MoboReader > Literature > A Romance of the Republic

   Chapter 23 No.23

A Romance of the Republic By Lydia Maria Child Characters: 24052

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


About two months after their return from the South, Mr. Percival called one evening, and said: "Do you know Mr. Brick, the police-officer? I met him just now, and he stopped me. 'There's plenty of work for you Abolitionists now-a-days,' said he. 'There are five Southerners at the Tremont, inquiring for runaways, and cursing Garrison. An agent arrived last night from Fitzgerald's plantation,-he that married Bell's daughter, you know. He sent for me to give me a description of a nigger that had gone off in a mysterious way to parts unknown. He wanted me to try to find the fellow, and, of course, I did; for I always calculate to do my duty, as the law directs. So I went immediately to Father Snowdon, and described the black man, and informed him that his master had sent for him, in a great hurry. I told him I thought it very likely he was lurking somewhere in Belknap Street; and if he would have the goodness to hunt him up, I would call, in the course of an hour or two, to see what luck he had.'"

"Who is Father Snowdon?" inquired Mrs. Delano.

"He is the colored preacher in Belknap Street Church," replied Mr. Percival, "and a remarkable man in his way. He fully equals Chloe in prayer; and he is apt to command the ship Buzzard to the especial attention of the Lord. The first time I entered his meeting, he was saying, in a loud voice, 'We pray thee, O Lord, to bless her Majesty's good ship, the Buzzard; and if there's a slave-trader now on the coast of Africa, we pray thee, O Lord, to blow her straight under the lee of the Buzzard.' He has been a slave himself, and he has perhaps helped off more slaves than any man in the country. I doubt whether Garrick himself had greater power to disguise his countenance. If a slaveholder asks him about a slave, he is the most stolid-looking creature imaginable. You wouldn't suppose he understood anything, or ever could understand anything. But if he meets an Abolitionist a minute after, his black face laughs all over, and his roguish eyes twinkle like diamonds, while he recounts how he 'come it' over the Southern gentleman. That bright soul of his is a jewel set in ebony."

"It seems odd that the police-officer should apply to him to catch a runaway," said Mrs. Delano.

"That's the fun of it," responded Mr. Percival. "The extinguishers are themselves taking fire. The fact is, Boston policemen don't feel exactly in their element as slave-hunters. They are too near Bunker Hill; and on the Fourth of July they are reminded of the Declaration of Independence, which, though it is going out of fashion, is still regarded by a majority of the people as a venerable document. Then they have Whittier's trumpet-tones ringing in their ears,-

"'No slave hunt in our borders! no pirate on our strand!

No fetters in the Bay State! no slave upon our land!'"

"How did Mr. Brick describe Mr. Fitzgerald's runaway slave?" inquired

Flora.

"He said he was tall and very black, with a white scar over his right eye."

"That's Tom!" exclaimed she. "How glad Chloe will be! But I wonder he didn't come here the first thing. We could have told him how well she was getting on in New Bedford."

"Father Snowdon will tell him all about that," rejoined Mr. Percival. "If Tom was in the city, he probably kept him closely hidden, on account of the number of Southerners who have recently arrived; and after the hint the police-officer gave him, he doubtless hustled him out of town in the quickest manner."

"I want to hurrah for that policeman," said Flora; "but Mamita would think I was a very rude young lady, or rather that I was no lady at all. But perhaps you'll let me sing hurrah, Mamita?"

Receiving a smile for answer, she flew to the piano, and, improvising an accompaniment to herself, she began to sing hurrah! through all manner of variations, high and low, rapidly trilled and slowly prolonged, now bursting full upon the ear, now receding in the distance. It was such a lively fantasia, that it made Mr. Percival laugh, while Mrs. Delano's face was illuminated by a quiet smile.

In the midst of the merriment, the door-bell rang. Flora started from the piano, seized her worsted-work, and said, "Now, Mamita, I'm ready to receive company like a pink of propriety." But the change was so sudden, that her eyes were still laughing when Mr. Green entered an instant after; and he again caught that archly demure expression which seemed to him so fascinating. The earnestness of his salutation was so different from his usual formal politeness, that Mrs. Delano could not fail to observe it. The conversation turned upon incidents of travel after they had parted so suddenly. "I shall never cease to regret," said he, "that you missed hearing La Seńorita Campaneo. She was a most extraordinary creature. Superbly handsome; and do you know, Miss Delano, I now and then caught a look that reminded me very much of you. Unfortunately, you have lost your chance to hear her. For Mr. King, the son of our Boston millionnaire, who has lately been piling up money in the East, persuaded her to quit the stage when she had but just started in her grand career. All the musical world in Rome were vexed with him for preventing her re-engagement. As for Fitzgerald, I believe he would have shot him if he could have found him. It was a purely musical disappointment, for he was never introduced to the fascinating Seńorita; but he fairly pined upon it. I told him the best way to drive off the blue devils would be to go with me and a few friends to the Grotta Azzura. So off we started to Naples, and thence to Capri. The grotto was one of the few novelties remaining for me in Italy. I had heard much of it, but the reality exceeded all descriptions. We seemed to be actually under the sea in a palace of gems. Our boat glided over a lake of glowing sapphire, and our oars dropped rubies. High above our heads were great rocks of sapphire, deepening to lapis-lazuli at the base, with here and there a streak of malachite."

"It seems like Aladdin's Cave," remarked Flora.

"Yes," replied Mr. Green; "only it was Aladdin's Cave undergoing a wondrous 'sea change.' A poetess, who writes for the papers under the name of Melissa Mayflower, had fastened herself upon our party in some way; and I suppose she felt bound to sustain the reputation of the quill. She said the Nereids must have built that marine palace, and decorated it for a visit from fairies of the rainbow."

"That was a pretty thought," said Flora. "It sounds like 'Lalla

Rookh.'"

"It was a pretty thought," rejoined the gentleman, "but can give you no idea of the unearthly splendor. I thought how you would have been delighted if you had been with our party. I regretted your absence almost as much as I did at the opera. But the Blue Grotto, wonderful as it was, didn't quite drive away Fitzgerald's blue devils, though it made him forget his vexations for the time. The fact is, just as we started he received a letter from his agent, informing him of the escape of a negro woman and her two children; and he spent most of the way back to Naples swearing at the Abolitionists."

Flora, the side of whose face was toward him, gave Mrs. Delano a furtive glance full of fun; but he saw nothing of the mischief in her expressive face, except a little whirlpool of a dimple, which played about her mouth for an instant, and then subsided. A very broad smile was on Mr. Percival's face, as he sat examining some magnificent illustrations of the Alhambra. Mr. Green, quite unconscious of the by-play in their thoughts, went on to say, "It is really becoming a serious evil that Southern gentlemen have so little security for that species of property."

"Then you consider women and children property?" inquired Mr.

Percival, looking up from his book.

Mr. Green bowed with a sort of mock deference, and replied: "Pardon me, Mr. Percival, it is so unusual for gentlemen of your birth and position to belong to the Abolition troop of rough-riders, that I may be excused for not recollecting it."

"I should consider my birth and position great misfortunes, if they blinded me to the plainest principles of truth and justice," rejoined Mr. Percival.

The highly conservative gentleman made no reply, but rose to take leave.

"Did your friends the Fitzgeralds return with you?" inquired Mrs.

Delano.

"No," replied he. "They intend to remain until October, Good evening, ladies. I hope soon to have the pleasure of seeing you again." And with an inclination of the head toward Mr. Percival, he departed.

"Why did you ask him that question?" said Flora. "Are you afraid of anything?"

"Not in the slightest degree," answered Mrs. Delano. "If, without taking much trouble, we can avoid your being recognized by Mr. Fitzgerald, I should prefer it, because I do not wish to have any conversation with him. But now that your sister's happiness is no longer implicated, there is no need of caution. If he happens to see you, I shall tell him you sought my protection, and that he has no legal power over you."

The conversation diverged to the Alhambra and Washington Irving; and Flora ended the evening by singing the Moorish ballad of "Xarifa," which she said always brought a picture of Rosabella before her eyes.

The next morning, Mr. Green called earlier than usual. He did not ask for Flora, whom he had in fact seen in the street a few minutes before. "Excuse me, Mrs. Delano, for intruding upon you at such an unseasonable hour," said he. "I chose it because I wished to be sure of seeing you alone. You must have observed that I am greatly interested in your adopted daughter."

"The thought has crossed my mind," replied the lady; "but I was by no means certain that she interested you more than a very pretty girl must necessarily interest a gentleman of taste."

"Pretty!" repeated he. "That is a very inadequate word to describe the most fascinating young lady I have ever met. She attracts me so strongly, that I have called to ask your permission to seek her for a wife."

Mrs. Delano hesitated for a moment, and then answered, "It is my duty to inform you that she is not of high family on the father's side; and on the mother's, she is scarcely what you would deem respectable."

"Has she vulgar, disagreeable relations, who would be likely to be intrusive?" he asked.

"She has no relative, near or distant, that I know of," replied the lady.

"Then her birth is of no consequence," he answered. "My family would be satisfied to receive her as your daughter. I am impatient to introduce her to my mother and sisters, who I am sure will be charmed with her."

Mrs. Delano was embarrassed, much to the surprise of her visitor, who was accustomed to consider his wealth and social position a prize that would be eagerly grasped at. After watching her countenance for an instant, he said, somewhat proudly: "You do not seem to receive my proposal very cordially, Mrs. Delano. Have you anything to object to my character or family?"

"Certainly not," replied the lady. "My doubts are concerning my daughter."

"Is she engaged, or partially engaged, to another?" he inquired.

"She is not," rejoined Mrs. Delano; "though I imagine she is not quite 'fancy free.'"

"Would it be a breach of confidence to tell me who has been so fortunate as to attract her?"

"Nothing of the kind has ever been confided to me." answered the lady. "It is merely an imagination of my own, and relates to a person unknown to you."

"Then I will enter the lists with my rival, if there is one," said he. "Such a prize is not to be given up without an effort. But you have not yet said that I have your consent."

"Since you are so persistent," rejoined Mrs. Delano, "I will tell you a secret, if you will pledge your honor, as a gentleman, never to repeat it, or hint at it, to any mortal."

"I pledge my honor," he replied, "that whatever you choose to tell me shall be sacred between us."

"It is not pleasant to tell th

e story of Flora's birth," responded she; "but under present circumstances it seems to be a duty. When I have informed you of the facts, you are free to engage her affections if you can. On the paternal side, she descends from the French gentry and the Spanish nobility; but her mother was a quadroon slave, and she herself was sold as a slave."

Mr. Green bowed his head upon his hand, and spoke no word. Drilled to conceal his emotions, he seemed outwardly calm, though it cost him a pang to relinquish the captivating young creature, who he felt would have made his life musical, though by piquant contrast rather than by harmony. After a brief, troubled silence, he rose and walked toward the window, as if desirous to avoid looking the lady in the face. After a while, he said, slowly, "Do you deem it quite right, Mrs. Delano, to pass such a counterfeit on society?"

"I have attempted to pass no counterfeit on society," she replied, with dignity. "Flora is a blameless and accomplished young lady. Her beauty and vivacity captivated me before I knew anything of her origin; and in the same way they have captivated you. She was alone in the world, and I was alone; and we adopted each other. I have never sought to introduce her into society; and so far as relates to yourself, I should have told you these facts sooner if I had known the state of your feelings; but so long as they were not expressed, it would scarcely have been delicate for me to take them for granted."

"Very true," rejoined the disenchanted lover. "You certainly had a right to choose a daughter for yourself; though I could hardly have imagined that any amount of attraction would have overcome such obstacles in the mind of a lady of your education and refined views of life. Excuse my using the word 'counterfeit.' I was slightly disturbed when it escaped me."

"It requires no apology," she replied. "I am aware that society would take the same view of my proceeding that you do. As for my education, I have learned to consider it as, in many respects, false. As for my views, they have been greatly modified by this experience. I have learned to estimate people and things according to their real value, not according to any merely external accidents."

Mr. Green extended his hand, saying: "I will bid you farewell, Mrs. Delano; for, under existing circumstances, it becomes necessary to deny myself the pleasure of again calling upon you. I must seek to divert my mind by new travels, I hardly know where. I have exhausted Europe, having been there three times. I have often thought I should like to look on the Oriental gardens and bright waters of Damascus. Everything is so wretchedly new, and so disagreeably fast, in this country! It must be refreshing to see a place that has known no changes for three thousand years."

They clasped hands with mutual adieus; and the unfortunate son of wealth, not knowing what to do in a country full of noble work, went forth to seek a new sensation in the slow-moving caravans of the East.

A few days afterward, when Flora returned from taking a lesson in oil-colors, she said: "How do you suppose I have offended Mr. Green? When I met him just now, he touched his hat in a very formal way, and passed on, though I was about to speak to him."

"Perhaps he was in a hurry," suggested Mrs. Delano.

"No, it wasn't that," rejoined Flora. "He did just so day before yesterday, and he can't always be in a hurry. Besides, you know he is never in a hurry; he is too much of a gentleman."

Her friend smiled as she answered, "You are getting to be quite a judge of aristocratic manners, considering you were brought up in a bird-cage."

The young girl was not quite so ready as usual with a responsive smile. She went on to say, in a tone of perplexity: "What can have occasioned such a change in his manner? You say I am sometimes thoughtless about politeness. Do you think I have offended him in any way?"

"Would it trouble you very much if you had?" inquired Mrs. Delano.

"Not very much," she replied; "but I should be sorry if he thought me rude to him, when he was so very polite to us in Europe. What is it, Mamita? I think you know something about it."

"I did not tell you, my child," replied she, "because I thought it would be unpleasant. But you keep no secrets from me, and it is right that I should be equally open-hearted with you. Did you never suspect that Mr. Green was in love with you?"

"The thought never occurred to me till he called here that first evening after his return from Europe. Then, when he took my hand, he pressed it a little. I thought it was rather strange in such a formal gentleman; but I did not mention it to you, because I feared you would think me vain. But if he is in love with me, why don't he tell me so? And why does he pass me without speaking?"

Her friend replied: "He deemed it proper to tell me first, and ask my consent to pay his addresses to you. As he persisted very urgently, I thought it my duty to tell him, under the seal of secrecy, that you were remotely connected with the colored race. The announcement somewhat disturbed his habitual composure. He said he must deny himself the pleasure of calling again. He proposes to go to Damascus, and there I hope he will forget his disappointment."

Flora flared up as Mrs. Delano had never seen her. She reddened to the temples, and her lip curled scornfully. "He is a mean man!" she exclaimed. "If he thought that I myself was a suitable wife for his serene highness, what had my great-grandmother to do with it? I wish he had asked me to marry him. I should like to have him know I never cared a button about him; and that, if I didn't care for him, I should consider it more shameful to sell myself for his diamonds, than it would have been to have been sold for a slave by papa's creditors when I couldn't help myself. I am glad you don't feel like going into parties, Mamita; and if you ever do feel like it, I hope you will leave me at home. I don't want to be introduced to any of these cold, aristocratic Bostonians."

"Not all of them cold and aristocratic, darling," replied Mrs. Delano. "Your Mamita is one of them; and she is becoming less cold and aristocratic every day, thanks to a little Cinderella who came to her singing through the woods, two years ago."

"And who found a fairy godmother," responded Flora, subsiding into a tenderer tone. "It is ungrateful for me to say anything against Boston; and with such friends as the Percivals too. But it does seem mean that Mr. Green, if he really liked me, should decline speaking to me because my great-grandmother had a dark complexion. I never knew the old lady, though I dare say I should love her if I did know her. Madame used to say Rosabella inherited pride from our Spanish grandfather. I think I have some of it, too; and it makes me shy of being introduced to your stylish acquaintance, who might blame you if they knew all about me. I like people who do know all about me, and who like me because I am I. That's one reason why I like Florimond. He admired my mother, and loved my father; and he thinks just as well of me as if I had never been sold for a slave."

"Do you always call him Florimond?" inquired Mrs. Delano.

"I call him Mr. Blumenthal before folks, and he calls me Miss Delano. But when no one is by, he sometimes calls me Miss Royal, because he says he loves that name, for the sake of old times; and then I call him Blumen, partly for short, and partly because his cheeks are so pink, it comes natural. He likes to have me call him so. He says Flora is the G?ttinn der Blumen in German, and so I am the Goddess of Blumen."

Mrs. Delano smiled at these small scintillations of wit, which in the talk of lovers sparkle to them like diamond-dust in the sunshine.

"Has he ever told you that he loved you as well as your name?" asked she.

"He never said so, Mamita; but I think he does," rejoined Flora.

"What reason have you to think so?" inquired her friend.

"He wants very much to come here," replied the young lady; "but he is extremely modest. He says he knows he is not suitable company for such a rich, educated lady as you are. He is taking dancing-lessons, and lessons on the piano, and he is studying French and Italian and history, and all sorts of things. And he says he means to make a mint of money, and then perhaps he can come here sometimes to see me dance, and hear me play on the piano."

"I by no means require that all my acquaintance should make a mint of money," answered Mrs. Delano. "I am very much pleased with the account you give of this young Blumenthal. When you next see him, give him my compliments, and tell him I should be happy to become acquainted with him."

Flora dropped on her knees and hid her face in her friend's lap. She didn't express her thanks in words, but she cried a little.

"This is more serious than I supposed," thought Mrs. Delano.

A fortnight afterward, she obtained an interview with Mr. Goldwin, and asked, "What is your estimate of that young Mr. Blumenthal, who has been for some time in your employ?"

"He is a modest young man, of good habits," answered the merchant; "and of more than common business capacity."

"Would you be willing to receive him as a partner?" she inquired.

"The young man is poor," rejoined Mr. Goldwin; "and we have many applications from those who can advance some capital."

"If a friend would loan him ten thousand dollars for twenty years, and leave it to him by will in case she should die meanwhile, would that be sufficient to induce you?" said the lady.

"I should be glad to do it, particularly if it obliges you, Mrs. Delano," responded the merchant; "for I really think him a very worthy young man."

"Then consider it settled," she replied. "But let it be an affair between ourselves, if you please; and to him you may merely say that a friend of his former employer and benefactor wishes to assist him."

When Blumenthal informed Flora of this unexpected good-fortune, they of course suspected from whom it came; and they looked at each other, and blushed.

Mrs. Delano did not escape gossiping remarks. "How she has changed!" said Mrs. Ton to Mrs. Style. "She used to be the most fastidious of exclusives; and now she has adopted nobody knows whom, and one of Mr. Goldwin's clerks seems to be on the most familiar footing there. I should have no objection to invite the girl to my parties, for she is Mrs. Delano's adoptée, and she would really be an ornament to my rooms, besides being very convenient and an accomplished musician; but, of course, I don't wish my daughters to be introduced to that nobody of a clerk."

"She has taken up several of the Abolitionists too," rejoined Mrs. Style. "My husband looked into an anti-slavery meeting the other evening, partly out of curiosity to hear what Garrison had to say, and partly in hopes of obtaining some clew to a fugitive slave that one of his Southern friends had written to him about. And who should he see there, of all people in the world, but Mrs. Delano and her adoptée, escorted by that young clerk. Think of her, with her dove-colored silks and violet gloves, crowded and jostled by Dinah and Sambo! I expect the next thing we shall hear will be that she has given a negro party."

"In that case, I presume she will choose to perfume her embroidered handkerchiefs with musk, or pachouli, instead of her favorite breath of violets," responded Mrs. Ton.

And, smiling at their wit, the fashionable ladies parted, to quote it from each other as among the good things they had recently heard.

Only the faint echoes of such remarks reached Mrs. Delano; though she was made to feel, in many small ways, that she had become a black sheep in aristocratic circles. But these indications passed by her almost unnoticed, occupied as she was in earnestly striving to redeem the mistakes of the past by making the best possible use of the present.

PART SECOND.

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares