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   Chapter 3 No.3

A Romance of the Republic By Lydia Maria Child Characters: 11941

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

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

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

"Yes, my darling," rejoined he, placing his hand fondly on her head.

"Getting ready to go to Europe makes a deal of work."

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

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

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

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

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

"Cher papa, how long before we shall go to Paris?" inquired Floracita.

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

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

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

She hesitated, and glanced at her father.

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

"No flattery will be so sweet as yours, cher papa," said Floracita.

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

Rosabella was obviously agitated, but she readily replied, "Do you

suppose, Papasito, that we would accept a lover without asking you

about it? When Mamita querida died, she charged us to tell you

everything; and we always do."

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

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

And Rosabella looked at him with swimming eyes, as she repeated,

"Don't say that, Papasito querido!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

The pensive mood, that had enveloped them all in a little cloud the preceding evening, was gone in the morning. There was the usual bantering during breakfast, and after they rose from table they discussed in a lively manner various plans concerning their residence in France

. Rosabella evidently felt much less pleasure in the prospect than did her younger sister; and her father, conjecturing the reason, was the more anxious to expedite their departure. "I must not linger here talking," said he. "I must go and attend to business; for there are many things to be arranged before we can set out on our travels,"

"Hasta luego, Papasito mio" said Rosabella, with an affectionate smile.

"Au revoir, cher papa" said Floracita, as she handed him his hat.

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

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

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

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

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

"I should like to hear operas and see ballets in Paris," said

Rosabella; "but I wish we could come back here before long."

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

"Petit blanc, mon bon fr?re!

Ha! ha! petit blanc si doux!

Il n'y a rien sur la terre

De si joli que vous.

"Un petit blanc que j'aime-"

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

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

"Un petit blanc que j'aime."

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

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

"No, you little witch, you can't make a false note. But how do you suppose I can keep hold of the tail of the Air, if you send me chasing after it through so many capricious variations? Now begin again, da capo"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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