JULIA IS FOUND DROWNED
The morning which succeeded the events narrated in the last chapter was clear and bright. Nature, beautiful as ever, looked as if laughing defiance at the fearful storm which so lately had swept over the earth. Beautifully over hill and valley fell the sun's red rays, but when they penetrated the dwelling of Mr. Middleton, they shone on the anxious, careworn faces of those who had been sleepless during the dark hours of that dreadful night. Even the merry-hearted Florence seemed sad and spiritless as she hurried from room to room, urging Ashton to accelerate their departure. By eight o'clock the last guest was gone. Around the old stone house a gloomy silence settled, broken only by the heavy tramp of Uncle Joshua, whose cowhides came down with a vengeance, as up and down the yard he strode, talking to Dr. Lacey, who walked by his side.
"Now," said he, "if this isn't a little the all-firedest muss a feller ever got into, Josh ain't no judge. Of course the papers have nothing to do but flout it all over the country. For myself I don't care a copper, but 'twill be mighty mortifyin' to you, though I think you desarve some mortifyin', for how in thunder a chap of your sense ever come to be made such a precious fool of is more'n I can tell."
"If you knew all the arts she employed, you would not wonder quite so much," said Dr. Lacey. And Mr. Middleton answered, "Know all her arts? Don't I know 'em? Don't I know that she rummaged heaven and arth for ways and means?"
"I hardly think she went to the former place for assistance," said Dr. Lacey; and Mr. Middleton continued, "You are right, but I'll be bound Satan hadn't any tricks but what he told her of. 'Pears like she's been possessed ever since she first opened her big black eyes in the very room where the row was last night. Oh, how happy I was," he continued, "when I took her in my arms a little baby, and knew she was mine and Nancy's, and thought what a comfort she'd be to me; but George, I tell you what," said he, as he placed one hand on Dr. Lacey's arm and passed the other through the grizzled locks which lay around his brow, "I tell you what, these gray hairs come a heap too soon, and all for her, for her. Oh, Julia, Julia, what trouble have you not caused me!" and in his hands Uncle Joshua buried his face, while through his large red fingers the tears trickled slowly, and fell upon the ground. For a moment he wept, and then wiping his eyes, said, "But wasn't it lucky that long-legged, salmon-colored Joe got here as he did! Another minute and you'd have been clinched, but now the tempest has blowed over, and for the rest of your life you'll have nothing but sunshine."
The overseer now approached to ask orders concerning a piece of work in which the negroes were employed. Mr. Middleton accompanied him to the field, while Dr. Lacey returned to the house in quest of Fanny. He was told that she was with Julia, and with an involuntary shudder, he approached the chamber which contained one who had well nigh been his wife! His wife! The very idea filled him with loathing when associated with her, and still he pitied the suffering girl, who, divested of her bridal attire, now lay moaning in pain. With coming day had come a burning fever, which increased so rapidly that Dr. Gordon shook his head when questioned as to the result.
The change of affairs had also wrought a change in Fanny, who seemed and really was better than she had been for many days. Gladly would she have stayed with Dr. Lacey, but she felt that duty called her to Julia's bedside. With unwearying devotion she hung over the pillow of her sister, who seemed more quiet when she knew Fanny was near. Once she looked wistfully in her face, and appeared as if anxious to speak, but Fanny gently laid her hand on her lips, saying, "No, no, Julia; you must not."
She did, however, and the word "forgive" met Fanny's ear. Had Fanny been less of a Christian, forgiveness might have been hard, but now she answered sincerely, truthfully, "As I hope for pardon in heaven, so do I forgive you for the great wrong you have done me."
At the mention of the word "heaven," Julia shuddered, and after a time repeated, "Heaven! You will find it, but I--never--never!"
Earnestly then did Fanny speak of a Savior's love, which receives all, pardons all, who come to him. Julia shook her head despairingly, and as the conversation seemed to annoy her, Fanny ceased talking, while a voice behind her said, "Teach me, too, the way of life, for I fear I have never walked in it."
It was Dr. Lacey, who, unobserved by either of the girls, had entered and been a listener to what Fanny said. As Julia heard the sound of voices she turned toward him a look so imploring, so full of contrition and entreaty, that he was moved, and approaching the bedside, took the vacant seat near Fanny. But he did not, like her, breathe words of forgiveness, for his heart was full of bitterness toward her. As he sat there, gazing coldly, sternly at her, she again spoke, "If you can, if you will only forgive me."
Dr. Lacey's brow grew dark and his manner excited, as he replied, "Forgive you! In time I may learn to do so, but to forget will take me my lifetime, and yet I blame myself not less than I do you for having been so duped."
A low sob was Julia's only answer as Dr. Lacey arose to leave, announcing to Fanny his intention of visiting Joseph Dunn, who was said to be dying. As he entered the house where Joseph lay, tossing in feverish agony, the sick man's eyes glared wildly upon him as he shrieked, "Why have you come to taunt me with my crime? Is it not enough that the room is full of little devils who creep over my pillow, and shout in my ear as they hold to view the letters I withheld? I did not do it alone. She bribed me with gold, and now when I am dead, who will take care of my mother? She will be cold when the winter winds blow, and hungry when the summer corn ripens."
Dr. Lacey drew nearer to him and stooping down, whispered, "Is your mother very poor and you all her dependence?"
"Yes, yes," answered Joseph, whose almost only virtue was the love he bore his mother.
"Fear not, then," said Dr. Lacey, "I will care for her; for though you did me a great wrong, you saved me from being today the most wretched of men."
That night as the October sun went down there was heard beneath that lonely roof the piteous cry of a widowed mother, for Joseph, her first-born, her only child, was dead. Next day they buried him, as is frequently the custom in Kentucky, beneath a large shade tree in the garden. Many words of sympathy were spoken to the bereaved mother, but none fell so soothingly on her ear as did those of Dr. Lacey, who was present at the funeral, and led the weeping mother to the grave.
After the burial was over he whispered to her, "I will surely remember you, for, erring though your son may have been, I owe him a debt of gratitude." So saying, he walked hastily away toward Mr. Middleton's, where he was met by alarmed faces, soft footsteps, and subdued whispers. In reply to his inquiries, he was told by Aunt Judy, that "somehow or 'nother, Miss Julia had got wind of Mr. Dunn's death, and it had gone to her head, makin' her ravin' mad, and the doctor said she wouldn't get well."
Aunt Judy was right; Julia had accidently heard of Mr. Dunn's death, and it added greatly to the nervous excitement which she was already suffering, and when Dr. Gordon came he was surprised to find the dangerous symptoms of his patient increased to an alarming extent. The fever had settled upon her brain, and for many days she lay at the very gates of death.
Incessantly she talked of Dr. Lacey, Fanny and Mr. Wilmot, the latter of whom, in her disordered imagination, was constantly pursuing her. "Go back--go back to your grave," she would say; "there are tears enough shed for you, but none will fall for me when I am dead. He will laugh and be glad, and the first moon that shines on my grave will light the marriage train to the altar." Then, as if the phantom still were near her, she would cry out, "Take him away, I tell you! What have I to do with coffins, and white faces, and broken hearts? I killed him, I know, and he loved me, too, as no one else ever has, but I madly loved another, and now he hates me, spurns me!" Then turning to Fanny she would say, "I broke your heart too, and still pressed on when I saw it was killing you, but you forgave me, and now you must plead with him, who loves the air you breathe, to think compassionately of me. I do not ask him to love me, for I know that is impossible; but he can, at least, forgive and forget the past."
Sometimes she would speak of her father, saying, "He will be glad when the tempest is still and ceases to trouble him, for he never loved me, never spoke to me as he did to Fanny. I know I did not deserve his love, but I should have been better if he had given me a little, yes, just a little."
"God knows she speaks the truth," said Uncle Joshua, wiping away the tears he was not ashamed to weep. "I have been mighty hard on her, but I never s'posed she cared."
Such were the scenes which daily occurred in Julia's sick room until at last, from utter exhaustion, she became still, and for many days she lay in a dreamy kind of sleep.
"Will she live?" asked Mr. Middleton of Dr. Gordon, as he one day left the sick room.
"With proper care, I think she may," was the answer; and then Dr. Lacey again urged the request he had once before made of Mr. Middleton.
But Uncle Joshua answered, "No, George, wait a little longer. Nuthin' 'll come betwixt you again, I reckon, and I wouldn't have you marry her while t'other one is so low."
So Dr. Lacey was obliged to wait, but though he would much rather have remained near Fanny he deemed it expedient to change his abode and remove to Mrs. Crane's. He was partly induced to do this on Rondeau's account, who, being Ike's sworn enemy, was the cause of no little annoyance to Mr. Middleton, who, with his negroes, was much nettled by the air of superiority which that young gentleman thought proper to assume.
Greatly was Rondeau delighted to exchange the crazy old stone house, with its corn-bread and fried bacon, for Mrs. Crane's elegant place, with its oyster soups and ice creams, a part of which the head cook always reserved for the "colored gentleman from New Orleans," who assured her, that though when at home he didn't exactly eat at the same table with his master, he still lived on the top shelf! Not long, however, did Rondeau enjoy his new quarters, for about that time Mr. William Middleton returned to New Orleans, and Dr. Lacey sent with him his servant Rondeau, nothing loath to return home, for Leffie's face of late had haunted him not a little.
Dr. Lacey's return to Mrs. Crane's gave great satisfaction to Mrs. Carrington, who, though she had no hopes of winning him, still, to use her own words, "took great delight in reminding him of the snare into which he had fallen, notwithstanding his profound wisdom and boasted foresight." It required all the good breeding he was master of to answer politely when, after returning from a visit to Mr. Middleton's, she would jeeringly ask him concerning "his bride's health!"
But Mrs. Carrington's levity was brought to an end by an unforeseen circumstance. It was now six weeks since the evening of the denouement, and Julia's health was so much improved that Dr. Lacey began to speak confidently of the day when Fanny would be his own. Uncle Joshua had given his consent, and preparations for the marriage had actually commenced, when Julia, in whose room Mrs. Middleton had been in the habit of sleeping, insisted upon being left alone. "I am well now," she said, "and do not need you."
Mrs. Middleton was finally persuaded, but charged her daughter to be sure and call her if she wished for her during the night.
Over Julia's face a meaning smile flitted as she answered, "I hope to trouble no one much longer," but it was unnoticed by Mrs. Middleton, and Julia was left alone. Early next morning Luce went as usual to make a fire for her young mistress, after which she softly drew back the bed curtains to see if Julia slept. She was surprised to find no Julia there, neither were there signs of her having been there during the night. With a loud cry Luce summoned to the room both Mr. and Mrs. Middleton, the former of whom on seeing how matters stood, exclaimed, "So ho! Up to her tricks again. I thought she couldn't hold good long."
"'The de'il when sick, a saint would be, But when he got well, the de'il a saint was he.'"
"Don't, husband," said Mrs. Middleton; "perhaps she will never come back alive, and then you will be sorry."
Uncle Joshua readily guessed his wife's meaning, and turning to Luce, said, "Rout out the whole gang and set 'em to huntin'."
In less than two hours scores of men on horseback were seen hunting in all directions, looking, as Bob expressed it, "for all the world like they was huntin' a runaway."
Ere long the news reached Frankfort, causing Mrs. Carrington to sneeringly advise Dr. Lacey "by all means to join in the hunt." He deigned her no reply, but mounting his horse took the road to Mr. Middleton's, where he was welcomed with tears by Mrs. Middleton and Fanny, whose fears he strove to allay.
Meanwhile the search went on, headed by Uncle Joshua, who, late in the afternoon, unconsciously led a part of the company to the banks of the river, not far from a point called Woodford Landing. Dismounting, he strolled along the shore for several rods, when suddenly a loud cry turned toward him the attention of the party. Near the water's edge he had discovered a shawl, which he knew belonged to Julia, and near by lay a pair of slippers, on the inside of which her name was marked. Instantly the conviction flashed upon all--Julia was drowned!
Upon a large flat rock Uncle Joshua sat down, while his long gray locks were tossed by the November wind which swept mournfully by, bearing on its wing the bitter tones with which the stricken father bewailed his loss. "Everything goes ag'in me," said he, "everything--she's dead and, worse than all, died by her own hand." Then, as if void of reason, he arose, and over the craggy hillside and down the dark, rolling river echoed the loud, shrill cry of, "Julia, Julia, oh, my child! Come back, come back! Why was you left to break your old father's heart?" And to that wail of sorrow only the moaning wind replied, and faster the waters of the Kentucky rolled on.
They took the old man home, and long weary days went by, during which the river near the landing was dragged again and again, and still no trace of the missing girl was found. Then, as hope began to whisper that possibly she was not dead, the papers far and near contained advertisements for her, and by the side of that appeared another for a lunatic girl, who had escaped from the asylum at Lexington.
Four weeks went by, and the waters of the Kentucky frowned angrily "in the gray December light," making Uncle Joshua shudder whenever he chanced to pass by, and thought perhaps his daughter lay sleeping in their cold embrace. A gloomy drizzly day was settling into a dark rainy night, when two young men, who, either for business or pleasure, had rowed across the river some miles from Woodford Landing, started to return home. They had stepped into their boat and were about pushing off when among some driftwood which lay not far from the shore, they thought they descried a female's garment floating on the water. The spot was soon reached, and to their horror they discovered the body of a young girl, which, from its appearance, must have been in the water some time. They had heard the story of Julia, and readily concluded that the bloated, disfigured form before them must have been she. Taking her to the nearest dwelling, they dispatched a messenger for Mr. Middleton, who, now that his worst fears were confirmed, seemed paralyzed with the shock.
"Oh, I cannot go!" said he, "I cannot. Is there no one to do it for me?"
Dr. Lacey, who chanced to be present, said, "For your sake, sir, and for Fanny's, I will go."
"God bless you, George!" answered Mr. Middleton, and in a few moments Dr. Lacey departed.
With a thrill of horror he looked upon the swollen, discolored face, round which the long black hair clung, matted and slimy from being so long saturated with water, and thought that this was once the beautiful Julia, though now so fearfully changed that no one could possibly have recognized her. Owing to the state which the body was in, Dr. Lacey thought proper to produce a coffin before removing her home; consequently it was nearly ten o'clock the following morning ere the little procession slowly entered the yard, from which, with wonderful forethought, Mr. Middleton had ordered to be removed some half dozen carts, corn cribs, etc. Fanny was pressing forward to look at her unfortunate sister, when Dr. Lacey, gently but firmly, led her away, saying, "No, Fanny, you must not see her. The sight would haunt you for months and years." Then, as her tears fell fast, he strove in various way to divert her mind from Julia's untimely end.
About noon a middle-aged man came to the house and asked permission to see the body. His request was granted, but he almost immediately turned away from the coffin, saying, by way of explanation, "I am the father of the maniac girl who some time since escaped from Lexington, and I thought perhaps this might be my daughter; but it is not, and even if it were I could not recognize her."
On Mr. Middleton's farm, and not far from the house, was a small yard which had been enclosed as a burial place for the family. On this spot Fanny had expended much time and labor. Roses and honeysuckles ever bloomed there for a season, while the dark evergreen and weeping willow waved their branches and beckoned the passer-by to rest beneath their shadow. In one corner was a tall forest maple, where Julia and Fanny often had played, and where Fanny once, when dangerously ill in childhood, had asked to be laid. As yet no mound had rendered that spot dearer for the sake of the lost one who slept there, but now in the scarcely frozen ground the ringing of the spade was heard; shovelful after shovelful of earth was thrown up, and into that cold, damp grave, as the sun was setting, they lowered the remains of Julia, who once little thought that she first of all would break the turf of the family graveyard.
That night was fast merging into the hours of morning ere the sound of Uncle Joshua's footsteps ceased, as again and again he traversed the length and breadth of his sleeping room, occasionally stopping before the window and peering out in the darkness toward the spot where he knew lay that newly-made grave. Memory was busily at work, and in the events which marked Julia's short life, oh, how much he saw for which to blame himself. Remorse mingled in the old man's cup of affliction, and while the hot tears rolled down his cheeks he exclaimed, "If she could only come back and I could do it over, I'd love her more, and maybe she'd be better. But I treated her mean. I gin her only harsh words and cross looks." Then as his wife's tears mingled with his, he took her hand, saying, "Don't take on so, Nancy, you've nothin' to cry for. You's always good to her and kind o' took up for her when I got sot ag'in her."
Mrs. Middleton could only answer by her tears to this touching attempt at sympathy, but she finally succeeded in quieting her husband, and before daybreak, he had forgotten in sleep the injustice done to Julia. All thoughts of Fanny's marriage for the present were of course given up, although Mr. Middleton promised that when the autumn came round again he would surely give his treasure to the care of another.
Two weeks after Julia's burial, all of which time was passed at Mr. Middleton's, Dr. Lacey went back to New Orleans, having first placed in Mr. Middleton's care a sum of money for the benefit of Mrs. Dunn, promising Fanny that with the spring he would come again. He bade her adieu, praying that nothing might come between them again. Heavily now dragged the days at Mr. Middleton's, until Uncle Joshua hit upon a plan which would not only give pleasure to Fanny, but would also relieve the tedium of his own life. It was nothing more nor less than the erection of a new house on a grassy lawn, which Fanny had frequently pointed out as being a good location. Long he revolved in his mind the for and against, but the remembrance of Julia's wish to have the "old shell fixed up," finally decided him. "If 'twasn't good enough for her to be married in, it surely wasn't good enough for Sunshine."
At the breakfast table he first announced his intention, causing Fanny in her surprise and joy not only to drop her knife, but also to upset her coffee. "All right," said he, "I'll do it, if it breaks me. We'll have a buster," said he, "marble mantletrys, windows that come to the floor, Brussels carpets, and if you're a mind to, you may have them four-legged split things, though, Lord knows I'll never eat with them."
In a short time the necessary arrangements were completed. A large number of men were hired and matters progressed so rapidly that there was every probability of the house being completed early in June, should the winter season prove favorable.
Here we may as well relate a little circumstance which occurred to Fanny during the winter. Bill Jeffrey, who, it will be remembered, had always felt a predilection for her, emboldened by the kindness of her manner, now determined to make his wishes known. Accordingly, he sent her numerous little cakes of maple sugar, besides giving her many knowing winks, his usual method of showing his preference.
As she was one day strolling in the woods she suddenly encountered Bill, who thought this was as favorable an opportunity as he would probably have. He was rather awkward and unaccustomed to love-making, but he resolved to do his best. Planting his foot upon a log, he with one hand drew from his head his old wool cap and thrust it under his arm, while with the other he twirled a huge brass watchkey, which hung suspended from his pocket. (He had the day before traded off an old jack knife, two puppies, and a cracked fiddle, for a brass watch which would only go by shaking.)
Tiger, who had accompanied Fanny, eyed Bill's movements uneasily. He was, however, unnoticed by the young man, who had got his mouth open, and at last found courage to say, "I always liked you, Fanny, 'cause you never laughed at me, nor called me a fool, and now if you'll have me, you may carry my watch, and I'll work for your father two seasons in the hemp field." This last was wonderful, for Bill was notoriously lazy.
Involuntarily Fanny laughed, but Bill construed it into approval, and was about to sit down by her, when Tiger, with an angry growl, sprang forward and precipitated the wooing swain over the log into the dirt. Fanny called off the dog, and Bill gathered himself up, carefully brushing the dirt from his Sunday suit. Fearing he would repeat his offer, Fanny said, "I appreciate your kindness, Billy, but you see Tiger doesn't seem to approve of your proposal, and as I have great confidence in his judgment, I think I, too, must follow his example, and though I shan't knock you down, I shall have to tell you 'No.'"
She might as well have knocked him down, for he instantly sat down, and covering his face with his hands, burst into such a fit of crying that Fanny, half-laughing at and half-pitying him, said, "Poor Billy, I am sorry for you, and though I cannot marry you, I will like you just as well as you fancy I always have."
This failed to quiet Bill, who kept on crying until Tiger made so many threatening demonstrations of anger, that Bill thought it was wise to leave before he got another tumble.
He had hardly disappeared when a loud voice called out, "Bravo, Tiger! You know how to fix 'em." Looking around, Fanny saw her father, who had been a silent spectator of the scene, and now came forward laughing heartily at his would-be son-in-law. "Pretty well done, Sunshine," said he. "Let's see, how many offers does this make? Thar's Joe's one, the doctor's two; Yankee Carmeron's three; and lubberin' Bill Jeffrey's four, and you not quite eighteen. That'll do; that'll do!" Afterward, when Mr. Middleton wished to entertain his visitors with anything extra, he would rehearse to them, with some exaggerations, Bill Jeffrey's proposal to Fanny.
Glancing backward a few pages, we find we have omitted to repeat what happened among Dr. Lacey's blacks during the days when they were anxiously but vainly watching for the coming of their young master and his bride. For a week Aunt Dilsey was unusually crusty, and all her attempts at cookery invariably failed, plainly showing her mind to be in a disturbed state.
"I don't keer," she would say, "if the cakes is all dough and the 'sarves all froth. They's good enough for her, any day." Then she would call out, "Get along you, Jack, pokin' your fingers into the 'lasses cup; make yourself scarce in this kitchen, or I'll crack your head mighty nigh as hard as the new Miss will." Then she would scold Leffie, who, she said, "was of no more account than a burnt stick, now she was spectin' Rondeau. Pity but the boat he come on wouldn't blow up and let 'em all into perdition together."
Leffie knew her mother didn't mean more than half what she said, but she chose to keep silent, hoping each morning that the close of the day would bring the long absent Rondeau. Thus, between scolding and fretting, cooking and sweating, Aunt Dilsey passed the time until the day arrived on which, as she said, "they'd come if they ever did."
Mrs. Lacey, whose husband had not yet received his son's letter announcing the catastrophe, came out to superintend affairs and receive her new daughter. In the large, handsome dining room, the supper table was neatly spread, while Aunt Dilsey bustled about with the air of one who felt her time was short, but was determined to contest every inch of ground ere yielding it to another. She had condescended to put on her new calico gown (the one she proposed taking with her in a "handkerchief") and had even washed the grease and molasses from Jack's and the baby's face, telling the former that "he needn't mind about making up faces at the lady that night."
Claib had gone to the landing, and now Mrs. Lacey and the servants were gathered upon the upper piazza, waiting his return. Suddenly Dilsey, whose eyesight seemed wonderfully sharpened, exclaimed, "Thar, that's Claib. I could tell my old man if I should meet him at a camp meeting!"
Mrs. Lacey looked in the direction of the city and saw the carriage which Dilsey had pointed out. It proved to be Claib; and Leffie, who was rather near-sighted, strained her eyes to see if Rondeau, too, was on the box.
"Thar's nobody in that ar," said Dilsey. "Reckon the boat has run into the ground, or bust her riggin'; so, Leffie, you've put on your pink dress for nothin'."
The elder Mr. Lacey, was, however, in the carriage, and alighting, he advanced toward his wife and gave her the letter he had just received from his son. Mrs. Lacey read it, while the blacks crowded around Claib asking him scores of foolish questions, such as, "Was Marster George in the boat? And why wasn't he thar? And when would he be thar?"
When Mrs. Lacey finished reading the letter she said to Leffie, who was still standing near, "Rondeau is well, and will be home in a few days."
"When's the new miss a comin'?" asked Aunt Dilsey.
"Not at all," was Mrs. Lacey's reply.
"Glad on't," said Dilsey, "for now Jack can spit as fur and as big spits as he wants to."
Nothing more was known by the blacks until many days after, when Rondeau returned home, and related the whole story with many embellishments. He omitted to tell of the whipping which Ike had given him, but spoke with unqualified contempt of the old house and everything belonging to it, except Miss Fanny, who, he said, "Looked just like an angel, only a heap better."
"You ought to have seen her," said he, "that night when every thing was t'other side up; folks a yellin' like they was crazy, and one man was stark mad. Miss Julia lay on the floor, the blood pourin' out of her eyes and mouth by pails full; Miss Florence, she fainted, and they had to throw her out the window, glass and all, because there was so many low, ill-mannered niggers crowded in the hall."
"I s'pose you's one of the niggers?" said Aunt Dilsey.
"Why, yes," returned Rondeau; "but then I was helpin' and was tryin' to push them all back so I could get to marster, who was feelin' so bad that they sent for me, because nobody else could comfort him."
Here Rondeau began to fumble in his pocket, as if in search of something. Having found it, he continued, "Marster got hold of her hand and grabbed off her wedding ring so quick that it broke her finger. Then he threw it from him and I picked it up. Here 'tis," said he, holding up a ring.
"That's a likely story," interrupted Aunt Dilsey "If they wasn't married, how came the ring on her finger?"
Rondeau saw he had stretched a trifle too much, but he answered, "Well, anyhow, he throwed it away, and I'm goin' to keep it till--till, you know when, Dilsey."
"Keep it till you're gray," said Aunt Dilsey. "Leffie ain't goin' to be married with no such flummery."
Here Leffie, anxious to change the conversation, asked, "What of Miss Fanny?"
"Why, yes," answered Rondeau, "that's what I'm going to tell. Right in the middle of the fuss I heard something moving softly down the stairs, and I saw a thing all as white as snow. Her hair, which was about the color of Leffie's neck--real handsome--was hanging in long curls down her back. I thought it was an angel, and kinder touched her as she passed, to see if she had wings. But the niggers said, 'It's Miss Fanny,' and next I heard 'twas all as still in the room, and marster was huggin' and kissin' her and cryin' over her. Then, when I tried to get nearer and see more, they crowded me into such a little spot that I didn't breathe again for a week."
"Why didn't you get out of the crowd then?" asked Dilsey.
"How could I?" answered Rondeau. "Lord, Dilsey, I'd like to have seen you there; but then there wouldn't have been room for anybody else, for the hall wouldn't more than hold you."
Here the conversation ended, but for a long time Rondeau carried on his arm the marks of Aunt Dilsey's finger and thumb.