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told me—nothing. Long live Gregory Dexter! And I feel sure, too, that he will outlive us all. I shall go first. You will see. I always wanted to be first in everything—even the grave.” “My dear!” said Miss Margaretta. “Well, aunt, now would you like to be last : Think how lonely you would be. Besides, all the best places would be taken, too,” said Helen, in business-like tones, taking a spray of heliotrope from the vase before her. New-Year's Day was, in the eyes of Margaretta Teller, a solemn festival; thought was given to it in June, preparation for it began in September. Many a call was made at the house on that day which neither Miss Margaretta, nor her niece, Mrs. Lorrington, attracted, but rather the oldtime dishes and the old-time punch on their dining-room table. Old men with gouty feet, amateur antiquarians of mild but obstinate aspect, to whom Helen was “a slip of a girl,” and Miss Margaretta a half-way person of no interest, called regularly on the old Dutch holiday, and tasted this New-Year's punch. They cherished the idea that they were thus maintaining the “solid old customs,” and they spoke to each other in moist, husky undertones when they met in the hall, as much as to say, “Ah, ah! you here * That's right—that's right. A barrier, sir—a barrier against modern innovation " Helen had several friends besides Anne to assist her in receiving, and the young island girl remained, therefore, more or less unnoticed, owing to her lack of the ready, graceful smiles and phrases which are the current coin of New-Year's Day. She passed rapidly through the different phases of timidity, bewilderment, and fatigue; and then, when more accustomed to the scene, she regained her composure, and even began to feel amused. She ceased hiding behind the others; she learned to repeat the same answers to the same questions without caring for their inanity; she gave up trying to distinguish names, and (like the others) massed all callers into a constantly arriving repetition of the same person, who was to be treated with a cordiality as impersonal as it was glittering. She tried to select Mr. Dexter, and at length decided that he was a certain person standing near Helen—a man with brown hair and eyes; but she was not sure, and Helen's manner betrayed nothing.
The fatiguing day was over at last, and then followed an hour or two of comparative quiet; the few familiar guests who remained were glad to sink down in easychairs, and enjoy connected sentences again. The faces of the ladies showed fine lines extending from the nostril to the chin; the muscles that had smiled so much were weary. And now Anne discovered Gregory Dexter; and he was not the person she had selected. Mr. Dexter was a tall, broad-shouldered man of thirty-eight years of age, with an appearance of persistent vigor in his bearing, and a look of determination in his strong, squarely cut jaw and chin. His face was rather short, with good features and clear gray eyes, which met the gazer calmly ; and there was about him that air of self-reliance which does not irritate in a large strong man, any more than imperiousness in a beautiful woman. The person with brown eyes proved to be Mr. Heathcote. He seemed indolent, and contributed but few words to the general treasury of conversation. Mr. Blum was present also; but on this occasion he wore the peculiarly new, shining, patent-leather boots dear to the hearts of his countrymen on festal occasions, and Miss Teller's anxieties were quiescent. Helen liked artists; she said that their ways were a “proud assertion. that a ray of beauty outvalued all the mere utilities of the world.” “Are bad boots rays of beauty ?” inquired Miss Margaretta. “Yes. That is, a man whose soul is uplifted by art may not always remember his boots ; to himself, no doubt, his feet seem winged.” “Very far from winged are Blum's feet,” responded Miss Margaretta, shaking her head gravely. “Very, very far.” Late in the evening, when almost all the guests had departed, Helen seemed seized with a sudden determination to bring Anne into prominence. Mr. Dex
ter still lingered, and the artist. Also Ward Heathcote. “Anne, will you sing now 2 First
with me, then alone 7" she said, going to the piano. A bright flush rose in Anne's face; the prominent blue eyes of the German artist were fixed upon her; Gregory Dexter had turned toward her with his usual prompt attention. Even the indolent Heathcote looked up as Helen spoke. But having once decided to do a thing, Anne knew no way save to do it; having accepted Helen's generous kindness, she must now do what Helen asked in return. She rose in silence, and crossed the brightly lighted room on her way to the piano. Few women walk well; by well, is meant naturally. Helen was graceful; she had the lithe shape and long step which give a peculiar swaying grace, like that of elm branches. Yet Helen's walk belonged to the drawing-room, or at best the city pavement; one could not imagine her on a country road. Anne's gait was different. As she crossed the room alone, it drew upon her for the first time the full attention of the three men who were present. Blum stared gravely. Dexter's eyes moved up to her face, as if he saw it now with new interest. Heathcote leaned back on the sofa with an amused expression, glancing from Anne to Helen, as if saying, “I understand.” Anne wore one of Helen's gifts, a soft silk of pale gray, in deference to her mourning garb; the dress was high over the shoulders, but cut down squarely in front and behind, according to a fashion of the day. The sleeves came to the elbow only; the long skirt was severely plain. They had taken off their gloves, and the girl's beautiful arms were conspicuous, as well as her round, full, white throat. The American Venus is thin. American girls are slight; they have visible collar-bones and elbows. When they pass into the fullness of womanhood (if they pass at all), it is suddenly, leaving no time for the beautiful pure virginal outlines which made Anne Douglas an exception to her kind. Anne's walk was entirely natural, her poise natural; yet so perfect were her proportions that even Tante, artificial and French as she was, refrained from the suggestions and directions as to step and bearing which encircled the other pupils like an atmosphere. The young girl's hair had been arranged by Helen's maid, under Helen's own direction, in a plain Greek knot, leaving the shape of the head, and the small ear, exposed; and as she stood by the piano, waiting, she looked (as Helen had intended her to look) like some young creature from an earlier world, startled and shy, yet too proud to run away.
They sang together ; and in singing Anne recovered her self-possession. Then Helen asked her to sing without accompaniment a little island ballad which was one of her favorites, and leading her to the centre of the room, left her there alone. Poor Anne ! But, moved by the one desire of pleasing Helen, she clasped her hands in simple child-like fashion, and began to sing, her eyes raised slightly so as to look above the faces of her audience. It was an old-fashioned ballad or chanson, in the patois of the voyageurs, with a refrain in a minor key, and it told of the vanishing of a certain petite Marie, and the sorrowing of her mother—a commonplace theme long drawn out, the constantly recurring refrain, at first monotonous, becoming after a while sweet to the ear, like the wash of small waves on a smooth beach. But it was the ending upon which Helen relied for her effect. Suddenly the lament of the long-winded mother ended, the time changed, and a verse followed picturing the rapture of the lovers as they fled away in their sharp-bowed boat, wing and wing, over the blue lake. Anne sang this as though inspired; she forgot her audience, and sang as she had always sung it on the island for Rast and the children. Her voice floated through the house, she shaded her eyes with her hand, and leaned forward, gazing, as though she saw the boat across the water, and then she smiled, as, with a long soft note, the song ended. But the instant it was over, her timidity came back with double force, and she hastily sought refuge beside Helen, her voice gone, in her eyes a dangerous nearness to tears. There was now an outburst of compliments from Blum; but Helen kindly met and parried them. Mr. Dexter began a few well-chosen sentences of praise; but in the midst of his fluent adjectives, Anne glanced up so beseechingly that he caught the mist in her eyes, and instantly ceased. Nor was this all; he opened a discussion with Miss Teller, dragging in Heathcote also (against the latter's will), and thus secured for Anne the time to recover herself. She felt this quick kindness, and was grateful. She decided that she liked him ; and she wondered whether Helen liked him also. The next morning the fairy-time was over; she went back to school.
TWO STORMS. I
GLORY of black hair had fallen over the arm of the sofa, where a pretty head lay, and spread itself out on the floor in wide shadows. Tangling it with pink fingers, and weaving pinker blossoms into its parted locks, sat a little girl, whose face was puckered into a quaint expression of earnestness. It was the afternoon of a spring day—one of those days of a Southern spring that seem to have straggled to earth from heaven. A breeze blew varyingly, cooling the air with its salt freshness. It scattered the flowers, and disturbed the little girl at her work as she caught at them with flushing face and little petulant cries. “Now, mammie, if you won't wriggle, I'll make a fairy queen of you. But you must be perfeckly still, and don't move so much as your littlest finger. Be jus’ as still as de butterfly you showed me in de garden, before it was a butterfly, you know—a-chrysostom it was.” The lady was of a distinguished and elegant beauty. She was small and dark, and from head to foot shaped as some woman must have been who unveiled her charms to Praxiteles for the marvel of the centuries. Her face had the downy rosiness of a child's at dawn. No feature attracted you conspicuously, for there was that absolute harmony which is the only perfect beauty. If the lady had not been so magnetically pretty as to catch and fasten the eye, one might have observed the surroundings, which were in every way worthy of this rose of the world. Windows opened to the floor, leading to a wide veranda, shut in with striped awnings, and enticing with hammocks and easy-chairs. Straw matting covered the floor, its crude effect diminished by the Persian rugs that satisfied the eye with their dull richness. Many chairs, woven apparently of rattan and ribbons, gave an effect of coolness and simplicity. Tables of Florentine mosaic held vases of flowers; in the open fire-place wandering leaves drooped from their pots of porcelain. Many rooms opened from this central chamber. Here you caught a glimpse of a poetical bed-chamber, all in white, save for a turbaned old black woman who sat by a marble table sewing a rent in a riding-habit. Beyond it was a bath-room,
copied after one of Marie Antoinette's, with the ceilings and the walls all mirrors painted with flying Loves. Through another door you might see a vaulted apartment where there were musical instruments. Everywhere were curtains of a pale silver crape, falling sometimes to the floor, and again caught back with ribbons the color of the sun. Between the windows were marble statues. As the hands of the Swiss clock pointed to five, the tinkle of a distant bell was heard, and a moment later a gentleman entered the room. “What, Eugenia, not dressed And the horses are at the door.” “Is it so late 7" and the lady sprang from her languid pose. “Maum Dulcie, is my habit ready ?” “Lor', yes, honey! Come along an’ I'll dress you in a minute.” “See what a fright Dina has made of me,” cried the dark-haired lady, laughing. “A Flora, rather,” returned the man, patting her round shoulder. How lovely she looked as she stood there, her hair all tumbled and warm, and inviting kisses | Her husband at least seemed to think so, for he allowed no one but himself to disentangle the flowers from the shining waves, and he lingered lovingly over the task. Then the fair lady went into the next room to give herself into Maum Dulcie's hands, while her husband amused himself playing with their little girl. How does he look, this middle-aged man with a young wife 7 . He is neither short nor tall, dark nor light, fat nor lean; the sensible face of a man of business crowns his well-knit figure, and a power of abstraction might be judged from his thoughtful brow and introverted eyes. But the whole face was changed and lighted by love as the hand of his wife pushed aside the portière, and she came in like a girl in a picture, holding up the folds of her habit in a gauntleted hand. “Take me, mammies” cried the little girl. “No, no, Chicken; we are on horseback. Come, Allan—let us run, or she will scream.” Husband and wife ran laughing out of the room to where the horses stood at the mounting block. Such horses as awaited them Kentucky stock, full-blooded, and fit for warriors. They are mates; fiery, and strong of bone, with quivering nos. trils, and eyes that gleam as if fire were behind them. With a step into her husband's hand, the lady's light form is in the saddle. Off they go!
The chicken, who was left behind, ruffled her feathers. “I wanted to go,” she cried, with a howl. “Never mind, honey,” said Maum Dulcie, with a soothing voice. “Now don't go fur ter be in a tantrum, my lamb.” “I will get into a tantrum,” responded the gentle lamb, “and stamp my feet off, and make myself as hot as a tea-pot!” “Lord love de chile ! Whar do she git sech queer notions 2 Come, sit in ole Maum's lap, honey.” “Will you tell me a story " “Dat I will—purtiest one ever you listened to. Now fust lemme bathe your face a little.” She cools and powders the flushed face, smooths the tangled hair, and begins the exciting romance of
THE TAR BABY.
“Onst dar was a fox an’ a bar an' a wolf an a rabbit went partners togedder. An' dey dug a well o' sweet water. Well, de rabbit was a lazy, shifless sort o' fellow; he didn't want ter do no work. So he come every night an' steal de water. Well, de fox an’ de b'ar and de wolf dey suspecks tiefs aroun', but dey can't ketch nobody. Every night de water got lower in de well. Bime-by de fox got up a trap. He made a little ugly ridikilous baby out o' tar, an’ stuck it agin de side ob de well. Oh! it was as funny a baby as ever you seed, Dolly! Dar was watermillion seed fur teef, and glow-worms fur eyes, an a' toad-stool fur a nose, an’ de gray tree-moss fur hair; but when all was done he looked proper materal, an’ de rabbit come along an’ seen de tar baby a-grinnin' at him. “‘Hello!" he says, “who's dat?' “Sho'nuff, de tar baby he never made no an SWer”. “Den de ole rabbit wuz mad. He hops aroun', an' he says, “Ef you don't speak ter me, you black Belzebub, I knocks yo' head off!' “Tar baby never said one word. “Den de rabbit ups wid his paw an’ struck him smack on de jaw ; an' sho's you live, dat little fo'-paw stuck tight.
Washington, an' one day he was a-playin' in de garden, an' he cut down his papa's cherry-tree. Bime-by his papa came along, an' he said, ‘Who's been a-cuttin' down my cherry-tree ?’” (Here she looked fiercely from under her eyebrows, and her voice assumed a deep bass tone.) “An' George was just as scared as a bird in a trap. An' he said” (fine small voice), “‘Papa, I can not tell a lie. I did it with my little hatchet.’ “‘Come to me arms, me boy!’” (bass tones again), and the child jumped to Maum Dulcie's arms, and gave her a Southern kiss. “Now tell me another,” she said. “Why, honey, seems ’s if I’ve told you mos' everything. Let me see. D'I ever tell you 'bout de weddin' 'twixt your ma an’pa 2 No? Well, den, ter begin: Iwuz yo' mammy's muss, jes' as I am yourn. Yo' gran'pa, a-livin' up in de Attakapas, was one o' dose men who is mighty rich, an' who tinks all de mortal universe belongs to 'em. But arter while he run through all his property, an' he mortgaged all dat wuz left ter a gentleman from Virginny. “Well, Dulce,” said ole mars’, ‘I don't see but what de Ole place will have ter go.” I begun ter cry, but he hushed me right up. “It’s a matter of honor,” says he. De nex’ day I wuz ordered to make a room ready fur Mister Mabyn—dat wus de gentleman from Virginny. I jes' hated to lay out de fine things fur dat man; but fur de honor of de family I did my bes'; an' dat night he come, as proper-spoken an' respectful's if he didn't own de place an' every han’ on it. Lor', I remember it all 's if 'twas yesterday! Ole mars' wuz as high an’ mighty as ever, and dar wuz a dinner dat nobody could beat. “Honey,” says I ter my young miss—she dat is yo’ma now —‘honey, put on yo' bes' dress, an’ do de family proud.’ “So — fur she wuz always sweet an’ ready—she dressed up in a sun-colored muslin, wid a knot of roses in her breast; an' I jes' tell you, Mr. Mabyn he never took his eyes off dat chile as she sot so sweet an’ quiet at de table, an' he a-drinkin’ her pa’s ole wine. De nex’ mornin' he had a long talk wid yo' gran'pa, and den it wuz pernounced over de plantation dat Mr. Mabyn wuzgwine ter stay a few weeks. He used ter go a-walkin' wid our young miss—Little Missy we called her—an' she jes' went along in dat purty idle way o'
hers, never seemin' ter take no notice, an’ he a-walkin' arter her like a great tame fox-houn’. We all knowed what he wanted; an' when he spoke to yo' gran'pa, pleased 'nuff ole mars' wuz. Fur, don't you see, yo' pa was in dat state of mind dat he didn't keer a snap about money— 'sides he wuz rich as all out-doors—so he jes' handed back de title-deeds o' de plantation, an' den went to Little Missy—shakin' like a leaf, I heerd 'em say. Of co’se she took him. Why shouldn't she To be sho, he wuz a good deal aged by de side o' her; but she had never had no odder sweethearts, an' her pa’ wanted de match, an' I reckon she wuz moved in her soul by so much love. St. Joseph himself couldn't 'a showed more wonder an' worship fur our Blessed Lady, when she wuz chosen by de Lord, dan dat stiff Virginny gentleman did fur our Little Missy. So dar wuz a weddin', an' sich a roastin' an’ a bilin’ an' a freezin' o' cream—”
The loud bang of a door interrupted Maum Dulcie, and the windows rattled loudly.
“Sho's yo' born, honey, dar's a norther comin' up!” she cried, starting from her seat, almost letting the little girl fall.
Then a gust of wind swept over the house, shaking it as if it were a baby's cradle on rockers.
While the child and Maum Dulcie were talking together, the two Kentucky horses were trotting along the beach. Eugénie Mabyn was never prettier than on horseback, and her husband watched her with grave tenderness. I think even she never knew how much he loved her.
Francis Mabyn was a man who had inherited nothing from his father except their fine and honorable name. He had early shown a talent for business affairs, and making his home in the island city of Texas, by the time he was forty years old he had made a large fortune. This money-getting, however, had absorbed his life. He had known none of the softer emotions until that day, at the Vallerie plantation, when he saw the shy bit of beauty whom her father called Eugénie, and the servants “Little Missy.” She was sixteen years old, he nearly forty; but, for all that, in three months she was his wife. He had simply worshipped her. He strove to anticipate her desires; and it cost him a sharp pang when he found out, shortly after the