"But were not you and Luce in your room at all that evening?" continued Mr. Miller.
"Luce!" said Fanny; "I do not remember having seen her once that night; neither was I in my room until bedtime."
There was so much frankness and apparent truth in Fanny's face and manner that Mr. Miller never for a moment doubted her. His first feeling was one of intense happiness at finding that Fanny was, indeed, all he had once fancied her to be. Back through the channels of his heart rolled, for an instant, the full tide of his once secretly nurtured affection for her. It was for an instant, however; for one look at the beautiful Kate convinced him that the love he once bore the gentle, timid girl at his side was nought, when compared with the deep, ardent affection which he now felt for his own cherished wife. "Fanny," said he, "I have wronged you in thought, but never in word or deed, to my knowledge. I was, however, grossly deceived, although I can see no object for the deception."
"What can you mean?" asked Kate, rather anxiously. "Do explain yourself, and not deal in mysteries any longer. What dreadful thing did you imagine Fanny had done—set the stables on fire, or abused the blacks—which?"
Mr. Miller did not immediately answer; and Fanny said: "Come, Mr. Miller, it is not fair to suspect me of evil and not tell what it is. You should be more frank."
"I will tell you," said Mr. Miller; and, in as few words as possible he repeated to Fanny the conversation which he had overheard, between Luce and herself, as he supposed.
When he finished speaking, both Kate and Fanny were silent for a moment; then Kate said: "It was Julia, I know it was. Did you ever notice how much alike their voices are? And, besides, I once heard Julia lay a wager with Mr. Raymond that she could imitate her sister's voice so exactly that one, not seeing her, would be thoroughly deceived."
"Oh, Mrs. Miller," said Fanny, "it cannot be! Why should Julia wish to do so wicked a thing? And yet I now remember that when I was sick, Luce came to me one night and asked me to forgive her for everything bad she had ever done to me. I assured her I knew of nothing to forgive; and then she cried, and said I did not know all she did about her wickedness. She must have referred to that night. I can forgive her; for she is a poor ignorant girl, and much afraid of Julia. But how could my own sister do me so great a wrong, and what could have been her object?"
Here Fanny burst into tears, while Kate gave vent to her indignation by expressing her opinion pretty freely of Miss Julia.
"I can see," said she, "what Julia's object was. I fancy she was always fearful lest my brother should like Fanny the best; and she probably took this method to make you both think meanly of Fanny."
"Your idea is, probably, the correct one," said Mr. Miller, who would have added more, but Kate interrupted him by saying, "Yes, I think I understand it all now. Julia is, probably, at the foundation of Dr. Lacey's neglect. Most likely she's been writing him some base falsehood."
"Dr. Lacey's neglect!" repeated Mr. Miller. "What do you mean?"
Kate commenced an explanation, but Fanny started up, saying: "Please, Mrs. Miller, wait until I am gone."
She then quitted the apartment, and sought her own room, of which Julia had been sole occupant for more than an hour. On her return from school this hopeful young lady was pleased to find her sister absent. Seating herself near the window, with paper and pencil, she began the composition of that letter, which, as we have said, widened the breach between Dr. Lacey and Fanny. This unhallowed work cost her a world of pains. Many times were the lines crossed out and rewritten, before they quite suited her. The letter was but half completed, when Fanny was heard coming slowly through the upper hall. Springing up, Julia darted through the window out upon the balcony, and by the time Fanny reached the room she was seated at the furthest end of the veranda, busily engaged with her forgery.
When she at last returned to the room, and tried to converse with her sister, she observed that Fanny shrank from her approach and that she had been weeping. In a very ironical tone Julia said, "What now is the matter? I declare, Fan, I believe you are a perfect little simpleton. I wouldn't be such a cry baby, anyway; and make so much fuss about one good-for-nothing doctor."
Fanny replied very calmly, and without once taking her eyes from her sister's face, "If you think I have been crying about Dr. Lacey, you are mistaken."
"Pray what did you cry for?" said Julia, laughingly. "Did somebody look sideways at you, or omit to call you by some pet baby name?"
"I cried," said Fanny, "because I feared you had been acting very wickedly toward me."
In an instant Julia's assurance left her. The bright color forsook her cheek, which became perfectly white. Fanny noticed the change, and it confirmed her fears. She did not know that the circumstances to which she alluded had long since faded from Julia's memory, and that her present agitation arose from the fear that she might have been detected in her work of deception, and that, after all, she might be foiled and entangled in her own meshes. A glance of intense anger flashed from her large black eye, as she muttered between her closed teeth: "Has the wretch dared to betray me?"
Fanny supposed she referred to Luce; and her first feeling was to save the helpless servant girl from Julia's displeasure; so she said, "Do not condemn Luce; she did not tell me. I received my information from our teacher, Mr. Miller."
"Luce! Mr. Miller! What do you mean?" asked Julia, her eyes lessening to their usual size, and the color again coming to her cheeks and lips. This sudden change in her sister's appearance puzzled Fanny; but she proceeded to relate what she had just heard from Mr. Miller. Julia was so much relieved to find her fears unfounded, and her darling secret safe, that she burst into a loud laugh, which she continued for some time. During this fit of laughter, she was determining whether it were best to confess the whole and seem sorry for it, or to strenuously deny it. Finally, she decided on the former, but resolved not to give the right reason for her conduct; so she said, with an air of great penitence: "Yes, Fanny, I am guilty, and I am glad you know it, too. I have been on the point of acknowledging it to you many times, but shame kept me silent."
"How could you do it, and what did you do it for?" asked Fanny.
Julia replied, "Truth compels me to say that I feared your influence over Mr. Wilmot. I knew how much he admired amiability in females, and I wished to make him think you were no more amiable than other people."
"And yet you say you never cared for his love," continued Fanny.
Miss Julia was getting cornered; but her evil genius did not forsake her, and she answered, "True, I did not care much for him; but I felt flattered with his attentions and I ardently desired to have one person prefer me to you. I know it was wicked in me to do what I did, but you will forgive me, will you not? And I will promise never again to act so deceitfully toward you."
Always sincere in what she said herself, Fanny could not think her sister otherwise; so her hand was extended in token of forgiveness. Julia took it, and raising it to her lips, kept it there for an instant, in order to conceal the treacherous smile of exultation which played round her mouth. "I shall yet triumph," thought she, and, in the exuberance of her joy, she kissed again the soft hand which she held in her grasp. Could Fanny have looked into the heart of her sister, and beheld all its dark designs, she would have fled from her presence as from a poisonous serpent. But, though she was deceived, there was one, the All-seeing One, whose eye was ever upon the sinful girl; and though for a while she seemed to prosper, the same mighty Power so ordered it, that after a time, she who had sown the tempest reaped the whirlwind; and the clouds which hung so heavy and dark around the pathway of her innocent victim, afterward burst with terrific violence upon her own head.
We will now return to Mrs. Miller, whom we left relating to her husband the supposed neglect of Dr. Lacey. She finished her narrative by saying, "I cannot help thinking that by some means, Julia is at the foundation of all this mischief. You and Dr. Lacey were good friends; suppose you write to him, and then we shall at least know the truth of the matter."
"Yes, I will," said Mr. Miller; "tomorrow."
"But why not write tonight?" asked Kate, who was in a hurry.
"Because," answered Mr. Miller, "I shall be engaged tonight and tomorrow will do as well."
Kate could not help feeling that, possibly, "tomorrow" might not do as well; but she said no more on the subject, and waited patiently for the morrow, when, true to his promise, her husband commenced the important letter. We have said that Mr. Miller had never liked Julia. In this letter, however, he spoke as favorably of her as he could; but he told how basely she had once deceived himself and Mr. Wilmot, with regard to Fanny, and also hinted his own and his wife's suspicion, that, in some way or other, Julia was connected with Dr. Lacey's long silence, as well as with the heartless letter which Fanny had received from New Orleans.
"Yes, this will do," said Kate, as she read what her husband had written. "But," she added, "I cannot help feeling sorry that it was not sent yesterday."
"Oh, Kate," said Mr. Miller, gayly, "your anxiety for Fanny has made you nervous, and now you are almost superstitious. One day can make no possible difference in the result of this letter."
Afterward, when it was too late, he learned how much difference the delay of one day caused. By its means, that letter which would have set all right, was sent in the same package with Julia's amiable production, and, as we have seen, was not received by its owner, but was safely stowed away in a cigar box under ground.
Soon after Mr. Miller deposited his letter in the post office, a young girl, closely veiled, entered the same building, and looked anxiously round until her eye fell upon her accomplice, Mr. Dunn. That worthy young man instantly came forward, grinning and bowing, and almost upsetting another clerk, who was also hastening to wait upon the beautiful Miss Middleton.
"Good morning, Miss Julia!" said Mr. Dunn; "glad to see you. Fine morning."
Julia did not deign to reply, for Mr. Dunn's familiarity was exceedingly disgusting to her. She, however, handed him her letter, which he looked at in some surprise, and said in a low tone, "Is this letter from Fanny, or you?"
"From me; send it," answered Julia, at the same time managing to slip an eagle into the hands of the honest clerk.
Leaving the office, the young lady proceeded homeward, thinking to herself, "There, that will settle him, I hope. I am getting on swimmingly."
When Mr. Miller entered his room, on his return from the office, Kate said, "In the course of two weeks, you or Fanny or both, will hear from Dr. Lacey."
"Do not be too sanguine, Katy," answered Mr. Miller: "you may be disappointed."
"Well," continued Kate, "if he pays no attention to your letter, I shall be satisfied that he really is undeserving of Fanny's esteem. I'll not tell her that you have written, for fear of the consequence."
So days came and went, week followed week, in rapid succession, until five weeks were numbered with the past since Mr. Miller's letter had been dispatched. Kate had waited and watched until even her sanguine nature had ceased to hope; for there had come no tidings from the far off Crescent City, and both she and her husband had unwillingly come to the conclusion that Dr. Lacey was really false. Kate manifested her disappointment by an increased tenderness of manner toward Fanny, whom she sincerely loved, and by a more gracious deportment toward Julia, whom she began to fear she had wronged by suspecting her of being accessory to Dr. Lacey's conduct.
FANNY AND JULIA'S UNCLE ARRIVES FROM INDIA
It was now the first day of May, and as it was also Fanny's seventeenth birthday, her school companions determined to celebrate it by a May party, of which Fanny was unanimously chosen queen. The fete took place in a handsome grove on a hillside which overlooked the city of Frankfort. All of Mr. Miller's pupils were present, together with most of their parents and many of their friends. Mrs. Miller had taken great pains that Fanny should be arrayed becomingly for the occasion, and many and flattering were the compliments paid to the youthful queen, who indeed looked bewitchingly beautiful.
Her dress was a white muslin, festooned with wild flowers, some of which were fastened here and there by a pearl or brilliant. The gayety of the little party was at its height, and when Fanny, gracefully kneeling, received upon her head the crown, and was proclaimed "Queen of the May," a strange voice called out in loud, musical tones, "Viva la Reine." The whole company instantly caught up the words, and "Long live the Queen" was echoed and re-echoed on all sides.
When the tumult had somewhat subsided the eyes of those present were turned toward the spot whence the words "Viva la Reine" had proceeded. Leaning against one of the tall shade trees were two gentlemen, who had joined them unobserved. The elder of the strangers was a middle-aged man, in whose piercing black eyes and dark complexion we recognize the Mr. Middleton whom we left with Dr. Lacey in New Orleans. His companion was many years younger, and there was something in his appearance which instantly interested and attracted the notice of strangers. There was a nobleness in the intellectual cast of his high, white forehead, round which his rich brown hair lay in thick masses, as if unwilling to part with the curl which must have been natural to it in childhood.
No sooner did Kate's eyes fall on the young man than she darted forward with a cry of recognition and exclaimed, "Why, Frank Cameron, how came you here?"
But before he answers Kate's question, we will introduce him to our readers. Frank Cameron was a cousin of Kate Wilmot. His father, who was a lawyer by profession, had amassed a large fortune, on the interest of which he was now living in elegant style in the city of New York. Frank, who was the eldest child, had chosen the profession of his father, contrary to the wishes of his proud lady mother, who looked upon all professions as too plebeian to suit her ideas of gentility. This aristocratic lady had forgotten the time when, with blue cotton umbrella and thick India rubbers, she had plodded through the mud and water of the streets in Albany, giving music lessons for her own and widowed mother's maintenance. One of her pupils was Kate Wilmot's mother, Lucy Cameron. While giving lessons to her she first met Lucy's brother, Arthur Cameron, who afterward became her husband. He was attracted by her extreme beauty and his admiration was increased on learning her praiseworthy efforts to maintain herself and mother. They were married, and with increasing years came increasing wealth, until at length Mr. Cameron was a millionaire and retired from business.
As riches increased, so did Mrs. Cameron's proud spirit, until she came to look upon herself as somewhat above the common order of her fellow-beings. She endeavored to instil her ideas of exclusiveness into the minds of her children. With her daughter Gertrude, she succeeded admirably, and by the time that young lady had reached her eighteenth year, she fancied herself a kind of queen to whom all must pay homage. But Frank the poor mother found perfectly incorrigible. He was too much like his father to think himself better than his neighbor on account of his wealth. Poor Mrs. Cameron had long given him up, only asking as a favor that he would not disgrace his family by marrying the washerwoman's daughter. Frank promised he would not, unless perchance he should fall in love with her, "And then," said he, with a wicked twinkle of his handsome hazel eyes, "then, my dear Mrs. Cameron, I cannot be answerable for consequences."
He had always greatly admired his cousin Kate, and often horrified his mother by declaring that if Kate were not his cousin, he would surely marry her. "Thank the Lord, then, that she is so near a relative! For now you will not stoop to marry a music teacher," said Mrs. Cameron.
The old roguish expression danced in Frank's eye, as he said, "Most noble mother Adelaide, will you tell me whether it wrenched father's back much when he stooped to a music teacher?"
The highly indignant lady was silent, for Frank had a way of reminding her of the past, which she did not quite relish; so she let him alone, secretly praying that he would not make a fool of himself in his choice of a wife. He bade her be easy on that point, for 'twasn't likely he would ever marry, for he probably would never find a wife who would suit him.
Such was Frank Cameron. Business for his father had taken him to Louisville, and he determined to visit his cousin Kate ere he returned home. He took passage in the Blue Wing, on board of which was Mr. Middleton, who soon made his acquaintance. As they were bound for the same place, they kept together, and on reaching Frankfort, went immediately to Mrs. Crane's, where they were entertained by Mrs. Carrington, who wondered much who the distinguished looking strangers could be. Concluding that the older one must of course be married, she turned her attention to Frank, who was much amused at her airs and coquettish manners. He had inquired for Mrs. Miller, and at length Mrs. Carrington asked if she were an acquaintance of his.
"Yes, ma'am," answered Frank with great gravity, "she is my wife's cousin."
In an instant Mrs. Carrington's coquetry vanished, and rising upon her dignity, she soon gave the gentlemen directions where to find the May party. As they were proceeding thither, Mr. Middleton said, "Why, Cameron, I understood you to say on the boat that you were not married."
"Neither am I," answered Frank. "I merely wished to get a dissolving view of that lady's maneuvers. Besides, I was actually afraid of being annihilated by her eyes and smiles. I'll manage to let her know that you are marketable, and then she'll turn her artillery toward you."
"But was it quite right," said Mr. Middleton, "to give her a wrong impression?"
"No, I suppose not," answered Frank. "But if I ever marry, Kate will be my wife's cousin."
By this time they had reached the entrance of the grove and caught sight of the fair queen. "The fates protect me!" said Frank, suddenly stopping and planting himself against a tree. "It would be suicide to advance another step. And she is your niece, you say. Pray intercede for me, or in less than a month I shall be making faces through the iron grating of some madhouse."
Mr. Middleton did not reply. His eyes were riveted on Fanny, whose face and figure recalled to his remembrance his only sister, who was the playmate of his childish years. Many long years had rolled away since that bright summer morning, when with a sad heart he bade adieu to that sister, who, a young happy bride, was leaving her native land for a home on a foreign shore. Weeks passed, and there came intelligence that the ill-fated vessel in which she embarked was a total wreck. Among the lost were his sister and her husband, who now slept quietly beneath the billowy surf of the Atlantic.
Fanny so strongly resembled her Aunt that it was not strange Mr. Middleton for an instant fancied he again looked on the features of his long-lost sister. But the illusion soon vanished, and when Kate bounded forward and saluted her cousin, his eye was wandering over the group of young girls in quest of his other niece. He, however, looked in vain. Julia was not there. When urged to attend the party, she had tossed her head in scorn saying that she unfortunately had no taste for child's play. She preferred remaining at home, where she could spend her time more profitably. Oh, Julia, Julia! It is a pity you did not assign your true reason for absenting yourself from the party. Of this reason we will speak hereafter. We are not quite through with the May party.
We left Kate interrogating her cousin as to how he chanced to be there, and the remainder of the company looked in wonder upon the strangers, who seemed so suddenly to have dropped in their midst. After Frank had answered his cousin's question, he introduced his companion and said, "He has two nieces here, I believe. He has recognized one of them in your charming queen. Will you please point out the other and introduce him?"
"I am sorry to say Julia is not present," answered Kate. "But come with me, Mr. Middleton," continued she, "and I will present you to Fanny." Then turning to Frank, she added, "I remember you to be a woman-hater, master Frank, so you can remain where you are."
"I'd laugh to see myself doing it," answered Frank, as he followed his gay cousin to the spot where Fanny was standing. All eyes were upon them, while Kate introduced the tall, distinguished-looking gentleman to Fanny as her uncle.
"My uncle!" said Fanny, in some surprise. "My uncle!"
A slight shade of disappointment was visible on Mr. Middleton's face, as he took the offered hand of his niece, but he said, "Yes, your uncle. Did you never hear your father speak of his brother Bill?"
"Oh, yes, yes," said Fanny joyfully. "I do know you now. You are my Uncle William from the Indies. Father will be delighted to see you, for he has long feared you were dead." At the same time the affectionate girl again took her uncle's hand and raised it to her lips.
The tears started to Mr. Middleton's eyes, but hastily dashing them away, he said, "I suppose the fair Queen Fanny knows that bad bills always return?"
Fanny replied by again kissing the sunburned hand of her uncle. "King Ferdinand!" thought Frank, "I'd endure the rack for the sake of being in the old fellow's boots." Frank had been standing near Fanny, fixing upon her a gaze so intensely earnest that when she at last raised her eyes to his she blushed deeply, for there was no mistaking the look of deep admiration with which he regarded her.
Kate immediately introduced him. Fanny received him very politely, but said playfully, "I was in hopes, Mr. Cameron, that you would prove to be my cousin."
Mr. Middleton immediately answered, "No, dear Fanny, he is not your cousin, but he seems very desirous of becoming my nephew."
Fanny did not apply this to herself, but answered very demurely, "I don't know what he'll do, uncle. You'll have to talk the matter over with sister Julia, who unfortunately is not here."
"You are a modest little puss," said Mr. Middleton. "But do you give up everything so quietly to Julia?"
Fanny answered somewhat sadly, "I've nothing to give."
Here Mr. Miller joined them, and said it was time to make preparations for returning' home. Accordingly in a short time the company were dispersing. When our party reached Mrs. Crane's, Fanny went directly to Julia, whom she found most becomingly dressed, and apparently anxiously awaiting her return.
That excellent young lady had heard from Mrs. Carrington of the strangers' visit, and she was impatient to know who they were and had dispatched a negro girl to reconnoiter and report. The girl soon came back, her eyes projecting like coffee saucers, and the little braided tags of her hair seemingly standing upright.
"Oh, Miss Julia!" said she, "that ar' tall, black man—no, I ax yer pardon, miss—that ar' tall, yaller man, done shook hands 'long of Miss Fanny, who kissed him, and called him Uncle William. She said how he done been with the Injuns."
"Her Uncle William!" repeated Julia, in amazement. "And who is the other man? His son?"
"Yes, reckon so," said the negro. "They done call him Mr. Camel, or Camlet, or suthin. I tell you he's han'some; and I reckon he's tuk with Miss Fanny. Jiminy hoecake! Ain't she pooty? She looked a heap han'somer than you—no, I don't mean so—I axes pardon agin." And the negro bobbed out of the door just in time to dodge a ball of soap which Julia hurled at her head.
"It's no use fretting so," said Mrs. Carrington, who was present. "The young man is married, for he spoke of his wife."
Julia did not answer, and Mrs. Carrington soon after left the room. When she was gone, Julia muttered to herself, "Uncle William, from the Indies; rich as Croesus, of course. What a fool I was not to go to the party. Most likely Fanny has won his good graces by this time. However, I'll dress myself and surprise him with my beauty, if nothing else."
Accordingly, the next hour was spent in decorating her person, and when Fanny came for her she was ready to make an assault upon the good opinion of her rich uncle. Not a thing was out of place, from the shining braids of her dark hair to the tiny slipper on her delicate foot.
Fanny's first exclamation on entering the room was, "How beautiful you look, Julia! It is exceedingly fortunate that you are dressed so becomingly; for, will you believe it, Uncle William is down stairs!"
"Is it possible?" said Julia, affecting much surprise.
"Yes," answered Fanny. "You know father thinks him dead. But come, he is anxious to see you."
Julia arose to go with her sister, and said, "Isn't there a young man with him?"
"How did you know that?" asked Fanny, in some astonishment.
"I saw them from the window," was Julia's ready reply.
Fanny did not think of doubting her sister, and she answered, "It is a Mr. Cameron. He is cousin to Mrs. Miller."
By this time they had reached the parlor, which was open. Here Julia thought proper to be seized with a fit of modest indifference, and hesitated a moment before entering the room. Her uncle, however, immediately came forward, and relieved her from all embarrassment by saying, "And this, I suppose, is Julia. My brother is a happy man to be father of such charming girls."
Julia received him graciously, but rather haughtily offered him her cold white hand. "I will not kiss him," thought she; "Fanny did that. It's too childish. I'll he more dignified." Could she have known the contrast which her uncle was drawing between her own and Fanny's reception of him she would not have felt much flattered; but before her uncle had time to say anything further, Fanny introduced her to Frank, whose keen eye had read her character at a glance, and read it aright, too. His ideas and words were after the following fashion:
"Pshaw! What a bundle of pride and stuck-up-ishness! She's handsome, though, but it isn't to be named the same day with Fanny,"—"How do you do, Miss Middleton?"—"What an affected little courtesy!"—"Hope to see you well, ma'am."—"I'd laugh to see her trip and fall flat."
Such were Frank's thoughts while undergoing the ceremony of an introduction to Julia, who never for a moment doubted she was making an impression upon the handsome young stranger, his supposed wife to the contrary notwithstanding. The introduction being over, Julia seated herself on the sofa, while Fanny took a seat on a low ottoman near her uncle, but partially behind him. She had chosen this place, because she fancied it would screen her somewhat from Frank's eyes, which she felt, rather than saw, were fixed upon her constantly.
During the conversation which followed, Julia, as if by mere accident, mentioned New Orleans. She was anxious to know whether her uncle saw or heard of Dr. Lacey. Her curiosity was soon gratified, for, at the mention of New Orleans, as if suddenly recollecting himself, said, turning to Fanny, "I saw two of your acquaintances in New Orleans, and one of them gave me a most glowing description of you."
"I wonder if it were a gentleman," thought Frank.
Julia's thoughts were similar, and she bit her lip, while Fanny's cheek glowed with unwonted brilliancy as she quietly asked, "Pray, who was it uncle?"
"It was Miss Woodburn who praised you so highly," answered Mr. Middleton.
Julia immediately asked, "And who was the other acquaintance?"
"Dr. Lacey," answered her uncle. "I spent three weeks at his house."
Without knowing it, Fanny drew nearer to her uncle and laid her hand on his. He seemed dearer to her from the fact that he had spent so much time with one whose image was ever before her, and whom she vainly fancied she was trying to forget.
Frank noticed Fanny's manner, and interpreted it according to his fears. "There's mischief here," thought he. "I hope this doctor lives in a good locality for yellow fever."
"Is Dr. Lacey about to be married?" asked Julia.
"Married," repeated Mr. Middleton; "I should say matrimony was very far from his thoughts at present. I fancied he had met with some disappointment and I sometimes feared lest the fair, deceitful one were one of my nieces. Can any one set me right on the subject?"
Mr. Middleton had no idea how painfully his words affected her who sat by his side, and looked up so imploringly in his face, as if begging him to stop. There was an embarrassing silence, which Julia presently broke, by saying, "While Dr. Lacey was here, he and Fanny got up a flirtation; but nothing serious will result from it, I reckon."
"It's Fanny's own fault, then, I imagine," said Mr. Middleton, laying his hand on the head which had drooped lower and lower, until at last it rested heavily on his knee.
Fanny made no reply; but when she lifted up her head there was something so sad in the expression of her face that Mr. Middleton immediately surmised that there was, or had been, something between Dr. Lacey and Fanny more serious than a mere flirtation; so he very kindly changed the conversation, which now turned upon indifferent subjects, until the supper bell rang out its summons, when they all repaired to the dining room.
At the supper table Mr. Middleton and Frank were introduced to Mrs. Carrington, Mr. Stanton and Raymond. Mrs. Carrington acknowledged her introduction to Mr. Cameron merely by a haughty, disdainful bow. She had learned from Kate that he was not married; and feeling indignant at the deception he attempted to practice upon her, she resolved to treat him with contempt. Accordingly, although seated opposite him, she deigned him neither look nor word, but divided her time between laughing and coquetting with Raymond, and trying the power of her charms upon Mr. Middleton, who, she had been told, was a bachelor, and possessed of unbounded wealth. With the old Indian, however, she made but little headway; and Frank was right when he thought, "You'll get tired of that play, madam; the game is too old to be caught with chaff." With Raymond she succeeded better. He was delighted with her unusually flattering notice; and ere supper was over he had, in Frank's estimation, made a perfect fool of himself.
Frank's attention was, however, soon diverted toward Mr. Middleton, who said, speaking to Stanton, "Were it not for your name and glasses, I would address you as Dr. Lacey. Are you related to him?"
Stanton replied, "Yes, sir; he is my cousin. I think I must resemble him, as I have been told so frequently."
Mr. Middleton then spoke of Dr. Lacey in the highest terms of commendation, and concluded his remarks by saying, "I have recently purchased a residence, near Lake Pontchartrain, and am beating up recruits to spend the summer there with me. I am sure of Dr. Lacey, Miss Woodburn, and her cousin, Miss Mortimer. My nieces I shall take back with me, any way, and shall be happy to prevail on you, Mr. Stanton, to accompany me also."
Stanton thanked him for his kind invitation, but at the same time declined it, saying that business would call him to New York in the autumn. The deep blush which accompanied these words caused Raymond to burst into a laugh. Mr. Middleton looked inquiringly at him and he said, "Pardon me for laughing; I was thinking of the important business which calls Bob to New York."
"Nothing bad, I hope," said Mr. Middleton.
"Nothing worse than going for a wife," answered Raymond. "He is not suited with Kentucky girls, but must needs plod back to New York."
"If appearances do not deceive, you, at least, seem likely to be suited by a Kentuckian," replied Mr. Middleton, at the same time turning his black eyes on Mrs. Carrington with something of a quizzical expression.
Raymond colored. He did not know how the speech would be received by the fair lady. She soon satisfied him, however; for tossing her head proudly, she said, "As far as my experience goes, New Yorkers are more easily suited than Kentuckians; at least, I find them to be exceedingly disagreeable."
"I am afraid some of them are so easily suited that they catch a Tartar sometimes," said Frank, whose feelings were roused at hearing this rude speech.
Mrs. Carrington gave him a look which she meant should say, "I wonder who you think you are. I'd thank you to mind your own business."
But Frank thought he was minding his business; for he was looking at Fanny, who had not taken her eyes from her plate since her uncle had proposed taking herself and Julia to New Orleans. Her first feeling was one of joy. She would go, for she would then see Dr. Lacey; but the next thought was, "No, I will not. He has spurned me, and why should I put myself in his way?"
Julia's feelings were different. She could scarcely conceal her delight. Her artful mind took in the future at a glance. She felt sure that Fanny would not go; but she would, and could thus make Dr. Lacey believe that she, of all others, was just suited for him. Here we may as well give Julia's real reason for absenting herself from the May party. She had begun to fear that all her fine scheming might come to naught; for in all probability Dr. Lacey would not return to Kentucky in a long time. What could she do? She would write him a letter in her own name. In it she would modestly express her opinion of Fanny's conduct; sympathize with him in his disappointment, and end by inviting him to Frankfort, saying she hoped he would not absent himself from his friends on Fanny's account; for there were many who would welcome him back to Kentucky with pleasure. It was for the sake of manufacturing this letter that Julia had remained at home. But now there was no need of sending it, for she was going to New Orleans herself. She would win him. He would yet be hers.
On returning to the parlor after supper she seated herself close to her uncle, upon whom she lavished so many caresses that he wondered much what had come over her, and began to think that he was mistaken in supposing her to be cold-hearted and indifferent to him. As he looked at her beautiful, animated face, and the sparkling brilliancy of her eyes, he felt a moment's vanity in thinking how proud he would be to introduce her as his niece among the fashionables of New Orleans.
During the evening Mr. Ashton called. He had heard of the arrival of a Mr. Middleton from the Indies, and he had his own particular reason for wishing to see him. Soon after entering the room, he addressed Mr. Middleton, saying, "Were you in Calcutta twelve years ago?"
"Yes, sir; I was there twenty years ago," answered Mr. Middleton.
"Do you remember transacting business with the captain of the English vessel 'Delphine'?"
Mr. Middleton thought a moment and then answered, "Yes, I remember that vessel and its captain well."
"And do you remember a poor cabin boy, who was sick and worn out with the ship fever?" continued Mr. Ashton.
"Oh, yes, yes; I remember him well," said Mr. Middleton. "I had him removed to my own house, and nursed him until he was nearly well; and then, he one night ran away from me. I have never heard from him since; but there was an American vessel anchored near the shore, and I always supposed he went on board and sailed for home. I would give much to know what became of him."
"He stands before you," said Mr. Ashton, rising and grasping Mr. Middleton's hand. "He is here to thank you for your kindness, and is both able and willing to repay you for the care you took of him who was alone and friendless in a distant land."
"Can it be," said Mr. Middleton, with much emotion, "that you really are Henry Ashton? I should never have recognized you."
"I presume not," answered Ashton. "Twelve years have transformed the pale, emaciated youth into the tall, full-grown man. But I should have known you anywhere."
Here Raymond called out, "Why Ashton, have you been to the Indies? Why did you never tell us?"
"Because," replied Ashton, "there was so much of homesickness and suffering attending that voyage to India that I never like to speak of it." Then turning to Mr. Middleton, he said, "I have met your brother often, but never suspected him to be a relative of yours. Have you seen him yet?"
"I have not," answered Mr. Middleton. "I intend visiting him tomorrow, and shall be glad, to take as many of you with me as are willing to go. I wish to be introduced to him as a Mr. Stafford from New Orleans."
After some further conversation it was arranged that Mr. Miller, Ashton, Stanton, Raymond and Cameron should all accompany Mr. Middleton on his projected visit to his brother. Soon after Mr. Ashton departed for his boarding place, and the remainder of the company separated for the night.
MR. MIDDLETON'S BROTHER
Julia's first exclamation, on waking the next morning, was, "I am glad I am not expected to go home with uncle today, and see father make a precious fool of himself, as he surely will."
"How can you say so, Julia?" answered Fanny. "I wish I was going, for I think I could smooth father down a little if he got to using too strong language."
"Nonsense, Fan," said Julia. "Why don't you confess that you wish to go because that handsome Cameron is going? Didn't I see how much he looked at you, and how you blushed, too? But no matter. I would get him, if I were you!"
Julia was getting very generous, now that she thought herself sure of Dr. Lacey. Further remark from her, however, was prevented by the ringing of the breakfast bell.
"What shall I tell your parents?" said Mr. Middleton to his nieces, as he stood in the hall, waiting for the driver to open the carriage door and let down the steps.
Julia made no reply, but Fanny said, "Give them my love, and tell them I am getting better every day, and shall want to come home soon," and then she added, in a lower tone, "You will not laugh at father much, will you, or make fun of him either, if he acts oddly?"
"God bless you, sweet girl," said Mr. Middleton, stooping to kiss the innocent face which looked up into his with so much earnestness. "For your sake, if for no other, your father shall not be laughed at."
As the carriage drove off, Julia turned to Fanny and said, "Won't they have fun, though, with the old man? I can fancy it all. Father's beard will probably be long enough to do up in papers, and it will be a miracle if he does not have on those horrid old bagging pants of his."
Fanny was only too fearful it would all be as Julia predicted, but she made no answer, and soon returned to her room.
We will now follow the carriage, which, with its load of gentlemen, was proceeding rapidly toward the house of our friend Uncle Joshua. Mr. William Middleton, or Mr. Stafford, as we will call him for a time, seemed to grow excited as he approached nearer to a brother whose face he had not looked upon for more than twenty long years.
"I say, boys," said he, speaking to his companions, "you must help me, and when I begin to ask Joshua concerning his parents and brothers, you, too, must talk, or he will suspect I have some design in questioning him."
The gentlemen all promised to do their best, except Frank, who could promise nothing, because he knew nothing concerning the man they were going to visit. His curiosity, however, was aroused, and forgetting the presence of Mr. William Middleton, "Do they keep the old fellow caged? And must we pay anything for seeing him?"
These questions were greeted by a burst of laughter, and Raymond said, "No—admittance is free, but you'll be more amused to see him and hear him talk than you would in visiting Barnum's Museum!"
By this time the carriage had entered the woods, and they came in sight of the house. Mr. Stafford leaned from the window, and said, "Is it possible that my brother, with all his wealth, lives in such a heathen place as this?"
"When you see him," said Raymond, "you'll think the nest just suited the bird."
They were now in the yard, which was so filled with farming utensils that the driver found it difficult to effect a passage up to the door. The gentlemen were about concluding to alight where they were, when Mr. Middleton was heard calling out, "Ho, thar, driver, don't run agin that ar ox-cart; turn a leetle to the right, can't ye? Now be keerful and not run afoul of the plaguey lye leech. I b'lieve the niggers would move the hut, Josh and all, into the yard, if they could only make a raise!"
Mr. Stafford and Frank looked eagerly out at the speaker, who fully realized Frank's idea of him. His beard was as long and black as a rapid growth of three weeks could make it. As Julia had feared, he was dressed in his favorite bagging pants, which hung loosely, even around his huge proportions, and looked as if fitted to some of his outbuildings. He was very warm and he wore neither coat nor vest, while his feet, whose dimensions we have mentioned before, were minus either shoes or stockings. He appeared in the doorway buttoning one of his suspenders. The truth was he had spied the carriage in the distance, and as his linen was none the cleanest he hastened to change, and was now putting the finishing touch to his toilet. When he caught sight of the occupants of the carriage he thought to himself, "Thar's a heap on 'em. Nancy'll have to rout the whole gang of niggers, field hands and all, to huntin' hin's nests after eggs enough for dinner."
By this time the gentlemen had alighted, and Mr. Middleton went forward to receive them. "How d'ye do, how d'ye do?" said he; "I'm mighty glad you've come. I wish you'd brought the whole city."
"We came pretty near it, I think," said Mr. Miller, at the same time presenting Mr. Stafford and Mr. Cameron.
Mr. Middleton continued talking, as if replying to Mr. Miller's first remark. "No consequence, no consequence, Mr. Stafford, Mr. Cameron, how are you? The more the merrier. I s'pose they've told you all about Josh, so I needn't make b'lieve any—but come in—the house looks better inside than it does out." "Ho, Luce," continued he, "where the old boy is your mistress? Tell her thar's heaps of folks here, and mind tell Aunt Judy to get us up a whalin' dinner."
Here he stopped to take breath for a moment, and then proceeded. "You must excuse my rig, gentlemen, or rather, you must excuse what ain't rigged; mebby if I'd known all you city buggers was comin', I'd a kivered my bar feet."
"You go barefoot for comfort?" said Mr. Miller.
"Why, yes, mainly for that, I suppose," answered Mr. Middleton, "for I've got such fetchin' big corns on my feet that I ain't goin' to be cramped with none of your toggery. My feet happen to be clean, for I washed them in the watering trough this mornin'. How d'ye leave my gals?"
"They are well," answered Mr. Miller, "or rather Julia is, and Fanny is improving every day."
"I've often wondered," said Mr. Middleton, "what 'twas ailded Sunshine when she was sick. She didn't seem to have no disease in particular, and I reckon nothin's on her mind, for all's straight between her and Dr. Lacey, as far as I know."
"Dr. Lacey!" repeated Frank, without knowing what he said.
"Yes, Dr. Lacey; know him?" asked Mr. Middleton.
"No, sir," answered Frank, and Ashton rejoined, "I imagine he wishes Fanny had never known him."
Mr. Middleton turned, and for a moment regarded Frank intently. Frank stood the inspection manfully, and Mr. Middleton said, "You are from New York, hey? I like New Yorkers, and if Sunshine wasn't promised to Dr. Lacey and never had seen him, and I liked you, I'd as soon you'd have her as anybody."
Mr. Stafford now said that he was acquainted with Dr. Lacey, and proceeded to speak of the pleasant time he had spent with him. This occupied the time until dinner was ready.
"Come, haul up," said Mr. Middleton, "haul up; we didn't expect so many to dinner, but the old table'll stretch and you must set clus; but don't none of you step on my corns, for thunder's sake!"
Frank thought if his host kept on talking he should not be able to eat for laughing, but the old man was but just getting into the merits of the case!
When his guests were seated, he said to Mr. Stafford, "Your white neck cloth looks like you might belong to the clergy. If you do, you can say a short prayer over the eggs and bacon, but Lord's sake be spry, for I'm blarsted hungry!"
But for the remembrance of his promise to Fanny, Mr. Stafford would have screamed. It is needless to say that he declined his host's invitation, and the company began their dinner.
Suddenly Mr. Stafford asked if Mr. Middleton had any brothers.
"Yes—no, or, that is, I had one once," answered Mr. Middleton, "but he's deader than a door nail afore this, I reckon."
"And what makes you think he is dead?" asked Stafford.
"Why, you see," returned Mr. Middleton, "when our old pap died, something in the will stuck crossways in Bill's swaller, and he left college and put to sea, and I hain't heard from him in fifteen years."
"Did he look like you?" said Raymond.
"He was four years younger than I," answered Mr. Middleton, "but no more like me than Sunshine's pet kitten is like our old watch dog, Tige. He was soft like in his ways and took to book larnin mightily, and I'm—but everybody knows what old Josh is. Hold on thar! Save the pieces!" said he to Frank, who, unable longer to restrain his mirth, had deluged his plate with coffee.
"Pray excuse me," said Frank, mortified beyond measure at his mishap.
His discomfiture was, however, somewhat relieved by his companions, all of whom burst into a fit of laughter, in which Mr. Stafford heartily joined, forgetful of his promise to Fanny. By this time dinner was over and the company repaired to the porch, where Ashton and Raymond betook themselves to their cigars, while Mr. Middleton puffed away at his old cob pipe.
Mr. Stafford at length resumed the dinner table conversation by saying, "If I were you, Mr. Middleton, I would not give up my brother yet; 'Hope on, hope ever,' is my motto."
"Hope on," repeated Mr. Middleton. "I have hoped on till I am tired on't, and by spells I have dreams in which it seems like my brother was alive and had come back, and then my old gourd shell of a heart gives a thunderin' thump, and fetches me up wide awake. I hate dreams mightily, for it takes me an all-fired while to get to sleep all over, and when I do I hate to be waked up by a dream."
"I hope you'll live to see your brother, though," said Frank.
"No, I shan't," answered Mr. Middleton, again filling his cob pipe. "Everything that I loved has always died."
"Have you lost many friends?" asked Mr. Stafford.
"Considerable many," said Mr. Middleton, "considering how few I ever had. First, thar was mother died, when Bill and I was little boys; I remember how we cried when we stood by her grave, and I was so feared Bill would bust his jacket open that I whispered to him not to take on so, for I'd be his mother now. And then that night, which was the longest and darkest I ever knew, we took turn rocking and singing to our little baby sister, just as we had seen mother do."
Here he stopped a moment, and Raymond, who was rather impatient, said, "Don't stop; go on."
The old man wiped his eyes, and said, "Heavens and arth, don't hurry a feller so; can't you let him wait till the big bumps get out of his throat, or would you have me bellerin' here like a calf?"
"Take your time, Mr. Middleton," said Mr. Stafford, who was as much affected as his brother at the remembrance of that sad night, when he first felt what it was to be motherless.
After an instant, Mr. Middleton continued, "Directly that sister got big enough, she was married and started to go to England, but the vessel went to smash and the crew went to the bottom. Poor gal, she always hated salt, but she's used to it by this time, I reckon. Then there was pap died next, but he was old and gray-headed, and sick-hearted like, and he wanted to go, but it made it jest as bad for me. Then thar was Bill."
Here Mr. Stafford moved his chair so as to hide his face from the speaker, who continued, "I did think I might have one left, but 'twasn't to be. He went, too, and Josh was left alone."
Mr. Middleton cleared his throat a little, refilled his cob pipe, and proceeded. "The Lord gin me two gals, and then he sent me as noble a boy as ever was, I don't care where t'other comes from. He wasn't mine, but I loved him all the same. You, Mr. Miller, knew him, but you don't know—no, nor begin to know, how old Josh loved him, and what a tremendous wrench it gin my old heart when I come home and found he was dead. But, Lord, hain't he got a fine gravestun, though! You go to the cimetery at Frankford, and you'll see it right along side of Leftenant Carrington's, whose widow's a flirtin' with everybody in creation anyway, and Frankford sartin."
"I've now told you of all that's dead," continued he, striking the ashes out of his pipe and wiping it on his bagging trousers, "but I hain't told you yit what troubles me more than all. Thar's something haunts old Josh, and makes his heart stand still with mortal fear. Thar's Sunshine, dearer to her old pap than his own life. You've all seen her, and I reckon she's made some of your hearts ache; but something's come over her. She seems delicate like, and is fadin' away."
Here two big tears, that couldn't be mistaken, rolled down Mr. Middleton's cheeks, as he added emphatically, "and by Jehu, if Sunshine goes, old Josh'll bust up and go, too!"
The winding up of Uncle Joshua's story was so odd and unexpected that all the gentlemen, Mr. Stafford included, laughed loudly.
"'Tain't no laughin' matter, boys," said Mr. Middleton, "and so you'll all think if you ever have a gal as sweet and lovin' like as Sunshine."
Here Mr. Stafford said, "Your sister's name was Fanny, I believe."
"Yes, 'twas; who told you?" asked Mr. Middleton.
"No one. I knew it myself," answered Mr. Stafford, looking his brother earnestly in the face.
Mr. Middleton seemed puzzled, and after closely scrutinizing Mr. Stafford's features, he said, "Confound it, am I in a nightmare? I thought for a minute—but no, it can't be neither, for you've got too thunderin' black a hide to be Bill."
Before Mr. Stafford replies to this remark we will take the reader to the kitchen, where a group of negroes are assembled round old Aunt Katy, and are listening with breathless interest to what she is saying. Aunt Katy was so infirm that she kept her bed for the greater part of the time, but on this day she was sitting-up, and from her low cabin window she caught a view of the visitors as they alighted from the carriage. When Mr. Stafford appeared, she half started from her chair and said aloud, "Who upon airth can that be, and whar have I seen him? Somewhar, sartin."
It then occurred to her that she would go to the kitchen and inquire who "that tall, darkish-looking gentleman was." Accordingly she hobbled out to make the inquiry. She was much disappointed when she heard the name. "No," said she, "'tain't nobody I ever knowed, and yet how like he is to somebody I've seen."
Not long after the old negress again muttered to herself, "Go way now; what makes me keep a thinkin' so of Marster William this mornin'? 'Pears like he keeps hauntin' me." Then rising she went to an old cupboard, and took from it a cracked earthen teapot. From this teapot she drew a piece of brown paper, and opening it gazed fondly on a little lock of soft brown hair.
"Bless the boy," said she, "I mind jest how he looked when I cut this har from his head, the very day his mother was buried. Poor Marster William," continued she, "most likely he's gone to 'tarnity 'fore this time."
As she said this tears, which were none the less sincere because she who wept them belonged to Africa's sable race, fell upon the once bright but now faded lock of hair, which the faithful creature had for more than forty years preserved as a memento of him whom she had long since looked upon as dead, although she had never ceased to pray for him, and always ended her accustomed prayer, "Now I lay me—" with the petition that "God would take keer of Marster William and bring him home again." Who shall say that the prayer was not answered?
Going back to her seat, she took up her knitting and was soon living over the past, when she was young and dwelt with "the old folks at home." Suddenly there came from the house the sound of merry laughter. High above all the rest was a voice, whose clear, ringing tones made Katy start up so quickly that, as she afterward described it, "a sudden misery cotched her in the back, and pulled her down quicker." There was something in the sound of that laugh, which seemed to Katy like an echo of the past. "But," thought she, "I'm deaf like and mebby didn't hear straight. I'll go to the kitchen agin and hark."
In a few minutes she was in the kitchen and dropping down on the meal chest as the first seat handy, she said, "Ho, Judy, is you noticed the strange gentleman's laugh?"
"I hain't noticed nothing" answered Judy, who chanced to be out of sorts, because, as she said, "the white folks had done et up every atom of egg; they didn't even leave her the yaller of one!"
"Well, suthin in his laugh kerried me back to the old plantation in Carlina, and I b'lieve, between you and me, Judy, that Marster William's here," said Katy.
"Marster William, Marster William; what on airth do you mean?" asked Judy, forgetting the eggs in her surprise.
At the mention of "Marster William," who was looked upon as a great man, but a dead one, the little negroes gathered around, and one of them, our old friend, Bobaway, said, "Oh, Laddy, I hope 'tis Marster William, for Marster Josh'll be so tickled that he won't keer if we don't do nothin' for a week; and I needn't milk the little heifer, nuther! Oh, good, good!"
"You go long, you Bob," said Aunt Judy, seizing a lock of his wool between her thumb and finger, "let me catch you not milking the heifer, and I'll crack you."
Again there was the sound of laughter, and this time Judy dropped her dishcloth, while Katy sprang up, saying, "'Tis, I know 'tis; any way, I'll walk round thar as if for a little airin', and can see for myself."
Accordingly, old Katy appeared around the corner of the house just as Mr. Middleton had spoken to his brother of his color. The moment Mr. Stafford's eye rested on his old nurse, he knew her. Twenty years had not changed her as much as it had him. Starting up he exclaimed, "Katy, dear old mammy Katy," while she uttered a wild, exultant cry of joy, and springing forward threw her thin, shriveled arms around his neck, exclaiming, "My darling boy, my sweet Marster William. I knowed 'twas you. I knowed your voice. You are alive, I've seen you, and now old Katy's ready to die."
White as ashes grew the face of Uncle Joshua. The truth had flashed upon him, and almost rendered him powerless. Pale and motionless he sat, until William, freeing himself from Aunt Katy, came forward and said, "Joshua, I am William, your brother; don't you know me?"
Then the floodgates of Uncle Joshua's heart seemed unlocked, and the long, fervent embrace which followed between the rough old man and his newly-found brother made more than one of the lookers on turn away his face lest his companion should detect the moisture in his eyes, which seriously threatened to assume the form of tears.
When the first joy and surprise of this unexpected meeting was over, Mr. Joshua Middleton said, as if apologizing for his emotion, "I'm dumbly afeard, Bill, that I acted mighty baby-like, but hang me if I could help it. Such a day as this I never expected to see, and yet I have lain awake o' nights thinkin' mebby you'd come back. But such ideas didn't last long, and I'd soon give you up as a goner."
"That's jest what I never did," said Aunt Katy, who still stood near.
In the excitement of the moment she had forgotten that she had long thought of "Marster William" as dead; she continued, "A heap of prars I said for him, and it's chiefly owin' to them prars, I reckon, that he's done fished up out of the sea."
"I've never been in the sea yet, Aunt Katy," said Mr. Middleton, desirous of removing from her mind the fancy that any special miracle had been wrought in his behalf.
"Whar in fury have you been, and what's the reason you hain't writ these dozen years? Come, give us the history of your carryin's on," said Mr. Joshua Middleton.
"Not now," answered his brother. "Let us wait until evening, and then you shall hear my adventures; now let me pay my respects to your wife."
While he was introducing himself to Mrs. Middleton, Katy went back to the kitchen, whither the news had preceded her, causing Bob in his joy to turn several somersaults. In the last of these he was very unfortunate, for his heels, in their descent, chanced to hit and overturn a churn full of buttermilk! When Aunt Katy entered she found Bob bemoaning the backache, which his mother had unsparingly given him! Aunt Judy herself, having cleared away the buttermilk, by sweeping it out of doors, was waiting eagerly to know "if Marster William done axed arter her."
"Why, no, Judy," said Katy, somewhat elated because she had been first to recognize and welcome the stranger. "Why, no, I can't say he did, and 'tain't nateral like that he should set so much store by you, as by me. Ain't I got twenty years the start on you; and didn't I nuss him, and arter his mother died didn't I larn him all his manners?"
Aunt Judy was on the point of crying, when who should walk in but "Marster William" himself. "I am told," said he, "that Judy is here, Judy, that I used to play with."
"Lor' bless you, Marster William," exclaimed Judy, at the same time covering his hand with tears and kisses, "It's Judy, I is, I know'd you hadn't done forgot me."
"Oh, no, Judy," said he, "I have not forgotten one of you, but I did not know whether you were living or not, so I did not bring you presents, but I'll get you something, in a few days. Meantime take this," said he, slipping a silver dollar into the hands of Aunt Katy and Aunt Judy, each of whom showered upon him so many blessings and "thankes" that he was glad to leave the kitchen and return to his companions, who were talking to Uncle Joshua without getting any definite answer.
His brother's sudden return had operated strangely upon him, and for a time he seemed to be in a kind of trance. He would draw his chair up closely to William, and, after gazing intently at him for a time, would pass his large rough hand over his hair, muttering to himself, "Yes, it is Bill, and no mistake, but who'd a thought it?"
At last rousing himself he turned to his other guests, and said, "You mustn't think hard on me, if I ain't as peart and talkin' like for a spell; Bill's comin' home has kinder oversot the old man, and I'm thinkin' of the past when we's little boys and lived at home on pap's old plantation afore any of us was dead."
The young gentlemen readily excused the old man's silence, and when the slanting beams of the setting sun betokened the approach of night, they all, with the exception of Ashton, began to speak of returning home. Mr. Middleton urged them to stay, saying, "What's the use of goin'? Nancy's got beds enough, I reckon, and will be right glad of a chance to show her new calico kiverlids, and besides we are goin' to have some briled hen in the morning, so stay."
But as the next day was the Sabbath, the gentlemen declined the invitation, and bidding the host "good-bye," they were soon on their way homeward, each declaring that he had seldom spent a pleasanter day. As they can undoubtedly find their way to Frankfort without our assistance, we will remain at Uncle Joshua's together with Mr. William Middleton and Ashton. The latter felt as if he had suddenly found an old friend, and as nothing of importance required his presence at home, he decided to remain where he was until Monday.
That evening, after everything was "put to rights" and Mr. Middleton had yelled out his usual amount of orders, he returned to the porch, where his brother and Ashton were still seated. Lighting his old cob pipe he said, "Come, Bill, Nancy'll fetch out her rockin' cheer and knittin' work, and we'll hear the story of your doin's in that heathenish land, but be kinder short, for pears like I'd lived a year today, and I feel mighty like goin' to sleep."
After a moment's silence Mr. Middleton commenced: "I shall not attempt to justify myself for running away as I did, and yet I cannot say that I have ever seriously regretted visiting those countries, which I probably shall never look upon again. I think I wrote to you, Joshua, that I took passage on the ship Santiago, which was bound for the East Indies. Never shall I forget the feeling of loneliness which crept over me, on the night when I first entered the city of Calcutta, and felt that I was indeed alone in a foreign land, and that more than an ocean's breadth rolled between me and my childhood's home. But it was worse than useless to dwell upon the past. I had my fortune to make, and I began to look about for some employment. At last I chanced to fall in with an intelligent Spaniard, Signor de Castello. He was a wealthy merchant, and for several years had resided in Calcutta. As he spoke the English language fluently, I found no trouble in making his acquaintance.
"He seemed pleased with me and offered me the situation of clerk in his counting room. I accepted his offer, and also became an inmate of his dwelling, which was adorned with every conceivable luxury. His family consisted of himself and his daughter, Inez."
At the mention of Inez, Ashton half started from his chair, but immediately reseating himself, listened while Mr. Middleton proceeded: "I will not attempt to describe Inez, for I am too old now to even feel young again, by picturing to your imagination the beauty of that fair Spaniard. I will only say that I never saw one, whose style of beauty would begin to compare with hers, until I beheld my niece, Julia."
"Lord knows, I hope she wan't like Tempest," said Uncle Joshua, at the same time relieving his mouth of its overflowing contents.
"I do not know whether she were or not," answered Mr. Middleton, "I only know that Inez seemed too beautiful, too gentle, for one to suspect that treachery lurked beneath the soft glance of her dark eyes. I know not why it was, but Castello, from the first seemed to entertain for me a strong friendship, and at last I fully believe the affection he felt for me was second only to what he felt for his daughter. But he could not remain with us, and in eighteen months after I first knew him, he took one of the fevers common to that sultry climate, and in the course of a few days he was dead. I wrote to you of his death, but I did not tell you that he had left a will, in which all his immense wealth was equally divided between myself and Inez. He did not express his desire that we should marry, but I understood it so, and thenceforth looked upon Inez as belonging exclusively to myself."
"You didn't marry her, though, I take it," said Joshua, making a thrust at an enormous mosquito, which had unceremoniously alighted upon his brawny foot.
"No," answered William, "I did not marry her, but 'twas not my fault. She played me false. Six months after her father's death we were to be married. The evening previous to our wedding arrived. I was perfectly happy, but Inez seemed low-spirited, and when I inquired the cause she answered, 'Nothing, except a little nervous excitement.' I readily believed her; but when the morning came the cause of her low spirits was explained. The bird had flown, with a young Englishman, Sir Arthur Effingham, who had been a frequent guest at my house."
"That was one of Tempest's capers to a dot," said Uncle Joshua, "but go on, Bill, and tell us whether the disappointment killed you or not."
So William proceeded: "Instead of my bride, I found a note from Inez, in which she asked pardon for what she had done, saying she had long loved Sir Arthur, but did not dare tell me so. They were going to England, whither she wished me to send a part of her portion, as her husband was not wealthy. I could understand Inez's character perfectly, and could readily see that she preferred a titled but poor Englishman to a wealthy, but plain American, so I gave her up quietly."
"And was mighty glad to get shut of her so," interrupted Joshua.
"From that time," continued William, "I gave up all thoughts of marriage, and devoted myself to increasing my wealth, and spending it for my own comfort and the good of others. Twelve years ago I chanced to go on board the Delphine, and there I found Ashton."
"Look at him, for gracious sake," said Uncle Joshua, pointing toward Ashton. "Why man, you are as white as one of Judy's biscuit; what ails you?"
"Nothing," answered Ashton, who really was much affected by Mr. Middleton's narrative; but he said, "I am only thinking of the long, weary days I passed in the Delphine before Mr. Middleton kindly cared for me."
This seemed quite natural, and Mr. Middleton continued: "Ashton was wasted to a mere skeleton by ship fever, and my heart yearned toward him. Perhaps I felt a stronger sympathy for him when I learned that he was an American. He, like myself, had run away. The vessel, in which he had embarked, had been wrecked, and he, with two others, were saved in a small boat. For days they floated above the broad expanse of waters until at length the Delphine picked them up, and brought them to India. I had Ashton removed to my house, but as soon as he recovered, he took French leave of me. From that time I lived alone. I wrote to you frequently, but got no answer. My letters must have been lost, but I then concluded you were dead. At last I began to have such an ardent desire to tread my native soil once more that I disposed of my property and set out for home, so here I am and have told you my history; what do you think of it?"
There was no answer save the sound of heavy breathing; Uncle Joshua had probably got to sleep "all over." The cessation of his brother's voice awoke him, and rubbing his eyes he said, "Yes, yes, Ashton had the ship fever. I hope he can't give it now, for I'm mortal feared on't."
Ashton assured him there was no danger, and then, turning to William, said, "Have you ever heard from Inez?"
"Yes," said Mr. Middleton. "About a year after her marriage I heard of the birth of a daughter, whom she called Inez Middleton. I have heard of them once or twice since, but not recently."
After a moment's silence Ashton, with some hesitation, said, "If I mistake not, I know Inez Effingham well."
"You know Inez, my Inez—where—how—tell me all," said Mr. Middleton, grasping Ashton's hand as if a new link suddenly added to the chain of friendship which already bound them together.
"You probably remember," said Ashton, "that when I left you so suddenly there was an American vessel in port. I was anxious to return home, but fancied you would oppose it, so I left without a word, and went on board the ship. During the voyage, I found that one of the crew was from my native town. I eagerly inquired after my parents and my little sister Nellie, whom you so often heard me mention. Judge of my feelings when told that they were all dead. In the agony of the moment, I attempted to throw myself overboard, but was prevented. From that time all desire to return was gone, and when at last we stopped at one of the ports in England, I left the vessel to try my fortune in the mother country."
"But Inez," said Mr. Middleton, "what of Inez?"
"I will tell you," answered Ashton. "After remaining in England some years I became acquainted with her father, Sir Arthur Effingham, who lived forty miles from London. He invited me to visit his house and there I first saw Inez and her mother. To know Inez was to love her, but I could not hope to win the haughty Englishman's daughter, and besides she was so young that I did not believe I had made any impression upon her. But, encouraged by Lady Effingham, I at length ventured to ask Inez of her father. I did not wish to marry her then, as she was only fourteen, but her father spurned me with contempt, and bade me never again enter his house. I obeyed, but tried many times to procure an interview with Inez. I succeeded, and told her I was about to leave England for America, but should never forget her. I would not suffer her to bind herself to me by any promise, but expressed my belief that at some future time she would be mine. It is three years since we parted. I came immediately to America, but I could not bear to return to my old home, and see it occupied by others, so I wandered this way and at last settled in Frankfort as a merchant."
Here he stopped and Mr. Middleton said, "You have not told me of the mother. Does she still live?"
Ashton answered, "She was living when I left England, but Inez has since written me of her death."
"That will do, Ashton; that will do. I do not wish to hear any more now," said Mr. William.
While Mr. Middleton and Ashton were relating their adventures, Aunt Katy was busily engaged in superintending the arrangement of "Marster William's" sleeping room. Mrs. Middleton had bidden Judy to see that everything was put in order, but Aunt Katy seemed to think nothing could be done right unless she had an oversight of it. So she was walking back and forth, consulting with Judy a little and ordering her a good deal.
"Now, Judy," said she, "hain't you no more idees of ilegance than to push the bedstead smack up agin the clarbuds; just pull it out a foot or two, as old Miss use to do."
Judy complied with her request and she continued: "Lordy sakes—don't Miss Nancy know better than to put Marster William to sleep in such coarse sheets," at the same time casting a rueful glance at the linens which Judy had put upon the bed. "You set down, Judy," said Aunt Katy, "and I'll tend to the bed myself."
So saying she hobbled off to her cabin and opening her "old red chist," drew from it a pair of half-worn, but very fine linen sheets. These she shook most lustily in order to free them from the rose leaves, lavender sprigs and tobacco, which she had placed between their folds. With the former she thought to perfume them, while the latter was put there for the purpose of keeping out moths. The old creature had heard that tobacco was good to keep moths from woolens, and she knew of no reason why it would not answer every purpose for linen.
"Thar," said she, on returning to the house, "these begins to look a little like Marster William. They was gin to me by old marster, jest afore he died. They 'longed to old Miss, and if any one on us could read, I reckon we should find her name on 'em somewhar writ in brawdery."
When the bed and room were adjusted to her satisfaction, she went down to the kitchen and took a seat there. Here Aunt Judy found her about ten o'clock that night.
"What on airth you sittin' here for?" said she.
"Oh, I's only waitin' till Marster William gets a little used to his room afore I axes him how he likes it and does he want anything."
Accordingly, not long after, Aunt Katy stole upstairs and opening the door called out, "Ho, Marster William, does you want anything, and is you got enough kiver?"
But "Marster William's" senses were too soundly locked in sleep to heed the faithful creature, and after standing still a moment, she said to herself, "I'm mighty feared he'll cotch cold."
So back she went to her cabin and from the same "red chist" took a many-colored patchwork quilt. This she carried to the house and spread carefully over Mr. Middleton, saying, "He won't be none too comfortable, and in the mornin' he'll see it, and I'll tell him I done pieced and quilted it my own self."
The consequence of this extra covering was that Mr. Middleton awoke in the night with the impression that he was being suffocated in the hot climate of Calcutta! He did not know that she, to whom he was indebted for his warm berth, was now sleeping quietly and dreaming "how tickled Marster William would be when he knew she had lent him her spare sheets and bedquilt!"
FANNY REFUSES TO GO TO NEW ORLEANS
The next day was the Sabbath. Contrary to their usual custom on such mornings, Mr. Middleton and his negroes were astir at an early hour. The female portion of the latter were occupied in preparing a great breakfast in honor of "Marster William's" arrival, while Mr. Middleton busied himself in removing a part of his dark, heavy beard.
When William made his appearance in the sitting room, he was greeted by his brother with, "How are you, Bill? Hope you slept better than I did, for 'pears like I couldn't get asleep nohow, till toward mornin' and then I was mighty skeary about wakin' up, for fear I should find it all moonshine, and no Bill here after all." After a moment's pause, he added, "Whar's t'other chap? If he don't come down directly, the hen'll spile, for Judy's had it ready better than half an hour."
Ashton soon appeared, and the party did ample justice to Aunt Judy's well-cooked breakfast. That meal being over, Mr. Middleton said, "Now, boys, what do you say to goin' to meetin'? The Baptists have preachin', and I've a mind to go. How the folk'll stare though to see Bill. Say, will you go?"
The gentlemen signified their assent, and at the usual hour they proceeded to the church, which was situated about two miles from Mr. Middleton's. We are sorry for it, but truth compels us to say that on this day Uncle Joshua was not quite as devotional as usual. He was looking over the congregation to see what effect his brother's presence was producing. When he saw that no one exclaimed or turned pale, and that even the minister kept on the even tenor of his discourse, he inwardly accused them all of being "doughheads," and wondered he had never before discovered how little they knew. However, when meeting was over, the neighbors crowded around the old man, congratulating him on the unexpected return of his brother, whom they welcomed so warmly that Uncle Joshua began to think he had been too hasty in condemning them, for "after all, they knew a heap."
That night, after supper, Mr. Middleton was again seated in the little porch with his guests. They had been speaking of the sermon they had heard, when Mr. Middleton said, "That's the right kind of meetin' to my notion. A feller can sleep a bit if he feels like it; but whar my gals go, in Frankford, they have the queerest doin's—keep a gittin' up and sittin' down; 'pears like you don't moren't git fairly sot afore you have to hist up again, and you can't sleep to save you. Then they have streaked yaller and black prar books and keep a-readin' all meetin' time."
"Do your daughters prefer that church?" asked William.
"Why, yes," returned his brother; "or, that is, Dick, poor boy Dick, belonged thar; so did the young Leftenant Carrington; so does Dr. Lacey; and that's reason enough why Sunshine should prefer it. Tempest goes thar, I reckon, because its fashionable, and she can have a nice prar-book to show. You ought to see the one I bought for Sunshine. It's all velvety, and has gold clasps, with jest the word 'Sunshine' writ on it. Tempest has got a more common one. It didn't cost half as much."
"I notice that you make quite a distinction between your daughters," said William. "May I ask why you do it?"
Mr. Middleton stopped smoking and said, "If you please, Bill, I'd rather say nothin' about that now. I make it a rule never to swar Sundays, and if I got to goin' it about Tempest and the way she used poor Dick, I should have to swar and no mistake. Mebby you think I'd better not swar any time."
"Yes," answered William; "I should be glad if you would not. It is a bad habit, and I wish you would discontinue it."
"Well now, Bill," said Mr. Middleton, "Lord knows—no, I mean I know I've tried a heap of times to break off, and now I'll try again. I'll not cuss a word till I forget. Dick used to want me to stop, and when he died I promised myself I would; but the pigs and horses got into the corn, and fust I knew I was swarin' wus than ever. I wish you had seen Dick; it can't be; he's gone forever."
"Have you no daguerreotype of him?" asked William.
"No, I hain't, but his folks have; and Mr. Miller and Kate are going home this summer, and they'll fetch me one. That makes me think Sunshine is so puny and sick like, that I'm goin' to let her go North with them. It'll do her good; and I'm going to buy her four silk gowns to go with, but for Lord's—no, for land's sake don't tell Tempest."
"I hope you are not very anxious to have Fanny go North," said William; "for it will seriously affect a plan which I have formed."
"Well, what is it?" asked Mr. Middleton.
William then told of the house he had purchased, and of his intention to take both his nieces back with him. "I know," said he, "that it seems strange to take them there in hot weather; but down by the lake it will be pleasant and cool, and I must have them with me."
"Have you said anything to them about it?" asked Mr. Middleton.
"Yes," answered his brother. "I have mentioned it to them."
"What did they say?"
"Fanny said nothing, but Julia seemed much pleased with the idea," said William.
"I'll warrant that," returned Mr. Middleton. "She's tickled enough, and in her own mind she's run up a bill agin me for at least five hundred. Sunshine is so modest, I s'pose, because Dr. Lacey will be there, that she does not want to seem very glad; but she'll go. I'll have them come home tomorrow, and will talk the matter over. I'd as soon have her go to New Orleans as to New York."
Here the conversation was interrupted by Mrs. Middleton, who came to tell her husband that it was past nine. Mr. Middleton had a great horror of being up after that hour, so he hastily bade his brother and Ashton good night, saying to the former, "Now I've got kind of used to your being alive, Bill, I hope I shan't have such pesky work goin' to sleep."
Next morning Ashton returned to Frankfort in the carriage which Mr. Middleton had sent for the purpose of bringing his daughters home. For once in her life, Julia was delighted with the idea of visiting her parents. She had learned from a note which her mother had written that the reason of their being sent for was to talk over the matter of going to New Orleans. Fanny felt differently. She wished, yet dreaded, to go home. She too knew why they were sent for; and as she was determined not to go to New Orleans, it would be necessary at last to tell her father the true reason. She was certain he would be unsparing in his wrath against Dr. Lacey, and she almost trembled for the consequences.
When at last she was ready she descended to the parlor, and sitting down to her piano ran her fingers lightly over the keys. At that moment Frank Cameron entered. He had learned from his cousin, Kate, enough of Fanny's history to make him fear that she never could be aught to him; and yet the knowledge that he could not, must not, hope to win her, only rendered the attraction stronger. He was intending to start for home the next day, and had now come to spend a few minutes alone with Fanny ere he bade her good-by. As he entered the room she ceased playing, and said, "I believe you leave town tomorrow, do you not?"
"I do," replied Frank, "and am come to bid you good-by now; for when you return I shall probably be looking on the dust, smoke and chimneys of the Empire City." As Fanny made no answer, Frank continued, "Miss Middleton, we shall meet again, I trust. Kate tells me that you are to accompany them to New York this summer. I shall expect you and shall watch anxiously for your coming."
Fanny replied, "I have thought of going North with Mrs. Miller, but it is possible I may be disappointed."
"Disappointed!" repeated Frank; "you must not be disappointed, or disappoint me either. I would hardly be willing to leave Frankfort if I did not hope to see you again. And yet if we never do meet, I shall know that I am a better man for having once seen and known you; and I shall look back upon the few days spent in Kentucky as upon one of the bright spots in my life."
We do not know what Fanny would have replied; for ere she had time to answer Julia appeared in the door, calling out, "Come, Fan, the carriage is ready. But, pray excuse me," continued she, as she saw Frank, "I had no idea that I was interrupting so interesting a conversation as your looks seem to indicate."
This increased Fanny's confusion, but she endeavored to appear at ease; and rising up, she offered Frank her hand, saying, "I must bid you farewell, Mr. Cameron."
Frank took her hand, and quick as thought raised it to his lips. Fanny's cheeks reddened as she hastily withdrew her hand, saying rather indignantly, "Mr. Cameron, I am surprised!"
Frank expected as much, and he said, rather gayly, "Pardon me, Miss Middleton, I could not help it, and would not if I could. It is all I ever hope to receive from you; and years hence, when I am a lone, lorn old bachelor, I shall love to think of the morning when I bade good-by to and kissed Fanny Middleton."
A moment more and the carriage drove rapidly away. Frank watched it until it disappeared down the street; then turning away, he thought, "I have met and parted with the only person on earth who has power to awaken in me any deeper feeling than that of respect."
When Julia and Fanny reached home, they were greeted kindly by both their parents and uncle. The latter had resolved to watch them closely, in order to ascertain, if possible, the reason of his brother's evident preference for Fanny. During the morning nothing was said of the projected visit to New Orleans; and Julia was becoming very impatient, but she knew better than to broach the subject herself; so she was obliged to wait.
That evening the family, as usual, assembled on the little porch. Fanny occupied her accustomed seat and low stool by the side of her father, whose pipe she filled and refilled; for he said, "The tobacker tasted a heap better after Sunshine had handled it."
Julia could wait no longer, and she began the conversation by asking her uncle something about New Orleans.
"Thar, I knew 'twould be so," said Mr. Middleton; "Tempest is in a desput hurry to know whether I'm going to cash over and send her to market in New Orleans."
"Well, father," said Julia, coaxingly, "you are going to let Fanny and me go with Uncle William I know."
It was lucky for Julia that she chanced to mention her sister; for however much her father might be inclined to tease her, the word "Fanny" mollified him at once, and he answered, "Why, yes, I may as well let you go as to keep you here doing nothing, and eating up my corn bread." Then drawing Fanny nearer to him, he said, "I've talked some of letting Sunshine go to New York, but she'll jump at the chance of going to New Orleans, I reckon."
There was no answer, and as Julia was not particularly desirous of having her sister's silence questioned, she rattled on about her expected visit, and even went so far as to caress her father, because he had given his consent to her going. It was decided that Mr. William Middleton should return, as he had intended, in two weeks' time, so as to have everything in readiness for the reception of his nieces, who were to come on as soon as school closed, which would be about the tenth of June.
During all this time Fanny said not a word; and at last it occurred to her father that she had neither expressed her desire nor willingness to go; so he said, "Come, Sunshine, why don't you hold up your head and talk about it? We all know you want to go mightily, and see that little doctor."
Fanny knew it was of no use delaying longer and she answered gently, but decidedly, "Father, I have no desire to go to New Orleans. I cannot go."
"Fudge on being so very modest," replied Mr. Middleton. "It is nateral-like that you should want to see him, and nobody'll think less of you."
Fanny answered, "You know I have thought of going to New York with Mr. and Mrs. Miller. I am still anxious to do so; but to New Orleans I cannot, shall not go, unless you command me to do so."
"Saint Peter!" said Mr. Middleton. "What's the row now? What's happened to make little Sunshine spirt up so? Don't you want to see Dr. Lacey, child?"
"No, father; I never desire to see him again."
The old cob pipe dropped from Mr. Middleton's mouth, and springing up, he confronted Fanny, saying, "What in fury is this racket? You not wish to go to New Orleans, or see Dr. Lacey either! I half wish you was Tempest for a spell, so I could storm at you; but as it is Sunshine, I can't even feel mad."
"Oh, father, father!" cried Fanny, weeping; "if you knew all that has occurred, you would not blame me."
"What do you mean, darling?" asked Mr. Middleton, suddenly becoming cool. "What has happened?"
Then looking at Julia, whose face was crimson, a new idea struck him, and he exclaimed more wrathfully, "How now, Tempest? What makes you turn as red as a hickory fire? Have you been raising a rumpus between Dr. Lacey and Sunshine? Out with it if you have."
It was now Julia's turn to cry and appeal to her uncle, if it were not unjust in her father always to suspect her of evil, if anything were wrong. William very wisely kept silent, but Fanny said, "Do not accuse Julia, for she is not guilty. She knows it all, however, and is sorry for it."
"Knows what? Sorry for what? Why don't you tell?" said Mr. Middleton, stalking back and forth through the porch, and setting down his feet as heavily as if he would crush everything which might fall beneath his tread.
"I cannot tell you now," said Fanny; "but when we are alone, you shall know all."
In a few moments William thought proper to retire, and as his example was soon followed by Julia, Fanny was left alone with her parents. Drawing her stool nearer to her father, and laying her hot, feverish forehead on his hand, she said, "Before I give any explanation, I wish you to make me a promise."
"Promise of what?" asked her father and mother, simultaneously.
"It is not probable," answered Fanny, "that you will ever see Dr. Lacey again, but if you do, I wish you never to mention to him what I am about to tell you."
The promise was readily given by Mrs. Middleton, but her husband demurred, saying, "I shan't commit myself until I know what 'tis. If Dr. Lacey has been cuttin' up, why I'll cowhide him, that's all."
"Then I shall not tell you," was Fanny's firm reply.
Her father saw she was in earnest, and replied, "What's got your back up so high, Sunshine? I never knew you had so much grit. What's the reason you don't want Dr. Lacey to hear of it?"
"Because," said Fanny, hesitatingly, "because I do not wish him to know how much I care about it; and besides, it can do no possible good. Now, father, promise you will not tell him or any one else."
Mr. Middleton was finally persuaded, and his promise given, Fanny knew it would not be broken, for her father prided himself on keeping his word. So she gave an account of Dr. Lacey's conduct, and ended her narrative by producing a letter, which she supposed came from him. Up to the moment Mr. Middleton had sat perfectly still; but meantime his wrath had waxed warmer and warmer, until at last it could no longer be restrained, but burst forth in such a storm of fury as made Fanny stop her ears.
She, however, caught the words, "And I was fool enough to promise not to say a word. Well, thank the Lord, I didn't promise not to shoot the puppy. Let me catch him within pistol shot of me, and I'll pop him over as I would a woodchuck. And if he don't come back, I'll go all the way to New Orleans for the sake of doin' on't. I'll larn him to fool with my gal; yes, I will!"
Fanny's fears for Dr. Lacey's safety were immediately roused; and again were her arms wound round the neck of her enraged father, while she begged of him to be quiet, and think reasonably of the matter. Not long could one resist the arguments of Fanny; and in less than half an hour her father grew calm, and said more gently, "I shouldn't have been so rarin' mad, if it had been anybody but you, Sunshine. I s'pose I did go on high, and swar like a pirate. I didn't mean to do that, for I promised Bill I'd try and leave off."
"Leave swearing?" said Fanny. "Oh, I'm so glad. I hope you will. Now promise that you will, dear father, and say again that you will not mention Dr. Lacey's conduct either to him or to any one else."
"I have promised once," said Mr. Middleton, "and one promise is as good as forty. Old Josh'll never break his word as long as he has his senses. But that paltry doctor owes his life to you, Sunshine. Half an hour ago I was as fully set to knock him over as I am now determined to let the varmint go to destruction in his own way."
Fanny shuddered at the idea of her father becoming the murderer of Dr. Lacey, and Mrs. Middleton rejoined, "I am glad, husband, to hear you talk more sensibly. It can do no possible good for you to shoot Dr. Lacey, and then lose your own life, as you assuredly would; besides, I think the less we say of the matter, the better it will be."
"I reckon you are right, Nancy," said Mr. Middleton; "but hang it all, what excuse shall I give Bill for not lettin' the gals go to New Orleans?"
"But, father," said Fanny, "you will let Julia go, of course. Uncle knows I do not intend to go, and consequently will think nothing of that; and there is no reason why Julia should not go to New Orleans, and I to New York. Now, say we may; that's a dear father."