“No, darlin’, when Massa Grayson buy me in New Orleans, an’ de odder gentleman buy Uncle Joe, we hab little girl four years ole, an’ de ole missus keep her,” sobbed Chloe, living over again the agony of the parting, “an’ Dinah her chile.”
“Mammy, if money will buy her, you shall have her, too,” said Elsie earnestly.
The remainder of the short voyage was a happy time to the whole of our little party, Chloe, with her restored husband by her side, now looking forward to the visit to Viamede with almost unmingled pleasure.
As they passed up the bay, entered Teche Bayou and pressed on, threading their way through lake and lakelet, past plain and forest, plantation and swamp, Elsie exclaimed again and again at the beauty of the scenery. Cool shady dells carpeted with the rich growth of flowers, miles upon miles of lawns as smoothly shaven, as velvety green and as nobly shaded by magnificent oaks and magnolias, as any king’s demesne; lordly villas peering through groves of orange trees, tall white, sugar-houses and the long rows of cabins of the laborers; united to form a panorama of surpassing loveliness.
“Is Viamede as lovely as that, papa?” Elsie would ask, as they steamed past one fine residence after another.
“Quite,” he would reply with a smile, at length adding, “There is not a more beautiful or valuable estate in the country; as you may judge for yourself, for this is it.”
“This, papa? Oh it is lovely, lovely! and everything in such perfect order,” she cried delightedly as they swept on past a large sugar-house and an immense orange orchard, whose golden fruit and glossy leaves shone brightly in the slanting rays of the nearly setting sun, to a lawn as large, as thickly carpeted with smoothly shaven grass and many-hued flowers, and as finely shaded with giant oaks, graceful magnolias, and groves of orange trees, as any they had passed. The house—a grand old mansion with spacious rooms, wide cool halls and corridors—was now in full view, now half concealed by the trees and shrubbery.
The boat rounded to at a little pier opposite the dwelling, and in another moment our friends had landed, and leaving the servants to attend to the baggage were walking on towards the house.
“Wilt thou draw near the nature of the gods?
Draw near them then in being merciful,
Sweet mercy is nobility’s true badge.”
“Papa, it seems an earthly paradise,” said Elsie, “and like a dream that I have seen all before.”
“A dream that was a reality. And it is all your own, my darling,” he answered with a proud, fond look into the bright animated face, keenly enjoying her pleasure.
“But what, what is going on there?” she asked, gazing intently in the direction of the negro quarter, where a large crowd of them, probably all belonging to the plantation, were assembled.