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“ That heartless, - that ungrateful girl !” 6 What of her?"
Mrs. Gentry answered by applying her handkerchief to her eyes very much as Mrs. Siddons used to do in Belvidera.
“ Come, madam,” interrupted Ratcliff, “my time is precious. No damned nonsense, if you please. To the point. What has happened ?"
Rudely shocked into directness by these words, Mrs. Gentry replied : “ She has disappeared, -r-r-run away!”
“ Damnation!” was Ratcliff's concise and emphatic comment. He started up and paced the room.
“ This is a damned pretty return for my confidence, madam.”
“O, she 'll be come up with, — she'll be come up with!” sobbed Mrs. Gentry.
“ Come up with, — where?”
Yesterday, while I was waiting for her to go out to buy her new dresses. O the ingratitude !”
made no search for her?” “Yes, I've made every possible inquiry. I've paid ten dollars to a police officer to look her up. O the ingratitude of the world! But she 'll be come up with !”
“ Did you let her know that I was her master?”
“ She was a little startled at first, but soon seemed reconciled, even pleased with the idea of her new wardrobe.”
" Have you closely questioned your domestics ?”
“Yes. They know nothing. She must have slipped unobserved out of the house."
“ Is there any one among them with whom she was more familiar than with another?” She used to read the Bible to old Esha, by my direction.”
old Esha. I would like to question her.” Esha soon appeared, her bronzed face glistening with perspiration from the kitchen fire, — the never-failing brightcolored Madras handkerchief on her head.
“ Esha,” said Mr. Ratcliff, “ have you ever seen me before ?”
Yes, Massa Ratcliff, of'n. Lib'd on de nex' plantation to yourn. I 'longed to Massa Peters wunst. But he'm dead and gone."
know what an oath is, Esha ?” “ Yes, massa, it's when one swar he know dis or dunno dat.”
Very well. Do you know what becomes of her who swears falsely?”
“O yes, massa ; she go to de lake of brimstone and fire, whar' she hab bad time for eber and eber, Amen."
“ Are you a Christian, Esha?”
left hand, kiss the book, and then hold up your right hand.”
Esha went through the required form.
“ You do solemnly swear, as you hope to be saved from the torments of hell through all eternity, that you will truly answer, to the best of your knowledge and belief, the questions I may put to you. And if you lie, may the Lord strike you dead. Now kiss the book again, to show you take the oath.”
Esha kissed the book, and returned it to the table.
“Now, then, do you know anything of the disappearance of this girl, Ellen Murray ? "
Nuffin, massa, nuffin at all.” “ Did she ever tell you she meant to leave this house ?" “ Nebber, massa! She nebber tell me any sich ting.” “ Did she have any talk with you yesterday?”
“Not a bressed word did dat chile say to me 'cep ter scole me 'cause I did n't do up her Organdy muslin nice as she 'spected. De little hateful she-debble ! How can dis ole nig do eb’ry ting all at wunst, and do 't well, should like ter know? It's cook an’ wash an' iron, an' iron an’ wash an'
« There! That will do, Esha. You can go." “ Yes, Massa Ratcliff.”
Stealing into the next room, Esha listened at the foldingdoors.
“ She knows nothing, that's very clear,” said Ratcliff. He went to the window, and looked out in silence a full minute; then, coming back, added : “Stop snivelling, madam. I'm not a fool. I've seen women before now. This girl must be
found, — found if it costs me ten thousand dollars. And you must aid in the search. If I find her, well and good. If I don't find her, you shall suffer for it. This is what I mean to do: I shall have copies of her photograph put in the hands of the best detectives in the city. I shall pay them well in advance, and promise five hundred dollars to the one that finds her. They 'll come to you. You must give them all the information you can, and lend them your servants to identify the girl. This old Esha plainly has a grudge against her, and may be made useful in hunting her up. Let her go out daily for that purpose. Tell all your pupils to be on the watch. I'll break up your school if she is n't found. Do you understand ?”
“I'll do all I can, sir, to have her caught.”
And Ratcliff, with more exasperation in his face than his words had expressed, quitted the house.
“ The brute !” muttered Mrs. Gentry, as through the blinds she saw him enter his barouche, and drive off. “ He treated me as if I'd been a drab. But he 'll be come up with, - he will !”
Esha crept down into the kitchen, with thoughts intent on what she had heard.
THE YOUNG LADY WITH A CARPET-BAG.
“Pain has its own noble joy when it kindles a consciousness of life, before stagnant and torpid." -- John Sterling.
YHILDREN are quick to detect flaws in the genealogy of
their associates. School-girls are quite as exclusive in their notions as our grown-up leaders of society. Woe to the candidate for companionship on whose domestic record there hangs a doubt!
Mrs. Gentry having felt it her duty to inform her pupils that Clara was not a lady, the latter was thenceforth“ left out in the cold” by the little Brahmins of the seminary. She would sit, like a criminal, apart from the rest, or in play-hours seek the company, either of Esha or the mocking-bird.
One circumstance puzzled the other young ladies. They could not understand why, in the more showy accomplishments of music, singing, and dancing, more expense should be bestowed on Clara's education than on theirs. The elegance and variety of her toilet excited at once their envy and their curiosity.
Clara, finding that she was held back from serious studies, gave her thoughts to them all the more resolutely, and excelled in them so far as to shock the conservative notions of Mrs. Gentry, who thought such acquisitions presumptuous in a slave. The pupils all tossed their little heads, and turned their backs, when Clara drew near. All but one. Laura Tremaine prized Clara’s counsels on questions of dress, and defied the jeers and frowns that would deter her from cultivating the acquaintance of one suspected of ignoble birth. Something almost like a friendship grew up between the two. Laura was the only daughter of a wealthy cotton-broker who resided the greater part of the year in New Orleans, at the St. Charles Hotel.
The two girls used to stroll through the garden with arms about each other's waist. One day Clara, in a gush of candor, not only avowed herself an Abolitionist, but tried to convert Laura to the heresy. Quelle horreur! There was at once a cessation of the intimacy, - Laura exacting a recantation which the little infidel proudly refused.
The disagreement had occurred only a few days before that flight of Clara’s in which we must now follow her. After parting from Esha, she walked for some distance, ignorant why she selected one direction rather than another, and having no clearly defined purpose as to her destination. She had promenaded thus about an hour, when she saw a barouche approaching. The occupant, a man, sat leaning lazily back with his feet up on the opposite cushions. A black driver and footman, both in livery, filled the lofty front seat. As the vehicle rolled on, Clara recognized Ratcliff. She shuddered and dropped her veil.
Fortunately he was half asleep, and did not see her.
Whither now Of two streets she chose the more obscure. On she walked, and the carpet-bag began to be an encumbrance. The heat was oppressive. Occasionally a passer-by among the young men would say to an acquaintance, “ Did you notice that figure ? ” One man offered to carry the bag. She declined his aid. On and on she walked. Whither and why? She could not explain. All at once it occurred to her she was wasting her strength in an objectless promenade.
Her utterly forlorn condition revealed itself in all its desolateness and danger. She stopped under the shade of a magnolia-tree, and, leaning against the trunk, put back her veil, and wiped the moisture from her face. She had been walking more than two hours, and was overheated and fatigued. What should she do? The tears began to flow at the thought that the question was one for which she had no reply.
Suddenly she looked round with the vague sense that some one was watching her. She encountered the gaze of a gentleman who, with an air of mingled curiosity and compassion, stood observing her grief. He wore a loose frock of buff nankin, with white vest and pantaloons; and on his head was a hat of very fine Panama straw. Whether he was young or old Clara did not remark. She only knew that a face beautiful from its compassion beamed on her, and that it was the face of a gentleman.