Aunt Maria’s family.
But where were Aunt Maria’s family? The carriage, when it left the wharf, had been driven up a long narrow street, quite different from any the children had ever seen before. On either side irregularly built houses, most of them old and dingy, stood close together. Here and there was a new one, which had the air of having dropped down by mistake. They left this street, and turning into another, crossed a bridge, which spanned an arm of the river that ran through part of the town. Now the houses began to be large and stately, and were surrounded by ample gardens, and walls of brick or iron railings separated them from each other and the street.
Aunt Maria’s coachman drove on and on, and the children began to think he was going to drive into the river, for he seemed to be approaching nearer and nearer to it. They looked out and saw a broad sheet of water, over which many sloops and schooners, and many little row-boats were moving. The light of the setting sun was touching the white sails and the waves with a rosy glow. At the very water’s edge they stopped, and Aunt Maria led the way into her house.
It was a large mansion. One side of it was covered with ivy, and an immense live-oak tree stood in the garden. Two or three tall magnolias, and a number of fig-trees were scattered through the yard. Though it was still wintry and cold at home, here the trees were in leaf, and there were flowers in bloom.
A colored woman, with a red and yellow turban on her head, and a blue and white checked dress on, came forward to receive the children. Their trunks were carried up stairs, and opened, and they took off their travelling dresses, and proceeded to get ready for dinner.
“Aunt Chloe will help you dress,” Mrs. MacLain said. But Edith and Mabel were unused to colored servants, and stood in great awe of her. They were glad when she left the room to get some wood.
“It too cold for missy without any fire,” said she, as she went away.
“O Edith,” Mabel whispered, “if we were only at home! I don’t like it here, I just hate it!”
“Never mind, it won’t last always,” said Edith. “I wish I had asked mamma what to wear. Do you think we ought to put on our best frocks the first day?”
“We’re company, and company always do put on their goodest things,” said Mabel.
“But not when they’ve come to stay so long. I suppose mamma would say, ‘Use your own judgment,’ but I haven’t any judgment, I’ll ask Aunt Chloe.”
“La, honey, I don’t know,” said she. “Reckon I’ll ‘quire o’ Miss Mariar.”
Aunt Maria came back with her, looked over the children’s wardrobe, and told them to put on a crimson delaine dress, and a white apron. It was what they usually wore afternoons at home.