- CHAPTER V. NATIKA JACQUIMIN.
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THE father of Natika Jacquimin was a Greek, who came over on a trading expedition to America, with his brothers, in a small merchant ship, laden with dried fruits and wines from the Levant. After they had made an advantageous sale of their articles of traffic, it was decided among the family of brothers, that the eldest of the four, | | 88 "John Neoptolemus," should remain in New Orleans, set up a small shop, which the family were to keep supplied with fruits and wines, etc., while the other three brothers were to return home for a fresh cargo. John Neoptolemus was a shrewd trader. he spoke several tongues fluently, was clever and insinuating. he prospered, made some money for his brothers, and a great deal for himself. In course of time he extended his business, built a fine warehouse, and became famous as a dealer in wines. he speculated in cotton, in sugar, in stocks, in everything; was fortunate, and grew to be a millionnaire. At more than middle age he married the pretty Miss Canonge, who died at the birth of Natika.
Natika was brought up chiefly by her aunt, Mrs. Burthe, who loved the little girl almost as much as she did her only son, Victor, who was two years younger than Natika. All three daughters of Docteur Canonge, Mrs. Jacquimin, Mrs. Burthe and Mrs. Bolling, seemed to be of delicate constitution, for they died off one after another, leaving the already widowed old docteur very lonely in the world. He was very glad to get control of his grandson, Mark Boiling, at the time of his son-in-law Bolling's second marriage with Mrs. Coolidge. Mark was a very precious treasure to the old man. He had not seen very much of his other two grandchildren, though they were sent occasionally to visit him by their respective parents and guardians. | | 89 Natika was a delicate child, partly perhaps from being deprived of her mother's care at such an early age and also from over-indulgence in all her capricious tastes and wilful imprudences from the time that she was conscious of possessing a will of her own. Her aunt Burthe never said her nay, and her father was too much absorbed in his business to give much time to the bringing up of his only child. he saw Natika occasionally, either in his own home, where she was intrusted to the care of well-paid but careless servants, or at her aunt Burthe's, where she spent most of her time. He saw that she was exceedingly pretty and graceful, intelligent and bright, and he was satisfied.
Natika was treated like a little queen in her aunt's house; and Victor was taught, from his earliest years, to submit to her imperiousness, and to look upon her as a creature quite superior to ordinary human beings. Natika was very much quicker in intellect than Victor. She had all the readiness and suppleness which the long, back-stretching generations of culture give to the pure Greek mind. She was as versatile in her talents as Alcibiades himself, and might have held her own with an Aspasia, or a Deidamia, the gifted friend of Socrates; and with this Greek subtlety of nature was combined the light, mercurial "chauvimisme" of her mother's French blood.
Natika was true for the moment; but possession | | 90 of any coveted pleasure brought with it immediate satiety and weariness. Nothing satisfied her; she found excitement in the pursuit, but never in the attainment of her wishes. She was the true daughter of those Athenians who, as St. Paul says, "were never weary to hear or to tell of some new thing," and yet this very versatility and changefulness gave a piquancy and attraction to Natika which also made of her a Cleopatra, whom age could not wither nor custom stale in her infinite variety. The truth of her momentary impulses made them strangely fascinating, while her caprices tortured, and her total lack of power of devotion and self-abnegation, qualities which seem to be essentially womanly, made Natika a perpetual disappointment and cause of anguish to all who really loved her. She was so unstable, and so fond of power, that sometimes she seemed to be utterly merciless and cold, when she was only weary. Intellectual pleasures would have given her some sort of real satisfaction; but Natika, while she would read all day sometimes, and listen with clear understanding to any intellectual conversation, had never the steadiness of purpose to study anything. What she knew, she picked up without trouble. She would not be troubled about anything! "It did not pay," she said. Any nouveauté amused her for a day; then it wearied her; then she hated it. She had no con- | | 91 ception of duty, or of self-sacrifice. There were no possibilities of any heroism in her. She was born a Sybarite; but an intellectual one, for there was no coarseness in Natika. Such as she was, she was passionately followed and adored by higher and better natures than hers ever could become. But high and heroic deeds, even, would have wearied Natika. She did not like the demands such natures made upon her--demands that it was utterly impossible for her nature to meet satisfactorily. It was not in her to be constant and to love nobly. Why should more be demanded of any organization than it is capable of?
To Panola, Natika felt an instinctive dislike. She did not like her beauty. She did not like her wonderful violin-playing. She did not like the singleness and utter simplicity of manner, or the semi-stoical nature, or the self-control and reticence which were Panola's inheritance front her long generations of warrior ancestors. Natika felt instinctively the dawning possibilities of a heroism and magnanimity in Panola that she herself was incapable of; and she did not like her. Neither did she like the expression of Mark Bolling's face, when he spoke of Panola; nor Victor's loudly proclaimed admiration of her beauty; though he confessed Panola had "no style" whatever.
Natika's father had been dead for several years, and she was left utterly unfettered by home-ties of any sort at her majority. She had put her business | | 92 affairs into the hands of responsible guardians, and she had gone to Europe, where she lived the half-Bedouin life of wandering Americans, changing her residence from city to city as it suited her whim. She had still relatives living in Greece, and one uncle survived, who was a large banker in Constantinople; and she had a cousin in trade in Cairo, Egypt. She renewed her intercourse by letter with these nearly forgotten relatives, and she frequently threatened Victor with running away from the "wearisome civilization of Europe," to take refuge in the more lax conventionalisms of the East. The life of a wandering tourist was too objectless to satisfy Natika. She liked novelty; but she had no sentimentality with any past, no respect for tradition in any form, no reverence for anybody or anything, and she hated the trouble of sight-seeing. She liked people and society. She had been compelled to visit America and her native State on account of some business arrangements; and while she was in Louisiana, she thought she might as well pay her grandfather Canonge a visit. So she had come. And Victor, who had followed her from Europe to New Orleans, followed her also to their grandfather's. The gentle-hearted old man was overcome with joy at seeing them. His expressions of delight and gratitude really awoke some response of affection in the hearts of his selfish grandchildren, Victor and Natika.| | 93
Mark attracted them also. Natika was very glad she had come to visit her grandfather, and she made herself fascinating and charming to her grandfather and to her cousins. Her feelings to Mark she scarcely understood herself. She felt the nearest approach to love, pure and unselfish, towards Mark, that she ever was conscious of experiencing in all her life. But she knew that any passion for Mark was a foolish expenditure of sentiment. He could never marry, as he was; and if he ever did, Natika feared that it would not be her that he would ask to share his lot. She believed it might be Panola! She was wiser than Panola, and could read all the signs of passion, even when repressed by Mark's resolute will, and she did not like Panola any the better for that.
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