DR. LACEY APPEARS UPON THE SCENE
When Mr. Middleton was spoken to on the subject of sending Julia to Frankfort, he at first refused outright. "No," said he, "indeed she shan't go! What does she want of any more flummerdiddle notions? What she does know is a damage to her."
"But do you not wish to give your daughters every possible advantage?" said Mr. Wilmot.
"Who's said anything about my daughters?" said Mr. Middleton. "It's nobody but Tempest, and she's always kickin' up some boobery. Now if 'twas Sunshine, why, I might--but no, neither of 'em shall go. It's all stuff, the whole on't."
So saying, he turned on his heel and walked off, while Julia burst into tears and repaired to her own room, whither she was soon followed by her mother, who tried to console her. Said she, "Why, Julia, you don't take the right course with your father. Why do you not propose having your sister accompany you? For, if you go, she will, and you know she can always coax father to do as she pleases."
This was rather humiliating to Julia, but she concluded it was her only alternative, so she dried her eyes, and seeking out her sister, very soon talked her into a strong desire to try the mysteries of a school in Frankfort, and also drew from her a promise to try her powers of argument upon her father. Accordingly, that evening Fanny made an attack upon him, and as her mother had predicted, she was perfectly successful. It was settled that she and Julia should both go, and the next morning early Mr. Middleton set off for Frankfort to find "as smart a boarding place for his gals as anybody had." There was as yet no boarding house connected with the school, and he was obliged to find a place for them in some one of the numerous boarding houses with which Frankfort abounds. He at last decided upon a very genteel establishment, kept by a Mrs. Crane, who at first hesitated about receiving into her family persons who possessed so rough and shabby-looking a father.
But Mr. Middleton brought her to a decision by saying, "what the deuce you waiting for? Is it because I've got on cowhide stogies and a home-made coat? Thunder and lightning! Don't you know I'm old Middleton, worth at least two hundred thousand?"
This announcement changed the current of Mrs. Crane's ideas. The daughters were not rough, if the father was, so she decided to take them, and for the very moderate sum of seven dollars per week, promised to give them all the privileges of her house. The first day of June was fixed on for them to leave home and at sunrise Mr. Middleton's carriage stood at the door, waiting for the young ladies to make their appearance. Julia had long been ready and was waiting impatiently for Fanny, who was bidding the servants an affectionate good-bye. Each one had received from her some little token of love, and now they all stood in one corner of the yard, to look at their darling as long as possible.
"Lor' bless her," said one; "Kentuck hain't many like her, nor never will have."
"No, nor Frankfort nuther," said a second. While a third added, "No, and I reckon heaven hadn't nuther!"
To which a fourth responded, "Amen."
Here old Aunt Katy, who had nursed Mr. Middieton and his children after him, hobbled up to Fanny, and laying her hard, shriveled black hand on her young mistress' bright locks, said, "The Lord who makes the wind blow easy like on the sheared lamb, take keer of my sweet child and bring her back agin to poor old Aunt Katy, who'll be all dark and lonesome, when Sunshine's done gone."
This was regarded as a wonderful speech by the negroes, and as none of them could hope to equal it, they contented themselves by lustily blowing their trombones and wiping the same on their shirt sleeves, or the corner of their aprons. At last the good-byes were all said, Julia merely noticed the blacks with a slight nod, and then sprang nimbly into the carriage, which disappeared from view just as the negroes struck up in a loud, clear and not unmusical tone:
"Stop your yelp, can't you?" said Mr. Middleton, but his voice indicated that he would not be very much displeased even if they did not obey, so they tuned their pipes still louder, and this time the six dogs joined in the chorus, with a long and mournful howl.
"Thar, that'll do," said Mr. Middleton, "now to your work, quick; and mind the one that works best this week shall go Saturday and carry Miss Crane some strawberries!"
The negroes needed no other incentive to work than the prospect before them of going to see Fanny. Never had Mr. Middleton had so much accomplished in one week. When Friday night came, it was hard telling which was the favored one. At last it was settled that Ike should go to Frankfort, and the rest should have a sort of holiday. Ike was a sprightly negro boy of seventeen, and almost idolized his young mistress Fanny. Long before "sun up" (a favorite expression in Kentucky for sunrise), he had filled his basket with strawberries, and just as the first rays of sunlight streaked the eastern hills, he started on his mission, laden with numerous messages of love for "sweet Miss Fanny," and a big cranberry pie from Aunt Judy, who was "sartin the baby wanted some of old Judy's jimcracks by this time."
Meantime Julia and Fanny had become tolerably well established both in school and at Mrs. Crane's. Julia was perfectly delighted with her new quarters, for she said "everything was in style, just as it should be," and she readily adopted all the "city notions." But poor Fanny was continually committing some blunder. She would forget to use her napkin, or persist in using her knife instead of her four-tined silver fork. These little things annoyed Julia excessively, and numerous were the lectures given in secret to Fanny, who would laugh merrily at her sister's distress and say she really wished her father would dine some day at Mrs. Crane's table.
"Heaven forbid that he should!" said Julia. "I should be mortified to death."
"They would not mind his oddities," said Fanny, "for I overheard Mrs. Crane telling the exquisitely fashionable Mrs. Carrington that our father was 'a quizzical old savage, but rich as a nabob, and we should undoubtedly inherit a hundred thousand dollars apiece.' And then Mrs. Carrington said, 'Oh, is it possible? One can afford to patronize them.' And then she added something else which I think I'll not tell you."
"Oh, do," said Julia. "It too bad to raise my curiosity and not gratify it."
"Well, then," said Fanny, "Mrs. Carrington said, 'There is a rumor that the eldest Miss Middleton is engaged to Mr. Wilmot. I wonder at it, for with her extreme beauty and great fortune, she could command a more eligible match than a poor pedagogue.'"
The next morning at breakfast Mrs. Crane informed her boarders that she expected a new arrival the next day, Friday. She said, "It is a new gentleman from New Orleans. His name is Dr. Lacey. His parents were natives of Boston, Massachusetts, but he was born in New Orleans, and will inherit from his father a large fortune; but as he wished for a profession, he chose that of medicine. He is a graduate of Yale College and usually spends his summers North, so this season he stops in Frankfort, and honors my house with his presence. He is very handsome and agreeable, and these young ladies might put a lock and key on their hearts."
The last part of this speech was directed to Julia, who blushed deeply, and secretly wondered if Dr. Lacey were as handsome as Mr. Wilmot. She frequently found herself thinking about him during the day, but Fanny never gave him a thought until evening, when, as she and her sister were together in their room, the latter suddenly exclaimed, "I wonder if Dr. Lacey will be here at breakfast tomorrow morning."
"And if he is," said Fanny, "I suppose you want me to be very careful to use my fork, and break my egg correctly."
"I think it would be well for you always to try and show as much good breeding as possible," said Julia.
"Well," returned Fanny, "I reckon this Dr. Lacing or Dr. Lacework--what's his name?--will ever be anything to us, for I am sure he'd never think of me, and you are engaged to a man who is much better than any of your New Orleans pill bags."
Little did Fanny dream how closely the "New Orleans pill bags" were to be connected with the rest of her life. Julia said nothing but probably thought more.
When the young ladies entered the breakfast room next morning they noticed seated opposite them a tall, dark, handsome young man, whom Mrs. Carrington introduced to them as Dr. Lacey. There was something remarkably pleasing in his manner, and before breakfast was over he had completely won Fanny's good opinion by kindly breaking her egg for her, and when she had the misfortune to drop the fork, he drew the attention of the company from her by relating an anecdote on himself, which was that he was once invited to a dinner party at the Hon. Henry Clay's, and as he was trying to be very graceful and polite, he unfortunately upset his plate, the contents of which, together with his knife and fork, were deposited in his lap. This story raised such a laugh that all forgot Fanny, who gave Dr. Lacey such a look of gratitude that after breakfast he asked Mrs. Crane who the pale, blue-eyed girl was, and received about the same information that Mrs. Carrington had received concerning her.
That day Mr. Wilmot's eyes were not as handsome nor his teeth as white as usual in the estimation of Julia, who often found herself wondering why he did not wear whiskers. That evening he called at Mrs. Crane's and for the first time in her life Julia was not much pleased to see him. He, however, rose ten per cent in her estimation when she saw the familiar and cordial manner with which Dr. Lacey treated him. They talked as though they were old and dear friends.
After Mr. Wilmot had left, Dr. Lacey said, "Why, that Wilmot is a remarkably intelligent man and very agreeable."
Then turning to Mrs. Carrington, he added, "Let me see--is he a teacher?"
"Yes," said Mrs. Carrington, "and these young ladies are his pupils, and report says he looks after the heart of one of them as well as the head."
"Well," continued he, "whichever one is favored with his preference should feel honored, for he is a capital fellow." Just then his eye fell upon an elegant piano which stood in the room and he asked Mrs. Carrington to favor him with some music.
"Perhaps Miss Middleton will oblige you," said Mrs. Carrington, looking at Julia.
"Thank you," said Julia, "I am just taking lessons," so Mrs. Carrington sat down to the instrument, and as Julia saw how skillfully her white, jewelled fingers touched the keys, she resolved to spare no pains to become as fine a player as Mrs. Carrington, particularly as she saw that Dr. Lacey was very fond of music and kept calling for piece after piece till the evening was somewhat advanced.
"You ought to play, golden locks," said he to Fanny, at the same time taking one of her long yellow curls in his hand.
"I am taking lessons," said Fanny, "but I make awkward work, for my fingers are all thumbs, as you might know by my dropping that four-tined pitchfork this morning!"
Dr. Lacey laughed heartily at this and called her an "original little piece," at the same time saying, "You remind me of my sister Anna."
"Where does she live?" asked Fanny.
Dr. Lacey sighed as he answered, "For three years she has lived in heaven; three long years to us, who loved her so dearly."
Fanny observed that he seemed agitated while speaking of his sister, so she dared not ask him more about her, although she wished very much to do so. Perhaps he read her wishes in her face, for he went on to tell her more of his sister, who, he said, drooped day by day, and they took her to Cuba, but she daily grew worse, and often spoke of dying and heaven, and then one bright summer morning she passed away from them, and they buried her under a group of dark orange trees. That night Fanny dreamed of sweet Anna Lacey, sleeping so quietly in her lone grave, far off 'neath the orange trees of Cuba. Julia had dreams, too, but of a different nature. In her fancy she beheld Dr. Lacey at her feet, with his handsome person, princely fortune, and magnificent home near New Orleans, while off in the dim distance loomed up a dark coffin, in which was the cold, pale form of one whom she knew too well. Was her dream an omen of the coming future? We shall see.
Next morning just as the town clock rang out the hour of eight, a strange-looking vehicle, to which was attached a remarkably poor-looking horse, was seen picking its way slowly through the upper part of Main street, Frankfort. The driver of this establishment was a negro boy, whom we readily recognize as our friend Ike. He was taking it leisurely through the town, stopping before every large "smart" looking house to reconnoiter, and see if it resembled the one his master had described.
At last he was accosted by a young African, who called out, "Ho, thar, old boy! What you keepin' yer eyes peeled and yer' mouth open for? Is you catchin' flies?"
"No, sar," replied Ike. "I's tryin' to find Miss Crane's boardin' house."
"Oh, yes; wall, it's up t'other way. You jist turn that old rackerbone of your'n straight round and turn down that ar street, whar you see that steeple, and, the fust house on the corner is Miss Crane's. But say, is you and that ar quadruped jist out of the ark?"
"I dun know nothin' 'bout yer ark," said Ike, whose Scripture knowledge was rather limited, "but I 'longs to Marster Josh, and I'm goin' to see Miss Fanny--and now I think of it, won't you ride?"
"Lord, no," said the negro; "I'm in a great hurry; goin' arter the doctor for ole miss, who's sartin she's goin' for to die this time."
"You don't seem in much of a hurry," said Ike.
"No," returned the other; "old miss has died a heap o' times, by spells, so I reckon she'll hang on this time till I git back, jist so she can jaw me for being gone so long."
So they parted, the stranger negro to go for the doctor and Ike to go to Mrs. Crane's, with his berries, and Aunt Judy's cranberry pie. He had often wondered during his ride whether Fanny would not give him a piece of the pie. As often as this thought entered his brain, he would turn down the white napkin, and take a peep at the tempting pastry; then he would touch it with his fingers and finally take it up and smell of it just a little!
While he was making his way into Mrs. Crane's kitchen, Julia and Fanny were in their room, the windows of which were open and looked out upon a balcony, which extended entirely around the house. There was no school that day, and Fanny was just wishing she could hear from home when a servant entered the room and said there was a boy in the kitchen, who wished to see Miss Fanny.
"A boy want to see me," said Fanny; "who can it be?"
"Reckon he's from yer home 'case he says how he belongs to Marster Middleton," said the negro girl.
"Oh, joy!" exclaimed Fanny, "somebody from home; how glad I am. Come, Julia, won't you go down, too?"
"No, indeed," said Julia, scornfully, "I am not so anxious to see a greasy nigger. I hope you will not take it into your head to ask him up here."
But Fanny did not answer, for she was already half-way down the stairs. Going to the kitchen she found Ike and seemed as delighted to see him as though his skin had been snowy white. Ike delivered all his messages and then presented Aunt Judy's pie.
"Dear Aunt Judy," said Fanny, "how kind she is." Then seizing a knife she cut a liberal piece for Ike, who received it with many thanks.
"Now, Ike," said she, "you must remain here until I go out and get a ribbon for Aunt Judy's cap, and some tobacco for old Aunt Katy." So saying she ran upstairs to her room.
When she entered it, Julia exclaimed, "In the name of the people, what have you got now?"
"Oh, a pie, which Aunt Judy sent me," said Fanny.
"How ridiculous," answered Julia; "I don't think Mrs. Crane would thank Aunt Judy for sending pies to her house."
"Mrs. Crane need know nothing about it, and would not care if she did," said Fanny, and then she added, "Ike is downstairs, and he says father is coming after us in two or three weeks."
"Good heavens," said Julia; "what is he coming for? Why does he not send a servant?"
"And why cannot father come?" asked Fanny.
"Because," answered Julia, "who wants that old codger here? A pretty figure he'd cut, I think. I should be ashamed of him; and so would you, if you knew anything."
"I know he is odd," said Fanny; "but he is my father, and as such I would not be ashamed of him."
"Well, I am ashamed to own that he is my father, anyway," answered Julia; "but where are you going now?" she continued, as she saw her sister putting on her bonnet.
"I am going to buy some ribbon for Aunt Judy, some tobacco for Aunt Katy, and some candy for the children," answered Fanny.
"Well, I do believe you haven't common sense," said Julia, "but where is your money to buy all these things?"
"Oh," said Fanny, "I've concluded not to go and hear Fanny Kemble tonight. I'd rather spend the money for the servants; it will do them so much good."
"You certainly are a fool," said Julia. Fanny had been told that often, so she did not reply, but hastened downstairs and was soon in the street. As she turned the corner she could see the windows of her room, and the whole length of the balcony on that side of the building. Looking in that direction she saw Dr. Lacey sitting out on the balcony and so near her window that he must have heard all the conversation between herself and her sister! She thought, "Well, he of course thinks me a silly little dunce; but I do like our blacks, and if I ever own any of them, I'll first teach them to read and then send them all to Liberia." Full of this new plan, she forgot Dr. Lacey and ere she was aware of it had reached the store. She procured the articles she wished for, and returning to Mrs. Crane's, gave them to Ike, who was soon on his way home.
At supper that evening the conversation turned upon Fanny Kemble and the expected entertainment. "I suppose you are all going," said Mrs. Crane to her boarders. They all answered in the affirmative except Fanny, who was about to reply, when Dr. Lacey interrupted her by saying, "Miss Fanny, will you allow me to accompany you to hear Mrs. Butler this evening?"
Fanny was amazed. Was it possible that the elegant Dr. Lacey had honored her with an invitation to accompany him to the literary treat! She was too much surprised to answer him, until he said, "Do not refuse me, Miss Fanny, for I am resolved to have you go!" She then gracefully accepted his polite invitation, and at the same time glancing toward Julia and Mrs. Carrington, she saw that the former frowned darkly, while the latter looked displeased. This dampened her happiness somewhat, and as soon as supper was over she hurried to her room.
Mrs. Carrington was a gay, fashionable woman, and was just as willing to receive attention from unmarried gentlemen now as she had been in her girlish days. Her husband was an officer in the United States army and was absent a great part of the time, but she had never cared much for him, so she managed to pass the time of his absence very happily in flirting with every handsome wealthy young gentleman who came in her way. When Dr. Lacey appeared, she immediately appropriated him to herself. 'Tis true, she somewhat feared Julia might become a rival, but of the modest, unassuming little Fanny, she had never once thought, and was greatly surprised when Dr. Lacey offered to escort her to the reading. She had resolved on having his company herself, and when she saw the frown on Julia's face, she flattered herself that she could yet prevent Fanny's going.
Accordingly, after supper, she asked Julia to go with her for a moment to her room. Julia had become perfectly charmed with the fascinating manners of Mrs. Carrington, so she cheerfully assented, and the two proceeded together to her richly furnished apartments. When there, Mrs. Carrington said, "Miss Middleton, do you not think your sister too young to accept the attentions of any gentleman, at least one who is so much of a stranger to the family?"
Julia well knew that the fact of Dr. Lacey's being a stranger was of no consequence in Mrs. Carrington's estimation, but she quickly answered, "Yes, I do; but what can be done now?"
"Oh," said Mrs. Carrington, "your sister is very gentle and if we go to her and state the case as it is, I am confident she will yield."
So they went to Fanny's room, where they found her sitting by the window, thinking how much pleasure she would enjoy that night.
Julia commenced operations by saying, "Fanny, what made you promise Dr. Lacey that you would go with him tonight?"
"Why," said Fanny, "was there anything wrong in it?"
Here Mrs. Carrington's soft voice chimed in, "Nothing very wrong, dear Fanny, but it is hardly proper for a young school girl to appear in public, attended by a gentleman who is not her brother or cousin."
Poor Fanny! Her heart sank, for she was afraid she would have to give up going after all; but a thought struck her, and she said, "Well, then, it is not proper for Julia to go with Mr. Wilmot, and she has promised to do so."
"That is very different," said Mrs. Carrington; "Julia is engaged to Mr. Wilmot, and unless you are engaged to Dr. Lacey," continued she, sarcastically, "it will not be proper at all for you to go with him."
"But I promised I would," said Fanny.
"That you can easily remedy," answered Mrs. Carrington. "Just write him a note and I will send it to him."
Thus beset, poor Fanny sat down and wrote, as Mrs. Carrington dictated, the following note:
"SIR--Upon further reflection I think it proper to decline your polite invitation for tonight.
"Yours very respectfully,
"That will do," said Mrs. Carrington; and ringing the bell, she dispatched a servant to carry the note to Dr. Lacey.
"You are a good girl to submit so readily," said Mrs. Carrington, laying her white hand on Fanny's head. But Fanny's eyes were full of tears, and she did not answer; and Mrs. Carrington, sure of Dr. Lacey's attendance that evening, left the room exulting in the result of her plan. In a short time she deserted to the parlor, where she found Mr. Wilmot with Julia, but no Dr. Lacey, neither did he make his appearance at all, and after waiting impatiently for a time, she was at last obliged to accept the arm of the poor pedagogue, which was rather unwillingly offered, for Mr. Wilmot greatly preferred having Julia all to himself. She had become as dear to him as his own life and, in his opinion, her character was like her face--perfect. Deluded man! 'Twas well that he died before he had come to a knowledge of her sinfulness.
But to return to Fanny. After she was left alone by her sister, she threw herself upon the sofa, and burst into tears; but at length, wiping them away, she arose and went down to the parlor, determined to have a nice time practicing her music lesson. It was rather hard and with untiring patience she played it over and over, until she was suddenly startled by a voice behind her, saying, "Really, Miss Fanny, you are persevering." Looking up she saw Dr. Lacey, who had entered unperceived.
"Why, Dr. Lacey," said she, "how you frightened me! Why are you not at the reading?"
"Because," answered he, "when my lady breaks her engagement, I think I, too, can remain at home. But why did you change your mind, Miss Fanny? I thought you were anxious to go."
Fanny blushed painfully, and the tears came to her eyes, but she replied, "I was anxious to go, but they thought I had better not."
"And who is they?" asked the doctor; "and why did they think you had better not go?"
Fanny answered, "Mrs. Carrington and Julia said I was too young to go out with--"
"With such a bad man as I am," said Dr. Lacey, laughing.
"Oh, no," said Fanny; "they do not think you bad; they said with any gentleman."
"Too young, are you?" said Dr. Lacey. "How old are you, Fanny?"
"I was sixteen last May," she replied.
"Sixteen; just as old as Anna was when she died, and just as old as my mother was when she was married; so it seems you are not too young to die, or to be married either, if you are too young to go out with me," said Dr. Lacey.
Fanny did not reply; and he continued, "Whom would you have gone with if you had not spent your money this morning for those old aunts?"
Fanny started; and giving him a searching look, was about to reply, when he anticipated her by saying, "Yes, Fanny, I overheard your conversation this morning, and I cannot sufficiently admire your generous self-denial. I have heard Fanny Kemble two or three times, so I did not care to hear her again; but I decided to go for the pleasure of having you hear her; but as you did not choose to go, I have remained here with you, and wish to have you tell me something about your parents and your home, and also wish you to ask me to go there some time."
Fanny answered, hesitatingly, "I am afraid you would not like to go there, Dr. Lacey."
"Why not?" said he. "Do you not like your home?"
"Oh, yes, very much," she replied; "but father is a little odd, and you might feel inclined to laugh at him; but he is very kind, and if you could forget his roughness, you would like him."
"I know I shall like him, just because he is your father," said Dr. Lacey.
He then turned the conversation upon other subjects, and Fanny found him so agreeable that she never thought of the hour until Mr. Wilmot, Mrs. Carrington and Julia suddenly entered the parlor.
"Upon my word," said Mrs. Carrington, "you have both stolen a march upon us."
"I hope you have been agreeably entertained, Dr. Lacey," said Julia, in an ironical tone.
"I assure you I have," said he, warmly "I do not remember having passed so pleasant an evening for a long, long time."
"I dare say not; Fanny is usually very interesting," was, Julia's contemptuous reply, and as Mr. Wilmot just then took his leave, she very haughtily left the room and went upstairs, muttering to herself, "Foiled for the first time in my life."
From this time nothing of particular importance occurred for two or three weeks, except that Dr. Lacey seemed each day to grow fonder of Fanny, which greatly annoyed Mrs. Carrington and Julia, both of whom spared no pains to make Fanny appear in as bad a light as possible. But Dr. Lacey understood their maneuvers, and whenever they were present seemed to take delight in being very attentive to Fanny. He ardently desired to see the father of the two girls, and ere long his wish was gratified. But of this we will speak in another chapter.