[BOOK II] CHAPTER XVIII
WHEN Helen Lowell reached Boston from her visit with Sallie Worth, she found her father in the midst of his political campaign. The Hon. Everett Lowell was the representative of Congress from the Boston Highlands district. His home was an old fashioned white Colonial house built during the American Revolution.
He was not a man of great wealth, but well-to-do, a successful politician, enthusiastic student, a graduate of Harvard, and he had always made a specialty of championing the cause of the "freedmen." He was a chronic proposer of a military force bill for the South.
His family was one of the proudest in America. He had a family tree five hundred years old—an unbroken line of unconquerable men who held liberty dearer than life. He believed in the heritage of good honest blood as he believed in blooded horses. His home was furnished in perfect taste, with beautiful old rosewood and mahogany stuff that had both character and history. On the walls hung the stately portraits of his ancestors representative of three hundred years of American life. He never confused his political theories about the abstract rights of the African with his personal choice of associates or his pride in his Anglo-Saxon blood. With him politics was one thing, society another.
His pet hobby, which combined in one his philanthropic
ideals and his practical politics, was of late a patronage he had extended to young George Harris, the bright mulatto son of Eliza and George Harris whose dramatic slave history had made their son famous at Harvard.
This young negro was a speaker of fair ability and was accompanying Lowell on his campaign tours of the district, making speeches for his patron, who had obtained for him a clerk's position in the United States Custom House. Harris was quite a drawing card at these meetings. He had a natural aptitude for politics; modest, affable, handsome, and almost white, he was a fine argument in himself to support Lowell's political theories, who used him for all he was worth as he had at the previous election.
Harris had become a familiar figure at Lowell's home in the spacious library, where he had the free use of the books, and frequently he dined with the family, when there at dinner time hard at work on some political speech or some study for a piece of music.
Lowell had met his daughter at the depot behind his pair of Kentucky thoroughbreds. This daughter, his only child, was his pride and joy. She was a blonde beauty, and her resemblance to her father was remarkable. He was a widower, and this lovely girl, at once the incarnation of his lost love and so fair a reflection of his being, had ruled him with absolute sway during the past few years.
He was laughing like a boy at her coming.
"Oh! My beauty, the sight of your face gives me new life!" he cried smiling with love and admiration.
"You mustn't try to spoil me!" she laughed.
"Did you really have a good time in Dixie?" he whispered.
"Oh! Papa, such a time!" she exclaimed shutting her eyes as though she
were trying to live it over again.
"Beaux, morning, noon and night,—dancing, moonlight rides, boats gliding along the beautiful river and mocking birds singing softly their love-song under the window all night!"
"Well you did have romance," he declared.
"Yes," she went on "and such people, such hospitality—oh! I feel as though I never had lived before."
"My dear, you mustn't desert us all like that," he protested.
"I can't help it, I'm a rebel now."
"Then keep still till the campaign's over!" he warned in mock fear.
"And the boys down there," she continued, "they are such boys! Time doesn't seem to be an object with them at all. Evidently they have never heard of our uplifting Yankee motto 'Time is money.' And such knightly deference! such charming old fashioned chivalrous ways!"
"But, dear, isn't that a little out of date?"
"How staid and proper and busy Boston seems! I know I am going to be depressed by it."
"I know what's the matter with you!" he whistled.
"What?" she slyly asked.
"One of those boys."
"I confess, Papa, he's as handsome as a prince."
"What does he look like?"
"He is tall, dark, with black hair, black eyes, slender, graceful, all fire and energy."
"What's his name?"
"St. Clare—Robert St. Clare. His father was away from home. He's a politician, I think."
"'You don't say! St. Clare. Well of all the jokes! His father is my Democratic chum in the House—an old fire-eating Bourbon, but a capital fellow."
"Did you ever see him?"
"No, but I've had good times with his father. He used to own a hundred slaves. He's a royal fellow, and pretty well fixed in life for a Southern politician. I don't think though I ever saw his boy. Anything really serious?"
"He hasn't said a word—but he's coming to see me next week."
"Well things are moving, I must say!"
"Yes, I pretended I must consult you, before telling him he could come. I didn't want to seem too anxious. I'm half afraid to let him wander about Boston much, there are too many girls here."
Her father laughed proudly and looked at her. "I hope you will find him all your heart most desires, and my congratulations on your first love!"
"It will be my last, too," she answered seriously.
"Ah! you're too young and petty to say that!"
"I mean it," she said earnestly with a smile trembling on her lips.
Her father was silent and pressed her hand for an answer. As they entered the gate of the house, they met young Harris coming out with some books under his arm. He bowed gracefully to them and passed on.
"Oh! Papa, I had forgotten all about your fad for that young negro!"
"Well, what of it, dear"
"You love me very much, don't you?" she asked tenderly. "I'm going to ask you to be inconsistent, for my sake."
"That's easy. I'm often that for nobody's sake. Consistency is only the terror of weak minds."
"I'm going to ask you to keep that young negro out of the house when my
Southern friends are here. After my sweetheart comes I expect Sallie and
her mother. I wouldn't have either of them to meet him here in our
library and especially in our dining-room for anything on earth!"
"Well, you have joined the rebels, haven't you?"
"You know I never did like negroes any way," she continued. "They always gave me the horrors. Young Harris is a scholarly gentleman, I know. He is good-looking, talented, and I've played his music for him sometimes to please you, but I can't get over that little kink in his hair, his big nostrils and full lips, and when he looks at me, it makes my flesh creep."
"Certainly, my darling, you don't need to coax me. The Lowells, I suspect, know by this time what is due to a guest. When your guests come, our home and our time are theirs. If eating meat offends, we will live on herbs. I'll send Harris down to the other side of the district and keep him at work there until the end of the campaign. My slightest wish is law for him."
"You see, Papa," she went on, "they never could understand that negro's easy ways around our house, and I know if he were to sit down at our table with them they would walk out of the dining-room with an excuse of illness and go home on the first train."
"And yet," returned her father lifting her from the carriage, "their homes were full of negroes were they not?"
"Yes, but they know their place. I've seen those beautiful Southern children kiss their old black 'Mammy.' It made me shudder, until I discovered they did it just as I kiss Fido."
"And this a daughter of Boston, the home of Garrison and Sumner!" he exclaimed.
"I've heard that Boston mobbed Garrison once," she observed.
"Yes, and I doubt if we have canonised Sumner yet. All right. If you say
so, I'll order a steam calliope stationed
at the gate and hire a man to play Dixie for you!"
She laughed, and ran up the steps.
* * * * * *
Sallie determined to keep the secret of her sorrow in her own heart. On the ocean voyage she had cried the whole first day, and then kissed her lover's picture, put it down in the bottom of her trunk, brushed the tears away and determined the world should not look an her suffering.
She had written Helen of her lover's declaration, and of her happiness. She would find a good excuse for her sorrowful face in their separation. She knew he would write to her, for he had said so, and she had slipped the address into his hand as he left the car that night.
At first she was puzzled to think what she could do about answering these letters so Helen would not suspect her trouble. Then she hit on the plan of writing to him every day, posting the letters herself and placing them in her own trunk instead of the post-box.
"He will read them some day. They will relieve my heart," she sadly told herself.
Helen met her on the pier with a cry of girlish joy, and the first word she uttered was,
"Oh! Sallie, Bob loves me! He's been here two weeks, and he's just gone home. I have been in heaven. We are engaged!"
"Then I'll kiss you again, Helen!"—She gave her another kiss.
"And I've a big letter at home for you already! It's post-marked 'Hambright.' It came this morning. I know you will feast on it. If Bob don't write me faithfully I'll make him come here and live in Boston."
When Sallie got this letter, she sat down in her room,
and read and re-read its passionate words. There was a tone of bitterness and wounded pride in it. She struggled bravely to keep the tears back. Then the tone of the letter changed to tenderness and faith and infinite love that struggled in vain for utterance.
She kissed the name and sighed. "Now I must go down and chat and smile with Helen. She's so silly about her own love, if I talk about Bob she will forget I live."