“Captain!” A hand plucked at his elbow, as if not confident that the mere calling would secure attention. The captain turned. The mother of the little convent girl stood there, and she held the little convent girl by the hand. “I have brought her to see you,” the woman said. “You were so kind—and she is so quiet, so still, all the time, I thought it would do her a pleasure.”
She spoke with an accent, and with embarrassment; otherwise one would have said that she was bold and assured enough.
“She don’t go nowhere, she don’t do nothing but make her crochet and her prayers, so I thought I would bring her for a little visit of ’How d’ ye do’ to you.”
There was, perhaps, some inflection in the woman’s voice that might have made known, or at least awakened, the suspicion of some latent hope or intention, had the captain’s ear been fine enough to detect it. There might have been something in the little convent girl’s face, had his eye been more sensitive—trifle paler, maybe, the lips a little tighter drawn, the blue ribbon a shade faded. He may have noticed that, but— And the visit of “How d’ ye do” came to an end.
They walked down the stairway, the woman in front, the little convent girl—her hand released to shake hands with the captain—following, across the bared deck, out to the gangway, over to the middle of it. No one was looking, no one saw more than a flutter of white petticoats, a show of white stockings, as the little convent girl went under the water.
The roustabout dived, as the roustabouts always do, after the drowning, even at the risk of their good-for-nothing lives. The mate himself jumped overboard; but she had gone down in a whirlpool. Perhaps, as the pilot had told her whirlpools always did, it may have carried her through to the underground river, to that vast, hidden, dark Mississippi that flows beneath the one we see; for her body was never found.
As the grandmother related it fresh from the primeval sources that feed a grandmother’s memory, it happened thus:
In the early days of the settlement of Georgia—ah, how green and rustic appears to us now the world in the early days of the settlement of Georgia! Sometimes to women, listening to the stories of their grandmothers, it seems better to have lived then than now—her grandmother was at that time a young wife. It was the day of arduous, if not of long, courtship before marriage, when every wedding celebrated the close of an original romance; and when young couples, for bridal trips, went out to settle new States, riding on a pillion generally, with their trousseaux following as best they could on sumpter mules; to hear the grandmother describe it made one long to be a bride of those days.