FANNY REFUSES TO GO TO NEW ORLEANS
The next day was the Sabbath. Contrary to their usual custom on such mornings, Mr. Middleton and his negroes were astir at an early hour. The female portion of the latter were occupied in preparing a great breakfast in honor of "Marster William's" arrival, while Mr. Middleton busied himself in removing a part of his dark, heavy beard.
When William made his appearance in the sitting room, he was greeted by his brother with, "How are you, Bill? Hope you slept better than I did, for 'pears like I couldn't get asleep nohow, till toward mornin' and then I was mighty skeary about wakin' up, for fear I should find it all moonshine, and no Bill here after all." After a moment's pause, he added, "Whar's t'other chap? If he don't come down directly, the hen'll spile, for Judy's had it ready better than half an hour."
Ashton soon appeared, and the party did ample justice to Aunt Judy's well-cooked breakfast. That meal being over, Mr. Middleton said, "Now, boys, what do you say to goin' to meetin'? The Baptists have preachin', and I've a mind to go. How the folk'll stare though to see Bill. Say, will you go?"
The gentlemen signified their assent, and at the usual hour they proceeded to the church, which was situated about two miles from Mr. Middleton's. We are sorry for it, but truth compels us to say that on this day Uncle Joshua was not quite as devotional as usual. He was looking over the congregation to see what effect his brother's presence was producing. When he saw that no one exclaimed or turned pale, and that even the minister kept on the even tenor of his discourse, he inwardly accused them all of being "doughheads," and wondered he had never before discovered how little they knew. However, when meeting was over, the neighbors crowded around the old man, congratulating him on the unexpected return of his brother, whom they welcomed so warmly that Uncle Joshua began to think he had been too hasty in condemning them, for "after all, they knew a heap."
That night, after supper, Mr. Middleton was again seated in the little porch with his guests. They had been speaking of the sermon they had heard, when Mr. Middleton said, "That's the right kind of meetin' to my notion. A feller can sleep a bit if he feels like it; but whar my gals go, in Frankford, they have the queerest doin's--keep a gittin' up and sittin' down; 'pears like you don't moren't git fairly sot afore you have to hist up again, and you can't sleep to save you. Then they have streaked yaller and black prar books and keep a-readin' all meetin' time."
"Do your daughters prefer that church?" asked William.
"Why, yes," returned his brother; "or, that is, Dick, poor boy Dick, belonged thar; so did the young Leftenant Carrington; so does Dr. Lacey; and that's reason enough why Sunshine should prefer it. Tempest goes thar, I reckon, because its fashionable, and she can have a nice prar-book to show. You ought to see the one I bought for Sunshine. It's all velvety, and has gold clasps, with jest the word 'Sunshine' writ on it. Tempest has got a more common one. It didn't cost half as much."
"I notice that you make quite a distinction between your daughters," said William. "May I ask why you do it?"
Mr. Middleton stopped smoking and said, "If you please, Bill, I'd rather say nothin' about that now. I make it a rule never to swar Sundays, and if I got to goin' it about Tempest and the way she used poor Dick, I should have to swar and no mistake. Mebby you think I'd better not swar any time."
"Yes," answered William; "I should be glad if you would not. It is a bad habit, and I wish you would discontinue it."
"Well now, Bill," said Mr. Middleton, "Lord knows--no, I mean I know I've tried a heap of times to break off, and now I'll try again. I'll not cuss a word till I forget. Dick used to want me to stop, and when he died I promised myself I would; but the pigs and horses got into the corn, and fust I knew I was swarin' wus than ever. I wish you had seen Dick; it can't be; he's gone forever."
"Have you no daguerreotype of him?" asked William.
"No, I hain't, but his folks have; and Mr. Miller and Kate are going home this summer, and they'll fetch me one. That makes me think Sunshine is so puny and sick like, that I'm goin' to let her go North with them. It'll do her good; and I'm going to buy her four silk gowns to go with, but for Lord's--no, for land's sake don't tell Tempest."
"I hope you are not very anxious to have Fanny go North," said William; "for it will seriously affect a plan which I have formed."
"Well, what is it?" asked Mr. Middleton.
William then told of the house he had purchased, and of his intention to take both his nieces back with him. "I know," said he, "that it seems strange to take them there in hot weather; but down by the lake it will be pleasant and cool, and I must have them with me."
"Have you said anything to them about it?" asked Mr. Middleton.
"Yes," answered his brother. "I have mentioned it to them."
"What did they say?"
"Fanny said nothing, but Julia seemed much pleased with the idea," said William.
"I'll warrant that," returned Mr. Middleton. "She's tickled enough, and in her own mind she's run up a bill agin me for at least five hundred. Sunshine is so modest, I s'pose, because Dr. Lacey will be there, that she does not want to seem very glad; but she'll go. I'll have them come home tomorrow, and will talk the matter over. I'd as soon have her go to New Orleans as to New York."
Here the conversation was interrupted by Mrs. Middleton, who came to tell her husband that it was past nine. Mr. Middleton had a great horror of being up after that hour, so he hastily bade his brother and Ashton good night, saying to the former, "Now I've got kind of used to your being alive, Bill, I hope I shan't have such pesky work goin' to sleep."
Next morning Ashton returned to Frankfort in the carriage which Mr. Middleton had sent for the purpose of bringing his daughters home. For once in her life, Julia was delighted with the idea of visiting her parents. She had learned from a note which her mother had written that the reason of their being sent for was to talk over the matter of going to New Orleans. Fanny felt differently. She wished, yet dreaded, to go home. She too knew why they were sent for; and as she was determined not to go to New Orleans, it would be necessary at last to tell her father the true reason. She was certain he would be unsparing in his wrath against Dr. Lacey, and she almost trembled for the consequences.
When at last she was ready she descended to the parlor, and sitting down to her piano ran her fingers lightly over the keys. At that moment Frank Cameron entered. He had learned from his cousin, Kate, enough of Fanny's history to make him fear that she never could be aught to him; and yet the knowledge that he could not, must not, hope to win her, only rendered the attraction stronger. He was intending to start for home the next day, and had now come to spend a few minutes alone with Fanny ere he bade her good-by. As he entered the room she ceased playing, and said, "I believe you leave town tomorrow, do you not?"
"I do," replied Frank, "and am come to bid you good-by now; for when you return I shall probably be looking on the dust, smoke and chimneys of the Empire City." As Fanny made no answer, Frank continued, "Miss Middleton, we shall meet again, I trust. Kate tells me that you are to accompany them to New York this summer. I shall expect you and shall watch anxiously for your coming."
Fanny replied, "I have thought of going North with Mrs. Miller, but it is possible I may be disappointed."
"Disappointed!" repeated Frank; "you must not be disappointed, or disappoint me either. I would hardly be willing to leave Frankfort if I did not hope to see you again. And yet if we never do meet, I shall know that I am a better man for having once seen and known you; and I shall look back upon the few days spent in Kentucky as upon one of the bright spots in my life."
We do not know what Fanny would have replied; for ere she had time to answer Julia appeared in the door, calling out, "Come, Fan, the carriage is ready. But, pray excuse me," continued she, as she saw Frank, "I had no idea that I was interrupting so interesting a conversation as your looks seem to indicate."
This increased Fanny's confusion, but she endeavored to appear at ease; and rising up, she offered Frank her hand, saying, "I must bid you farewell, Mr. Cameron."
Frank took her hand, and quick as thought raised it to his lips. Fanny's cheeks reddened as she hastily withdrew her hand, saying rather indignantly, "Mr. Cameron, I am surprised!"
Frank expected as much, and he said, rather gayly, "Pardon me, Miss Middleton, I could not help it, and would not if I could. It is all I ever hope to receive from you; and years hence, when I am a lone, lorn old bachelor, I shall love to think of the morning when I bade good-by to and kissed Fanny Middleton."
A moment more and the carriage drove rapidly away. Frank watched it until it disappeared down the street; then turning away, he thought, "I have met and parted with the only person on earth who has power to awaken in me any deeper feeling than that of respect."
When Julia and Fanny reached home, they were greeted kindly by both their parents and uncle. The latter had resolved to watch them closely, in order to ascertain, if possible, the reason of his brother's evident preference for Fanny. During the morning nothing was said of the projected visit to New Orleans; and Julia was becoming very impatient, but she knew better than to broach the subject herself; so she was obliged to wait.
That evening the family, as usual, assembled on the little porch. Fanny occupied her accustomed seat and low stool by the side of her father, whose pipe she filled and refilled; for he said, "The tobacker tasted a heap better after Sunshine had handled it."
Julia could wait no longer, and she began the conversation by asking her uncle something about New Orleans.
"Thar, I knew 'twould be so," said Mr. Middleton; "Tempest is in a desput hurry to know whether I'm going to cash over and send her to market in New Orleans."
"Well, father," said Julia, coaxingly, "you are going to let Fanny and me go with Uncle William I know."
It was lucky for Julia that she chanced to mention her sister; for however much her father might be inclined to tease her, the word "Fanny" mollified him at once, and he answered, "Why, yes, I may as well let you go as to keep you here doing nothing, and eating up my corn bread." Then drawing Fanny nearer to him, he said, "I've talked some of letting Sunshine go to New York, but she'll jump at the chance of going to New Orleans, I reckon."
There was no answer, and as Julia was not particularly desirous of having her sister's silence questioned, she rattled on about her expected visit, and even went so far as to caress her father, because he had given his consent to her going. It was decided that Mr. William Middleton should return, as he had intended, in two weeks' time, so as to have everything in readiness for the reception of his nieces, who were to come on as soon as school closed, which would be about the tenth of June.
During all this time Fanny said not a word; and at last it occurred to her father that she had neither expressed her desire nor willingness to go; so he said, "Come, Sunshine, why don't you hold up your head and talk about it? We all know you want to go mightily, and see that little doctor."
Fanny knew it was of no use delaying longer and she answered gently, but decidedly, "Father, I have no desire to go to New Orleans. I cannot go."
"Fudge on being so very modest," replied Mr. Middleton. "It is nateral-like that you should want to see him, and nobody'll think less of you."
Fanny answered, "You know I have thought of going to New York with Mr. and Mrs. Miller. I am still anxious to do so; but to New Orleans I cannot, shall not go, unless you command me to do so."
"Saint Peter!" said Mr. Middleton. "What's the row now? What's happened to make little Sunshine spirt up so? Don't you want to see Dr. Lacey, child?"
"No, father; I never desire to see him again."
The old cob pipe dropped from Mr. Middleton's mouth, and springing up, he confronted Fanny, saying, "What in fury is this racket? You not wish to go to New Orleans, or see Dr. Lacey either! I half wish you was Tempest for a spell, so I could storm at you; but as it is Sunshine, I can't even feel mad."
"Oh, father, father!" cried Fanny, weeping; "if you knew all that has occurred, you would not blame me."
"What do you mean, darling?" asked Mr. Middleton, suddenly becoming cool. "What has happened?"
Then looking at Julia, whose face was crimson, a new idea struck him, and he exclaimed more wrathfully, "How now, Tempest? What makes you turn as red as a hickory fire? Have you been raising a rumpus between Dr. Lacey and Sunshine? Out with it if you have."
It was now Julia's turn to cry and appeal to her uncle, if it were not unjust in her father always to suspect her of evil, if anything were wrong. William very wisely kept silent, but Fanny said, "Do not accuse Julia, for she is not guilty. She knows it all, however, and is sorry for it."
"Knows what? Sorry for what? Why don't you tell?" said Mr. Middleton, stalking back and forth through the porch, and setting down his feet as heavily as if he would crush everything which might fall beneath his tread.
"I cannot tell you now," said Fanny; "but when we are alone, you shall know all."
In a few moments William thought proper to retire, and as his example was soon followed by Julia, Fanny was left alone with her parents. Drawing her stool nearer to her father, and laying her hot, feverish forehead on his hand, she said, "Before I give any explanation, I wish you to make me a promise."
"Promise of what?" asked her father and mother, simultaneously.
"It is not probable," answered Fanny, "that you will ever see Dr. Lacey again, but if you do, I wish you never to mention to him what I am about to tell you."
The promise was readily given by Mrs. Middleton, but her husband demurred, saying, "I shan't commit myself until I know what 'tis. If Dr. Lacey has been cuttin' up, why I'll cowhide him, that's all."
"Then I shall not tell you," was Fanny's firm reply.
Her father saw she was in earnest, and replied, "What's got your back up so high, Sunshine? I never knew you had so much grit. What's the reason you don't want Dr. Lacey to hear of it?"
"Because," said Fanny, hesitatingly, "because I do not wish him to know how much I care about it; and besides, it can do no possible good. Now, father, promise you will not tell him or any one else."
Mr. Middleton was finally persuaded, and his promise given, Fanny knew it would not be broken, for her father prided himself on keeping his word. So she gave an account of Dr. Lacey's conduct, and ended her narrative by producing a letter, which she supposed came from him. Up to the moment Mr. Middleton had sat perfectly still; but meantime his wrath had waxed warmer and warmer, until at last it could no longer be restrained, but burst forth in such a storm of fury as made Fanny stop her ears.
She, however, caught the words, "And I was fool enough to promise not to say a word. Well, thank the Lord, I didn't promise not to shoot the puppy. Let me catch him within pistol shot of me, and I'll pop him over as I would a woodchuck. And if he don't come back, I'll go all the way to New Orleans for the sake of doin' on't. I'll larn him to fool with my gal; yes, I will!"
Fanny's fears for Dr. Lacey's safety were immediately roused; and again were her arms wound round the neck of her enraged father, while she begged of him to be quiet, and think reasonably of the matter. Not long could one resist the arguments of Fanny; and in less than half an hour her father grew calm, and said more gently, "I shouldn't have been so rarin' mad, if it had been anybody but you, Sunshine. I s'pose I did go on high, and swar like a pirate. I didn't mean to do that, for I promised Bill I'd try and leave off."
"Leave swearing?" said Fanny. "Oh, I'm so glad. I hope you will. Now promise that you will, dear father, and say again that you will not mention Dr. Lacey's conduct either to him or to any one else."
"I have promised once," said Mr. Middleton, "and one promise is as good as forty. Old Josh'll never break his word as long as he has his senses. But that paltry doctor owes his life to you, Sunshine. Half an hour ago I was as fully set to knock him over as I am now determined to let the varmint go to destruction in his own way."
Fanny shuddered at the idea of her father becoming the murderer of Dr. Lacey, and Mrs. Middleton rejoined, "I am glad, husband, to hear you talk more sensibly. It can do no possible good for you to shoot Dr. Lacey, and then lose your own life, as you assuredly would; besides, I think the less we say of the matter, the better it will be."
"I reckon you are right, Nancy," said Mr. Middleton; "but hang it all, what excuse shall I give Bill for not lettin' the gals go to New Orleans?"
"But, father," said Fanny, "you will let Julia go, of course. Uncle knows I do not intend to go, and consequently will think nothing of that; and there is no reason why Julia should not go to New Orleans, and I to New York. Now, say we may; that's a dear father."
"I s'pose I'll have to, honey," answered Mr. Middleton; "but if I can see ahead an inch, you're bitin' your own nose off by sending Tempest to New Orleans without you."
Afterward Fanny remembered this speech, and understood it, too; but now she was prevented from giving it a thought by her father, who continued, "Doesn't that Cameron chap live some'us in New York?"
There was no reason for it, but Fanny blushed deeply as she replied, "Yes, sir; Mr. Cameron lives in New York City; but I am not going to see him."
"Mebby not," answered her father; "but my name ain't Josh if he won't be on the lookout for you. And 'twixt us, darling, now the doctor's sarved you such a scaly trick, I shouldn't pitch and drive much if I heard that you and Cameron were on good terms."
"That will never, never be," answered Fanny. "I shall always live at home with you and mother."
"You are a blessed daughter," said Mr. Middleton, "and I hope there's better fortin in store for you than to stay hived up with us two old crones; and I can't help thinkin' that you'll have Dr. Lacey yet, or somebody a heap better. Now go to bed, child, for your eyes are gettin' red like, and heavy."
Fanny obeyed and retired to her room, where she found Julia sitting up and waiting for her. As soon as Fanny appeared she began, "Fan, you are a real good girl. I was pleased to hear you talk. Nobody but you could have done anything with the old heathen."
"What are you talking about?" asked Fanny.
"Why," said Julia, "I had my head out of the window, listening all the time, and overheard what you said. Once I trembled for fear father would take it into his head not to let me go any way; but you fixed it all right, and I thank you for it." As Fanny made no answer, Julia continued, "I heard, too, all about Frank Cameron. Now, Fan, I know he admires you, and I really hope you'll not be silly enough to discourage him. I shall expect you to write that you have become Mrs. Cameron."
"Will you please, Julia, say no more on that subject," said Fanny. "I do not suppose Frank Cameron has any particular regard for me; if he has it will do no good."
Thus the conversation ended for that night. The next day Mr. William Middleton was informed that Julia would spend the summer in New Orleans, but that Fanny preferred going North. He was rather disappointed. His preference, if any he had, was for Fanny. She was so quiet, so gentle, he could not help loving her; but Julia puzzled him. There was a certain bold assurance in her manner which he disliked. Besides, he could not help fearing there was some good reason why her father censured her so much. "I will watch her closely," thought he, "and if possible, discover her faults and help her correct them."
It would seem that Julia suspected her uncle's intentions, for she intended to be very correct and amiable in her deportment, whenever he was present. Thought she, "I will thus retain his good opinion; and by so doing I shall more easily win Dr. Lacey's regard."
In the course of a few days Fanny and Julia returned to school; the one, elated with the prospect of going to New Orleans, and the other, quietly anticipating a pleasant but rather sad journey to New York. Two weeks after their return to Frankfort their uncle called upon them on his way South. He again repeated his invitation that Stanton and Ashton would spend a part of the summer with him. Ashton consented, but Stanton still pleaded his important business North, and his excuse was considered a sufficient one.
Mrs. Carrington, who had become rather weary of Raymond's attentions and was longing for a change of place and scene, now tried by every possible maneuver to induce Mr. Middleton to invite her also. Julia readily understood her; and as she feared Mrs. Carrington's presence would frustrate her plans, she resolutely determined that she should not be invited. Consequently, when that lady talked to Mr. Middleton of New Orleans, and the desire she had of again visiting that city, Julia would adroitly change the conversation to some other subject; and once when Mr. Middleton had actually opened his mouth and commenced giving the desired invitation, Julia, as if suddenly recollecting herself, started up, saying, "Excuse me, uncle, but I have a painting in my room which I wish you to see. Pray, come with me now, for I cannot bring it down, and as it is getting dark, there is no time to be lost."
Mr. Middleton arose and followed his niece, who congratulated herself on the success of her stratagem. After reaching her room, and exhibiting her painting, she said to her uncle, "I do hope you will not ask Mrs. Carrington to go to New Orleans this summer."
"Why not?" said Mr. Middleton. "She seems anxious that I should do so."
"I know it," answered Julia; "but I am afraid she is not a good woman. At least she had a bad influence over me, and I always feel wicked after being with her awhile."
As Julia had supposed, this had the desired effect. Mr. Middleton would not ask one to visit him whose influence over his niece was bad. Consequently, all Mrs. Carrington's hints were unnoticed or misunderstood. She, however, knew tolerably well to whom she was indebted for the slight; and when, after Mr. Middleton's departure, Julia said to her, "I wonder uncle did not invite you, too; I thought he was going to do so," she replied, rather sharply, "I fancy I should have been under no obligations to you, Miss Julia, if I had received an invitation." Then turning, she hastily entered her room, and throwing herself upon the sofa, she tried to devise some scheme by which she could undermine Julia, provided Dr. Lacey should show her any marked attention.
Mrs. Carrington was not in a very enviable mood. The night before Raymond had offered her his heart and hand, and of course had been rejected. He was in the parlor when Julia so abruptly took her uncle away. As there was no one present besides Mrs. Carrington, he seized upon that moment to declare his love. It is impossible to describe the loathing and contempt which she pretended to feel for him who sued so earnestly for her hand, even if her heart did not accompany it. Nothing daunted by her haughty refusal, Raymond arose, and standing proudly before the indignant lady said, "Ida Carrington, however much dislike you may pretend to feel for me I do not believe it. I know I am not wholly disagreeable to you, and were I possessed of thousands, you would gladly seize the golden bait. I do not ask you to love me, for it is not in your nature to love anything. You are ambitious, and even now are dreaming of one whom you will never win; for just as sure as yon sun shall set again, so sure you, proud lady, shall one day be my wife."
When Mrs. Carrington had recovered a little from the surprise into which Raymond's fiery speech had thrown her, he was gone and she was alone. "Impudent puppy!" said she; "and yet he was right in saying he was not disagreeable to me. But I'll never be his wife. I'd die first!" Still, do what she would, a feeling haunted her that Raymond's prediction would prove true. Perhaps it was this which made her so determined to supplant Julia in Dr. Lacey's good opinion, should he ever presume to think favorably of her. How she succeeded we shall see hereafter.