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Lousiana by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Olivia Ferrol left her chair and crossed the gallery


At

the end of the gallery they checked themselves in their mad career, the drivers making strenuous efforts to restrain the impetuosity of the four steeds whose harness rattled against their ribs with an unpleasant bony sound. Half a dozen waiters rushed forward, the doors were flung open, the steps let down with a bang, the band brayed insanely, and the passengers alighted.--"One, two, three, four," counted Olivia Ferrol, mechanically, as the first vehicle unburdened itself. And then, as the door of the second was opened: "One--only one: and a very young one, too. Dear me! Poor girl!"

This exclamation might naturally have fallen from any quick-sighted and sympathetic person. The solitary passenger of the second stage stood among the crowd, hesitating, and plainly overwhelmed with timorousness. Three waiters were wrestling with an ugly shawl, a dreadful shining valise, and a painted wooden trunk, such as is seen in country stores. In their enthusiastic desire to dispose creditably of these articles they temporarily forgot the owner, who, after one desperate, timid glance at them, looked round her in vain for succor. She was very pretty and very young and very ill-dressed--her costume a bucolic travesty on prevailing modes. She did not know where to go, and no one thought of showing her; the loungers about the office stared at her; she began to turn pale with embarrassment and timidity. Olivia Ferrol left her chair and crossed the gallery.

She spoke to a servant a little sharply:

"Why not show the young lady into the parlor?" she said.

The girl heard, and looked at her helplessly, but with gratitude. The waiter darted forward with hospitable rapture.

"Dis yeah's de way, miss," he said, "right inter de 'ception-room. Foller me, ma'am."

Olivia returned to her seat. People were regarding her with curiosity, but she was entirely oblivious of the fact.

"That is one of them," she was saying, mentally. "That is one of them, and a very interesting type it is, too."

To render the peculiarities of this young woman clearer, it may be well to reveal here something of her past life and surroundings. Her father had been a literary man, her mother an illustrator of books and magazine articles. From her earliest childhood she had been surrounded by men and women of artistic or literary occupations, some who were drudges, some who were geniuses, some who balanced between the two extremes, and she had unconsciously learned the tricks of the trade. She had been used to people who continually had their eyes open to anything peculiar and interesting in human nature, who were enraptured by the discovery of new types of men, women, and emotions. Since she had been left an orphan she had lived with her brother, who had been reporter, editor, contributor, critic, one after the other, until at last he had established a very enviable reputation as a brilliant, practical young fellow, who knew his business, and had a fine career open to him. So it was natural that, having become interested in the general friendly fashion of dissecting and studying every scrap of human nature within reach, she had followed more illustrious examples, and had become very critical upon the subject of "types" herself. During her sojourn at Oakvale she had studied the North Carolinian mountaineer "type" with the enthusiasm of an amateur. She had talked to the women in sunbonnets who brought fruit to the hotel, and sat on the steps and floor of the galleries awaiting the advent of customers with a composure only to be equaled by the calmness of the noble savage; she had walked and driven over the mountain roads, stopping at wayside houses and entering into conversation with the owners until she had become comparatively well known, even in the space of a fortnight, and she had taken notes for her brother until she had roused him to sharing her own interest in her discoveries.


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