- CHAPTER XXIV. A SUCCESSFUL DEBUTANTE.
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A SUCCESSFUL DEBUTANTE.
THE Southern States were in a very prostrate condition. All property was greatly depressed in value. Taxes were in arrears, and the labor was so uncertain that those who had most land were the worst off. They had more taxes and debts to pay, and less money to meet their obligations with. The sugar estates were lying fallow for hundreds of miles, and the people who owned them were absolutely starving in the midst of their fertile but uncultivated fields. Little debts accumulated from interest, and large plantations were sold for a mere trifle. The people were very poor and unaccustomed to labor. It was very piteous. The mere physical distress was agonizing to witness. Misery, wretchedness, and a feeble struggle for the bare necessaries of life met the eye on every side. The misfortune was universal. A whole race had gone down in this Titanic fight, and now they were perishing off the earth, which had no further use for that class of people. Nature appears to be very pitiless, but the roots of progress seem to be planted always in the grave of the past.
Three races were dying out now in the Southern States. There was the race of the white slave- | | 216 owner, the aristocratic gentleman of America. His knell had been sounded. Then the fiat had gone forth against the red Indian. He was to be hunted from off the earth. Then. the doom had been written on the wall against the African. He was to be absorbed and to be killed by vice and intemperance, and lack of moral discipline. None but the strong races can survive in this perpetual conflict of humanity. Its issues are good for the world, but individuals suffer in the trampling under foot of this mastodon, Progress.
Philosophers may watch with intelligent gaze this changing woof in the loom of earthly life. But often the threads may be dyed in the philosopher's heart's blood. It is only the gods who sit upon the height of Olympus who survey human affairs with calm eyes and impartial interest. Some clever people had foreseen the end of the strife, and had wisely made provision against the evil day.
Amongst these was Madame Boiling. She had managed somehow, by trading and "looking around," to pick up a few hundred bales of cotton, which she now sold at the price of four hundred dollars per bale. It gave her a nice little suns to start again in the world with.
Panola, had left her place in her aunt's care, while she had gone to New Orleans to consult a lawyer as to the mode necessary for her to take in order to free Victor from the bonds he had put upon his | | 217 own hands as well as hers. She found little difficulty; though the laws of Louisiana are very stringent in regard to marriage, yet the proof of Victor's abandonment of his wife of an hour was so conclusive, being his own statements in his own letter, that the judge gave the decision immediately in favor of 'the divorce, allowing Panola to resume her maiden name of Flanoy.
While she was in New Orleans attending to this business, she was astounded to see a notice in the papers of the sale of her mother's property on account of a small debt and judgment for back taxes. The sale was by the sheriff of the parish, and her aunt had bought in the whole property for a mere song. Panola had known nothing of the matter until she saw this notice. But the next day she had a letter from her aunt, telling her that she had purchased the estate, and offering to Panola a home with her in very affectionate terms.
Panola laid the letter down with surprise. She did not understand this move at all. But it all seemed to be done legally. She also had a letter from Mark, reproaching her for not letting him know about this debt and the condition of her affairs. "He might, perhaps, have found some means of aiding her, or at least of raising the money by mortgage on the property."
Panola was amazed; but one thing was clear to her. She had lost her estate. If she had known | | 218 of it in time, she was sure, if she had applied to Satana, he would have helped er. But what to do now she did not see. A home with her aunt Bolling she would not accept. Though Panola had never shared her mother's dislike to her aunt, yet she felt somehow as if she would not like to live with or to be dependent on her. So "she wrote a note declining her aunt's proffered kindness; and to Mark she wrote, frankly telling him she had not known anything about the law suit and judgment. But it was too late to remedy the evil now. The property was gone. Docteur Canonge wrote a loving letter to Panola, inviting her to come "to take care of him and his poor Mark." Panola, wept over the affectionate letter of the good old man. But she could not go to Docteur Canonge. Shortly afterward Mark received this letter from her
I have at last succeeded in arranging my little affairs. Through the kindness of Von La Hache and Olivera, who aided me, the one on the piano, and the other with his exquisite violin, I gave a very successful concert here last night. You will see the notice of it in the papers of the day, which I send you. The laudations are rather extravagant, but it was quite a little triumph for me. I was rather not frightened, more excited, when Olivera led me on to the stage, violin in hand. (My Straduarius is finer than his instrument.) | | 219 You know mine was found in Mexico in an old Spanish family, where it had been an heirloom, and papa paid an immense sum for it. Poor papa! He little thought he was purchasing a means for his daughter to make her bread. At first, my eyes took in a sea of faces and heads that made my own head swim. But Von La Hache struck a bold chord to cover my confusion, and Olivera kindly whispering 'courage, allons,' drew his bow across the violin in the first notes of our duo, which it had been considered best for me to make my essay in public with. At the sound of the violin a wonderful sense of power stole over me, and settling my Straduarius, I drew my bow with as much firmness of touch and clearness of tone as I ever did in my life. I forgot the faces, and only listened to the witching notes from Olivera's instrument as it mounted, like a bird, higher and higher, I following in a vain emulation, until at last we both burst out into a gush of music that carried us both away. I believe we both forgot the audience. I am sure I did, until I was recalled to consciousness by the storm of applause. It was very exciting, the waving of handkerchiefs, and the air seemed to rain flowers, as bouquets fell all over the stage around us.
"After we had retired, during the interval, Von La Hache seized my hands in ecstasy. 'Dear Madame, your fortune is made. You play like an angel.'| | 220
"Well! You know Francia's angels are playing on violins in those famous pictures of his. And I have seen a St. Cecelia also playing on the violin. So Von La Hache's compliment was not so far out of the way. The issue of it all, dear Mark, is that your little Panola is become suddenly famous. The impresario of the opera house has called upon me this morning, with proposals for a series of concerts, and others have been here, editors and all sorts of people, urging different kinds of engagements and plans upon me until my head aches. But I think I shall accept an offer from an agent who wishes me to give concerts in all the principal cities, and perhaps I shall go to Europe. I have secured a good respectable maid, over middle age, to accompany me. Love to grand papa Canonge and to Lizbette.Your affectionate "PANOLA.
"P. S.--I have made one thousand dollars already by my concerts. You see I shall be quite rich if I go on. Dear Mark, you must let me help grandpapa Canonge. I know how proud you are about money, but I have a right to help the dear old man, who is like my father. I shall deposit money from time to time, subject to your order, for his use. You can draw it without letting him know. Won't you do this for me?--for Panola?"
Mark read this letter with mingled feelings. He | | 221 was proud of Panola's great success, and yet he disliked the publicity of it all. He disliked to take money from her, and yet he saw how it would hurt her if he refused it. They were very poor now. The old docteur was getting too old and too feeble to continue his practice. Lizbette was old and rheumatic, and Mark was helpless. His three hundred per annum, from his uncle Jacob's will, was really all that they had to depend upon to keep the little household from destitution. His grandfather talked of selling his books, but Mark knew that that would break the old man's heart; and then he would get little or nothing for them in the depressed condition of the country. Mark thought over every thing. Victor and Natika had both written, proffering aid to their grandfather and to Mark, but both had rejected it with scorn. They had disclaimed all further intercourse with Victor and Natika, who had gone away together and had been privately married as soon as Panola had procured the divorce.
Mark snatched a piece of paper, and wrote in reply to Panola, congratulating her upon her success as a musicienne, and assuring her of the hearty sympathy of his grandfather and himself in all her undertakings. In regard to the money, he said,
"Yes, Panola, I will take from you so much as is needful for the comfort of my grandfather, who loves you so much; and even what I absolutely | | 222 need I will take from you--what I would not from any other living being. But I have enough for my small wants, you know, from my uncle Jacob's will. Write to us daily, Panola. We miss you every hour, and talk of you, and think of you always.Your friend and relative, "MARK BOLLING."
Poor Mark wrote and rewrote and erased his letter in order to get it cool enough, and yet to give some expression to gratitude natural under the circumstances and proper to be expressed. So Panola started off on her tour of concert-giving, and she wrote a journal, which she sent back continually to the little household, which she called now "home." It was the only excitement they had in the quiet monotony of the sad country; and Mark looked with impatient eagerness for the daily coming of the long letters which never failed, and which amused grandfather Canonge excessively. Panola's observations were so original and so fresh. The old man would laugh till tears were in his eves, over her descriptions of scenes and the people she met.
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