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   Chapter 28 No.28

A Romance of the Republic By Lydia Maria Child Characters: 12123

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


"So you are alive!" exclaimed Rosa, holding her sister back a little, and gazing upon her face with all her soul in her eyes.

"Yes, very much alive," answered Flora, with a smile that brought out all her dimples.

"But do tell me," said Rosa, "how you came to go away so strangely, and leave me to mourn for you as if you were dead."

The dimples disappeared, and a shadow clouded Flora's expressive eyes, as she replied: "It would take a long while to explain all that, sistita mia. We will talk it over another time, please."

Rosa sighed as she pressed her sister's hand, and said: "Perhaps I have already conjectured rightly about it, Floracita. My eyes were opened by bitter experiences after we were parted. Some time I will explain to you how I came to run to Europe in such a hurry, with Madame and the Signor."

"But tell me, the first thing of all, whether Tulee is dead," rejoined

Flora.

"You know Madame was always exceedingly careful about expense," responded Rosa. "Mrs. Duroy was willing to board Tulee for her work, and Madame thought it was most prudent to leave her there till we got established in Europe, and could send for her; and just when we were expecting her to rejoin us, letters came informing us that Mr. and Mrs. Duroy and Tulee all died of yellow-fever. It distresses me beyond measure to think of our having left poor, faithful Tulee."

"When we found out that Mr. Fitzgerald had married another wife," replied Flora, "my new Mamita kindly volunteered to go with me in search of you and Tulee. We went to the cottage, and to the plantation, and to New Orleans. Everybody I ever knew seemed to be dead or gone away. But Madame's parrot was alive, and her chattering led me into a stranger's house, where I heard that you were lost at sea on your way to Europe; and that Tulee, with a white baby she had charge of, had died of yellow-fever. Was that baby yours, dear?"

Rosa lowered her eyes, and colored deeply, as she answered: "That subject is very painful to me. I can never forgive myself for having left Tulee and that poor little baby."

Flora pressed her sister's hand in silence for a moment, and then said: "You told me Madame and the Signor were alive and well. Where are they?"

"They lived with us in Provence," replied Rosa. "But when we concluded to return to America, the Signor expressed a wish to end his days in his native country. So Mr. King purchased an estate for them near Florence, and settled an annuity upon them. I had a letter from Madame a few days ago, and she writes that they are as happy as rabbits in clover. The Signor is getting quite old; and if she survives him, it is agreed that she will come and end her days with us. How it will delight her heart to hear that you are alive! What a strange fortune we have had! It seems that Mr. King always loved me, from the first evening that he spent at our house. Do you remember how you laughed because he offered to help us if ever we were in trouble? He knew more about us then than we knew about ourselves; and he afterward did help me out of very great troubles. I will tell you all about it some time. But first I want to know about you. Who is this new Mamita that you speak of?"

"O, it was wonderful how she came to me when I had the greatest need of a friend," answered Flora. "You must know that she and Papasito were in love with each other when they were young; and she is in love with his memory now. I sometimes think his spirit led her to me. I will show you a picture I have made of Papasito and Mamita as guardian angels, placing a crown of violets and lilies of the valley on the head of my new Mamita. When I had to run away, she brought me to live with her in Boston; and there I met with an old acquaintance. Do you remember Florimond Blumenthal?"

"The good German boy that Papasito took such an interest in?" inquired

Rosa. "To be sure I remember him."

"Well, he's a good German boy now," rejoined Flora; "and I'm Mrs.

Blumenthal."

"Is it possible?" exclaimed Rosa. "You look so exactly as you did when you were such a merry little elf, that I never thought to inquire whether you were married. In the joy of this sudden meeting, I forgot how many years had passed since we saw each other."

"You will realize how long it has been when you see my children," rejoined Flora. "My oldest, Alfred Royal, is fitting for college. He is the image of cher Papa; and you will see how Mamita Lila doats upon him. She must have loved Papasito very much. Then I had a daughter that died in a few days; then I had my Rosen Blumen, and you will see who she looks like; then some more came and went to the angels. Last of all came little Lila, who looks just like her father,-flaxen hair, pink cheeks, and great German forget-me-nots for eyes."

"How I shall love them all!" exclaimed Rosa. "And you will love our Eulalia. I had a little Alfred and a little Flora. They came to us in Provence, and we left their pretty little bodies there among the roses."

The sisters sat folded in each other's arms, their souls wandering about among memories, when Mr. Blumenthal returned from his long ramble with the children. Then, of course, there was a scene of exclamations and embraces. Little Lila was shy, and soon ran away to take refuge in Mamita's chamber; but Rosen Blumen was full of wonder and delight that such a grand, beautiful lady was the Aunt Rosa of whom she had heard so much.

"Mamita Lila has stayed away all this time, out of regard to our privacy," said Flora; "but now I am going to bring her."

She soon returned, arm in arm with Mrs. Delano. Mr. Blumenthal took her hand respectfully, as she entered, and said: "This is our dear benefactress, our best earthly friend."

"My guardian angel, my darling Mamita," added Flora.

Mrs. King eagerly stepped forward, and folded her in her arms, saying, in a voice half stifled with emotion, "Thank God and you for all this happiness."

While they were speaking together, Flora held a whispered consultation with her husband, w

ho soon went forth in search of Mr. King, with strict injunctions to say merely that an unexpected pleasure awaited him. He hastened to obey the summons, wondering what it could mean. There was no need of introducing him to his new-found relative. The moment he entered the room, he exclaimed, "Why, Floracita!"

"So you knew me?" she said, clasping his hand warmly.

"To be sure I did," he answered. "You are the same little fairy that danced in the floral parlor."

"O, I'm a sober matron now," said she, with a comic attempt to look demure about the mouth, while her eyes were laughing. "Here is my daughter Rosa; and I have a tall lad, who bears two thirds of your regal name."

The happy group were loath to separate, though it was only to meet again in the evening at Mr. King's lodgings on Round Hill. There, memories and feelings, that tried in vain to express themselves fully in words, found eloquent utterance in music.

Day after day, and evening after evening, the sisters met, with a hunger of the heart that could not be satisfied. Their husbands and children, meanwhile, became mutually attached. Rosen Blumen, richly colored with her tropical ancestry and her vigorous health, looked upon her more ethereal cousin Eulalia as a sort of angel, and seemed to worship her as such. Sometimes she accompanied her sweet, bird-like voice with the guitar; sometimes they sang duets together; and sometimes one played on the piano, while the other danced with Lila, whose tiny feet kept time to the music, true as an echo. Not unfrequently, the pretty little creature was called upon to dance a pas seul; for she had improvised a dance for herself to the tune of Yankee Doodle, and it was very amusing to see how emphatically she stamped the rhythm.

While the young people amused themselves thus, Flora often brought forward her collection of drawings, which Rosa called the portfolio of memories.

There was the little fountain in their father's garden, the lonely cottage on the island, the skeleton of the dead pine tree, with the moon peeping through its streamers of moss, and Thistle with his panniers full of flowers. Among the variety of foreign scenes, Mrs. King particularly admired the dancing peasants from Frascati.

"Ah," said Flora, "I see them now, just as they looked when we passed them on our beautiful drive to Albano. It was the first really merry day I had had for a long time. I was just beginning to learn to enjoy myself without you. It was very selfish of me, dear Rosa, but I was forgetful of you, that day. And, only to think of it! if it had not been for that unlucky apparition of Mr. Fitzgerald, I should have gone to the opera and seen you as Norma."

"Very likely we should both have fainted," rejoined Rosa, "and then the manager would have refused to let La Campaneo try her luck again. But what is this, Floracita?"

"That is a group on Monte Pincio," she replied. "I sketched it when I was shut up in my room, the day before you came out in the opera."

"I do believe it is Madame and the Signor and I," responded Rosa. "The figures and the dresses are exactly the same; and I remember we went to Monte Pincio that morning, on my return from rehearsal."

"What a stupid donkey I was, not to know you were so near!" said Flora. "I should have thought my fingers would have told me while I was drawing it."

"Ah," exclaimed Rosa, "here is Tulee!" Her eyes moistened while she gazed upon it. "Poor Tulee!" said she, "how she cared for me, and comforted me, during those dark and dreadful days! If it hadn't been for her and Chloe, I could never have lived through that trouble. When I began to recover, she told me how Chloe held my hand hour after hour, and prayed over me without ceasing. I believe she prayed me up out of the grave. She said our Mamita appeared to her once, and told her she was my guardian angel; but if it had really been our Mamita, I think she would have told her to tell me you were alive, Mignonne. When Alfred and I went South, just before we came here, we tried to find Tom and Chloe. We intend to go to New Bedford soon to see them. A glimpse of their good-natured black faces would give me more pleasure than all the richly dressed ladies I saw at Mrs. Green's great party."

"Very likely you'll hear Tom preach when you go to New Bedford," rejoined Flora, "for he is a Methodist minister now; and Chloe, they say, is powerful in prayer at the meetings. I often smile when I think about the manner of her coming away. It was so funny that my quiet, refined Mamita Lila should all at once become a kidnapper. But here is Rosen Blumen. Well, what now, Mignonne?"

"Papa says Lila is very sleepy, and we ought to be going home," replied the young damsel.

"Then we will kiss good night, sistita mia?" said Mrs. Blumenthal; "and you will bring Eulalia to us to-morrow."

On their return home, Mr. Bright called to them over the garden fence. "I've just had a letter from your neighbor, Mrs. Fitzgerald," said he. "She wants to know whether we can accommodate her, and her father, and her son with lodgings this summer. I'm mighty glad we can say we've let all our rooms; for that old Mr. Bell treats mechanics as if he thought they all had the small-pox, and he was afraid o' catching it. So different from you, Mr. Blumenthal, and Mr. King! You ain't afraid to take hold of a rough hand without a glove on. How is Mrs. King? Hope she's coming to-morrow. If the thrushes and bobolinks could sing human music, and put human feeling into it, her voice would beat 'em all. How romantic that you should come here to Joe Bright's to find your sister, that you thought was dead."

When they had courteously answered his inquiries, he repeated a wish he had often expressed, that somebody would write a story about it. If he had been aware of all their antecedents, he would perhaps have written one himself; but he only knew that the handsome sisters were orphans, separated in youth, and led by a singular combination of circumstances to suppose each other dead.

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