To tell the truth, then, Miss Ophelia loved him. When a boy, it had been hers to teach him his catechism, mend his clothes, comb his hair, and bring him up generally in the way he should go; and her heart having a warm side to it, Augustine had, as he usually did with most people, monopolized a large share of it for himself, and therefore it was that he succeeded very easily in persuading her that the "path of duty" lay in the direction of New Orleans, and that she must go with him to take care of Eva, and keep everything from going to wreck and ruin during the frequent illnesses of his wife. The idea of a house without anybody to take care of it went to her heart; then she loved the lovely little girl, as few could help doing; and though she regarded Augustine as very much of a heathen, yet she loved him, laughed at his jokes, and forbore with his failings, to an extent which those who knew him thought perfectly incredible. But what more or other is to be known of Miss Ophelia our reader must discover by a personal acquaintance.
There she is, sitting now in her state-room, surrounded by a mixed multitude of little and big carpet-bags, boxes, baskets, each containing some separate responsibility which she is tying, binding up, packing, or fastening, with a face of great earnestness.
"Now, Eva, have you kept count of your things? Of course you haven't, — children never do: there's the spotted carpet-bag and the little blue band-box with your best bonnet, — that's two; then the India rubber satchel is three; and my tape and needle box is four; and my band-box, five; and my collar-box; and that little hair trunk, seven. What have you done with your sunshade? Give it to me, and let me put a paper round it, and tie it to my umbrella with my shade; — there, now."
"Why, aunty, we are only going up home; — what is the use?"
"To keep it nice, child; people must take care of their things, if they ever mean to have anything; and now, Eva, is your thimble put up?"
"Really, aunty, I don't know."
"Well, never mind; I'll look your box over, — thimble, wax, two spools, scissors, knife, tape-needle; all right, — put it in here. What did you ever do, child, when you were coming on with only your papa. I should have thought you'd a lost everything you had."
"Well, aunty, I did lose a great many; and then, when we stopped anywhere, papa would buy some more of whatever it was."
"Mercy on us, child, — what a way!"
"It was a very easy way, aunty," said Eva.
"It's a dreadful shiftless one," said aunty.
"Why, aunty, what'll you do now?" said Eva; "that trunk is too full to be shut down."
"It must shut down," said aunty, with the air of a general, as she squeezed the things in, and sprung upon the lid; — still a little gap remained about the mouth of the trunk.
"Get up here, Eva!" said Miss Ophelia, courageously; "what has been done can be done again. This trunk has got to be shut and locked — there are no two ways about it."
And the trunk, intimidated, doubtless, by this resolute statement, gave in. The hasp snapped sharply in its hole, and Miss Ophelia turned the key, and pocketed it in triumph.
"Now we're ready. Where's your papa? I think it time this baggage was set out. Do look out, Eva, and see if you see your papa."
"O, yes, he's down the other end of the gentlemen's cabin, eating an orange."
"He can't know how near we are coming," said aunty; "hadn't you better run and speak to him?"
"Papa never is in a hurry about anything," said Eva, "and we haven't come to the landing. Do step on the guards, aunty. Look! there's our house, up that street!"
The boat now began, with heavy groans, like some vast, tired monster, to prepare to push up among the multiplied steamers at the levee. Eva joyously pointed out the various spires, domes, and way-marks, by which she recognized her native city.
"Yes, yes, dear; very fine," said Miss Ophelia. "But mercy on us! the boat has stopped! where is your father?"
And now ensued the usual turmoil of landing — waiters running twenty ways at once — men tugging trunks, carpet-bags, boxes — women anxiously calling to their children, and everybody crowding in a dense mass to the plank towards the landing.
Miss Ophelia seated herself resolutely on the lately vanquished trunk, and marshalling all her goods and chattels in fine military order, seemed resolved to defend them to the last.
"Shall I take your trunk, ma'am?" "Shall I take your baggage?" "Let me 'tend to your baggage, Missis?" "Shan't I carry out these yer, Missis?" rained down upon her unheeded. She sat with grim determination, upright as a darning-needle stuck in a board, holding on her bundle of umbrella and parasols, and replying with a determination that was enough to strike dismay even into a hackman, wondering to Eva, in each interval, "what upon earth her papa could be thinking of; he couldn't have fallen over, now, — but something must have happened;" — and just as she had begun to work herself into a real distress, he came up, with his usually careless motion, and giving Eva a quarter of the orange he was eating, said,
"Well, Cousin Vermont, I suppose you are all ready."
"I've been ready, waiting, nearly an hour," said Miss Ophelia; "I began to be really concerned about you.
"That's a clever fellow, now," said he. "Well, the carriage is waiting, and the crowd are now off, so that one can walk out in a decent and Christian manner, and not be pushed and shoved. Here," he added to a driver who stood behind him, "take these things."
"I'll go and see to his putting them in," said Miss Ophelia.
"O, pshaw, cousin, what's the use?" said St. Clare.
"Well, at any rate, I'll carry this, and this, and this," said Miss Ophelia, singling out three boxes and a small carpet-bag.
"My dear Miss Vermont, positively you mustn't come the Green Mountains over us that way. You must adopt at least a piece of a southern principle, and not walk out under all that load. They'll take you for a waiting-maid; give them to this fellow; he'll put them down as if they were eggs, now."
Miss Ophelia looked despairingly as her cousin took all her treasures from her, and rejoiced to find herself once more in the carriage with them, in a state of preservation.
"Where's Tom?" said Eva.
"O, he's on the outside, Pussy. I'm going to take Tom up to mother for a peace-offering, to make up for that drunken fellow that upset the carriage."
"O, Tom will make a splendid driver, I know," said Eva; "he'll never get drunk."