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A Romance of the Republic By Lydia Maria Child Characters: 18762

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

Another year brought with it what was supposed to be peace, and the army was disbanded. Husband and son returned alive and well, and Flora was her young self again. In the exuberance of her joy she seemed more juvenile than her girls; jumping from husband to son and from son to husband, kissing them and calling them all manner of pet names; embracing Mrs. Delano at intervals, and exclaiming, "O Mamita, here we are all together again! I wish my arms were long enough to hug you all at once."

"I thank God, my child, for your sake and for my own," replied Mrs. Delano. She looked at Alfred, as she spoke, and the affectionate glance he returned filled her heart with a deep and quiet joy. The stern shadow of war vanished from his face in the sunshine of home, and she recognized the same gentle expression that had been photographed on her memory long years ago.

When the family from Beacon Street came, a few minutes later, with welcomes and congratulations, Alfred bestowed a different sort of glance on his cousin Eulalia, and they both blushed; as young people often do, without knowing the reason why. Rosen Blumen and Lila had been studying with her the language of their father's country; and when the general fervor had somewhat abated, the girls manifested some disposition to show off the accomplishment. "Do hear them calling Alfred Mein lieber bruder," said Flora to her husband, "while Rosa and I are sprinkling them all with pet names in French and Spanish. What a polyglot family we are! as cher papa used to say. But, Florimond, did you notice anything peculiar in the meeting between Alfred and Eulalia?"

"I thought I did," he replied.

"How will Brother King like it?" she asked. "He thinks very highly of

Alfred; but you know he has a theory against the marriage of cousins."

"So have I," answered Blumenthal; "but nations and races have been pretty thoroughly mixed up in the ancestry of our children. What with African and French, Spanish, American, and German, I think the dangers of too close relationship are safely diminished."

"They are a good-looking set, between you and I," said Flora; "though they are oddly mixed up. See Eulalia, with her great blue eyes, and her dark eyebrows and eyelashes. Rosen Blumen looks just like a handsome Italian girl. No one would think Lila Blumen was her sister, with her German blue eyes, and that fine frizzle of curly light hair. Your great-grandmother gave her the flax, and I suppose mine did the frizzling."

This side conversation was interrupted by Mr. King's saying: "Blumenthal, you haven't asked for news concerning Mrs. Fitzgerald. You know Mr. Green has been a widower for some time. Report says that he finds in her company great consolation for the death of her cousin."

"That's what I call a capital arrangement," said Flora; "and I didn't mean any joke about their money, either. Won't they sympathize grandly? Won't she be in her element? Top notch. No end to balls and parties; and a coat of arms on the coach."

"The news made me very glad," observed Rosa; "for the thought of her loneliness always cast a shadow over my happiness."

"Even they have grown a little during the war," rejoined Mr. King. "Nabob Green, as they call him, did actually contribute money for the raising of colored regiments. He so far abated his prejudice as to be willing that negroes should have the honor of being shot in his stead; and Mrs. Fitzgerald agreed with him. That was a considerable advance, you must admit."

They went on for some time talking over news, public and private; not omitting the prospects of Tom's children, and the progress of Tulee's. But such family chats are like the showers of manna, delicious as they fall, but incapable of preservation.

The first evening the families met at the house in Beacon Street, Mr. Blumenthal expressed a wish to see Henriet, and she was summoned. The improvement in her appearance impressed him greatly. Having lived three years with kindly and judicious friends, who never reminded her, directly or indirectly, that she was a black sheep in the social flock, her faculties had developed freely and naturally; and belonging to an imitative race, she readily adopted the language and manners of those around her. Her features were not handsome, with the exception of her dark, liquid-looking eyes; and her black hair was too crisp to make a soft shading for her brown forehead. But there was a winning expression of gentleness in her countenance, and a pleasing degree of modest ease in her demeanor. A map, which she had copied very neatly, was exhibited, and a manuscript book of poems, of her own selection, written very correctly, in a fine flowing hand. "Really, this is encouraging," said Mr. Blumenthal, as she left the room. "If half a century of just treatment and free schools can bring them all up to this level, our battles will not be in vain, and we shall deserve to rank among the best benefactors of the country; to say nothing of a corresponding improvement in the white population."

"Thitherward is Providence leading us," replied Mr. King. "Not unto us, but unto God, be all the glory. We were all of us working for better than we knew."

* * * * *

Mr. King had written to George Falkner, to inform him of a situation he had in store for him at Marseilles, and to request a previous meeting in New York, as soon as he could obtain his discharge from the army; being in this, as in all other arrangements, delicately careful to avoid giving annoyance to Mrs. Fitzgerald. In talking this over with his wife, he said: "I consider it a duty to go to Marseilles with him. It will give us a chance to become acquainted with each other; it will shield him from possible impertinences on the passage, on Henriet's account; and it will be an advantage to him to be introduced as my friend to the American Consul, and some commercial gentlemen of my acquaintance."

"I am to go with you, am I not?" asked Rosa. "I am curious to see this young man, from whom I parted, so unconscious of all the strange future, when he was a baby in Tulee's arms."

"I think you had better not go, dear," he replied; "though the loss of your company will deprive me of a great pleasure. Eulalia would naturally wish to go with us; and as she knows nothing of George's private history, it would be unwise to excite her curiosity by introducing her to such a striking likeness of Gerald. But she might stay with Rosen Blumen while you go to New York and remain with me till the vessel sails. If I meet with no accidents, I shall return in three months; for I go merely to give George a fair start, though, when there, I shall have an eye to some other business, and take a run to Italy to look in upon our good old friends, Madame and the Signor."

The journey to New York was made at the appointed time, in company with Henriet and her little one. George had risen to the rank of lieutenant in the army, and had acquired a military bearing that considerably increased the manliness of his appearance. He was browned by exposure to sun and wind; but he so strongly resembled her handsome Gerald, that Rosa longed to clasp him to her heart. His wife's appearance evidently took him by surprise. "How you have changed!" he exclaimed. "What a lady you are! I can hardly believe this is the little Hen I used to make mud pies with."

She laughed as she answered: "You are changed, too. If I have improved, it is owing to these kind friends. Only think of it, George, though Mrs. King is such a handsome and grand lady, she always called me Mrs. Falkner."

Mrs. King made several appropriate parting presents to Henriet and little Hetty. To George she gave a gold watch, and a very beautiful colored photograph of Gerald, in a morocco case, as a souvenir of their brief friendship in the army.

Mr. King availed himself of every hour of the voyage to gain the confidence of the young man, and to instil some salutary lessons into his very receptive mind. After they had become well acquainted, he said: "I have made an estimate of what I think it will be necessary for you to spend for rent, food, and clothing; also of what I think it would be wise for you to spend in improving your education, and for occasional amusements. I have not done this in the spirit of dictation, my young friend, but merely with the wish of helping you by my greater experience of life. It is important that you should learn to write a good commercial hand, and also acquire, as soon as possible, a very thorough knowledge of the French language. For these you should employ the best teachers that can be found. Your wife can help you in many ways. She has learned to spell correctly, to read with fluency and expression, and to play quite well on the piano. You will find it very profitable to read good books aloud to each other. I advise you not to go to places of amusement oftener than once a fortnight, and always to choose such places as will be suitable and pleasant for your wife. I like that young men in my employ should never taste intoxicating drinks, or use tobacco in any form. Both those habits are expensive, and I have long ago abjured them as injurious to health."

The young man bowed, and replied, "I will do as you wish in all respects, sir; I should be very ungrateful if I did not."

"I shall give you eight hundr

ed dollars for the first year," resumed Mr. King; "and shall increase your salary year by year, according to your conduct and capabilities. If you are industrious, temperate, and economical, there is no reason why you should not become a rich man in time; and it will be wise for you to educate yourself, your wife, and your children, with a view to the station you will have it in your power to acquire. If you do your best, you may rely upon my influence and my fatherly interest to help you all I can."

The young man colored, and, after a little embarrassed hesitation, said: "You spoke of a fatherly interest, sir; and that reminds me that I never had a father. May I ask whether you know anything about my parents?"

Mr. King had anticipated the possibility of such a question, and he replied: "I will tell you who your father was, if you will give a solemn promise never to ask a single question about your mother. On that subject I have given a pledge of secrecy which it would be dishonorable for me to break. Only this much I will say, that neither of your parents was related to me in any degree, or connected with me in any way."

The young man answered, that he was of course very desirous to know his whole history, but would be glad to obtain any information, and was willing to give the required promise, which he would most religiously keep.

Mr. King then went on to say: "Your father was Mr. Gerald Fitzgerald, a planter in Georgia. You have a right to his name, and I will so introduce you to my friends, if you wish it. He inherited a handsome fortune, but lost it all by gambling and other forms of dissipation. He had several children by various mothers. You and the Gerald with whom you became acquainted were brothers by the father's side. You are unmixed white; but you were left in the care of a negro nurse, and one of your father's creditors seized you both, and sold you into slavery. Until a few months before you were acquainted with Gerald, it was supposed that you died in infancy; and for that reason no efforts were made to redeem you. Circumstances which I am not at liberty to explain led to the discovery that you were living, and that Gerald had learned your history as a slave. I feel the strongest sympathy with your misfortunes, and cherish a lively gratitude for your kindness to my young friend Gerald. All that I have told you is truth; and if it were in my power, I would most gladly tell you the whole truth."

The young man listened with the deepest interest; and, having expressed his thanks, said he should prefer to be called by his father's name; for he thought he should feel more like a man to bear a name to which he knew that he had a right.

* * * * *

When Mr. King again returned to his Boston home, as soon as the first eager salutations were over, he exclaimed: "How the room is decorated with vines and flowers! It reminds me of that dear floral parlor in New Orleans."

"Didn't you telegraph that you were coming? And is it not your birthday?" inquired his wife.

He kissed her, and said: "Well, Rosabella, I think you may now have a tranquil mind; for I believe things have been so arranged that no one is very seriously injured by that act of frenzy which has caused you so much suffering. George will not be deprived of any of his pecuniary rights; and he is in a fair way to become more of a man than he would have been if he had been brought up in luxury. He and Henriet are as happy in their prospects as two mortals well can be. Gerald enjoyed his short life; and was more bewildered than troubled by the discovery that he had two mothers. Eulalia was a tender, romantic memory to him; and such, I think, he has become to our child. I don't believe Mrs. Fitzgerald suffered much more than annoyance. Gerald was always the same to her as a son; and if he had been really so, he would probably have gone to the war, and have run the same chance of being killed."

"Ah, Alfred," she replied, "I should never have found my way out of that wretched entanglement if it had not been for you. You have really acted toward me the part of Divine Providence. It makes me ashamed that I have not been able to do anything in atonement for my own fault, except the pain I suffered in giving up my Gerald to his Lily-mother. When I think how that poor babe became enslaved by my act, I long to sell my diamonds, and use the money to build school-houses for the freedmen."

"Those diamonds seem to trouble you, dearest," rejoined he, smiling. "I have no objection to your selling them. You become them, and they become you; but I think school-houses will shine as brighter jewels in the better world."

Here Flora came in with all her tribe; and when the welcomes were over, her first inquiries were for Madame and the Signor.

"They are well," replied Mr. King, "and they seem to be as contented as tabbies on a Wilton rug. They show signs of age, of course. The Signor has done being peppery, and Madame's energy has visibly abated; but her mind is as lively as ever. I wish I could remember half the stories she repeated about the merry pranks of your childhood. She asked a great many questions about Jolie Manon; and she laughed till she cried while she described, in dramatic style, how you crazed the poor bird with imitations, till she called you Joli petit diable"

"How I wish I had known mamma then! How funny she must have been!" exclaimed Lila.

"I think you have heard some performances of hers that were equally funny," rejoined Mrs. Delano. "I used to be entertained with a variety of them; especially when we were in Italy. If any of the pifferari went by, she would imitate the drone of their bagpipes in a manner irresistibly comic. And if she saw a peasant-girl dancing, she forthwith went through the performance to the life."

"Yes, Mamita," responded Flora; "and you know I fancied myself a great musical composer in those days,-a sort of feminine Mozart; but the qui vive was always the key I composed in."

"I used to think the fairies helped you about that, as well as other things," replied Mrs. Delano.

"I think the fairies help her now," said Mr. Blumenthal; "and well they may, for she is of their kith and kin."

This playful trifling was interrupted by the sound of the folding-doors rolling apart; and in the brilliantly lighted adjoining room a tableau became visible, in honor of the birthday. Under festoons of the American flag, surmounted by the eagle, stood Eulalia, in ribbons of red, white, and blue, with a circle of stars round her head. One hand upheld the shield of the Union, and in the other the scales of Justice were evenly poised. By her side stood Rosen Blumen, holding in one hand a gilded pole surmounted by a liberty-cap, while her other hand rested protectingly on the head of Tulee's Benny, who was kneeling and looking upward in thanksgiving.

Scarcely had the vision appeared before Joe Bright's voice was heard leading invisible singers through the tune "Hail to the Chief," which Alfred Blumenthal accompanied with a piano. As they sang the last line the striped festoons fell and veiled the tableau. Then Mr. Bright, who had returned a captain, appeared with his company, consisting of Tom and Chloe with their children, and Tulee with her children, singing a parody composed by himself, of which the chorus was:-

"Blow ye the trumpet abroad o'er the sea,

Columbia has triumphed, the negro is free!

Praise to the God of our fathers! 'twas He,

Jehovah, that triumphed, Columbia, through thee."

To increase the effect, the director of ceremonies had added a flourish of trumpets behind the scenes.

Then the colored band came forward, hand in hand, and sang together, with a will, Whittier's immortal "Boat Song":-

"We own de hoe, we own de plough,

We own de hands dat hold;

We sell de pig, we sell de cow;

But nebber chile be sold.

De yam will grow, de cotton blow,

We'll hab de rice an' corn:

O, nebber you fear, if nebber you hear

De driver blow his horn!"

All the family, of all ages and colors, then joined in singing "The Star-spangled Banner"; and when Mr. King had shaken hands with them all, they adjourned to the breakfast-room, where refreshments were plentifully provided.

At last Mr. Bright said: "I don't want to bid you good night, friends; but I must. I don't generally like to go among Boston folks. Just look at the trees on the Common. They're dying because they've rolled the surface of the ground so smooth. That's just the way in Boston, I reckon. They take so much pains to make the surface smooth, that it kills the roots o' things. But when I come here, or go to Mrs. Blumenthal's, I feel as if the roots o' things wa'n't killed. Good night, friends. I haven't enjoyed myself so well since I found Old Hundred and Yankee Doodle in the Harmolinks."

The sound of his whistling died away in the streets; the young people went off to talk over their festival; the colored troop retired to rest; and the elders of the two families sat together in the stillness, holding sweet converse concerning the many strange experiences that had been so richly crowned with blessings.

A new surprise awaited them, prepared by the good taste of Mr. Blumenthal. A German Liederkrantz in the hall closed the ceremonies of the night with Mendelssohn's "Song of Praise."

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