"Willin'ly, most willin'ly," said Uncle Joshua, as he folded her to his bosom, "and if I had done as I or'to, a heap of this wouldn't have happened. Oh, I didn't or'to do so, I didn't; and I ain't goin' to any more. You shall live with me when Sunshine's gone; and we would be so happy, if your poor mother could only see us and know it all."
From that time nothing could exceed Uncle Joshua's kindness to his daughter. He seemed indeed trying to make up for the past, and frequently he would whisper to himself, "No, I didn't or'to do so. I see more and more that I didn't." Still his fondness for f.a.n.n.y was undiminished, and occasionally, after looking earnestly at both his children, he would exclaim, "Hang me, if I don't b'lieve Sunshine is a heap the handsomest"; but if these words caused Julia any emotion, 'twas never betrayed.
From Julia's story there could be no doubt that the maniac girl was laid in the grave which Uncle Joshua had thought belonged to his daughter. No tidings of her had been heard, although one gentleman thought that he once had met with a girl answering to her description in the stage coach between Lexington and Cincinnati. All search in that quarter was unavailing, and over her fate a dark mystery lay, until Julia suddenly appeared and threw light on the matter. The afflicted father (for she had no mother) was sent for, and when told where his child was laid, asked permission to have her disinterred and taken to his family burial place.
His request was granted, the grave was opened, and then refilled and leveled with the earth. The monument Julia took care to have carefully preserved as a memento of the olden time.
As will be supposed, Julia's return furnished the neighborhood and surrounding country with a topic of conversation for many weeks. At first nearly all treated her with cool neglect, but as she kept entirely at home, curiosity to see one who had, as it were, come back from the dead triumphed over all other things; and at last all who came to see f.a.n.n.y asked also for her sister.
Among the few who at once hastened to give the penitent girl the hand of friendship was Kate Miller; and as she marked her gentle manner and the subdued glance of her still somewhat haughty eyes, she wound her arm about her neck and whispered, "I shall in time learn to love you dearly for the sake of more than one."
Julia comprehended her, or thought she did, and answered, "Oh, Mrs.
Miller, that one dreadful crime has troubled me more than all the rest. I killed him, your n.o.ble brother, and from the moment I deliberately determined to do so I became leagued with the tempter, who lured me madly on. But I outdid myself, and was entangled in the snare my own hands had laid."
"It is ever so," answered Kate. "Our most secret sins will in the end find us out."
The reader is perhaps anxious to know whether back across the Atlantic, Ashton brought his Spanish bride. Yes, he did. Mr. William Middleton accompanied him to the house of Sir Arthur Effingham, whom they found to be dying; his property was gone, and he feared that he must leave the youthful Inez to the cold charities of the world and a miserly brother.
When Mr. Middleton made himself known, the dying man pointed to Inez, and said, "You once loved the mother; care for the daughter when I am gone, will you?"
"I will," answered Mr. Middleton, "on condition that you consent to having a young friend of mine share the care with me." At the same time he presented Ashton.
Sir Arthur recognized him immediately and answered, "Willingly, most willingly. I was a fool to spurn you once as I did."
In a few hours Sir Arthur was dead, and Inez was an orphan. But her grief was soothed by the presence of Ashton, who, a few days before sailing for America, made her his wife. During the voyage Mr. Middleton informed Ashton that as soon as he reached home he intended making his will, by which he should bequeath his property to Inez. Said he, "I have spent so many years of my life in India that I find the climate of New Orleans more congenial to my feelings than a colder one would be, consequently I shall purchase a house in that city, and as I look upon you and Inez as my children, I shall insist upon your living with me if you have no objection."
During the winter f.a.n.n.y wrote frequently to her father urging him to visit her; but this he declined doing, and early the following May, he stood one evening impatiently awaiting the arrival of Ike, who had gone to Frankfort with the expectation of meeting f.a.n.n.y and her husband. Everything had been put in readiness. The parlors and best chamber were opened and aired. The carriage and carriage horses had been brushed up, a new saddle had been bought for f.a.n.n.y's pony, and a new dress for each of the black women, and everything and everybody seemed expecting a joyful time.
As the carriage approached the house Uncle Joshua looked wistfully toward it, trying to catch a glimpse of "Sunshine," whom he had not seen for nearly a year and a half. But only the face of a little negro girl was seen looking from the window, and Uncle Joshua exclaimed, "Now, what's possessed them to fetch that yaller gal! I've got n.i.g.g.e.rs enough to wait on 'em."
But the "yaller gal" knew very well why she was there, and so ere long did Uncle Joshua. The steps were let down, and there, blithesome and gay as ever, f.a.n.n.y sprang from the carriage and ran into the arms of her father, who kissed her again and again, holding her off to look at her and then again drawing her to him and saying, "You're handsomer than ever."
During this process the yellow girl, Rose, had brought from the carriage a mysterious looking bundle of flannel and white cambric, which now in Dr.
Lacey's arms was crowing with delight as its little nurse bobbed up and down, making at it all sorts of grimaces.
"What the --, no, I forgot, I didn't mean so. But what-is-that!" said Uncle Joshua, releasing f.a.n.n.y and advancing toward Dr. Lacey, who proudly placed in his arms a beautiful nine-month-old baby, saying, "We have brought you a second Sunshine."
« Previous My Bookmarks Chapters Next»