FANNY AND JULIA'S UNCLE ARRIVES FROM INDIA
It was now the first day of May, and as it was also Fanny's seventeenth birthday, her school companions determined to celebrate it by a May party, of which Fanny was unanimously chosen queen. The fete took place in a handsome grove on a hillside which overlooked the city of Frankfort. All of Mr. Miller's pupils were present, together with most of their parents and many of their friends. Mrs. Miller had taken great pains that Fanny should be arrayed becomingly for the occasion, and many and flattering were the compliments paid to the youthful queen, who indeed looked bewitchingly beautiful.
Her dress was a white muslin, festooned with wild flowers, some of which were fastened here and there by a pearl or brilliant. The gayety of the little party was at its height, and when Fanny, gracefully kneeling, received upon her head the crown, and was proclaimed "Queen of the May," a strange voice called out in loud, musical tones, "Viva la Reine." The whole company instantly caught up the words, and "Long live the Queen" was echoed and re-echoed on all sides.
When the tumult had somewhat subsided the eyes of those present were turned toward the spot whence the words "Viva la Reine" had proceeded. Leaning against one of the tall shade trees were two gentlemen, who had joined them unobserved. The elder of the strangers was a middle-aged man, in whose piercing black eyes and dark complexion we recognize the Mr. Middleton whom we left with Dr. Lacey in New Orleans. His companion was many years younger, and there was something in his appearance which instantly interested and attracted the notice of strangers. There was a nobleness in the intellectual cast of his high, white forehead, round which his rich brown hair lay in thick masses, as if unwilling to part with the curl which must have been natural to it in childhood.
No sooner did Kate's eyes fall on the young man than she darted forward with a cry of recognition and exclaimed, "Why, Frank Cameron, how came you here?"
But before he answers Kate's question, we will introduce him to our readers. Frank Cameron was a cousin of Kate Wilmot. His father, who was a lawyer by profession, had amassed a large fortune, on the interest of which he was now living in elegant style in the city of New York. Frank, who was the eldest child, had chosen the profession of his father, contrary to the wishes of his proud lady mother, who looked upon all professions as too plebeian to suit her ideas of gentility. This aristocratic lady had forgotten the time when, with blue cotton umbrella and thick India rubbers, she had plodded through the mud and water of the streets in Albany, giving music lessons for her own and widowed mother's maintenance. One of her pupils was Kate Wilmot's mother, Lucy Cameron. While giving lessons to her she first met Lucy's brother, Arthur Cameron, who afterward became her husband. He was attracted by her extreme beauty and his admiration was increased on learning her praiseworthy efforts to maintain herself and mother. They were married, and with increasing years came increasing wealth, until at length Mr. Cameron was a millionaire and retired from business.
As riches increased, so did Mrs. Cameron's proud spirit, until she came to look upon herself as somewhat above the common order of her fellow-beings. She endeavored to instil her ideas of exclusiveness into the minds of her children. With her daughter Gertrude, she succeeded admirably, and by the time that young lady had reached her eighteenth year, she fancied herself a kind of queen to whom all must pay homage. But Frank the poor mother found perfectly incorrigible. He was too much like his father to think himself better than his neighbor on account of his wealth. Poor Mrs. Cameron had long given him up, only asking as a favor that he would not disgrace his family by marrying the washerwoman's daughter. Frank promised he would not, unless perchance he should fall in love with her, "And then," said he, with a wicked twinkle of his handsome hazel eyes, "then, my dear Mrs. Cameron, I cannot be answerable for consequences."
He had always greatly admired his cousin Kate, and often horrified his mother by declaring that if Kate were not his cousin, he would surely marry her. "Thank the Lord, then, that she is so near a relative! For now you will not stoop to marry a music teacher," said Mrs. Cameron.
The old roguish expression danced in Frank's eye, as he said, "Most noble mother Adelaide, will you tell me whether it wrenched father's back much when he stooped to a music teacher?"
The highly indignant lady was silent, for Frank had a way of reminding her of the past, which she did not quite relish; so she let him alone, secretly praying that he would not make a fool of himself in his choice of a wife. He bade her be easy on that point, for 'twasn't likely he would ever marry, for he probably would never find a wife who would suit him.
Such was Frank Cameron. Business for his father had taken him to Louisville, and he determined to visit his cousin Kate ere he returned home. He took passage in the Blue Wing, on board of which was Mr. Middleton, who soon made his acquaintance. As they were bound for the same place, they kept together, and on reaching Frankfort, went immediately to Mrs. Crane's, where they were entertained by Mrs. Carrington, who wondered much who the distinguished looking strangers could be. Concluding that the older one must of course be married, she turned her attention to Frank, who was much amused at her airs and coquettish manners. He had inquired for Mrs. Miller, and at length Mrs. Carrington asked if she were an acquaintance of his.
"Yes, ma'am," answered Frank with great gravity, "she is my wife's cousin."
In an instant Mrs. Carrington's coquetry vanished, and rising upon her dignity, she soon gave the gentlemen directions where to find the May party. As they were proceeding thither, Mr. Middleton said, "Why, Cameron, I understood you to say on the boat that you were not married."
"Neither am I," answered Frank. "I merely wished to get a dissolving view of that lady's maneuvers. Besides, I was actually afraid of being annihilated by her eyes and smiles. I'll manage to let her know that you are marketable, and then she'll turn her artillery toward you."
"But was it quite right," said Mr. Middleton, "to give her a wrong impression?"
"No, I suppose not," answered Frank. "But if I ever marry, Kate will be my wife's cousin."
By this time they had reached the entrance of the grove and caught sight of the fair queen. "The fates protect me!" said Frank, suddenly stopping and planting himself against a tree. "It would be suicide to advance another step. And she is your niece, you say. Pray intercede for me, or in less than a month I shall be making faces through the iron grating of some madhouse."
Mr. Middleton did not reply. His eyes were riveted on Fanny, whose face and figure recalled to his remembrance his only sister, who was the playmate of his childish years. Many long years had rolled away since that bright summer morning, when with a sad heart he bade adieu to that sister, who, a young happy bride, was leaving her native land for a home on a foreign shore. Weeks passed, and there came intelligence that the ill-fated vessel in which she embarked was a total wreck. Among the lost were his sister and her husband, who now slept quietly beneath the billowy surf of the Atlantic.
Fanny so strongly resembled her Aunt that it was not strange Mr. Middleton for an instant fancied he again looked on the features of his long-lost sister. But the illusion soon vanished, and when Kate bounded forward and saluted her cousin, his eye was wandering over the group of young girls in quest of his other niece. He, however, looked in vain. Julia was not there. When urged to attend the party, she had tossed her head in scorn saying that she unfortunately had no taste for child's play. She preferred remaining at home, where she could spend her time more profitably. Oh, Julia, Julia! It is a pity you did not assign your true reason for absenting yourself from the party. Of this reason we will speak hereafter. We are not quite through with the May party.
We left Kate interrogating her cousin as to how he chanced to be there, and the remainder of the company looked in wonder upon the strangers, who seemed so suddenly to have dropped in their midst. After Frank had answered his cousin's question, he introduced his companion and said, "He has two nieces here, I believe. He has recognized one of them in your charming queen. Will you please point out the other and introduce him?"
"I am sorry to say Julia is not present," answered Kate. "But come with me, Mr. Middleton," continued she, "and I will present you to Fanny." Then turning to Frank, she added, "I remember you to be a woman-hater, master Frank, so you can remain where you are."
"I'd laugh to see myself doing it," answered Frank, as he followed his gay cousin to the spot where Fanny was standing. All eyes were upon them, while Kate introduced the tall, distinguished-looking gentleman to Fanny as her uncle.
"My uncle!" said Fanny, in some surprise. "My uncle!"
A slight shade of disappointment was visible on Mr. Middleton's face, as he took the offered hand of his niece, but he said, "Yes, your uncle. Did you never hear your father speak of his brother Bill?"
"Oh, yes, yes," said Fanny joyfully. "I do know you now. You are my Uncle William from the Indies. Father will be delighted to see you, for he has long feared you were dead." At the same time the affectionate girl again took her uncle's hand and raised it to her lips.
The tears started to Mr. Middleton's eyes, but hastily dashing them away, he said, "I suppose the fair Queen Fanny knows that bad bills always return?"
Fanny replied by again kissing the sunburned hand of her uncle. "King Ferdinand!" thought Frank, "I'd endure the rack for the sake of being in the old fellow's boots." Frank had been standing near Fanny, fixing upon her a gaze so intensely earnest that when she at last raised her eyes to his she blushed deeply, for there was no mistaking the look of deep admiration with which he regarded her.
Kate immediately introduced him. Fanny received him very politely, but said playfully, "I was in hopes, Mr. Cameron, that you would prove to be my cousin."
Mr. Middleton immediately answered, "No, dear Fanny, he is not your cousin, but he seems very desirous of becoming my nephew."
Fanny did not apply this to herself, but answered very demurely, "I don't know what he'll do, uncle. You'll have to talk the matter over with sister Julia, who unfortunately is not here."
"You are a modest little puss," said Mr. Middleton. "But do you give up everything so quietly to Julia?"
Fanny answered somewhat sadly, "I've nothing to give."
Here Mr. Miller joined them, and said it was time to make preparations for returning' home. Accordingly in a short time the company were dispersing. When our party reached Mrs. Crane's, Fanny went directly to Julia, whom she found most becomingly dressed, and apparently anxiously awaiting her return.
That excellent young lady had heard from Mrs. Carrington of the strangers' visit, and she was impatient to know who they were and had dispatched a negro girl to reconnoiter and report. The girl soon came back, her eyes projecting like coffee saucers, and the little braided tags of her hair seemingly standing upright.
"Oh, Miss Julia!" said she, "that ar' tall, black man--no, I ax yer pardon, miss--that ar' tall, yaller man, done shook hands 'long of Miss Fanny, who kissed him, and called him Uncle William. She said how he done been with the Injuns."
"Her Uncle William!" repeated Julia, in amazement. "And who is the other man? His son?"
"Yes, reckon so," said the negro. "They done call him Mr. Camel, or Camlet, or suthin. I tell you he's han'some; and I reckon he's tuk with Miss Fanny. Jiminy hoecake! Ain't she pooty? She looked a heap han'somer than you--no, I don't mean so--I axes pardon agin." And the negro bobbed out of the door just in time to dodge a ball of soap which Julia hurled at her head.
"It's no use fretting so," said Mrs. Carrington, who was present. "The young man is married, for he spoke of his wife."
Julia did not answer, and Mrs. Carrington soon after left the room. When she was gone, Julia muttered to herself, "Uncle William, from the Indies; rich as Croesus, of course. What a fool I was not to go to the party. Most likely Fanny has won his good graces by this time. However, I'll dress myself and surprise him with my beauty, if nothing else."
Accordingly, the next hour was spent in decorating her person, and when Fanny came for her she was ready to make an assault upon the good opinion of her rich uncle. Not a thing was out of place, from the shining braids of her dark hair to the tiny slipper on her delicate foot.
Fanny's first exclamation on entering the room was, "How beautiful you look, Julia! It is exceedingly fortunate that you are dressed so becomingly; for, will you believe it, Uncle William is down stairs!"
"Is it possible?" said Julia, affecting much surprise.
"Yes," answered Fanny. "You know father thinks him dead. But come, he is anxious to see you."
Julia arose to go with her sister, and said, "Isn't there a young man with him?"
"How did you know that?" asked Fanny, in some astonishment.
"I saw them from the window," was Julia's ready reply.
Fanny did not think of doubting her sister, and she answered, "It is a Mr. Cameron. He is cousin to Mrs. Miller."
By this time they had reached the parlor, which was open. Here Julia thought proper to be seized with a fit of modest indifference, and hesitated a moment before entering the room. Her uncle, however, immediately came forward, and relieved her from all embarrassment by saying, "And this, I suppose, is Julia. My brother is a happy man to be father of such charming girls."
Julia received him graciously, but rather haughtily offered him her cold white hand. "I will not kiss him," thought she; "Fanny did that. It's too childish. I'll he more dignified." Could she have known the contrast which her uncle was drawing between her own and Fanny's reception of him she would not have felt much flattered; but before her uncle had time to say anything further, Fanny introduced her to Frank, whose keen eye had read her character at a glance, and read it aright, too. His ideas and words were after the following fashion:
"Pshaw! What a bundle of pride and stuck-up-ishness! She's handsome, though, but it isn't to be named the same day with Fanny,"--"How do you do, Miss Middleton?"--"What an affected little courtesy!"--"Hope to see you well, ma'am."--"I'd laugh to see her trip and fall flat."
Such were Frank's thoughts while undergoing the ceremony of an introduction to Julia, who never for a moment doubted she was making an impression upon the handsome young stranger, his supposed wife to the contrary notwithstanding. The introduction being over, Julia seated herself on the sofa, while Fanny took a seat on a low ottoman near her uncle, but partially behind him. She had chosen this place, because she fancied it would screen her somewhat from Frank's eyes, which she felt, rather than saw, were fixed upon her constantly.
During the conversation which followed, Julia, as if by mere accident, mentioned New Orleans. She was anxious to know whether her uncle saw or heard of Dr. Lacey. Her curiosity was soon gratified, for, at the mention of New Orleans, as if suddenly recollecting himself, said, turning to Fanny, "I saw two of your acquaintances in New Orleans, and one of them gave me a most glowing description of you."
"I wonder if it were a gentleman," thought Frank.
Julia's thoughts were similar, and she bit her lip, while Fanny's cheek glowed with unwonted brilliancy as she quietly asked, "Pray, who was it uncle?"
"It was Miss Woodburn who praised you so highly," answered Mr. Middleton.
Julia immediately asked, "And who was the other acquaintance?"
"Dr. Lacey," answered her uncle. "I spent three weeks at his house."
Without knowing it, Fanny drew nearer to her uncle and laid her hand on his. He seemed dearer to her from the fact that he had spent so much time with one whose image was ever before her, and whom she vainly fancied she was trying to forget.
Frank noticed Fanny's manner, and interpreted it according to his fears. "There's mischief here," thought he. "I hope this doctor lives in a good locality for yellow fever."
"Is Dr. Lacey about to be married?" asked Julia.
"Married," repeated Mr. Middleton; "I should say matrimony was very far from his thoughts at present. I fancied he had met with some disappointment and I sometimes feared lest the fair, deceitful one were one of my nieces. Can any one set me right on the subject?"
Mr. Middleton had no idea how painfully his words affected her who sat by his side, and looked up so imploringly in his face, as if begging him to stop. There was an embarrassing silence, which Julia presently broke, by saying, "While Dr. Lacey was here, he and Fanny got up a flirtation; but nothing serious will result from it, I reckon."
"It's Fanny's own fault, then, I imagine," said Mr. Middleton, laying his hand on the head which had drooped lower and lower, until at last it rested heavily on his knee.
Fanny made no reply; but when she lifted up her head there was something so sad in the expression of her face that Mr. Middleton immediately surmised that there was, or had been, something between Dr. Lacey and Fanny more serious than a mere flirtation; so he very kindly changed the conversation, which now turned upon indifferent subjects, until the supper bell rang out its summons, when they all repaired to the dining room.
At the supper table Mr. Middleton and Frank were introduced to Mrs. Carrington, Mr. Stanton and Raymond. Mrs. Carrington acknowledged her introduction to Mr. Cameron merely by a haughty, disdainful bow. She had learned from Kate that he was not married; and feeling indignant at the deception he attempted to practice upon her, she resolved to treat him with contempt. Accordingly, although seated opposite him, she deigned him neither look nor word, but divided her time between laughing and coquetting with Raymond, and trying the power of her charms upon Mr. Middleton, who, she had been told, was a bachelor, and possessed of unbounded wealth. With the old Indian, however, she made but little headway; and Frank was right when he thought, "You'll get tired of that play, madam; the game is too old to be caught with chaff." With Raymond she succeeded better. He was delighted with her unusually flattering notice; and ere supper was over he had, in Frank's estimation, made a perfect fool of himself.
Frank's attention was, however, soon diverted toward Mr. Middleton, who said, speaking to Stanton, "Were it not for your name and glasses, I would address you as Dr. Lacey. Are you related to him?"
Stanton replied, "Yes, sir; he is my cousin. I think I must resemble him, as I have been told so frequently."
Mr. Middleton then spoke of Dr. Lacey in the highest terms of commendation, and concluded his remarks by saying, "I have recently purchased a residence, near Lake Pontchartrain, and am beating up recruits to spend the summer there with me. I am sure of Dr. Lacey, Miss Woodburn, and her cousin, Miss Mortimer. My nieces I shall take back with me, any way, and shall be happy to prevail on you, Mr. Stanton, to accompany me also."
Stanton thanked him for his kind invitation, but at the same time declined it, saying that business would call him to New York in the autumn. The deep blush which accompanied these words caused Raymond to burst into a laugh. Mr. Middleton looked inquiringly at him and he said, "Pardon me for laughing; I was thinking of the important business which calls Bob to New York."
"Nothing bad, I hope," said Mr. Middleton.
"Nothing worse than going for a wife," answered Raymond. "He is not suited with Kentucky girls, but must needs plod back to New York."
"If appearances do not deceive, you, at least, seem likely to be suited by a Kentuckian," replied Mr. Middleton, at the same time turning his black eyes on Mrs. Carrington with something of a quizzical expression.
Raymond colored. He did not know how the speech would be received by the fair lady. She soon satisfied him, however; for tossing her head proudly, she said, "As far as my experience goes, New Yorkers are more easily suited than Kentuckians; at least, I find them to be exceedingly disagreeable."
"I am afraid some of them are so easily suited that they catch a Tartar sometimes," said Frank, whose feelings were roused at hearing this rude speech.
Mrs. Carrington gave him a look which she meant should say, "I wonder who you think you are. I'd thank you to mind your own business."
But Frank thought he was minding his business; for he was looking at Fanny, who had not taken her eyes from her plate since her uncle had proposed taking herself and Julia to New Orleans. Her first feeling was one of joy. She would go, for she would then see Dr. Lacey; but the next thought was, "No, I will not. He has spurned me, and why should I put myself in his way?"
Julia's feelings were different. She could scarcely conceal her delight. Her artful mind took in the future at a glance. She felt sure that Fanny would not go; but she would, and could thus make Dr. Lacey believe that she, of all others, was just suited for him. Here we may as well give Julia's real reason for absenting herself from the May party. She had begun to fear that all her fine scheming might come to naught; for in all probability Dr. Lacey would not return to Kentucky in a long time. What could she do? She would write him a letter in her own name. In it she would modestly express her opinion of Fanny's conduct; sympathize with him in his disappointment, and end by inviting him to Frankfort, saying she hoped he would not absent himself from his friends on Fanny's account; for there were many who would welcome him back to Kentucky with pleasure. It was for the sake of manufacturing this letter that Julia had remained at home. But now there was no need of sending it, for she was going to New Orleans herself. She would win him. He would yet be hers.
On returning to the parlor after supper she seated herself close to her uncle, upon whom she lavished so many caresses that he wondered much what had come over her, and began to think that he was mistaken in supposing her to be cold-hearted and indifferent to him. As he looked at her beautiful, animated face, and the sparkling brilliancy of her eyes, he felt a moment's vanity in thinking how proud he would be to introduce her as his niece among the fashionables of New Orleans.
During the evening Mr. Ashton called. He had heard of the arrival of a Mr. Middleton from the Indies, and he had his own particular reason for wishing to see him. Soon after entering the room, he addressed Mr. Middleton, saying, "Were you in Calcutta twelve years ago?"
"Yes, sir; I was there twenty years ago," answered Mr. Middleton.
"Do you remember transacting business with the captain of the English vessel 'Delphine'?"
Mr. Middleton thought a moment and then answered, "Yes, I remember that vessel and its captain well."
"And do you remember a poor cabin boy, who was sick and worn out with the ship fever?" continued Mr. Ashton.
"Oh, yes, yes; I remember him well," said Mr. Middleton. "I had him removed to my own house, and nursed him until he was nearly well; and then, he one night ran away from me. I have never heard from him since; but there was an American vessel anchored near the shore, and I always supposed he went on board and sailed for home. I would give much to know what became of him."
"He stands before you," said Mr. Ashton, rising and grasping Mr. Middleton's hand. "He is here to thank you for your kindness, and is both able and willing to repay you for the care you took of him who was alone and friendless in a distant land."
"Can it be," said Mr. Middleton, with much emotion, "that you really are Henry Ashton? I should never have recognized you."
"I presume not," answered Ashton. "Twelve years have transformed the pale, emaciated youth into the tall, full-grown man. But I should have known you anywhere."
Here Raymond called out, "Why Ashton, have you been to the Indies? Why did you never tell us?"
"Because," replied Ashton, "there was so much of homesickness and suffering attending that voyage to India that I never like to speak of it." Then turning to Mr. Middleton, he said, "I have met your brother often, but never suspected him to be a relative of yours. Have you seen him yet?"
"I have not," answered Mr. Middleton. "I intend visiting him tomorrow, and shall be glad, to take as many of you with me as are willing to go. I wish to be introduced to him as a Mr. Stafford from New Orleans."
After some further conversation it was arranged that Mr. Miller, Ashton, Stanton, Raymond and Cameron should all accompany Mr. Middleton on his projected visit to his brother. Soon after Mr. Ashton departed for his boarding place, and the remainder of the company separated for the night.