouldn't with Mr. Wilmot. Then they would have a nicer house than this old shell, and perhaps they would let me live with them!"
Here her reverie was interrupted by Mr. Wilmot, who asked her if she ever studied Latin. Fanny hesitated; she did not wish to confess that she had once studied it six months, but at the end of that time she was so heartily tired of its "long-tailed verbs," as she called them, that she had thrown her grammar out of the window and afterward given it to Aunt Judy to start the oven with!
This story was told, however, by Julia, with many embellishments, for she delighted in making Fanny appear ridiculous. She was going on swimmingly when she received a drawback from her mother, who said:
"Julia, what do you want to talk so for? You know that while Fanny studied Latin, Mr. Miller said she learned her lessons more readily than you did and recited them better, and he said, too, that she was quite as good a French scholar as you."
Julia curled her lip scornfully and said, "she didn't know what her mother knew about Fanny's scholarship." Meantime Fanny was blushing deeply and thinking that she had appeared to great disadvantage in Mr. Wilmot's eyes; but he very kindly changed the conversation by asking who Mr. Miller was, and was told that he was a young man from Albany, New York, who taught in their neighborhood the winter before.
The appearance of some nice red apples just then turned the attention of the little company in another channel and before they were aware of it the clock struck ten. Mr. Middleton had not returned and as it was doubtful whether he came at all that night, Julia went into the kitchen for Luce, to show Mr. Wilmot to his room. She was gone some time, and when she returned was accompanied by a bright-looking mulatto girl, who, as soon as she had conducted Mr. Wilmot into his room, commenced making excuses about "marster's old house! Things was drefful all round it, but 'twasn't Miss Julia's fault, for if she could have her way 'twould be fixed up, sartin. She was a born'd lady, anybody could see; so different from Miss Fanny, who cared nothing how things looked if she could go into the kitchen and turn hoe cakes for Aunt Judy, or tend the baby!"
By this time Luce had arranged the room all it wanted arranging, and as Mr. Wilmot had no further need of her services, she left him to think of what she had said. He did not know that the bright red ribbon, which appeared on Luce's neck next morning, was the gift of Julia, who had bribed her to say what she did to him. Julia knew that she had made a favorable impression on Mr. Wilmot by making him think meanly of Fanny.
What Luce said had its effect upon him, too. He was accustomed to the refinements of the North and he could not help respecting a young lady more who showed a taste for neatness. That night he dreamed that a bright pair of dark eves were looking at him from each pane of shingle in the window, and that a golden-haired fairy was dancing the Polka in Aunt Judy's hoe cake batter.
GETTING UP A SUBSCRIPTION SCHOOL
Next morning before daybreak Mr. Wilmot was aroused from a sound slumber by what he thought was the worst noise he had ever heard. He instantly concluded that the house was on fire, and springing up, endeavored to find his clothes, but in the deep darkness of the room such a thing was impossible; so he waited a while and tried to find out what the noise could be.
At last it assumed something of a definite form, and he found it was the voice of a man calling out in thunder-like tones, "Ho, Jebediah! Come out with ye! Do you hear? Are you coming?"
Then followed a long catalogue of names, such as Sam, Joe, Jack, Jim, Ike, Jerry, Nehemiah, Ezariah, Judy, Tilda, Martha, Rachel, Luce and Phema, and at the end of each name was the same list of questions which had preceded that of Jebediah; and ever from the negro quarters came the same response, "Yes, marster, comin'."
By this time all the hens, geese, turkeys and dogs were wide awake and joining their voices in the chorus, made the night, or rather the morning, hideous with their outcries. At last the noise subsided. Silence settled around the house and Wilmot tried to compose himself to sleep. When he again awoke the sun was shining brightly into his room. He arose and dressed himself, but felt in no hurry to see "his host," who had come home, he was sure, and had given such tremendous demonstrations of the strength of his lungs.
Mr. Wilmot finally descended to the sitting room, where the first object which presented itself was a man who was certainly six and a half feet high, and large in proportion. His face was dark and its natural color was increased by a beard of at least four weeks' growth! He had on his head an old slouched hat, from under which a few gray locks were visible. As soon as Wilmot appeared, the uncouth figure advanced toward him, and seizing his hand, gave a grip, which, if continued long, would certainly have crushed every bone! He began with—
"Well, so you are Mr. Wilmot from New York, hey? Of course a red-hot Abolitionist, but I don't care for that if you'll only keep your ideas to yourself and not try to preach your notions to me. I've heard of you before."
"Heard of me, sir?" said Mr. Wilmot in surprise.
"Yes, of you; and why not? Thar's many a man, not as good as you, judging by your looks, has had a hearing in his day; but, however, I haint heard of you by the papers. As I was coming home last night I got along to old man Edson's, and I seen him swarin' and tarin' round so says I, 'Ho, old man, what's the row?' 'Oh,' says he, 'that you, Middleton? Nuff's the row. I've done let my best horse and nigger go off with a man from the free States, who said he's going to your house, and here 'tis after nine and Jim not at home yet. Of course they've put out for the river.' 'Now,' says I, 'don't be a fool, Edson; if that ar chap said he's goin' to my house, he's goin' thar, I'll bet all my land and niggers he's honest. Likely Jim's stopped somewhar. You come along with me and we'll find him.' So we jogged along on the pike till of a sudden we met Prince coming home all alone! This looked dark, but I told Edson to say nothin' and keep on; so we came to Woodburn's fine house, and thar in the cabins we seen a bright light, and heard the niggers larfin like five hundred, and thought we could distinguish Jim Crow's voice; so we crept slyly up to the window and looked in and, sure enough, there was Jim, telling a great yarn about the way you rode and how you got flung onto the gate. It seems he didn't half hitch Prince, who got oneasy like, and started for home. Edson hollered to Jim, who came out and told how he didn't go clear here with you, cause you said you could find the way, and he might go back. Then old man Edson turned right round and said you were a likely man, and he hoped I'd do all I could for you. So that's the way I heard of you; and now welcome to old Kentuck, and welcome to my house, such as it is. It's mighty mean, though, as 'Tempest' says."
Here he turned to Julia, who had just entered the room. Then he went on: "Yes, Tempest raves and tars about the house and can hardly wait till I'm dead before she spends my money in fool fixin's. Devil of a cent she'll get though if she rides as high a horse as she generally does! I'll give it all to 'Sunshine'; yes, I will. She's more gentle-like and comes coaxin' round me, and puttin' her soft arms round my old shaggy neck says, 'Please, pa, if I'll learn to make a nice pudding or pie of Aunt Judy, will you buy us a new looking-glass or rocking chair?' And then 'tisn't in my natur to refuse. Oh, yes; Sunshine is a darling," said he, laying his hand caressingly on Fanny's head, who just at that moment showed her sunny face in the room.
During breakfast Mr. Middleton inquired more particularly into Mr. Wilmot's plans and wishes, and told him there was no doubt that he could obtain a good school in that immediate neighborhood. "Your best way," said he, "will be to write a subscription paper. The people then see what for a fist you write, and half the folks in Kentuck will judge you by that. In the paper you must tell what you know and what you ask to tell it to others. I'll head the list with my two gals and give you a horse to go round with, and I'll bet Tempest, and Sunshine, too, that you'll get a full school afore night."
At the last part of this speech Julia curled her lips and tried to look indignant, while Fanny laughingly said, "Pa, what makes you always bet sister and me, just as though you could sell us like horses? It's bad enough to bet and sell the blacks, I think."
"Ho, ho! So you've got some free State notions already, have you?" said Mr. Middleton. "Well, honey, you're more'n half right, I reckon." So saying, he for the fourth time passed up his coffee cup.
Breakfast being over, he took his young friend to the stable and bade him select for his own use any horse he chose. Mr. Wilmot declined, saying he was not much accustomed to horses; he preferred that Mr. Middleton should choose any horse he pleased.
"Very well," said Mr. Middleton; "from the accounts I have heard of your horsemanship it may be improved; so I reckon I'll not give you a very skeary horse to begin with. Thar's Aleck'll just suit you. He'll not throw you on the gate, for he doesn't trot as fast as a black ant can walk!"
Accordingly Aleck was saddled and bridled and Mr. Wilmot was soon mounted and, with his subscription paper in his pocket, was riding off after subscribers. He was very successful; and when at night he turned his face homeward, he had the names of fifteen scholars and the partial promise of five more.
"Well, my boy, what luck?" said Mr. Middleton, as Wilmot entered the sitting room that evening.
"Very good success," returned Mr. Wilmot; "I am sure of fifteen scholars and have a promise for five more."
"Yes, pretty good," said Mr. Middleton; "fifteen sartin, and five unsartin. Who are the unsartin ones?—old Thornton's?"
Mr. Wilmot replied that he believed it was a Mr. Thornton who had hesitated about signing.
"He'll sign," said Mr. Middleton. "I's thar after you was, and he told me you might put down five for him. I pay for two on 'em. He lives on my premises; and if he doesn't pay up for t'other three, why, he'll jog, that's all."
Mr. Wilmot said he hoped no one would send to school against their wishes.
"Lord, no," rejoined Mr. Middleton; "old Thornton wants to send bad enough, only he's stingy like. Let me see your paper, boy."
Mr. Wilmot handed him the paper, and he went on: "Thar's ten scholars at eight dollars—that makes eighty; then thar's five at eleven dollars, and fifty-five and eighty makes a hundred and thirty-five; then thar's five more at fifteen dollars; five times fifteen; five times five is twenty-five—seventy-five dollars;—seventy-five and a hundred and thirty-five;—five and five is ten, one to seven is eight, eight and three is eleven—two hundred and ten dollars! Why, quite a heap! Of course you've got clothes enough to last a spell, so you can put two hundred out at interest. I'll take it and give you ten per cent."
Mr. Wilmot smiled at seeing his money so carefully disposed of before it was earned, but he merely said, "There's my board to be deducted."
"Your what?" asked Mr. Middleton.
"My board, sir. I have no other means of paying it. I find I can get boarded for a dollar and a half a week."
"The deuce you can," said Mr. Middleton. "Who'll board you for that?"
Mr. Wilmot gave the name of the gentleman, to which Mr. Middleton replied, "I want to know if he will board you so very cheap!"
"Why, yes. Do you think I should pay more?"
"Pay more!" replied Middleton. "Don't be a fool! Why, here's this infernal old shell of a house wants filling up, and thar's heaps of horses and niggers lounging round with nothing to do; then I've plenty of potatoes, bacon and corn meal—and such fare as we have you're welcome to, without a dollar and a half, or even a cent and a half."
Mr. Wilmot remonstrated at receiving so much at Mr. Middleton's hands, but that good man put an end to all further argument by saying, "Do let me act as I like. You see, I've taken a liking to you, and because I see you trying to help yourself, I am willing to try and help you. They say, or Tempest says they say, I'm a rough old bear, and maybe I am; but I'm not all bad; it's a streak o' fat and a streak o' lean; and if I want to do you a kindness, pray let me."
So it was settled that Mr. Wilmot should remain in Mr. Middleton's family during the winter. To Julia this arrangement gave secret satisfaction. She had from the first liked Mr. Wilmot, and the idea of having him near her all the time was perfectly delightful. She resolved to gain his good opinion, cost what it would. To do this, she knew she must appear to be amiable, and that she determined to do—before him at least. She had also seen enough of him to know that he set a great value upon talent, and she resolved to surprise him with her superior scholarship and ability to learn. She, however, felt some misgivings lest Fanny should rival her in his esteem; but she hoped by negro bribery and various little artifices to deter him from thinking too highly of her sister.
The following Monday, Mr. Wilmot repaired to his schoolroom, where he found assembled all his pupils. It was comparatively easy to arrange them into classes and ere the close of the day the school was pretty generally organized. Weeks passed on and each day the "Yankee schoolmaster" gained in the love of his scholars, and one of them, at least, gained in the affections of the teacher. Julia had adhered to her resolution of appearing amiable and of surprising Mr. Wilmot with her wonderful powers of learning. This last she did to perfection. No lesson was so long but it was readily learned and its substance admirably told in words of her own. She preferred reciting alone and she so far outstripped the others in the length of her lessons, it seemed necessary that she should do so. Mr. Wilmot often wondered at her marvelous capacity for learning so much in so short a space of time, for she never took home her books at night, and she said she had plenty of time for her lessons during school hours.
With Fanny it was just the reverse. She got her lessons at home and played all day at school! Sometimes a reprimand from Mr. Wilmot would bring the tears into her eyes and she would wonder why it was she could not behave and make Mr. Wilmot like her as well as he did Julia. Then she would resolve not to make any more faces at that booby, Bill Jeffrey, for the girls to laugh at, nor to draw any more pictures on her slate of the Dame Sobriety, as she called Julia, and lastly, not to pin any more chalk rags on the boys' coats. But she was a dear lover of fun and her resolutions were soon for gotten. Her lessons, however, were generally well-learned, and well recited; but she could not compete with Julia, neither did she wish to. She often wondered how her sister could learn so long lessons, and, secretly, she had her own suspicions on the subject, but chose to keep them to herself.
Meantime the winter was passing rapidly and, to Mr. Wilmot, very agreeably away. He liked his boarding place much and one of its inmates had almost, without his knowledge, wound herself strongly around his heart. For a time he struggled against it, for his first acquaintance with Julia had not left a very favorable impression on his mind. But since that night she had been perfectly pleasant before him and had given out but one demonstration of her passionate temper.
This was one evening at the supper table. Zuba, a mulatto girl, brought in some preserves and, in passing them, very carelessly spilled them upon Julia's new blue merino. In the anger of the moment Mr. Wilmot and his good opinion were forgotten. Springing up, she gave the girl a blow which sent her half across the room and caused her to drop the dish, which was broken in twenty pieces. At the same time she exclaimed in a loud, angry tone, "Devil take you, Zube!" The loss of the dish elicited a series of oaths from Mr. Middleton, who called his daughter such names as "lucifer match," "volcano," "powder mill," and so forth.
For her father's swearing Julia cared nothing, but it was the sorrowful, disappointed expression of Mr. Wilmot's face which cooled her down. Particularly did she wish to recall what she had done when she saw that Fanny also had received some of the preserves on her merino; but instead of raging like a fury, she arose and quietly wiped it off, and then burst into a loud laugh, which she afterward told her mother was occasioned by the mournful look which Mr. Wilmot's face assumed when he saw that Julia's temper was not dead, but merely covered up with ashes.
From this remark of Fanny's the reader will understand that she was well aware of the part her sister was playing. And she was perfectly satisfied that it should be so, for by this means she occasionally got a pleasant word from Julia. She, however, often wished that Mr. Wilmot could be constantly with her sister, for his presence in the house did not prevent her from expending her wrath upon both Fanny and the blacks.
For some days after the affair of the preserves, Mr. Wilmot was somewhat cool in his manner toward Julia, who had discernment enough to attribute the change to the right cause. Earnestly did she desire to win back his esteem, and she accordingly cast about for some method by which she could undo what she had done. She could think of no way except to acknowledge her error to Mr. Wilmot and promise to do better in the future. So one evening when her father, mother and Fanny were absent, and she was alone with him, she adroitly led the conversation to the circumstance of her spoiled merino. She acknowledged that it was very unamiable and unladylike to manifest such passionate feelings, said she knew she had a quick temper, but she tried hard to govern it; and if Mr. Wilmot would, as her teacher and friend, aid her by his advice and influence, she was sure she would in time succeed. So nicely did she manage each part of her confession that Mr. Wilmot was thoroughly deceived. He believed her perfectly sincere, and greatly admired what he thought to be her frank, confiding disposition.
From that time she was dearer to him than ever and Julia, again sure of his esteem, placed a double guard upon her temper, and in his presence was the very "pink" of amiability! Affairs were gliding smoothly on, when the family received a visit from a gentleman, whom Julia would rather not have seen. This was Mr. Miller, whom we have mentioned as having taught in that neighborhood the winter before. Mr. Wilmot found him in the sitting room one night, on his return from school. When the young men were introduced they regarded each other a moment in silence, then their hands were cordially extended, and the words, "Richard Wilmot," "Joseph Miller," were simultaneously uttered.
It seems that, years before, they had been roommates and warmly attached friends in the Academy of Canandaigua, New York, and now, after the lapse of ten years, they met for the first time far off in Kentucky. A long conversation followed, relative to what had occurred to each since the bright June morning when they parted with so much regret in the old academic halls of Canandaigua.
At length Mr. Miller said: "Richard, what has become of that sister of yours, of whose marvelous beauty you used to tell us boys such big stories?"
"My sister Kate," said Mr. Wilmot, "is at present at school in New Haven."
"And is she still as beautiful as you used to try to make us think she was?" asked Mr. Miller.
"I will show you her likeness," returned Wilmot, "and you can judge for yourself."
So saying, he drew from his pocket a richly cased daguerreotype, and handed it to Mr. Miller. It was a face of uncommon beauty which met Mr. Miller's eye, and he gazed enraptured on the surpassing loveliness of the picture. At last he passed it to Fanny, who was eagerly waiting for it, and then turning to Wilmot, he said, "Yes, Richard, she has the handsomest face I ever saw."
"And the handsomest face I ever saw with one exception," said Mr. Wilmot, glancing admiringly toward Julia. Mr. Miller followed the direction of his eyes and as he saw the brilliant beauty of Julia, he sighed for fear his young friend might or had already become entangled in her dark meshes.
Just then Fanny exclaimed, "Oh, how handsome; look mother—Julia, isn't she perfectly beautiful!" And then she added, "But, Mr. Wilmot, is she as good as she is beautiful?"
"How absurd," said Julia hastily; "just as though one cannot be handsome and good too."
"I didn't say they couldn't, sister," said Fanny; "but I thought—yes, I'm sure she looks a little selfish!"
"Upon my word you're very polite," said Julia. "Mr. Wilmot will doubtless feel complimented by what you say of his sister."
"Never mind, Fanny," said Mr. Wilmot; "never mind; you are more of a physiognomist than I thought you were, for Kate's great fault is being too selfish; but she will overcome that in time, I think."
"Oh, I am sure so," quickly rejoined Fanny, regretting her words and anxious to do away with any unfavorable impression she might have made. So she went up to Mr. Wilmot and laying her hand on his shoulder, said, "I am sorry if I said anything bad of your sister. She is very beautiful and I think I should love her very much. Do you think she will ever come to Kentucky?"
"I hardly think she will," said Mr. Wilmot; "but I think you would like her, and I am sure she would love you. I often write to her about my two Kentucky sisters."
"Oh, do you," said Fanny, clapping her white, dimpled hands, "do you really call us both sisters? And do you tell her how much handsomer Julia is than I am, and how much more she knows?"
"And how much more does she know?" said Mr. Miller, who was always interested in whatever Fanny said.
"Oh, she knows a 'heap' more than I do," said Fanny, "I fear I haven't improved much since you left, for Mr. Wilmot is so very indulgent that he never scolds when my lessons are but half-learned, but consoles himself, I suppose, with Julia's great long yarns."
"And are Julia's lessons so very long?" asked Mr. Miller.
"Yes, sir," replied Fanny. "It is the wonder of all the girls how she manages to commit so much to memory in so short a time, for she never brings home her books and she spends two-thirds of her time, during school hours, in writing something on a sheet of foolscap. We girls have our own suspicions about that paper, for when her lesson is very hard we notice that she is unusually confined to her notes."
Here Julia angrily exclaimed, "Fanny, what do you mean? Do you intend to insinuate that I write my lesson down and then read it?"
"Fire and fury," said Mr. Middleton, who had been an attentive listener, "what's all this about? Tempest, do you write down your task? Good reason why you don't bring home your books. Speak, girl, quick—are you guilty of such meanness?"
Julia burst into tears, and said: "No, father, I am not; and I think it too bad that I should be suspected of such a thing, when I am trying to do as well as I can."
"I think so too," said Mr. Wilmot, whose sympathies were all with Julia.
Mr. Miller thought otherwise, but he said nothing. Julia had never been a favorite with him. He understood her character perfectly well and he felt grieved that his friend should be so deceived in her. Perhaps Julia read something of what was passing in his mind; for she felt very uneasy for fear he might tell Mr. Wilmot something unfavorable of her. Nor was she mistaken in her conjectures, for after the young men had retired for the night, their conversation naturally enough turned upon the family and the two girls, both of whom Mr. Wilmot spoke of in the highest terms. Mr. Miller agreed with him as long as his remarks were confined to Fanny, but when he came to speak of Julia, and of her superior beauty, intellect and agreeable manners, he ventured to disagree with him.
Said he, "As to Julia's beauty, there can be but one opinion, for she is very handsome; but the interior of the casket does not correspond with the exterior; she is as false as fair. Then, as to her intellect, I never thought it greatly superior to Fanny's. To be sure, she has a way of showing off all she does know, while Fanny is more retiring."
Here Mr. Wilmot spoke of the faculty she possessed for learning so long lessons. "Even your favorite Fanny," said he, "admitted that."
"True," returned Mr. Miller, "but have you forgotten the notes? Do you not think there may be something in that?"
"Is it possible," said Mr. Wilmot, rather warmly, "is it possible you think the high-souled Julia capable of such meanness? You do not know her as well as I do, if you think she would stoop to such deception. You shall go to school with me tomorrow, and then you can see for yourself."
"Yes, I will do so," said Mr. Miller, and then as he saw Mr. Wilmot seemed somewhat excited, he changed the conversation, which had been heard by other ears. Adjoining the room of Mr. Wilmot was a long dark closet, the door of which opened into the apartment of Julia and Fanny. This closet was used for a kind of lumber room, in which were stored promiscuously old barrels, trunks, hats, boots and so forth. It originally had a window, but the glass had long been broken and its place supplied by a large board, which failed to keep out the wind and rain, so that during the winter season the closet was a cold, cheerless place.
But on the night of which we were speaking, it contained a novel piece of lumber. Crouched behind an old barrel sat Julia, listening eagerly to the conversation between her teacher and Mr. Miller. When it ceased she arose from her dark hiding place and muttered to herself: "So you'll see, will you? You old torment! I wish the Old Scratch had got you before you ever came here. If I dared to I'd—but no, I wouldn't do that, bad as I am. However, I'll cheat you for once, you hateful limb! But what shall I do?"
She indeed was in a dilemma; but she had often boasted that she never yet was in so straitened a spot that she could not devise some means of extricating herself, and she relied on the Master she served to aid her in this difficulty. She never brought her books home and as the reader will ere this have surmised, she was in the daily habit of writing a sketch of her lesson on foolscap, and then reading it off. When school first commenced she had asked the privilege of sitting in her seat while reciting and by this means she could hold the paper under her desk and thus avoid Mr. Wilmot's suspicion. Her lessons for the next day were unusually long and hard, and as Mr. Miller would be present, she dared not resort to her usual artifice, particularly after what had been said about her "notes." She knew she never could learn all that long lesson in school hours, neither would she fail of having it for anything. What could she do? For some time she sat by the dying embers, with her dark face buried in her hands, revolving in her mind the best scheme by which to outwit Mr. Miller.
At last she rose up and a malicious smile of exultation passed over her features. She looked at the clock and saw it was already half-past ten, and then stealing softly to the bedside where Fanny lay quietly sleeping, she bent down and assured herself that her sister really was unconscious of her movements. She then hastily threw on her overshoes, cloak and hood and stealing noiselessly down the stairs, was soon in the open air alone in the darkness of the night. Just as she shut the door of the house, the watch dog, Tiger, came bounding furiously toward her with an angry growl. She silenced the fierce animal by saying, "Down, Tiger—poor Tige—don't you know me?" After quieting the dog, she proceeded on her strange errand, which was to obtain her books from the schoolhouse, which was more than half a mile distant.
The mud, which was very deep, was not more than half frozen, and at each step she sank into a mixture of mud, snow and ice. Still she kept fearlessly on, till at last she found herself in the midst of the thick woods. Here her courage somewhat failed her, for she called to mind all the stories she had ever heard of runaways, who were said to walk abroad at this dark hour of the night. Once she thought she saw the giant form of a negro standing in her path, but it proved to be a black stump, and she was about laughing at her fears, when her ear detected the sound of a light, rapid tread coming toward her. Almost paralyzed with terror, she stood perfectly still and listened for the sound to be repeated, but all was silent, and again she went on her way, and soon reached the school house.
But here a new difficulty presented itself. The house was locked and the key was in Mr. Wilmot's pocket; but the old adage, "where there's a will, there's a way," came into her mind, so she felt around on the half frozen ground till she found a long rail, which she placed against a window; then climbing up, she raised the sash, and in a moment was in the schoolroom. The atmosphere of the room was still comfortable and she stopped for a moment at the stove to warm her benumbed fingers, then groping her way to her desk, she easily found her books and made her way out of the house in the same manner that she had entered.
Just as she reached the ground a large, dark object sprang toward her and two glittering eyes looked up into her face. She uttered a loud shriek and was answered by a low whine, which she instantly recognized as belonging to Tiger. "Why, Tiger," she exclaimed, "how you frightened me! What did you follow me for?" It seems Tiger had thought there must be something wrong, or his mistress would not be out at this unreasonable hour, so he had followed on after her. She was noways displeased at this, for she liked not the idea of again going alone through the wood, but with Tiger for a companion she went fearlessly on and reached home just an hour after she had left it.
On entering her room she struck a light and then tried to warm her chilled limbs over a few faint coals which still glimmered on the hearth; but there was no wood in the room and she dared not go for any, so she sat down with her cloak still around her, and for four long hours studied as she had never done before in all her life. At the end of that time her lessons were very nearly learned, and sick with cold and fatigue, she threw aside her books and prepared for bed.
Her movements awoke Fanny, who, on seeing her sister up at that late hour of the night, started with surprise, and exclaimed, "What is it, Julia? What is the matter?" Julia immediately extinguished the light, lest her sister should discover the books and then said, "Nothing, Fanny, nothing; only I have the toothache, and I got up for the camphor, but I cannot find the bottle anywhere."
"The camphor is downstairs," said Fanny, "but I will go for it if you wish me to. Does your tooth ache very much?"
"Yes, rather," said Julia, and her kind-hearted sister arose and found her way in the dark downstairs to her mother's room.
"What in thunder's come now?" called out Mr. Middleton. "'Pears like somebody's been tousing round the house all night."
"It's only I, father," said Fanny. "Julia has the toothache, and I am after the camphor bottle."
"Oh, it's you, Sunshine, is it? The camphire's on the mantletry. Be keerful and not break it, honey."
While Fanny was after the camphor, Julia arose, and seizing her books, threw them hastily into her bureau drawer. She then sprang back into bed and when Fanny came in she was making a very appropriate moaning on account of her aching tooth!
"How cold you are, sister," said Fanny; "let me warm my shawl and put it around you."
"You can't warm it, for their is neither fire nor wood," said Julia; "and besides, my tooth is much better now."
So Fanny lay down by her sister, and the two, purity and guilt, were soon fast asleep, side by side, and the angel of innocence spread his broad wing protectingly over the yellow locks of the one, while a serpent lay coiled in the dark tresses of the other.
RESULTING IN A BETROTHAL AND A TEMPEST
At the breakfast table next morning Julia's pale face was noticed and commented upon.
"She had a violent toothache last night, which kept her awake," said Fanny.
"Now I think of it," said Mr. Middleton, "I wonder, Tempest, how you can have the toothache, for you are always bragging about your handsome, healthy teeth, and say you hain't a rotten fang in your head."
Julia colored, for what her father said was true, neither did she remember of ever having had the toothache in her life; but quickly recovering herself, she said, "Neither have I a decayed tooth. It was more of a faceache, I suppose, than the genuine toothache."
"Probably you have taken some cold," said Mr. Wilmot.
"I think quite likely I have," retorted Julia, and so the toothache matter was dismissed for the time. Mr. Miller, however, thought he could see in it a plan of Julia's to avoid going to school that day and when he heard Mrs. Middleton say, "Julia, as it is so cold and chilly, perhaps you had better not go out," he was rather surprised to hear her reply, "Oh, no, mother; Mr. Miller is going with us and I would not miss of being there for anything."
So the party proceeded together to the schoolhouse. When school commenced Julia took her books and going up to Mr. Wilmot, said, loudly enough for Mr. Miller to hear: "Mr. Wilmot, do you know that you gave me a very hard lesson for today?"
"Yes, Julia," said he, "I know it is hard and long, and as you do not seem well, I will excuse you from as much of it as you choose, or from the whole of it, if you like."
"No, no," said Julia; "Mr. Miller is here and I would like to show him that I have improved since last winter, when, as I fear, I was often sadly remiss in my studies. All I want to tell you is that if I do not recite as well as usual, you mustn't scold me a bit; will you?"
"Oh, certainly not," said Mr. Wilmot, and then he added in a tone so low that no one heard but Julia, "I could not scold you, dear Julia."
Thus flattered, the young lady took her seat and for a time seemed very intensely occupied with her lessons. At last she opened her portfolio and, taking from it a sheet of foolscap, cast an exulting glance toward Fanny and Mr. Miller, the latter of whom was watching her movements. She then took her gold pencil and commenced scribbling something on the paper. By the time her lesson was called she laid the paper on the desk, and prepared to do honor to herself and teacher. The moving of the paper attracted Mr. Wilmot's notice, and going toward her, he very gently said, "I presume you have no objection to letting me see what you have written here."
She at first put out her hand as if to prevent him from taking it, but at last she suffered him to do so, but tried to look interestingly confused. Mr. Wilmot read what was written and then smiling passed it to his friend, who looked at it and saw that it was a piece of tolerably good blank verse.
"Is this your composition, Julia?" said Mr. Miller.
"Yes, sir," she replied.
"And have your 'notes' always been of this nature?" asked Mr. Wilmot.
"That, or something similar," said Julia. "I find no difficulty in learning my lesson by once reading, and as I am very fond of poetry, I like to employ the rest of my time in trying my powers at it!"
Mr. Wilmot looked at Mr. Miller, as much as to say, "I hope you are satisfied," and then proceeded to hear Julia's lesson, which was well-learned and well-recited. Julia's recitation being over, Fanny's class was called. Fanny came hesitatingly, for she knew her lesson was but poorly learned. That morning she had found under her desk a love letter from Bill Jeffrey, and she and some of the other girls had spent so much time in laughing over it, and preparing an answer, that she had scarcely thought of her lesson. She got through with it, however, as well as she could, and was returning to her seat when Mr. Miller called her to him and said reprovingly, "Fanny, why did you not have a better lesson?"
"Oh, Mr. Miller," she said, almost crying, "I did intend to, but I forgot all about your being here"; and then, as a new thought struck her, she said mischievously, "and besides I have spent all the morning writing an answer to Bill Jeffrey's love letter!"
At this unlooked-for speech, all the scholars burst into a laugh and directed their eyes toward the crestfallen Bill, who seemed so painfully embarrassed that Fanny regretted what she had said, and as soon as school was out for the morning she went to him and told him she was sorry for so thoughtlessly exposing him to ridicule; "but," added she, "Billy, I'll tell you what, you mustn't write me any more love letters, for 'tis not right to do such things at school; neither need you bring me any more candy or raisins. I don't object to your giving me a nice big apple occasionally, but candy and raisins you had better give to the little children. And now to prove that I am really your friend, if you will get that old dogeared arithmetic of yours, I will show you how to do some of those hard sums which trouble you so."
Billy was surprised. The butt of the school, he was accustomed to the jeers of his companions, but such kindness, and from Fanny, too, was unexpected. He, however, drew from his desk his old slate and arithmetic and he and Fanny were soon deep in the mysteries of compound fractions. A half hour passed away and at the end of that time Billy's sums were done.
"Now, Billy," said Fanny, "see that you do not send me any more letters, and mind, too, and not wink at me so often; you will remember?" Bill gave the required promise and Fanny bounded away in quest of her schoolmates, who laughed at her for taking so much pains with such a dolt as Bill Jeffrey. That afternoon Fanny resolved to retrieve her character as a scholar; so she applied herself closely to her task, and before recitation hour arrived she had learned every word of her lesson. But alas for poor Fanny. She was always stumbling into some new difficulty, and fate, this afternoon, seemed resolved to play a sorry trick upon her.
The schoolhouse stood at the foot of a long, steep hill, which would have been chosen for a capital sliding place by New York boys; but in Kentucky the winters are, comparatively speaking, so mild that the boys know but little of that rare fun, "sliding down hill." The winter of which we are speaking was, however, unusually severe, and the schoolboys had persevered until they had succeeded in making a tolerably nice sliding place, and they had also furnished themselves with a goodly number of rather rough-looking sleds, of which Bill Jeffrey owned the largest. The girls were all anxious to try a ride down the hill, and none more so than Fanny; but the boys would not lend their sleds, and the girls would not ride with the boys, and as the latter always hid their precious sleighs, the girls had as yet never succeeded in their wishes. But on this day, Bill Jeffrey, touched by Fanny's unlooked-for kindness, whispered to her, just as school was commencing, that she might take his big sled at recess.
This was a treat indeed, and when recess came, Fanny, with half a dozen other girls, climbed to the top of the hill, and began piling on to Bill's old sled. It was settled that Fanny should guide the craft, and numerous were the cautions of the girls that she should "mind and steer straight."
"Oh, yes, I'll do that," said Fanny; "but wouldn't it be funny," added she, "if we should make a mistake and go plump into the schoolhouse!"
At last all was ready, and the vehicle got under way. At first it moved slowly, and the loud, merry laugh of the girls rang out on the clear, cool air; but each moment it increased in swiftness, and by the time it was half-way down the hill, was moving at an astonishingly rapid rate. Fanny lost her presence of mind and, with it, her ability to guide the sled, so that they passed the point where they should have turned and made directly for the schoolhouse door, which flew open, as once did the gates for the famous John Gilpin. There was no entryway to the building, but as the sled struck the door the jolt threw off all the girls except Fanny, who manfully kept her seat; and so made her grand entrance into the schoolroom, stopping not till she reached the stove, and partially upsetting it, to the great astonishment of the teacher, visitor, and boys, the latter of whom set up a loud huzza. Poor Fanny! 'Twas her first sled ride, and she felt sure it would be her last; but she resolved to make the best of it, so she looked up from under her curls and said very demurely, "Please, Mr. Wilmot, may I stop at this station? I do not like being so near the engine!" meaning the stove, whose proximity made her quarters a little uncomfortable.
Mr. Wilmot gave her permission to take her seat, which she readily did, wondering why it was that she always managed to do something which made her appear ridiculous, just when she wanted to appear the best. Her mishap gave secret pleasure to Julia, who delighted to have Fanny appear as badly as possible, and she felt particularly pleased when she saw that Fanny's strange ride had scattered all the ideas from her head, for the afternoon's lessons were but little better recited than the morning, and at its close Julia gave her a look of malicious triumph, which Mr. Miller observing, said, as if apologising for Fanny, that he was sure that she had every word of her lesson before recess, but it was no wonder she was somewhat disconcerted at the unexpected termination of her ride. Fanny smiled gratefully upon him through her tears, which she could not restrain; but her tears were like April showers—they did not last long, and that night, at the supper table, when Mr. Miller related her adventure to her father, she joined as gayly as any one in the laugh which followed.
Julia was much displeased to think that Fanny's "ridiculous conduct," as she called it, should be told of and laughed at as if it were something amusing. She was anxious, too, that Mr. Miller should draw his visit to a close, but as he did not seem inclined to do so, she resolved to make the most of it, and give him a few new ideas. She knew that Fanny had ever been his favorite and she very naturally supposed that the reason of his preference was because he thought she possessed a very lovely, amiable disposition. She determined to make him think otherwise, and set herself at work to execute a plan, which fully showed the heartless deception which almost always characterized her actions.
Fortune seemed to favor her, for after supper her father and mother announced their intention of spending the evening at one of the neighbors', and soon after they left Mr. Wilmot, who had letters to write, retired to his room, together with Mr. Miller. As soon as they were gone Julia repaired to the negro quarters and, by dint of threats, flattery and promises of reward, finally prevailed upon Luce to join with her in her dark plot. They then went to Julia's sleeping room and carefully opened the closet door, so that every word of their conversation could be heard in the adjoining room.
Julia's voice was strangely like her sister's, and by means of imitating her she hoped to deceive both Mr. Wilmot and Mr. Miller, who were startled by a loud, angry voice, exclaiming, "Come, you black imp, no more lies, you know you've stolen it, so just confess, and tell me where it is."
The young gentlemen looked at each other in surprise, for the voice was like Fanny's, and yet it was so unnatural for her to be in such a passion that they thought it impossible. Their fears were, however, soon confirmed by Luce, who said, "Oh, Miss Fanny, Lor' knows I never tached it. Now, sartin I knows nothin' 'bout it."
"Hold your jaw, or I'll slap your mouth for you, you lying thief!" said Julia (alias Fanny). "Of course you've got it, for no one else has been in here; so tell where you hid it."
"Lordy massy! How can I tell, when I dun know nothin' whar 'tis," said Luce.
"There, take, that to brighten up your ideas," said Fanny, and at the same time there was, the sound of a blow, which was followed by an outcry from Luce, who exclaimed, "Oh—oh—oh—Miss Fanny, don't go for to whip me, 'case I haint nothin to tell; if I had I'd tell right off. I haint seed your hankercher 'tall. Mebby you've done drapped it somewhar."
Just then the door opened, and Julia, again speaking naturally, was heard to say, "Why, Fanny, what are you doing just as soon as mother is gone? Luce, what is the matter?"
"Oh, Miss Julia," replied Luce, "Miss Fanny done lost her fine hankercher, and she say how I stole it, but I haint."
"What makes you think Luce has got your handkerchief, Fanny?" asked Julia.
"Because I left it on the table, and 'tisn't there now; and no one has been in the room except Luce," replied Fanny.
"Very likely you have put it in your drawer and forgotten it; let me look," said Julia.
There was a moment's silence, and then Julia was heard to exclaim, "There it is, just as I thought. Here it is, safe in your box. I do wish, sister, you would not be quite so hasty, but stop a little before you condemn others." So saying, the party left the room.
While this scene was taking place, Fanny was quietly seated by the fire in the sitting room, getting her lesson for the next day. At last her eye chanced to fall upon a purse which Julia was knitting for her father and which she had promised to finish that night.
"I wonder," said Fanny to herself—"I wonder where Julia is gone so long? She told father she would finish his purse this evening, and he will scold so, if it is not done, that I believe I'll knit on it till she returns."
Suiting the action to the word, she caught up the purse, and when Julia returned to the sitting room, she found her sister busily engaged in knitting for her.
"Why, Julia," said Fanny, "where have you been so long; I though you were never coming back, so I have been knitting on your purse, for I was afraid you would not get it done, and then father would scold, you know."
As Julia looked into her sister's bright, innocent face and thought of all her kindness, her conscience smote her for the wrong she had done, but quickly hushing the faithful monitor, she thought, "Never mind; it is natural for me to be bad. I cannot help it."
Meantime the gentlemen above were discussing the conversation which they had overheard.
"Is it possible," said Mr. Miller, "that I have been so deceived in Fanny, and that, after all, she is as passionate as her sister?"
"As passionate as her sister," repeated Mr. Wilmot; "I think we have good proof that she is much more so. I hope you are now convinced that Fanny is not infallible, though I will confess I am surprised and disappointed, for I thought she was really of a very gentle nature."
Mr. Miller did not reply directly, but went on, as if speaking to himself, "Oh, Fanny, Fanny, how has my idol fallen! I never would have believed it, but for such convincing evidence."
He was indeed sorely disappointed. He had always thought of Fanny as the embodiment of almost every female virtue, and although she was so young, hope had often whispered to him of a joyous future when she, whom her father designated as "Sunshine," should also shed a halo of sunlight around another fireside. But now the illusion was painfully dispelled, for sooner would he have taken the Egyptian asp to his bosom than chosen for a companion one whom he knew to possess a hasty, violent temper.
Next morning he took leave of Mr. Middleton's family. When it came Fanny's turn to bid him good-by, she noticed the absence of his accustomed cordiality, and wondered much what she had done to displease him. That night she wept herself to sleep thinking of it, while Julia, secretly exulting in her sister's uneasiness, laughed at her for her foolishness, and said, "It was probably a mere fancy, and even if it were not; what matter was it? What did she care for Mr. Miller's good or bad opinion? She mustn't expect everybody to pet and caress her just as her father did, who was an old fool anyway, and petted her and her dogs alternately." This kind of reasoning did not convince Fanny, and for many days her face wore a sad, troubled expression.
Thus the winter passed away. Spring came, and with it came an offer to Mr. Wilmot of a very lucrative situation as teacher in a school in Frankfort. At first he hesitated about accepting it, for there was, in the old rough stone house, an attraction far greater than the mere consideration of dollars and cents. Julia at, last settled the matter, by requesting him to accept the offer, and then urge her father to let her go to Frankfort to school also.
"And why do you wish to go there, Julia?" said Mr. Wilmot, laying his hand on her dark, glossy hair.
"Because," she answered, "it will be so lonely here when you are gone."
"And why will it be lonely, dearest Julia?" continued he.
"Oh," said she, looking up very innocently in his face, "you are the only person who understands me; by all others, whatever I do or say is construed into something bad. I wish you were my brother, for then I might have been better than I am."
"Oh, I do not wish I was your brother," said Mr. Wilmot, "for then I could never have claimed a dearer title, which I hope now to do at some future time."
Then followed a declaration of love, which Julia had long waited most anxiously for. Most eloquently did Mr. Wilmot pour out the whole tide of his affection for the beautiful but sinful girl, who, in a very becoming and appropriate manner, murmured an acknowledgment of requited love. Thus the two were betrothed.
And truly it was a fitting time for such a betrothal. The air had been hot and sultry all day, and now the sky was overspread with dark clouds, while everything indicated an approaching storm. While Mr. Wilmot was yet speaking, it burst upon them with great violence. Peal after peal of thunder followed each other, in rapid succession, and just as Julia whispered a promise to be Mr. Wilmot's forever, a blinding sheet of lightning lit up for a moment her dark features, and was instantly succeeded by a crash, which shook the whole house from its foundation, and drew from Julia a cry of terror, which brought Fanny to see what was the matter, and made Mr. Middleton swear, "Thar was noise enough from the tempest outdoors, without the 'Tempest' in the house raising such a devil of a fuss!"
DR. LACEY APPEARS UPON THE SCENE
When Mr. Middleton was spoken to on the subject of sending Julia to Frankfort, he at first refused outright. "No," said he, "indeed she shan't go! What does she want of any more flummerdiddle notions? What she does know is a damage to her."
"But do you not wish to give your daughters every possible advantage?" said Mr. Wilmot.
"Who's said anything about my daughters?" said Mr. Middleton. "It's nobody but Tempest, and she's always kickin' up some boobery. Now if 'twas Sunshine, why, I might—but no, neither of 'em shall go. It's all stuff, the whole on't."
So saying, he turned on his heel and walked off, while Julia burst into tears and repaired to her own room, whither she was soon followed by her mother, who tried to console her. Said she, "Why, Julia, you don't take the right course with your father. Why do you not propose having your sister accompany you? For, if you go, she will, and you know she can always coax father to do as she pleases."
This was rather humiliating to Julia, but she concluded it was her only alternative, so she dried her eyes, and seeking out her sister, very soon talked her into a strong desire to try the mysteries of a school in Frankfort, and also drew from her a promise to try her powers of argument upon her father. Accordingly, that evening Fanny made an attack upon him, and as her mother had predicted, she was perfectly successful. It was settled that she and Julia should both go, and the next morning early Mr. Middleton set off for Frankfort to find "as smart a boarding place for his gals as anybody had." There was as yet no boarding house connected with the school, and he was obliged to find a place for them in some one of the numerous boarding houses with which Frankfort abounds. He at last decided upon a very genteel establishment, kept by a Mrs. Crane, who at first hesitated about receiving into her family persons who possessed so rough and shabby-looking a father.
But Mr. Middleton brought her to a decision by saying, "what the deuce you waiting for? Is it because I've got on cowhide stogies and a home-made coat? Thunder and lightning! Don't you know I'm old Middleton, worth at least two hundred thousand?"
This announcement changed the current of Mrs. Crane's ideas. The daughters were not rough, if the father was, so she decided to take them, and for the very moderate sum of seven dollars per week, promised to give them all the privileges of her house. The first day of June was fixed on for them to leave home and at sunrise Mr. Middleton's carriage stood at the door, waiting for the young ladies to make their appearance. Julia had long been ready and was waiting impatiently for Fanny, who was bidding the servants an affectionate good-bye. Each one had received from her some little token of love, and now they all stood in one corner of the yard, to look at their darling as long as possible.
"Lor' bless her," said one; "Kentuck hain't many like her, nor never will have."
"No, nor Frankfort nuther," said a second. While a third added, "No, and I reckon heaven hadn't nuther!"
To which a fourth responded, "Amen."
Here old Aunt Katy, who had nursed Mr. Middieton and his children after him, hobbled up to Fanny, and laying her hard, shriveled black hand on her young mistress' bright locks, said, "The Lord who makes the wind blow easy like on the sheared lamb, take keer of my sweet child and bring her back agin to poor old Aunt Katy, who'll be all dark and lonesome, when Sunshine's done gone."
This was regarded as a wonderful speech by the negroes, and as none of them could hope to equal it, they contented themselves by lustily blowing their trombones and wiping the same on their shirt sleeves, or the corner of their aprons. At last the good-byes were all said, Julia merely noticed the blacks with a slight nod, and then sprang nimbly into the carriage, which disappeared from view just as the negroes struck up in a loud, clear and not unmusical tone:
"Oh, it's lonesome now on the old plantation, It's lonesome now on the old plantation, It's lonesome now on the old plantation, Case Sunshine's gone away."
"Stop your yelp, can't you?" said Mr. Middleton, but his voice indicated that he would not be very much displeased even if they did not obey, so they tuned their pipes still louder, and this time the six dogs joined in the chorus, with a long and mournful howl.
"Thar, that'll do," said Mr. Middleton, "now to your work, quick; and mind the one that works best this week shall go Saturday and carry Miss Crane some strawberries!"
The negroes needed no other incentive to work than the prospect before them of going to see Fanny. Never had Mr. Middleton had so much accomplished in one week. When Friday night came, it was hard telling which was the favored one. At last it was settled that Ike should go to Frankfort, and the rest should have a sort of holiday. Ike was a sprightly negro boy of seventeen, and almost idolized his young mistress Fanny. Long before "sun up" (a favorite expression in Kentucky for sunrise), he had filled his basket with strawberries, and just as the first rays of sunlight streaked the eastern hills, he started on his mission, laden with numerous messages of love for "sweet Miss Fanny," and a big cranberry pie from Aunt Judy, who was "sartin the baby wanted some of old Judy's jimcracks by this time."
Meantime Julia and Fanny had become tolerably well established both in school and at Mrs. Crane's. Julia was perfectly delighted with her new quarters, for she said "everything was in style, just as it should be," and she readily adopted all the "city notions." But poor Fanny was continually committing some blunder. She would forget to use her napkin, or persist in using her knife instead of her four-tined silver fork. These little things annoyed Julia excessively, and numerous were the lectures given in secret to Fanny, who would laugh merrily at her sister's distress and say she really wished her father would dine some day at Mrs. Crane's table.
"Heaven forbid that he should!" said Julia. "I should be mortified to death."
"They would not mind his oddities," said Fanny, "for I overheard Mrs. Crane telling the exquisitely fashionable Mrs. Carrington that our father was 'a quizzical old savage, but rich as a nabob, and we should undoubtedly inherit a hundred thousand dollars apiece.' And then Mrs. Carrington said, 'Oh, is it possible? One can afford to patronize them.' And then she added something else which I think I'll not tell you."
"Oh, do," said Julia. "It too bad to raise my curiosity and not gratify it."
"Well, then," said Fanny, "Mrs. Carrington said, 'There is a rumor that the eldest Miss Middleton is engaged to Mr. Wilmot. I wonder at it, for with her extreme beauty and great fortune, she could command a more eligible match than a poor pedagogue.'"
The next morning at breakfast Mrs. Crane informed her boarders that she expected a new arrival the next day, Friday. She said, "It is a new gentleman from New Orleans. His name is Dr. Lacey. His parents were natives of Boston, Massachusetts, but he was born in New Orleans, and will inherit from his father a large fortune; but as he wished for a profession, he chose that of medicine. He is a graduate of Yale College and usually spends his summers North, so this season he stops in Frankfort, and honors my house with his presence. He is very handsome and agreeable, and these young ladies might put a lock and key on their hearts."
The last part of this speech was directed to Julia, who blushed deeply, and secretly wondered if Dr. Lacey were as handsome as Mr. Wilmot. She frequently found herself thinking about him during the day, but Fanny never gave him a thought until evening, when, as she and her sister were together in their room, the latter suddenly exclaimed, "I wonder if Dr. Lacey will be here at breakfast tomorrow morning."
"And if he is," said Fanny, "I suppose you want me to be very careful to use my fork, and break my egg correctly."
"I think it would be well for you always to try and show as much good breeding as possible," said Julia.
"Well," returned Fanny, "I reckon this Dr. Lacing or Dr. Lacework—what's his name?—will ever be anything to us, for I am sure he'd never think of me, and you are engaged to a man who is much better than any of your New Orleans pill bags."
Little did Fanny dream how closely the "New Orleans pill bags" were to be connected with the rest of her life. Julia said nothing but probably thought more.
When the young ladies entered the breakfast room next morning they noticed seated opposite them a tall, dark, handsome young man, whom Mrs. Carrington introduced to them as Dr. Lacey. There was something remarkably pleasing in his manner, and before breakfast was over he had completely won Fanny's good opinion by kindly breaking her egg for her, and when she had the misfortune to drop the fork, he drew the attention of the company from her by relating an anecdote on himself, which was that he was once invited to a dinner party at the Hon. Henry Clay's, and as he was trying to be very graceful and polite, he unfortunately upset his plate, the contents of which, together with his knife and fork, were deposited in his lap. This story raised such a laugh that all forgot Fanny, who gave Dr. Lacey such a look of gratitude that after breakfast he asked Mrs. Crane who the pale, blue-eyed girl was, and received about the same information that Mrs. Carrington had received concerning her.
That day Mr. Wilmot's eyes were not as handsome nor his teeth as white as usual in the estimation of Julia, who often found herself wondering why he did not wear whiskers. That evening he called at Mrs. Crane's and for the first time in her life Julia was not much pleased to see him. He, however, rose ten per cent in her estimation when she saw the familiar and cordial manner with which Dr. Lacey treated him. They talked as though they were old and dear friends.
After Mr. Wilmot had left, Dr. Lacey said, "Why, that Wilmot is a remarkably intelligent man and very agreeable."
Then turning to Mrs. Carrington, he added, "Let me see—is he a teacher?"
"Yes," said Mrs. Carrington, "and these young ladies are his pupils, and report says he looks after the heart of one of them as well as the head."
"Well," continued he, "whichever one is favored with his preference should feel honored, for he is a capital fellow." Just then his eye fell upon an elegant piano which stood in the room and he asked Mrs. Carrington to favor him with some music.
"Perhaps Miss Middleton will oblige you," said Mrs. Carrington, looking at Julia.
"Thank you," said Julia, "I am just taking lessons," so Mrs. Carrington sat down to the instrument, and as Julia saw how skillfully her white, jewelled fingers touched the keys, she resolved to spare no pains to become as fine a player as Mrs. Carrington, particularly as she saw that Dr. Lacey was very fond of music and kept calling for piece after piece till the evening was somewhat advanced.
"You ought to play, golden locks," said he to Fanny, at the same time taking one of her long yellow curls in his hand.
"I am taking lessons," said Fanny, "but I make awkward work, for my fingers are all thumbs, as you might know by my dropping that four-tined pitchfork this morning!"
Dr. Lacey laughed heartily at this and called her an "original little piece," at the same time saying, "You remind me of my sister Anna."
"Where does she live?" asked Fanny.
Dr. Lacey sighed as he answered, "For three years she has lived in heaven; three long years to us, who loved her so dearly."
Fanny observed that he seemed agitated while speaking of his sister, so she dared not ask him more about her, although she wished very much to do so. Perhaps he read her wishes in her face, for he went on to tell her more of his sister, who, he said, drooped day by day, and they took her to Cuba, but she daily grew worse, and often spoke of dying and heaven, and then one bright summer morning she passed away from them, and they buried her under a group of dark orange trees. That night Fanny dreamed of sweet Anna Lacey, sleeping so quietly in her lone grave, far off 'neath the orange trees of Cuba. Julia had dreams, too, but of a different nature. In her fancy she beheld Dr. Lacey at her feet, with his handsome person, princely fortune, and magnificent home near New Orleans, while off in the dim distance loomed up a dark coffin, in which was the cold, pale form of one whom she knew too well. Was her dream an omen of the coming future? We shall see.
Next morning just as the town clock rang out the hour of eight, a strange-looking vehicle, to which was attached a remarkably poor-looking horse, was seen picking its way slowly through the upper part of Main street, Frankfort. The driver of this establishment was a negro boy, whom we readily recognize as our friend Ike. He was taking it leisurely through the town, stopping before every large "smart" looking house to reconnoiter, and see if it resembled the one his master had described.
At last he was accosted by a young African, who called out, "Ho, thar, old boy! What you keepin' yer eyes peeled and yer' mouth open for? Is you catchin' flies?"
"No, sar," replied Ike. "I's tryin' to find Miss Crane's boardin' house."
"Oh, yes; wall, it's up t'other way. You jist turn that old rackerbone of your'n straight round and turn down that ar street, whar you see that steeple, and, the fust house on the corner is Miss Crane's. But say, is you and that ar quadruped jist out of the ark?"
"I dun know nothin' 'bout yer ark," said Ike, whose Scripture knowledge was rather limited, "but I 'longs to Marster Josh, and I'm goin' to see Miss Fanny—and now I think of it, won't you ride?"
"Lord, no," said the negro; "I'm in a great hurry; goin' arter the doctor for ole miss, who's sartin she's goin' for to die this time."
"You don't seem in much of a hurry," said Ike.
"No," returned the other; "old miss has died a heap o' times, by spells, so I reckon she'll hang on this time till I git back, jist so she can jaw me for being gone so long."
So they parted, the stranger negro to go for the doctor and Ike to go to Mrs. Crane's, with his berries, and Aunt Judy's cranberry pie. He had often wondered during his ride whether Fanny would not give him a piece of the pie. As often as this thought entered his brain, he would turn down the white napkin, and take a peep at the tempting pastry; then he would touch it with his fingers and finally take it up and smell of it just a little!
While he was making his way into Mrs. Crane's kitchen, Julia and Fanny were in their room, the windows of which were open and looked out upon a balcony, which extended entirely around the house. There was no school that day, and Fanny was just wishing she could hear from home when a servant entered the room and said there was a boy in the kitchen, who wished to see Miss Fanny.
"A boy want to see me," said Fanny; "who can it be?"
"Reckon he's from yer home 'case he says how he belongs to Marster Middleton," said the negro girl.
"Oh, joy!" exclaimed Fanny, "somebody from home; how glad I am. Come, Julia, won't you go down, too?"
"No, indeed," said Julia, scornfully, "I am not so anxious to see a greasy nigger. I hope you will not take it into your head to ask him up here."
But Fanny did not answer, for she was already half-way down the stairs. Going to the kitchen she found Ike and seemed as delighted to see him as though his skin had been snowy white. Ike delivered all his messages and then presented Aunt Judy's pie.
"Dear Aunt Judy," said Fanny, "how kind she is." Then seizing a knife she cut a liberal piece for Ike, who received it with many thanks.
"Now, Ike," said she, "you must remain here until I go out and get a ribbon for Aunt Judy's cap, and some tobacco for old Aunt Katy." So saying she ran upstairs to her room.
When she entered it, Julia exclaimed, "In the name of the people, what have you got now?"
"Oh, a pie, which Aunt Judy sent me," said Fanny.
"How ridiculous," answered Julia; "I don't think Mrs. Crane would thank Aunt Judy for sending pies to her house."
"Mrs. Crane need know nothing about it, and would not care if she did," said Fanny, and then she added, "Ike is downstairs, and he says father is coming after us in two or three weeks."
"Good heavens," said Julia; "what is he coming for? Why does he not send a servant?"
"And why cannot father come?" asked Fanny.
"Because," answered Julia, "who wants that old codger here? A pretty figure he'd cut, I think. I should be ashamed of him; and so would you, if you knew anything."
"I know he is odd," said Fanny; "but he is my father, and as such I would not be ashamed of him."
"Well, I am ashamed to own that he is my father, anyway," answered Julia; "but where are you going now?" she continued, as she saw her sister putting on her bonnet.
"I am going to buy some ribbon for Aunt Judy, some tobacco for Aunt Katy, and some candy for the children," answered Fanny.
"Well, I do believe you haven't common sense," said Julia, "but where is your money to buy all these things?"
"Oh," said Fanny, "I've concluded not to go and hear Fanny Kemble tonight. I'd rather spend the money for the servants; it will do them so much good."
"You certainly are a fool," said Julia. Fanny had been told that often, so she did not reply, but hastened downstairs and was soon in the street. As she turned the corner she could see the windows of her room, and the whole length of the balcony on that side of the building. Looking in that direction she saw Dr. Lacey sitting out on the balcony and so near her window that he must have heard all the conversation between herself and her sister! She thought, "Well, he of course thinks me a silly little dunce; but I do like our blacks, and if I ever own any of them, I'll first teach them to read and then send them all to Liberia." Full of this new plan, she forgot Dr. Lacey and ere she was aware of it had reached the store. She procured the articles she wished for, and returning to Mrs. Crane's, gave them to Ike, who was soon on his way home.
At supper that evening the conversation turned upon Fanny Kemble and the expected entertainment. "I suppose you are all going," said Mrs. Crane to her boarders. They all answered in the affirmative except Fanny, who was about to reply, when Dr. Lacey interrupted her by saying, "Miss Fanny, will you allow me to accompany you to hear Mrs. Butler this evening?"
Fanny was amazed. Was it possible that the elegant Dr. Lacey had honored her with an invitation to accompany him to the literary treat! She was too much surprised to answer him, until he said, "Do not refuse me, Miss Fanny, for I am resolved to have you go!" She then gracefully accepted his polite invitation, and at the same time glancing toward Julia and Mrs. Carrington, she saw that the former frowned darkly, while the latter looked displeased. This dampened her happiness somewhat, and as soon as supper was over she hurried to her room.
Mrs. Carrington was a gay, fashionable woman, and was just as willing to receive attention from unmarried gentlemen now as she had been in her girlish days. Her husband was an officer in the United States army and was absent a great part of the time, but she had never cared much for him, so she managed to pass the time of his absence very happily in flirting with every handsome wealthy young gentleman who came in her way. When Dr. Lacey appeared, she immediately appropriated him to herself. 'Tis true, she somewhat feared Julia might become a rival, but of the modest, unassuming little Fanny, she had never once thought, and was greatly surprised when Dr. Lacey offered to escort her to the reading. She had resolved on having his company herself, and when she saw the frown on Julia's face, she flattered herself that she could yet prevent Fanny's going.
Accordingly, after supper, she asked Julia to go with her for a moment to her room. Julia had become perfectly charmed with the fascinating manners of Mrs. Carrington, so she cheerfully assented, and the two proceeded together to her richly furnished apartments. When there, Mrs. Carrington said, "Miss Middleton, do you not think your sister too young to accept the attentions of any gentleman, at least one who is so much of a stranger to the family?"
Julia well knew that the fact of Dr. Lacey's being a stranger was of no consequence in Mrs. Carrington's estimation, but she quickly answered, "Yes, I do; but what can be done now?"
"Oh," said Mrs. Carrington, "your sister is very gentle and if we go to her and state the case as it is, I am confident she will yield."
So they went to Fanny's room, where they found her sitting by the window, thinking how much pleasure she would enjoy that night.
Julia commenced operations by saying, "Fanny, what made you promise Dr. Lacey that you would go with him tonight?"
"Why," said Fanny, "was there anything wrong in it?"
Here Mrs. Carrington's soft voice chimed in, "Nothing very wrong, dear Fanny, but it is hardly proper for a young school girl to appear in public, attended by a gentleman who is not her brother or cousin."
Poor Fanny! Her heart sank, for she was afraid she would have to give up going after all; but a thought struck her, and she said, "Well, then, it is not proper for Julia to go with Mr. Wilmot, and she has promised to do so."
"That is very different," said Mrs. Carrington; "Julia is engaged to Mr. Wilmot, and unless you are engaged to Dr. Lacey," continued she, sarcastically, "it will not be proper at all for you to go with him."
"But I promised I would," said Fanny.
"That you can easily remedy," answered Mrs. Carrington. "Just write him a note and I will send it to him."
Thus beset, poor Fanny sat down and wrote, as Mrs. Carrington dictated, the following note:
"SIR—Upon further reflection I think it proper to decline your polite invitation for tonight.
"Yours very respectfully,