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Two Americans
by [?]

Perhaps if there was anything important in the migration of the Maynard family to Europe it rested solely upon the singular fact that Mr. Maynard did not go there in the expectation of marrying his daughter to a nobleman. A Charleston merchant, whose house represented two honorable generations, had, thirty years ago, a certain self-respect which did not require extraneous aid and foreign support, and it is exceedingly probable that his intention of spending a few years abroad had no ulterior motive than pleasure seeking and the observation of many things–principally of the past–which his own country did not possess. His future and that of his family lay in his own land, yet with practical common sense he adjusted himself temporarily to his new surroundings. In doing so, he had much to learn of others, and others had something to learn of him; he found that the best people had a high simplicity equal to his own; he corrected their impressions that a Southerner had more or less negro blood in his veins, and that, although a slave owner, he did not necessarily represent an aristocracy. With a distinguishing dialect of which he was not ashamed, a frank familiarity of approach joined to an invincible courtesy of manner, which made even his republican “Sir” equal to the ordinary address to royalty, he was always respected and seldom misunderstood. When he was–it was unfortunate for those who misunderstood him. His type was as distinctive and original as his cousin’s, the Englishman, whom it was not the fashion then to imitate. So that, whether in the hotel of a capital, the Kursaal of a Spa, or the humbler pension of a Swiss village, he was always characteristic. Less so was his wife, who, with the chameleon quality of her transplanted countrywomen, was already Parisian in dress; still less so his daughter, who had by this time absorbed the peculiarities of her French, German, and Italian governesses. Yet neither had yet learned to evade their nationality–or apologize for it.

Mr. Maynard and his family remained for three years in Europe, his stay having been prolonged by political excitement in his own State of South Carolina. Commerce is apt to knock the insularity out of people; distance from one’s own distinctive locality gives a wider range to the vision, and the retired merchant foresaw ruin in his State’s politics, and from the viewpoint of all Europe beheld instead of the usual collection of individual States–his whole country. But the excitement increasing, he was finally impelled to return in a faint hope of doing something to allay it, taking his wife with him, but leaving his daughter at school in Paris. At about this time, however, a single cannon shot fired at the national flag on Fort Sumter shook the whole country, reverberated even in Europe, sending some earnest hearts back to do battle for State or country, sending others less earnest into inglorious exile, but, saddest of all! knocking over the school bench of a girl at the Paris pensionnat. For that shot had also sunk Maynard’s ships at the Charleston wharves, scattered his piled Cotton bales awaiting shipment at the quays, and drove him, a ruined man, into the “Home Guard” against his better judgment. Helen Maynard, like a good girl, had implored her father to let her return and share his risks. But the answer was “to wait” until this nine days’ madness of an uprising was over. That madness lasted six years, outlived Maynard, whose gray, misdoubting head bit the dust at Ball’s Bluff; outlived his colorless widow, and left Kelly a penniless orphan.

Yet enough of her country was left in her to make her courageous and independent of her past. They say that when she got the news she cried a little, and then laid the letter and what was left of her last monthly allowance in Madame Ablas’ lap. Madame was devastated. “But you, impoverished and desolated angel, what of you?” “I shall get some of it back,” said the desolated angel with ingenuous candor, “for I speak better French and English than the other girls, and I shall teach THEM until I can get into the Conservatoire, for I have a voice. You yourself have told papa so.” From such angelic directness there was no appeal. Madame Ablas had a heart,–more, she had a French manageress’s discriminating instinct. The American schoolgirl was installed in a teacher’s desk; her bosom friends and fellow students became her pupils. To some of the richest, and they were mainly of her own country, she sold her smartest, latest dresses, jewels, and trinkets at a very good figure, and put the money away against the Conservatoire in the future. She worked hard, she endured patiently everything but commiseration. “I’d have you know, Miss,” she said to Miss de Laine, daughter of the famous house of Musslin, de Laine & Co., of New York, “that whatever my position HERE may be, it is not one to be patronized by a tapeseller’s daughter. My case is not such a very ‘sad one,’ thank you, and I prefer not to be spoken of as having seen ‘better days’ by people who haven’t. There! Don’t rap your desk with your pencil when you speak to me, or I shall call out ‘Cash!’ before the whole class.” So regrettable an exhibition of temper naturally alienated certain of her compatriots who were unduly sensitive of their origin, and as they formed a considerable colony who were then reveling in the dregs of the Empire and the last orgies of a tottering court, eventually cost her her place. A republican so aristocratic was not to be tolerated by the true-born Americans who paid court to De Morny for the phosphorescent splendors of St. Cloud and the Tuileries, and Miss Helen lost their favor. But she had already saved enough money for the Conservatoire and a little attic in a very tall house in a narrow street that trickled into the ceaseless flow of the Rue Lafayette. Here for four years she trotted backwards and forwards regularly to work with the freshness of youth and the inflexible set purpose of maturity. Here, rain or shine, summer or winter, in the mellow season when the large cafes expanded under the white sunshine into an overflow of little tables on the pavement, or when the red glow of the Brasserie shone through frosty panes on the turned-up collars of pinched Parisians who hurried by, she was always to be seen.