“You see, I have had her with me from a baby. She knows no better. He brought her to me only two months old. Her mother had died in the ship, coming out here. He did not come straight from home here. His people never knew he was married!”
The speaker looked around suddenly with a startled glance. There was a noise of excited speaking in the hall.
“It is not true, Madame Thompson!” cried a girl’s voice.
Madame Delphine’s look became one of wildest distress and alarm, and she opened her lips in a vain attempt to utter some request, when Olive appeared a moment in the door, and then flew into her arms.
“My mother! my mother! my mother!”
Madame Thompson, with tears in her eyes, tenderly drew them apart and let Madame Delphine down into her chair, while Olive threw herself upon her knees, continuing to cry:
“Oh, my mother! Say you are my mother!”
Madame Delphine looked an instant into the upturned face, and then turned her own away, with a long, low cry of pain, looked again, and laying both hands upon the suppliant’s head, said:
“Oh, chere piti a moin, to pa’ ma fie!”—Oh, my darling little one, you are not my daughter!—Her eyes closed, and her head sank back; the two gentlemen sprang to her assistance, and laid her upon a sofa unconscious.
When they brought her to herself, Olive was kneeling at her head silently weeping.
“Maman, chere maman!” said the girl softly, kissing her lips.
“Ma courri c’ez moin”—I will go home—said the mother, drearily.
“You will go home with me,” said Madame Varrillat, with great kindness of manner—“just across the street here; I will take care of you till you feel better. And Olive will stay here with Madame Thompson. You will be only the width of the street apart.”
But Madame Delphine would go nowhere but to her home. Olive she would not allow to go with her. Then they wanted to send a servant or two to sleep in the house with her for aid and protection; but all she would accept was the transient service of a messenger to invite two of her kinspeople—man and wife—to come and make their dwelling with her.
In course of time these two—a poor, timid, helpless pair—fell heir to the premises. Their children had it after them; but, whether in those hands or these, the house had its habits and continued in them; and to this day the neighbors, as has already been said, rightly explain its close-sealed, uninhabited look by the all-sufficient statement that the inmates “is quadroons.”