In which the Reader is introduced to a Family of peculiar Construction.
It was at the close of an afternoon in May, that a party might have been seen gathered around a table covered with all those delicacies that, in the household of a rich Southern planter, are regarded as almost necessaries of life. In the centre stood a dish of ripe strawberries, their plump red sides peeping through the covering of white sugar that had been plentifully sprinkled over them. Geeche limes, almost drowned in their own rich syrup, temptingly displayed their bronze-coloured forms just above the rim of the glass that contained them. Opposite, and as if to divert the gaze from lingering too long over their luscious beauty, was a dish of peaches preserved in brandy, a never-failing article in a Southern matron’s catalogues of sweets. A silver basket filled with a variety of cakes was in close proximity to a plate of corn-flappers, which were piled upon it like a mountain, and from the brown tops of which trickled tiny rivulets of butter. All these dainties, mingling their various odours with the aroma of the tea and fine old java that came steaming forth from the richly chased silver pots, could not fail to produce a very appetising effect.
There was nothing about Mr. Garie, the gentleman who sat at the head of the table, to attract more than ordinary attention. He had the ease of manner usual with persons whose education and associations have been of a highly refined character, and his countenance, on the whole, was pleasing, and indicative of habitual good temper.
Opposite to him, and presiding at the tea-tray, sat a lady of marked beauty. The first thing that would have attracted attention on seeing her were her gloriously dark eyes. They were not entirely black, but of that seemingly changeful hue so often met with in persons of African extraction, which deepens and lightens with every varying emotion. Hers wore a subdued expression that sank into the heart and at once riveted those who saw her. Her hair, of jetty black, was arranged in braids; and through her light-brown complexion the faintest tinge of carmine was visible. As she turned to take her little girl from the arms of the servant, she displayed a fine profile and perfectly moulded form. No wonder that ten years before, when she was placed upon the auction-block at Savanah, she had brought so high a price. Mr. Garie had paid two thousand dollars for her, and was the envy of all the young bucks in the neighbourhood who had competed with him at the sale. Captivated by her beauty, he had esteemed himself fortunate in becoming her purchaser; and as time developed the goodness of her heart, and her mind enlarged through the instructions he assiduously gave her, he found the connection that might have been productive of many evils, had proved a boon to both; for whilst the astonishing progress she made in her education proved her worthy of the pains he took to instruct her, she returned threefold the tenderness and affection he lavished upon her.