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- The Little Immigrant - 2/5 -
formed by taking hands and going first to the right and then to the left, amid laughter the dance broke up.
Standing near the window on the porch were two young men. They were smoking cigars and commenting on the guests and the surroundings generally.
"There's a little Queen Esther with her black hair braided and folded over her shell pink ears. Look at her graceful walk. Do you see the one I mean?".asked the taller of the two men.
"Do you mean the one with the rosebuds on her gown?"
"Yes, the very one. She has the most beautiful black eyes I have ever seen."
"Yes, she is a beautiful girl," assented his companion.
"Where have I seen her before? I recognize those eyes."
"You are not captured, are you, Jaffray?"
"Well, I don't know." And they both laughed. "Let us go inside."
They threw away their cigars and went in.
"Miss Jewel, Mr. Starr would like to be presented to you, may I bring him to you?" Renestine looked up and found a friend speaking to her, but before she could answer the tall stranger was at her friend's elbow.
"This is a great pleasure for me," said the newly introduced guest. "But, Miss Jewel, it has been an impression of mine since I first saw you this evening that we have met before. Can you help me settle upon the place, time and occasion?"
"Why, no," laughed Renestine, showing two rows of small, white teeth that enhanced her charm.
"I am sure if we try hard enough we shall soon discover," Jaffray said. "May I sit down?" Renestine drew sideways to allow him to draw up a chair, her hoop skirt spreading her tarlatan flounces some space around her.
"Why, yes, indeed, now that I look at you, the woods, gray moss, three frightened young ladies; it was in the dusk of evening as I was riding from McKinney, all of that picture returns," he put his forefinger to his lips, and looked down at the floor in deep reflection.
For a moment Renestine was silent, then turned rosy red. "Oh, Mr. Starr, was it you who brought us out of the Wilderness and restored us to our families? You appeared at the most fortunate moment, we were really lost," and she laughed heartily. "You are a stranger here, Mr. Starr?"
"Not altogether. I have visited here before on business. Where I live it is lonesome for me and I take my vacations with much the spirit of a school boy. Shall we dance?"
The "Kiss Waltz" was a great favorite and the opening bars were beginning, "Hun" Williams, leader of the orchestra, putting a good swing into it. Renestine and Jaffrey glided with the rhythm of the music and danced until the last strains closed the tuneful composition. Throwing a lace scarf about her shoulders, Jaffray led Renestine to the balcony. The moon was bright as day and the early May dew brought out the fragrance of the jessamine and clematis climbing over the balustrade.
They stood for a time without speaking, feeling the spell of the Southern spring time.
"Is not this solemn beauty? Somehow it hurts, it is so beautiful," said Renestine quietly, her large eyes dreamy and full of softness.
"Ah, you have a poet's soul, Miss Jewel. Will you tell me something of your life? You were not born here?"
They were walking up and down the broad verandah and Renestine was telling him of the little mother so far away, parted from, perhaps never to be seen again. She was saying, "At last when the time came to say good-bye, I clung to my mother's form and in that moment could see my soul, bared, bruised, wounded and somehow the little girl passed with that parting and although I was but a few months younger than I am to-night, I am here just one year, I feel much changed and older." Her lids closed and Jaffray did not interrupt. "Mr. Starr, do you know of any experience more cruel than this parting of parents in Europe with their children to come to America? I think of it now so often. I think there cannot be in all life . . . ."
Jaffray saw the tears in those wonderful eyes. "No, Miss Jewel, no. I know of nothing more humanly cruel! I, too, parted from my beloved mother and twin sister when a mere lad to cross the ocean to seek my fortune in America. A lad barely fifteen years of age, I had no idea of what I was going out to meet in the world when I took my small belongings and journeyed toward these shores. There were no friends, no relatives where I was going; all those were being left behind; but the spirit of adventure possessed me and I wanted more freedom to work out my destiny in and the parting had to be for me and I cannot tell you how I have suffered from homesickness for the beloved Mother and good sister, for the little home in the Rhine village where the terraces of grapes lay just back of our house; that never is forgotten, no matter how long one lives. We have a common bond of sympathy, may I hope it means a tie of friendship?"
She gave him her hand and shortly afterwards he led her back into the ballroom; but the music could not tempt them to dance again and, after seeing Renestine with friends, he said good-night and left.
It was near daylight when Jaffray smoked his last cigar and finally put out the light in his little room in the hotel and went to bed.
Jaffray paid frequent visits to Houston from McKinney, after he met Miss Jewel. Although Renestine was busy with her school work, her sister permitted her, like all the young girls, to accept the attentions of young men who wished to call or who invited her to social affairs.
Jaffray was some years older than Renestine and was aware that she was but a school girl, untutored in the ways of the world, even less than most girls of her age. But Renestine's modesty, her innocence, her beauty, appealed to him as no other woman's charms had done and thoughts of her took possession him. His stuffy little office in McKinney, in the long, narrow store where general merchandise was rather irregularly piled around in high wooden boxes, in barrels, and on shallow shelves, became a prison house and the weeks endless terms of sentence. It happened that be could not absent himself from duty oftener than once every month and then only from Friday to Sunday night. These days of freedom were now prized tenfold more dearly than if he had had his time free to do as he wished.
Heretofore it had been his dearest wish to employ his spare time with books, reading and studying to improve his mind and for the pleasure that books gave him. Now his thoughts refused to concentrate upon anything but Miss Jewel.
After some weeks of acquaintance there was an exchange of letters which grew into a long correspondence. Those were happy days for Jaffray! Eagerly he would look forward to the mail and from the receipt of each of Renestine's letters to the next he would be in a heaven all his own. He sent her songs and books of verse; he wrote long and throbbing letters, and Winter and Spring, Summer and Autumn were just one long summer day for him with the music of the birds overhead and the earth a garden of blossoms.
TWO years went by and Renestine had been the bride of Jaffray Starr three months. Grown into womanhood, she was radiant; happy in her love and secure in the faith of her choice, she went forth from her sister's home full of hope and cheer. Renestine had had many suitors, had had much admiration. She could have become the wife of a young adoring banker; she had refused to listen to the suit of men of more substance than her husband; but because of the quiet manliness of Jaffray Starr, because of his keen intellect, because of his nobility of heart and generous nature, she gave her heart into his keeping, sure that she had made no mistake, and set out with him to share his fortune, whatever it would bring. They had been married and left at once for Jaffray's home at Jefferson, where he had a position in the County Clerk's office. Now they were settled and housekeeping. But it was a long, rough journey they had made from Houston to Jefferson. The railroads had not been built in that section of the country and travel was done by horse teams and in covered wagons. Two good colored servants accompanied them; old Josiah, who drove and took care of the rough work, and his wife; Caroline, to look after the "Missus" and do the cooking. Bringing out kettles and pans tucked away in the wagon, Josiah would build a brushwood fire and Caroline would cook the meals, rations for two weeks having been provided. When it was time to stop for a meal or to rest the horses, Josiah would be on the watch for a clear spring of water along the roadside, would draw up by the side of it and begin preparations for camping. It was not as much of a hardship as Pullman travelers would conclude. The wagons were fitted with springs which gave easily over rough roads and even had a fascination and romance, and in the cool of the evening when a stretch of smooth road lay before them it was delicious to feel the soft air blowing into their faces and to experience the exhilaration of the rapid motion of the wagon. There were also arrangements for comfortable beds.
Word had gone ahead that Jaffray was bringing home a bride and the people were alert to give her welcome. Jaffray never realized how much he was thought of until he came back a Benedict. Homes were thrown open to him and his young wife with offers to remain as long as they would, and all .kinds of propositions made for their comfort and welfare.
"No, thank you, John or Tom or Buck," he would reply, kindly but firmly. "We shall go to the hotel until we can arrange a home. I have already rented a house and it won't take us long to get settled."
Nor did it. In a few weeks Jaffray and Renestine were occupying a small house, not far from the river that skirted the town, with Josiah and Caroline in charge.
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