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Pomona's Daughter by Frank R. Stockton

In the pretty walk, bordered by bright flowers and low, overhanging shrubbery, which lies back of the Albert Memorial, in Kensington Gardens, London, Jonas sat on a green bench, with his baby on his knee. A few nurses were pushing baby-carriages about in different parts of the walk, and there were children playing not far away. It was drawing toward the close of the afternoon, and Jonas was thinking it was nearly time to go home, when Pomona came running to him from the gorgeous monument, which she had been carefully inspecting.

"Jone," she cried, "do you know I've been lookin' at all them great men that's standin' round the bottom of the monnyment, an' though there's over a hundred of 'em, I'm sure, I can't find a American among 'em! There's poets, an' artists, an' leadin' men, scraped up from all parts, an' not one of our illustrious dead. What d'ye think of that?"

"I can't believe it," said Jonas. "If we go home with a tale like that we'll hear the recruiting-drum from Newark to Texas, and, ten to one, I'll be drafted."

"You needn't be makin' fun," said Pomona; "you come an' see for yourself. Perhaps you kin' find jus' one American, an' then I'll go home satisfied."

"All right," said Jonas.

And, putting the child on the bench, he told her he'd be back in a minute, and hurried after Pomona, to give a hasty look for the desired American.

Corinne, the offspring of Jonas and Pomona, had some peculiarities. One of these was that she was accustomed to stay where she was put. Ever since she had been old enough to be carried about, she had been carried about by one parent or the other; and, as it was frequently necessary to set her down, she had learned to sit and wait until she was taken up again. She was now nearly two years old, very strong and active, and of an intellect which had already begun to tower. She could walk very well, but Jonas took such delight in carrying her that he seldom appeared to recognize her ability to use her legs. She could also talk, but how much her parents did not know. She was a taciturn child, and preferred to keep her thoughts to herself, and, although she sometimes astonished us all by imitating remarks she had heard, she frequently declined to repeat the simplest words that had been taught her.

Corinne remained on the bench about a minute after her father had left her, and then, contrary to her usual custom, she determined to leave the place where she had been put. Turning over on her stomach, after the manner of babies, she lowered her feet to the ground. Having obtained a foothold, she turned herself about and proceeded, with sturdy steps, to a baby-carriage near by which had attracted her attention. This carriage, which was unattended, contained a baby, somewhat smaller and younger than Corinne, who sat up and gazed with youthful interest at the visitor who stood by the side of her vehicle. Corinne examined, with a critical eye, the carriage and its occupant. She looked at the soft pillow at the baby's back, and regarded with admiration the afghan crocheted in gay colors which was spread over its lap, and the spacious gig-top which shielded it from the sun. She stooped down and looked at the wheels, and stood up and gazed at the blue eyes and canary hair of the little occupant. Then, in quiet but decided tones, Corinne said:—

"Dit out!"

The other baby looked at her, but made no movement to obey. After waiting a few moments, an expression of stern severity spreading itself the while over her countenance, Corinne reached over and put her arms around the fair-haired child. Then, with all her weight and strength, she threw herself backward and downward. The other baby, being light, was thus drawn bodily out of its carriage, and Corinne sat heavily upon the ground, her new acquaintance sprawling in her lap. Notwithstanding that she bore the brunt of the fall upon the gravel, Corinne uttered no cry; but, disengaging herself from her encumbrance, she rose to her feet. The other baby imitated her, and Corinne, taking her by the hand, led her to the bench where she herself had been left.

"Dit up!" said Corinne.

This, however, the other baby was unable to do; but she stood quite still, evidently greatly interested in the proceedings. Corinne left her and walked to the little carriage, into which she proceeded to climb. After some extraordinary exertions, during which her fat legs were frequently thrust through the spokes of the wheels and ruthlessly drawn out again, she tumbled in. Arranging herself as comfortably as she knew how, she drew the gay afghan over her, leaned back upon the soft pillow, gazed up at the sheltering gig-top, and resigned herself to luxurious bliss. At this supreme moment, the nurse who had had charge of the carriage and its occupant came hurrying around a corner of the path. She had been taking leave of some of her nurse-maid friends, and had stayed longer than she had intended. It was necessary for her to take a suitable leave of these ladies, for that night she was going on a journey. She had been told to take the baby out for an airing, and to bring it back early. Now, to her surprise, the afternoon had nearly gone, and hurrying to the little carriage she seized the handle at the back and rapidly pushed it home, without stopping to look beneath the overhanging gig-top, or at the green bench, with which her somewhat worried soul had no concern. If anything could add to Corinne's ecstatic delight, it was this charming motion. Closing her eyes contentedly, she dropped asleep.

The baby with canary hair looked at the receding nurse and carriage with widening eyes and reddening cheeks. Then, opening her mouth, she uttered the cry of the deserted; but the panic-stricken nurse did not hear her, and, if she had, what were the cries of other children to her? Her only business was to get home quickly with her young charge.

About five minutes after these events, Jonas and Pomona came hurrying along the path. They, too, had stayed away much longer than they had intended, and had suddenly given up their search for the American, whom they had hoped to find in high relief upon the base of the Albert Memorial. Stepping quickly to the child, who still stood sobbing by the bench, Jonas exclaimed, "You poor itty—!"

And then he stopped suddenly. Pomona also stood for a second, and then she made a dash at the child, and snatched it up. Gazing sharply at its tear-smeared countenance, she exclaimed, "What's this?"

The baby did not seem able to explain what it was, and only answered by a tearful sob. Jonas did not say a word; but, with the lithe quickness of a dog after a rat, he began to search behind and under benches, in the bushes, on the grass, here, there, and everywhere.

About nine o'clock that evening, Pomona came to us with tears in her eyes, and the canary-haired baby in her arms, and told us that Corinne was lost. They had searched everywhere; they had gone to the police; telegrams had been sent to every station; they had done everything that could be done, but had found no trace of the child.

"If I hadn't this," sobbed Pomona, holding out the child, "I believe I'd go wild. It isn't that she can take the place of my dear baby, but by a-keepin' hold of her I believe we'll git on the track of Corinne."

We were both much affected by this news, and Euphemia joined Pomona in her tears.

"Jonas is scourin' the town yet," said Pomona. "He'll never give up till he drops. But I felt you ought to know, and I couldn't keep this little thing in the night-air no longer. It's a sweet child, and its clothes are lovely. If it's got a mother, she's bound to want to see it before long; an' if ever I ketch sight of her, she don't git away from me till I have my child."

"It is a very extraordinary case," I said. "Children are often stolen, but it is seldom we hear of one being taken and another left in its place, especially when the children are of different ages, and totally unlike."

"That's so," said Pomona. "At first, I thought that Corinne had been changed off for a princess, or something like that, but nobody couldn't make anybody believe that my big, black-haired baby was this white-an'-yaller thing."

"Can't you find any mark on her clothes," asked Euphemia, "by which you could discover her parentage? If there are no initials, perhaps you can find a coronet or a coat of arms."

"No," said Pomona, "there aint nothin'. I've looked careful. But there's great comfort to think that Corinne's well stamped."

"Stamped!" we exclaimed. "What do you mean by that?"

"Why, you see," answered Pomona, "when Jone an' I was goin' to bring our baby over here among so many million people, we thought there might be danger of its gittin' lost or mislaid, though we never really believed any such thing would happen, or we wouldn't have come. An' so we agreed to mark her, for I've often read about babies bein' stole an' kept two or three years, and when found bein' so changed their own mothers didn't know 'em. Jone said we'd better tattoo Corinne, for them marks would always be there, but I wouldn't agree to have the little creature's skin stuck with needles, not even after Jone said we might give her chloryform; so we agreed to stamp initials on her with Perkins's Indelible Dab. It is intended to mark sheep, but it don't hurt, and it don't never come off. We put the letters on the back of her heels, where they wouldn't show, for she's never to go barefoot, an' where they'd be easy got at if we wanted to find 'em. We put R.G. on one heel for the name of the place, and J.P. on the other heel for Jonas an' me. If, twenty years from now," said Pomona, her tears welling out afresh, "I should see a young woman with eyes like Corinne's, an' that I felt was her, a-walking up to the bridal altar, with all the white flowers, an' the floatin' veils, an' the crowds in the church, an' the music playin', an' the minister all ready, I'd jist jerk that young woman into the vestry-room, an' have off her shoes an' stockin's in no time. An' if she had R.G. on one heel, an' J.P. on the other, that bridegroom could go home alone."

We confidently assured Pomona that with such means of identification, and the united action of ourselves and the police, the child would surely be found, and we accompanied her to her lodgings, which were now in a house not far from our own.

When the nurse reached home with the little carriage it was almost dark, and, snatching up the child, she ran to the nursery without meeting any one. The child felt heavy, but she was in such a hurry she scarcely noticed that. She put it upon the bed, and then lighting the gas she unwrapped the afghan, in which the little creature was now almost entirely enveloped. When she saw the face, and the black hair, from which the cap had fallen off, she was nearly frightened to death, but, fortunately for herself, she did not scream. She was rather a stupid woman, with but few ideas, but she could not fail to see that some one had taken her charge, and put this child in its place. Her first impulse was to run back to the gardens, but she felt certain that her baby had been carried off; and, besides, she could not, without discovery, leave the child here or take it with her; and while she stood in dumb horror, her mistress sent for her. The lady was just going out to dinner, and told the nurse that, as they were all to start for the Continent by the tidal train, which left at ten o'clock that night, she must be ready with the baby, well wrapped up for the journey. The half-stupefied woman had no words nor courage with which to declare, at this moment, the true state of the case. She said nothing, and went back to the nursery and sat there in dumb consternation, and without sense enough to make a plan of any kind. The strange child soon awoke and began to cry, and then the nurse mechanically fed it, and it went to sleep again. When the summons came to her to prepare for the journey, in cowardly haste she wrapped the baby, so carefully covering its head that she scarcely gave it a chance to breathe; and she and the lady's waiting-maid were sent in a cab to the Victoria Station. The lady was travelling with a party of friends, and the nurse and the waiting-maid were placed in the adjoining compartment of the railway-carriage. On the six hours' channel passage from Newhaven to Dieppe the lady was extremely sick, and reached France in such a condition that she had to be almost carried on shore. It had been her intention to stop a few days at this fashionable watering-place, but she declared that she must go straight on to Paris, where she could be properly attended to, and, moreover, that she never wanted to see the sea again. When she had been placed in the train for Paris she sent for the nurse, and feebly asked how the baby was, and if it had been seasick. On being told that it was all right, and had not shown a sign of illness, she expressed her gratification, and lay back among her rugs.

The nurse and the waiting-maid travelled together, as before, but the latter, wearied by her night's attendance upon her mistress, slept all the way from Dieppe to Paris. When they reached that city, they went into the waiting-room until a carriage could be procured for them, and there the nurse, placing the baby on a seat, asked her companion to take care of it for a few minutes. She then went out of the station door, and disappeared into Paris.

In this way, the brunt of the terrible disclosure, which came very soon, was thrown upon the waiting-maid. No one, however, attached any blame to her: of course, the absconding nurse had carried away the fair-haired child. The waiting-maid had been separated from her during the passage from the train to the station, and it was supposed that in this way an exchange of babies had been easily made by her and her confederates. When the mother knew of her loss, her grief was so violent that for a time her life was in danger. All Paris was searched by the police and her friends, but no traces could be found of the wicked nurse and the fair-haired child. Money, which, of course, was considered the object of the inhuman crime, was freely offered, but to no avail. No one imagined for an instant that the exchange was made before the party reached Paris. It seemed plain enough that the crime was committed when the woman fled.

Corinne, who had been placed in the charge of a servant until it was determined what to do with her, was not at all satisfied with the new state of affairs, and loudly demanded her papa and mamma, behaving for a time in a very turbulent way. In a few days, the lady recovered her strength, and asked to see this child. The initials upon Corinne's heels had been discovered, and, when she was told of these, the lady examined them closely.

"The people who left this child," she exclaimed, "do not intend to lose her! They know where she is, and they will keep a watch upon her, and when they get a chance they will take her. I, too, will keep a watch upon her, and when they come for her I shall see them."

Her use of words soon showed Corinne to be of English parentage, and it was generally supposed that she had been stolen from some travellers, and had been used at the station as a means of giving time to the nurse to get away with the other child.

In accord with her resolution, the grief-stricken lady put Corinne in the charge of a trusty woman, and, moreover, scarcely ever allowed her to be out of her sight.

It was suggested that advertisement be made for the parents of a child marked with E.G. and J.P. But to this the lady decidedly objected.

"If her parents find her," she said, "they will take her away; and I want to keep her till the thieves come for her. I have lost my child, and as this one is the only clue I shall ever have to her, I intend to keep it. When I have found my child, it will be time enough to restore this one."

Thus selfish is maternal love.

Pomona bore up better under the loss than did Jonas. Neither of them gave up the search for a day; but Jonas, haggard and worn, wandered aimlessly about the city, visiting every place into which he imagined a child might have wandered, or might have been taken, searching even to the crypt in the Guildhall and the Tower of London. Pomona's mind worked quite as actively as her husband's body. She took great care of "Little Kensington," as she called the strange child from the place where she had been found; and therefore could not go about as Jonas did. After days and nights of ceaseless supposition, she had come to the conclusion that Corinne had been stolen by opera singers.

"I suppose you never knew it," she said to us, "for I took pains not to let it disturb you, but that child has notes in her voice about two stories higher than any operer prymer donner that I ever heard, an' I've heard lots of 'em, for I used to go into the top gallery of the operer as often as into the theayter; an' if any operer singer ever heard them high notes of Corinne's,—an' there was times when she'd let 'em out without the least bit of a notice,—it's them that's took her."

"But, my poor Pomona," said Euphemia, "you don't suppose that little child could be of any use to an opera singer; at least, not for years and years."

"Oh, yes, ma'am," replied Pomona; "she was none too little. Sopranners is like mocking-birds; they've got to be took young."

No arguments could shake Pomona's belief in this theory. And she daily lamented the fact that there was no opera in London at that time that she might go to the performances, and see if there was any one on the stage who looked mean enough to steal a child.

"If she was there," said Pomona, "I'd know it. She'd feel the scorn of a mother's eye on her, an' her guilty heart would make her forget her part."

Pomona frequently went into Kensington Gardens, and laid traps for opera singers who might be sojourning in London. She would take Little Kensington into the gardens, and, placing her carefully in the corner of a bench, would retire to a short distance and pretend to be absorbed in a book, while her sharp eyes kept up the watch for a long-haired tenor, or a beautifully dressed soprano, who should suddenly rush out from the bushes and seize the child.

"I wouldn't make no fuss if they was to come out," she said. "Little Kensington would go under my arm, not theirn, an' I'd walk calmly with 'em to their home. Then I'd say: 'Give me my child, an' take yourn, which, though she probably hasn't got no voice, is a lot too good for you; and may the house hurl stools at you the next time you appear, is the limit of a mother's curse.'"

But, alas for Pomona, no opera singers ever showed themselves.

These days of our stay in London were not pleasant. We went about little, and enjoyed nothing. At last Pomona came to us, her face pale but determined.

"It's no use," she said, "for us to keep you here no longer, when I know you've got through with the place, and want to go on, an' we'll go, too, for I don't believe my child's in London. She's been took away, an' we might as well look for her in one place as another. The perlice tells us that if she's found here, they'll know it fust, an' they'll telegraph to us wherever we is; an' if it wasn't fur nuthin' else, it would be a mercy to git Jone out of this place. He goes about like a cat after her drowned kittens. It's a-bringin' out them chills of hisn, an' the next thing it'll kill him. I can't make him believe in the findin' of Corinne as firm as I do, but I know as long as Perkins's Indelible Dab holds out (an' there's no rubbin' nor washin' it off) I'll git my child."

I admitted, but not with Pomona's hopefulness, that the child might be found as easily in Paris as here.

"And we've seen everything about London," said Euphemia, "except Windsor Castle. I did want, and still want, to see just how the Queen keeps house, and perhaps get some ideas which might be useful; but Her Majesty is away now, and, although they say that's the time to go there, it is not the time for me. You'll not find me going about inspecting domestic arrangements when the lady of the house is away."

So we packed up and went to Paris, taking Little Kensington along. Notwithstanding our great sympathy with Corinne's parents, Euphemia and myself could not help becoming somewhat resigned to the affliction which had befallen them, and we found ourselves obliged to enjoy the trip very much. Euphemia became greatly excited and exhilarated as we entered Paris. For weeks I knew she had been pining for this city. As she stepped from the train she seemed to breathe a new air, and her eyes sparkled as she knew by the prattle and cries about her that she was really in France.

We were obliged to wait some time in the station before we could claim our baggage, and while we were standing there Euphemia drew my attention to a placard on the wall. "Look at that!" she exclaimed. "Even here, on our very entrance to the city, we see signs of that politeness which is the very heart of the nation. I can't read the whole of that notice from here, but those words in large letters show that it refers to the observance of the ancient etiquettes. Think of it! Here in a railroad station people are expected to behave to each other with the old-time dignity and gallantry of our forefathers. I tell you it thrills my very soul to think I am among such a people, and I am glad they can't understand what I say, so that I may speak right out."

I never had the heart to throw cold water on Euphemia's noble emotions, and so I did not tell her that the notice merely requested travellers to remove from their trunks the anciennes etiquettes, or old railway labels.

We were not rich tourists, and we all took lodgings in a small hotel to which we had been recommended. It was in the Latin Quarter, near the river, and opposite the vast palace of the Louvre, into whose labyrinth of picture-galleries Euphemia and I were eager to plunge.

But first we all went to the office of the American Consul, and consulted him in regard to the proper measures to be taken for searching for the little Corinne in Paris. After that, for some days, Jonas and Pomona spent all their time, and Euphemia and I part of ours, in looking for the child. Euphemia's Parisian exhilaration continued to increase, but there were some things that disappointed her.

"I thought," said she, "that people in France took their morning coffee in bed, but they do not bring it up to us."

"But, my dear," said I, "I am sure you said before we came here that you considered taking coffee in bed as an abominable habit, and that nothing could ever make you like it."

"I know," said she, "that I have always thought it a lazy custom, and not a bit nice, and I think so yet. But still, when we are in a strange country, I expect to live as other people do."

It was quite evident that Euphemia had been looking forward for some time to the novel experience of taking her coffee in bed. But the gray-haired old gentleman who acted as our chambermaid never hinted that he supposed we wanted anything of the kind.

Nothing, however, excited Euphemia's indignation so much as the practice of giving a pourboire to cabmen and others. "It is simply feeding the flames of intemperance," she said. When she had occasion to take a cab by herself, she never conformed to this reprehensible custom. When she paid the driver, she would add something to the regular fare, but as she gave it to him she would say in her most distinct French: "Pour manger. Comprenezvous?" The cocher would generally nod his head, and thank her very kindly, which he had good reason to do, for she never forgot that it took more money to buy food than drink.

In spite of the attractions of the city, our sojourn in Paris was not satisfactory. Apart from the family trouble which oppressed us, it rained nearly all the time. We were told that in order to see Paris at its best we should come in the spring. In the month of May it was charming. Then everybody would be out-of-doors, and we would see a whole city enjoying life. As we wished to enjoy life without waiting for the spring, we determined to move southward, and visit during the winter those parts of Europe which then lay under blue skies and a warm sun. It was impossible, at present, for Pomona and Jonas to enjoy life anywhere, and they would remain in Paris, and then, if they did not find their child in a reasonable time, they would join us. Neither of them understood French, but this did not trouble them in the slightest. Early in their Paris wanderings they had met with a boy who had once lived in New York, and they had taken him into pay as an interpreter. He charged them a franc and a half a day, and I am sure they got their money's worth.

Soon after we had made up our minds to move toward the south, I came home from a visit to the bankers, and joyfully told Euphemia that I had met Baxter.

"Baxter?" said she, inquiringly; "who is he?"

"I used to go to school with him," I said; "and to think that I should meet him here!"

"I never heard you mention him before," she remarked.

"No," I answered; "it must be fifteen or sixteen years since I have seen him, and really it is a great pleasure to meet him here. He is a capital fellow. He was very glad to see me."

"I should think," said Euphemia, "if you like each other so much that you would have exchanged visits in America, or, at least, have corresponded."

"Oh, it is a very different thing at home," I said; "but here it is delightful to meet an old school friend like Baxter. He is coming to see us this evening."

That evening Baxter came. He was delighted to meet Euphemia, and inquired with much solicitude about our plans and movements. He had never heard of my marriage, and, for years, had not known whether I was dead or alive. Now he took the keenest interest in me and mine. We were a little sorry to find that this was not Baxter's first visit to Europe. He had been here several times; and, as he expressed it, "had knocked about a good deal over the Continent." He was dreadfully familiar with everything, and talked about some places we were longing to see in a way that considerably dampened our enthusiasm. In fact, there was about him an air of superiority which, though tempered by much kindliness, was not altogether agreeable. He highly approved our idea of leaving Paris. "The city is nothing now," he said. "You ought to see it in May." We said we had heard that, and then spoke of Italy. "You mustn't go there in the winter," he said. "You don't see the country at its best. May is the time for Italy. Then it is neither too hot nor too cold, and you will find out what an Italian sky is." We said that we hoped to be in England in the spring, and he agreed that we were right there. "England is never so lovely as in May."

"Well!" exclaimed Euphemia; "it seems to me, from all I hear, that we ought to take about twelve years to see Europe. We should leave the United States every April, spend May in some one place, and go back in June. And this we ought to do each year until we have seen all the places in May. This might do very well for any one who had plenty of money, and who liked the ocean, but I don't think we could stand it. As for me," she continued, "I would like to spend these months, so cold and disagreeable here, in the sunny lands of Southern France. I want to see the vineyards and the olive groves, and the dark-eyed maidens singing in the fields. I long for the soft skies of Provence, and to hear the musical dialect in which Frederic Mistral wrote his 'Miréio.'"

"That sounds very well," said Baxter, "but in all those southern countries you must be prepared in winter for the rigors of the climate. The sun is pretty warm sometimes at this season, but as soon as you get out of it you will freeze to death if you are not careful. The only way to keep warm is to be in the sun, out of the wind, and that won't work on rainy days, and winter is the rainy season, you know. In the houses it is as cold as ice, and the fires don't amount to anything. You might as well light a bundle of wooden tooth-picks and put it in the fire-place. If you could sleep all the time you might be comfortable, for they give you a feather-bed to cover yourself with. Outside you may do well enough if you keep up a steady walking, but indoors you will have hard work to keep warm. You must wear chest-protectors. They sell them down there—great big ones, made of rabbit-skins; and a nice thing for a man to have to wear in the house is a pair of cloth bags lined with fur. They would keep his feet and legs warm when he isn't walking. It is well, too, to have a pair of smaller fur bags for your hands when you are in the house. You can have a little hole in the end of one of them through which you can stick a pen-holder, and then you can write letters. An india-rubber bag, filled with hot water, to lower down your back, is a great comfort. You haven't any idea how cold your spine gets in those warm countries. And, if I were you, I'd avoid a place where you see them carting coal stoves around. Those are the worst spots. And you need not expect to get one of the stoves, not while they can sell you wood at two sticks for a franc. You had better go to some place where they are not accustomed to having tourists. In the regular resorts they are afraid to make any show of keeping warm, for fear people will think they are in the habit of having cold weather. And in Italy you've got to be precious careful, or you'll be taken sick. And another thing. I suppose you brought a great deal of baggage with you. You, for instance," said our friend, turning to me, "packed up, I suppose, a heavy overcoat for cold weather, and a lighter one, and a good winter suit, and a good summer one, besides another for spring and fall, and an old suit to lie about in in the orange groves, and a dress suit, besides such convenient articles as old boots for tramping in, pocket-lanterns, and so forth."

Strange to say, I had all these, besides many other things of a similar kind, and I could not help admitting it.

"Well," said Baxter, "you'd better get rid of the most of that as soon as you can, for if you travel with that sort of heavy weight in the Mediterranean countries, you might as well write home and get your house mortgaged. All along the lines of travel, in the south of Europe, you find the hotels piled up with American baggage left there by travellers, who'll never send for it. It reminds one of the rows of ox skeletons that used to mark out the roads to California. But I guess you'll be able to stick it out. Good bye. Let me hear from you."

When Baxter left us, we could not but feel a little down-hearted, and Euphemia turned to her guide-book to see if his remarks were corroborated there.

"Well, there is one comfort," she exclaimed at last; "this book says that in Naples epidemics are not so deadly as they are in some other places, and if the traveller observes about a page of directions, which are given here, and consults a physician the moment he feels himself out of order, it is quite possible to ward off attacks of fever. That is encouraging, and I think we might as well go on."

"Yes," said I, "and here, in this newspaper, a hotel in Venice advertises that its situation enables it to avoid the odors of the Grand Canal; and an undertaker in Nice advertises that he will forward the corpses of tourists to all parts of Europe and America. I think there is a chance of our getting back, either dead or alive, and so I also say, let us go on."

But before we left Paris, we determined to go to the Grand Opera, which we had not yet visited, and Euphemia proposed that we should take Pomona with us. The poor girl was looking wretched and woe-begone, and needed to have her mind diverted from her trouble. Jonas, at the best of times, could not be persuaded to any amusement of this sort, but Pomona agreed to go. We had no idea of dressing for the boxes, and we took good front seats in the upper circle, where we could see the whole interior of the splendid house. As soon as the performance commenced, the old dramatic fire began to burn in Pomona. Her eyes sparkled as they had not done for many a day, and she really looked like her own bright self. The opera was "Le Prophète," and, as none of us had ever seen anything produced on so magnificent a scale, we were greatly interested, especially in the act which opens with that wonderful winter scene in the forest, with hundreds of people scattered about under the great trees, with horses and sleighs and the frozen river in the background where the skaters came gliding on. The grouping was picturesque and artistic; the scale of the scene was immense; there was a vast concourse of people on the stage; the dances were beautiful; the merry skaters graceful; the music was inspiring.

Suddenly, above the voices of the chorus, above the drums and bass strings of the orchestra, above the highest notes of the sopranos, above the great chandelier itself, came two notes distinct and plain, and the words to which they were set, were:—


Like a shot Pomona was on her feet. With arms outspread and her whole figure dilating until she seemed twice as large as usual, I thought she was about to spring over the balcony into the house below. I clutched her, and Euphemia and I, both upon our feet, followed her gaze and saw upon the stage a little girl in gay array, and upturned face. It was the lost Corinne.

Without a word, Pomona made a sudden turn, sprang up the steps behind her, and out upon the lobby, Euphemia and I close behind her. Around and down the steps we swept, from lobby to lobby, amazing the cloak-keepers and attendants, but stopping for nothing; down the grand staircase like an avalanche, almost into the arms of the astonished military sentinels, who, startled from their soldier-like propriety, sprang, muskets in hand, toward us. It was only then that I was able to speak to Pomona, and breathlessly ask her where she was going.

"To the stage-door!" she cried, making a motion to hurl to the ground the soldier before her. But there was no need to go to any stage-door. In a moment there rushed along the corridor a lady, dressed apparently in all the colors of the rainbow, and bearing in her arms a child. There was a quick swoop, and in another moment Pomona had the child. But clinging to its garments, the lady cried, in excellent English, but with some foreign tinge:—

"Where is my child you stole?"

"Stole your grandmother!" briefly ejaculated Pomona. And then, in grand forgetfulness of everything but her great joy, she folded her arms around her child, and standing like a statue of motherly content, she seemed, in our eyes, to rise to the regions of the caryatides and the ceiling frescos. Not another word she spoke, and amid the confusion of questions and exclamations, and the wild demands of the lady, Euphemia and I contrived to make her understand the true state of the case, and that her child was probably at our lodgings. Then there were great exclamations and quick commands; and, directly, four of us were in a carriage whirling to our hotel. All the way, Pomona sat silent with her child clasped tightly, while Euphemia and I kept up an earnest but unsatisfactory conversation with the lady; for, as to this strange affair, we could tell each other but little. We learned from the lady, who was an assistant soprano at the Grand Opera, how Corinne came to her in Paris, and how she had always kept her with her, even dressing her up, and taking her on the stage in that great act where as many men, women, and children as possible were brought upon the scene. When she heard the cry of Corinne, she knew the child had seen its mother, and then, whether the opera went on or not, it mattered not to her.

When the carriage stopped, the three women sprang out at once, and how they all got through the door, I cannot tell. There was such a tremendous ring at the gate of the court that the old concierge, who opened it by pulling a wire in his little den somewhere in the rear, must have been dreadfully startled in his sleep. We rushed through the court and up the stairs past our apartments to Pomona's room; and there in the open doorway stood Jonas, his coat off, his sandy hair in wild confusion, his face radiant, and in his hands Little Kensington in her nightgown.

"I knew by the row on the stairs you'd brought her home," he exclaimed, as Little Kensington was snatched from him and Corinne was put into his arms.

We left Jonas and Pomona to their wild delight, and I accompanied the equally happy lady to the opera house, where I took occasion to reclaim the wraps which we had left behind in our sudden flight.

When the police of Paris were told to give up their search for an absconding nurse accompanied by a child, and to look for one without such encumbrance, they found her. From this woman was obtained much of the story I have told, and a good deal more was drawn out, little by little, from Corinne, who took especial pleasure in telling, in brief sentences, how she had ousted the lazy baby from the carriage, and how she had scratched her own legs in getting in.

"What I'm proud of," said Pomona, "is that she did it all herself. It wasn't none of your common stealin's an' findin's; an' it aint everywhere you'll see a child that kin git itself lost back of Prince Albert's monnyment, an' git itself found at the operer in Paris, an' attend to both ends of the case itself. An', after all, them two high notes of hern was more good than Perkins's Indelible Dab."