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A Romance of the Republic By Lydia Maria Child Characters: 15540

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


When Mr. King returned from his mournful journey to Washington, he said to his wife: "I saw George Falkner, and was pleased with him. His resemblance to poor Gerald is wonderful. I could see no difference, except a firmer expression of the mouth, which I suppose is owing to his determined efforts to escape from slavery. Of course, he has not Gerald's gracefulness; but his bearing seemed manly, and there was no obvious stamp of vulgarity upon him. It struck me that his transformation into a gentleman would be an easy process. I was glad our interview was a hurried one, and necessarily taken up with details about Gerald's death. It seems he carried him off in his own arms when he was wounded, and that he did his utmost to stanch the blood. Gerald never spoke after the bullet struck him, though he pressed his hand, and appeared to try to say something. When he opened his vest to dress the wound, he found this."

Rosa looked at it, groaned out, "Poor Gerald!" and covered her face. It was the photograph of Eulalia, with the upper part shot away. Both remained for some time with their heads bowed in silence.

After a while, Mr. King resumed: "In answer to Mr. Green's inquiries concerning the mutilated picture, I replied that it was a likeness of my daughter; and he answered that he had heard a marriage was thought of between them. I was glad he happened to say that, for it will make it seem natural to George that I should take a lively interest in him on Gerald's account. The funeral, and Alfred's departure for the army, have left me little time to arrange my thoughts on that subject. But I have now formed definite plans, that I propose we should this evening talk over at Blumenthal's."

When the sisters met, and the girls had gone to another room to talk over their lessons, and imagine what Alfred was then doing, Mr. King began to speak of George Falkner.

Rosa said: "My first wish is to go to New Rochelle and bring home Henriet. She ought to be educated in a degree somewhat suitable to her husband's prospects. I will teach her to read and write, and give her lessons on the piano."

"I think that would prove too much for your finely attuned musical nerves," rejoined her husband.

"Do you suppose you are going to make all the sacrifices?" responded she, smiling. "It isn't at all like you to wish to engross everything to yourself."

"Rosa has a predilection for penance," remarked Flora; "and if she listens daily to a beginner knocking the scales up hill and down hill, I think it will answer instead of walking to Jerusalem with peas in her shoes."

"Before I mention my plans, I should like to hear your view of the subject, Blumenthal," said Mr. King.

His brother-in-law replied: "I think Rosa is right about taking charge of Henriet and educating her. But it seems to me the worst thing you could do for her or her husband would be to let them know that they have a claim to riches. Sudden wealth is apt to turn the heads of much older people than they are; and having been brought up as slaves, their danger would be greatly increased. If Henriet could be employed to sew for you, she might be gratified with easy work and generous wages, while you watched over her morals, and furnished her with opportunities to improve her mind. If George survives the war, some employment with a comfortable salary might be provided for him, with a promise to advance him according to his industry and general good habits. How does that strike you, Mamita?"

"I agree perfectly with you," rejoined Mrs. Delano. "I think it would be far more prudent to have their characters formed by habits of exertion and self-reliance, before they are informed that they are rich."

"It gratifies me to have my own judgment thus confirmed," said Mr. King. "You have given the outlines of a plan I had already formed. But this judicious process must not, of course, deprive the young man of a single cent that is due to him. You are aware that Mr. Bell left fifty thousand dollars to his grandson, to be paid when he was twenty-two years of age. I have already invested that sum for George, and placed it in the care of Mr. Percival, with directions that the interest shall be added to it from that date. The remainder of Mr. Bell's property, with the exception of some legacies, was unreservedly left to his daughter. I have taken some pains to ascertain the amount, and I shall add a codicil to my will leaving an equal sum to George. If I survive Mrs. Fitzgerald, the interest on it will date from her decease; and I shall take the best legal advice as to the means of securing her property from any claims, by George or his heirs, after they are informed of the whole story, as they will be whenever Mrs. Fitzgerald dies."

"You are rightly named Royal King," rejoined Mr. Blumenthal, "you do things in such princely style."

"In a style better than that of most royal kings," replied he, "for it is simply that of an honest man. If this entanglement had never happened, I should have done as much for Gerald; and let me do what I will, Eulalia will have more money than is good for her. Besides, I rather expect this arrangement will prove a benefit to myself. I intend to employ the young man as one of my agents in Europe; and if he shows as much enterprise and perseverance in business as he did in escaping from slavery, he will prove an excellent partner for me when increasing years diminish my own energies. I would gladly adopt him, and have him live with us; but I doubt whether such a great and sudden change of condition would prove salutary, and his having a colored wife would put obstructions in his way entirely beyond our power to remove. But the strongest objection to it is, that such an arrangement would greatly annoy Mrs. Fitzgerald, whose happiness we are bound to consult in every possible way."

"Has she been informed that the young man is found?" inquired Mrs.

Delano.

"No," replied Mr. King. "It occurred very near the time of Gerald's death; and we deem it unkind to disturb her mind about it for some months to come."

* * * * *

The next week, Mr. and Mrs. King started for New York, and thence proceeded to New Rochelle. Following the directions they had received, they hired a carriage at the steamboat-landing, to convey them to a farm-house a few miles distant. As they approached the designated place, they saw a slender man, in drab-colored clothes, lowering a bucket into the well. Mr. King alighted, and inquired, "Is this Mr. Houseman's farm, sir?"

"My name is Joseph Houseman," replied the Quaker. "I am usually called

Friend Joseph."

Mr. King returned to the carriage, and saying, "This is the place," he assisted his lady to alight. Returning to the farmer, he said: "We have come to ask you about a young colored woman, named Henriet Falkner. Her husband rendered service to a dear young friend of ours in the army, and we would be glad to repay the obligation by kindness to her."

"Walk in," said the Quaker. He showed them into a neat, plainly furnished parlor. "Where art thou from?" he inquired.

"From Boston," was the reply.

"What is thy name?"

"Mr. King."

"All men are called Mister," rejoined the Quaker. "What is thy given name?"

"My name is Alfred Royal King; and this is my wife, Rosa King."

"Hast thou brought a letter from the woman's husband?" inquired Friend

Joseph.

"No," replied Mr. King. "I saw George Falkner in Washington, a fortnight ago, when I went to seek the body of our young friend; but I did not then think of coming here. If you doubt me, you can write to William Lloyd Garrison or Wendell Phillips, and inquire of them whether Alfred R. King is capable of deceiving."

"I like thy countenance, Friend Al

fred, and I think thou art honest," rejoined the Quaker; "but where colored people are concerned, I have known very polite and fair-spoken men to tell falsehoods."

Mr. King smiled as he answered: "I commend your caution, Friend Joseph. I see how it is. You suspect we may be slaveholders in disguise. But slaveholders are just now too busy seeking to destroy this Republic to have any time to hunt fugitives; and when they have more leisure, my opinion is they will find that occupation gone."

"I should have more hope of that," replied the farmer, "if there was not so much pro-slavery here at the North. And thee knows that the generals of the United States are continually sending back fugitive slaves to bleed under the lash of their taskmasters."

"I honor your scruples, Friend Joseph," responded Mr. King; "and that they may be completely removed, we will wait at the Metropolitan in New York until you have received letters from Mr. Garrison and Mr. Phillips. And lest you should think I may have assumed the name of another, I will give you these to enclose in your letter." He opened his pocket-book and took out two photographs.

"I shall ask to have them sent back to me," replied the farmer; "for

I should like to keep a likeness of thee and thy Rosa. They will be

pleasant to look upon. As soon as I receive an answer, Friend Alfred,

I will call upon thee at the Metropolitan."

"We shall be pleased to see you, Friend Joseph," said Rosa, with one of her sweetest smiles, which penetrated the Quaker's soul, as sunshine does the receptive earth. Yet, when the carriage had rolled away, he harnessed his sleek horses to the wagon, and conveyed Henriet and her babe to the house of a Friend at White Plains, till he ascertained whether these stylish-looking strangers were what they professed to be.

A few days afterward, Friend Joseph called at the Metropolitan. When he inquired for the wealthy Bostonian, the waiter stared at his plain dress, and said, "Your card, sir."

"I have no card," replied the farmer. "Tell him Friend Joseph wishes to see him."

The waiter returned, saying, "Walk this way, sir," and showed him into the elegant reception-room.

As he sat there, another servant, passing through, looked at him, and said, "All gentlemen take off their hats in this room, sir."

"That may be," quietly replied the Quaker; "but all men do not, for thee sees I keep mine on."

The entrance of Mr. King, and his cordial salutation, made an impression on the waiters' minds; and when Friend Joseph departed, they opened the door very obsequiously.

The result of the conference was that Mr. and Mrs. King returned to

Boston with Henriet and her little one.

Tulee had proved in many ways that her discretion might be trusted; and it was deemed wisest to tell her the whole story of the babe, who had been carried to the calaboose with her when Mr. Bruteman's agent seized her. This confidence secured her as a firm friend and ally of Henriet, while her devoted attachment to Mrs. King rendered her secrecy certain. When black Chloe saw the newcomer learning to play on the piano, she was somewhat jealous because the same privilege had not been offered to her children. "I didn't know Missy Rosy tought thar war sech a mighty difference 'tween black an' brown," said she. "I don't see nothin' so drefful pooty in dat ar molasses color."

"Now ye shut up," rejoined Tulee. "Missy Rosy knows what she's 'bout. Ye see Mr. Fitzgerald was in love with Missy Eulaly; an' Henret's husban' took care o' him when he was dying. Mr. King is going to send him 'cross the water on some gran' business, to pay him for 't; and Missy Rosy wants his wife to be 'spectable out there 'mong strangers."

Henriet proved good-natured and unassuming, and, with occasional patronage from Tulee, she was generally able to keep her little boat in smooth water.

When she had been there a few months Mr. King enclosed to Mrs. Fitzgerald the letters Gerald had written about George; and a few days afterward he called to explain fully what he had done, and what he intended to do. That lady's dislike for her rival was much diminished since there was no Gerald to excite her jealousy of divided affection. There was some perturbation in her manner, but she received her visitor with great politeness; and when he had finished his statement she said: "I have great respect for your motives and your conduct; and I am satisfied to leave everything to your good judgment and kind feelings. I have but one request to make. It is that this young man may never know he is my son."

"Your wishes shall be respected," replied Mr. King. "But he so strongly resembles Gerald, that, if you should ever visit Europe again, you might perhaps like to see him, if you only recognized him as a relative of your husband."

The lady's face flushed as she answered promptly: "No, sir. I shall never recognize any person as a relative who has a colored wife. Much as I loved Gerald, I would never have seen him again if he had formed such an alliance; not even if his wife were the most beautiful and accomplished creature that ever walked the earth."

"You are treading rather closely upon me, Mrs. Fitzgerald," rejoined

Mr. King, smiling.

The lady seemed embarrassed, and said she had forgotten Mrs. King's origin.

"Your son's wife is not so far removed from a colored ancestry as mine is," rejoined Mr. King; "but I think you would soon forget her origin, also, if you were in a country where others did not think of it. I believe our American prejudice against color is one of what Carlyle calls 'the phantom dynasties.'"

"It may be so," she replied coldly; "but I do not wish to be convinced of it."

And Mr. King bowed good morning.

A week or two after this interview, Mrs. Fitzgerald called upon Mrs. King; for, after all, she felt a certain sort of attraction in the secret history that existed between them; and she was unwilling to have the world suppose her acquaintance had been dropped by so distinguished a lady. By inadvertence of the servant at the door, she was shown into the parlor while Henriet was there, with her child on the floor, receiving directions concerning some muslin flounces she was embroidering. Upon the entrance of a visitor, she turned to take up her infant and depart. But Mrs. King said, "Leave little Hetty here, Mrs. Falkner, till you bring my basket for me to select the floss you need."

Hetty, being thus left alone, scrambled up, and toddled toward Mrs. King, as if accustomed to an affectionate reception. The black curls that clustered round her yellow face shook, as her uncertain steps hastened to a place of refuge; and when she leaned against her friend's lap, a pretty smile quivered on her coral lips, and lighted up her large dark eyes.

Mrs. Fitzgerald looked at her with a strange mixture of feelings.

"Don't you think she's a pretty little creature?" asked Mrs. King.

"She might be pretty if the yellow could be washed off," replied Mrs.

Fitzgerald.

"Her cheeks are nearly the color of your hair," rejoined Mrs. King; "and I always thought that beautiful."

Mrs. Fitzgerald glanced at the mirror, and sighed as she said: "Ah, yes. My hair used to be thought very pretty when I was young; but I can see that it begins to fade."

When Henriet returned and took the child, she looked at her very curiously. She was thinking to herself, "What would my father say?" But she asked no questions, and made no remark.

She had joined a circle of ladies who were sewing and knitting for the soldiers; and after some talk about the difficulty she had found in learning to knit socks, and how fashionable it was for everybody to knit now, she rose to take leave.

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