- chapter: PANOLA. CHAPTER I. IN THE ATTAKAPAS.
|chapter 2 >||chapter 30 >>|
IN THE ATTAKAPAS.
THE day was beautiful. The sunshine of May poured all over and, it seemed, all through the very earth, in the country of "The Attakapas." The yellow jasmine flung its garlands of golden, perfumed chalices around the very tops of the tallest forest trees, mingling its flowers with the streamers of venerable gray Spanish moss (Tillandsia), which draped the huge branches, and which waved with silvery, undulating gleams in the breezy sunshine. The Cherokee rose flaunted its long pennons of great white flowers and small, dark, glistering leaves over miles and miles of hedge rows. The red-bud (Judas tree) was set thickly in spikes of blooms, the white locust hung its cornucopiæ of honey-smelling papilionaceous blossoms high above the huge rose hedges, and its blossoms were filled with | | 26 myriads of busy humming bees. As for butterflies, who could number them?
There were every sort of the day butterflies, who have knobs at the end of their antennæ; the asterias, and the yellow philodice, and the beautiful deiopeiæ; the phœton and the vanessas; the admiral, the thistle, and the golden C. vanessas; the troilus, the philenor, the Danaus, and the idalias--all the aristocratic idlers, who, clothed with silver and gold and purple, ornamented with ever-varying splendor, have naught to do but to seek their own pleasure and spend their life of a summer day in fluttering from bough to bough, satiating themselves with sweetest nectar.
The butterflies had a pretty good time of it if they escaped the beaks of the mocking-birds, during the caterpillar period; it was rare that the birds attacked the full-grown insect, though sometimes one might see the very poetry of the chase in a mocking-bird's pursuit after a fluttering yellow colias, which it always caught and flew away with, bearing it off with the golden wings quivering at the end of its curved bill. It was pretty to see, though sad for the insect, of course.
The ground was carpeted on the wide prairies with acres and acres of precious little Houstonias, the "Child's Delight," as the Southern people call them, more poetically than the wise botanists. The mockingbirds were singing their very maddest bursts of | | 27 delirious music. Spring-life is strong in this semitropical land! Cardinal birds, in brilliant groups of carmine, pecking the bright green grass, occasionally stopped to sin; their little song of "Sweetie, sweetie, sweetie." Blue-birds flitted about, like bits shed out of the azure sky. Whole flocks of lovely little swamp warblers, green and gold, red and yellow, blue and brown, of every tint and changeful sheen of color, would suddenly drop upon the emerald herbage (like a cloud of flakes from a broken rainbow), hop, twitter, then fly up and disappear in the sun-lighted air as quickly as they had come. Humming-birds beat their wings, vibrating from umbel to umbel of the scarlet Yecoma trumpets, and the lilac bunches of the China tree (Melia Azadarach) were the chosen haunts of the tiny mango colibri. Turtle-doves sang softly and mournfully their invitation to their mates, "Come into the woods! Come into the woods!" The fig trees were pushing young, green leaflets. Grape vines, in flower, pulsated puffs of incense on the warm air. Orange trees, in stately rows, were showering cream-white petals down upon the wide sheets of cotton cloth, that Lizbette had spread so carefully under their boughs in order to catch cast-off corollas; for Lizbette was a skilful compounder of all sorts of orange syrups and citron confections. Was she not a "cordon bleu," "nata" as well as "fit" among Creole cooks? Whose orange-flower | | 28 water was better and more soothing to weak nerves, or better known than hers? Who understood as she did the manufacture of the delicate Pralines of the stewed orange-petals, after the syrup had been perfected? Whose liqueur of the passion flowers was clearer and stronger than hers? Surely for these things Lizbette was widely famed throughout the whole of the Attakapas.
It was Docteur Canonge's house. "Le Docteur Renée Canonge." So the people called him in the Attakapas. In France, when people spoke of him--and people did speak of him there sometimes, in the scientific academies and such-like places--he was called "Monsieur lé Marquis de Canonge, et de Rocheterre."
Lizbette never forgot this fact, if other people did. Why should she? Was she not the chief "cuisinière," the cook of the family, and in her own opinion the chief governor of the whole establishment? And did she not reflect all its dignity? Ah, bah! Lizbette snapped her fingers in the faces of cooks of roturiers, and such-like vulgar persons. She always wore a gay-colored bandana kerchief tied high, like a helmet, with an outflying plaited shell of starched ends over each ear. No one but Lizbette could solve the mystery of the plaiting of that handkerchief! It could only be fashioned by a Louisiana quadroon!
Immediately about the house there was a trim | | 29 flower-garden enclosed by a thick hedge of the Laurier d'amande, cut into a square, low wall of verdure. Inside of this garden there were grotesque chairs, and flat tables, and umbrellas, and pyramids and cubes and griffins cut out of the same plants, whose glossy leaves are so readily clipped and trained into any fantastic form. This parterre was somewhat formal, but it was queer and pretty and so very French, that it was pleasant to look at. It had character.
L' esprit Gaulois was stamped on every line of it. It had all the old-fashioned favorite French flowers in its funny little beds; each bed was carefully bordered with red bricks, and inside of the bricks grew, around each bed, a row of double violets, now all blossoming and very fragrant. There were lots of mignonette, and of carnations, of clove pinks and pansies; also bunches of fleur d' lis in the corners. Lizbette used to make calamus of the sweet flag-roots, and she used the violets and rose leaves for tisane. She also used the lavender and verbena grasses among her linen; and of the fennel and grape leaves she used many to green her pickles. Marigolds and sweet bay and rosemary served for seasoning soups; and of the glorious lilies, the candidum, which reverent painters put into the Virgin's hands, Lizbette made a fine healing salve for cuts and burns. So it was for that they grew, Lizbette believed. What did she care for their | | 30 beauty? Lizbette was eminently practical in all her ideas!
The garden walks were cemented with yellow plaster, and there were numbers of very ugly earthenware vases filled with verbenas and gay petunias; and some curiously moulded and much dilapidated plaster statues were planted and scattered about in secluded nooks, as well as at intervals along the garden walks. They were originally intended to increase the general effect of "Watteau-happy-shepherdistic existence." They were now either fantastically ludicrous, or mournfully suggestive, as one happened to be in the humor of either laughing or moralizing. These mutilated statues and vases were all elevated on low pedestals of brick and mason work, off which the stucco had crumbled long ago, and it had never been renewed. So they presented rather a spotty appearance, except in the vases, where the luxuriance of the growing vines helped to conceal these ravages of time; for sometimes they overflowed the vases and clambered down their sides and along the pedestals down to tile very earth, where they took root and flourished vigorously. Things do grow so fast in Louisiana. Docteur Canonge's old gardener could never keep up with them, no matter how industriously he labored. He had to rest a good deal in the course of the day; there were pipes to be smoked full of good perrique, and there was also a siesta to be taken | | 31 every afternoon. Therefore vines and weeds did grow rather as they chose in this garden. It was all the nicer for that.
The house itself was shadowed by its long, wide verandahs. It was a low, one-storied building. It was painted outside of a brick-dust red-the red of Titian, which is prettier on the mantle of the "Bella donna" than it was on Docteur Canonge's house--and it had solid green blinds, hung with white facings to the numerous doors and windows cut down to the verandah floors. Fortunately the paint was old, so Nature, with her gradating fingers, had toned it down comfortably from its original brilliant lines, with fine black weather stains, and lovely spottings of good wholesome dark chocolate-brown earth color.
It looked very well now, amidst its vast setting of yellowish, green prairie, and dome of blue sky.
Amidst all the other birds, the mocking-birds reigned supremely over this garden. They fought and mocked all the other birds, and they ate the butterflies and the caterpillars, and pecked the fruit, especially the ripest figs and the sunniest side of the peaches. They devoured as many scuppernong grapes as they chose, and always ate up the earliest peas and strawberries. The gardener complained and Lizbette quarrelled, but Docteur Canonge said the mocking-birds were not to be touched or frightened by any one whilst they lived upon his premises. | | 32 "So," Lizbette said, with a shrug of her shoulders, "the foot of the docteur was put down in regard to those birds." It was more than Lizbette dared to do, to disturb a nest, even though an aggravating pair had built in the orange tree over her own chamber window, and often kept her awake half the moonlight nights, singing and imitating the very cries and cluckings even of her own chickens, and anything else they took a fancy to mock. Ah! it was indeed exasperating; but then, the docteur's foot was down, and it had to be borne with such patience as a Creole cook could gather together.
This very morning, Lizbette had seen Natika Jacquimin, the old docteur's granddaughter, now on a visit to him, leaning on the balustrade of the verandah for a whole half-hour, extremely amused in watching the birds' antics. It was a triumph to keep Natika interested so long a time as that; but the feathered songsters were unconscious of their glory; they were dancing together, turning somersaults in the air, singing away like little possessed demons, unmindful of the beautiful girl who was patiently watching their pranks.
"Chee-chee," said Lizbette, "always a cheeing and a screeching, and a dancing like mad; and good for nuthin'; not even fit for a pie, which doves is, and even yellow-hammers ain't bad for a broil!"
Natika had been laughing heartily, and she called aloud to her two cousins, who were sitting quietly | | 33 inside of the study, to look out at the birds. There was a young bird who seemed to be taking his first singing lessons. He had been attracted by the soft, sweet cry of a partridge, and he was trying to imitate it. He did not succeed well. An older bird, who was sitting on top of the head of a broken-nosed plaster Apollo, attempted to put the little bird right in the singing: the wilful little bird either couldn't or wouldn't follow the notes accurately. Another bird, balancing himself on an orange bough, quivering his wings and vibrating his tail fan-fashion, sending down at every trill a rain of spent blossoms upon Lizbette's sheets, was singing very heroically, loudly mocking the clear bell-like call of the troopiall; it had come across some stray wanderer from the tropics, blown over from some of the islands in the Gulf of Mexico, by an unexpected "ouragan," and, as is the fashion of its tribe, it had picked up the singular foreign notes.
The partridge sang "Bob white" in a long modulation ; the little bird would snatch up the cry, "Bob, bob, bob; white, white, bob."
"No , no," the older bird sung from the Apollo's head; "this way: bob white, bob white."
"Why-et, why-et, bob, bob," would answer the small bird on the garden walk. Again and again. the older bird would sing the strain.
The little bird, turning its head first on one side and then on the other, would listen carefully and | | 34 make ineffectual efforts to utter the right cadence; but at last, seeming to grow weary of its abortive efforts, and impatient of its lesson, it flew off on to a Laurier d'amande bush, and standing upon its tip-toes, with its wings outspread, and its head and tail tossed upwards, it sung vehemently after its own fashion "Bob, bob; why-et, why-et; sweetie, sweetie, chee, chee; come to the wood; come, come, bob;" then, trilling on every syllable, it seemed to play on the motes with an appoggiatura before each word, as if to say, "how are ye, bob? how are ye, why-et?" then, suddenly seizing the easier strain, it closed its musical phrase with the three clear, pure bell-notes of the troopiall. It had its own notion of rendering music. Natika laughed and clapped her hands lightly. "Bravo! bravo! you naughty, funny little bird!" she cried.
Her cousins, Victor Burthe and Mark Bolling, smiled at her eagerness.
The cousins had been sitting together in the study, whose tall windows were widely opened down to the verandah. Natika stepped back into the room. Mark Bolling was reading a letter which a servant had just brought in to him, he said, by order of his grandfather, Docteur Canonge. Mark's face changed from its senile as he read the letter through carefully; then, turning it again, re-read the first page. He then handed it to Victor, saying, quietly:| | 35
"Uncle Jacob is dead in New York. This letter concerns you both, as well as myself."
It was a large letter, and it contained an enclosure written on foolscap, very closely covering all four sides of the sheet. Mark now set himself to read the enclosed foolscap.
Victor held the letter, and Natika, leaning over his shoulder, read it at the same time that he did. Victor gave utterance to a low whistle of surprise and seeming vexation as he laid the letter down, which ran as follows:
We have been requested by the trustees appointed in the last will and testament of your late uncle, Mr. Jacob Canonge, to write to you, and to enclose a certified copy of said will and testament of said Jacob Canonge. Said will is a holograph instrument, and is perfect according to law of Louisiana, being written, signed and sealed by said testator. It has been duly recorded by said trustees, and the succession is now duly opened according to law. The said will is somewhat peculiar in its terns and conditions of bequest, which, of course, we regret; but, although the said late Jacob Canonge was regarded as rather eccentric in character, his sound health and sanity were never questioned, and he was considered to be singularly shrewd in all practical business matters. His physicians--the Doc- | | 36 tons Stone and Roussel--testify to his admirable soundness of mind up to the very last moments of existence. The injunctions of the will, therefore, must be fully obeyed. The trustees--Messrs. Adams, James and Slocumb--unite with us in hoping that you may soon be restored to the health and happy condition of life, which said will demands of you before they can resign to you the control of the vast wealth, designed for your inheritance by your late uncle, said late Jacob Canonge. Together with this, please find notices to the other heirs--Mr. Victor Burthe and Miss Natika Jacquimin--of their unconditioned bequests from their late uncle, said late Jacob Canonge, which bequests are in the sum of one hundred thousand dollars each, said money being now on deposit in the Canal Bank of New Orleans, subject to their order at sight. Please also find list and vouchers of said divers moneys, bequeathed conditionally to you by said late Jacob Canonge--said moneys amounting, as shown and exhibited by said vouchers, to the sum of three millions five hundred thousand and forty-five dollars and fifty-five cents, which is already well and sufficiently invested by said late Jacob Canonge, as shown by said vouchers. All to be subject to your order under certain conditions, as set forth in said last will and testament of said late Jacob Canonge.
"You will be so good as to notify us where and when you desire to be deposited the annual pay- | | 37 ments of the sum of three hundred dollars, always payable in gold, the amount specified as a temporary provision for you until the aforesaid conditions be filled as demanded by said last will and testament of said late Jacob Canonge. It is now subject to your order.
"With profound respect, we have the honor to subscribe ourselves your most obedient servants,"BRADFORD AND BRADFORD,
"Att'ys-at-Law, 20 Custom House street,
"New Orleans, Louisiana."
"Here's the will," said Mark, handing the long bit of foolscap he had been reading to Victor.
"It is a shame! The very meanest will that ever any old man made! That's my opinion of it," exclaimed Natika, indignantly, tossing back, with her fair, white, jewelled hand, the heavy ringlets that had fallen forward over her face as she leaned over Victor's shoulder reading the portentous papers.
"He was a mean, crabbed old hunks, any how! I always did think so," said Victor. "He has been too good to us, who did not need his dirty money. But, to treat poor Mark in that tantalizing fashion! It is downright wicked! I hope the old fellow will be put through three millions of ages in purgatory for his malice! As if it was Mark's fault that he can't walk! Oh, le vieil diable!"| | 38
"Le vieil Adam!" added Natika, laughing at Victor's violence.
"Oh, no!" said Mark, "un pauvre vieux homme. Not the plan of sin or the old devil either."
"Yes! He was an old devil," said Natika, resolutely. "As for me, I intend to divide with you, Mark. I shall write instantly to those tiresome lawyers. I shall not remain a party to such meanness as that!" Here Natika violently stamped her small foot in its black satin slipper.
"I have plenty of money of my own without this, and so also has Victor. I never did like uncle Jacob. His nose was crooked, and his chin too, and he looked exactly like those misers in Quentin Matsys' picture. Don't you remember, Victor? And how I used to cry at the sight of him when I was so little, and he glowered at me through his old black-rimmed spectacles! I hate spectacles, and I hate misers. Mark is the only one of us that ever was decently respectful to uncle Jacob.
"Don't you remember how you sketched his profile on the wall one night with a bit of charcoal, when he came to see aunt Burthe, Victor? It was a very good likeness. Aunt Burthe scolded, but uncle Jacob laughed at it and said you ought to be made a painter of, and offered to pay for your instruction in art. We don't deserve one cent front uncle Jacob, and I sha'n't take it. Victor may do as he likes, but I shall not take the money. I hate | | 39 uncle Jacob!" added she, passionately. "I am glad he is dead. He should not have been let to live so long. Just to die and make people so very unhappy as he has done now!
"It is very good of you, Natika," said Mark Bolling, passing his hand wearily over his forehead and eyes, leaning back helplessly in his invalid's chair. "But it would be impossible for me to take such advantage of your generosity. I can't receive anything but the three hundred per annum that uncle Jacob has seen fit to give to me. Of course the rest of the estate will remain intact and accumulate during my unfortunate existence for 'the Charity.' In all human probability I can never claim it. It is not probable; ah, it is scarcely even possible, that I shall ever be able 'to walk,' still less that I should ever be so fortunate as 'to marry,' as the will requires I should, before I can claim the millions uncle Jacob has left behind him. Indeed, the money would be of small value to me, if the qualities needed to possess it were ever mine. Oh, if I could ever hope to walk again! If I could ever dare to think of love as other men do! I should care but little for money. But to be so helpless, so dependent!"
Mark sighed deeply. "And alas! so young," added he, with a smile of bitter sadness. "I shall have to live a long time yet, I fear."
Natika's eyes filled with large tears, as she looked | | 40 at Mark. He was so handsome, so attractive in person and character; and he sat there helpless as the prince of the black isles in the fairy tale. His lower limbs still perfect in outline, and yet utterly useless and apparently immovable. Mark was paralyzed from the waist downward; yet there was no appearance of wasting away in his figure. He was a picture of manly health and beauty as he sat still in his chair before her eyes.
"Confound it!" exclaimed Victor Burthe, springing up and kicking Natika's white poodle out of his way, as he strode up to Mark and seized his hand in both of his. "I say, Mark," continued Victor, unmindful of the yelping of the poodle, or of the angry exclamation of Natika at its treatment, or her ineffectual attempts to console her dog's injured feelings.
"I say, Mark! (For heaven's sake, Natika, do stop that wretched beast's mouth! Choke him.) I say, Mark, be reasonable now, and let us divide, Natika and I. Let us throw it all into three parts and each take one, and let the rest go to the d--d Charity, according to the will."
"Oh, no, Victor!" replied Mark, firmly, pressing Victor's hand. "It is utterly impossible. I cannot; believe I am not ungrateful, however, to you and to Natika," and Mark held out his other hand to Natika. She put down the poodle, whose cries had gradually subsided under her caresses, and took Mark's hand | | 41 in hers. Mark drew her to him, and held up his mouth to kiss her.
Natika kissed him--her face flushed crimson as her lips met his, but she said nothing. Mark put his arm around her waist as she stood by him, and clasped Victor's hand yet more strongly.
"Dear cousins mine," said Mark, in a voice broken by emotion, "I can't tell you how much I feel your love and kindness. You must not think me obstinate or proud, but I can't take your money. In truth, so long as grandfather Canonge lives, I want for nothing, and even the three hundred per annum is superfluous. I need very little now, though I have cost grandfather a great deal in travelling about, and experimenting with surgeons and doctors all over the world; but I have given it all up. My trip to Germany this past summer ended it. I have tried every thing, and gone everywhere, to everybody. It comes to nothing. The same old opinion reiterated again and again. They all say: 'At any moment it is possible the power to walk may return as suddenly as you lost it. But it must come from a rush of internal vital force. The paralyzed nerve cannot be reached by any external agent or remedy."
"You have tried electricity and every thing?" said Victor Burthe, interrogatively.
"And the faith doctor and mesmerism?" added Natika.| | 42
Mark smiled sadly. "I have tried every thing, however absurd, or superstitious, or scientific! What matters it to me what restores me, so I am restored?"
"Old Nana says you are 'conjured,'" said Natika, half smiling, half weeping, at Mark's sad tones.
"I wish it was really so," replied Mark, with a laugh. "There would be some hope of getting unconjured, even if I had to seek the Vaudoo queen herself."
"That would be Nana, then," said Natika. "She is the queen! She keeps a tame snake in the gourd, and feeds it on milk, Lizbette says. All the negroes believe in her power, and are dreadfully afraid of her."
"I shouldn't be afraid of Nana, that old hag," exclaimed Victor. "I should be more afraid of her friend and mistress, your elegant stepmother, Mrs. Frances Bolling, Mark. I don't know why, but I do dislike that woman!"
"Oh, no, Victor!" replied Mark. "My stepmother is not a bad woman. She has had no control over me since I was twelve years of age. You know grandfather Canonge took me soon after my father's second marriage, and this paralysis came on while I was at college. I went out to take a sleigh ride one cold winter's day, got upset, had inflammatory rheumatism, and have never walked since. That's the whole story."
"Mrs. Lolling was there, and nursed. you while | | 43 you were ill," said Victor. "She is a bad woman, I think. I never believed in her, somehow; but I don't exactly know how she could put you into such a condition, as this."
"She was extremely kind to me," said Mark, gravely. "Such expressions about her annoy me, Victor. I know how strong your prejudices are, and that you dislike my stepmother, so don't let us talks of her."
"She is very handsome, and extremely agreeable," said Natika. "I like her very much, though I have only seen her a few times, when I was here before on a visit to grandfather Canonge. I suppose she will come to see me soon, Mark."
"I suppose she will, Natika. I sent word to Mrs. Flanoy's family to-day that you were here."
"I have been here a week now," said Natika. "A whole week."
"A whole week," said Victor, mimicking her inflection of voice. "What an eternity for a Parisian, belle to waste in this dull country! I wonder you survive it, Natika."
"I suppose decency requires of me to see my grandfather occasionally, Victor, as it also impels you to cove and 'waste your sweetness on this desert air,' at least once in ten Years, for a few days. Think of poor Mark having to live here all the time, and blush for your self-indulgence."
"The truth is, I am very soon bored in the | | 44 country," responded Victor. "I don't care much for shooting and fishing, and I like to talk to much better than to trees, and I had rather listen to Grisi and Mario than to bird-singing."
"And you had rather flirt with a pretty woman than to do any thing else," rejoined Natika.
"Yes, I believe, 'that's a true bill,' as the lawyers phrase it, Natika," replied Victor, gayly, casting all involuntary glance at his own reflection in the mirror opposite. Natika's quick eye caught the rapid glance of vanity. She clapped her hands lightly, as if encoring a favorite maestro at the opera house, laughing, as she exclaimed--
"Vive! vive! Monsieur Narcisse! You are a handsome fellow, Victor. You have the beautiful dark eyes of the Canonges, and their fine straight features ; but so has Mark, and you have not got the intellect of the Bollings; and that makes a difference in the expression, though most women would not find that out."
"Pshaw, Natika," said Victor. "You can't make me jealous of Mark, so you need not try that game, Miss Flash."
"Miss Flash! What is that?" asked Mark, smiling at the rencontre of his cousins.
"Oh, a sobriquet that the Americans in Paris gave to Natika," Victor said, carelessly. "She is so capricious and scintillating and brilliant in her ways and conversation."| | 45
Natika bit her lip--then she laughed, but there was no heartiness in the laugh. "Don't be stupid, Victor. I don't mind ill nature, but I can't bear stupidity. It bores me, especially in the country.
"Mark," she continued, throwing herself gracefully upon the lounge near his chair, picking up her poodle and fondling it, as she reclined on the soft cushions; "Mark, what has become of that frightful boy of your stepmother's?--her son by the first marriage? What was his name?"
"Antony Coolidge, do you mean?" asked Mark.
"He is still at St. Louis practising law, I believe. He comes here sometimes to see his mother."
"He was a very ugly boy," remarked Natika. "He had real African features, though he had blue eves and sandy hair. He looked like a white negro--"
"So he is," interrupted Victor. "I beg your pardon, Mark, but every body knows that Mrs. Bolling was only the natural half-sister of Major Flanoy. Old Governor Flanoy acknowledged her, and, according to the French law, legitimized her. But her mother was a quadroon, you know, so Antony Coolidge is only a reversion, according to the natural law of Genesis, to the original type of his grandmother's race. It is atavism."
Mark frowned, but did not contradict the statement of Victor. He knew it to be true.| | 46
"I like pure blood," said Natika, "even in my dogs. Fanfan is a highly bred poodle. See how delicate she is." And she held up the poodle's paw.
"You forget, Natika," said Mark, quietly, "that the Bollings are descendants of Pocahontas. So that I have a strain of Indian in my blood."
"Oh, that's very different!" said Natika. "I don't dislike such a strain as that. It is such a different race of people."
"You know they say now there was no such person as the Princess Pocahontas," put in Victor.
"No such person as Mrs. Harris," said Natika, laughingly.
Mark's handsome face crimsoned, as he replied, haughtily--
"I suppose we know best who are her descendants."
"I should think you ought to," said Victor, lightly. "I don't quarrel with history or tradition. I take it as it is told to me. I believe in all of it. In Napoleon and Pocahontas, and Captain John Smith and Villere's bloody shirt, and every thing, enfin."
"What a remarkably developed phrenological organ of credulity!" said Natika.
"Well! I have to accept the alternative of believing every thing or believing nothing, and the former state is the pleasantest, so I adopt it," replied Victor, sitting himself down upon the footstool by | | 47 Natika's sofa. "I don't even doubt you, Natika, when you tell me you never coquette, and are never inconstant to nos premiers amours."
Natika made a "mou" at him.
"If you do that again I shall kiss you, Natika," said Victor, resolutely. "I have as good a right to kiss you as Mark has." And there came a sudden vivid flash in Victor's eves.
"No! you haven't, because you are not so good as Mark," replied Natika. "And besides"--she paused--
"And besides," repeated Victor, looking sharply at her.
"And besides," continued Natika, smoothing her dog's silken ears, "I am not as fond of you as I am of my cousin Mark," and she glanced at him defiantly.
Victor looked steadily at her. Her eyes did not fall. She looked as steadily back into his.
"Don't try to make a heros de Roman of yourself, Victor," she remarked. "It is purely absurd and a great waste of 'matériel!'"
"I know you think so, Natika," Victor replied. "Mark," he continued, turning to Mark, who lead been sitting with his hand over his eyes, apparently unconscious of the by-play of talk between his cousins, "Mark, what has become of Mayor Flanoy's only daughter, that little white creature--nearly ail Albino--that used to come here so often, prowling about you?"| | 48
"Who? Major Flanoy's daughter?" asked Mark, starting up to a more erect position in his chair and dropping his hand from his eyes.
"Oh, you mean Panola. Yes, she was very fair. She is grown up now."
Her skin it was snow-white,
Bright was the bash of her blue, rolling e'e,"
"She was uncanny, Mark, that child. She was so white altogether."
"Therefore she was justly named PANOLA," said Mark.
"What does that mean?" asked Natika. "It is a queer name."
"It means 'cotton,'" replied Mark. "It is the Indian name for cotton. Mrs. Flanoy is a half-breed Cherokee, one of the Ross family. Major Flanoy was in the army, stationed on the frontier of the Indian Nation. He married his wife there. She was very pretty, and well educated at Mrs. Willard's school in Troy. The major got most of his fortune by her--she was rich. Panola is their only child; therefore an heiress."
"What a singular family those Flanoys must be! so much miscegenation among them," observed Natika.
"They are peculiar, or rather were, since they are | | 49 all dead now except Panola and her mother. The major died last year. The old governor must have had a fearful temper. He died from breaking a blood vessel in a fit of rage."
"Is this creature--this Albino, as Victor calls her--like them, or like her Indian ancestors?" asked Natika, yawning in a suppressed well-bred way, as she pushed her poodle off her lap and sat upright on the sofa.
"She is like--" began Mark, when the door was suddenly thrown open, and a servant entered, announcing "Miss Flanoy, Master Mark."
|chapter 2 >||chapter 30 >>|