Lydia Maria Francis Child.

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information that Missy Rosy and Tulee were safe, they parted for the

Tom's communication in the evening was very long, and intensely
interesting to his auditors; but it did not extend beyond a certain
point. He told of Rosa's long and dangerous illness; of Chloe's and
Tulee's patient praying and nursing; of the birth of the baby; of the
sale to Mr. Bruteman; and of the process by which she escaped with Mr.
Duroy. Further than that he knew nothing. He had never been in New
Orleans afterward, and had never heard Mr. Fitzgerald speak of Rosa.

At that crisis in the conversation, Mrs. Delano summoned Mr. Jacobs,
and requested him to ascertain when a steamboat would go to New
Orleans. Flora kissed her hand, with a glance full of gratitude. Tom
looked at her in a very earnest, embarrassed way, and said: "Missis,
am yer one ob dem Ab-lish-nishts dar in de Norf, dat Massa swars

Mrs. Delano turned toward Flora with a look of perplexity, and,
having received an interpretation of the question, she smiled as she
answered: "I rather think I am half an Abolitionist, Tom. But why do
you wish to know?"

Tom went on to state, in "lingo" that had to be frequently explained,
that he wanted to run away to the North, and that he could manage to
do it if it were not for Chloe and the children. He had been in hopes
that Mrs. Fitzgerald would have taken her to the North to nurse her
baby while she was gone to Europe. In that case, he intended to follow
after; and he thought some good people would lend them money to buy
their little ones, and, both together, they could soon work off the
debt. But this project had been defeated by Mrs. Bell, who brought a
white nurse from Boston, and carried her infant grandson back with

"Yer see, Missis," said Tom, with a sly look, "dey tinks de niggers
don't none ob 'em wants dare freedom, so dey nebber totes 'em whar it

Ever since that disappointment had occurred, he and his wife had
resolved themselves into a committee of ways and means, but they had
not yet devised any feasible mode of escape. And now they were thrown
into great consternation by the fact that a slave-trader had been to
look at Chloe, because Mr. Fitzgerald wanted money to spend in Europe,
and had sent orders to have some of his negroes sold.

Mrs. Delano told him she didn't see how she could help him, but she
would think about it; and Flora, with a sideway inclination of the
head toward her, gave Tom an expressive glance, which he understood as
a promise to persuade her. He urged the matter no further, but asked
what time it was. Being told it was near nine o'clock, he said he must
hasten to Chloe, for it was not allowable for negroes to be in the
street after that hour.

He had scarcely closed the door, before Mrs. Delano said, "If Chloe is
sold, I must buy her."

"I thought you would say so," rejoined Flora.

A discussion then took place as to ways and means, and a strictly
confidential letter was written to a lawyer from the North, with whom
Mrs. Delano was acquainted, requesting him to buy the woman and her
children for her, if they were to be sold.

It happened fortunately that a steamer was going to New Orleans the
next day. Just as they were going on board, a negro woman with two
children came near, and, dropping a courtesy, said: "Skuse, Missis.
Dis ere's Chloe. Please say Ise yer nigger! Do, Missis!"

Flora seized the black woman's hand, and pressed it, while she
whispered: "Do, Mamita! They're going to sell her, you know."

She took the children by the hand, and hurried forward without waiting
for an answer. They were all on board before Mrs. Delano had time to
reflect. Tom was nowhere to be seen. On one side of her stood
Chloe, with two little ones clinging to her skirts, looking at her
imploringly with those great fervid eyes, and saying in suppressed
tones, "Missis, dey's gwine to sell me away from de chillen"; and on
the other side was Flora, pressing her hand, and entreating, "Don't
send her back, Mamita! She was _so_ good to poor Rosa."

"But, my dear, if they should trace her to me, it would be a very
troublesome affair," said the perplexed lady.

"They won't look for her in New Orleans. They'll think she's gone
North," urged Flora.

During this whispered consultation, Mr. Jacobs approached with some of
their baggage. Mrs. Delano stopped him, and said: "When you register
our names, add a negro servant and her two children."

He looked surprised, but bowed and asked no questions. She was
scarcely less surprised at herself. In the midst of her anxiety to
have the boat start, she called to mind her former censures upon those
who helped servants to escape from Southern masters, and she could not
help smiling at the new dilemma in which she found herself.

The search in New Orleans availed little. They alighted from their
carriage a few minutes to look at the house where Flora was born. She
pointed out to Mrs. Delano the spot whence her father had last spoken
to her on that merry morning, and the grove where she used to pelt him
with oranges; but neither of them cared to enter the house, now that
everything was so changed. Madame's house was occupied by strangers,
who knew nothing of the previous tenants, except that they were said
to have gone to Europe to live. They drove to Mr. Duroy's, and found
strangers there, who said the former occupants had all died of
yellow-fever, - the lady and gentleman, a negro woman, and a white
baby. Flora was bewildered to find every link with her past broken
and gone. She had not lived long enough to realize that the traces of
human lives often disappear from cities as quickly as the ocean closes
over the tracks of vessels. Mr. Jacobs proposed searching for some
one who had been in Mr. Duroy's employ; and with that intention, they
returned to the city. As they were passing a house where a large
bird-cage hung in the open window, Flora heard the words, "_Petit
blanc, mon bon frère! Ha! ha_!"

She called out to Mr. Jacobs, "Stop! Stop!" and pushed at the carriage
door, in her impatience to get out.

"What _is_ the matter, my child?" inquired Mrs. Delano.

"That's Madame's parrot," replied she; and an instant after she was
ringing at the door of the house. She told the servant they wished to
make some inquiries concerning Signor and Madame Papanti, and Monsieur
Duroy; and she and Mrs. Delano were shown in to wait for the lady of
the house. They had no sooner entered, than the parrot flapped her
wings and cried out, "_Bon jour, joli petit diable_!" And then she
began to whistle and warble, twitter and crow, through a ludicrous
series of noisy variations. Flora burst into peals of laughter, in the
midst of which the lady of the house entered the room. "Excuse me,
Madame," said she. "This parrot is an old acquaintance of mine. I
taught her to imitate all sorts of birds, and she is showing me that
she has not forgotten my lessons."

"It will be impossible to hear ourselves speak, unless I cover the
cage," replied the lady.

"Allow me to quiet her, if you please," rejoined Flora. She opened the
door of the cage, and the bird hopped on her arm, flapping her wings,
and crying, "_Bon jour! Ha! ha_!"

"_Taisez vous, jolie Manon_," said Flora soothingly, while she stroked
the feathery head. The bird nestled close and was silent.

When their errand was explained, the lady repeated the same story they
had already heard about Mr. Duroy's family.

"Was the black woman who died there named Tulee?" inquired Flora.

"I never heard her name but once or twice," replied the lady. "It was
not a common negro name, and I think that was it. Madame Papanti had
put her and the baby there to board. After Mr. Duroy died, his son
came home from Arkansas to settle his affairs. My husband, who was one
of Mr. Duroy's clerks, bought some of the things at auction; and among
them was that parrot."

"And what has become of Signor and Madame Papanti?" asked Mrs. Delano.

The lady could give no information, except that they had returned to
Europe. Having obtained directions where to find her husband, they
thanked her, and wished her good morning.

Flora held the parrot up to the cage, and said, "_Bon jour, jolie

"_Bon jour_!" repeated the bird, and hopped upon her perch.

After they had entered the carriage, Flora said: "How melancholy it
seems that everybody is gone, except _Jolie Manon_! How glad the poor
thing seemed to be to see me! I wish I could take her home."

"I will send to inquire whether the lady will sell her," replied her

"O Mamita, you will spoil me, you indulge me so much," rejoined Flora.

Mrs. Delano smiled affectionately, as she answered: "If you were very
spoilable, dear, I think that would have been done already."

"But it will be such a bother to take care of Manon," said Flora.

"Our new servant Chloe can do that," replied Mrs. Delano. "But I
really hope we shall get home without any further increase of our

From the clerk information was obtained that he heard Mr. Duroy tell
Mr. Bruteman that a lady named Rosabella Royal had sailed to Europe
with Signor and Madame Papanti in the ship Mermaid. He added that news
afterward arrived that the vessel foundered at sea, and all on board
were lost.

With this sorrow on her heart, Flora returned to Boston. Mr. Percival
was immediately informed of their arrival, and hastened to meet them.
When the result of their researches was told, he said: "I shouldn't be
disheartened yet. Perhaps they didn't sail in the Mermaid. I will send
to the New York Custom-House for a list of the passengers."

Flora eagerly caught at that suggestion; and Mrs. Delano said, with a
smile: "We have some other business in which we need your help. You
must know that I am involved in another slave case. If ever a quiet
and peace-loving individual was caught up and whirled about by a
tempest of events, I am surely that individual. Before I met this dear
little Flora, I had a fair prospect of living and dying a respectable
and respected old fogy, as you irreverent reformers call discreet
people. But now I find myself drawn into the vortex of abolition to
the extent of helping off four fugitive slaves. In Flora's case, I
acted deliberately, from affection and a sense of duty; but in this
second instance I was taken by storm, as it were. The poor woman was
aboard before I knew it, and I found myself too weak to withstand her
imploring looks and Flora's pleading tones." She went on to describe
the services Chloe had rendered to Rosa, and added: "I will pay any
expenses necessary for conveying this woman to a place of safety, and
supplying all that is necessary for her and her children, until she
can support them; but I do not feel as if she were safe here."

"If you will order a carriage, I will take them directly to the house
of Francis Jackson, in Hollis Street," said Mr. Percival. "They will
be safe enough under the protection of that honest, sturdy friend of
freedom. His house is the depot of various subterranean railroads; and
I pity the slaveholder who tries to get on any of his tracks. He finds
himself 'like a toad under a harrow, where ilka tooth gies him a tug,'
as the Scotch say."

While waiting for the carriage, Chloe and her children were brought
in. Flora took the little ones under her care, and soon had their
aprons filled with cakes and sugarplums. Chloe, unable to restrain her
feelings, dropped down on her knees in the midst of the questions they
were asking her, and poured forth an eloquent prayer that the Lord
would bless these good friends of her down-trodden people.

When the carriage arrived, she rose, and, taking Mrs. Delano's hand,
said solemnly: "De Lord bress yer, Missis! De Lord bress yer! I seed
yer once fore ebber I knowed yer. I seed yer in a vision, when I war
prayin' to de Lord to open de free door fur me an' my chillen. Ye war
an angel wid white shiny wings. Bress de Lord! 'T war Him dat sent
yer. - An' now, Missy Flory, de Lord bress yer! Ye war allers good to
poor Chloe, down dar in de prison-house. Let me gib yer a kiss, little

Flora threw her arms round the bended neck, and promised to go and see
her wherever she was.

When the carriage rolled away, emotion kept them both silent for a few
minutes. "How strange it seems to me now," said Mrs. Delano, "that
I lived so many years without thinking of the wrongs of these poor
people! I used to think prayer-meetings for slaves were very fanatical
and foolish. It seemed to me enough that they were included in our
prayer for 'all classes and conditions of men'; but after listening to
poor Chloe's eloquent outpouring, I am afraid such generalizing will
sound rather cold."

"Mamita," said Flora, "you know you gave me some money to buy a silk
dress. Are you willing I should use it to buy clothes for Chloe and
her children?"

"More than willing, my child," she replied. "There is no clothing so
beautiful as the raiment of righteousness."

The next morning, Flora went out to make her purchases. Some time
after, Mrs. Delano, hearing voices near the door, looked out, and saw
her in earnest conversation with Florimond Blumenthal, who had a large
parcel in his arms. When she came in, Mrs. Delano said, "So you had an
escort home?"

"Yes, Mamita," she replied; "Florimond would bring the parcel, and so
we walked together."

"He was very polite," said Mrs. Delano; "but ladies are not accustomed
to stand on the doorstep talking with clerks who bring bundles for

"I didn't think anything about that," rejoined Flora. "He wanted to
know about Rosa, and I wanted to tell him. Florimond seems just like
a piece of my old home, because he loved papa so much. Mamita Lila,
didn't you say papa was a poor clerk when you and he first began to
love one another?"

"Yes, my child," she replied; and she kissed the bright, innocent face
that came bending over her, looking so frankly into hers.

When she had gone out of the room, Mrs. Delano said to herself,
"That darling child, with her strange history and unworldly ways, is
educating me more than I can educate her."

A week later, Mr. and Mrs. Percival came, with tidings that no such
persons as Signor and Madame Papanti were on board the Mermaid; and
they proposed writing letters of inquiry forthwith to consuls in
various parts of Italy and France.

Flora began to hop and skip and clap her hands. But she soon paused,
and said, laughingly: "Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen. Mamita often
tells me I was brought up in a bird-cage; and I ask her how then can
she expect me to do anything but hop and sing. Excuse me. I forgot
Mamita and I were not alone."

"You pay us the greatest possible compliment," rejoined Mr. Percival.

And Mrs. Percival added, "I hope you will always forget it when we are

"Do you really wish it?" asked Flora, earnestly. "Then I will."

And so, with a few genial friends, an ever-deepening attachment
between her and her adopted mother, a hopeful feeling at her heart
about Rosa, Tulee's likeness by her bedside, and Madame's parrot to
wish her _Bon jour_! Boston came to seem to her like a happy home.


About two months after their return from the South, Mr. Percival
called one evening, and said: "Do you know Mr. Brick, the
police-officer? I met him just now, and he stopped me. 'There's plenty
of work for you Abolitionists now-a-days,' said he. 'There are five
Southerners at the Tremont, inquiring for runaways, and cursing
Garrison. An agent arrived last night from Fitzgerald's
plantation, - he that married Bell's daughter, you know. He sent for me
to give me a description of a nigger that had gone off in a mysterious
way to parts unknown. He wanted me to try to find the fellow, and,
of course, I did; for I always calculate to do my duty, as the law
directs. So I went immediately to Father Snowdon, and described the
black man, and informed him that his master had sent for him, in
a great hurry. I told him I thought it very likely he was lurking
somewhere in Belknap Street; and if he would have the goodness to hunt
him up, I would call, in the course of an hour or two, to see what
luck he had.'"

"Who is Father Snowdon?" inquired Mrs. Delano.

"He is the colored preacher in Belknap Street Church," replied Mr.
Percival, "and a remarkable man in his way. He fully equals Chloe in
prayer; and he is apt to command the ship Buzzard to the especial
attention of the Lord. The first time I entered his meeting, he was
saying, in a loud voice, 'We pray thee, O Lord, to bless her Majesty's
good ship, the Buzzard; and if there's a slave-trader now on the coast
of Africa, we pray thee, O Lord, to blow her straight under the lee of
the Buzzard.' He has been a slave himself, and he has perhaps helped
off more slaves than any man in the country. I doubt whether
Garrick himself had greater power to disguise his countenance. If a
slaveholder asks him about a slave, he is the most stolid-looking
creature imaginable. You wouldn't suppose he understood anything, or
ever _could_ understand anything. But if he meets an Abolitionist a
minute after, his black face laughs all over, and his roguish eyes
twinkle like diamonds, while he recounts how he 'come it' over the
Southern gentleman. That bright soul of his is a jewel set in ebony."

"It seems odd that the police-officer should apply to _him_ to catch a
runaway," said Mrs. Delano.

"That's the fun of it," responded Mr. Percival. "The extinguishers
are themselves taking fire. The fact is, Boston policemen don't feel
exactly in their element as slave-hunters. They are too near Bunker
Hill; and on the Fourth of July they are reminded of the Declaration
of Independence, which, though it is going out of fashion, is still
regarded by a majority of the people as a venerable document. Then
they have Whittier's trumpet-tones ringing in their ears, -

"'No slave hunt in _our_ borders! no pirate on _our_ strand!
No fetters in the Bay State! no slave upon _our_ land!'"

"How did Mr. Brick describe Mr. Fitzgerald's runaway slave?" inquired

"He said he was tall and very black, with a white scar over his right

"That's Tom!" exclaimed she. "How glad Chloe will be! But I wonder he
didn't come here the first thing. We could have told him how well she
was getting on in New Bedford."

"Father Snowdon will tell him all about that," rejoined Mr. Percival.
"If Tom was in the city, he probably kept him closely hidden, on
account of the number of Southerners who have recently arrived; and
after the hint the police-officer gave him, he doubtless hustled him
out of town in the quickest manner."

"I want to hurrah for that policeman," said Flora; "but Mamita would
think I was a very rude young lady, or rather that I was no lady at
all. But perhaps you'll let me _sing_ hurrah, Mamita?"

Receiving a smile for answer, she flew to the piano, and, improvising
an accompaniment to herself, she began to sing hurrah! through all
manner of variations, high and low, rapidly trilled and slowly
prolonged, now bursting full upon the ear, now receding in the
distance. It was such a lively fantasia, that it made Mr. Percival
laugh, while Mrs. Delano's face was illuminated by a quiet smile.

In the midst of the merriment, the door-bell rang. Flora started from
the piano, seized her worsted-work, and said, "Now, Mamita, I'm ready
to receive company like a pink of propriety." But the change was so
sudden, that her eyes were still laughing when Mr. Green entered an
instant after; and he again caught that archly demure expression which
seemed to him so fascinating. The earnestness of his salutation was so
different from his usual formal politeness, that Mrs. Delano could not
fail to observe it. The conversation turned upon incidents of travel
after they had parted so suddenly. "I shall never cease to regret,"
said he, "that you missed hearing La Señorita Campaneo. She was a
most extraordinary creature. Superbly handsome; and do you know, Miss
Delano, I now and then caught a look that reminded me very much of
you. Unfortunately, you have lost your chance to hear her. For Mr.
King, the son of our Boston millionnaire, who has lately been piling
up money in the East, persuaded her to quit the stage when she had but
just started in her grand career. All the musical world in Rome were
vexed with him for preventing her re-engagement. As for Fitzgerald, I
believe he would have shot him if he could have found him. It was a
purely musical disappointment, for he was never introduced to the
fascinating Señorita; but he fairly pined upon it. I told him the best
way to drive off the blue devils would be to go with me and a few
friends to the Grotta Azzura. So off we started to Naples, and thence
to Capri. The grotto was one of the few novelties remaining for me
in Italy. I had heard much of it, but the reality exceeded all
descriptions. We seemed to be actually under the sea in a palace of
gems. Our boat glided over a lake of glowing sapphire, and our oars
dropped rubies. High above our heads were great rocks of sapphire,
deepening to lapis-lazuli at the base, with here and there a streak of

"It seems like Aladdin's Cave," remarked Flora.

"Yes," replied Mr. Green; "only it was Aladdin's Cave undergoing a
wondrous 'sea change.' A poetess, who writes for the papers under the
name of Melissa Mayflower, had fastened herself upon our party in some
way; and I suppose she felt bound to sustain the reputation of the
quill. She said the Nereids must have built that marine palace, and
decorated it for a visit from fairies of the rainbow."

"That was a pretty thought," said Flora. "It sounds like 'Lalla

"It was a pretty thought," rejoined the gentleman, "but can give you
no idea of the unearthly splendor. I thought how you would have been
delighted if you had been with our party. I regretted your absence
almost as much as I did at the opera. But the Blue Grotto, wonderful
as it was, didn't quite drive away Fitzgerald's blue devils, though it
made him forget his vexations for the time. The fact is, just as we
started he received a letter from his agent, informing him of the
escape of a negro woman and her two children; and he spent most of the
way back to Naples swearing at the Abolitionists."

Flora, the side of whose face was toward him, gave Mrs. Delano a
furtive glance full of fun; but he saw nothing of the mischief in her
expressive face, except a little whirlpool of a dimple, which played
about her mouth for an instant, and then subsided. A very broad smile
was on Mr. Percival's face, as he sat examining some magnificent
illustrations of the Alhambra. Mr. Green, quite unconscious of the
by-play in their thoughts, went on to say, "It is really becoming a
serious evil that Southern gentlemen have so little security for that
species of property."

"Then you consider women and children _property_?" inquired Mr.
Percival, looking up from his book.

Mr. Green bowed with a sort of mock deference, and replied: "Pardon
me, Mr. Percival, it is so unusual for gentlemen of your birth and
position to belong to the Abolition troop of rough-riders, that I may
be excused for not recollecting it."

"I should consider my birth and position great misfortunes, if they
blinded me to the plainest principles of truth and justice," rejoined
Mr. Percival.

The highly conservative gentleman made no reply, but rose to take

"Did your friends the Fitzgeralds return with you?" inquired Mrs.

"No," replied he. "They intend to remain until October, Good evening,
ladies. I hope soon to have the pleasure of seeing you again." And
with an inclination of the head toward Mr. Percival, he departed.

"Why did you ask him that question?" said Flora. "Are you afraid of

"Not in the slightest degree," answered Mrs. Delano. "If, without
taking much trouble, we can avoid your being recognized by Mr.
Fitzgerald, I should prefer it, because I do not wish to have any
conversation with him. But now that your sister's happiness is no
longer implicated, there is no need of caution. If he happens to see
you, I shall tell him you sought my protection, and that he has no
legal power over you."

The conversation diverged to the Alhambra and Washington Irving; and
Flora ended the evening by singing the Moorish ballad of "Xarifa,"
which she said always brought a picture of Rosabella before her eyes.

The next morning, Mr. Green called earlier than usual. He did not
ask for Flora, whom he had in fact seen in the street a few minutes
before. "Excuse me, Mrs. Delano, for intruding upon you at such an

Online LibraryLydia Maria Francis ChildA Romance of the Republic → online text (page 18 of 29)