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A Romance of the Republic By Lydia Maria Child Characters: 17511

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


An interval of nineteen years elapsed, bringing with them various changes to the personages of this story. A year after Mr. Fitzgerald's return from Europe, a feud sprang up between him and his father-in-law, Mr. Bell, growing out of his dissipated and spendthrift habits. His intercourse with Boston was consequently suspended, and the fact of Flora's existence remained unknown to him. He died nine years after he witnessed the dazzling apparition of Rosa in Rome, and the history of his former relation to her was buried with him, as were several other similar secrets. There was generally supposed to be something mysterious about his exit. Those who were acquainted with Mr. Bell's family were aware that the marriage had been an unhappy one, and that there was an obvious disposition to hush inquiries concerning it. Mrs. Fitzgerald had always continued to spend her summers with her parents; and having lost her mother about the time of her widowhood, she became permanently established at the head of her father's household. She never in any way alluded to her married life, and always dismissed the subject as briefly as possible, if any stranger touched upon it. Of three children, only one, her eldest, remained. Time had wrought changes in her person. Her once fairy-like figure was now too short for its fulness, and the blue eyes were somewhat dulled in expression; but the fair face and the paly-gold tresses were still very pretty.

When she had at last succeeded in obtaining an introduction to Flora, during one of her summer visits to Boston, she had been very much captivated by her, and was disposed to rally Mr. Green about his diminished enthusiasm, after he had fallen in love with a fair cousin of hers; but that gentleman was discreetly silent concerning the real cause of his disenchantment.

Mrs. Delano's nature was so much deeper than that of her pretty neighbor, that nothing like friendship could grow up between them; but Mrs. Fitzgerald called occasionally, to retail gossip of the outer world, or to have what she termed a musical treat.

Flora had long been Mrs. Blumenthal. At the time of her marriage, Mrs. Delano said she was willing to adopt a son, but not to part with a daughter; consequently, they formed one household. As years passed on, infant faces and lisping voices came into the domestic circle,-fresh little flowers in the floral garland of Mamita Lila's life. Alfred Royal, the eldest, was a complete reproduction, in person and character, of the grandfather whose name he bore. Rosa, three years younger, was quite as striking a likeness of her namesake. Then came two little ones, who soon went to live with the angels. And, lastly, there was the five-year-old pet, Lila, who inherited her father's blue eyes, pink cheeks, and flaxen hair.

These children were told that their grandfather was a rich American merchant in New Orleans, and their grandmother a beautiful and accomplished Spanish lady; that their grandfather failed in business and died poor; that his friend Mrs. Delano adopted their mother; and that they had a very handsome Aunt Rosa, who went to Europe with some good friends, and was lost at sea. It was not deemed wise to inform them of any further particulars, till time and experience had matured their characters and views of life.

Applications to American consuls, in various places, for information concerning Signor and Madame Papanti had proved unavailing, in consequence of the Signor's change of name; and Rosabella had long ceased to be anything but a very tender memory to her sister, whose heart was now completely filled with new objects of affection. The bond between her and her adopted mother strengthened with time, because their influence on each other was mutually improving to their characters. The affection and gayety of the young folks produced a glowing atmosphere in Mrs. Delano's inner life, as their mother's tropical taste warmed up the interior aspect of her dwelling. The fawn-colored damask curtains had given place to crimson; and in lieu of the silvery paper, the walls were covered with bird-of-paradise color, touched with golden gleams. The centre-table was covered with crimson, embroidered with a gold-colored garland; and the screen of the gas-light was a gorgeous assemblage of bright flowers. Mrs. Delano's lovely face was even more placid than it had been in earlier years; but there was a sunset brightness about it, as of one growing old in an atmosphere of love. The ash-colored hair, which Flora had fancied to be violet-tinged, was of a silky whiteness now, and fell in soft curls about the pale face.

On the day when I again take up the thread of this story, she was seated in her parlor, in a dress of silvery gray silk, which contrasted pleasantly with the crimson chair. Under her collar of Honiton lace was an amethystine ribbon, fastened with a pearl pin. Her cap of rich white lace, made in the fashion of Mary Queen of Scots, was very slightly trimmed with ribbon of the same color, and fastened in front with a small amethyst set with pearls. For fanciful Flora had said: "Dear Mamita Lila, don't have _every_thing about your dress cold white or gray. Do let something violet or lilac peep out from the snow, for the sake of 'auld lang syne.'"

The lady was busy with some crochet-work, when a girl, apparently about twelve years old, came through the half-opened folding-doors, and settled on an ottoman at her feet. She had large, luminous dark eyes, very deeply fringed, and her cheeks were like ripened peaches. The dark mass of her wavy hair was gathered behind into what was called a Greek cap, composed of brown network strewn with gold beads. Here and there very small, thin dark curls strayed from under it, like the tendrils of a delicate vine; and nestling close to each ear was a little dark, downy crescent, which papa called her whisker when he was playfully inclined to excite her juvenile indignation.

"See!" said she. "This pattern comes all in a tangle. I have done the stitches wrong. Will you please to help me, Mamita Lila?"

Mrs. Delano looked up, smiling as she answered, "Let me see what the trouble is, Rosy Posy."

Mrs. Blumenthal, who was sitting opposite, noticed with artistic eye what a charming contrast of beauty there was between that richly colored young face, with its crown of dark hair, and that pale, refined, symmetrical face, in its frame of silver. "What a pretty picture I could make, if I had my crayons here," thought she. "How gracefully the glossy folds of Mamita's gray dress fall over Rosa's crimson merino."

She was not aware that she herself made quite as charming a picture. The spirit of laughter still flitted over her face, from eyes to dimples; her shining black curls were lighted up with a rope of cherry-colored chenille, hanging in a tassel at her ear; and her graceful little figure showed to advantage in a neatly fitting dress of soft brown merino, embroidered with cherry-colored silk. On her lap was little Lila, dressed in white and azure, with her fine flaxen curls tossed about by the motion of riding to "Banbury Cross." The child laughed and clapped her hands at every caper; and if her steed rested for a moment, she called out impatiently, "More agin, mamma!"

But mamma was thinking of the picture she wanted to make, and at last she said: "We sha'n't get to Banbury Cross to-day, Lila Blumen; so you must fall off your horse, darling, and nursey will take you, while I go to fetch my crayons." She had just taken her little pet by the hand to lead her from the room, when the door-bell rang. "That's Mrs. Fitzgerald," said she. "I know, because she always rings an appoggiatura. Rosen Blumen, take sissy to the nursery, please."

While the ladies were interchanging salutations with their visitor, Rosa passed out of the room, leading her little sister by the hand. "I declare," said Mrs. Fitzgerald, "that oldest daughter of yours, Mrs. Blumenthal, bears a striking resemblance to the cantatrice who was turning everybody's head when I was in Rome. You missed hearing her, I remember. Let me see, what was her nomme de guerre? I forget; but it was something that signified a bell, because there was a peculiar ringing in her voice. When I first saw your daughter, she reminded me of somebody I had seen; but I never thought who it was till now. I came to tell you some news about the fascinating Seńorita; and I suppose that brought the likeness to my mind. You know Mr. King, the son of our rich old merchant, persuaded her to leave the stage to marry him. They have been living in the South of France for some years, but he has just returned to Boston. They have taken rooms at the Revere House, while his father's house

is being fitted up in grand style for their reception. The lady will of course be a great lioness. She is to make her first appearance at the party of my cousin, Mrs. Green. The winter is so nearly at an end, that I doubt whether there will be any more large parties this season; and I wouldn't fail of attending this one on any account, if it were only for the sake of seeing her. She was the handsomest creature I ever beheld. If you had ever seen her, you would consider it a compliment indeed to be told that your Rosa resembles her."

"I should like to get a glimpse of her, if I could without the trouble of going to a party," replied Mrs. Blumenthal.

"I will come the day after," rejoined Mrs. Fitzgerald, "and tell you how she was dressed, and whether she looks as handsome in the parlor as she did on the stage."

After some more chat about reported engagements, and the probable fashions for the coming season, the lady took her leave.

When she was gone, Mrs. Delano remarked: "Mrs. King must be very handsome if she resembles our Rosa. But I hope Mrs. Fitzgerald will not be so injudicious as to talk about it before the child. She is free from vanity, and I earnestly wish she may remain so. By the way, Flora, this Mr. King is your father's namesake,-the one who, you told me, called at your house in New Orleans, when you were a little girl."

"I was thinking of that very thing," rejoined Mrs. Blumenthal, "and I was just going to ask you his Christian name. I should like to call there to take a peep at his handsome lady, and see whether he would recollect me. If he did, it would be no matter. So many years have passed, and I am such an old story in Boston, that nobody will concern themselves about me."

"I also should be rather pleased to call," said Mrs. Delano. "His father was a friend of mine; and it was through him that I became acquainted with your father. They were inseparable companions when they were young men. Ah, how long ago that seems! No wonder my hair is white. But please ring for Rosa, dear. I want to arrange her pattern before dinner."

"There's the door-bell again, Mamita!" exclaimed Flora; "and a very energetic ring it is, too. Perhaps you had better wait a minute."

The servant came in to say that a person from the country wanted to speak with Mrs. Delano; and a tall, stout man, with a broad face, full of fun, soon entered. Having made a short bow, he said, "Mrs. Delano, I suppose?"

The lady signified assent by an inclination of the head.

"My name's Joe Bright," continued he. "No relation of John Bright, the bright Englishman. Wish I was. I come from Northampton, ma'am. The keeper of the Mansion House told me you wanted to get board there in some private family next summer; and I called to tell you that I can let you have half of my house, furnished or not, just as you like. As I'm plain Joe Bright the blacksmith, of course you won't find lace and damask, and such things as you have here."

"All we wish for," rejoined Mrs. Delano, "is healthy air and wholesome food for the children."

"Plenty of both, ma'am," replied the blacksmith. "And I guess you'll like my wife. She ain't one of the kind that raises a great dust when she sweeps. She's a still sort of body; but she knows a deal more than she tells for."

After a description of the accommodations he had to offer, and a promise from Mrs. Delano to inform him of her decision in a few days, he rose to go. But he stood, hat in hand, looking wistfully toward the piano. "Would it be too great a liberty, ma'am, to ask which of you ladies plays?" said he.

"I seldom play," rejoined Mrs. Delano, "because my daughter, Mrs.

Blumenthal, plays so much better."

Turning toward Flora, he said, "I suppose it would be too much trouble to play me a tune?"

"Certainty not," she replied; and, seating herself at the piano, she dashed off, with voice and instrument, "The Campbells are coming, Oho! Oho!"

"By George!" exclaimed the blacksmith. "You was born to it, ma'am; that's plain enough. Well, it was just so with me. I took to music as a Newfoundland pup takes to the water. When my brother Sam and I were boys, we were let out to work for a blacksmith. We wanted a fiddle dreadfully; but we were too poor to buy one; and we couldn't have got much time to play on't if we had had one, for our boss watched us as a weasel watches mice. But we were bent on getting music somehow. The boss always had plenty of iron links of all sizes, hanging in a row, ready to be made into chains when wanted. One day, I happened to hit one of the links with a piece of iron I had in my hand. 'By George! Sam,' said I, 'that was Do.' 'Strike again,' says he. 'Blow! Sam, blow!' said I. I was afraid the boss would come in and find the iron cooling in the fire. So he kept blowing away, and I struck the link again. 'That's Do, just as plain as my name's Sam,' said he. A few days after, I said, 'By George! Sam, I've found Sol.' 'So you have,' said he. 'Now let me try. Blow, Joe, blow!' Sam, he found Re and La. And in the course of two months we got so we could play Old Hundred. I don't pretend to say we could do it as glib as you run over the ivory, ma'am; but it was Old Hundred, and no mistake. And we played Yankee Doodle, first rate. We called our instrument the Harmolinks; and we enjoyed it all the more because it was our own invention. I tell you what, ma'am, there's music hid away in everything, only we don't know how to bring it out."

"I think so," rejoined Mrs. Blumenthal. "Music is a sleeping beauty, that needs the touch of a prince to waken her. Perhaps you will play something for us, Mr. Bright?" She rose and vacated the music-stool as she spoke.

"I should be ashamed to try my clumsy fingers in your presence, ladies," he replied. "But I'll sing the Star-spangled Banner, if you will have the goodness to accompany me."

She reseated herself, and he lifted up his voice and sang. When he had done, he drew a long breath, wiped the perspiration from his face with a bandana handkerchief, and laughed as he said: "I made the screen of your gas-light shake, ma'am. The fact is, when I sing that, I have to put all my heart into it."

"And all your voice, too," rejoined Mrs. Blumenthal.

"O, no," answered he, "I could have put on a good deal more steam, if I hadn't been afraid of drowning the piano. I'm greatly obliged to you, ladies; and I hope I shall have the pleasure of hearing you again in my own house. I should like to hear some more now, but I've stayed too long. My wife agreed to meet me at a store, and I don't know what she'll say to me."

"Tell her we detained you by playing to you," said Mrs. Blumenthal.

"O, that would be too much like Adam," rejoined he. "I always feel ashamed to look a woman in the face, after reading that story. I always thought Adam was a mean cuss to throw off all the blame on Eve." With a short bow, and a hasty "Good morning, ladies," he went out.

His parting remark amused Flora so much, that she burst into one of her musical peals of laughter; while her more cautious friend raised her handkerchief to her mouth, lest their visitor should hear some sound of mirth, and mistake its import.

"What a great, beaming face!" exclaimed Flora. "It looks like a sunflower. I have a fancy for calling him Monsieur Girasol. What a pity Mr. Green hadn't longed for a musical instrument, and been too poor to buy one. It would have done him so much good to have astonished himself by waking up a tune in the Harmolinks."

"Yes," responded Mrs. Delano, "it might have saved him the trouble of going to Arabia Petraea or Damascus, in search of something new. What do you think about accepting Mr. Bright's offer?" "O, I hope we shall go, Mamita. The children would be delighted with him. If Alfred had been here this morning, he would have exclaimed, 'Isn't he jolly?'"

"I think things must go cheerfully where such a sunflower spirit presides," responded Mrs. Delano. "And he is certainly sufficiently au naturel to suit you and Florimond."

"Yes, he bubbles over," rejoined Flora. "It isn't the fashion; but I like folks that bubble over."

Mrs. Delano smiled as she answered: "So do I. And perhaps you can guess who it was that made me in love with bubbling over?"

Flora gave a knowing smile, and dotted one of her comic little courtesies. "I don't see what makes you and Florimond like me so well," said she. "I'm sure I'm neither wise nor witty."

"But something better than either," replied Mamita.

The vivacious little woman said truly that she was neither very wise nor very witty; but she was a transparent medium of sunshine; and the commonest glass, filled with sunbeams, becomes prismatic as a diamond.

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