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A Romance of the Republic By Lydia Maria Child Characters: 12025

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


A few weeks after the funeral of Mr. Bell, Gerald wrote the following letter to Mr. King:-

"My honored and dear Friend,-Lily-mother has decided to go to Europe this fall, that I may have certain educational advantages which she has planned for me. That is the only reason she assigns; but she is evidently nervous about your investigations, and I think a wish to be out of the country for the present has had some effect in producing this decision. I have not sought to influence her concerning this, or the other important point you wot of. My desire is to conform to her wishes, and promote her happiness in any way she chooses. This it is my duty as well as my pleasure to do. She intends to remain in Europe a year, perhaps longer. I wish very much to see you all; and Eulalia might well consider me a very impolite acquaintance, if I should go without saying good by. If you do not return to Boston before we sail, I will, with your permission, make a short call upon you in Northampton. I thank Rose-mother for her likeness. It will be very precious to me. I wish you would add your own and another; for wherever my lot may be cast, you three will always be among my dearest memories."

"I am glad of this arrangement," said Mr. King. "At their age, I hope a year of separation will prove sufficient."

The Rose-mother covered the wound in her heart, and answered, "Yes, it is best." But the constrained tone of the letter pained her, and excited her mind to that most unsatisfactory of all occupations, the thinking over what might have been. She had visions of her first-born son, as he lay by her side a few hours before Chloe carried him away from her sight; and then there rose before her the fair face of that other son, whose pretty little body was passing into the roses of Provence. Both of them had gone out of her life. Of one she received no tidings from the mysterious world of spirits; while the other was walking within her vision, as a shadow, the reality of which was intangible.

Mr. King returned to Boston with his family in season for Gerald to make the proposed call before he sailed. There was a little heightening of color when he and Eulalia met, but he had drilled himself to perform the part of a polite acquaintance; and as she thought she had been rather negligently treated of late, she was cased in the armor of maidenly reserve.

Both Mr. and Mrs. King felt it to be an arduous duty to call on Mrs. Fitzgerald. That lady, though she respected their conscientiousness, could not help disliking them. They had disturbed her relations with Gerald, by suggesting the idea of another claim upon his affections; and they had offended her pride by introducing the vulgar phantom of a slave son to haunt her imagination. She was continually jealous of Mrs. King; so jealous, that Gerald never ventured to show her the likeness of his Rose-mother. But though the discerning eyes of Mr. and Mrs. King read this in the very excess of her polite demonstrations, other visitors who were present when they called supposed them to be her dearest friends, and envied her the distinguished intimacy.

Such formal attempts at intercourse only increased the cravings of Rosa's heart, and Mr. King requested Gerald to grant her a private interview. Inexpressibly precious were these few stolen moments, when she could venture to call him son, and hear him call her mother. He brought her an enamelled locket containing some of his hair, inscribed with the word "Gerald"; and she told him that to the day of her death she would always wear it next her heart. He opened a small morocco case, on the velvet lining of which lay a lily of delicate silver filigree.

"Here is a little souvenir for Eulalia," said he.

Her eyes moistened as she replied, "I fear it would not be prudent, my son."

He averted his face as he answered: "Then give it to her in my mother's name. It will be pleasant to me to think that my sister is wearing it."

* * * * *

A few days after Gerald had sailed for Europe, Mr. King started for New Orleans, taking with him his wife and daughter. An auctioneer was found, who said he had sold to a gentleman in Natchez a runaway slave named Bob Bruteman, who strongly resembled the likeness of Gerald. They proceeded to Natchez and had an interview with the purchaser, who recognized a likeness between his slave Bob and the picture of Gerald. He said he had made a bad bargain of it, for the fellow was intelligent and artful, and had escaped from him two months ago. In answer to his queries, Mr. King stated that, if Bob was the one he supposed, he was a white man, and had friends who wished to redeem him; but as the master had obtained no clew to the runaway, he could of course give none. So their long journey produced no result, except the satisfaction of thinking that the object of their interest had escaped from slavery.

It had been their intention to spend the coldest months at the South, but a volcano had flared up all of a sudden at Harper's Ferry, and boiling lava was rolling all over the land. Every Northern man who visited the South was eyed suspiciously, as a possible emissary of John Brown; and the fact that Mr. King was seeking to redeem a runaway slave was far from increasing confidence in him. Finding that silence was unsatisfactory, and that he must either indorse slavery or be liable to perpetual provocations to quarrel, he wrote to Mr. Blumenthal to have their house in readiness for their return; an arrangement which Flora and her children hailed with merry shouts and clapping of hands.

When they arrived, they found their house as warm as June, with Flora and her family there to receive them, backed by a small army of servants, consisting of Tulee, with her tall son and daughter, and little Benny, and Tom and Chloe; all of whom had places provided for them, either in the household or in Mr. King's commercial establishment. Their tropical exuberance of welcome made him smile. When the hearty hand-sh

akings were over, he said to his wife, as they passed into the parlor, "It really seemed as if we were landing on the coast of Guinea with a cargo of beads."

"O Alfred," rejoined she, "I am so grateful to you for employing them all! You don't know, and never can know, how I feel toward these dusky friends; for you never had them watch over you, day after day, and night after night, patiently and tenderly leading you up from the valley of the shadow of death."

He pressed her hand affectionately, and said, "Inasmuch as they did it for you, darling, they did it for me."

This sentiment was wrought into their daily deportment to their servants; and the result was an harmonious relation between employer and employed, which it was beautiful to witness. But there are skeletons hidden away in the happiest households. Mrs. King had hers, and Tom and Chloe had theirs. The death of Mr. Bell and the absence of Mrs. Fitzgerald left no one in Boston who would be likely to recognize them; but they knew that the Fugitive Slave Act was still in force, and though they relied upon Mr. King's generosity in case of emergency, they had an uncomfortable feeling of not being free. It was not so with Tulee. She had got beyond Mount Pisgah into the Canaan of freedom; and her happiness was unalloyed. Mr. King, though kind and liberal to all, regarded her with especial favor, on account of old associations. The golden hoops had been taken from her ears when she was in the calaboose; but he had presented her with another pair, for he liked to have her look as she did when she opened for him that door in New Orleans, which had proved an entrance to the temple and palace of his life. She felt herself to be a sort of prime minister in the small kingdom, and began to deport herself as one having authority. No empress ever had more satisfaction in a royal heir than she had in watching her Benny trudging to school, with his spelling-book slung over his shoulder, in a green satchel Mrs. King had made for him. The stylishness of the establishment was also a great source of pride to her; and she often remarked in the kitchen that she had always said gold was none too good for Missy Rosy to walk upon. Apart from this consideration, she herself had an Oriental delight in things that were lustrous and gayly colored. Tom had learned to read quite fluently, and was accustomed to edify his household companions with chapters from the Bible on Sunday evenings. The descriptions of King Solomon's splendor made a lively impression on Tulee's mind. When she dusted the spacious parlors, she looked admiringly at the large mirrors, the gilded circles of gas lights, and the great pictures framed in crimson and gold, and thought that the Temple of Solomon could not have been more grand. She could scarcely believe Mrs. Delano was wealthy. "She's a beautiful lady," said she to Flora; "but if she's got plenty o' money, what makes her dress so innocent and dull? There's Missy Rosy now, when she's dressed for company, she looks like the Queen of Shebee."

One morning Tulee awoke to look out upon a scene entirely new to her Southern eyes, and far surpassing anything she had imagined of the splendor of Solomon's Temple. On the evening previous, the air had been full of mist, which, as it grew colder, had settled on the trees of the Common, covering every little twig with a panoply of ice. A very light snow had fallen softly during the night, and sprinkled the ice with a feathery fleece. The trees, in this delicate white vesture, standing up against a dark blue sky, looked like the glorified spirits of trees. Here and there, the sun touched them, and dropped a shower of diamonds. Tulee gazed a moment in delighted astonishment, and ran to call Chloe, who exclaimed, "They looks like great white angels, and Ise feared they'll fly away 'fore Missis gits up."

Tulee was very impatient for the sound of Mrs. King's bell, and as soon as the first tinkle was heard she rushed into her dressing-room, exclaiming, "O, do come to the window, Missy Rosy! Sure this is silver land."

Rosa was no less surprised when she looked out upon that wonderful vision of the earth, in its transfigured raiment of snow-glory. "Why, Tulee," said she, "it is diamond land. I've seen splendid fairy scenes in the theatres of Paris, but never anything so brilliant as this."

"I used to think the woods down South, all covered with jess'mines, was the beautifullest thing," responded Tulee; "but, Lors, Missy Rosy, this is as much handsomer as Solomon's Temple was handsomer than a meetin'-house."

But neither the indoor nor the outdoor splendor, nor all the personal comforts they enjoyed, made this favored band of colored people forgetful of the brethren they had left in bondage. Every word about John Brown was sought for and read with avidity. When he was first taken captive, Chloe said: "The angel that let Peter out o' prison ha'n't growed old an' hard o' hearing. If we prays loud enough, he'll go and open the doors for old John Brown."

Certainly, it was not for want of the colored people's praying loud and long enough, that the prisoner was not supernaturally delivered. They did not relinquish the hope till the 2d of December: and when that sad day arrived, they assembled in their meeting-house to watch and pray. All was silent, except now and then an occasional groan, till the hands of the clock pointed to the moment of the martyr's exit from this world. Then Tom poured forth his soul in a mighty voice of prayer, ending with the agonized entreaty, "O Lord, thou hast taken away our Moses. Raise us up a Joshua!" And all cried, "Amen!"

Chloe, who had faith that could walk the stormiest waves, spoke words of fervent cheer to the weeping congregation.

"I tell ye they ha'n't killed old John Brown," said she; "'cause they couldn't kill him. The angel that opened the prison doors for Peter has let him out, and sent him abroad in a different way from what we 'spected; that's all."

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