Stephan Cain looked around the huge room crammed with dirty, adolescent girls in New Orleans. His wife, Enna, had stationed herself at his side, holding on to his arm. His 18-year-old son, Arthur, stood directly behind him.
How were they to choose one girl out of this group? It seemed an impossible task.
Seemingly out of nowhere, a girl plowed into him. Stephan righted himself quickly, and took hold of the girl's elbow, to steady her.
She gasped & then blushed. "Forgive me, sir." She bobbed a curtsy. "I'm feeling… odd, today. I'm sorry."
Surprised at the orphan's good manners, he nodded swiftly. "No harm done. Are you alright?"
"Oh, yes sir."
She turned to leave, yet stopped and turned back around when Enna asked, "What is your name, young lady?"
"And your age, Katie?"
"How long have you been here, Katie?" Stephan asked her.
"I'm not sure."
"It must be quite a while, then."
"Would you like to come out into the hallway, where we can talk without the din?" Stephan asked.
"If you'd like."
Stephan led the way, and the four of them settled on the hard, wooden bench outside the dorm.
"What do you know of your family, Katie?" Stephan asked.
"Only a little. I don't remember my parents."
"Do you have siblings?"
The girl seemed to struggle with each answer. "I think not."
"Do you have any education?"
"Tell me about it."
"I can read quite well & do advanced arithmetic, even balance books. I'm not sure how much grammar I know. I'm good at spelling. I know a little of geography, science, and history. I'm terrible at penmanship. I can speak a little of a few different languages, especially Spanish & Pennsylvania Dutch."
Stephan nodded, surprised. This girl had received a boy's education! "What about French, embroidery, dance, and etiquette?"
"I know a few words of French, the bare minimum of embroidery, I can sew, do the box step, and know little to no etiquette."
"Thank you, Katie. Do you think my family & I could talk privately, & with the headmaster?"
"Of course." She stood. "I'm afraid I don't know where the office is, though."
Stephan waited until Katie had left & then turned to his wife & son. "What do you think of her?" He asked.
"She's pretty, polite, and obviously intelligent; though it is strange that she knows so little about herself. I like her."
"Do you think she would fit into the family?"
"With a little refinement to her education, yes, she'd make a fine daughter & sister. She even looks a little like Mama."
"True. What do you think, Mrs. Cain?"
"I agree with Arthur. Her education lacks refinement, though her mannerisms seem acceptable. She really seems like a fine girl. I think we ought to discuss it with the headmaster, & then decide."
"Very well." Stephan offered his wife his arm. "Shall we?"
Stephan & Enna settled into the chairs on the side of the desk opposite the headmaster. Arthur stood behind them.
"Would you like a chair, young man?" Mr. Weatherbee asked.
"I'm fine, thank you."
"Very well. What can I do for you?" He addressed Stephan.
"We're interested in adopting a girl we just met. 13 year old Katie."
"Do you have a more exact description?" Mr. Weatherbee asked, going through folders in a desk drawer.
"No. She's not from the south I don't think. Her accent seemed a little put-on."
"Probably Katie Shapiro." Mr. Weatherbee laid a folder on the desk and spread out its contents. "She came here as an infant, just appeared on the stoop. This was pinned to her dress." He set a note in front of Stephan.
Stephan read it aloud. "Katie Madelyn Shapiro, born 7-4-1826 to an unwed mother of a fine family."
Stephan nodded & returned the note. "She has a rather odd education. Where did she receive it?"
Mr. Weatherbee frowned. "What do you mean?"
"She mentioned extensive reading, arithmetic, spelling, and language arts knowledge, to note a few."
"The girls are only taught how to read, sew, & do basic arithmetic; if she knows anything else, then it must be self-taught."
"Do you wish to adopt her?"
Stephan looked to his family for conformation before he nodded. "Yes. Would it be possible to leave with her today?"
"Of course, let me get the papers."
Katie sat beside Arthur Cain in the Cain's carriage, trying to calm her thudding heart. Time-travel & adoption, all in 24 hours!
"Are you excited, Katie?" Mrs. Cain asked her, smiling.
"Oh, yes!" She smiled.
"Have you ever been on a plantation before?" Arthur asked her.
"No. I've only ever been at the orphanage."
"Then you'll adore Rosevale."
"Is that the plantation's name?"
Katie's smile widened.
"Katie, there's something we need to discuss with you." Mr. Cain said.
Katie turned toward him expectantly.
"It's your name. Katie Cain just doesn't sound right. Do you agree?"
Katie nodded. "I don't like alliterating names."
"What name would you like then?"
"Do you want it to be an "A" name?"
Mr. Cain smiled. "It doesn't have to be."
"What about 'Isabel?' I-s-a-b-e-l."
"I like it." Mr. Cain responded. "What about you, Enna?"
"It's a fine name."
"Do you like it, Arthur?" Katie asked, realizing that she desired his approval.
"I do, Miss Isabel Madelyn Cain."
"Good." Mr. Cain said. "Isabel it is. Now you can forget that Katie Shapiro even existed."
Isabel, smiling, decided to do just that.
"Well, now that that is settled, would you like a description of the estate, or do you want to wait to see it?" Mrs. Cain asked.
"I'd rather wait. Only, would you answer one question about it?"
"Is it big?"
"How many slaves are there on the property?"
Arthur smiled. "That's a second question. Besides, what does a beautiful & young southern belle want with such a statistic?"
"As a way of gauging wealth. It is that, is it not?"
"Indeed." Arthur nodded.
"In answer to your question, my daughter," Mr. Cain spoke, "There is upwards of 300."
Isabel did some quick arithmetic, & felt her eyes widen. That meant that over $270,000 had been spent. That was a huge amount in that day.
"Now, Isabel, another thing that begs discussion is your education." Mr. Cain broke into her thoughts. "You obviously have above and beyond the mathematical knowledge you need, so there will be no lessons in that area. Science & grammar are also unnecessary, & there will be no lessons in Dutch or Spanish, but I do want you to learn French. So your lessons will be in the following subjects: French, geography, history, penmanship, embroidery, & dance. There is also the possibility of spelling & etiquette."
"Yes sir." Isabel nodded, happy at the thought of not having to bother with arithmetic & science, both of which she disliked. Grammar she also viewed not with dislike, but she saw it as something of a bore, as it was, in her experience, repetitive.
"You will have a governess to tutor you in French, geography, history, & penmanship. Your mother will teach you embroidery, & etiquette, if it is found necessary. Arthur is the lucky fellow to tutor you in dance. Does that suit you?"
"Yes." Isabel nodded. "Though I admit, I pity Arthur, for I am not known to be graceful. In fact, as my lot is, I am quite the opposite."
"I don't believe it for a moment." Arthur said indignantly. "You are too beautiful to be clumsy."
"I thank you for your compliment, though it won't be long & you will change your opinion."
"We shall see."
Mr. Cain broke in. "Ah, there she is, Isabel. Just over this hill, Rosevale, your new home."
In a few minutes, the driver handed Isabel down from the carriage.
She looked toward the huge house in front of her. It was a three-story white plantation house. Wide steps led up to the second-story white porch, which was bordered by a white railing. The roof was gray. On all three levels, every ten feet or so, there was a tall window that was as tall as the doorway. There was also a porch around the third level of the house, which was a mirror image of the second level. The entryway to the first level was made of stone brick. A porch also surrounded the wings of the first level. It was, in short, breathtaking.
"You like it that much?" Mr. Cain asked, coming up beside her.
"I beg your pardon?"
"You looked a little stunned."
"It's just this: I've always dreamed about living in a place such as this."
"Oh?" Arthur strolled over.
Isabel nodded. "I also dreamt of having a sibling. I got that too."
"Though I would think you'd like a sister better than a brother."
"No, actually, I'd rather have a brother."
"You're not saying that only so you and your clumsy feet can get a better grade in your future dance lessons, are you?"
"Good. Now, may I escort you?" He offered his arm playfully.
"Of course you may, kind sir." Isabel nodded gracefully, playing along. This was all ready starting to feel like home.