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   Chapter 10 No.10

A Romance of the Republic By Lydia Maria Child Characters: 16000

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Mighty fine lady," repeated Tom; "an' I tell yer she's married to

Massa, an' she's gwine to be de Missis."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"DEARLY BELOVED,-I am so happy that I cannot wait a minute without telling you about it. I have done a naughty thing, but, as it is the first time I ever disobeyed you, I hope you will forgive me. You told me never to go to the plantation without you. But I waited and waited, and you didn't come; and we were so happy there, that lovely day, that I longed to go again. I knew it would be very lonesome without you; but I thought it would be some comfort to see again the places where we walked together,

and sang together, and called each other all manner of foolish fond names. Do you remember how many variations you rung upon my name,-Rosabella, Rosalinda, Rosamunda, Rosa Regina? How you did pelt me with roses! Do you remember how happy we were in the garden bower? How we sang together the old-fashioned canzonet, 'Love in thine eyes forever plays'? And how the mocking-bird imitated your guitar, while you were singing the Don Giovanni serenade?

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

"Adios, luz de mes ojos. Come soon to

"Your grateful and loving

"ROSA."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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