FANNY MIDDLETON ARRIVES IN NEW YORK
Three weeks after Mr. Middleton's departure for New Orleans, Mr. Miller's school closed. Uncle Joshua was present at the examination, and congratulated himself much because he did not feel at all "stuck up" at seeing both Julia and Fanny acquit themselves so creditably. After the exercises were concluded, he returned with Mr. Miller to Mrs. Crane's. Just before he started for home he drew from his sheepskin pocketbook five hundred dollars, which he divided equally between his daughters, saying, "Here, gals, I reckon this will be enough to pay for all the furbelows you've bought or will want to buy. I'll leave you here the rest of the week to see to fixin' up your rig, but Saturday I shall send for you."
Fanny was surprised at her father's unlooked-for generosity, and thanked him again and again. Julia was silent, but her face told how vexed and disappointed she was. As soon as her father was gone, her rage burst forth. "Stingy old thing," said she, "and yet he thinks he's done something wonderful. Why, my bill at C----'s already amounts to two hundred, and I want as much more. What I am to do, I don't know."
She would have said more, but Fanny quieted her by saying, "Don't talk so about father, Julia. It was very liberal, and really I do not know what to do with all mine."
But we will not continue this conversation. Suffice it to say that when Julia retired that night, her own money was safe in her purse, and by the side of it lay the hundred dollars she had coaxed from Fanny. As they were preparing to return home on Saturday, Julia said to her sister, "Fan, don't let father know that you gave me a hundred dollars, for I fear all your powers of persuasion would be of no avail to stay the storm he would consider it his bounden duty to raise."
There was no need of this caution, for Fanny was not one to do a generous act, and then boast of it, neither did her father ask her how she had disposed of her money. He was satisfied to know that the "four silk gowns" were purchased, as, in his estimation they constituted the essential part of a young lady's wardrobe.
Since Fanny had disclosed the heartless desertion of Dr. Lacey, she seemed to be doubly dear to her father; for pity now mingled with the intense love he always had for his youngest and best-loved daughter. Often during the last three days she passed at home prior to her departure for New York, he would sit and gaze fondly upon her until the tears would blind his vision, then springing up, he would pace the floor, impetuously muttering, "The scamp--the vagabond--but he'll get his pay fast enough--and I'd pay him, too, if I hadn't promised not to. But 'tain't worth a while, for I reckon 'twould only make her face grow whiter and thinner if I did anything."
At length the morning came on which Julia and Fanny were to leave for the first time their native state. Side by side near the landing at Frankfort lay the two boats, Blue Wing and Diana. The one was to bear Fanny on her Northern tour, and the other would convey Julia as far as Louisville on her way South. Mr. Woodburn, who had business in New Orleans, was to take Julia under his protection.
And now but a short time remained ere the Diana would loose her moorings and be under way. These few moments were moments of sorrow to Mr. and Mrs. Middleton, who had accompanied their daughters to Frankfort. Uncle Joshua particularly was much depressed, and scarce took his eyes from his treasure, who might be leaving him forever. In his estimation the far-off North was a barren, chilly region, and although he did not quite believe his Fanny would be frozen to death, he could not rid himself of the fear that something would befall her.
"You'll take good keer of her, won't you, Miller?" said he, "and bring her safely back to us?"
Mr. Miller gave the promise, and then observing that there was something else on Mr. Middleton's mind, he said, "What is it, Mr. Middleton? What more do you wish to say?"
Mr. Middleton struggled hard with his feelings, and his voice sank to a whisper as he answered, "I wanted to tell you that if--if she should die, bring her home--bring her back; don't leave her there all alone."
The old man could say no more, for the bell rang out its last warning. The parting between Fanny and her parents was a sad one, and even Julia wept as she kissed her sister, and thought it might be for the last time.
Soon after the Diana, with its precious freight disappeared from view, Mr. Middleton was called upon to bid another farewell to his eldest daughter. "Reckon the old fellow likes one girl better than the other," said a bystander, who had witnessed both partings. And yet Mr. Middleton did well, and his look and manner was very affectionate as he bade Julia good-bye, and charged her "not to be giddy and act like a fool, nor try to come it over Dr. Lacey." "Though," thought he, "it'll be sarvin the rascal right if he should have to live with Tempest all his life."
It is not our intention at present to follow Julia in her passage to New Orleans. In another chapter we will take up the subject, and narrate her adventures. Now we prefer going North with the other party, which consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Miller, Fanny and Raymond. The latter had, in a fit of desperation, determined to quit Frankfort, and go no one knew whither. He accompanied his friends as far as Cincinnati, and there bade them adieu, saying that they would hear of him again in a way they little dreamed of.
Mr. Miller was sorry to part with one who had proved so valuable an assistant in his school, but all his arguments had failed and he was obliged to give him up, saying, "I hope, Raymond, that all your laudable enterprises may be successful."
"I shall succeed," were Raymond's emphatic words; "and she, the haughty woman, who tried to smile so scornfully when I bade her farewell, will yet be proud to say she has had a smile from me, a poor school master."
"Well, Raymond," said Mr. Miller, "you have my good wishes, and if you ever run for President, I'll vote for you. So now good-by."
Raymond rung his friend's hand, and then stepped from the cars, which soon rolled heavily from the depot. Faster and faster sped the train on its pathway over streamlet and valley, meadow and woodland, until at last the Queen City, with its numerous spires, was left far behind. From the car windows Fanny watched the long blue line of hills, which marks the Kentucky shore, until they, too, disappeared from view.
For a time now we will leave her to the tender mercies of the Ohio railroad, and a Lake Erie steamer, and hurrying on in advance, we will introduce the reader to the home where once had sported Richard Wilmot and his sister Kate. It stood about a half a mile from the pleasant rural village of C----, in the eastern part of New York. The house was large and handsome, and had about it an air of thrift and neatness, which showed its owner to be a farmer, who not only understood his business, but also attended to it himself. Between the house and the road was a large grassy lawn, on which was growing many a tall, stately maple and elm, under whose wide-spreading branches Kate and her brother had often played during the gladsome days of their childhood. A long piazza ran around two sides of the building. Upon this piazza the family sitting room opened.
Could we have entered that sitting room the day on which our travelers arrived, we should have seen a fine-looking, middle-aged lady, whose form and features would instantly have convinced us that we looked upon the mother of Kate. Yes, what Kate Miller is now, her mother was once; but time and sorrow have made inroads upon her dazzling beauty, and here and there the once bright locks of auburn are now silvered over, and across the high white brow are drawn many deep-cut lines. Since Kate last saw her mother, these lines have increased, for the bursting heart has swelled with anguish, and the dark eye has wept bitter tears for the son who died far away from his childhood's home. Even now the remembrance of the noble youth, who scarce two years ago, left her full of life and health, makes the tear drop start as she says aloud, "How can I welcome back my darling Kate, and know that he will never come again!"
The sound of her voice aroused old Hector, the watchdog, who had been lying in the sun upon the piazza. Stretching his huge limbs and shaking his shaggy sides, he stalked into the sitting room, and going up to his mistress laid his head caressingly in her lap. The sight of Hector made Mrs. Wilmot's tears flow afresh, for during many years he had been the faithful companion of Richard, whose long absence he seemed seriously to mourn. For days and weeks he had watched by the gate, through which he had seen his young master pass, and when at last the darkness of night forbade a longer watch, he would lay his head on the ground and give vent to his evident disappointment in a low, mournful howl.
Mrs. Wilmot was not superstitious; but when, day after day, the same sad cry was repeated, it became to her an omen of coming evil; and thus the shock of her son's death, though none the less painful, was not quite as great as it would otherwise have been. For Kate, too, old Hector had wept, but not so long or so mournfully; still he remembered her, and always evinced his joy whenever her name was spoken.
On the morning of the day on which she was expected home, a boy who had lived in the family when she went away, called Hector to him, and endeavored, by showing him some garment which Kate had worn and by repeating her name, to make him understand that she was coming home. We will not say that Hector understood him, but we know that during the day he never for a moment left the house or yard, but lay upon the piazza, looking eagerly toward the road which led from the village. Whenever he saw a carriage coming, he would start up and gaze wistfully at it until it had passed, then he would again lie down and resume his watch. Mrs. Wilmot noticed this, and when Hector, as we have seen, walked up to her and looked so sympathizingly in her face, she patted his head, saying, "Poor Hector; you will see Kate at least today."
Nor was she mistaken, for about three that afternoon, an omnibus drew up before the gate. Kate immediately sprang out, and was followed by Mr. Miller and Fanny. Their arrival was first made known to Mrs. Wilmot by the cry of joy which Hector sent forth at sight of Kate. With lightning speed he bounded over the lawn to meet the travelers. Fanny, who was accustomed to the savage watchdogs of Kentucky, sprang back in terror and clung to Mr. Miller for protection; but Kate cried out, "Do not fear; it is only Hector, and he wouldn't harm you for the world." Then she ran forward to meet him, and embraced him as fondly as though he had really been a human being, and understood and appreciated it all. And he did seem to, for after caressing Kate, he looked about as if in quest of the missing one. Gradually he seemed to become convinced that Richard was not there; again was heard the old wailing howl; but this time it was more prolonged, more despairing. Faithful creature! Know you not that summer's gentle gale and winter's howling storm have swept over the grave of him whom you so piteously bemoan.
Fanny stopped her ears to shut out the bitter cry, but if Kate heard it, she heeded it not, and bounded on over the graveled walk toward her mother, who was eagerly waiting for her. In an instant parent and child were weeping in each other's arms.
"My Kate, my darling Kate, are you indeed here?" said Mrs. Wilmot.
Kate's only answer was a still more passionate embrace. Then recollecting herself, she took her husband's hand and presented him to her mother, saying, "Mother, I could not bring you Richard, but I have brought you another son. Will you not give him room in your heart?"
Mrs. Wilmot had never seen Mr. Miller before, but she was prepared to like him, not only because he was her daughter's choice, but because he had been the devoted friend of her son; consequently she greeted him with a most kind and affectionate welcome.
During all this time Fanny was leaning against one of the pillars of the piazza, but her thoughts were far away. She was thinking of her distant Kentucky home, and a half feeling of homesickness crept over her, as she thought how joyfully she would be greeted there, should she ever return. Her reverie was of short duration, for Kate approached, and leading her to her mother, simply said, "Mother, this is Fanny."
'Twas enough. The word Fanny had a power to open the fountains of that mother's heart. She had heard the story of the young girl, who had watched so unweariedly by the bedside of Richard--she had heard, too, of the generous old man, whose noble heart had cared for and cherished the stranger, and she knew that she, who advanced toward her so timidly, was the same young girl, the same old man's daughter; and could Mr. Middleton have witnessed her reception of his Sunshine, he would have been satisfied.
A messenger was dispatched for Mr. Wilmot, who was superintending some workmen in a field not far from the house. Mr. Wilmot was a tall, noble-looking man, whose fine figure was slightly bowed by the frosts of sixty winters. As he advanced with breathless haste toward the house, Kate ran to meet him, and the tears which the strong man wept, told how dear to him was this, his beautiful daughter, and how forcibly her presence reminded him of his first-born, only son, who went away to die among strangers.
When he was presented to Mr. Miller and Fanny, a scene similar to the one we have already described took place. As he blessed Fanny for Richard's sake, she felt that though in a strange land, she was not alone or unloved. Her homesickness soon vanished; for how could she be lonely and sad, where all were so kind, and where each seemed to vie with the other in trying to make everything agreeable to her. It was strange how soon even Hector learned to love the fair Kentuckian. He would follow her footsteps wherever she went, and affectionately kiss her hands. But then, as Kate said, "Hector had more common sense than half the people in the world," and he seemed to know by instinct that she whom he so fondly caressed had once watched over his young master, who was now sleeping in his silent grave, unmindful that in his home he was still sincerely mourned even by old Hector.
Not many days after Fanny's arrival at Mr. Wilmot's she was told that a gentleman wished to see her in the parlor. On entering the room how surprised she was at beholding Frank Cameron. He had learned by letter from Kate that Fanny was in C----, and he immediately started for his uncle's.
Since his return from Kentucky he had thoughts of little else save Fanny Middleton. Waking or sleeping, she was constantly in his mind, and still with a happy thought of her there ever came a sadder feeling, a fear that his love for her would be in vain. But since the morning when he bade her adieu, her name had never once passed his lips.
When his sister Gertrude questioned him concerning the Kentucky girls, he had described to her in glowing terms the extreme beauty of Julia, and the handsome eyes of "the widder," as he called Mrs. Carrington, but of Fanny he had never spoken. He could not bear that even his own sister should mention Fanny in connection with any one else. How ever, when Kate's letter arrived, he passed it over to Gertrude, whose curiosity was instantly roused, and she poured forth a torrent of questions as to who that Fanny Middleton was.
"I suppose she must be old Mr. Middleton's daughter," was Frank's teasing reply.
"Of course I know that," said Gertrude, "but what of her? who is she?"
"Why, I've told you once, she is Fanny Middleton," said Frank.
These and similar answers were all Gertrude could draw from him, and she fell into a fit of pouting; but Frank was accustomed to that, and consequently did not mind it. Next he announced his intention to visit his Uncle Wilmot. Gertrude instantly exclaimed, "Now, Frank, you are too bad. Just as soon as you hear Fanny Middleton is in New York, you start off to see her, without even telling me who she is, or what she is. In my opinion you are in love with her, and do not wish us to know it."
This started up Mrs. Cameron's ideas, and she said, "Frank, I am inclined to believe Gertrude is right; but you surely will be respectful enough to me to answer my questions civilly."
"Certainly," said Frank. "Ask anything you please; only be quick, for it is almost car time."
"Well then, do you intend to make this Miss Middleton your wife?"
"I do, if she will have me," said Frank.
The distressed lady groaned audibly, but continued, "One more question, Frank. Is she rich and well connected?"
Frank passed his hand through the thick curls of his brown hair, and seemed to be trying hard to think of something. Finally he answered, "Why, really, mother, I never once thought to ask that question."
"But," persisted Mrs. Cameron, "you can judge by her appearance, and that of her parents. Did you not see them?"
Frank laughed loudly as the image of Uncle Joshua as he first saw him in the door, buttoning his suspender, presented itself to his remembrance; but he answered, "Yes, mother, I did see her father, and 'twas the richest sight I ever saw."
He then proceeded to give a description of Mr. Middleton to his astonished sister and mother, the latter of whom exhibited such distress that Frank very compassionately asked, "if she had the toothache."
Before she had time to answer, Frank was gone, leaving his mother to lament over the strange infatuation which always led Frank in pursuit of somebody beneath him.
"I know," said she to Gertrude, "that this Fanny Middleton is from a horrid low family, and is as poor as a church mouse."
So while Frank was hurrying toward the village of C----, his mother and sister were brooding over the disgrace which they feared threatened them. They could have spared all their painful feelings, for she of the "low family" was destined to be another's.
During Frank's ride to C---- he determined, ere his return, to know the worst. "She can but refuse me," thought he, "and even if she does, I shall feel better than I do now." When he met Fanny his manner was so calm and collected that she never dreamed how deep was the affection she had kindled in his heart. She received him with real pleasure, for he seemed like a friend from Kentucky. He staid with her but three days, and when he left he bore a sadder heart than he had ever felt before. Fanny had refused him; not exultingly, as if a fresh laurel had been won only to be boasted of, but so kindly, so delicately, that Frank felt almost willing to act it all over again for the sake of once more hearing Fanny's voice, as she told him how utterly impossible it was for her ever again to love as a husband should be loved.
"Then," said Frank, somewhat bitterly, "you acknowledge that you have loved another."
"Yes," answered Fanny, "but no other circumstances could have wrung the confession from me. I have loved and been deceived. I will not say my faith in man's honor is wholly gone, for I believe you, Mr. Cameron, to be perfectly sincere and honorable in your professions of regard. Had we met earlier all might have been different, but now it is too late. If my friendship is worth having, it is yours. I have never had a brother, but will look upon and love you as one; with that, you must be satisfied."
And he did try to be satisfied, but only because there was no other alternative. Still he felt a pleasure in being near her, in breathing the same atmosphere and gazing on the same scenes. Before he returned home he had decided upon accompanying her, together, with Mr. and Mrs. Miller, on their contemplated trip to Saratoga; thence they would go on to New York City, and visit at his father's.
"I am sorry," said he, "that it is not the season for parties, as I should love dearly to show off Fanny in opposition to our practised city belles, and now I think of it," continued he, "isn't Mr. Stanton coming North this summer after a certain Miss Ashton?"
"I believe he is," answered Kate.
"Now then," said Frank. "I have it exactly. Judge Fulton, who is Miss Ashton's guardian, has recently removed to the city. I know him well, and have been introduced to Miss Helen. Stanton has already invited us all to his wedding, and as Miss Ashton will of course repeat the invitation, Fanny will thus have an opportunity of seeing a little of the gay world in New York."
"You seem to think any praise bestowed upon Fanny as so much credit for yourself," said Kate, mischievously.
Frank made no reply, and soon bidding good-by to his friends, he was on his way to the city. On reaching home he found his mother and sister in a state of great anxiety concerning "the odious old scarecrow's corncake daughter," as Gertrude styled Fanny. Her first question, after asking about Kate, was, "Well, Frank, tell me, did you propose to Miss Middleton?"
"Most certainly I did. That was one object in going," was Frank's quiet reply.
The horrified Mrs. Cameron, throwing up both hands in a most theatrical manner, exclaimed, "Mon Dieu!" It was the only French phrase she knew, and she used it upon all occasions. This time, however, it was accompanied by a loud call for her vineagrette and for air, at the same time declaring it was of no use trying to restore her, for her heart was broken and she was going to faint.
"Let me wash these red spots off from your cheek. You can't faint gracefully with so much color," said Frank gravely, at the same time literally deluging his mother's face with cologne, much against the blooming lady's inclination. This little scene determined Frank not to tell that he was rejected. At first he had intended to disclose all, but now he decided otherwise. "They may as well fret about that as anything else," thought he, "and when they see Fanny, I shall have a glorious triumph." So he kept his own secret, and commenced teasing Gertrude about going to Saratoga with himself, their cousin Kate and Fanny.
"I shall do no such thing, Master Frank," said Gertrude. "I am willing enough to see Kate, and invite her here too, for she is fine looking and appears well, even if she is a music teacher; but this Fanny Middleton--Ugh! I'll never associate with her on terms of equality, or own her as my sister either."
"I do not think you will," said Frank; but Gertrude knew not what cause he had for so saying.
After he had quitted the apartment, Mrs. Cameron and Gertrude tried to think of some way to let Fanny know that she was not wanted in their family. "Dear me," said Gertrude, "I will not go to Saratoga, and be obliged to see Frank make a dolt of himself with this plebian Kentuckian. If she were only rich and accomplished, why, it would be different, and the fact of her being from Kentucky would increase her attractions. But now it is too bad!" And Gertrude actually cried with vexation and mortified pride. Poor creature! How mistaken she was with regard to Fanny Middleton, and so she one day learned.
But as the reader is doubtless anxious to hear of Fanny's introduction to Mrs. Cameron and Gertrude, we will give a description of it in the next chapter.