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Title: Queechy, Volume I
Author: Warner, Susan, 1819-1885
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Queechy, Volume I" ***

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Susan Warner (1819-1885), Queechy (1852), Tauchnitz edition
1854



COLLECTION

OF

BRITISH AUTHORS


TAUCHNITZ EDITION.


VOL. 311


QUEECHY. BY ELIZABETH WETHERELL .


IN TWO VOLUMES.


VOL. I.



TAUCHNITZ EDITION

by the same author,


THE WIDE WIDE WORLD 1 vol.

THE HILLS OF THE SHATEMUC 2 vols.

SAY AND SEAL 2 vols.

THE OLD HELMET 2 vols.



QUEECHY.


BY


ELIZABETH WETHERELL

AUTHOR OF "THE WIDE, WIDE WORLD."


IN TWO VOLUMES.


_AUTHOR'S EDITION_.


IN TWO VOLUMES


VOL. I


LEIPZIG

BERNHARD TAUCHNITZ

1854


"I hope I may speak of woman without offence to the ladies."

THE GUARDIAN.


CONTENTS

OF VOLUME I.


Chapter I. Curtain rises at Queechy

II. Things loom out dimly through the smoke

III. You amuse me and I'll amuse you

IV. Aunt Miriam

V. As to whether a flower can grow in the woods

VI. Queechy at dinner

VII. The curtain falls upon one scene

VIII. The fairy leaves the house

IX. How Mr. Carleton happened to be not at home

X. The fairy and the Englishman

XI. A little candle

XII. Spars below

XIII. The fairy peeps into an English house, but does not stay there

XIV. Two Bibles in Paris

XV. Very literary

XVI Dissolving view, ending with a saw-mill in the distance

XVII. Rain and water-cresses for breakfast

XVIII. Mr. Rossitur's wits sharpened upon a ploughshare

XIX. Fleda goes after help and finds Dr. Quackenboss

XX. Society in Queechy

XXI. "The sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel"

XXII. Wherein a great many people pay their respects, in form and
substance

XXIII. The Captain out-generalled by the fairy

XXIV. A breath of the world at Queechy

XXV. "As good a boy as you need to have"

XXVI. Pine knots

XXVII. Sweet — in its consequences


QUEECHY.


VOL. I


CHAPTER I.


A single cloud on a sunny day,
When all the rest of heaven is clear,
A frown upon the atmosphere,
That hath no business to appear,
When skies are blue and earth is gay.
BYRON.


"Come, dear grandpa! — the old mare and the wagon are at the
gate — all ready."

"Well, dear! — responded a cheerful hearty voice, "they must
wait a bit; I haven't got my hat yet."

"O, I'll get that."

And the little speaker, a girl of some ten or eleven years
old, dashed past the old gentleman, and running along the
narrow passage which led to his room soon returned with the
hat in her hand.

"Yes, dear, — but that ain't all. I must put on my great-coat
— and I must look and see if I can find any money —"

"O yes — for the post-office. It's a beautiful day, grandpa.
Cynthy! — wont you come and help grandpa on with his great-
coat? — And I'll go out and keep watch of the old mare till
you're ready."

A needless caution. For the old mare, though spirited enough
for her years, had seen some fourteen or fifteen of them, and
was in no sort of danger of running away. She stood in what
was called the back meadow, just without the little paling
fence that enclosed a small courtyard round the house. Around
this courtyard rich pasture-fields lay on every side, the high
road cutting through them not more than a hundred or two feet
from the house.

The little girl planted herself on the outside of the paling,
and setting her back to it, eyed the old mare with great
contentment; for besides other grounds for security as to her
quiet behaviour, one of the men employed about the farm, who
had harnessed the equipage, was at the moment busied in
putting some clean straw in the bottom of the vehicle.

"Watkins," said the child presently to this person, "here is a
strap that is just ready to come unbuckled."

"What do you know about straps and buckles?" said the man
rather grumly. But he came round, however, to see what she
meant; and while he drew the one and fastened the other, took
special good care not to let Fleda know that her watchful eyes
had probably saved the whole riding party from ruin; as the
loosing of the strap would of necessity have brought on a
trial of the old mare's nerves, which not all her philosophy
could have been expected to meet. Fleda was satisfied to see
the buckle made fast, and that Watkins, roused by her hint, or
by the cause of it, afterwards took a somewhat careful look
over the whole establishment. In high glee then she climbed to
her seat in the little wagon, and her grandfather coming out
coated and hatted, with some difficulty mounted to his place
beside her.

"I think Watkins might have taken the trouble to wash the
wagon, without hurting himself," said Fleda; "it is all
speckled with mud since last time."

"Ha'n't he washed it!" said the old gentleman in a tone of
displeasure. "Watkins!""

"Well."

"Why didn't you wash the wagon as I told you?"

"I did."

"It's all over slosh."

"That's Mr. Didenhover's work — he had it out day 'fore
yesterday; and if you want it cleaned, Mr. Ringgan, you must
speak to him about it. Mr. Didenhover may file his own doings;
it's more than I'm a going to."

The old gentleman made no answer, except to acquaint the mare
with the fact of his being in readiness to set out. A shade of
annoyance and displeasure for a moment was upon his face; but
the gate opening from the meadow upon the high road had hardly
swung back upon its hinges after letting them out, when he
recovered the calm sweetness of demeanour that was habitual
with him, and seemed as well as his little granddaughter to
have given care the go-by for the time. Fleda had before this
found out another fault in the harness, or rather in Mr.
Didenhover, which like a wise little child she kept to
herself. A broken place which her grandfather had ordered to
be properly mended, was still tied up with the piece of rope
which had offended her eyes the last time they had driven out.
But she said not a word of it, because "it would only worry
grandpa for nothing;" and forgetting it almost immediately,
she moved on with him in a state of joyous happiness that no
mud-stained wagon nor untidy rope-bound harness could stir for
an instant. Her spirit was like a clear still-running stream,
which quietly and surely deposits every defiling and obscuring
admixture it may receive from its contact with the grosser
elements around; the stream might for a moment be clouded; but
a little while, and it would run as clear as ever. Neither
Fleda nor her grandfather cared a jot for the want of
elegancies which one despised, and the other, if she had ever
known, had well nigh forgotten. What mattered it to her that
the little old green wagon was rusty and worn, or that years
and service had robbed the old mare of all the jauntiness she
had ever possessed, so long as the sun shone and the birds
sang? And Mr. Ringgan, in any imaginary comparison, might be
pardoned for thinking that he was the proud man, and that his
poor little equipage carried such a treasure as many a coach
and four went without.

"Where are we going first, grandpa? to the post-office?"

"Just there!"

"How pleasant it is to go there always, isn't it, grandpa? You
have the paper to get, and I — I don't very often get a
letter, but I have always the _hope_ of getting one; and that's
something. May be I'll have one to-day, grandpa?"

"We'll see. It's time those cousins of yours wrote to you."

"O _they_ don't write to me — it's only Aunt Lucy; I never had a
letter from a single one of them, except once from little
Hugh, — don't you remember, grandpa? I should think he must be
a very nice little boy, shouldn't you?"

"Little boy? why I guess he is about as big as you are, Fleda
— he is eleven years old, ain't he?"

"Yes, but I am past eleven, you know, grandpa, and I am a
little girl."

This reasoning being unanswerable, Mr. Ringgan only bade the
old mare trot on.

It was a pleasant day in autumn. Fleda thought it particularly
pleasant for riding, for the sun was veiled with thin, hazy
clouds. The air was mild and still, and the woods, like brave
men, putting the best face upon falling fortunes. Some trees
were already dropping their leaves; the greater part standing
in all the varied splendour which the late frosts had given
them. The road, an excellent one, sloped gently up and down
across a wide arable country, in a state of high cultivation,
and now showing all the rich variety of autumn. The reddish
buckwheat patches, and fine wood-tints of the fields where
other grain had been; the bright green of young rye or winter
wheat, then soberer-coloured pasture or meadow lands, and ever
and anon a tuft of gay woods crowning a rising ground, or a
knot of the everlasting pines looking sedately and steadfastly
upon the fleeting glories of the world around them; these were
mingled and interchanged, and succeeded each other in ever-
varying fresh combinations. With its high picturesque beauty,
the whole scene had a look of thrift, and plenty, and promise,
which made it eminently cheerful. So Mr. Ringgan and his
little granddaughter both felt it to be. For some distance,
the grounds on either hand the road were part of the old
gentleman's farm; and many a remark was exchanged between him
and Fleda, as to the excellence or hopefulness of this or that
crop or piece of soil; Fleda entering into all his enthusiasm,
and reasoning of clover leys and cockle, and the proper
harvesting of Indian corn, and other like matters, with no
lack of interest or intelligence.

"O grandpa," she exclaimed, suddenly, "wont you stop a minute
and let me get out. I want to get some of that beautiful
bittersweet."

"What do you want that for?" said he. "You can't get out very
well."

"O yes, I can — please, grandpa! I want some of it very much —
just one minute!'

He stopped, and Fleda got out and went to the roadside, where
a bittersweet vine had climbed into a young pine tree, and
hung it, as it were, with red coral. But her one minute was at
least four before she had succeeded in breaking off as much as
she could carry of the splendid creeper; for not until then
could Fleda persuade herself to leave it. She came back, and
worked her way up into the wagon with one hand full as it
could hold of her brilliant trophies.

"Now, what good 'll that do you?" inquired Mr. Ringgan, good-
humouredly, as he lent Fleda what help he could to her seat.

"Why, grandpa, I want it to put with cedar and pine in a jar
at home; it will keep for ever so long, and look beautiful.
Isn't that handsome? — only it was a pity to break it."

"Why, yes, it's handsome enough," said Mr. Ringgan, "but
you've got something just by the front door there, at home,
that would do just as well — what do you call it — that
flaming thing there?"

"What, my burning bush? O grandpa! I wouldn't cut that for
anything in the world! It's the only pretty thing about the
house; and, besides," said Fleda, looking up with a softened
mien, "you said that it was planted by my mother. O grandpa! I
wouldn't cut that for anything."

Mr. Ringgan laughed a pleased laugh. "Well, dear!" said he,
"it shall grow till it's as big as the house, if it will."

"It wont do that," said Fleda. "But I am very glad I have got
this bittersweet; this is just what I wanted. Now, if I can
only find some holly —"

"We'll come across some, I guess, by and by," said Mr.
Ringgan; and Fleda settled herself again to enjoy the trees,
the fields, the roads, and all the small handiwork of nature,
for which her eyes had a curious intelligence. But this was
not fated to be a ride of unbroken pleasure.

"Why, what are those bars down for?" she said, as they came up
with a field of winter grain. "Somebody's been in here with a
wagon. O grandpa! Mr. Didenhover has let the Shakers have my
butternuts! — the butternuts that you told him they mustn't
have."

The old gentleman drew up his horse. "So he has!" said he.

Their eyes were upon the far end of the deep lot, where, at
the edge of one of the pieces of woodland spoken of, a
picturesque group of men and boys, in frocks and broad-brimmed
white hats, were busied in filling their wagon under a clump
of the now thin and yellow-leaved butternut trees.

"The scoundrel!" said Mr. Ringgan, under his breath.

"Would it be any use, grandpa, for me to jump down and run and
tell them you don't want them to take the butternuts? — I
shall have so few".

"No, dear — no," said her grandfather; "they have got ’em
about all by this time; the mischief's done. Didenhover meant
to let 'em have 'em unknown to me, and pocket the pay himself
Get up!"

Fleda drew a long breath, and gave a hard look at the distant
wagon, where her butternuts were going in by handfuls. She
said no more.

It was but a few fields further on, that the old gentleman
came to a sudden stop again.

"Ain't there some of my sheep over yonder there, Fleda — along
with Squire Thornton's?"

"I don't know, grandpa," said Fleda; "I can't see — yes, I do
see — yes, they are, grandpa; I see the mark."

"I thought so!" said Mr. Ringgan, bitterly; "I told
Didenhover, only three days ago, that if he didn't make up
that fence the sheep would be out, or Squire Thornton's would
be in; — only three days ago! Ah, well!" said he, shaking the
reins to make the mare move on again, — "it's all of a piece.
Everything goes — I can't help it."

"Why do you keep him, grandpa, if he don't behave right?"
Fleda ventured to ask, gently.

" 'Cause I can't get rid of him, dear," Mr. Ringgan answered,
rather shortly.

And till they got to the post-office, he seemed in a
disagreeable kind of muse, which Fleda did not choose to break
in upon. So the mile and a half was driven in sober silence.

"Shall I get out and go in, grandpa?" said Fleda, when he drew
up before the house.

"No, deary," said he, in his usual kind tone; "you sit still.
Holloa, there! — Good-day, Mr. Sampion — have you got anything
for me?"

The man disappeared and came out again.

"There's your paper, grandpa," said Fleda.

"Ay, and something else," said Mr. Ringgan: "I declare! —
'Miss Fleda Ringgan — care of E. Ringgan, Esq.' —There, dear,
there it is."

"Paris!" exclaimed Fleda, as she clasped the letter and both
her hands together. The butternuts and Mr. Didenhover were
forgotten at last. The letter could not be read in the jolting
of the wagon, but, as Fleda said, it was all the pleasanter,
for she had the expectation of it the whole way home.

"Where are we going now, grandpa?"

"To Queechy Run."

"That will give us a nice long ride. I am very glad. This has
been a good day. With my letter and my bittersweet I have got
enough, haven't I, grandpa?"

Queechy Run was a little village, a very little village, about
half a mile from Mr. Ringgan's house. It boasted, however, a
decent brick church of some size, a school-house, a lawyer's
office, a grocery store, a dozen or two of dwelling-houses,
and a post-office; though for some reason or other Mr. Ringgan
always chose to have his letters come through the
Sattlersville post-office, a mile and a half further off At
the door of the lawyer's office Mr. Ringgan again stopped, and
again shouted "Holloa!" —

"Good-day, Sir. Is Mr. Jolly within?"

"He is, Sir."

"Will you ask him to be so good as to step here a moment? I
cannot very well get out."

Mr. Jolly was a comfortable-looking little man, smooth and
sleek, pleasant and plausible, reasonable honest, too, as the
world goes; a nice man to have to do with; the world went so
easy with his affairs that you were sure he would make no
unnecessary rubs in your own. He came now fresh and brisk to
the side of the wagon, with that uncommon hilarity which
people sometimes assume when they have a disagreeable matter
on hand that must be spoken of.

"Good-morning, Sir! Fine day, Mr. Jolly."

"Beautiful day, Sir! Splendid season! How do you do, Mr.
Ringgan?"

"Why, Sir, I never was better in my life, barring this
lameness, that disables me very much. I can't go about and see
to things any more as I used to. However — we must expect
evils at my time of life. I don't complain. I have a great
deal to be thankful for."

"Yes, Sir, — we have a great deal to be thankful for," said
Mr. Jolly, rather abstractedly, and patting the old mare with
kind attention.

"Have you seen that fellow, McGowan?" said Mr. Ringgan,
abruptly, and in a lower tone.

"I have seen him," said Mr. Jolly, coming back from the old
mare to business.

"He's a hard customer, I guess, aint he?"

"He's as ugly a cur as ever was whelped!"

"What does he say?"

"Says he must have it."

"Did you tell him what I told you?"

"I told him, Sir, that you had not got the returns from your
farm that you expected this year, owing to one thing and
'nother; and that you couldn't make up the cash for him all at
once; and that he would have to wait a spell, but that he'd be
sure to get it in the long run. Nobody ever suffered by Mr.
Ringgan yet, as I told him."

"Well?"

"Well, Sir, — he was altogether refractible; he's as pig-
headed a fellow as I ever see."

"What did he say?"

"He gave me names, and swore he wouldn't wait a day longer —
said he'd waited already six months."

"He has so. I couldn't meet the last payment. There's a year's
rent due now. I can't help it. There needn't have been an
hour, if I could go about and attend to things myself. I have
been altogether disappointed in that Didenhover."

"I expect you have."

"What do you suppose he'll do, Mr. Jolly? — McGowan, I mean."

"I expect he'll do what the law 'll let him, Mr. Ringgan; I
don't know what 'll hinder him."

"It's a worse turn than I thought my infirmities would ever
play me," said the old gentleman after a short pause — "first
to lose the property altogether, and then not to be permitted
to wear out what is left of life in the old place — there wont
be much."

"So I told him, Mr. Ringgan. I put it to him. Says I, 'Mr.
McGowan, it's a cruel hard business; there ain't a man in town
that wouldn't leave Mr. Ringgan the shelter of his own roof as
long as he wants any, and think it a pleasure, if the rent was
anyhow.' "

"Well — well!" said the old gentleman, with a mixture of
dignity and bitterness, — "it doesn't much matter. My head
will find a shelter somehow, above ground or under it. — The
Lord will provide. — Whey! stand still, can't ye! What ails
the fool? The creature's seen years enough to be steady," he
added, with a miserable attempt at his usual cheerful laugh.

Fleda had turned away her head and tried not to hear when the
lowered tones of the speakers seemed to say that she was one
too many in the company. But she could not help catching a few
bits of the conversation, and a few bits were generally enough
for Fleda's wit to work upon; she had a singular knack at
putting loose ends of talk together. If more had been wanting,
the tones of her grandfather's voice would have filled up
every gap in the meaning of the scattered words that came to
her ear. Her heart sank fast as the dialogue went on; and she
needed no commentary or explanation to interpret the bitter
little laugh with which it closed. It was a chill upon all the
rosy joys and hopes of a most joyful and hopeful little
nature.

The old mare was in motion again, but Fleda no longer cared or
had the curiosity to ask where they were going. The
bittersweet lay listlessly in her lap; her letter, clasped to
her breast, was not thought of; and tears were quietly running
one after the other down her cheeks and falling on her sleeve;
she dared not lift her handkerchief nor turn her face towards
her grandfather lest they should catch his eye. Her
grandfather? — could it be possible that he must be turned out
of his old home in his old age? could it be possible? Mr.
Jolly seemed to think it might be, and her grandfather seemed
to think it must. Leave the old house! But where would he go?
— Son or daughter he had none left; resources he could have
none, or this need not happen. Work he could not; be dependent
upon the charity of any kin or friend she knew he would never;
she remembered hearing him once say he could better bear to go
to the almshouse than do any such thing. And then, if they
went, he would have his pleasant room no more where the sun
shone in so cheerfully, and they must leave the dear old
kitchen where they had been so happy; and the meadows and
hills would belong to somebody else, and she would gather her
stores of butternuts and chestnuts under the loved old trees
never again. But these things were nothing, though the image
of them made the tears come hot and fast, these were nothing
in her mind to the knowledge or the dread of the effect the
change would have upon Mr. Ringgan. Fleda knew him, and knew
it would not be slight. Whiter his head could not be, more
bowed it well might; and her own bowed in anticipation as her
childish fears and imaginings ran on into the possible future.
Of McGowan's tender mercies she had no hope. She had seen him
once, and being unconsciously even more of a physiognomist
than most children are, that one sight of him was enough to
verify all Mr. Jolly had said. The remembrance of his hard,
sinister face sealed her fears. Nothing but evil could come of
having to do with such a man. It was, however, still not so
much any foreboding of the future that moved Fleda's tears as
the sense of her grandfather's present pain, — the quick
answer of her gentle nature to every sorrow that touched him.
His griefs were doubly hers. Both from his openness of
character and her penetration, they could rarely be felt un-
shared; and she shared them always in more than due measure.

In beautiful harmony, while the child had forgotten herself in
keen sympathy with her grandfather's sorrows, he, on the other
hand, had half lost sight of them in caring for her. Again,
and this time not before any house but in a wild piece of
woodland, the little wagon came to a stop.

"Aint there some holly berries that I see yonder?" said Mr.
Ringgan, — "there, through those white birch stems? That's
what you were wanting, Fleda, aint it? Give your bittersweet
to me while you go get some, — and here, take this knife,
dear, you can't break it. Don't cut yourself."

Fleda's eyes were too dim to see white birch or holly, and she
had no longer the least desire to have the latter; but with
that infallible tact which assuredly is the gift of nature and
no other, she answered, in a voice that she forced to be
clear, "O yes! thank you, Grandpapa;" — and stealthily dashing
away the tears, clambered down from the rickety little wagon,
and plunged with a _cheerful_ step at least, through trees and
underbrush to the clump of holly. But if anybody had seen
Fleda's face! — while she seemed to be busied in cutting as
large a quantity as possible of the rich shining leaves and
bright berries. Her grandfather's kindness, and her effort to
meet it had wrung her heart; she hardly knew what she was
doing, as she cut off sprig after sprig, and threw them down
at her feet; she was crying sadly, with even audible sobs. She
made a long job of her bunch of holly. But when at last it
must come to an end, she choked back her tears, smoothed her
face, and came back to Mr. Ringgan smiling and springing over
the stones and shrubs in her way, and exclaiming at the beauty
of her vegetable stores. If her cheeks were red, he thought it
was the flush of pleasure and exercise, and she did not let
him get a good look at her eyes.

"Why, you've got enough to dress up the front room chimney,"
said he. "That'll be the best thing you can do with 'em, wont
it?"

"The front room chimney! No, indeed I wont, Grandpa. I don't
want 'em where nobody can see them, and you know we are never
in there now it is cold weather."

"Well, dear! anyhow you like to have it. But you ha'n't a jar
in the house big enough for them, have you?"

"O, I'll manage — I've got an old broken pitcher without a
handle, Grandpa, that'll do very well."

"A broken pitcher! that isn't a very elegant vase," said he.

"O you wouldn't know it is a pitcher when I have fixed it.
I'll cover up all the broken part with green you know. Are we
going home now, Grandpa?"

"No, I want to stop a minute at uncle Joshua's."

Uncle Joshua was a brother-in-law of Mr. Ringgan, a
substantial farmer, and very well to do in the world. He was
found not in the house, but abroad in the field with his men,
loading an enormous basket wagon with corn-stalks. At Mr.
Ringgan's shout he got over the fence, and came to the wagon-
side. His face showed sense and shrewdness, but nothing of the
open nobility of mien which nature had stamped upon that of
his brother.

"Fine morning, eh?" said he. "I'm getting in my corn-stalks."

"So I see," said Mr. Ringgan. "How do you find the new way of
curing them answer?"

"Fine as ever you see. Sweet as a nut. The cattle are mad
after them. How are you going to be off for fodder this
winter?"

"It's more than I can tell you," said Mr. Ringgan. "There
ought to be more than plenty; but Didenhover contrives to
bring everything out at the wrong end. I wish I was rid of
him."

"He'll never get a berth with me, I can tell you," said uncle
Joshua, laughing.

"Brother," said Mr. Ringgan, lowering his tone again, "have
you any loose cash you could let me have for six months or
so?"

Uncle Joshua took a meditative look down the road, turned a
quid of tobacco in his cheek, and finally brought his eyes
again to Mr. Ringgan and answered.

"Well, I don't see as I can," said he. "You see, Josh is just
a going to set up for himself at Kenton, and he'll want some
help of me; and I expect that'll be about as much as I can
manage to lay my hands on."

"Do you know who has any that he would be likely to lend?"
said Mr. Ringgan.

"No, I don't. Money is rather scarce. For your rent, eh?"

"Yes, for my rent! The farm brings me in nothing but my
living. That Didenhover is ruining me, brother Joshua."

"He's feathering his own nest, I reckon."

"You may swear to that. There wa'n't as many bushels of grain,
by one fourth, when they were threshed out last year, as I had
calculated there would be in the field. I don't know what on
earth he could have done with it. I suppose it'll be the same
thing over this year."

"May be he has served you as Deacon Travis was served by one
of his help last season — the rascal bored holes in the
granary floor and let out the corn so, and Travis couldn't
contrive how his grain went till the floor was empty next
spring, and then he see how it was."

"Ha! — did he catch the fellow?"

"Not he — he had made tracks before that. A word in your ear —
I wouldn't let Didenhover see much of his salary till you know
how he will come out at the end."

"He has got it already!" said Mr. Ringgan, with a nervous
twitch at the old mare's head; "he wheedled me out of several
little sums on one pretence and another, — he had a brother in
New York that he wanted to send some to, and goods that he
wanted to get out of pawn, and so on, — and I let him have it!
and then there was one of those fatting steers that he
proposed to me to let him have on account, and I thought it
was as good a way of paying him as any; and that made up
pretty near the half of what was due to him."

"I warrant you his'n was the fattest of the whole lot. Well,
keep a tight hold of the other half, brother Elzevir, that's
my advice to you."

"The other half he was to make upon shares."

"Whew! — well — I wish you well rid of him; and don't make
such another bargain again. Good-day to ye!"

It was with a keen pang that little Fleda saw the down-hearted
look of her grandfather as again he gave the old mare notice
to move on. A few minutes passed in deep thought on both
sides.

"Grandpa," said Fleda, "wouldn't Mr. Jolly perhaps know of
somebody that might have some money to lend?"

"I declare!" said the old gentleman, after a moment, "that's
not a bad thought. I wonder I didn't have it myself."

They turned about, and without any more words measured back
their way to Queechy Run. Mr. Jolly came out again, brisk and
alert as ever; but after seeming to rack his brains in search
of any actual or possible money-lender, was obliged to confess
that it was in vain; he could not think of one.

"But I'll tell you what, Mr. Ringgan," he concluded, "I'll
turn it over in my mind to-night and see if I can think of
anything that'll do, and if I can I'll let you know. If we
hadn't such a nether millstone to deal with, it would be easy
enough to work it somehow."

So they set forth homewards again.

"Cheer up, dear!" said the old gentleman, heartily, laying one
hand on his little granddaughter's lap; "it will be arranged
somehow. Don't you worry your little head with business. God
will take care of us."

"Yes, grandpa!" said the little girl, looking up with an
instant sense of relief at these words; and then looking down
again immediately to burst into tears.



CHAPTER II.


Have you seen but a bright lily grow,
Before rude hands have touched it?
Ha' you mark'd but the fall o' the snow,
Before the soil hath smutch'd it?
BEN JONSON.


Where a ray of light can enter the future, a child's hope can
find a way — a way that nothing less airy and spiritual can
travel. By the time they reached their own door Fleda's
spirits were at par again.

"I am very glad we have got home, aren't you, grandpa?" she
said, as she jumped down; "I'm so hungry. I guess we are both
of us ready for supper, don't you think so?"

She hurried up stairs to take off her wrappings, and then came
down to the kitchen, where, standing on the broad hearth and
warming herself at the blaze, with all the old associations of
comfort settling upon her heart, it occurred to her that
foundations so established could not be shaken. The blazing
fire seemed to welcome her home, and bid her dismiss fear; the
kettle singing on its accustomed hook, looked as if quietly
ridiculing the idea that they could be parted company; her
grandfather was in his cushioned chair at the corner of the
hearth, reading the newspaper, as she had seen him a thousand
times; just in the same position, with that collected air of
grave enjoyment, one leg crossed over the other, settled back
in his chair but upright, and scanning the columns with an
intent but most un-careful face. A face it was that always had
a rare union of fineness and placidness. The table stood
spread in the usual place, warmth and comfort filled every
corner of the room, and Fleda began to feel as if she had been
in an uncomfortable dream, which was very absurd, but from
which she was very glad she had awoke.

"What have you got in this pitcher, Cynthy?" said she.
"Muffins! — O let me bake them, will you? I'll bake them."

"Now, Flidda," said Cynthy, "just you be quiet. There ain't no
place where you call bake 'em. I'm just going to clap 'em in
the reflector — that's the shortest way I can take to do 'em.
You keep yourself out o' muss."

"They wont be muffins if you bake 'em in the reflector,
Cynthy; they aren't half so good. Ah, do let me! I wont make a
bit of muss."

"Where'll you do 'em? "

"In grandpa's room — if you'll just clean off the top of the
stove for me; now do, Cynthy! I'll do 'em beautifully, and you
wont have a bit of trouble. — Come!"

"It'll make an awful smoke, Flidda; you'll fill your grandpa's
room with the smoke, and he wont like that, I guess. "

"O, he wont mind it," said Fleda. "Will you, grandpa?"

"What, dear?" said Mr. Ringgan, looking up at her from his
paper, with a relaxing face which indeed promised to take
nothing amiss that she might do.

"Will you mind if I fill your room with smoke?"

"No, dear!" said he, the strong heartiness of his acquiescence
almost reaching a laugh; "no, dear! — fill it with anything
you like!"

There was nothing more to be said; and while Fleda in triumph
put on an apron and made her preparations, Cynthy on her part,
and with a very good grace, went to get ready the stove;
which, being a wood stove, made of sheet iron, with a smooth,
even top, afforded, in Fleda's opinion, the very best possible
field for muffins to come to their perfection. Now Fleda cared
little in comparison for the eating part of the business; her
delight was, by the help of her own skill and the stove-top,
to bring the muffins to this state of perfection; her greatest
pleasure in them was over when they were baked.

A little while had passed. Mr. Ringgan was still busy with his
newspaper, Miss Cynthia Gall going in and out on various
errands, Fleda shut up in the distant room with the muffins
and the smoke; when there came a knock at the door, and Mr.
Ringgan's "Come in!" was followed by the entrance of two
strangers, young, welldressed, and comely. They wore the usual
badges of seekers after game, but their guns were left
outside.

The old gentleman's look of grave expectancy told his want of
enlightening.

"I fear you do not remember me, Mr. Ringgan," said the
foremost of the two, coming up to him, —"my name is Rossitur —
Charlton Rossitur — a cousin of your little granddaughter. I
have only" —

"O, I know you now!" said Mr. Ringgan, rising and grasping his
hand heartily, — "you are very welcome, Sir. How do you do? I
recollect you perfectly, but you took me by surprise. — How do
you do, Sir? Sit down — sit down."

And the old gentleman had extended his frank welcome to the
second of his visitors, almost before the first had time to
utter,

"My friend, Mr. Carleton."

"I couldn't imagine what was coming upon me, "said Mr.
Ringgan, cheerfully, "for you weren't anywhere very near my
thoughts; and I don't often see much of the gay world that is
passing by me. You have grown since I saw you last, Mr.
Rossitur. You are studying at West Point, I believe."

"No, Sir; I was studying there, but I had the pleasure of
bringing that to an end last June."

"Ah! — Well, what are you now? not a cadet any longer, I
suppose."

"No, Sir; we hatch out of that shell lieutenants."

"Hum; and do you intend to remain in the army?"

"Certainly, Sir, that is my purpose and hope."

"Your mother would not like that, I should judge. I do not
understand how she ever made up her mind to let you become
that thing which hatches out into a lieutenant. Gentle
creatures she and her sister both were; how was it, Mr.
Rossitur? were you a wild young gentleman that wanted
training?"

"I have had it, Sir, whether I wanted it or no."

"Hum! How is he, Mr. Carleton? — sober enough to command men?"

"I have not seen him tried, Sir," said this gentleman,
smiling; "but from the inconsistency of the orders he issues
to his dogs, I doubt it exceedingly."

"Why, Carleton would have no orders issued to them at all, I
believe," said young Rossitur; "he has been saying 'hush' to
me all day."

The old gentleman laughed in a way that indicated intelligence
with one of the speakers, — which, appeared not.

"So you've been following the dogs to-day," said he. "Been
successful?"

"Not a bit of it," said Rossitur. "Whether we got on the wrong
grounds, or didn't get on the right ones, or the dogs didn't
mind their business, or there was nothing to fire at, I don't
know; but we lost our patience, and got nothing in exchange."

"Speak for yourself," said the other. "I assure you I was
sensible of no ground of impatience while going over such a
superb country as this."

"It is a fine country," said Mr. Ringgan — "all this tract —
and I ought to know it, for I have hunted every mile of it for
many a mile around. There used to be more game than partridges
in these hills, when I was a young man; bears and wolves, and
deer, and now and then a panther, to say nothing of
rattlesnakes."

"That last-mentioned is an irregular sort or game, is it not."
said Mr. Carleton, smiling.

"Well, game is what you choose to make it," said the old
gentleman. "I have seen worse days' sport than I saw once when
we were out after rattlesnakes, and nothing else. There was a
cave, Sir, down under a mountain, a few miles to the south of
this, right at the foot of a bluff some four or five hundred
feet sheer down; it was known to be a resort of those
creatures, and a party of us went out — it's many years ago,
now — to see if we couldn't destroy the nest; exterminate the
whole horde. We had one dog with us, a little dog, a kind of
spaniel, a little white and yellow fellow, and he did the
work! Well, Sir, how many of those vermin do you guess that
little creature made a finish of that day? of large and small,
Sir, there were two hundred and twelve."

"He must have been a gallant little fellow."

"You never saw a creature, Sir, take to a sport better; he
just dashed in among them, from one to another, he would catch
a snake by the neck and give it a shake, and throw it down and
rush at another; poor fellow, it was his last day's sport, he
died almost as soon as it was over; he must have received a
great many bites. The place is known as the rattlesnakes' den
to this day, though there are none there now, I believe."

"My little cousin is well, I hope," said Mr. Rossitur.

"She? yes, bless her! she is always well. Where is she? Fairy,
where are you? Cynthy, just call Elfleda here."

"She's just in the thick of the muffins, Mr. Ringgan."

"Let the muffins burn! Call her."

Miss Cynthia accordingly opened a little way the door of the
passage, from which a blue stifling smoke immediately made its
way into the room, and called out to Fleda, whose little voice
was heard faintly responding from the distance.

"It's a wonder she can hear through all that smoke," remarked
Cynthia.

"She," said Mr. Ringgan, laughing; "she's playing cook or
housekeeper in yonder, getting something ready for tea. She's
a busy little spirit, if ever there was one. Ah! there she is.
Come here, Fleda — here's your cousin Rossitur from West
Point, and Mr. Carleton."

Fleda made her appearance flushed with the heat of the stove
and the excitement of turning the muffins, and the little iron
spatula she used for that purpose still in her hand; and a
fresh and larger puff of the unsavoury blue smoke accompanied
her entrance. She came forward, however, gravely, and without
the slightest embarrassment, to receive her cousin's somewhat
unceremonious "How do, Fleda?" and, keeping the spatula still
in one hand, shook hands with him with the other. But at the
very different manner in which Mr. Carleton _rose_ and greeted
her, the flush on Fleda's cheek deepened, and she cast down
her eyes and stepped back to her grandfather's side with the
demureness of a young lady just undergoing the ceremony of
presentation.

"You come upon us out of a cloud, Fleda," said her cousin. "Is
that the way you have acquired a right to the name of Fairy?"

"I am sure, no," said Mr. Carleton.

Fleda did not lift up her eyes, but her mounting colour showed
that she understood both speeches.

"Because, if you are in general such a misty personage," Mr.
Rossitur went on, half laughing, "I would humbly recommend a
choice of incense."

"O, I forgot to open the windows!" exclaimed Fleda,
ingenuously. "Cynthy, wont you, please, go and do it! And take
this with you," said she, holding out the spatula.

" She is as good a fairy as _I_ want to see," said her
grandfather, passing his arm fondly round her. "She carries a
ray of sunshine in her right hand; and that's as magic-working
a wand as any fairy ever wielded — hey, Mr. Carleton?"

Mr. Carleton bowed. But whether the sunshine of affection in
Fleda's glance and smile at her grandfather, made him feel
that she was above a compliment, or whether it put the words
out of his head, certain it is that he uttered none.

"So you've had bad success to-day," continued Mr. Ringgan,
"Where have you been? and what after? partridges?"

"No, Sir," said Mr. Carleton, "my friend Rossitur promised me
a rare bag of woodcock, which I understand to be the best of
American feathered game; and, in pursuance of his promise, led
me over a large extent of meadow and swamp land, this morning,
with which, in the course of several hours, I became extremely
familiar, without flushing a single bird."

"Meadow and swamp land!" said the old gentleman.
"Whereabouts?"

"A mile or more beyond the little village over here, where we
left our horses," said Rossitur. "We beat the ground well, but
there were no signs of them even."

"We had not the right kind of dog," said Mr. Carleton.

"We had the kind that is always used here," said Rossitur;
"nobody knows anything about a Cocker in America."

"Ah, it was too wet," said Mr. Ringgan. "I could have told you
that. There has been too much rain. You wouldn't find a
woodcock in that swamp, after such a day as we had a few days
ago. But speaking of game, Mr. Rossitur, I don't know anything
in America equal to the grouse. It is far before woodcock. I
remember, many years back, going a grouse shooting, I and a
friend, down in Pennsylvania; we went two or three days
running, and the birds we got were worth a whole season of
woodcock. But, gentlemen, if you are not discouraged with your
day's experience, and want to try again, _I'll_ put you in a way
to get as many woodcock as will satisfy you — if you'll come
here to-morrow morning. I'll go out with you far enough to
show you the way to the best ground _I_ know for shooting that
game in all this country; you'll have a good chance for
partridges, too, in the course of the day; and that aint bad
eating, when you can't get better — is it, Fairy?" he said,
with a sudden smiling appeal to the little girl at his side.
Her answer again was only an intelligent glance.

The young sportsmen both thanked him and promised to take
advantage of his kind offer. Fleda seized the opportunity to
steal another look at the strangers; but meeting Mr.
Carleton's eyes fixed on her with a remarkably soft and gentle
expression, she withdrew her own again as fast as possible,
and came to the conclusion that the only safe place for them
was the floor.

"I wish I was a little younger, and I'd take my gun and go
along with you myself," said the old gentleman, pleasantly;
"but," he added, sighing, "there is a time for everything, and
my time for sporting is past."

"You have no right to complain, Sir," said Mr. Carleton, with
a meaning glance and smile, which the old gentleman took in
excellent good part.

"Well," said he, looking half proudly, half tenderly, upon the
little demure figure at his side, "I don't say that I have. I
hope I thank God for his mercies, and am happy. But in this
world, Mr. Carleton, there is hardly a blessing but what draws
a care after it. Well — well — these things will all be
arranged for us!"

It was plain, however, even to a stranger, that there was some
subject of care, not vague nor undefined pressing upon Mr.
Ringgan's mind as he said this.

"Have you heard from my mother lately, Fleda?" said her
cousin.

"Why, yes," said Mr. Ringgan, — "she had a letter from her
only to-day. You ha'n't read it yet, have you, Fleda?"

"No, grandpa," said the little girl; "you know I've been
busy."

"Ay," said the old gentleman; "why couldn't you let Cynthia
bake the cakes, and not roast yourself over the stove till
you're as red as a turkey-cock?"

"This morning I was like a chicken," said Fleda, laughing,
"and now like a turkey-cock."

"Shall I tell mamma, Fleda," said young Rossitur, "that you
put off reading her letter to bake muffins?"

Fleda answered without looking up, "Yes, if he pleased."

"What do you suppose she will think?"

"I don't know."

"She will think that you love muffins better than her."

"No," said Fleda, quietly, but firmly, — "she will not think
that, because it isn't true."

The gentlemen laughed, but Mr. Carleton declared that Fleda's
reasoning was unanswerable.

"Well, I will see you to-morrow," said Mr. Rossitur, "after
you have read the letter, for I suppose you will read it some
time. You should have had it before, — it came enclosed to me,
— but I forgot unaccountably to mail it to you till a few days
ago."

"It will be just as good now, Sir," said Mr. Ringgan.

"There is a matter in it, though," said Rossitur, "about which
my mother has given me a charge. We will see you to-morrow. It
was for that partly we turned out of our way this evening."

"I am very glad you did," said Mr. Ringgan. "I hope your way
will bring you here often. Wont you stay and try some of these
same muffins before you go?"

But this was declined, and the gentlemen departed; Fleda, it
must be confessed, seeing nothing in the whole leave-taking
but Mr. Carleton's look and smile. The muffins were a very
tame affair after it.

When supper was over, she sat down fairly to her letter, and
read it twice through before she folded it up. By this time
the room was clear both of the tea equipage and of Cynthia's
presence, and Fleda and her grandfather were alone in the
darkening twilight with the blazing wood fire; he in his usual
place at the side, and she on the hearth directly before it;
both silent, both thinking, for some time. At length Mr.
Ringgan spoke, breaking as it were the silence and his
seriousness with the same effort.

"Well, dear!" said he, cheerfully, — "what does she say?"

"O, she says a great many things, grandpa; shall I read you
the letter?"

"No, dear, I don't care to hear it; only tell me what she
says."

"She says they are going to stay in Paris yet a good while
longer."

"Hum!" — said Mr. Ringgan. "Well — that aint the wisest thing
I should like to hear of her doing."

"Oh, but it's because uncle Rossitur likes to stay there, I
suppose, isn't it, grandpa?"

"I don't know, dear. Maybe your aunt's caught the French
fever. She used to be a good sensible woman; but when people
will go into a whirligig, I think some of their wits get blown
away before they come out. Well — what else?"

"I am sure she is very kind," said Fleda. "She wants to have
me go out there and live with her very much. She says I shall
have everything I like, and do just as I please, and she will
make a pet of me, and give me all sorts of pleasant things.
She says she will take as good care of me as ever I took of
the kittens. And there's a long piece to you about it, that
I'll give you to read as soon as we have a light. It is very
good of her, isn't it, grandpa? I love aunt Lucy very much."

"Well," said Mr. Ringgan, after a pause, "how does she propose
to get you there?"

"Why," said Fleda, — "isn't it curious? — she says there is a
Mrs. Carleton here, who is a friend of hers, and she is going
to Paris in a little while, and aunt Lucy asked her if she
wouldn't bring me, if you would let me go, and she said she
would with great pleasure, and aunt Lucy wants me to come out
with her."

"Carleton! — Hum —" said Mr. Ringgan; " that must be this
young man's mother?'"

"Yes, aunt Lucy says she is here with her son, — at least she
says they were coming."

"A very gentlemanly young man, indeed," said Mr. Ringgan.

There was a grave silence. The old gentleman sat looking on
the floor; Fleda sat looking into the fire with all her might.

"Well," said Mr. Ringgan after a little, "how would you like
it, Fleda?"

"What, grandpa?"

"To go out to Paris to your aunt, with this Mrs. Carleton?"

"I shouldn't like it at all," said Fleda, smiling and letting
her eyes go back to the fire. But looking, after the pause of
a minute or two, again to her grandfather's face, she was
struck with its expression of stern anxiety. She rose
instantly, and coming to him, and laying one hand gently on
his knee, said in tones that fell as light on the ear as the
touch of a moonbeam on the water, "_You_ do not want me to go,
do you, grandpa?"

"No, dear!" said the old gentleman, letting his hand fall upon
hers, — "no, dear! — that is the last thing I want!"

But Fleda's keen ear discerned not only the deep affection,
but something of _regret_ in the voice, which troubled her. She
stood, anxious and fearing while her grandfather lifting his
hand again and again, let it fall gently upon hers; and amid
all the fondness of the action, Fleda somehow seemed to feel
in it the same regret.

"You'll not let aunt Lucy, nor anybody else, take me away from
you, will you, grandpa?" said she after a little, leaning both
arms affectionately on his knee, and looking up into his face.

"No, indeed, dear!" said he, with an attempt at his usual
heartiness, — "not as long as I have a place to keep you.
While I have a roof to put my head under, it shall cover
yours."

To Fleda's hope that would have said enough; but her
grandfather's face was so moved from its wonted expression of
calm dignity, that it was plain _his_ hope was tasting bitter
things. Fleda watched in silent grief and amazement the
watering eye and unnerved lip; till her grandfather,
indignantly dashing away a tear or two, drew her close to his
breast and kissed her. But she well guessed that the reason
why he did not for a minute or two say anything, was because
he could not. Neither could she. She was fighting with her
woman's nature to keep it down, — learning the lesson early!

"Ah well," — said Mr. Ringgan at length, in a kind of tone
that might indicate the giving up a struggle which he had no
means of carrying on, or the endeavour to conceal it from the
too keen-wrought feelings of his little grand-daughter, —
"there will be a way opened for us somehow. We must let our
Heavenly Father take care of us."

"And he will, grandpa," whispered Fleda.

"Yes, dear! We are selfish creatures. Your father's and your
mother's child will not be forgotten."

"Nor you either, dear grandpa," said the little girl, laying
her soft cheek alongside of his, and speaking by dint of a
great effort.

"No," said he, clasping her more tenderly, — "no — it would be
wicked in me to doubt it. He has blessed me all my life long
with a great many more blessings than I deserved; and if he
chooses to take away the sunshine of my last days, I will bow
my head to his will, and believe that he does all things well,
though I cannot see it."

"Don't, dear grandpa," said Fleda, stealing her other arm
round his neck and hiding her face there, — "please don't!"

He very much regretted that he had said too much. He did not,
however, know exactly how to mend it. He kissed her, and
stroked her soft hair, but that and the manner of it only made
it more difficult for Fleda to recover herself, which she was
struggling to do; and when he tried to speak in accents of
cheering, his voice trembled. Fleda's heart was breaking, but
she felt that she was making matters worse, and she had
already concluded, on a mature review of circumstances, that
it was her duty to be cheerful. So, after a few very heartfelt
tears which she could not help, she raised her head and
smiled, even while she wiped the traces of them away.

"After all, grandpa," said she, "perhaps Mr. Jolly will come
here in the morning with some good news, and then we should be
troubling ourselves just for nothing."

"Perhaps he will," said Mr. Ringgan, in a way that sounded
much more like "Perhaps he wont!" But Fleda was determined now
not to _seem_ discouraged again. She thought the best way was to
change the conversation.

"It is very kind in aunt Lucy, isn't it, grandpa, what she has
written to me?"

"Why, no," said Mr. Ringgan, decidedly; "I can't say I think
it is any very extraordinary manifestation of kindness in
anybody to want you."

Fleda smiled her thanks for this compliment.

"It might be a kindness in me to give you to her."

"It wouldn't be a kindness to me, grandpa."

"I don't know about that," said he, gravely. They were getting
back to the old subject. Fleda made another great effort at a
diversion.

"Grandpa, was my father like my uncle Rossitur in anything?"

The diversion was effected.

"Not he, dear!" said Mr. Ringgan. "Your father had ten times
the man in him that ever your uncle was."

"Why, what kind of a man is uncle Rossitur, grandpa?"

"Ho dear! I can't tell. I ha'n't seen much of him. I wouldn't
judge a man without knowing more of him than I do of Mr.
Rossitur. He seemed an amiable kind of man. But no one would
ever have thought of looking at him, no more than at a shadow,
when your father was by."

The diversion took effect on Fleda herself now. She looked up
pleased.

"You remember your father, Fleda."

"Yes, grandpa, but not very well always. I remember a great
many things about him, but I can't remember exactly how he
looked, except once or twice."

"Ay, and he wa'n't well the last time you remember him. But he
was a noble-looking man — in form and face too — and his looks
were the worst part of him. He seemed made of different stuff
from all the people around," said Mr. Ringgan, sighing, "and
they felt it too, I used to notice, without knowing it. When
his cousins were 'Sam,' and 'Johnny,' and 'Bill,' he was
always, that is after he grew up, '_Mr. Walter_.' I believe they
were a little afeard of him. And with all his bravery and fire
he could be as gentle as a woman."

"I know that," said Fleda, whose eyes were dropping soft tears
and glittering at the same time with gratified feeling. "What
made him be a soldier, grandpa? "

"Oh, I don't know, dear! — he was too good to make a farmer of
— or his high spirit wanted to rise in the world — he couldn't
rest without trying to be something more than other folks. I
don't know whether people are any happier for it."

"Did _he_ go to West Point, grandpa?"

"No, dear! — he started without having so much of a push as
that; but he was one of those that don't need any pushing; he
would have worked his way up, put him anywhere you would, and
he did, — over the heads of West Pointers and all, and would
have gone to the top, I verily believe, if he had lived long
enough. He was as fine a fellow as there was in all the army.
_I_ don't believe there's the like of him left in it."

"He had been a major a good while, hadn't be, grandpa?"

"Yes. It was just after he was made captain that he went to
Albany, and there he saw your mother. She and her sister, your
aunt Lucy, were wards of the patroon. I was in Albany, in the
legislature, that winter, and I knew them both very well; but
your aunt Lucy had been married some years before. She was
staying there that winter without her husband — he was abroad
somewhere."

Fleda was no stranger to these details, and had learned long
ago what was meant by "wards" and "the patroon."

"Your father was made a major some years afterwards," Mr.
Ringgan went on, "for his fine behaviour out here at the West
— what's the name of the place? — I forget it just now —
fighting the Indians. There never was anything finer done."

"He was brave, wasn't he, grandpa?"

"Brave! — he had a heart of iron sometimes, for as soft as it
was at others. And he had an eye, when he was roused, that I
never saw anything that would stand against. But your father
had a better sort of courage than the common sort — he had
enough of _that_ — but this is a rarer thing — he never was
afraid to do what in his conscience he thought was right.
Moral courage I call it, and it is one of the very noblest
qualities a man can have."

"That's a kind of courage a woman may have," raid Fleda.

"Yes — you may have that; and I guess it's the only kind of
courage you'll ever be troubled with," said her grandfather,
looking laughingly at her. "However, any man may walk up to
the cannon's mouth, but it is only one here and there that
will walk out against men's opinions because he thinks it is
right. That was one of the things I admired most in your
father."

"Didn't my mother have it too?" said Fleda.

"I don't know — she had about everything that was good. A
sweet pretty creature she was as ever I saw."

"Was she like aunt Lucy?"

"No, not much. She was a deal handsomer than your aunt is or
ever could have been. She was the handsomest woman, I think,
that ever I set eyes upon; and a sweet, gentle, lovely
creature. _You_'ll never match her," said Mr. Ringgan, with a
curious twist of his head and sly laughing twist of his eyes
at Fleda; — "you may be as _good_ as she was, but you'll never
be as good-looking."

Fleda laughed, nowise displeased.

"You've got her hazel eyes though," remarked Mr. Ringgan,
after a minute or two, viewing his little grand-daughter with
a sufficiently satisfied expression of countenance.

"Grandpa," said she, "don't you think Mr. Carleton has
handsome eyes?"

"Mr. Carleton? — hum — I don't know; I didn't look at his
eyes. A very well-looking young man though — very gentlemanly
too."

Fleda had heard all this and much more about her parents some
dozens of times before; but she and her grandfather were never
tired of going it over. If the conversation that recalled his
lost treasures had of necessity a character of sadness and
tenderness, it yet bespoke not more regret that he had lost
them than exulting pride and delight in what they had been, —
perhaps not so much. And Fleda delighted to go back and feed
her imagination with stories of the mother whom she could not
remember, and of the father whose fair bright image stood in
her memory as the embodiment of all that is high and noble and
pure. A kind of guardian angel that image was to little Fleda.
These ideal likenesses of her father and mother, the one drawn
from history and recollection, the other from history only,
had been her preservative from all the untoward influences and
unfortunate examples which had surrounded her since her
father's death, some three or four years before, had left her
almost alone in her grandfather's house. They had created in
her mind a standard of the true and beautiful in character,
which nothing she saw around her, after, of course, her
grandfather and one other exception, seemed at all to meet;
and partly from her own innate fineness of nature, and partly
from this pure ideal always present with her, she had shrunk
almost instinctively from the few varieties of human nature
the country-side presented to her, and was in fact a very
isolated little being, living in a world of her own, and
clinging with all her strong out-goings of affection to her
grandfather only; granting to but one other person any
considerable share in her regard or esteem. Little Fleda was
not in the least misanthropical; she gave her kindly
sympathies to all who came in her way on whom they could
possibly be bestowed; but these people were nothing to her;
her spirit fell off from them, even in their presence; there
was no affinity. She was in truth what her grandfather had
affirmed of her father, made of different stuff from the rest
of the world. There was no tincture of pride in all this;
there was no conscious feeling of superiority; she could
merely have told you that she did not care to hear these
people talk, that she did not love to be with them; though she
_would_ have said so to no earthly creature but her grandfather,
if even to him.

"It must be pleasant," said Fleda, after looking for some
minutes thoughtfully into the fire, — "it must be a pleasant
thing to have a father and mother."

"Yes, dear!" said her grandfather, sighing, — "you have lost a
great deal! But there is your aunt Lucy — you are not
dependent altogether on me."

"Oh, grandpa!" said the little girl, laying one hand again
pleadingly on his knee; — "I didn't mean — I mean — I was
speaking in general — I wasn't thinking of myself in
particular."

"I know, dear!" said he, as before taking the little hand in
his own, and moving it softly up and down on his knee. But the
action was sad, and there was the same look of sorrowful stern
anxiety. Fleda got up and put her arm over his shoulder,
speaking from a heart filled too full.

"I don't want aunt Lucy — I don't care about aunt Lucy, I
don't want anything but you, grandpa. I wish you wouldn't talk
so."

"Ah well, dear," said he, without looking at her, — he
couldn't bear to look at her, — "it's well it is so. I sha'n't
last a great while — it isn't likely — and I am glad to know
there is some one you can fall back upon when I am gone."

Fleda's next words were scarce audible, but they contained a
reproach to him for speaking so.

"We may as well look at it, dear," said he, gravely; "it must
come to that —- sooner or later — but you mustn't distress
yourself about it beforehand. Don't cry — don't dear!" said
he, tenderly kissing her. "I didn't mean to trouble you so.
There — there — look up, dear — let's take the good we have
and be thankful for it. God will arrange the rest, in his own
good way. Fleda! — I wouldn't have said a word if I had
thought it would have worried you so."

He would not indeed. But he had spoken as men so often speak,
out of the depths of their own passion or bitterness,
forgetting that they are wringing the chords of a delicate
harp, and not knowing what mischief they have done till they
find the instrument all out of tune, — more often not knowing
it ever. It is pity, — for how frequently a discord is left
that jars all life long; and how much more frequently still
the harp, though retaining its sweetness and truth of tone to
the end, is gradually unstrung.

Poor Fleda could hardly hold up her head for a long time, and
recalling bitterly her unlucky innocent remark which had led
to all this trouble, she almost made up her mind, with a
certain heroine of Miss Edgeworth's, that "it is best never to
mention things". Mr. Ringgan, now thoroughly alive to the
wounds he had been inflicting, held his little pet in his
arms, pillowed her head on his breast, and by every tender and
soothing action and word endeavoured to undo what he had done.
And after a while the agony was over, the wet eyelashes were
lifted up, and the meek sorrowful little face lay quietly upon
Mr. Ringgan's breast, gazing out into the fire as gravely as
if the panorama of life were there. She little heeded at first
her grandfather's cheering talk, she knew it was for a
purpose.

"Aint it most time for you to go to bed?" whispered Mr.
Ringgan, when he thought the purpose was effected.

"Shall I tell Cynthy to get you your milk, grandpa?" said the
little girl, rousing herself.

"Yes dear. — Stop, — what if you and me were to have some
roast apples? — wouldn't you like it?"

"Well — yes, I should, grandpa," said Fleda, understanding
perfectly why he wished it, and wishing it herself for that
same reason and no other.

"Cynthy, let's have some of those roast apples," said Mr.
Ringgan, "and a couple of bowls of milk here."

"No, I'll get the apples myself, Cynthy," said Fleda.

"And you needn't take any of the cream off, Cynthy," added Mr.
Ringgan.

One corner of the kitchen table was hauled up to the fire, to
be comfortable, Fleda said, and she and her grandfather sat
down on the opposite sides of it to do honour to the apples
and milk; each with the simple intent of keeping up
appearances and cheating the other into cheerfulness. There
is, however, deny it who can, an exhilarating effect in good
wholesome food taken when one is in some need of it; and Fleda
at least found the supper relish exceeding well. Every one
furthermore knows the relief of a hearty flow of tears when a
secret weight has been pressing on the mind. She was just
ready for anything reviving. After the third mouthful she
began to talk, and before the bottom of the bowls was reached,
she had smiled more than once. So her grandfather thought no
harm was done, and went to bed quite comforted; and Fleda
climbed the steep stairs that led from his door to her little
chamber just over his head. It was small and mean, immediately
under the roof, with only one window. There were plenty of
better rooms in the house, but Fleda liked this because it
kept her near her grandfather; and indeed she had always had
it ever since her father's death, and never thought of taking
any other.

She had a fashion, this child, in whom the simplicity of
practical life and the poetry of imaginative life were
curiously blended, — she had a fashion of going to her window
every night when the moon or stars were shining, to look out
for a minute or two before she went to bed; and sometimes the
minutes were more than any good grandmother or aunt would have
considered wholesome for little Fleda in the fresh night air.
But there was no one to watch or reprimand; and whatever it
was that Fleda read in earth or sky, the charm which held her
one bright night was sure to bring her to her window the next.
This evening a faint young moon lighted up but dimly the
meadow and what was called the "east-hill," over against which
the window in question looked. The air was calm and mild;
there was no frost to-night; the stillness was entire, and the
stars shone in a cloudless sky. Fleda set open the window, and
looked out with a face that again bore tokens of the
experiences of that day. She wanted the soothing speech of
nature's voice; and child as she was, she could hear it. She
did not know, in her simplicity, what it was that comforted
and soothed her, but she stood at her window enjoying.

It was so perfectly still, her fancy presently went to all
those people who had hushed their various work and were now
resting, or soon would be, in the unconsciousness and the
helplessness of sleep. The _helplessness_, — and then that Eye
that never sleeps; that Hand that keeps them all, that is
never idle, that is the safety and the strength alike of all
the earth, and of them that wake or sleep upon it, —

"And if he takes care of them all, will he not take care of
poor little me?" thought Fleda. "Oh, how glad I am I know
there is a God! — How glad I am I know he is such a God! and
that I can trust in him; and he will make everything go right.
How I forget this sometimes! But Jesus does not forget his
children. Oh, I am a happy little girl! — Grandpa's saying
what he did don't make it so — perhaps I shall die the first —
but I hope not, for what would become of him! — But this and
everything will all be arranged right, and I have nothing to
do with it but to obey God and please him, and he will take
care of the rest. He has forbidden _us_ to be careful about it
too."

With grateful tears of relief Fleda shut the window and began
to undress herself, her heart so lightened of its burden, that
her thoughts presently took leave to go out again upon
pleasure excursions in various directions; and one of the last
things in Fleda's mind before sleep surprised her was, what a
nice thing it was for any one to bow and smile so as Mr.
Carleton did!



CHAPTER III.


I know each lane, and every alley green,
Dingle or bushy dell of this wild wood,
And every bosky bourne from side to side;
My daily walks and ancient neighbourhood.
MILTON.


Fleda and her grandfather had but just risen from a tolerably
early breakfast the next morning, when the two young sportsmen
entered the room.

"Ha!" said Mr. Ringgan, "I declare! you're stirring betimes.
Come five or six miles this morning a'ready. Well — that's the
stuff to make sportsmen of. Off for the woodcock, hey? And I
was to go with you and show you the ground? I declare I don't
know how in the world I can do it this morning, I'm so very
stiff — ten times as bad as I was yesterday. I had a window
open in my room last night, I expect that must have been the
cause. I don't see how I could have overlooked it; but I never
gave it a thought, till this morning I found myself so lame I
could hardly get out of bed. I am very sorry, upon my word!"

"I am very sorry we must lose your company, Sir," said the
young Englishman, "and for such a cause; but as to the rest, I
dare say your directions will guide us sufficiently."

"I don't know about that," said the old gentleman. " It is
pretty hard to steer by a chart that is only laid down in the
imagination. I set out once to go in New York from one side of
the city over into the other, and the first thing I knew I
found myself travelling along half a mile out of town. I had
to get in a stage and ride back, and take a fresh start. Out
at the West they say, when you are in the woods you can tell
which is north by the moss growing on that side of the trees;
but if you're lost, you'll be pretty apt to find the moss
grows on _all_ sides of the trees. I couldn't make out any
waymarks at all, in such a labyrinth of brick corners. Well,
let us see — if I tell you now it is so easy to mistake one
hill for another — Fleda, child, you put on your sun-bonnet,
and take these gentlemen back to the twenty-acre lot, and from
there you can tell 'em how to go, so I guess they wont mistake
it."

"By no means!" said Mr. Carleton; "we cannot give her so much
trouble; it would be buying our pleasure at much too dear a
rate."

"Tut, tut," said the old gentleman; "she thinks nothing of
trouble, and the walk 'll do her good. She'd like to be out
all day, I believe, if she had any one to go along with; but
I'm rather a stupid companion for such a spry little pair of
feet. Fleda, look here; when they get to the lot, they can
find their own way after that. You know where the place is —
where your cousin Seth shot so many woodcock last year, over
in Mr. Hurlbut's land; when you get to the big lot you must
tell these gentlemen to go straight over the hill, not Squire
Thornton's hill, but mine, at the back of the lot. They must
go straight over it, till they come to cleared land on the
other side; then they must keep along by the edge of the wood,
to the right, till they come to the brook; they must _cross the
brook_, and follow up the opposite bank, and they'll know the
ground when they come to it; or they don't deserve to. Do you
understand? Now run and get your hat, for they ought to be
off."

Fleda went, but neither her step nor her look showed any great
willingness to the business.

"I am sure, Mr. Ringgan," said Mr. Carleton, "your little
granddaughter has some reason for not wishing to take such a
long walk this morning. Pray allow us to go without her."

"Pho, pho," said the old gentleman, "she wants to go."

"I guess she's skeered o' the guns," said Cynthy, happy to get
a chance to edge in a word before such company; "it's that
ails her."

"Well, well; she must get used to it," said Mr. Ringgan. "Here
she is!"

Fleda had it in her mind to whisper to him a word of hope
about Mr. Jolly; but she recollected that it was at best an
uncertain hope, and that if her grandfather's thoughts were
off the subject it was better to leave them so. She only
kissed him for good-by, and went out with the two gentlemen.

As they took up their guns, Mr. Carleton caught the timid
shunning glance her eye gave at them.

"Do you dislike the company of these noisy friends of ours,
Miss Fleda?" said he.

Fleda hesitated, and finally said, "she didn't much like to be
very near them when they were fired."

"Put that fear away then," said he, " for they shall keep a
respectful silence so long as they have the honour to be in
your company. If the woodcock come about us as tame as quails
our guns shall not be provoked to say anything till your
departure gives them leave."

Fleda smiled her thanks, and set forward, privately much
confirmed in her opinion that Mr. Carleton had handsome eyes.

At a little distance from the house Fleda left the meadow for
an old apple-orchard at the left, lying on a steep side hill.
Up this hill-side they toiled; and then found themselves on a
ridge of tableland, stretching back for some distance along
the edge of a little valley or bottom of perfectly flat smooth
pasture-ground. The valley was very narrow, only divided into
fields by fences running from side to side. The table-land
might be a hundred feet or more above the level of the bottom,
with a steep face towards it. A little way back from the edge
the woods began; between them and the brow of the hill the
ground was smooth and green, planted as if by art with
flourishing young silver pines, and once in a while a hemlock,
some standing in all their luxuriance alone, and some in
groups. With now and then a smooth grey rock, or large
boulderstone, which had somehow inexplicably stopped on the
brow of the hill instead of rolling down into what at some
former time no doubt was a bed of water, — all this open strip
of the table-land might have stood with very little coaxing
for a piece of a gentleman's pleasure-ground. On the opposite
side of the little valley was a low rocky height, covered with
wood, now in the splendour of varied red and green and purple
and brown and gold; between, at their feet, lay the soft quiet
green meadow; and off to the left, beyond the far end of the
valley, was the glory of the autumn woods again, softened in
the distance. A true October sky seemed to pervade all, mildly
blue, transparently pure, with that clearness of atmosphere
that no other month gives us; a sky that would have conferred
a patent of nobility on any landscape. The scene was certainly
contracted and nowise remarkable in any of its features, but
Nature had shaken out all her colours over the land, and drawn
a veil from the sky, and breathed through the woods and over
the hill-side the very breath of health, enjoyment, and
vigour.

When they were about over-against the middle of the valley,
Mr. Carleton suddenly made a pause and stood for some minutes
silently looking. His two companions came to a halt on either
side of him, one not a little pleased, the other a little
impatient.

"Beautiful!" Mr. Carleton said, at length.

"Yes," said Fleda, gravely, "I think it's a pretty place. I
like it up here."

"We sha'n't catch many woodcock among these pines," said young
Rossitur.

"I wonder," said Mr. Carleton, presently, "how any one should
have called these 'melancholy days.' "

"Who has?" said Rossitur.

"A countryman of yours," said his friend, glancing at him. "If
he had been a countryman of mine there would have been less
marvel. But here is none of the sadness of decay — none of the
withering — if the tokens of old age are seen at all it is in
the majestic honours that crown a glorious life — the graces
of a matured and ripened character. This has nothing in
common, Rossitur, with those dull moralists who are always
dinning decay and death into one's ears; this speaks of Life.
Instead of freezing all one's hopes and energies, it quickens
the pulse with the desire to _do_. — 'The saddest of the year' —
Bryant was wrong."

"Bryant? — oh!" — said young Rossitur; "I didn't know who you
were speaking of."

"I believe, now I think of it, he was writing of a somewhat
later time of the year, — I don't know how all this will look
in November."

"I think it is very pleasant in November," said little Fleda,
sedately.

"Don't you know Bryant's 'Death of the Flowers,' Rossitur?"
said his friend, smiling. "What have you been doing all your
life?"

"Not studying the fine arts at West Point, Mr. Carleton."

"Then sit down here, and let me mend that place in your
education. Sit down! and I'll give you something better than
woodcock. You keep a game-bag for thoughts, don't you?"

Mr. Rossitur wished Mr. Carleton didn't. But he sat down,
however, and listened with an unedified face; while his
friend, more to please himself, it must be confessed, than for
any other reason, and perhaps with half a notion to try Fleda,
repeated the beautiful words. He presently saw they were not
lost upon one of his hearers; she listened intently.

"It is very pretty," said Rossitur, when he had done. "I
believe I have seen it before somewhere."

"There is no 'smoky light' to-day," said Fleda.

"No," said Mr. Carleton, smiling to himself. "Nothing but that
could improve the beauty of all this, Miss Fleda."

"_I_ like it better as it is," said Fleda.

"I am surprised at that," said young Rossitur. "I thought you
lived on smoke."

There was nothing in the words, but the tone was not exactly
polite. Fleda granted him neither smile nor look.

"I am glad you like it up here," she went on, gravely doing
the honours of the place. "I came this way because we
shouldn't have so many fences to climb."

"You are the best little guide possible, and I have no doubt
would always lead one the right way," said Mr. Carleton.

Again the same gentle, kind, _appreciating_ look. Fleda
unconsciously drew a step nearer. There was a certain
undefined confidence established between them.

"There's a little brook down there in spring," said she,
pointing to a small, grass-grown water-course in the meadow,
hardly discernible from the height, — "but there's no water in
it now. It runs quite full for a while after the snow breaks
up; but it dries away by June or July."

"What are those trees so beautifully tinged with red and
orange, down there by the fence in the meadow?"

"I am not woodsman enough to inform you," replied Rossitur.

"Those are maples," said Fleda — "sugar maples. The one all
orange is a hickory."

"How do you know?" said Mr. Carleton, turning to her. "By your
wit as a fairy?"

"I know by the colour," said Fleda, modestly; "and by the
shape too."

"Fairy," said Mr. Rossitur, "if you have any of the stuff
about you, I wish you would knock this gentleman over the head
with your wand, and put the spirit of moving into him. He is
going to sit dreaming here all day."

"Not at all," said his friend, springing up; "I am ready for
you; but I want other game than woodcock just now, I confess."

They walked along in silence, and had near reached the
extremity of the table-land, which, towards the end of the
valley, descended into ground of a lower level covered with
woods; when Mr. Carleton, who was a little ahead, was startled
by Fleda's voice, exclaiming, in a tone of distress, "Oh, not
the robins!" and turning about, perceived Mr. Rossitur
standing still with levelled gun, and just in the act to
shoot. Fleda had stopped her ears. In the same instant, Mr.
Carleton had thrown up the gun, demanding of Rossitur, with a
singular change of expression — "what he meant!"

"Mean?" said the young gentleman, meeting with an astonished
face the indignant fire of his companion's eyes — "why, I mean
not to meddle with other people's guns, Mr. Carleton. What do
_you_ mean?"

"Nothing, but to protect myself."

"Protect yourself!" said Rossitur, heating as the other cooled
— "from what, in the name of wonder?"

"Only from having my word blown away by your fire," said
Carleton, smiling. "Come, Rossitur, recollect yourself —
remember our compact."

"Compact! one isn't bound to keep compacts with unearthly
personages," said Rossitur, half sulkily and half angrily;
"and besides, I made none."

Mr. Carleton turned from him very coolly, and walked on.

They left the table-land and the wood, entered the valley
again, and passed through a large orchard, the last of the
succession of fields which stretched along it. Beyond this
orchard the ground rose suddenly, and on the steep hill-side
there had been a large plantation of Indian corn. The corn was
harvested, but the ground was still covered with numberless
little stacks of the cornstalks. Halfway up the hill stood
three ancient chestnut-trees; veritable patriarchs of the nut
tribe they were, and respected and esteemed as patriarchs
should be.

"There are no 'dropping nuts' to-day, either," said Fleda, to
whom the sight of her forest friends in the distance probably
suggested the thought, for she had not spoken for some time.
"I suppose there hasn't been frost enough yet."

"Why, you have a good memory, Fairy," said Mr. Carleton. "Do
you give the nuts leave to fall of themselves?"

"Oh, sometimes grandpa and I go a nutting," said the little
girl, getting lightly over the fence — "but we haven't been
this year."

"Then it is a pleasure to come yet?"

"No," said Fleda, quietly; "the trees near the house have been
stripped; and the only other nice place there is for us to go
to, Mr. Didenhover let the Shakers have the nuts. I sha'n't
get any this year."

"Live in the woods and not get any nuts! that wont do, Fairy.
Here are some fine chestnuts we are coming to — what should
hinder our reaping a good harvest from these?"

"I don't think there will be any on them," said Fleda; "Mr.
Didenhover has been here lately with the men getting in the
corn; I guess they have cleared the trees."

"Who is Mr. Didenhover?"

"He is grandpa's man."

"Why didn't you bid Mr. Didenhover let the nuts alone?"

"Oh, he wouldn't mind if he was told," said Fleda. "He does
everything just as he has a mind to, and nobody can hinder
him. Yes, they've cleared the trees — I thought so."

"Don't you know of any other trees that are out of this Mr.
Didenhover's way?"

"Yes," said Fleda; "I know a place where there used to be
beautiful hickory trees, and some chestnuts too, I think; but
it is too far off for grandpa, and I couldn't go there alone.
This is the twenty-acre lot," said she, looking, though she
did not say it, "Here I leave you."

"I am glad to hear it," said her cousin. "Now give us our
directions, Fleda, and thank you for your services."

"Stop a minute," said Mr. Carleton. "What if you and I should
try to find those same hickory-trees, Miss Fleda? Will you
take me with you — or is it too long a walk?"

"For me? — oh no!" said Fleda, with a face of awakening hope;
"but," she added, timidly, "you were going a shooting, Sir?"

"What on earth are you thinking of, Carleton?" said young
Rossitur." Let the nuts and Fleda alone, do!"

"By your leave, Mr. Rossitur," said Carleton. "My murderous
intents have all left me, Miss Fleda; I suppose your wand has
been playing about me, and I should like nothing better than
to go with you over the hills this morning. I have been a
nutting many a time in my own woods at home, and I want to try
it for once in the New World. Will you take me?"

"Oh, thank you, Sir!" said Fleda; " but we have passed the
turning a long way; we must go back ever so far the same way
we came to get to the place where we turn off to go up the
mountain."

"I don't wish for a prettier way — if it isn't so far as to
tire you, Fairy?"

"Oh, it wont tire me!" said Fleda, overjoyed.

"Carleton!" exclaimed young Rossitur. "Can you be so absurd!
Lose this splendid day for the woodcock, when we may not have
another while we are here!"

"You are not a true sportsman, Mr. Rossitur," said the other,
coolly, "or you would know what it is to have some sympathy
with the sports of others. But _you_ will have the day for the
woodcock, and bring us home a great many, I hope. Miss Fleda,
suppose we give this impatient young gentleman his orders and
despatch him."

"I thought you were more of a sportsman," said the vexed West
Pointer, — "or your sympathy would be with me."

"I tell you the sporting mania was never stronger on me," said
the other, carelessly. "Something less than a rifle, however,
will do to bring down the game I am after. We will rendezvous
at the little village over yonder, unless I go home before
you, which I think is more probable. Au revoir!"

With careless gracefulness he saluted his disconcerted
companion, who moved off with ungraceful displeasure. Fleda
and Mr. Carleton then began to follow back the road they had
come, in the highest good humour both. Her sparkling face told
him with even greater emphasis than her words,

"I am so much obliged to you, Sir."

"How you go over fences!" said he, — "like a sprite, as you
are."

"Oh, I have climbed a great many," said Fleda, accepting,
however, again with that infallible instinct, the help which
she did not need. — "I shall be so glad to get some nuts, for
I thought I wasn't going to have any this year; and it is so
pleasant to have them to crack in the long winter evenings."

"You must find them long evenings indeed, I should think."

"Oh no, we don't," said Fleda. "I didn't mean they were long
in _that_ way. Grandpa cracks the nuts, and I pick them out, and
he tells me stories; and then you know he likes to go to bed
early. The evenings never seem long."

"But you are not always cracking nuts."

"Oh no, to be sure not; but there are plenty of other pleasant
things to do. I dare say grandpa would have bought some nuts,
but I had a great deal rather have those we get ourselves, and
then the fun of getting them, besides, is the best part."

Fleda was tramping over the ground at a furious rate.

"How many do you count upon securing to-day?" said Mr.
Carleton, gravely.

"I don't know," said Fleda, with a business face, — "there are
a good many trees, and fine large ones, and I don't believe
anybody has found them out — they are so far out of the way;
there ought to be a good parcel of nuts."

"But," said Mr. Carleton, with perfect gravity, "if we should
be lucky enough to find a supply for your winter's store, it
would be too much for you and me to bring home, Miss Fleda,
unless you have a broomstick in the service of fairydom."

"A broomstick!" said Fleda.

"Yes, — did you never hear of the man who had a broomstick
that would fetch pails of water at his bidding?"

"No," said Fleda, laughing. "What a convenient broomstick! I
wish we had one. But I know what I can do, Mr. Carleton, — if
there should be too many nuts for us to bring home, I can take
Cynthy afterwards and get the rest of them. Cynthy and I could
go — grandpa couldn't, even if he was as well as usual, for
the trees are in a hollow away over on the other side of the
mountain. It's a beautiful place."

"Well," said Mr. Carleton, smiling curiously to himself, "in
that case I shall be even of more use than I had hoped. But
shan't we want a basket, Miss Fleda?"

"Yes, indeed," said Fleda, — "a good large one — I am going to
run down to the house for it as soon as we get to the turning-
off place, if you'll be so good as to sit down and wait for
me, Sir, — I wont be long after it."

"No," said he; "I will walk with you and leave my gun in safe
quarters. You had better not travel so fast, or I am afraid
you will never reach the hickory-trees."

Fleda smiled, and said there was no danger, but she slackened
her pace, and they proceeded at a more reasonable rate till
they reached the house.

Mr. Carleton would not go in, placing his gun in an outer
shelter. Fleda dashed into the kitchen, and after a few
minutes' delay came out again with a huge basket, which Mr.
Carleton took from her without suffering his inward amusement
to reach his face, and a little tin pail which she kept under
her own guardianship. In vain Mr. Carleton offered to take it
with the basket, or even to put it in the basket, where he
showed her it would go very well; it must go nowhere but in
Fleda's own hand.

Fleda was in restless haste till they had passed over the
already twice-trodden ground and entered upon the mountain
road. It was hardly a road; in some places a beaten track was
visible, in others Mr. Carleton wondered how his little
companion found her way, where nothing but fresh-fallen leaves
and scattered rocks and stones could be seen, covering the
whole surface. But her foot never faltered, her eye read way-
marks where he saw none; she went on, he did not doubt
unerringly, over the leaf-strewn and rock-strewn way, over
ridge and hollow, with a steady light swiftness that he could
not help admiring. Once they came to a little brawling stream
of spring water, hardly three inches deep anywhere, but making
quite a wide bed for itself in its bright way to the lowlands.
Mr. Carleton was considering how he should contrive to get his
little guide over it in safety, when quick, — over the little
round stones which lifted their heads above the surface of the
water, on the tips of her toes, Fleda tripped across before he
had done thinking about it. He told her he had no doubt now
that she was a fairy, and had powers of walking that did not
belong to other people. Fleda laughed, and on her little
demure figure went picking out the way, always with that
little tin pail hanging at her side, like — Mr. Carleton
busied himself in finding out similes for her. It wasn't very
easy.

For a long distance their way was through a thick woodland,
clear of underbrush and very pleasant walking, but permitting
no look at the distant country. They wound about, now up hill
and now down, till at last they began to ascend in good
earnest; the road became better marked, and Mr. Carleton came
up with his guide again. Both were obliged to walk more
slowly. He had overcome a good deal of Fleda's reserve, and
she talked to him now quite freely, without however losing the
grace of a most exquisite modesty in everything she said or
did.

"What do you suppose I have been amusing myself with all this
while, Miss Fleda?" said he, after walking for some time
alongside of her in silence. "I have been trying to fancy what
you looked like as you travelled on before me with that
mysterious tin pail."

"Well, what _did_ I look like?" said Fleda, laughing.

"Little Red Riding-Hood, the first thing, carrying her
grandmother the pot of butter."

"Ah, but I haven't got any butter in this, as it happens,"
said Fleda; "and I hope you are not anything like the wolf,
Mr. Carleton?"

"I hope not," said he, laughing. "Well, then, I thought you
might be one of those young ladies the fairy-stories tell of,
who set out over the world to seek their fortune. That might
hold, you know, a little provision to last for a day or two
till you found it."

"No," said Fleda, — "I should never go to seek my fortune."

"Why not, pray?"

"I don't think I should find it any the sooner."

Mr. Carleton looked at her, and could not make up his mind
whether or not she spoke wittingly.

Well, but after all, are we not seeking our fortune?" said he.
"We are doing something very like it. Now up here on the
mountain-top perhaps we shall find only empty trees — perhaps
trees with a harvest of nuts on them."

"Yes, but that wouldn't be like finding a fortune," said
Fleda; — "if we were to come to a great heap of nuts all
picked out ready for us to carry away, _that_ would be a
fortune; but now if we find the trees full, we have got to
knock them down, and gather them up, and shuck them."

"Make our own fortunes, eh?" said Mr. Carleton, smiling.

"Well! people do say those are the sweetest nuts. I don't know
how it may be. Ha! that is fine. What an atmosphere!"

They had reached a height of the mountain that cleared them a
view, and over the tops of the trees they looked abroad to a
very wide extent of country undulating with hill and vale, —
hill and valley alike far below at their feet. Fair and rich,
— the gently swelling hills, one beyond another, in the
patchwork dress of their many-coloured fields, — the gay hues
of the woodland softened and melted into a rich autumn glow, —
and far away, beyond even where this glow was sobered and lost
in the distance, the faint blue line of the Catskill — faint,
but clear and distinct, through the transparent air. Such a
sky! — of such etherialized purity as if made for spirits to
travel in, and tempting them to rise and free themselves from
the soil; and the stillness, — like nature's hand laid upon
the soul, bidding it think. In view of all that vastness and
grandeur, man's littleness does bespeak itself. And yet, for
every one, the voice of the scene is not more humbling to
pride than rousing to all that is really noble and strong in
character. Not only "What thou art," — but "What thou mayest
be!" What place thou oughtest to fill — what work thou hast to
do, — in this magnificent world. A very extended landscape,
however genial, is also sober in its effect on the mind. One
seems to emerge from the narrowness of individual existence,
and take a larger view of Life as well as of Creation.

Perhaps Mr. Carleton felt it so, for, after his first
expression of pleasure, he stood silently and gravely looking
for a long time. Little Fleda's eye loved it too, but she
looked her fill, and then sat down on a stone to await her
companion's pleasure, glancing now and then up at his face,
which gave her no encouragement to interrupt him. It was
gravely, and even gloomily thoughtful. He stood so long
without stirring, that poor Fleda began to have sad thoughts
of the possibility of gathering all the nuts from the hickory-
trees, and she heaved a very gentle sigh once or twice; but
the dark blue eye which she with reason admired, remained
fixed on the broad scene below, as if it were reading, or
trying to read there a difficult lesson. And when at last he
turned and began to go up the path again, he kept the same
face, and went moodily swinging his arm up and down, as if in
disturbed thought. Fleda was too happy to be moving to care
for her companion's silence; she would have compounded for no
more conversation, so they might but reach the nut-trees. But
before they had got quite so far, Mr. Carleton broke the
silence, speaking in precisely the same tone and manner he had
used the last time.

"Look here, Fairy," said he, pointing to a small heap of
chestnut burs piled at the foot of a tree — "here's a little
fortune for you already."

"That's a squirrel!" said Fleda, looking at the place very
attentively. "There has been nobody else here. He has put them
together, ready to be carried off to his nest."

"We'll save him that trouble," said Mr. Carleton. "Little
rascal! he's a Didenhover in miniature."

"Oh, no!" said Fleda; "he had as good a right to the nuts, I
am sure, as we have, poor fellow. — Mr. Carleton —"

Mr. Carleton was throwing the nuts into the basket. At the
anxious and undecided tone in which his name was pronounced,
he stopped, and looked up at a very wistful face.

"Mightn't we leave these nuts till we come back? If we find
the trees over here full, we shan't want them; and if we
don't, these would be only a handful —"

"And the squirrel would be disappointed?" said Mr. Carleton,
smiling. "You would rather we should leave them to him!"

Fleda said yes, with a relieved face, and Mr. Carleton, still
smiling, emptied his basket of the few nuts he had put in, and
they walked on.

In a hollow, rather a deep hollow, behind the crest of the
hill, as Fleda had said, they came at last to a noble group of
large hickory-trees, with one or two chestnuts standing in
attendance on the outskirts. And, also, as Fleda had said, or
hoped, the place was so far from convenient access, that
nobody had visited them; they were thick hung with fruit. If
the spirit of the game had been wanting or failing in Mr.
Carleton, it must have roused again into full life at the
joyous heartiness of Fleda's exclamations. At any rate, no boy
could have taken to the business better. He cut, with her
permission, a stout long pole in the woods; and swinging
himself lightly into one of the trees, showed that he was a
master in the art of whipping them. Fleda was delighted, but
not surprised; for, from the first moment of Mr. Carleton's
proposing to go with her, she had been privately sure that he
would not prove an inactive or inefficient ally. By whatever
slight tokens she might read this, in whatsoever fine
characters of the eye, or speech, or manner, she knew it; and
knew it just as well before they reached the hickory-trees as
she did afterwards.

When one of the trees was well stripped, the young gentleman
mounted into another, while Fleda set herself to hull and
gather up the nuts under the one first beaten. She could make
but little headway, however, compared with her companion; the
nuts fell a great deal faster than she could put them in her
basket. The trees were heavy laden, and Mr. Carleton seemed
determined to have the whole crop; from the second tree he
went to the third. Fleda was bewildered with her happiness;
this was doing business in style. She tried to calculate what
the whole quantity would be, but it went beyond her; one
basketful would not take it, nor two, nor three, — it wouldn't
_begin to_, Fleda said to herself. She went on hulling and
gathering with all possible industry.

After the third tree was finished, Mr. Carleton threw down his
pole, and resting himself upon the ground at the foot, told
Fleda he would wait a few moments before he began again..
Fleda thereupon left off her work too, and going for her
little tin pail, presently offered it to him temptingly
stocked with pieces of apple-pie. When he had smilingly taken
one, she next brought him a sheet of white paper, with slices
of young cheese.

"No, thank you," said he.

"Cheese is very good with apple-pie," said Fleda, competently.

"Is it?" said he laughing. "Well — upon that — I think you
would teach me a good many things, Miss Fleda, if I were to
stay here long enough."

"I wish you would stay and try, Sir," said Fleda, who did not
know exactly what to make of the shade of seriousness which
crossed his face. It was gone almost instantly.

"I think anything is better eaten out in the woods than it is
at home," said Fleda.

"Well, I don't know," said her friend. "I have no doubt that
is the case with cheese and apple-pie, and especially under
hickory trees which one has been contending with pretty
sharply. If a touch of your wand, Fairy, could transform one
of these shells into a goblet of Lafitte, or Amontillado, we
should have nothing to wish for."

'Amontillado' was Hebrew to Fleda, but 'goblet' was
intelligible.

"I am sorry!" she said; "I don't know where there is any
spring up here, but we shall come to one going down the
mountain."

"Do you know where all the springs are?"

"No, not all, I suppose," said Fleda; "but I know a good many.
I have gone about through the woods so much, and I always look
for the springs."

"And who roams about through the woods with you?"

"Oh, nobody but grandpa," said Fleda. "He used to be out with
me a great deal, but he can't go much now — this year or two."

"Don't you go to school?"

"O no!" said Fleda, smiling.

"Then your grandfather teaches you at home?"

"No," said Fleda; father used to teach me; grandpa doesn't
teach me much."

"What do you do with yourself all day long?"

"O, plenty of things," said Fleda, smiling again. "I read, and
talk to grandpa, and go riding, and do a great many things."

"Has your home always been here, Fairy?" said Mr. Carleton,
after a few minutes' pause.

Fleda said, "No, Sir," and there stopped; and then seeming to
think that politeness called upon her to say more, she added —

"I have lived with grandpa ever since father left me here,
when he was going away among the Indians; I used to be always
with him before."

"And how long ago is that?"

"It is — four years, Sir; more, I believe. He was sick when he
came back, and we never went away from Queechy again."

Mr. Carleton looked again silently at the child, who had given
him these pieces of information with a singular, grave
propriety of manner; and even as it were reluctantly.

"And what do you read, Fairy?" he said, after a minute.
"Stories of fairy-land?"

"No," said Fleda; "I haven't any. We haven't a great many
books — there are only a few up in the cupboard, and the
Encyclopaedia; father had some books, but they are locked up
in a chest. But there is a great deal in the Encyclopaedia."

"The Encyclopaedia!" said Mr. Carleton; — "what do you read in
that? what can you find to like there?"

"I like all about the insects, and birds, and animals; and
about flowers, — and lives of people, and curious things.
There are a great many in it."

"And what are the other books in the cupboard, which you
read?"

"There's Quentin Durward," said Fleda, — "and Rob Roy, and Guy
Mannering in two little bits of volumes; and the
Knickerbocker, and the Christian's Magazine, and an odd volume
of Redgauntlet, and the Beauties of Scotland."

"And have you read all these, Miss Fleda?" said her companion,
commanding his countenance with difficulty.

"I haven't read quite all of the Christian's Magazine, nor all
of the Beauties of Scotland."

"All the rest."

"O yes," said Fleda, — "and two or three times over. And there
are three great red volumes besides, Robertson's History of
something, I believe. I haven't read that either."

"And which of them all do you like the best?"

"I don't know," said Fleda, — "I don't know but I like to read
the Encyclopaedia as well as any of them. And then I have the
newspapers to read too."

"I think, Miss Fleda," said Mr. Carleton, a minute after, "you
had better let me take you with my mother over the sea, when
we go back again, — to Paris."

"Why, Sir?"

"You know," said he, half smiling, "your aunt wants you, and
has engaged my mother to bring you with her, if she can."

"I know it," said Fleda. "But I am not going."

It was spoken not rudely, but in a tone of quiet
determination.

"Aren't you too tired, Sir?" said she gently, when she saw Mr.
Carleton preparing to launch into the remaining hickory trees.

"Not I!" said he. "I am not tired till I have done, Fairy. And
besides, cheese is working man's fare, you know, isn't it?"

"No," said Fleda, gravely, — "I don't think it is."

"What then?" said Mr. Carleton, stopping as he was about to
spring into the tree, and looking at her with a face of
comical amusement.

"It isn't what our men live on," said Fleda, demurely eyeing
the fallen nuts, with a head full of business.

They set both to work again with renewed energy, and rested
not till the treasures of the trees had been all brought to
the ground, and as large a portion of them as could be coaxed
and shaken into Fleda's basket, had been cleared from the
hulls and bestowed there. But there remained a vast quantity.
These with a good deal of labour, Mr. Carleton and Fleda
gathered into a large heap in rather a sheltered place by the
side of a rock, and took what measures they might to conceal
them. This was entirely at Fleda's instance

"You and your maid Cynthia will have to make a good many
journeys, Miss Fleda, to get all these home, unless you can
muster a larger basket."

"O _that_'s nothing," said Fleda. "It will be all fun. I don't
care how many times we have to come. You are _very_ good, Mr.
Carleton."

"Do you think so?" said he. "I wish I did. I wish you would
make your wand rest on me, Fairy."

"My wand?" said Fleda.

"Yes — you know your grandfather says you are a fairy, and
carry a wand. What does he say that for, Miss Fleda?"

Fleda said she supposed it was because he loved her so much;
but the rosy smile with which she said it would have let her
hearer, if he had needed enlightening, far more into the
secret than she was herself. And if the simplicity in her face
had not been equal to the wit, Mr. Carleton would never have
ventured the look of admiration he bestowed on her. He knew it
was safe. _Approbation_ she saw, and it made her smile the
rosier; but the admiration was a step beyond her; Fleda could
make nothing of it.

They descended the mountain now with a hasty step, for the day
was wearing well on. At the spot where he had stood so long
when they went up, Mr. Carleton paused again for a minute. In
mountain scenery every hour makes a change. The sun was lower
now, the lights and shadows more strongly contrasted, the sky
of a yet calmer blue, cool and clear towards the horizon. The
scene said still the same that it had said a few hours before,
with a touch more of sadness; it seemed to whisper, "All
things have an end — thy time may not be for ever — do what
thou wouldest do — 'while ye have light, believe in the light,
that ye may be children of the light.' "

Whether Mr. Carleton read it so or not, he stood for a minute
motionless, and went down the mountain looking so grave, that
Fleda did not venture to speak to him till they reached the
neighbourhood of the spring.

"What are you searching for, Miss Fleda?" said her friend.

She was making a busy quest here and there by the side of the
little stream.

"I was looking to see if I could find a mullein leaf," said
Fleda.

"A mullein leaf? what do you want it for?"

"I want it — to make a drinking-cup of," said Fleda, her
intent bright eyes peering keenly about in every direction.

"A mullein leaf! that is too rough; one of these golden leaves
— what are they? — will do better, wont it?"

"That is hickory," said Fleda. " No; the mullein leaf is the
best because it holds the water so nicely. — Here it is."

And folding up one of the largest leaves into a most artist-
like cup, she presented it to Mr. Carleton.

"For me was all that trouble?" said he. "I don't deserve it."

"You wanted something, Sir," said Fleda. "The water is very
cold and nice."

He stooped to the bright little stream, and filled his rural
goblet several times.

"I never knew what it was to have a fairy for my cup-bearer
before," said he. "That was better than anything Bordeaux or
Xeres ever sent forth."

He seemed to have swallowed his seriousness, or thrown it away
with the mullein leaf. It was quite gone.

"This is the best spring in all grandpa's ground," said Fleda.
"The water is as good as can be."

How come you to be such a wood and water spirit? you must live
out of doors. Do the trees ever talk to you? I sometimes think
they do to me."

"I don't know — I think _I_ talk to _them_," said Fleda.

"It's the same thing," said her companion, smiling. "Such
beautiful woods!"

"Were you never in the country before in the fall, Sir?"

"Not here — in my own country often enough; but the woods in
England do not put on such a gay face, Miss Fleda, when they
are going to be stripped of their summer dress — they look
sober upon it — the leaves wither and grow brown, and the
woods have a dull russet colour. Your trees are true Yankees —
they 'never say die.' "

"Why are the Americans more obstinate than the English?" said
Fleda.

"It is difficult to compare unknown quantities," said Mr.
Carleton laughing, and shaking his head. "I see you have good
ears for the key-note of patriotism."

Fleda looked a little hard at him, but he did not explain; and
indeed they were hurrying along too much for talking; leaping
from stone to stone, and running down the smooth orchard
slope. When they reached the last fence, but a little way from
the house, Fleda made a resolute pause.

"Mr. Carleton," — said she.

Mr. Carleton put down his basket, and looked in some surprise
at the hesitating anxious little face that looked up at him.

"Wont you please not say anything to grandpa about my going
away?"

"Why not, Fairy?" said he, kindly.

"Because I don't think I ought to go."

"But may it not be possible," said he, "that your grandfather
can judge better in the matter than you can do?"

"No," said Fleda, "I don't think he can. He would do anything
he thought would be most for my happiness; but it wouldn't be
for my happiness," she said, with an unsteady lip, — "I don't
know what he would do if I went!"

"You think he would have no sunshine if your wand didn't touch
him?" said Mr. Carleton, smiling.

"No, Sir," said Fleda, gravely, "I don't think that, — but
wont you please, Mr. Carleton, not to speak about it?"

"But are you sure," he said, sitting down on a stone hard by,
and taking one of her hands, — "are you sure that you would
not like to go with us? I wish you would change your mind
about it. My mother will love you very much, and I will take
the especial charge of you till we give you to your aunt in
Paris; — if the wind blows a little too rough I will always
put myself between it and you," he added, smiling.

Fleda smiled faintly, but immediately begged Mr. Carleton "not
to say anything to put it into her grandfather's head."

"It must be there already, I think, Miss Fleda; but at any
rate you know my mother must perform her promise to your aunt
Mrs. Rossitur; and she would not do that without letting your
grandfather know how glad she would be to take you."

Fleda stood silent a moment, and then with a touching look of
waiting patience in her sweet face suffered Mr. Carleton to
help her over the fence; and they went home.

To Fleda's unspeakable surprise it was found to be past four
o'clock, and Cynthy had supper ready. Mr. Ringgan with great
cordiality invited Mr. Carleton to stay with them, but he
could not; his mother would expect him to dinner.

"Where is your mother?"

"At Montepoole, Sir; we have been to Niagara, and came this
way on our return, partly that my mother might fulfil the
promise she made Mrs. Rossitur — to let you know, Sir, with
how much pleasure she will take charge of your little
granddaughter, and convey her to her friends in Paris, if you
can think it best to let her go."

"Hum! — she is very kind," said Mr. Ringgan, with a look of
grave and not unmoved consideration which Fleda did not in the
least like; — "How long will you stay at Montepoole Sir?"

"It might be several days," Mr. Carleton said.

"Hum — You have given up this day to Fleda, Mr. Carleton, —
suppose you take to-morrow for the game, and come here and try
our country fare when you have got through shooting? — you and
young Mr. Rossitur? — and I'll think over this question and
let you know about it."

Fleda was delighted to see that her friend accepted this
invitation with apparent pleasure.

"You will be kind enough to give my respects to your mother,"
Mr. Ringgan went on, "and thanks for her kind offer. I may
perhaps — I don't know — avail myself of it. If anything
should bring Mrs. Carleton this way we should like to see her.
I am glad to see my friends," he said, shaking the young
gentleman's hand, — "as long as I have a house to ask 'em to!"

"That will be for many years, I trust," said Mr. Carleton,
respectfully, struck with something in the old gentleman's
manner.

"I don't know, Sir!" said Mr. Ringgan, with again the
dignified look of trouble: — " it may not be! — I wish you
good day, Sir."



CHAPTER IV.


A mind that in a calm angelic mood
Of happy wisdom, meditating good,
Beholds, of all from her high powers required,
Much done, and much designed, and more desired. —
WORDSWORTH.


"I've had such a delicious day, dear grandpa," said little
Fleda, as they sat at supper; "you can't think how kind Mr.
Carleton has been."

"Has he? Well, dear, I'm glad on't; he seems a very nice young
man."

"He's a smart-looking feller," said Cynthy, who was pouring
out the tea.

"And we have got the greatest quantity of nuts!" Fleda went
on; "enough for all winter. Cynthy and I will have to make
ever so many journeys to fetch 'em all; and they are splendid
big ones. Don't you say anything to Mr. Didenhover, Cynthy."

"I don't desire to meddle with Mr. Didenhover unless I've got
to," said Cynthy, with an expression of considerable disgust.
"You needn't give no charges to me."

"But you'll go with me, Cynthy?"

"I s'pose I'll have to," said Miss Gall, drily, after a short
interval of sipping tea and helping herself to sweet-meats.

This lady had a pervading acidity of face and temper, but it
was no more. To take her name as standing for a fair setting
forth of her character would be highly injurious to a really
respectable composition, which the world's neglect (there was
no other imaginable cause) had soured a little.

Almost Fleda's first thought on coming home had been about Mr.
Jolly. But she knew very well, without asking, that he had not
been there; she would not touch the subject.

"I haven't had such a fine day of nutting in a great while,
grandpa," she said again; "and you never saw such a good hand
as Mr. Carleton is at whipping the trees."

"How came he to go with you?"

"I don't know; I suppose it was to please me, in the first
place; but I am sure he enjoyed it himself; and he liked the
pie and cheese, too, Cynthy."

"Where did your cousin go?"

"O, he went off after the woodcock. I hope he didn't find
any."

"What do you think of those two young men, Fairy?"

"In what way, grandpa?"

"I mean, which of them do you like the best?"

"Mr. Carleton."

"But t'other one's your cousin," said Mr. Ringgan, bending
forward and examining his little granddaughter's face with a
curious, pleased look, as he often did when expecting an
answer from her.

"Yes," said Fleda; "but he isn't so much of a gentleman."

"How do you know that?"

"I don't think he is," said Fleda, quietly.

"But why, Fairy?"

"He doesn't know how to keep his word as well, grandpa."

"Ay, ay? let's hear about that," said Mr. Ringgan.

A little reluctantly, for Cynthia was present, Fleda told the
story of the robins, and how Mr. Carleton would not let the
gun be fired.

"Wa'n't your cousin a little put out by that?"

"They were both put out," said Fleda; "Mr. Carleton was very
angry for a minute, and then Mr. Rossitur was angry, but I
think he could have been angrier if he had chosen."

Mr. Ringgan laughed, and then seemed in a sort of amused
triumph about something.

"Well, dear!" he remarked after a while; "you'll never buy
wooden nutmegs, I expect."

Fleda laughed, and hoped not, and asked him why he said so.
But he didn't tell her.

"Mr. Ringgan," said Cynthy, "hadn't I better run up the hill
after supper, and ask Mis' Plumfield to come down and help to-
morrow? I s'pose you'll want considerable of a set-out; and if
both them young men comes, you'll want some more help to
entertain 'em than I can give you, it's likely."

"Do so — do so," said the old gentleman. "Tell her who I
expect, and ask her if she can come and help you, and me too."

"O, and I'll go with you, Cynthy," said Fleda. "I'll get aunt
Miriam to come, I know."

"I should think you'd be run off your legs already, Flidda,"
said Miss Cynthia; " what ails you to want to be going again?"

But this remonstrance availed nothing. Supper was hurried
through, and leaving the table standing, Cynthia and Fleda set
off to "run up the hill."

They were hardly a few steps from the gate when they heard the
clatter of horses' hoofs behind them, and the two young
gentlemen came riding hurriedly past, having joined company
and taken their horses at Queechy Run. Rossitur did not seem
to see his little cousin and her companion; but the doffed cap
and low inclination of the other rider as they flew by called
up a smile and blush of pleasure to Fleda's face; and the
sound of their horses' hoofs had died away in the distance,
before the light had faded from her cheeks, or she was quite
at home to Cynthia's observations. She was possessed with the
feeling, what a delightful thing it was to have people do
things in such a manner.

"That was your cousin, wa'n't it?" said Cynthy, when the spell
was off.

"No," said Fleda, "the other one was my cousin."

"Well — I mean one of them fellers that went by. He's a
soldier, ain't he?"

"An officer," said Fleda.

"Well, it does give a man an elegant look to be in the
militie, don't it? I should admire to have a cousin like that.
It's dreadful becoming to have that — what is it they call it?
— to let the beard grow over the mouth. I s'pose they can't do
that without they be in the army, can they?"

"I don't know," said Fleda. "I hope not. I think it is very
ugly."

"Do you? Oh! I admire it. It makes a man look so spry!"

A few hundred yards from Mr. Ringgan's gate the road began to
wind up a very long heavy hill. Just at the hill's foot, it
crossed by a rude bridge the bed of a noisy brook that came
roaring down from the higher grounds turning sundry mill and
factory wheels in its way. About half-way up the hill one of
these was placed, belonging to a mill for sawing boards. The
little building stood alone, no other in sight, with a dark
background of wood rising behind it on the other side of the
brook; the stream itself running smoothly for a small space
above the mill, and leaping down madly below, as if it
disdained its bed, and would clear at a bound every impediment
in its way to the sea. When the mill was not going, the
quantity of water that found its way down the hill was indeed
very small, enough only to keep up a pleasant chattering with
the stones; but as soon as the stream was allowed to gather
all its force and run free, its loquacity was such that it
would prevent a traveller from suspecting his approach to the
mill, until, very near, the monotonous hum of its saw could be
heard. This was a place Fleda dearly loved. The wild sound of
the waters, and the lonely keeping of the scene, with the
delicious smell of the new-sawn boards, and the fascination of
seeing the great logs of wood walk up to the relentless,
tireless, up-and-down-going steel; as the generations of men
in turn present themselves to the course of those sharp events
which are the teeth of Time's saw; until all of a sudden the
master spirit, the man regulator of this machinery, would
perform some conjuration on lever and wheel, and at once, as
at the touch of an enchanter, the log would be still and the
saw stay its work; the business of life came to a stand, and
the romance of the little brook sprang up again. Fleda never
tired of it — never. She would watch the saw play and stop,
and go on again; she would have her ears dinned with the
hoarse clang of the machinery, and then listen to the laugh of
the mill-stream; she would see with untiring patience one
board after another cut and cast aside, and log succeed to
log; and never turned weary away from that mysterious image of
Time's doings. Fleda had, besides, without knowing it, the eye
of a painter. In the lonely hill-side, the odd-shaped little
mill, with its accompaniments of wood and water, and the great
logs of timber lying about the ground in all directions and
varieties of position, there was a picturesque charm for her,
where the country people saw nothing but business and a place
fit for it. Their hands grew hard where her mind was refining.
Where they made dollars and cents, she was growing rich in
stores of thought and associations of beauty. How many
purposes the same thing serves!

"That had ought to be your grandpa's mill this minute,"
observed Cynthy.

"I wish it was!" sighed Fleda. "Who's got it now, Cynthy?"

"O, it's that chap McGowan, I expect; he's got pretty much the
hull of everything. I told Mr. Ringgan I wouldn't let him have
it if it was me, at the time. Your grandpa 'd be glad to get
it back now, I guess."

Fleda guessed so too; but also guessed that Miss Gall was
probably very far from being possessed of the whole rationale
of the matter. So she made her no answer.

After reaching the brow of the hill, the road continued on a
very gentle ascent towards a little settlement half a quarter
of a mile off; passing, now and then, a few scattered
cottages, or an occasional mill or turner's shop. Several
mills and factories, with a store and a very few dwelling-
houses, were all the settlement; not enough to entitle it to
the name of a village. Beyond these and the millponds, of
which in the course of the road there were three or four, and
with a brief intervening space of cultivated fields, a single
farmhouse stood alone; just upon the borders of a large and
very fair sheet of water, from which all the others had their
supply; so large and fair, that nobody cavilled at its taking
the style of a lake, and giving its own pretty name of
Deepwater both to the settlement and the farm that half
embraced it. This farm was Seth Plumfield's.

At the garden gate Fleda quitted Cynthy, and rushed forward to
meet her aunt, whom she saw coming round the corner of the
house, with her gown pinned up behind her, from attending to
some domestic concern among the pigs, the cows, or the
poultry.

"O, aunt Miriam," said Fleda, eagerly, "we are going to have
company to tea to-morrow — wont you come and help us?"

Aunt Miriam laid her hands upon Fleda's shoulders, and looked
at Cynthy.

"I came up to see if you wouldn't come down to-morrow, Mis'
Plumfield," said that personage, with her usual dry, business
tone, always a little on the wrong side of sweet; "your
brother has taken a notion to ask two young fellers from the
Pool to supper, and they're grand folks, I s'pose, and have
got to have a fuss made for 'em. I don't know what Mr. Ringgan
was thinkin' of, or whether he thinks I have got anything to
do or not; but anyhow, they're a comin', I s'pose, and must
have somethin' to eat; and I thought the best thing I could do
would be to come and get you into the works, if I could. I
should feel a little queer to have nobody but me to say
nothin' to them at the table."

"Ah, do come, aunt Miriam!" said Fleda; "it will be twice as
pleasant if you do; and besides, we want to have everything
very nice, you know."

Aunt Miriam smiled at Fleda, and inquired of Miss Gall what
she had in the house.

"Why, I don't know, Mis' Plumfield," said the lady, while
Fleda threw her arms round her aunt, and thanked her; "there
ain't nothin' particler — pork and beef, and the old story.
I've got some first-rate pickles. I calculated to make some
sort o' cake in the morning."

"Any of those small hams left?"

"Not a bone of 'em, these six weeks. _I_ don't see how they've
gone, for my part. I'd lay any wager there were two in the
smoke-house when I took the last one out. If Mr. Didenhover
was a little more like a weasel I should think he'd been in."

"Have you cooked that roaster I sent down."

"No, Mis' Plumfield, I ha'n't; it's such a plaguy sight of
trouble!" said Cynthy, with a little apologetic giggle; "I was
keepin' it for some day when I hadn't much to do."

"I'll take the trouble of it. l'll be down bright and early in
the morning, and we'll see what's best to do. How's your last
churning, Cynthy?"

"Well, I guess it's pretty middlin', Mis' Plumfield."

" 'T isn't anything very remarkable, aunt Miriam," said Fleda,
shaking her head.

"Well, well," said Mrs. Plumfield, smiling; "run away down
home now, and I'll come to-morrow, and I guess we'll fix it.
But who is it that grandpa has asked?"

Fleda and Cynthy both opened at once.

"One of them is my cousin, aunt Miriam, that was at West
Point, and the other is the nicest English gentleman you ever
saw; you will like him very much; he has been with me getting
nuts all to-day."

"They're a smart enough couple of chaps," said Cynthia; "they
look as if they lived where money was plenty."

"Well, I'll come to-morrow," repeated Mrs. Plumfield, "and
we'll see about it. Good night, dear!"

She took Fleda's head in both her hands, and gave her a most
affectionate kiss; and the two petitioners set off homewards
again.

Aunt Miriam was not at all like her brother, in feature,
though the moral characteristics suited the relationship
sufficiently well. There was the expression of strong sense
and great benevolence; the unbending uprightness of mind and
body at once; and the dignity of an essentially noble
character, not the same as Mr. Ringgan's, but such as well
became his sister. She had been brought up among the Quakers,
and though now, and for many years, a staunch Presbyterian,
she still retained a tincture of the calm efficient gentleness
of mind and manner that belongs so inexplicably to them. More
womanly sweetness than was in Mr. Ringgan's blue eye, a woman
need not wish to have; and perhaps his sister's had not so
much. There was no want of it in her heart, nor in her manner,
but the many and singular excellences of her character were a
little overshadowed by super-excellent housekeeping. Not a
taint of the littleness that sometimes grows therefrom, — not
a trace of the narrowness of mind that over-attention to such
pursuits is too apt to bring; — on every important occasion
aunt Miriam would come out, free and unshackled, from all the
cobweb entanglements of housewifery; she would have tossed
housewifery to the winds, if need were, (but it never was, for
in a new sense she always contrived to make both ends meet).
It was only in the unbroken everyday course of affairs that
aunt Miriam's face showed any tokens of that incessant train
of _small cares_ which had never left their impertinent
footprints upon the broad high brow of her brother. Mr.
Ringgan had no affinity with small cares; deep serious matters
received his deep and serious consideration; but he had as
dignified a disdain of trifling annoyances or concernments as
any great mastiff or Newfoundlander ever had for the yelping
of a little cur.



CHAPTER V.


Ynne London citye was I borne,
Of parents of grete note;
My fadre dydd a nobile arms
Emblazon onne hys cote.
CHATTERTON.


In the snuggest and best private room of the House at
Montepoole, a party of ladies and gentlemen were gathered,
awaiting the return of the sportsmen. The room had been made
as comfortable as any place could be in a house built for "the
season," after the season was past. A splendid fire of hickory
logs was burning brilliantly and making amends for many
deficiencies; the closed wooden shutters gave the reality if
not the look of warmth, for though the days might be fine and
mild, the mornings and evenings were always very cool up there
among the mountains; and a table stood at the last point of
readiness for having dinner served. They only waited for the
lingering woodcock hunters.

It was rather an elderly party, with the exception of one
young man whose age might match that of the absent two. He was
walking up and down the room with somewhat the air of having
nothing to do with himself. Another gentleman, much older,
stood warming his back at the fire, feeling about his jaws and
chin with one hand, and looking at the dinner-table in a sort
of expectant reverie. The rest, three ladies, sat quietly
chatting. All these persons were extremely different from one
another in individual characteristics, and all had the
unmistakable mark of the habit of good society; as difficult
to locate, and as easy to recognise, as the sense of _freshness_
which some ladies have the secret of diffusing around
themselves; — no definable sweetness, nothing in particular,
but making a very agreeable impression.

One of these ladies, the mother of the perambulating young
officer, (he was a class-mate of Rossitur's,) was extremely
plain in feature, even more than _ordinary_. This plainness was
not, however, devoid of sense, and it was relieved by an
uncommon amount of good-nature and kindness of heart. In her
son the sense deepened into acuteness, and the kindness of
heart retreated, it is to be hoped, into some hidden recess of
his nature; for it very rarely showed itself in open
expression; that is, to an eye keen in reading the natural
signs of emotion; for it cannot be said that his manner had
any want of amenity or politeness.

The second lady, the wife of the gentleman on the hearth-rug,
or rather on the spot where the hearth-rug should have been,
was a strong contrast to this mother and son; remarkably
pretty, delicate, and even lovely; with a black eye, however,
that though in general soft, could show a mischievous sparkle
upon occasion; still young, and one of those women who always
were and always will be pretty and delicate at any age.

The third had been very handsome, and was still a very elegant
woman, but her face had seen more of the world's wear and
tear. It had never known placidity of expression, beyond what
the habitual command of good-breeding imposed. She looked
exactly what she was, a perfect woman of the world. A very
good specimen, — for Mrs. Carleton had sense and cultivation,
and even feeling enough, to play the part very gracefully; yet
her mind was bound in the shackles of "the world's" tyrannical
forging, and had never been free; and her heart bowed
submissively to the same authority.

"Here they are! Welcome home," exclaimed this lady, as her son
and his friend at length made their appearance; — "Welcome
home — we are all famishing; and I don't know why in the world
we waited for you, for I am sure you don't deserve it. What
success? What success, Mr. Rossitur?"

"Faith, Ma'am, there's little enough to boast of, as far as I
am concerned. Mr. Carleton may speak for himself."

"I am very sorry, Ma'am, you waited for me," said that
gentleman. "I am a delinquent, I acknowledge. The day came to
an end before I was at all aware of it."

"It would not do to flatter you so far as to tell you why we
waited," said Mrs. Evelyn's soft voice. And then perceiving
that the gentleman at whom she was looking gave her no answer,
she turned to the other. "How many woodcock, Mr. Rossitur?"

"Nothing to show, Ma'am," he replied. "Didn't see a solitary
one. I heard some partridges, but I didn't mean to have room
in my bag for them."

"Did you find the right ground, Rossitur?"

"I had a confounded long tramp after it if I didn't," said the
discomfited sportsman, who did not seem to have yet recovered
his good humour.

"Were you not together?" said Mrs. Carleton. - "Where were
you, Guy?"

"Following the sport another way, Ma'am; I had very good
success, too."

"What's the total?" said Mr. Evelyn. "How much game did you
bag?"

"Really, Sir, I didn't count. I can only answer for a bagful."

"Ladies and gentlemen!" cried Rossitur, bursting forth, —
"What will you say when I tell you that Mr. Carleton deserted
me and the sport in a most unceremonious manner, and that he,
— the cynical philosopher, the reserved English gentleman, the
gay man of the world, — you are all of 'em by turns, aren't
you, Carleton? — _he!_ — has gone and made a very cavaliero
servente of himself to a piece of rusticity, and spent all to-
day in helping a little girl pick up chestnuts."

"Mr. Carleton would be a better man if he were to spend a good
many more days in the same manner," said that gentleman, drily
enough. But the entrance of dinner put a stop to both laughter
and questioning for a time, all of the party being well
disposed to their meat.

When the pickerel from the lakes, and the poultry and half-
kept joints had had their share of attention, and a pair of
fine wild ducks were set on the table, the tongues of the
party found something to do besides eating.

"We have had a very satisfactory day among the Shakers, Guy,"
said Mrs. Carleton; "and we have arranged to drive to Kenton
to-morrow — I suppose you will go with us?"

"With pleasure, mother, but that I am engaged to dinner about
five or six miles in the opposite direction."

"Engaged to dinner! — what with this old gentleman where you
went last night? And you too, Mr. Rossitur?"

"I have made no promise, Ma'am; but I take it I must go."

"Vexatious! Is the little girl going with us, Guy?"

"I don't know yet — I half apprehend, yes; there seems to be a
doubt in her grandfather's mind, not whether he can let her
go, but whether he can keep her, and that looks like it."

"Is it your little cousin who proved the successful rival of
the woodcock to-day, Charlton?" said Mrs. Evelyn. "What is
she?"

"I don't know, Ma'am, upon my word. I presume Carleton will
tell you she is something uncommon and quite remarkable."

"Is she, Mr. Carleton?"

"What, Ma'am?"

"Uncommon?"

"Very."

"Come? That _is_ something, from _you_," said Rossitur's brother
officer, Lieut. Thorn.

"What's the uncommonness?" said Mrs. Thorn, addressing herself
rather to Mr. Rossitur as she saw Mr. Carleton's averted eye;
— "Is she handsome, Mr. Rossitur?"

"I can't tell you, I am sure, Ma'am. I saw nothing but a nice
child enough, in a calico frock, just such as one would see in
any farm-house. She rushed into the room when she was first
called to see us, from somewhere in distant regions, with an
immense iron ladle a foot and a half long in her hand, with
which she had been performing unknown feats of housewifery;
and they had left her head still encircled with a halo of
kitchen smoke. If, as they say, 'coming events cast their
shadows before,' she was the shadow of supper."

"O, Charlton, Charlton!" said Mrs. Evelyn, but in a tone of
very gentle and laughing reproof, — "for shame! What a
picture! and of your cousin!"

"Is she a pretty child, Guy?" said Mrs. Carleton, who did not
relish her son's grave face.

"No, Ma'am —something more than that."

"How old?"

"About ten or eleven."

"That's an ugly age."

"She will never be at an ugly age."

"What style of beauty?"

"The highest — that degree of mould and finish which belongs
only to the finest material."

"That is hardly the kind of beauty one would expect to see in
such a place," said Mrs. Carleton. "From one side of her
family, to be sure, she has a right to it."

"I have seen very few examples of it anywhere," said her son.

"Who were her parents?" said Mrs. Evelyn.

"Her mother was Mrs. Rossitur's sister — her father" —

"Amy Charlton!" exclaimed Mrs. Evelyn, — "Oh, I knew her! Was
Amy Charlton her mother? O, I didn't know whom you were
talking of. She was one of my dearest friends. Her daughter
may well be handsome — she was one of the most lovely persons
I ever knew; in body and mind both. O, I loved Amy Charlton
very much. I must see this child."

"I don't know who her father was," Mrs. Carleton went on.

"Oh, her father was Major Ringgan," said Mrs. Evelyn. "I never
saw him, but I have heard him spoken of in very high terms. I
always heard that Amy married very well."

"Major Ringgan!" said Mrs. Thorn; "his name is very well
known; he was very distinguished."

"He was a self-made man, entirely," said Mrs. Evelyn, in a
tone that conveyed a good deal more than the simple fact.

"Yes, he was a self-made man," said Mrs. Thorn, "but I should
never think of that where a man distinguishes himself so much;
he was very distinguished."

"Yes, and for more than officer-like qualities," said Mrs.
Evelyn. "I have heard his personal accomplishments as a
gentleman highly praised."

"So that little Miss Ringgan's right to be a beauty may be
considered clearly made out," said Mr. Thorn.

"It is one of those singular cases," said Mr. Carleton, "where
purity of blood proves itself, and one has no need to go back
to past generations to make any inquiry concerning it."

"Hear him!" cried Rossitur; "and for the life of me I could
see nothing of all this wonder. Her face is not at all
striking."

"The wonder is not so much in what it is, as in what it
indicates," said Mr. Carleton.

"What does it indicate?" said his mother.

"Suppose you were to ask me to count the shades of colour in a
rainbow," answered he.

"Hear him!" cried Thorn, again.

"Well, I hope she will go with us, and we shall have a chance
of seeing her," said Mrs. Carleton.

"If she were only a few years older, it is my belief you would
see enough of her, Ma'am," said young Rossitur.

The haughty coldness of Mr. Carleton's look, at this speech,
could not be surpassed.

"But she has beauty of feature, too, has she not?" Mrs.
Carleton asked again of her son.

"Yes, in very high degree. The contour of the eye and brow I
never saw finer."

"It is a little odd," said Mrs. Evelyn, with the slightest
touch of a piqued air, (she had some daughters at home) —
"that is a kind of beauty one is apt to associate with high
breeding, and certainly you very rarely see it anywhere else;
and Major Ringgan, however distinguished and estimable, as I
have no doubt he was, — and this child must have been brought
up with no advantages, here in the country."

"My dear madam," said Mr. Carleton, smiling a little, "this
high breeding is a very fine thing, but it can neither be
given nor bequeathed; and we cannot entail it."

"But it can be taught, can't it?"

"If it could be taught, it is to be hoped it would be oftener
learned," said the young man, drily.

"But what do we mean, then, when we talk of the high breeding
of certain classes — and families? and why are we not
disappointed when we look to find it in connection with
certain names and positions in society?"

"I do not know," said Mr. Carleton.

"You don't mean to say, I suppose, Mr. Carleton," said Thorn,
bridling a little, "that it is a thing independent of
circumstances, and that there is no value in blood?"

"Very nearly — answering the question as you understand it."

"May I ask how you understand it?"

"As you do, Sir."

"Is there no high breeding then in the world?" asked good-
natured Mrs. Thorn, who could be touched on this point of
family.

"There is very little of it. What is commonly current under
the name, is merely counterfeit notes which pass from hand to
hand of those who are bankrupt in the article."

"And to what serve, then," said Mrs. Evelyn, colouring, "the
long lists of good old names which even you, Mr. Carleton, I
know, do not disdain?"

"To endorse the counterfeit notes," said Mr. Carleton,
smiling.

"Guy, you are absurd!" said his mother. "I will not sit at the
table and listen to you if you talk such stuff. What do you
mean?"

"I beg your pardon, mother, you have misunderstood me," said
he, seriously. "Mind, I have been talking, not of ordinary
conformity to what the world requires, but of that fine
perfection of mental and moral constitution, which, in its own
natural necessary acting, leaves nothing to be desired, in
every occasion or circumstance of life. It is the pure gold,
and it knows no tarnish; it is the true coin, and it gives
what it proffers to give; it is the living plant ever
blossoming, and not the cut and art-arranged flowers. It is a
thing of the mind altogether; and where nature has not
curiously prepared the soil, it is in vain to try to make it
grow. _This_ is not very often met with!"

"No, indeed," said Mrs. Carleton; " but you are so
fastidiously nice in all your notions! — at this rate nothing
will ever satisfy you."

"I don't think it is so very uncommon," said Mrs. Thorn. "It
seems to me one sees as much of it as can be expected, Mr.
Carleton."

Mr. Carleton pared his apple with an engrossed air.

"O no, Mrs. Thorn," said Mrs. Evelyn, "I don't agree with you
— I don't think you often see such a combination as Mr.
Carleton has been speaking of — very rarely! But, Mr.
Carleton, don't you think it is generally found in that class
of society where the habits of life are constantly the most
polished and refined?"

"Possibly," answered he, diving into the core of his apple.

"No, but tell me; I want to know what you think."

"Cultivation and refinement have taught people to recognize
and analyze and imitate it; the counterfeits are most current
in that society; but as to the reality, I don't know; it is
nature's work, and she is a little freaky about it."

"But, Guy!" said his mother, impatiently, "this is not selling
but giving away one's birthright. Where is the advantage of
birth if breeding is not supposed to go along with it? Where
the parents have had intelligence and refinement, do we not
constantly see them inherited by the children? and in an
increasing degree from generation to generation?"

"Very extraordinary!" said Mrs. Thorn.

"I do not undervalue the blessings of inheritance, mother,
believe me, nor deny the general doctrine; though intelligence
does not always descend, and manners die out, and that
invaluable legacy, a name, may be thrown away. But this
delicate thing we are speaking of is not intelligence nor
refinement, but comes rather from a happy combination of
qualities, together with a peculiarly fine nervous
constitution; the _essence_ of it may consist with an omission,
even with an awkwardness, and with a sad ignorance of
conventionalities."

"But even if that be so, do you think it can ever reach its
full development but in the circumstances that are favourable
to it?" said Mrs. Evelyn.

"Probably not often; the diamond in some instances wants the
graver; — but it is the diamond. Nature seems now and then to
have taken a princess's child and dropped it in some odd
corner of the kingdom, while she has left the clown in the
palace."

"From all which I understand," said Mr. Thorn, "that this
little chestnut girl is a princess in disguise."

"Really, Carleton!" — Rossitur began.

Mrs. Evelyn leaned back in her chair, and quietly eating a
piece of apple, eyed Mr. Carleton with a look half amused and
half discontented, and behind all that, keenly attentive.

"Take for example those two miniatures you were looking at
last night, Mrs. Evelyn," the young man went on; — "Louis XVI.
and Marie Antoinette — what would you have more unrefined,
more heavy, more _animal_, than the face of that descendant of a
line of kings?"

Mrs. Evelyn bowed her head acquiescingly, and seemed to enjoy
her apple.

"_He_ had a pretty bad lot of an inheritance, sure enough, take
it all together," said Rossitur.

"Well," said Thorn, — "is this little stray princess as well-
looking as t'other miniature?"

"Better, in some respects," said Mr. Carleton, coolly.

"Better!" cried Mrs. Carleton.

"Not in the brilliancy of her beauty, but in some of its
characteristics; — better in its promise."

"Make yourself intelligible, for the sake of my nerves, Guy,"
said his mother. "Better looking than Marie Antoinette!"

"My unhappy cousin is said to be a fairy, Ma'am," said Mr.
Rossitur; "and I presume all this may be referred to
enchantment."

"That face of Marie Antoinette's," said Mr. Carleton, smiling,
"is an undisciplined one — uneducated."

"Uneducated!" exclaimed Mrs. Carleton.

"Don't mistake me, mother, — I do not mean that it shows any
want of reading or writing, but it does indicate an untrained
character — a mind unprepared for the exigencies of life."

"She met those exigencies indifferently well, too," observed
Mr. Thorn.

"Ay — but pride, and the dignity of rank, and undoubtedly some
of the finer qualities of a woman's nature, might suffice for
that, and yet leave her utterly unfitted to play wisely and
gracefully a part in ordinary life."

"Well, she had no such part to play," said Mrs. Carleton.

"Certainly, mother — but I am comparing faces."

"Well — the other face?"

"It has the same style of refined beauty of feature, but — to
compare them in a word, Marie Antoinette looks to me like a
superb exotic that has come to its brilliant perfection of
bloom in a hothouse — it would lose its beauty in the strong
free air — it would change and droop if it lacked careful
waiting upon and constant artificial excitement; — the other,"
said Mr. Carleton, musingly, — "is a flower of the woods,
raising its head above frost and snow and the rugged soil
where fortune has placed it, with an air of quiet patient
endurance; a storm wind may bring it to the ground, easily, —
but if its gentle nature be not broken, it will look up again,
unchanged, and bide its time in unrequited beauty and
sweetness to the end."

"The exotic for me!" cried Rossitur, — "if I only had a place
for her. I don't like pale elegancies."

"I'd make a piece of poetry of that if I was you, Carleton,"
said Mr. Thorn.

"Mr. Carleton has done that already," said Mrs. Evelyn,
smoothly.

"I never heard you talk so before, Guy," said his mother,
looking at him. His eyes had grown dark with intensity of
expression while he was speaking, gazing at visionary flowers
or beauties through the dinner-table mahogany. He looked up
and laughed as she addressed him, and rising, turned off
lightly with his usual air.

"I congratulate you, Mrs. Carleton," Mrs. Evelyn whispered as
they went from the table, "that this little beauty is not a
few years older."

"Why?" said Mrs. Carleton, "If she is all that Guy says, I
would give anything in the world to see him married."

"Time enough," said Mrs. Evelyn, with a knowing smile.

"I don't know," said Mrs. Carleton, — "I think he would be
happier. He is a restless spirit — nothing satisfies him. —
nothing fixes him. He cannot rest at home — he abhors politics
— he flits away from country to country and doesn't remain
long anywhere."

"And you with him."

"And I with him. I should like to see if a wife could not
persuade him to stay at home."

"I guess you have petted him too much," said Mrs. Evelyn,
slyly.

"I cannot have petted him too much, for he has never
disappointed me."

"No, of course not; but it seems you find it difficult to lead
him."

"No one ever succeeded in doing that," said Mrs. Carleton,
with a smile, that was anything but an ungratified one. "He
never wanted driving, and to lead him is impossible. You may
try it; and while you think you are going to gain your end, if
he thinks it worth while, you will suddenly find that he is
leading you. It is so with everybody — in some inexplicable
way."

Mrs. Evelyn thought the mystery was very easily explicable, as
far as the mother was concerned; and changed the conversation.



CHAPTER VI.


To them life was a simple art
Of duties to be done,
A game where each man took his part,
A race where all must run;
A battle whose great scheme and scope
They little cared to know,
Content, as men-at-arms, to cope
Each with his fronting foe.
MILNES.


On so great and uncommon an occasion as Mr. Ringgan's giving a
dinner-party, the disused front parlour was opened and set in
order; the women-folks, as he called them, wanting the whole
back part of the house for their operations. So when the
visitors arrived, in good time, they were ushered into a large
square, bare-looking room — a strong contrast even to their
dining-room at the Pool — which gave them nothing of the
welcome of the pleasant farm-house kitchen, and where nothing
of the comfort of the kitchen found its way but a very strong
smell of roast pig. There was the cheerless air of a place
where nobody lives, or thinks of living. The very chairs
looked as if they had made up their minds to be forsaken for a
term of months; it was impossible to imagine that a cheerful
supper had ever been laid upon the stiff, cold-looking table,
that stood with its leaves down so primly against the wall.
All that a blazing fire could do to make amends for
deficiencies, it did; but the wintry wind that swept round the
house shook the paper window-shades in a remorseless way; and
the utmost efforts of said fire could not prevent it from
coming in, and giving disagreeable, impertinent whispers at
the ears of everybody.

Mr. Ringgan's welcome, however, was, and would have been the
same thing anywhere — genial, frank, and dignified; neither he
nor it could be changed by circumstances. Mr. Carleton admired
anew, as he came forward, the fine presence and noble look of
his old host; a look that it was plain had never needed to
seek the ground; a brow that in large or small things had
never been crossed by a shadow of shame. And to a discerning
eye the face was not a surer index of a lofty than of a
peaceful and pure mind; too peace-loving and pure, perhaps,
for the best good of his affairs in the conflict with a
selfish and unscrupulous world. At least, now, in the time of
his old age and infirmity; in former days, his straightforward
wisdom, backed by an indomitable courage and strength, had
made Mr. Ringgan no safe subject for either braving or over-
reaching.

Fleda's keen-sighted affection was heartily gratified by the
manner in which her grandfather was greeted by at least one of
his guests, and that the one about whose opinion she cared the
most. Mr. Carleton seemed as little sensible of the cold room
as Mr. Ringgan himself. Fleda felt sure that her grandfather
was appreciated; and she would have sat delightedly listening
to what the one and the other were presently saying, if she
had not taken notice that her cousin looked _astray_. He was
eyeing the fire with a profound air, and she fancied he
thought it poor amusement. Little as Fleda in secret really
cared about that, with an instant sacrifice of her own
pleasure, she quietly changed her position for one from which
she could more readily bring to bear upon Mr. Rossitur's
distraction the very light artillery of her conversation; and
attacked him on the subject of the game he had brought home.
Her motive and her manner both must have been lost upon the
young gentleman. He forthwith set about amusing himself in a
way his little entertainer had not counted upon, namely, with
giving a chase to her wits; partly to pass away the time, and
partly to gratify his curiosity, as he said, "to see what
Fleda was made of." By a curious system of involved,
startling, or absurd questions, he endeavoured to puzzle, or
confound, or entrap her. Fleda, however, steadily presented a
grave front to the enemy, and would every now and then
surprise him with an unexpected turn or clever doubling, and
sometimes when he thought he had her in a corner, jump over
the fence and laugh at him from the other side. Mr. Rossitur's
respect for his little adversary gradually increased, and
finding that she had rather the best of the game, he at last
gave it up, just as Mr. Ringgan was asking Mr. Carleton if he
was a judge of stock? Mr. Carleton saying with a smile, "No,
but he hoped Mr. Ringgan would give him his first lesson," —
the old gentleman immediately arose with that alacrity of
manner he always wore when he had a visitor that pleased him,
and taking his hat and cane led the way out; choosing, with a
man's true carelessness of housewifery etiquette, the kitchen
route, of all others. Not even admonished by the sight of the
bright Dutch oven before the fire, that he was introducing his
visitors somewhat too early to the pig, he led the whole party
through, Cynthia scuttling away in haste across the kitchen
with something that must not be seen, while aunt Miriam looked
out at the company through the crack of the pantry door, at
which Fleda ventured a sly glance of intelligence.

It was a fine though a windy and cold afternoon; the lights
and shadows were driving across the broad upland and meadows.

"This is a fine arable country," remarked Mr. Carleton.

"Capital, Sir, capital, for many miles round, if we were not
so far from a market. I was one of the first that broke ground
in this township, — one of the very first settlers — I've seen
the rough and the smooth of it, and I never had but one mind
about it from the first. All this — as far as you can see — I
cleared myself; most of it with my own hand."

"That recollection must attach you strongly to the place, I
should think, Sir."

"Hum, perhaps I cared too much for it," he replied, "for it is
taken away from me. Well, it don't matter now."

"It is not yours?"

"No, Sir! it was mine a great many years; but I was obliged to
part with it, two years ago, to a scoundrel of a fellow —
McGowan, up here — he got an advantage over me. I can't take
care of myself any more as I used to do, and I don't find that
other people deal by me just as I could wish —"

He was silent for a moment and then went on —

"Yes, Sir! when I first set myself down here, or a little
further that way, my first house was, — a pretty rough house,
too, — there wa'n't two settlers beside within something like
ten miles round. — I've seen the whole of it cleared, from the
cutting of the first forest trees till this day."

"You have seen the nation itself spring up within that time,"
remarked his guest.

"Not exactly — that question of our nationality was settled a
little before I came here. I was born rather too late to see
the whole of that play — I saw the best of it, though — boys
were men in those days. My father was in the thick of it from
beginning to end."

"In the army, was he?"

"Ho, yes, Sir! he and every child he had that wasn't a girl —
there wasn't a man of the name that wa'n't on the right side.
I was in the army myself when I was fifteen. I was nothing but
a fifer — but I tell you, Sir! there wasn't a general officer
in the country that played his part with a prouder heart than
I did mine!"

"And was that the general spirit of the ranks?"

"Not altogether," replied the old gentleman, passing his hand
several times abstractedly over his white hair, a favourite
gesture with him, — "not exactly that — there was a good deal
of mixture of different materials, especially in this state;
and where the feeling wasn't pretty strong, it was no wonder
if it got tired out; but the real stuff, the true Yankee
blood, was pretty firm! Ay, and some of the rest! There was a
good deal to try men in those days. Sir, I have seen many a
time when I had nothing to dine upon but my fife, and it was
more than that could do to keep me from feeling very empty!"

"But was this a common case? did this happen often?" said Mr.
Carleton.

"Pretty often — pretty often, sometimes," answered the old
gentleman. "Things were very much out of order, you see, and
in some parts of the country it was almost impossible to get
the supplies the men needed. Nothing would have kept them
together, — nothing under heaven — but the love and confidence
they had in one name. Their love of right and independence
wouldn't have been strong enough, and besides a good many of
them got disheartened. A hungry stomach is a pretty stout
arguer against abstract questions. I have seen my father
crying like a child for the wants and sufferings he was
obliged to see, and couldn't relieve."

"And then you used to relieve yourselves, grandpa," said
Fleda.

"How was that, Fairy?"

Fleda looked at her grandfather, who gave a little preparatory
laugh, and passed his hand over his head again.

"Why, yes," said he, — "we used to think the tories, King
George's men, you know, were fair game; and when we happened
to be in the neighbourhood of some of them that we knew were
giving all the help they could to the enemy, we used to let
them cook our dinners for us once in a while."

"How did you manage that, Sir?"

"Why, they used to have little bake-ovens to cook their meats
and so on, standing some way out from the house, — did you
never see one of them? — raised on four little heaps of stone;
the bottom of the oven is one large flat stone, and the arch
built over it; — they look like a great beehive. Well — we
used to watch till we saw the good woman of the house get her
oven cleverly heated, and put in her batch of bread, or her
meat-pie, or her pumpkin and apple pies! — whichever it was —
there didn't any of 'em come much amiss — and when we guessed
they were pretty nigh done, three or four of us would creep in
and whip off the whole — oven and all! — to a safe place. I
tell you," said he, with a knowing nod of his head at the
laughing Fleda, — "those were first-rate pies!"

"And then did you put the oven back again afterwards,
grandpa?"

"I guess not often, dear!" replied the old gentleman.

"What do you think of such lawless proceedings, Miss Fleda?"
said Mr. Carleton, laughing at or with her.

"O, I like it," said Fleda. "You liked those pies all the
better, didn't you, grandpa, because you had got them from the
tories?"

"That we did! If we hadn't got them, maybe King George's men
would, in some shape. But we weren't always so lucky as to get
hold of an oven full. I remember one time several of us had
been out on a foraging expedition — there, Sir, what do you
think of that for a two-and-a-half year old?"

They had come up with the chief favourite of his barnyard, a
fine deep-coloured Devon bull.

"I don't know what one might see in Devonshire," he remarked,
presently, "but I know _this_ county can't show the like of
him?"

A discussion followed of the various beauties and excellencies
of the animal; a discussion in which Mr. Carleton certainly
took little part, while Mr. Ringgan descanted enthusiastically
upon "hide" and "brisket" and "bone," and Rossitur stood in an
abstraction — it might be scornful, it might be mazed. Little
Fleda quietly listening and looking at the beautiful creature,
which from being such a treasure to her grandfather was in a
sort one to her, more than half understood them all; but Mr.
Ringgan was too well satisfied with the attention of one of
his guests to miss that of the other.

"That fellow don't look as if _he_ had ever known short
commons," was Rossitur's single remark as they turned away.

"You did not give us the result of your foraging expedition,
Sir," said Mr. Carleton, in a different manner.

"Do, grandpa," said Fleda, softly.

"Ha! — Oh, it is not worth telling," said the old gentleman,
looking gratified; — "Fleda has heard my stories till she
knows them by heart — she could tell it as well herself. What
was it? — about the pig? — We had been out, several of us, one
afternoon, to try to get up a supper — or a dinner, for we had
had none — and we had caught a pig. It happened that I was the
only one of the party that had a cloak, and so the pig was
given to me to carry home, because I could hide it the best.
Well, Sir! — we were coming home, and had set our mouths for a
prime supper, when just as we were within a few rods of our
shanty, who should come along but our captain! My heart sank
as it never has done at the thought of a supper before or
since, I believe! I held my cloak together as well as I could,
and kept myself back a little, so that if the pig showed a
cloven foot behind me, the captain might not see it. But I
almost gave up all for lost when I saw the captain going into
the hut with us. There was a kind of a rude bedstead standing
there; and I set myself down upon the side of it, and gently
worked and eased my pig off under my cloak till I got him to
roll down behind the bed. I knew," said Mr. Ringgan, laughing,
"I knew by the captain's eye, as well as I knew anything, that
he smelt a rat; but he kept our counsel, as well as his own;
and when he was gone we took the pig out into the woods behind
the shanty and roasted him finely, and we sent and asked Capt.
Sears to supper; and he came and helped us eat the pig with a
great deal of appetite, and never asked no questions how we
came by him!"

"I wonder your stout-heartedness did not fail, in the course
of so long a time," said Mr. Carleton

"Never, Sir!'" said the old gentleman. "I never doubted for a
moment what the end would be. My father never doubted for a
moment. We trusted in God and in Washington!"

"Did you see actual service yourself?"

"No, Sir — I never did. I wish I had. I should like to have
had the honour of striking one blow at the rascals. However,
they were hit pretty well. I ought to be contented. My father
saw enough of fighting — he was colonel of a regiment — he was
at the affair of Burgoyne. _That_ gave us a lift in good time.
What rejoicing there was everywhere when that news came! I
could have fifed all day upon an empty stomach and felt
satisfied. People reckoned everywhere that the matter was
settled when that great piece of good fortune was given us.
And so it was! — wa'n't it, dear?" said the old gentleman,
with one of those fond, pleased, sympathetic looks to Fleda
with which he often brought up what he was saying.

"General Gates commanded there?" said Mr. Carleton.

"Yes, Sir. Gates was a poor stick — I never thought much of
him. That fellow Arnold distinguished himself in the actions
before Burgoyne's surrender. He fought like a brave man. It
seems strange that so mean a scamp should have had so much
blood in him!"


"Why; are great fighters generally good men, grandpa?" said
Fleda.

Not exactly, dear!" replied her grandfather; — "but such
little-minded rascality is not just the vice one would expect
to find in a gallant soldier."

"Those were times that made men," said Mr. Carleton, musingly.

"Yes," answered the old gentleman, gravely, — "they were times
that called for men, and God raised them up. But Washington
was the soul of the country, Sir!"

"Well, the time made him," said Mr. Carleton.

"I beg your pardon," said the old gentleman, with a very
decided little turn of his head. — "I think he made the time.
I don't know what it would have been, Sir, or what it would
have come to, but for him. After all, it is rather that the
things which try people show what is in them; — I hope there
are men enough in the country yet, though they haven't as good
a chance to show what they are."

"Either way," said his guest, smiling, "it is a happiness, Mr.
Ringgan, to have lived at a time when there was something
worth living for."

"Well — I don't know —" said the old gentleman; — "those times
would make the prettiest figure in a story or a romance, I
suppose; but I've tried both, and on the whole," said he, with
another of his looks at Fleda, "I think I like these times the
best!"


Fleda smiled her acquiescence. His guest could not help
thinking to himself that however pacific might be Mr.
Ringgan's temper, no man in those days that tried men could
have brought to the issue more stern inflexibility and gallant
fortitude of bearing. His frame bore evidence of great
personal strength, and his eye, with all its mildness, had an
unflinching dignity that _could_ never have quailed before duty
or danger. And now, while he was recalling with great
animation and pleasure the scenes of his more active life, and
his blue eye was shining with the fire of other days, his
manner had the self-possession and quiet sedateness of triumph
that bespeak a man always more ready to do than to say.
Perhaps the contemplation of the noble Roman-like old figure
before him did not tend to lessen the feeling, even the sigh,
of regret with which the young man said,

"There was something then for a man to do!"

"There is always that," said the old gentleman, quietly. "God
has given every man his work to do; and 'tain't difficult for
him to find out what. No man is put here to be idle."

"But," said his companion, with a look in which not a little
haughty reserve was mingled with a desire to speak out his
thoughts, "half the world are busy about humdrum concerns, and
the other half doing nothing, or worse."

"I don't know about that," said Mr. Ringgan; — "that depends
upon the way you take things. 'Tain't always the men that make
the most noise that are the most good in the world. Humdrum
affairs needn't be humdrum in the doing of 'em. It is my
maxim," said the old gentleman, looking at his companion with
a singularly open, pleasant smile, — "that a man may be great
about a'most anything — chopping wood, if he happens to be in
that line. I used to go upon that plan, Sir. Whatever I have
set my hand to do, I have done it as well as I knew how to;
and if you follow that rule out you'll not be idle nor humdrum
neither. Many's the time that I have mowed what would be a
day's work for another man, before breakfast."

Rossitur's smile was not meant to be seen. But Mr. Carleton's,
to the credit of his politeness and his understanding both,
was frank as the old gentleman's own, as he answered, with a
good-humoured shake of his head,

"I can readily believe it, Sir; and honour both your maxim and
your practice. But I am not exactly in that line."

"Why don't you try the army?" said Mr. Ringgan, with a look of
interest.

"There is not a cause worth fighting for," said the young man,
his brow changing again. "It is only to add weight to the
oppressor's hand, or throw away life in the vain endeavour to
avert it. I will do neither."

"But all the world is open before such a young man as you,"
said Mr. Ringgan.

"A large world," said Mr. Carleton, with his former mixture of
expression, — "but there isn't much in it."

"Politics?" said Mr. Ringgan.

"It is to lose oneself in a seething-pot, where the scum is
the most apparent thing."

"But there is society?" said Rossitur.

"Nothing better or more noble than the succession of motes
that flit through a sunbeam into oblivion."

"Well, why not, then, sit down quietly on one's estates and
enjoy them, one who has enough?"

"And be a worm in the heart of an apple."

"Well, then," said Rossitur, laughing, though not knowing
exactly how far he might venture, "there is nothing left for
you, as I don't suppose you would take to any of the learned
professions, but to strike out some new path for yourself —
hit upon some grand invention for benefiting the human race
and distinguishing your own name at once."

But while he spoke, his companion's face had gone back to its
usual look of imperturbable coolness; the dark eye was even
haughtily unmoved, till it met Fleda's inquiring and somewhat
anxious glance. He smiled.

"The nearest approach I ever made to that," said he, "was when
I went chestnuting the other day. Can't you find some more
work for me, Fairy?"

Taking Fleda's hand with his wonted graceful lightness of
manner, he walked on with her, leaving the other two to follow
together.

"You would like to know, perhaps, "observed Mr. Rossitur, in
rather a low tone, "that Mr. Carleton is an Englishman."

"Ay, ay?" said Mr. Ringgan. "An Englishman, is he? Well, Sir,
what is it that I would like to know?"

"_That_," said Rossitur. "I would have told you before if I
could. I supposed you might not choose to speak quite so
freely, perhaps, on American affairs before him."

"I haven't two ways of speaking, Sir, on anything," said the
old gentleman, a little dryly. "Is your friend very tender on
that chapter?"

"O, not that I know of at all," said Rossitur; "but you know
there is a great deal of feeling still among the English about
it — they have never forgiven us heartily for whipping them;
and I know Carleton is related to the nobility, and all that,
you know; so I thought —"

"Ah, well!" said the old gentleman — "we don't know much about
nobility and such gimcracks in this country. I'm not much of a
courtier. I am pretty much accustomed to speak my mind as I
think it. He's wealthy, I suppose?"

"He's more than that, Sir. Enormous estates! He's the finest
fellow in the world — one of the first young men in England."

"You have been there yourself, and know?" said Mr. Ringgan,
glancing at his companion.

"If I have not, Sir, others have told me that do."

"Ah, well," said Mr. Ringgan, placidly; "we sha'n't quarrel, I
guess. What did he come out here for — eh?"

"Only to amuse himself. They are going back again in a few
weeks, and I intend accompanying them to join my mother in
Paris. Will my little cousin be of the party?"

They were sauntering along towards the house. A loud calling
of her name the minute before, had summoned Fleda thither at
the top of her speed; and Mr. Carleton turned to repeat the
same question.

The old gentleman stopped, and striking his stick two or three
times against the ground, looked sorrowfully undetermined.

"Well, I don't know!" he said, at last — "It's a pretty hard
matter — she'd break her heart about it, I suppose —"

"I dare urge nothing, Sir," said Mr. Carleton. "I will only
assure you that if you entrust your treasure to us, she shall
be cherished as you would wish, till we place her in the hands
of her aunt."

"I know that, Sir, — I do not doubt it," said Mr. Ringgan;
"but, I'll tell you by and by what I conclude upon," he said,
with evident relief of manner, as Fleda came bounding back to
them. "Mr. Rossitur, have you made your peace with Fleda?"

"I was not aware that I had any to make, Sir," replied the
young gentleman. "I will do it with pleasure, if my little
cousin will tell me how. But she looks as if she needed
enlightening as much as myself."

"She has something against you, I can tell you," said the old
gentleman, looking amused, and speaking as if Fleda were a
curious little piece of human mechanism which could hear its
performances talked of with all the insensibility of any other
toy. "She gives it as her judgment that Mr. Carleton is the
most of a gentleman, because he keeps his promise."

"Oh, grandpa!"

Poor Fleda's cheek was hot with a distressful blush. Rossitur
coloured with anger. Mr. Carleton's smile had a very different
expression.

"If Fleda will have the goodness to recollect," said Rossitur,
"I cannot be charged with breaking a promise, for I made
none."

"But Mr. Carleton did," said Fleda.

"She is right, Mr. Rossitur, she is right," said that
gentleman; "a fallacy might as well elude Ithuriel's spear as
the sense of a pure spirit — there is no need of written
codes. Make your apologies, man, and confess yourself in the
wrong."

"Pho, pho," said the old gentleman, — "she don't take it very
much to heart, I guess _I_ ought to be the one to make the
apologies," he added, looking at Fleda's face.

But Fleda commanded herself, with difficulty, and announced
that dinner was ready.

"Mr. Rossitur tells me, Mr. Carleton, you are an Englishman,"
said his host. "I have some notion of that's passing through
my head before, but somehow I had entirely lost sight of it
when I was speaking so freely to you a little while ago, about
our national quarrel — I know some of your countrymen owe us a
grudge yet."

"Not I, I assure you," said the young Englishman. "I am
ashamed of them for it. I congratulate you on being
Washington's countryman, and a sharer in his grand struggle
for the right against the wrong."

Mr. Ringgan shook his guest's hand, looking very much pleased;
and having by this time arrived at the house, the young
gentlemen were formally introduced at once to the kitchen,
their dinner, and aunt Miriam.

It is not too much to say that the entertainment gave perfect
satisfaction to everybody — better fate than attends most
entertainments. Even Mr. Rossitur's ruffled spirit felt the
soothing influence of good cheer, to which he happened to be
peculiarly sensible, and came back to its average condition of
amenity.

Doubtless that was a most informal table, spread according to
no rules that, for many generations at least, have been known
in the refined world; an anomaly in the eyes of certainly one
of the company. Yet the board had a character of its own, very
far removed from vulgarity, and suiting remarkably well with
the condition and demeanour of those who presided over it — a
comfortable, well-to-do, substantial look, that could afford
to dispense with minor graces; a self-respect that was not
afraid of criticism. Aunt Miriam's successful efforts deserve
to be celebrated.

In the middle of the table, the polished amber of the pig's
arched back elevated itself — a striking object — but worthy
of the place he filled, as the honours paid him by everybody
abundantly testified. Aunt Miriam had sent down a basket of
her own bread, made out of the new flour, brown and white,
both as sweet and fine as it is possible for bread to be; the
piled-up slices were really beautiful. The superb butter had
come from aunt Miriam's dairy, too, for on such an occasion
she would not trust to the very doubtful excellence of Miss
Cynthia's doings. Every spare place on the table was filled
with dishes of potatoes, and pickles, and sweetmeats, that
left nothing to be desired in their respective kinds; the cake
was a delicious presentment of the finest of material; and the
pies, pumpkin pies, such as only aunt Miriam could make, rich
compounds of everything _but_ pumpkin, with enough of that to
give them a name; Fleda smiled to think how pleased aunt
Miriam must secretly be to see the homage paid her through
them. And most happily Mrs. Plumfield had discovered that the
last tea Mr. Ringgan had brought from the little Queechy store
was not very good, and there was no time to send up on "the
hill" for more, so she made coffee. Verily, it was not Mocha,
but the thick yellow cream with which the cups were filled,
really made up the difference. The most curious palate found
no want.

Everybody was in a high state of satisfaction, even to Miss
Cynthia Gall; who, having some lurking suspicion that Mrs.
Plumfield might design to cut her out of her post of tea-
making, had slipped herself into her usual chair behind the
tea-tray, before anybody else was ready to sit down. No one at
table bestowed a thought upon Miss Cynthia, but as she thought
of nothing else, she may be said to have had her fair share of
attention. The most unqualified satisfaction, however, was no
doubt little Fleda's. Forgetting, with a child's happy
readiness, the fears and doubts which had lately troubled her,
she was full of the present, enjoying, with a most unselfish
enjoyment, everything that pleased anybody else. She was glad
that the supper was a fine one, and so approved, because it
was her grandfather's hospitality, and her aunt Miriam's
housekeeping; little beside was her care for pies or coffee.
She saw with secret glee the expression of both her aunt's and
Mr. Ringgan's face; partly from pure sympathy, and partly
because, as she knew, the cause of it was Mr. Carleton, whom,
privately, Fleda liked very much. And after all, perhaps, he
had directly more to do with her enjoyment than all other
causes together.

Certainly that was true of him with respect to the rest of the
dinner-table. None at that dinner-table had ever seen the
like. With all the graceful charm of manner with which he
would have delighted a courtly circle, he came out from his
reserve and was brilliant, gay, sensible, entertaining, and
witty, to a degree that assuredly has very rarely been thrown
away upon an old farmer in the country and his unpolite
sister. They appreciated him though, as well as any courtly
circle could have done, and he knew it. In aunt Miriam's
strong sensible face, when not full of some hospitable care,
he could see the reflection of every play of his own; the
grave practical eye twinkled and brightened, giving a ready
answer to every turn of sense or humour in what he was saying.
Mr. Ringgan, as much of a child for the moment as Fleda
herself, had lost everything disagreeable, and was in the full
genial enjoyment of talk, rather listening than talking, with
his cheeks in a perpetual dimple of gratification, and a low
laugh of hearty amusement now and then rewarding the
conversational and kind efforts of his guest with a complete
triumph. Even the subtle charm which they could not quite
recognise wrought fascination. Miss Cynthia declared
afterwards, half admiring and half vexed, that he spoiled her
supper, for she forgot to think how it tasted. Rossitur — his
good humour was entirely restored; but whether even Mr.
Carleton's power could have achieved that without the perfect
seasoning of the pig and the smooth persuasion of the richly-
creamed coffee, it may perhaps be doubted. He stared,
mentally, for he had never known his friend condescend to
bring himself out in the same manner before; and he wondered
what he could see in the present occasion to make it worth
while.

But Mr. Carleton did not think his efforts thrown away. He
understood and admired his fine old host and hostess; and with
all their ignorance of conventionalities and absence of what
is called _polish_ of manner, he could enjoy the sterling sense,
the good feeling, the true, hearty hospitality, and the
dignified courtesy, which both of them showed. No matter of
the outside; this was in the grain. If mind had lacked much
opportunity, it had also made good use of a little; his host,
Mr. Carleton found, had been a great leader, was well
acquainted with history, and a very intelligent reasoner upon
it; and both he and his sister showed a strong and quick
aptitude for intellectual subjects of conversation. No doubt
aunt Miriam's courtesy had not been taught by a dancing-
master, and her brown satin gown had seen many a fashion come
and go since it was made, but a _lady_ was in both; and while
Rossitur covertly smiled, Mr. Carleton paid his sincere
respect where he felt it was due. Little Fleda's quick eye
hardly saw, but more than half felt, the difference. Mr.
Carleton had no more eager listener now than she, and perhaps
none whose unaffected interest and sympathy gave him more
pleasure.

When they rose from the table Mr. Ringgan would not be
_insinuated_ into the cold front room again.

"No, no," said he, "what's the matter? the table? Push the
table back, and let it take care of itself, — come, gentlemen,
sit down — draw up your chairs round the fire, and a fig for
ceremony! Comfort, sister Miriam, against politeness, any day
in the year; don't you say so too, Fairy? Come here by me."

"Miss Fleda," said Mr. Carleton, "will you take a ride with me
to Montepoole to-morrow? I should like to make you acquainted
with my mother."

Fleda coloured, and looked at her grandfather.

"What do you say, deary?" he inquired fondly; "will you go? —
I believe, Sir, your proposal will prove a very acceptable
one. You will go, wont you, Fleda?"

Fleda would very much rather not! But she was always
exceedingly afraid of hurting people's feelings; she could not
bear that Mr. Carleton should think she disliked to go with
him, so she answered yes, in her usual sober manner.

Just then the door opened, and a man unceremoniously walked
in, his entrance immediately following a little sullen knock
that had made a mockery of asking permission. An ill-looking
man, in the worst sense; his face being a mixture of cunning,
meanness, and insolence. He shut the door, and came with a
slow, leisurely step into the middle of the room, without
speaking a word. Mr. Carleton saw the blank change in Fleda's
face. She knew him.

"Do you wish to see me, Mr. McGowan?" said Mr. Ringgan, not
without something of the same change.

"I guess I ha'n't come here for nothing," was the gruff
retort.

"Wouldn't another time answer as well?"

"I don't mean to find you here another time," said the man,
chuckling; "I have given you notice to quit, and now I have
come to tell you you'll clear out. I ain't a going to be kept
out of my property for ever. If I can't get my money from you,
Elzevir Ringgan, I'll see you don't get no more of it in your
hands."

"Very well, Sir," said the old gentleman. "You have said all
that is necessary."

"You have got to hear a little more, though," returned the
other; "I've an idee that there's a satisfaction in speaking
one's mind. I'll have that much out of you! Mr. Ringgan, a man
hadn't ought to make an agreement to pay what he doesn't _mean_
to pay; and what he has made an agreement to pay, he ought to
meet and be up to, if he sold his soul for it! You call
yourself a Christian, do you, to stay in another man's house,
month after month, when you know you ha'n't got the means to
give him the rent for it! That's what _I_ call stealing; and
it's what I'd live in the County House before I'd demean
myself to do! and so ought you."

"Well, well! neighbour," said Mr. Ringgan, with patient
dignity; "it's no use calling names. You know as well as I do
how all this came about. I hoped to be able to pay you, but I
haven't been able to make it out, without having more time."

"Time!" said the other. "Time to cheat me out of a little more
houseroom. If I was agoing to live on charity, Mr. Ringgan,
I'd come out and say so, and not put my hand in a man's pocket
this way. You'll quit the house by the day after to-morrow, or
if you don't I'll let you hear a little more of me that you
wont like."

He stalked out, shutting the door after him with a bang. Mr.
Carleton had quitted the room a moment before him.

Nobody moved or spoke at first, when the man was gone, except
Miss Cynthia, who, as she was taking something from the table
to the pantry, remarked, probably for Mr. Rossitur's benefit,
that "Mr. Ringgan had to have that man punished for something
he did a few years ago, when he was justice of the peace, and
she guessed likely that was the reason he had a grudge agin
him ever since." Beyond this piece of dubious information
nothing was said. Little Fleda stood beside her grandfather,
with a face of quiet distress; the tears silently running over
her flushed cheeks, and her eyes fixed upon Mr. Ringgan with a
tender, touching look of sympathy, most pure from self-
recollection.

Mr. Carleton presently came in to take leave of the disturbed
family. The old gentleman rose, and returned his shake of the
hand with even a degree more than usual of his manly dignity,
or Mr. Carleton thought so.

"Good day to you, Sir!" he said, heartily. "We have had a
great deal of pleasure in your society, and I shall always be
very happy to see you — wherever I am." And then following him
to the door, and wringing his hand with a force he was not at
all aware of, the old gentleman added in a lower tone, "I
shall let her go with you."

Mr. Carleton read his whole story in the stern self-command of
brow, and the slight convulsion of feature, which all the
self-command could not prevent. He returned warmly the grasp
of the hand, answering merely, "I will see you again."

Fleda wound her arms round her grandfather's neck when they
were gone, and did her best to comfort him, assuring him that
"they would be just as happy somewhere else." And aunt Miriam
earnestly proffered her own home. But Fleda knew that her
grandfather was not comforted. He stroked her head, with the
same look of stern gravity and troubled emotion which had
grieved her so much the other day. She could not win him to a
smile, and went to bed at last, feeling desolate. She had no
heart to look out at the night. The wind was sweeping by in
wintry gusts; and Fleda cried herself to sleep, thinking how
it would whistle round the dear old house when their ears
would not be there to hear it.



CHAPTER VII.


He from his old hereditary nook
Must part; the summons came, — our final leave we took.
WORDSWORTH.


Mr. Carleton came the next day, but not early, to take Fleda
to Montepoole. She had told her grandfather that she did not
think he would come, because after last night he must know
that she would not want to go. About twelve o'clock, however,
he was there, with a little wagon, and Fleda was fain to get
her sunbonnet and let him put her in. Happily it was her maxim
never to trust to uncertainties, so she was quite ready when
he came, and they had not to wait a minute.

Though Fleda had a little dread of being introduced to a party
of strangers, and was a good deal disappointed at being
obliged to keep her promise, she very soon began to be glad.
She found her fear gradually falling away before Mr.
Carleton's quiet kind reassuring manner; he took such nice
care of her; and she presently made up her mind that he would
manage the matter so that it would not be awkward. They had so
much pleasant talk, too. Fleda had found before that she could
talk to Mr. Carleton, nay, she could not help talking to him;
and she forgot to think about it. And besides, it was a
pleasant day, and they drove fast, and Fleda's particular
delight was driving; and though the horse was a little gay she
had a kind of intuitive perception that Mr. Carleton knew how
to manage him. So she gave up every care and was very happy.

When Mr. Carleton asked after her grandfather, Fleda answered
with great animation, "O, he's very well! and such a happy
thing. You heard what that man said last night, Mr. Carleton,
didn't you?"

"Yes."

"Well, it is all arranged; — this morning Mr. Jolly — he's a
friend of grandpa's that lives over at Queechy Run and knew
about all this — he's a lawyer — he came this morning and told
grandpa that he had found some one that could lend him the
money he wanted, and there was no trouble about it; and we are
so happy, for we thought we should have to go away from where
we live now, and I know grandpa would have felt it dreadfully.
If it hadn't been for that, — I mean, for Mr. Jolly's coming,
— I couldn't have gone to Montepoole to-day."

"Then I am very glad Mr. Jolly made his appearance," said Mr.
Carleton.

"So am I," said Fleda; — "but I think it was a little strange
that Mr. Jolly wouldn't tell us who it was that he had got the
money from. Grandpa said he never saw Mr. Jolly so curious."

When they got to the Pool, Fleda's nervousness returned a
little; but she went through the dreaded introduction with
great demureness and perfect propriety. And throughout the day
Mr. Carleton had no reason to fear rebuke for the judgment
which he had pronounced upon his little paragon. All the
flattering attention which was shown her, and it was a good
deal, could not draw Fleda a line beyond the dignified
simplicity which seemed natural to her; any more than the
witty attempts at raillery and endeavours to amuse themselves
at her expense, in which some of the gentlemen showed their
wisdom, could move her from her modest self-possession. _Very_
quiet, _very_ modest, as she invariably was, awkwardness could
not fasten upon her; her colour might come and her timid eye
fall — it often did; but Fleda's wits were always in their
place and within a call. She would shrink from a stranger's
eye, and yet when spoken to her answers were as ready and
acute as they were marked for simplicity and gentleness. She
was kept to dinner; and though the arrangement and manner of
the service must have been strange to little Fleda, it was
impossible to guess from word or look that it was the first
time within her recollection that she had ever seen the like.
Her native instincts took it all as quietly as any old
liberalized traveller looks upon the customs of a new country.
Mr. Carleton smiled as he now and then saw a glance of
intelligence or admiration pass between one and another of the
company; and a little knowing nod from Mrs. Evelyn, and many a
look from his mother, confessed he had been quite right.

Those two, Mrs. Evelyn and Mrs. Carleton, were by far the most
kind and eager in their attention to Fleda. Mrs. Thorn did
little else but look at her. The gentlemen amused themselves
with her. But Mr. Carleton, true to the hopes Fleda had
founded upon his good-nature, had stood her friend all the
day, coming to her help if she needed any, and placing himself
easily and quietly between her and anything that threatened to
try or annoy her too much. Fleda felt it with grateful
admiration. Yet she noticed, too, that he was a very different
person at this dinner-table from what he had been the other
day at her grandfather's. Easy and graceful always, he filled
his own place, but did not seem to care to do more; there was
even something bordering on haughtiness in his air of grave
reserve. He was not the life of the company here; he contented
himself with being all that the company could possibly require
of him.

On the whole Fleda was exceedingly well pleased with her day,
and thought all the people in general very kind. It was quite
late before she set out to go home again; and then Mrs. Evelyn
and Mrs. Carleton were extremely afraid lest she should take
cold; and Mr. Carleton, without saying one word about it,
wrapped her up so very nicely after she got into the wagon, in
a warm cloak of his mother's. The drive home, through the
gathering shades of twilight, was to little Fleda thoroughly
charming. It was almost in perfect silence, but she liked
that; and all the way home her mind was full of a shadowy
beautiful world that seemed to lie before and around her.

It was a happy child that Mr. Carleton lifted from the wagon
when they reached Queechy. He read it in the utter
lightheartedness of brow and voice, and the spring to the
ground which hardly needed the help of his hands.

"Thank you, Mr. Carleton," she said, when she had reached her
own door; (he would not go in) "I have had a very nice time!"

He smiled.

"Good night," said he. "Tell your grandfather I will come to-
morrow to see him about some business."

Fleda ran gaily into the kitchen. Only Cynthia was there.

"Where is grandpa, Cynthy?"

"He went off into his room a half an hour ago. I believe he's
layin' down. He ain't right well, I s'pect. What's made you so
late?"

"O, they kept me," said Fleda. Her gayety suddenly sobered,
she took off her bonnet and coat, and throwing them down in
the kitchen, stole softly along the passage to her
grandfather's room. She stopped a minute at the door, and held
her breath to see if she could hear any movement which might
tell her he was not asleep. It was all still, and pulling the
iron latch with her gentlest hand, Fleda went on tiptoe into
the room. He was lying on the bed, but awake, for she had made
no noise, and the blue eyes opened and looked upon her as she
came near.

"Are you not well, dear grandpa?" said the little girl.

Nothing made of flesh and blood ever spoke words of more
spirit-like sweetness, — not the beauty of a fine organ, but
such as the sweetness of angel-speech might be; a whisper of
love and tenderness that was hushed by its own intensity. He
did not answer, or did not notice her first question; she
repeated it.

"Don't you feel well?"

"Not exactly, dear!" he replied.

There was the shadow of somewhat in his tone, that fell upon
his little granddaughter's heart and brow at once. Her voice
next time, though not suffered to be anything but clear and
cheerful still, had in part the clearness of apprehension.

"What is the matter?"

"Oh — I don't know, dear!"

She felt the shadow again, and he seemed to say that time
would show her the meaning of it. She put her little hand in
one of his which lay outside the coverlets, and stood looking
at him; and presently said, but in a very different key from
the same speech to Mr. Carleton, —

"I have had a very nice time, dear grandpa."

Her grandfather made her no answer. He brought the dear little
hand to his lips and kissed it twice, so earnestly that it was
almost passionately; then laid it on the side of the bed
again, with his own upon it, and patted it slowly and fondly,
and with an inexpressible kind of sadness in the manner.
Fleda's lip trembled, and her heart was fluttering, but she
stood so that he could not see her face in the dusk, and kept
still till the rebel features were calm again, and she had
schooled the heart to be silent.

Mr. Ringgan had closed his eyes, and perhaps was asleep, and
his little granddaughter sat quietly down on a chair by the
bedside to watch by him, in that gentle sorrowful patience
which women often know, but which hardly belongs to childhood.
Her eye and thoughts, as she sat there in the dusky twilight,
fell upon the hand of her grandfather which still fondly held
one of her own; and fancy travelled fast and far, from what it
was to what it had been. Rough, discoloured, stiff, as it lay
there now, she thought how it had once had the hue, and the
freshness, and the grace of youth, when it had been, the
instrument of uncommon strength, and wielded an authority that
none could stand against. Her fancy wandered over the scenes
it had known; when it had felled trees in the wild forest; and
those fingers, then supple and slight, had played the fife to
the struggling men of the Revolution; how its activity had
outdone the activity of all other hands in clearing and
cultivating those very fields where her feet loved to run;
how, in its pride of strength, it had handled the scythe, and
the sickle, and the flail, with a grace and efficiency that no
other could attain; and how, in happy manhood, that strong
hand had fondled, and sheltered, and led, the little children
that now had grown up and were gone! — Strength and activity,
ay, and the fruits of them, were passed away; — his children
were dead; his race was run; — the shock of corn was in full
season, ready to be gathered. Poor little Fleda! her thought
had travelled but a very little way before the sense of these
things entirely overcame her, her head bowed on her knees, and
she wept tears that all the fine springs of her nature were
moving to feed — many, many, — but poured forth as quietly as
bitterly; she smothered every sound. That beautiful shadowy
world with which she had been so busy a little while ago, —
alas! she had left the fair outlines and the dreamy light, and
had been tracking one solitary path through the wilderness,
and she saw how the traveller, foot-sore and weather-beaten,
comes to the end of his way. And, after all, he comes to _the
end_. ''Yes, and I must travel through life, and come to the
end, too," thought little Fleda; "life is but a passing
through the world; my hand must wither and grow old too, if I
live long enough; and whether or no, I must come to _the end_.
Oh, there is only one thing that ought to be very much minded
in this world!"

That thought, sober though it was, brought sweet consolation.
Fleda's tears, if they fell as fast, grew brighter, as she
remembered, with singular tender joy, that her mother and her
father had been ready to see the end of their journey, and
were not afraid of it; that her grandfather and her aunt
Miriam were happy in the same quiet confidence, and she
believed she herself was a lamb of the Good Shepherd's flock.
"And he will let none of his lambs be lost," she thought. "How
happy I am! How happy we all are!"

Her grandfather still lay quiet, as if asleep, and gently
drawing her hand from under his, Fleda went and got a candle
and sat down by him again to read, carefully shading the light
so that it might not awake him.

He presently spoke to her, and more cheerfully.

"Are you reading, dear?"

"Yes, grandpa!" said the little girl, looking up brightly.
"Does the candle disturb you?"

"No, dear! — What have you got there'?

"I just took up this volume of Newton that has the hymns in
it."

"Read out."

Fleda read Mr. Newton's long beautiful hymn, "The Lord will
provide;" but with her late thoughts fresh in her mind it was
hard to get through the last verses; —


'No strength of our own,
Or goodness we claim;
But since we have known
The Saviour's great name,
In this, our strong tower,
For safety we hide;
The Lord is our power,
The Lord will provide.


'When life sinks apace,
And death is in view,
This word of his grace
Shall comfort us through.
No fearing nor doubting, —
With Christ on our side,
We hope to die shouting,
The Lord will provide !'


The little reader's voice changed, almost broke, but she
struggled through, and then was quietly crying behind her
hand.

"Read it again," said the old gentleman, after a pause.

There is no "cannot" in the vocabulary of affection. Fleda
waited a minute or two to rally her forces, and then went
through it again, more steadily than the first time.

"Yes," said Mr. Ringgan, calmly, folding his hands, "that will
do! That trust wont fail, for it is founded upon a rock. 'He
is a rock; and he knoweth them that put their trust in him!' I
have been a fool to doubt ever that he would make all things
work well — 'The Lord will provide!"

"Grandpa," said Fleda, but in an unsteady voice, and shading
her face with her hand still, "I can remember reading this
hymn to my mother once when I was so little that 'suggestions'
was a hard word to me."

"Ay, ay — I dare say," said the old gentleman; "your mother
knew that Rock, and rested her hope upon it, — where mine
stands now. If ever there was a creature that might have
trusted to her own doings, I believe she was one, for I never
saw her do anything wrong, as I know. But she knew Christ was
all. Will you follow him, as she did, dear?"

Fleda tried in vain to give an answer.

"Do you know what her last prayer for you was, Fleda?"

"No, grandpa."

"It was that you might be kept 'unspotted from the world.' I
heard her make that prayer myself." And stretching out his
hand, the old gentleman laid it tenderly upon Fleda's bowed
head, saying with strong earnestness and affection, even his
voice somewhat shaken, "God grant that prayer! — whatever else
he do with her, keep my child from the evil! — and bring her
to join her father and mother in heaven! — and me!"

He said no more; but Fleda's sobs said a great deal. And when
the sobs were hushed, she still sat shedding quiet tears,
sorrowed and disturbed by her grandfather's manner. She had
never known it so grave, so solemn; but there was that shadow
of something else in it besides, and she would have feared if
she had known what to fear. He told her at last that she had
better go to bed, and to say to Cynthy that he wanted to see
her. She was going, and had near reached the door, when he
said,

"Elfleda!"

She hastened back to the bedside.

"Kiss me."

He let her do so twice, without moving, and then holding her
to his breast he pressed one long earnest passionate kiss upon
her lips, and released her.

Fleda told Cynthy that her grandfather wished her to come to
him, and then mounted the stairs, to her little bedroom. She
went to the window, and opening it, looked out at the soft
moonlit sky; the weather was mild again, and a little hazy,
and the landscape was beautiful. But little Fleda was tasting
realities, and she could not go off upon dream-journeys to
seek the light food of fancy through the air. She did not
think to-night about the people the moon was shining on; she
only thought of one little sad anxious heart, — and of another
down stairs, more sad and anxious still, she feared; what
could it be about? Now that Mr. Jolly had settled all that
troublesome business with McGowan?

As she stood there at the window, gazing out aimlessly into
the still night, — it was very quiet, — she heard Cynthy at
the back of the house, calling out, but as if she were afraid
of making too much noise, "Watkins! Watkins!"

The sound had business, if not anxiety, in it. Fleda
instinctively held her breath to listen. Presently she heard
Watkins reply; but they were round the corner, she could not
easily make out what they said. It was only by straining her
ears that she caught the words.

"Watkins, Mr. Ringgan wants you to go right up on the hill to
Mis' Plumfield's, and tell her he wants her to come right down
— he thinks" — the voice of the speaker fell, and Fleda could
only make out the last words — "Dr. James." More was said, but
so thick and low that she could understand nothing.

She had heard enough. She shut the window, trembling, and
fastened again the parts of her dress she had loosened; and
softly and hastily went down the stairs into the kitchen.

"Cynthy! — what is the matter with grandpa!"

"Why aint you in bed, Flidda?" said Cynthy, with some
sharpness. "That's what you had ought to be. I am sure your
grandpa wants you to be abed."

"But tell me," said Fleda, anxiously.

"I don't know as there's anything the matter with him," said
Cynthy. "Nothing much, I suppose. What makes you think
anything is the matter?"

"Because I heard you telling Watkins to go for aunt Miriam."
Fleda could not say, —- "and the doctor."

"Well, your grandpa thought he'd like to have her come down,
and he don't feel right well, — so I sent Watkins up; but
you'd better go to bed, Flidda; you'll catch cold if you sit
up o' night."

Fleda was unsatisfied, the more because Cynthy would not meet
the keen searching look with which the little girl tried to
read her face. She was not to be sent to bed, and all Cynthy's
endeavours to make her change her mind were of no avail. Fleda
saw in them but fresh reason for staying, and saw besides,
what Cynthy could not hide, a somewhat of wandering and
uneasiness in her manner which strengthened her resolution.
She sat down in the chimney corner, resolved to wait till her
aunt Miriam came; there would be satisfaction in her, for aunt
Miriam always told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but
the truth.

It was a miserable three quarters of an hour. The kitchen
seemed to wear a strange desolate look, though seen in its
wonted bright light of fire and candles, and in itself nice
and cheerful as usual. Fleda looked at it also through that
vague fear which casts its own lurid colour upon everything.
The very flickering of the candle blaze seemed of ill omen,
and her grandfather's empty chair stood a signal of pain to
little Fleda whenever she looked at it. She sat still, in
submissive patience, her cheek pale with the working of a
heart too big for that little body. Cynthia was going in and
out of her grandfather's room, but Fleda would not ask her any
more questions, to be disappointed with word-answers; she
waited, but the minutes seemed very long, — and very sad.

The characteristic outward calm which Fleda had kept, and
which belonged to a nature uncommonly moulded to patience and
fortitude, had yet perhaps heightened the pressure of excited
fear within. When at last she saw the cloak and hood of aunt
Miriam coming through the moonlight to the kitchen door, she
rushed to open it, and quite overcome for the moment, threw
her arms around her and was speechless. Aunt Miriam's tender
and quiet voice comforted her.

"You up yet, Fleda! Hadn't you better go to bed? 'Tisn't good
for you."

"That's what I've been a-telling her," said Cynthy, "but she
wa'n't a mind to listen to me."

But the two little arms embraced aunt Miriam's cloak and
wrappers, and the little face was hid there still, and Fleda's
answer was a half smothered ejaculation.

"I am _so_ glad you are come, dear aunt Miriam!"

Aunt Miriam kissed her again, and again repeated her request.

"O no — I can't go to bed," said Fleda, crying; — "I can't
till I know — I am sure something is the matter, or Cynthy
wouldn't look so. _Do_ tell me, aunt Miriam!"

"I can't tell you anything, dear, except that grandpa is not
well — that is all I know — I am going in to see him. I will
tell you in the morning how he is."

"No," said Fleda, "I will wait here till you come out. I
couldn't sleep."

Mrs. Plumfield made no more efforts to persuade her, but rid
herself of cloak and hood and went into Mr. Ringgan's room.
Fleda placed herself again in her chimney corner. Burying her
face in her hands, she sat waiting more quietly; and Cynthy,
having finished all her business, took a chair on the hearth
opposite to her. Both were silent and motionless, except when
Cynthy once in a while got up to readjust the sticks of wood
on the fire. They sat there waiting so long that Fleda's
anxiety began to quicken again.

"Don't you think the doctor is a long time coming, Cynthy?"
said she, raising her head at last. Her question, breaking
that forced silence, sounded fearful.

"It seems kind o' long," said Cynthy. "I guess Watkins ha'n't
found him to hum."

Watkins indeed presently came in and reported as much, and
that the wind was changing and it was coming off cold; and
then his heavy boots were heard going up the stairs to his
room overhead; but Fleda listened in vain for the sound of the
latch of her grandfather's door, or aunt Miriam's quiet foot-
fall in the passage; listened and longed, till the minutes
seemed like the links of a heavy chain which she was obliged
to pass over from hand to hand, and the last link could not be
found. The noise of Watkins' feet ceased overhead, and nothing
stirred or moved but the crackling flames and Cynthia's
elbows, which took turns each in resting upon the opposite
arm, and now and then a tell-tale gust of wind in the trees.
If Mr. Ringgan was asleep, why did not aunt Miriam come out
and see them, — if he was better, why not come and tell them
so. He had been asleep when she first went into his room, and
she had come back for a minute then to try again to get Fleda
to bed; why could she not come out for a minute once more. Two
hours of watching and trouble had quite changed little Fleda;
the dark ring of anxiety had come under each eye in her little
pale face; she looked herself almost ill.

Aunt Miriam's grave step was heard coming out of the room at
last, — it did not sound cheerfully in Fleda's ears. She came
in, and stopping to give some direction to Cynthy, walked up
to Fleda. Her face encouraged no questions. She took the
child's head tenderly in both her hands, and told her gently,
but it was in vain that she tried to make her voice quite as
usual, that she had better go to bed — that she would be sick.

Fleda looked up anxiously in her face.

"How is he?"

But her next word was the wailing cry of sorrow, — "Oh
grandpa!"

The old lady took the little child in her arms, and they both
sat there by the fire until the morning dawned.



CHAPTER VIII.

Patience and sorrow strove
Who should express her goodliest.
KING LEAR.


When Mr. Carleton knocked at the front door the next day,
about two o'clock, it was opened to him by Cynthy. He asked
for his late host.

"Mr. Ringgan is dead."

"Dead!" exclaimed the young man, much shocked; — "when — how?"

"Wont you come in, Sir?" said Cynthy; — "maybe you'll see Mis'
Plumfield."

"No, certainly," replied the visitor. "Only tell me about Mr.
Ringgan."

"He died last night."

"What was the matter with him?"

"I don't know," said Cynthy in a business-like tone of voice,
— "I s'pose the doctor knows, but he didn't say nothing about
it. He died very sudden."

"Was he alone?"

"No — his sister was with him; he had been complaining all the
evening that he didn't feel right, but I didn't think nothing
of it, and I didn't know as he did; and towards evening he
went and laid down, and Flidda was with him a spell, talking
to him; and at last he sent her to bed, and called me in and
said he felt mighty strange, and he didn't know what it was
going to be, and that he had as lieve I should send up and ask
Mis' Plumfield to come down, and perhaps I might as well send
for the doctor, too. And I sent right off, but the doctor
wa'n't to hum, and didn't get here till long after. Mis'
Plumfield, she come; and Mr. Ringgan was asleep then, and I
didn't know as it was going to be anything more after all than
just a turn, such as anybody might take; and Mis' Plumfield
went in and sot by him; and there wa'n't no one else in the
room; and after a while he come to, and talked to her, she
said, a spell; but he seemed to think it was something more
than common ailed him; and all of a sudden he just riz up half
way in bed, and then fell back and died, — with no more
warning than that."

"And how is the little girl?"

"Why," said Cynthy, looking off at right angles from her
visitor, "she's middling now, I s'pose, but she wont be before
long, or else she must be harder to make sick than other
folks. We can't get her out of the room," she added, bringing
her eyes to bear, for an instant, upon the young gentleman, —
"she stays in there the hull time since morning, — I've tried,
and Mis' Plumfield's tried, and everybody has tried, and there
can't none of us manage it; she will stay in there, and it's
an awful cold room when there aint no fire."

Cynthy and her visitor were both taking the benefit of the
chill blast which rushed in at the open door.

"_The room?_" said Mr. Carleton. "The room where the body lies?"

"Yes — it's dreadful chill in there when the stove aint
heated, and she sits there the hull time. And she ha'n't got
much to boast of now; she looks as if a feather would blow her
away."

The door at the further end of the hall opened about two
inches, and a voice called out through the crack,

"Cynthy! — Mis' Plumfield wants to know if that is Mr.
Carleton?"

"Yes. "

"Well, she'd like to see him. Ask him to walk into the front
room, she says."

Cynthy upon this showed the way, and Mr. Carleton walked into
the same room where a very few days before he had been so
kindly welcomed by his fine old host. Cold indeed it was now,
as was the welcome he would have given. There was no fire in
the chimney, and even all the signs of the fire of the other
day had been carefully cleared away; the clean empty fireplace
looked a mournful assurance that its cheerfulness would not
soon come back again. It was a raw disagreeable day; the paper
window-shades fluttered uncomfortably in the wind, which had
its way now; and the very chairs and tables seemed as if they
had taken leave of life and society for ever. Mr. Carleton
walked slowly up and down, his thoughts running perhaps
somewhat in the train where poor little Fleda's had been so
busy last night; and wrapped up in broadcloth as he was to the
chin, he shivered when he heard the chill wind moaning round
the house and rustling the paper hangings, and thought of
little Fleda's delicate frame, exposed as Cynthia had
described it. He made up his mind it must not be.

Mrs. Plumfield presently came in, and met him with the calm
dignity of that sorrow which needs no parade, and that truth
and meekness of character which can make none. Yet there was
nothing like stoicism, no affected or proud repression of
feeling; her manner was simply the dictate of good sense,
borne out by a firm and quiet spirit. Mr. Carleton was struck
with it; it was a display of character different from any he
had ever before met with; it was something he could not quite
understand. For he wanted the key. But all the high respect he
had felt for this lady from the first was confirmed and
strengthened.

After quietly receiving Mr. Carleton's silent grasp of the
hand, aunt Miriam said,

"I troubled you to stop, Sir, that I might ask you how much
longer you expect to stop at Montepoole."

Not more than two or three days, he said.

"I understood," said aunt Miriam, after a minute's pause,
"that Mrs. Carleton was so kind as to say she would take care
of Elfleda to France, and put her in the hands of her aunt."

"She would have great pleasure in doing it," said Mr.
Carleton. "I can promise for your little niece that she shall
have a mother's care so long as my mother can render it."

Aunt Miriam was silent, and he saw her eyes fill.

"You should not have had the pain of seeing me to-day," said
he gently, "if I could have known it would give you any; but
since I am here, may I ask, whether it is your determination
that Fleda shall go with us?"

"It was my brother's," said aunt Miriam, sighing; — "he told
me — last night — that he wished her to go with Mrs. Carleton
— if she would still be so good as to take her."

"I have just heard about her from the housekeeper," said Mr.
Carleton, "what has disturbed me a good deal. Will you forgive
me, if I venture to propose that she should come to us at
once. Of course we will not leave the place for several days —
till you are ready to part with her."

Aunt Miriam hesitated, and again the tears flushed to her
eyes.

"I believe it would be best, " she said, — "since it must be —
I cannot get the child away from her grandfather — I am afraid
I want firmness to do it — and she ought not to be there — she
is a tender little creature —"

For once self-command failed her, — she was obliged to cover
her face.

"A stranger's hands cannot be more tender of her than ours
will be," said Mr. Carleton, his warm pressure of aunt
Miriam's hand repeating the promise. "My mother will bring a
carriage for her this afternoon, if you will permit."

"If you please, Sir, —since it must be, it does not matter a
day sooner or later," repeated aunt Miriam — "if she can be
got away — I don't know whether it will be possible."

Mr. Carleton had his own private opinion on that point. He
merely promised to be there again in a few hours, and took his
leave.

He came, with his mother, about five o'clock in the afternoon.
They were shown this time into the kitchen, where they found
two or three neighbours and friends with aunt Miriam and
Cynthy. The former received them with the same calm simplicity
that Mr. Carleton had admired in the morning, but said she was
afraid their coming would be in vain; she had talked with
Fleda about the proposed plan, and could not get her to listen
to it. She doubted whether it would be possible to persuade
her. And yet —

Aunt Miriam's self-possession seemed to be shaken when she
thought of Fleda; she could not speak of her without watering
eyes.

"She's fixing to be sick as fast as ever she can," remarked
Cynthia, dryly in a kind of aside meant for the audience; —
"there wa'n't a grain of colour in her face when I went in to
try to get her out a little while ago; and Mis' Plumfield
ha'n't the heart to do anything with her, nor nobody else."

"Mother, will you see what you can do?" said Mr. Carleton.

Mrs. Carleton went, with all expression of face that her son,
nobody else, knew meant that she thought it a particularly
disagreeable piece of business. She came back after the lapse
of a few minutes, in tears.

"I can do nothing with her," she said hurriedly; "I don't know
what to say to her, and she looks like death. Go yourself,
Guy; you can manage her, if any one can."

Mr. Carleton went immediately.

The room into which a short passage admitted him was cheerless
indeed. On a fair afternoon the sun's rays came in there
pleasantly, but this was a true November day; a grey sky and a
chill raw wind that found its way in between the loose window-
sashes and frames. One corner of the room was sadly tenanted
by the bed which held the remains of its late master and
owner. At a little table between the windows, with her back
turned towards the bed, Fleda was sitting, her face bowed in
her hands upon the old quarto bible that lay there open; a
shawl round her shoulders.

Mr. Carleton went up to the side of the table and softly spoke
her name. Fleda looked up at him for an instant, and then
buried her face in her hands on the book as before. That look
might have staggered him, but that Mr. Carleton rarely was
staggered in any purpose when he had once made up his mind. It
did move him — so much that he was obliged to wait a minute or
two before he could muster firmness to speak to her again.
Such a look, so pitiful in its sorrow, so appealing in its
helplessness, so imposing in its purity, — he had never seen,
and it absolutely awed him. Many a child's face is lovely to
look upon for its innocent purity, but more commonly it is not
like this; it is the purity of snow, unsullied, but not
unsulliable; there is another kind more ethereal, like that of
light, which you feel is from another sphere and will not know
soil. But there were other signs in the face that would have
nerved Mr. Carleton's resolution if he had needed it. Twenty-
four hours had wrought a sad change. The child looked as if
she had been ill for weeks. Her cheeks were colourless; the
delicate brow would have seemed pencilled on marble but for
the dark lines which weeping and watching, and still more
sorrow, had drawn underneath; and the beautiful moulding of
the features showed under the transparent skin like the work
of the sculptor. She was not crying then, but the open pages
of the great bible had been wet with very many tears since her
head had rested there.

"Fleda," said Mr. Carleton, after a moment, "you must come
with me."

The words were gently and tenderly spoken, yet they had that
tone which young and old instinctively know it is vain to
dispute. Fleda glanced up again, a touching imploring look it
was very difficult to bear, and her "Oh no — I cannot," went
to his heart. It was not resistance, but entreaty; and all the
arguments she would have urged seemed to lie in the mere tone
of her voice. She had no power of urging them in any other
way, for even as she spoke her head went down again on the
bible with a burst of sorrow. Mr. Carleton was moved, but not
shaken in his purpose. He was silent a moment, drawing back
the hair that fell over Fleda's forehead with a gentle
caressing touch; and then he said, still lower and more
tenderly than before, but without flinching, "You must come
with me, Fleda."

"Mayn't I stay," said Fleda, sobbing, while he could see in
the tension of the muscles a violent effort at self-control
which he did not like to see, — "mayn't I stay till — till —
the day after to-morrow?"

"No, dear Fleda," said he, still stroking her head kindly, "I
will bring you back, but you must go with me now. Your aunt
wishes it, and we all think it is best. I will bring you
back."

She sobbed bitterly for a few minutes. Then she begged, in
smothered words, that he would leave her alone a little while.
He went immediately.

She checked her sobs when she heard the door close upon him,
or as soon as she could, and rising went and knelt down by the
side of the bed. It was not to cry, though what she did could
not be done without many tears, — it was to repeat with equal
earnestness and solemnity her mother's prayer, that she might
be kept pure from the world's contact. There, beside the
remains of her last dear earthly friend, as it were before
going out of his sight for ever, little Fleda knelt down to
set the seal of faith and hope to his wishes, and to lay the
constraining hand of Memory upon her conscience. It was soon
done; and then there was but one thing more to do. But, oh,
the tears that fell as she stood there! before she could go
on; how the little hands were pressed to the bowed face, as if
_they_ would have borne up the load they could not reach; the
convulsive struggle, before the last look could be taken, the
last good-by said! But the sobs were forced back, the hands
wiped off the tears, the quivering features were bidden into
some degree of calmness; and she leaned forward, over the
loved face that in death had kept all its wonted look of
mildness and placid dignity. It was in vain to try to look
through Fleda's blinded eyes; the hot tears dropped fast,
while her trembling lips kissed, and kissed, those cold and
silent that could make no return; and then feeling that it was
the last, that the parting was over, she stood again by the
side of the bed as she had done a few minutes before, in a
convulsion of grief, her face bowed down and her little frame
racked with feeling too strong for it; shaken visibly, as if
too frail to bear the trial to which it was put.

Mr. Carleton had waited and waited, as he thought, long
enough, and now at last came in again, guessing how it was
with her. He put his arm round the child and gently drew her
away, and sitting down took her on his knee; and endeavoured
rather with actions than with words to soothe and comfort her;
for he did not know what to say. But his gentle delicate way,
the soft touch with which he again stroked back her hair or
took her hand, speaking kindness and sympathy, the loving
pressure of his lips once or twice to her brow, the low tones
in which he told her that she was making herself sick; that
she must not do so; that she must let him take care of her;
were powerful to soothe or quiet a sensitive mind, and Fleda
felt them. It was a very difficult task, and if undertaken by
any one else, would have been more likely to disgust and
distress her. But his spirit had taken the measure of hers,
and he knew precisely how to temper every word and tone so as
just to meet the nice sensibilities of her nature. He had said
hardly any thing, but she had understood all he meant to say,
and when he told her at last, softly, that it was getting
late, and she must let him take her away, she made no more
difficulty, rose up, and let him lead her out of the room
without once turning her head to look back.

Mrs. Carleton looked relieved that there was a prospect of
getting away, and rose up with a happy adjusting of her shawl
round her shoulders. Aunt Miriam came forward to say good-by,
but it was very quietly said. Fleda clasped her round the neck
convulsively for an instant, kissed her as if a kiss could
speak a whole heartful, and then turned submissively to Mr.
Carleton, and let him lead her to the carriage.

There was no fault to be found with Mrs. Carleton's kindness
when they were on the way. She held the forlorn little child
tenderly in her arm, and told her how glad she was to have her
with them, how glad she should be if she were going to keep
her always; but her saying so only made Fleda cry, and she
soon thought it best to say nothing. All the rest of the way
Fleda was a picture of resignation; transparently pale, meek
and pure, and fragile seemingly as the delicatest wood-flower
that grows. Mr. Carleton looked grieved, and leaning forward
he took one of her hands in his own and held it
affectionately, till they got to the end of their journey. It
marked Fleda's feeling towards him that she let it lie there
without making a motion to draw it away. She was so still for
the last few miles, that her friends thought she had fallen
asleep; but when the carriage stopped and the light of the
lantern was flung inside, they saw the grave hazel eyes broad
open and gazing intently out of the window.

"You will order tea for us in your dressing-room, mother?"
said Mr. Carleton.

"_Us_ — who is _us?_"

"Fleda and me, unless you will please to make one of the
party."

"Certainly I will, but perhaps Fleda might like it better down
stairs. Wouldn't you, dear?"

"If you please, Ma'am," said Fleda. "Wherever you please."

"But which would you rather, Fleda?" said Mr. Carleton.

"I would _rather_ have it up-stairs," said Fleda, gently, "but
it's no matter."

"We will have it up-stairs," said Mrs. Carleton. "We will be a
nice little party up there by ourselves. You shall not come
down till you like."

"You are hardly able to walk up," said Mr. Carleton, tenderly.
"Shall I carry you?"

The tears rushed to Fleda's eyes, but she said no, and managed
to mount the stairs, though it was evidently an exertion. Mrs.
Carleton's dressing-room, as her son had called it, looked
very pleasant when they got there. It was well lighted and
warmed, and something answering to curtains had been summoned
from its obscurity in storeroom or garret and hung up at the
windows, — "them air fussy English folks had made such a pint
of it," the landlord said. Truth was, that Mr. Carleton as
well as his mother wanted this room as a retreat for the quiet
and privacy which travelling in company as they did they could
have nowhere else. Everything the hotel could furnish in the
shape of comfort had been drawn together to give this room as
little the look of a public-house as possible. Easy chairs, as
Mrs. Carleton remarked with a disgusted face, one could not
expect to find in a country inn; there were instead as many as
half-a-dozen of "those miserable substitutes", as she called
rocking-chairs, and sundry fashions of couches and sofas, in
various degrees of elegance and convenience. The best of
these, a great chintz-covered thing, full of pillows, stood
invitingly near the bright fire. There Mr. Carleton placed
little Fleda, took off her bonnet and things, and piled the
cushions about her just in the way that would make her most
easy and comfortable. He said little, and she nothing, but her
eyes watered again at the kind tenderness of his manner. And
then he left her in peace till the tea came.

The tea was made in that room for those three alone. Fleda
knew that Mr. and Mrs. Carleton stayed up there only for her
sake, and it troubled her, but she could not help it. Neither
could she be very sorry so far as one of them was concerned.
Mr. Carleton was too good to be wished away. All that evening
his care of her never ceased. At tea, which the poor child
would hardly have shared but for him — and after tea, when in
the absence of bustle she had leisure to feel more fully her
strange circumstances and position, he hardly permitted her to
feel either, doing everything for her ease and pleasure, and
quietly managing at the same time to keep back his mother's
more forward and less happily adapted tokens of kind feeling.
Though she knew he was constantly occupied with her, Fleda
could not feel oppressed; his kindness was as pervading and as
unobtrusive as the summer air itself; she felt as if she was
in somebody's hands that knew her wants before she did, and
quietly supplied or prevented them, in a way she could not
tell how. It was very rarely that she even got a chance to
utter the quiet and touching "thank you," which invariably
answered every token of kindness or thoughtfulness that
permitted an answer. How greatly that harsh and sad day was
softened to little Fleda's heart by the good feeling and fine
breeding of one person. She thought when she went to bed that
night, thought seriously and gratefully, that since she must
go over the ocean and take that long journey to her aunt, how
glad she was, how thankful she ought to be, that she had so
very kind and pleasant people to go with. Kind and pleasant
she counted them both; but what more she thought of a Mr.
Carleton it would be hard to say. Her admiration of him was
very high, appreciating as she did to the full all that charm
of manner which she could neither analyze nor describe.

Her last words to him that night, spoken with a most wistful
anxious glance into his face, were,

"You will take me back again, Mr. Carleton?"

He knew what she meant.

"Certainly I will. I promised you, Fleda."

"Whatever Guy promises you may be very sure he will do," said
his mother, with a smile.

Fleda believed it. But the next morning it was very plain that
this promise he would not be called upon to perform; Fleda
would not be well enough to go to the funeral. She was able
indeed to get up, but she lay all day upon the sofa in the
dressing-room. Mr. Carleton had bargained for no company last
night; to-day female curiosity could stand it no longer, and
Mrs. Thorn and Mrs. Evelyn came up to look and gossip openly,
and to admire and comment privately, when they had a chance.
Fleda lay perfectly quiet and still, seeming not much to
notice or care for their presence; they thought she was
tolerably easy in body and mind, perhaps tired and sleepy, and
like to do well enough after a few days. How little they knew!
How little they could imagine the assembly of Thought which
was holding in that child's mind; how little they deemed of
the deep, sad, serious look into life which that little spirit
was taking. How far they were from fancying while they were
discussing all manner of trifles before her, sometimes when
they thought her sleeping, that in the intervals between
sadder and weightier things her nice instincts were taking the
gauge of all their characters — unconsciously, but surely; how
they might have been ashamed if they had known that while they
were busy with all affairs in the universe but those which
most nearly concerned them, the little child at their side,
whom they had almost forgotten, was secretly looking up to her
Father in heaven, and asking to be kept pure from the world!
"Not unto the wise and prudent;" — how strange it may seem in
one view of the subject, — in another, how natural, how
beautiful, how reasonable.

Fleda did not ask again to be taken to Queechy. But as the
afternoon drew on she turned her face away from the company
and shielded it from view among the cushions, and lay in that
utterly motionless state of body which betrays a concentrated
movement of the spirits in some hidden direction. To her
companions it betrayed nothing. They only lowered their tones
a little lest they should disturb her.

It had grown dark, and she was sitting up again, leaning
against the pillows, and in her usual quietude, when Mr.
Carleton came in. They had not seen him since before dinner.
He came to her side, and taking her hand made some gentle
inquiry how she was.

"She has had a fine rest," said Mrs. Evelyn.

"She has been sleeping all the afternoon," said Mrs. Carleton,
— "she lay as quiet as a mouse, without stirring; — you were
sleeping, weren't you, dear?"

Fleda's lips hardly formed the word "no," and her features
were quivering sadly. Mr. Carleton's were impenetrable.

"Dear Fleda," said he, stooping down and speaking with equal
gravity and kindliness of manner, — "you were not able to go."

Fleda's shake of the head gave a meek acquiescence. But her
face was covered, and the gay talkers around her were silenced
and sobered by the heaving of her little frame with sobs that
she could not keep back. Mr. Carleton secured the permanence
of their silence for that evening. He dismissed them the room
again, and would have nobody there but himself and his mother.

Instead of being better the next day Fleda was not able to get
up; she was somewhat feverish and exceedingly weak. She lay
like a baby, Mrs. Carleton said, and gave as little trouble.
Gentle and patient always, she made no complaint, and even
uttered no wish, and whatever they did made no objection.
Though many a tear that day and the following paid its
faithful tribute to the memory of what she had lost, no one
knew it; she was never seen to weep; and the very grave
composure of her face, and her passive unconcern as to what
was done or doing around her, alone gave her friends reason to
suspect that the mind was not as quiet as the body. Mr.
Carleton was the only one who saw deeper; the only one that
guessed why the little hand often covered the eyes so
carefully, and read the very, very grave lines of the mouth
that it could not hide.

As soon as she could bear it he had her brought out to the
dressing-room again, and laid on the sofa; and it was several
days before she could be got any further. But there he could
be more with her, and devote himself more to her pleasure; and
it was not long before he had made himself necessary to the
poor child's comfort in a way beyond what he was aware of.

He was not the only one who showed her kindness. Unwearied
care and most affectionate attention were lavished upon her by
his mother and both her friends; they all thought they could
not do enough to mark their feeling and regard for her. Mrs.
Carleton and Mrs. Evelyn nursed her by night and by day. Mrs.
Evelyn read to her. Mrs. Thorn would come often to look and
smile at her and say a few words of heartfelt pity and
sympathy. Yet Fleda could not feel quite at home with any one
of them. They did not see it. Her manner was affectionate and
grateful, to the utmost of their wish; her simple natural
politeness, her nice sense of propriety, were at every call;
she seemed after a few days to be as cheerful and to enter as
much into what was going on about her as they had any reason
to expect she could; and they were satisfied. But while moving
thus smoothly among her new companions, in secret her spirit
stood aloof; there was not one of them that could touch her,
that could understand her, that could meet the want of her
nature. Mrs. Carleton was incapacitated for it by education;
Mrs. Evelyn by character; Mrs. Thorn by natural constitution.
Of them all, though by far the least winning and agreeable in
personal qualifications, Fleda would soonest have relied on
Mrs. Thorn, could soonest have loved her. Her homely sympathy
and kindness made their way to the child's heart; Fleda felt
them and trusted them. But there were too few points of
contact. Fleda thanked her, and did not wish to see her again.
With Mrs. Carleton Fleda had almost nothing at all in common.
And that notwithstanding all this lady's politeness,
intelligence, cultivation, and real kindness towards herself.
Fleda would readily have given her credit for them all; and
yet, the nautilus may as soon compare notes with the
navigator, the canary might as well study Mälzel's metronome,
as a child of nature and a woman of the world comprehend and
suit each other. The nature of the one must change or the two
must remain the world wide apart. Fleda felt it, she did not
know why. Mrs. Carleton was very kind, and perfectly polite;
but Fleda had no pleasure in her kindness, no trust in her
politeness; or if that be saying too much, at least she felt
that for some inexplicable reason both were unsatisfactory.
Even the tact which each possessed in an exquisite degree was
not the same in each; in one it was the self-graduating power
of a clever machine, — in the other, the delicateness of the
sensitive-plant. Mrs. Carleton herself was not without some
sense of this distinction; she confessed, secretly, that there
was something in Fleda out of the reach of her discernment,
and consequently beyond the walk of her skill; and felt,
rather uneasily, that more delicate hands were needed to guide
so delicate a nature. Mrs. Evelyn came nearer the point. She
was very pleasant, and she knew how to do things in a charming
way; and there were times, frequently, when Fleda thought she
was everything lovely. But yet, now and then a mere word, or
look, would contradict this fair promise, a something of
_hardness_ which Fleda could not reconcile with the soft
gentleness of other times; and on the whole Mrs. Evelyn was
unsure ground to her; she could not adventure her confidence
there.

With Mr. Carleton alone Fleda felt at home. He only, she knew,
completely understood and appreciated her. Yet she saw also
that with others he was not the same as with her. Whether
grave or gay there was about him an air of cool indifference,
very often reserved, and not seldom haughty; and the eye which
could melt and glow when turned upon her, was sometimes as
bright and cold as a winter sky. Fleda felt sure, however,
that she might trust him entirely, so far as she herself was
concerned; of the rest she stood in doubt. She was quite right
in both cases. Whatever else there might be in that blue eye,
there was truth in it when it met hers; she gave that truth
her full confidence and was willing to honour every draught
made upon her charity for the other parts of his character.

He never seemed to lose sight of her. He was always doing
something for which Fleda loved him; but so quietly and
happily that she could neither help his taking the trouble,
nor thank him for it. It might have been matter of surprise
that a gay young man of fashion should concern himself like a
brother about the wants of a little child; the young gentlemen
down stairs who were not of the society in the dressing-room,
did make themselves very merry upon the subject, and rallied
Mr. Carleton with the common amount of wit and wisdom about
his little sweetheart; a raillery which met the most flinty
indifference. But none of those who saw Fleda ever thought
strange of anything that was done for her; and Mrs. Carleton
was rejoiced to have her son take up the task she was fain to
lay down. So he really, more than any one else, had the
management of her; and Fleda invariably greeted his entrance
into the room with a faint smile, which even the ladies who
saw agreed was well worth working for.


CHAPTER IX.


"If large possessions, pompous titles, honourable charges, and
profitable commissions, could have made this proud man happy,
there would have been nothing wanting."
L'ESTRANGE.


Several days had passed. Fleda's cheeks had gained no colour,
but she had grown a little stronger, and it was thought the
party might proceed on their way without any more tarrying;
trusting that change and the motion of travelling would do
better things for Fleda than could be hoped from any further
stay at Montepoole. The matter was talked over in an evening
consultation in the dressing-room, and it was decided that
they would set off on the second day thereafter.

Fleda was lying quietly on her sofa, with her eyes closed,
having had nothing to say during the discussion. They thought
she had perhaps not heard it. Mr. Carleton's sharper eyes,
however, saw that one or two tears were glimmering just under
the eyelash. He bent down over her and whispered, —

"I know what you are thinking of Fleda, do I not?"

"I was thinking of aunt Miriam," Fleda said in an answering
whisper, without opening her eyes.

"I will take care of that."

Fleda looked up and smiled most expressively her thanks, and
in five minutes was asleep. Mr. Carleton stood watching her,
querying how long those clear eyes would have nothing to hide,
— how long that bright purity could resist the corrosion of
the world's breath; and half thinking that it would be better
for the spirit to pass away, with its lustre upon it, than
stay till self-interest should sharpen the eye, and the lines
of diplomacy write themselves on that fair brow. "Better so, —
better so."

"What are you thinking of so gloomily, Guy?" said his mother.

"That is a tender little creature to struggle with a rough
world."

"She wont have to struggle with it," said Mrs. Carleton.

"She will do very well," said Mrs. Evelyn.

"I don't think she'd find it a rough world, where you were,
Mr. Carleton," said Mrs. Thorn.

"Thank you, Ma'am," he said, smiling. "But unhappily, my power
reaches very little way."

"Perhaps," said Mrs. Evelyn, with a sly smile, "that might be
arranged differently; Mrs. Rossitur, I have no doubt, would
desire nothing better than a smooth world for her little
niece, and Mr. Carleton's power might be unlimited in its
extent."

There was no answer, and the absolute repose of all the lines
of the young gentleman's face bordered too nearly on contempt
to encourage the lady to pursue her jest any further.

The next day Fleda was well enough to bear moving. Mr.
Carleton had her carefully bundled up, and then carried her
down stairs and placed her in the little light wagon which had
once before brought her to the Pool. Luckily it was a mild
day, for no close carriage was to be had for love or money.
The stage-coach in which Fleda had been fetched from her
grandfather's was in use, away somewhere. Mr. Carleton drove
her down to aunt Miriam's, and leaving her there he went off
again; and whatever he did with himself it was a good two
hours before he came back. All too little yet they were for
the tears and the sympathy which went to so many things both
in the past and in the future. Aunt Miriam had not said half
she wished to say, when the wagon was at the gate again, and
Mr. Carleton came to take his little charge away.

He found her sitting happily in aunt Miriam's lap. Fleda was
very grateful to him for leaving her such a nice long time,
and welcomed him with even a brighter smile than usual. But
her head rested wistfully on her aunt's bosom after that; and
when he asked her if she was almost ready to go, she hid her
face there and put her arms about her neck. The old lady held
her close for a few minutes, in silence.

"Elfleda," said aunt Miriam gravely, and tenderly, — "do you
know what was your mother's prayer for you?"

"Yes," — she whispered.

"What was it?"

"That I — might be kept —"

"Unspotted from the world!" repeated aunt Miriam, in a tone of
tender and deep feeling. "My sweet blossom! — how wilt thou
keep so? Will you remember always your mother's prayer?"

"I will try."

"How will you try, Fleda?"

"I will pray."

Aunt Miriam kissed her again and again, fondly repeating, "The
Lord hear thee! — the Lord bless thee! — the Lord keep thee! —
as a lily among thorns, my precious little babe; — though in
the world, not of it."

"Do you think that is possible?" said Mr. Carleton,
significantly when a few moments after they had risen and were
about to separate. Aunt Miriam looked at him in surprise, and
asked, —

"What, Sir? "

"To live in the world and not be like the world?"

She cast her eyes upon Fleda, fondly smoothing down her soft
hair with both hands for a minute or two before she answered,
—

"By the help of one thing, Sir, yes!"

"And what is that?" said he, quickly.

"The blessing of God, with whom all things are possible."

His eyes fell, and there was a kind of incredulous sadness in
his half smile which aunt Miriam understood better than he
did. She sighed as she folded Fleda again to her breast, and
whisperingly bade her "Remember!" But Fleda knew nothing of
it; and when she had finally parted from aunt Miriam, and was
seated in the little wagon on her way home, to her fancy the
best friend she had in the world was sitting beside her.

Neither was her judgment wrong, so far as it went. She saw
true where she saw at all. But there was a great deal she
could not see.

Mr. Carleton was an unbeliever. Not maliciously, — not
wilfully, — not stupidly; — rather the fool of circumstance.
His scepticism might be traced to the joint workings of a very
fine nature and a very bad education — that is, education in
the broad sense of the term; of course none of the means and
appliances of mental culture had been wanting to him.

He was an uncommonly fine example of what nature alone can do
for a man. A character of nature's building is at best a very
ragged affair, without religion's finishing hand; at the
utmost a fine ruin — no more. And if that be the _utmost_ of
nature's handiwork, what is at the other end of the scale? —
alas! the rubble stones of the ruin; what of good and fair
nature had reared there was not strong enough to stand alone.
But religion cannot work alike on every foundation; and the
varieties are as many as the individuals. Sometimes she must
build the whole, from the very ground; and there are cases
where nature's work stands so strong and fair that religion's
strength may be expended in perfecting and enriching and
carrying it to an uncommon height of grace and beauty, and
dedicating the fair temple to a new use.

Of religion, Mr. Carleton had nothing at all; and a true
Christian character had never crossed his path near enough for
him to become acquainted with it. His mother was a woman of
the world; his father had been a man of the world; and what is
more, so deepdyed a politician, that to all intents and
purposes, except as to bare natural affection, he was nothing
to his son, and his son was nothing to him. Both mother and
father thought the son a piece of perfection, and mothers and
fathers have very often indeed thought so on less grounds. Mr.
Carleton saw, whenever he took time to look at him, that Guy
had no lack either of quick wit or manly bearing; that he had
pride enough to keep him from low company and make him abhor
low pursuits; if anything more than pride and better than
pride mingled with it, the father's discernment could not
reach so far. He had a love for knowledge too, that from a
child made him eager in seeking it, in ways both regular and
desultory; and tastes which his mother laughingly said would
give him all the elegance of a woman, joined to the strong
manly character which no one ever doubted he possessed. _She_
looked mostly at the outside, willing, if that pleased her, to
take everything else upon trust; and the grace of manner which
a warm heart and fine sensibilities, and a mind entirely frank
and above-board, had given him, from his earliest years, had
more than met all her wishes. No one suspected the
stubbornness and energy of will which was in fact the back-
bone of his character. Nothing tried it. His father's death
early left little Guy to his mother's guardianship.
Contradicting him was the last thing she thought of, and of
course it was attempted by no one else.

If she would ever have allowed that he had a fault, which she
never would, it was one that grew out of his greatest virtue,
an unmanageable truth of character; and if she ever
unwillingly recognised its companion virtue, firmness of will,
it was when she endeavoured to combat certain troublesome
demonstrations of the other. In spite of all the grace and
charm of manner in which he was allowed to be a model, and
which was as natural to him as it was universal, if ever the
interests of truth came in conflict with the dictates of
society, he flung minor considerations behind his back, and
came out with some startling piece of bluntness at which his
mother was utterly confounded. These occasions were very rare;
he never sought them. Always where it was possible he chose
either to speak or be silent in an unexceptionable manner. But
sometimes the barrier of conventionalities, or his mother's
unwise policy, pressed too hard upon his integrity or his
indignation; and he would then free the barrier and present
the shut-out truth in its full size and proportions before his
mother's shocked eyes. It was in vain to try to coax or blind
him; a marble statue is not more unruffled by the soft airs of
summer; and Mrs. Carleton was fain to console herself with the
reflection that Guy's very next act after one of these breaks
would be one of such happy fascination that the former would
be forgotten; and that in this world of discordances it was
impossible, on the whole, for any one to come nearer
perfection. And if there was inconvenience, there were also
great comforts about this character of truthfulness.

So nearly up to the time of his leaving the University, the
young heir lived a life of as free and uncontrolled enjoyment
as the deer on his grounds, happily led by his own fine
instincts to seek that enjoyment in pure and natural sources.
His tutor was proud of his success; his dependants loved his
frank and high bearing; his mother rejoiced in his personal
accomplishments, and was secretly well pleased that his tastes
led him another way from the more common and less safe
indulgences of other young men. He had not escaped the
temptations of opportunity and example. But gambling was not
intellectual enough, jockeying was too undignified, and
drinking too coarse a pleasure for him. Even hunting and
coursing charmed him but for a few times; when he found he
could out-ride and out-leap all his companions, he hunted no
more; telling his mother, when she attacked him on the
subject, that he thought the hare the worthier animal of the
two upon a chase; and that the fox deserved an easier death.
His friends twitted him with his want of spirit and want of
manliness; but such light shafts bounded back from the buff
suit of cool indifference in which their object was cased; and
his companions very soon gave over the attempt either to
persuade or annoy him, with the conclusion that "nothing could
be done with Carleton."

The same wants that had displeased him in the sports soon led
him to decline the company of those who indulged in them. From
the low-minded, from the uncultivated, from the unrefined in
mind and manner, — and such there are in the highest class of
society, as well as in the less favoured, — he shrank away in
secret disgust or weariness. There was no affinity. To his
books, to his grounds, which he took endless delight in
overseeing, to the fine arts in general, for which he had a
great love, and for one or two of them a great talent, — he
went with restless energy and no want of companionship; and at
one or the other, always pushing eagerly forward after some
point of excellence, or some new attainment not yet reached,
and which sprang up after one another as fast as ever "Alps
on Alps," he was happily and constantly busy. Too solitary,
his mother thought, — caring less for society than she wished
to see him.; but that, she trusted, would mend itself. He
would be through the University, and come of age, and go into
the world, as a matter of necessity.

But years brought a change — not the change his mother looked
for. That restless active energy which had made the years of
his youth so happy, became, in connection with one or two
other qualities, a troublesome companion, when he had reached
the age of manhood, and, obeying manhood's law, had "put away
childish things." On what should it spend itself? It had lost
none of its strength; while his fastidious notions of
excellence, and a far-reaching clear-sightedness, which
belonged to his truth of nature, greatly narrowed the sphere
of its possible action. He could not delude himself into the
belief that the oversight of his plantations, and the
perfecting his park scenery, could be a worthy end of
existence; or that painting and music were meant to be the
stamina of life; or even that books were their own final
cause. These things had refined and enriched him; — they might
go on doing so to the end of his days; — but _for what?_ For
what?

It is said that everybody has his niche, failing to find which
nobody fills his place or acts his part in society. Mr.
Carleton could not find his niche, and he consequently grew
dissatisfied everywhere. His mother's hopes from the
University and the World were sadly disappointed.

At the University he had not lost his time. The pride of
character, which, joined with less estimable pride of birth,
was a marked feature in his composition, made him look with
scorn upon the ephemeral pursuits of one set of young men;
while his strong intellectual tastes drew him in the other
direction; and the energetic activity which drove him to do
everything well that he once took in hand, carried him to high
distinction. Being there he would have disdained to be
anywhere but at the top of the tree. But out of the
University, and in possession of his estates, what should he
do with himself and them?

A question easy to settle by most young men! very easy to
settle by Guy, if he had had the clue of Christian truth to
guide him through the labyrinth. But the clue was wanting, and
the world seemed to him a world of confusion.

A certain clearness of judgment is apt to be the blessed hand-
maid of uncommon truth of character; the mind that knows not
what it is to play tricks upon its neighbours is rewarded by a
comparative freedom from self-deception. Guy could not sit
down upon his estates and lead an insect-life like that
recommended by Rossitur. His energies wanted room to expend
themselves. But the world offered no sphere that would satisfy
him; even had his circumstances and position laid all equally
open. It was a busy world; but to him people seemed to be busy
upon trifles, or working in a circle, or working mischief; and
his nice notions of what _ought to be_ were shocked by what he
saw was, in every direction around him. He was disgusted with
what he called the drivelling of some unhappy specimens of the
Church which had come in his way; he disbelieved the truth of
what such men professed. If there had been truth in it, he
thought they would deserve to be drummed out of the
profession. He detested the crooked involvements and double-
dealing of the law. He despised the butterfly life of a
soldier; and as to the other side of a soldier's life, again
he thought, what is it for? — to humour the arrogance of the
proud, — to pamper the appetite of the full, — to tighten the
grip of the iron hand of power; and though it be sometimes for
better ends, yet the soldier cannot choose what letters of the
alphabet of obedience he will learn. Politics was the very
shaking of the government sieve, where, if there were any
solid result, it was accompanied with a very great flying
about of chaff indeed. Society was nothing but whip syllabub,
— a mere conglomeration of bubbles, — as hollow and as
unsatisfying. And in lower departments of human life, as far
as he knew, he saw evils yet more deplorable. The Church
played at shuttlecock with men's credulousness; the law, with
their purses; the medical profession, with their lives; the
military, with their liberties and hopes. He acknowledged that
in all these lines of action there was much talent, much good
intention, much admirable diligence and acuteness brought out
— but to what great general end? He saw, in short, that the
machinery of the human mind, both at large and in particular,
was out of order. He did not know what was the broken wheel,
the want of which set all the rest to running wrong.

This was a strange train of thought for a very young man; but
Guy had lived much alone, and in solitude one is like a person
who has climbed a high mountain; the air is purer about him,
his vision is freer; the eye goes straight and clear to the
distant view which below on the plain a thousand things would
come between to intercept. But there was some morbidness about
it too. Disappointment, in two or three instances, where he
had given his full confidence and been obliged to take it
back, had quickened him to generalize unfavourably upon human
character, both in the mass and in individuals. And a restless
dissatisfaction with himself and the world did not tend to a
healthy view of things. Yet, truth was at the bottom; truth
rarely arrived at without the help of revelation. He discerned
a want he did not know how to supply. His fine perceptions
felt the jar of the machinery which other men are too busy or
too deaf to hear. It seemed to him hopelessly disordered.

This habit of thinking wrought a change very unlike what his
mother had looked for. He mingled more in society, but Mrs.
Carleton saw that the eye with which he looked upon it was yet
colder than it wont to be. A cloud came over the light, gay
spirited manner he had used to wear. The charm of his address
was as great as ever where he pleased to show it, but much
more generally now he contented himself with a cool reserve,
as impossible to disturb as to find fault with. His temper
suffered the same eclipse. It was naturally excellent. His
passions were not hastily moved. He had never been easy to
offend; his careless good-humour, and an unbounded proud self-
respect, made him look rather with contempt than anger upon
the things that fire most men; though when once moved to
displeasure, it was stern and abiding in proportion to the
depth of his character. The same good-humour and cool self-
respect forbade him even then to be eager in showing
resentment; the offender fell off from his esteem, and
apparently from the sphere of his notice, as easily as a drop
of water from a duck's wing, and could with as much ease
regain his lost lodgment; but unless there were wrong to be
righted, or truth to be vindicated, he was in general safe
from any further tokens of displeasure. In those cases, Mr.
Carleton was an adversary to be dreaded. As cool, as
unwavering, as persevering there as in other things, he there,
as in other things, no more failed of his end. And at bottom
these characteristics remained the same; it was rather his
humour than his temper that suffered a change. That grew more
gloomy and less gentle. He was more easily irritated, and
would show it more freely than in the old happy times had ever
been.

Mrs. Carleton would have been glad to have those times back
again. It could not be. Guy could not be content any longer in
the Happy Valley of Amhara. Life had something for him to do
beyond his park palings. He had carried manly exercises and
personal accomplishments to an uncommon point of perfection;
he knew his library well, and his grounds thoroughly, and had
made excellent improvement of both; it was in vain to try to
persuade him that seed-time and harvest were the same thing,
and that he had nothing to do but to rest in what he had done;
show his bright colours and flutter like a moth in the
sunshine, or sit down like a degenerate bee in the summer time
and eat his own honey. The power of action which he knew in
himself could not rest without something to act upon. It
longed to be doing.

But what?

Conscience is often morbidly far-sighted. Mr. Carleton had a
very large tenantry around him and depending upon him, in
bettering whose condition, if he had but known it, all those
energies might have found full play. It never entered into his
head. He abhorred _business_, — the detail of business; and. his
fastidious tastes especially shrank from having anything to do
among those whose business was literally their life. The eye,
sensitively fond of elegance, the extreme of elegance, in
everything, and permitting no other around or about him, could
not bear the tokens of mental and bodily wretchedness among
the ignorant poor; he escaped from them as soon as possible;
thought that poverty was one of the irregularities of this
wrong-working machine of a world, and something utterly beyond
his power to do away or alleviate; and left to his steward all
the responsibility that of right rested on his own shoulders.

And at last, unable to content himself in the old routine of
things, he quitted home and England, even before he was of
age, and roved from place to place, trying, and trying in
vain, to soothe the vague restlessness that called for a very
different remedy.


"On change de ciel, — l'on ne change point de sol."



CHAPTER X


Faire Christabelle, that ladye bright,
Was had forth of the towre:
But ever she droopeth in her minde,
As, nipt by an ungentle winde,
Doth some faire lillye flowre.
SYR CAULINE.


That evening, the last of their stay at Montepoole, Fleda was
thought well enough to take her tea in company. So Mr.
Carleton carried her down, though she could have walked, and
placed her on the sofa in the parlour.

Whatever disposition the young officers might have felt to
renew their pleasantry on the occasion, it was shamed into
silence. There was a pure dignity about that little pale face
which protected itself. They were quite struck, and Fleda had
no reason to complain of want of attention from any of the
party. Mr. Evelyn kissed her. Mr. Thorn brought a little table
to the side of the sofa for her cup of tea to stand on, and
handed her the toast most dutifully; and her cousin Rossitur
went back and forth between her and the tea-urn. All of the
ladies seemed to take immense satisfaction in looking at her,
they did it so much; standing about the hearth-rug with their
cups in their hands, sipping their tea. Fleda was quite
touched with everybody's kindness, but somebody at the back of
the sofa, whom she did not see, was the greatest comfort of
all.

"You must let me carry you upstairs when you go, Fleda," said
her cousin. "I shall grow quite jealous of your friend, Mr.
Carleton."

"No," said Fleda, smiling a little, — "I shall not let any one
but him carry me up, — if he will."

"We shall all grow jealous of Mr. Carleton," said Thorn. "He
means to monopolize you, keeping you shut up there, upstairs."

"He didn't keep me shut up," said Fleda.

Mr. Carleton was welcome to monopolize her, if it depended on
her vote.

"Not fair play, Carleton," continued the young officer, wisely
shaking his head, — "all start alike, or there's no fun in the
race. You've fairly distanced us — left us nowhere."

He might have talked Chinese, and been as intelligible to
Fleda, — and as interesting to Guy, for all that appeared.

"How are we going to proceed to-morrow, Mr. Evelyn?" said Mrs.
Carleton. "Has the missing stage-coach returned yet? or will
it be forthcoming in the morning?"

"Promised, Mrs. Carleton. The landlord's faith stands pledged
for it."

"Then it wont disappoint us, of course. What a dismal way of
travelling!"

"This young country hasn't grown up to post-coaches yet," said
Mrs. Evelyn.

"How many will it hold?" inquired Mrs. Carleton.

"Hum! — nine inside, I suppose."

"And we number ten, with the servants."

"Just take us," said Mr. Evelyn. "There's room on the box for
one."

"It will not take me," said Mr. Carleton.

"How will you go? ride?" said his mother. "I should think you
would, since you have found a horse you like so well."

"By George! I wish there was another that _I_ liked," said
Rossitur, "and I'd go on horseback too. Such weather! The
landlord says it's the beginning of Indian summer."

"It's too early for that," said Thorn.

"Well, eight inside will do very well for one day," said Mrs.
Carleton. "That will give little Fleda a little more space to
lie at her ease."

"You may put Fleda out of your calculations, too, mother,"
said Mr. Carleton. "I will take care of her."

"How in the world," exclaimed his mother, — "if you are on
horseback?"

And Fleda twisted herself round so as to give a look of bright
inquiry at his face. She got no answer beyond a smile, which,
however, completely satisfied her. As to the rest, he told his
mother that he had arranged it, and they should see in the
morning. Mrs. Carleton was far from being at ease on the
subject of his arrangements, but she let the matter drop.

Fleda was secretly very much pleased. She thought she would a
great deal rather go with Mr. Carleton in the little wagon
than in the stage-coach with the rest of the people. Privately
she did not at all admire Mr. Thorn or her cousin Rossitur.
They amused her though; and feeling very much better and
stronger in body, and at least quiet in mind, she sat in
tolerable comfort on her sofa, looking and listening to the
people who were gaily talking around her.

In the gaps of talk she sometimes thought she heard a
distressed sound in the hall. The buzz of tongues covered it
up, — then again she heard it, — and she was sure at last that
it was the voice of a dog. Never came an appeal in vain from
any four-footed creature to Fleda's heart. All the rest being
busy with their own affairs she quietly got up and opened the
door and looked out, and finding that she was right, went
softly into the hall. In one corner lay her cousin Rossitur's
beautiful black pointer, which she well remembered, and had
greatly admired several times. The poor creature was every now
and then uttering short cries, in a manner as if he would not
but they were forced from him.

"What is the matter with him?" asked Fleda, stepping
fearfully towards the dog, and speaking to Mr. Carleton, who
had come out to look after her. As she spoke, the dog rose,
and came crouching and wagging his tail to meet them.

"Oh, Mr. Carleton!" Fleda almost screamed, — "look at him!
Oh, what is the matter with him! he's all over bloody! Poor
creature!" —

"You must ask your cousin, Fleda," said Mr. Carleton, with as
much cold disgust in his countenance as it often expressed;
and that is saying a good deal.

Fleda could speak in the cause of a dog, where she would have
been silent in her own. She went back to the parlour, and
begged her cousin, with a face of distress, to come out into
the hall, — she did not say for what. Both he and Thorn
followed her. Rossitur's face darkened as Fleda repeated her
enquiry, her heart so full by this time, as hardly to allow
her to make any.

"Why, the dog didn't do his duty, and has been punished," he
said, gloomily.

"Punished!" said Fleda.

"Shot," said Mr. Carleton, coolly.

"Shot!" exclaimed Fleda, bursting into heartwrung tears —
"shot! Oh, how _could_ any one do it! Oh, how could you, how
could you, cousin Charlton!"

It was a picture. The child was crying bitterly, her fingers
stroking the poor dog's head with a touch in which lay, oh
what tender healing, if the will had but had magnetic power!
Carleton's eye glanced significantly from her to the young
officers. Rossitur looked at Thorn.

"It was not Charlton — it was I, Miss Fleda," said the latter.
"Charlton lent him to me to-day, and he disobeyed me, and so I
was angry with him, and punished him a little severely; but
he'll soon get over it."

But all Fleda's answer was, "I am very sorry! — I am very
sorry! — poor dog!" — and to weep such tears as made the young
gentlemen for once ashamed of themselves. It almost did the
child a mischief. She did not get over it all the evening. And
she never got over it, as far as Mr. Thorn was concerned.

Mrs. Carleton hoped, faintly, that Guy would come to reason by
the next morning, and let Fleda go in the stage-coach with the
rest of the people. But he was as unreasonable as ever, and
stuck to his purpose. She had supposed, however, with Fleda,
that the difference would be only an open vehicle and his
company instead of a covered one and her own. Both of them
were sadly discomfited when on coming to the hall door to take
their carriages, it was found that Mr. Carleton's meaning was
no less than to take Fleda before him on horseback. He was
busy even then in arranging a cushion on the pommel of the
saddle for her to sit upon. Mrs. Carleton burst into indignant
remonstrances; Fleda silently trembled.

But Mr. Carleton had his own notions on the subject, and they
were not moved by anything his mother could say. He quietly
went on with his preparations; taking very slight notice of
the raillery of the young officers, answering Mrs. Evelyn with
polite words, and silencing his mother as he came up with one
of those looks out of his dark eyes to which she always
forgave the wilfulness for the sake of the beauty and the
winning power. She was completely conquered, and stepped back
with even a smile.

"But, Carleton!" cried Rossitur, impatiently; "you can't ride
so! you'll find it deucedly inconvenient."

"Possibly," said Mr. Carleton.

"Fleda would be a great deal better off in the stage-coach."

"Have you studied medicine, Mr. Rossitur?" said the young man.
"Because I am persuaded of the contrary."

"I don't believe your horse will like it," said Thorn.

"My horse is always of my mind, Sir; or if he be not, I
generally succeed in convincing him."

"But there is somebody else that deserves to be consulted,"
said Mrs. Thorn. "I wonder how little Fleda will like it."

"I will ask her when we get to our first stopping-place," said
Mr. Carleton, smiling. "Come, Fleda!"

Fleda would hardly have said a word if his purpose had been to
put her under the horse's feet instead of on his back. But she
came forward with great unwillingness, and a very tremulous
little heart. He must have understood the want of alacrity in
her face and manner, though he took no notice of it otherwise
than by the gentle kindness with which he led her to the
horse-block, and placed her upon it. Then mounting, and riding
the horse up close to the block, he took Fleda in both hands,
and bidding her spring, in a moment she was safely seated
before him.

At first it seemed dreadful to Fleda to have that great
horse's head so near her, and she was afraid that her feet
touching him would excite his most serious disapprobation.
However, a minute or so went by, and she could not see that
his tranquillity seemed to be at all ruffled, or even that he
was sensible of her being upon his shoulders. They waited to
see the stage-coach off, and then gently set forward. Fleda
feared very much again when she felt the horse moving under
her, easy as his gait was, and looking after the stage-coach
in the distance, now beyond call, she felt a little as if she
was a great way from help and dry land — cast away on a
horse's back. But Mr. Carleton's arm was gently passed round
her, and she knew it held her safely, and would not let her
fall; and he bent down his face to her, and asked her so
kindly and tenderly, and with such a look too, that seemed to
laugh at her fears, whether she felt afraid? and with such a
kind little pressure of his arm that promised to take care of
her, that Fleda's courage mounted twenty degrees at once. And
it rose higher every minute; the horse went very easily, and
Mr. Carleton held her so that she could not be tired, and made
her lean against him; and before they had gone a mile Fleda
began to be delighted. Such a charming way of travelling! Such
a free view of the country! and in this pleasant weather, too,
neither hot nor cold, and when all nature's features were
softened by the light veil of haze that hung over them, and
kept off the sun's glare, Mr. Carleton was right. In the
stage-coach Fleda would have sat quiet in a corner, and moped
the time sadly away; now she was roused, excited, interested,
even cheerful; forgetting herself, which was the very thing of
all others to be desired for her. She lost her fears; she was
willing to have the horse trot or canter as fast as his rider
pleased; but the trotting was too rough for her, so they
cantered or paced along most of the time, when the hills did
not oblige them to walk quietly up and down, which happened
pretty often. For several miles the country was not very
familiar to Fleda. It was, however, extremely picturesque; and
she sat silently and gravely looking at it, her head lying
upon Mr. Carleton's breast, her little mind very full of
thoughts and musings, curious, deep, sometimes sorrowful, but
not unhappy.

"I am afraid I tire you, Mr. Carleton!" said she, in a sudden
fit of recollection, starting up.

His look answered her, and his arm drew her back to her place
again.

"Are _you_ not tired, Elfie?"

"Oh no! — You have got a new name for me, Mr. Carleton," said
she, a moment after, looking up and smiling.

"Do you like it?"

"Yes."

"You are my good genius," said he, "so I must a peculiar title
for you, different from what other people know you by."

"What is a genius, Sir?" said Fleda.

"Well, a sprite, then," said he, smiling.

"A sprite?" said Fleda.

"I have read a story of a lady, Elfie, who had a great many
little unearthly creatures, a kind of sprites, to attend upon
her. Some sat in the ringlets of her hair, and took charge of
them; some hid in the folds of her dress and made them lie
gracefully; another lodged in a dimple in her cheek, and
another perched on her eyebrows, and so on."

"To take care of her eyebrows?" said Fleda, laughing.

"Yes; to smooth out all the ill-humoured wrinkles and frowns,
I suppose."

"But am I such a sprite?" said Fleda.

"Something like it."

"Why, what do I do?" said Fleda, rousing herself in a mixture
of gratification and amusement that was pleasant to behold.

"What office would you choose, Elfie? what good would you like
to do me?"

It was a curious wistful look with which Fleda answered this
question, an innocent look, in which Mr. Carleton read
perfectly that she felt something was wanting in him, and did
not know exactly what. His smile almost made her think she had
been mistaken.

"You are just the sprite you would wish to be, Elfie," he
said.

Fleda's head took its former position, and she sat for some
time musing over his question and answer, till a familiar
waymark put all such thoughts to flight. They were passing
Deepwater Lake, and would presently be at aunt Miriam's. Fleda
looked now with a beating heart. Every foot of ground was
known to her. She was seeing it, perhaps, for the last time.
It was with even an intensity of eagerness that she watched
every point and turn of the landscape, endeavouring to lose
nothing in her farewell view, to give her farewell look at
every favourite clump of trees and old rock, and at the very
mill-wheels, which for years ,whether working or at rest, had
had such interest for her. If tears came to bid their good-by
too, they were hastily thrown off, or suffered to roll quietly
down; _they_ might bide their time; but eyes must look now or
never. How pleasant, how pleasant, the quiet old country
seemed to Fleda as they went along! — in that most quiet light
and colouring; the brightness of the autumn glory gone, and
the sober warm hue which the hills still wore seen under that
hazy veil. All the home-like peace of the place was spread out
to make it hard going away. Would she ever see any other so
pleasant again? Those dear old hills and fields, among which
she had been so happy; they were not to be her home any more;
would she ever have the same sweet happiness anywhere else?
"The Lord will provide!" thought little Fleda with swimming
eyes.

It was hard to go by aunt Miriam's. Fleda eagerly looked, as
well as she could, but no one was to be seen about the house.
It was just as well. A sad gush of tears must come, then, but
she got rid of them as soon as possible, that she might not
lose the rest of the way, promising them another time. The
little settlement on "the hill" was passed, the factories, and
mills, and mill-ponds, one after the other; they made Fleda
feel very badly, for here she remembered going with her
grandfather to see the work, and there she had stopped with
him at the turner's shop to get a wooden bowl turned, and
there she had been with Cynthy when she went to visit an
acquaintance; and there never was a happier little girl than
Fleda had been in those old times. All gone! It was no use
trying to help it; Fleda put her two hands to her face and
cried, at last, a silent but not the less bitter, leave-
taking, of the shadows of the past.

She forced herself into quiet again, resolved to look to the
last. As they were going down the hill, past the saw-mill, Mr.
Carleton noticed that her head was stretched out to look back
at it, with an expression of face he could not withstand. He
wheeled about immediately, and went back and stood opposite to
it. The mill was not working today. The saw was standing
still, though there were plenty of huge trunks of trees lying
about in all directions, waiting to be cut up. There was a
desolate look of the place. No one was there; the little
brook, most of its waters cut off, did not go roaring and
laughing down the hill, but trickled softly and plaintively
over the stones. It seemed exceeding sad to Fleda.

"Thank you, Mr. Carleton," she said, after a little earnest
fond-looking at her old haunt; "you needn't stay any longer."

But as soon as they had crossed the little rude bridge at the
foot of the hill, they could see the poplar trees which
skirted the courtyard fence before her grandfather's house.
Poor Fleda's eyes could hardly serve her. She managed to keep
them open till the horse had made a few steps more and she had
caught the well-known face of the old house looking at her
through the poplars. Her fortitude failed, and bowing her
little head, she wept so exceedingly, that Mr. Carleton was
fain to draw bridle, and try to comfort her.

"My dear Elfie! do not weep so," he said, tenderly. "Is there
anything you would like? Can I do anything for you?"

He had to wait a little. He repeated his first query.

"Oh, it's no matter," said Fleda, striving to conquer her
tears, which found their way again; "if I only could have gone
into the house once more! — but it's no matter — you needn't
wait, Mr. Carleton —"

The horse, however, remained motionless.

"Do you think you would feel better, Elfie, if you had seen it
again?"

"Oh, yes! — But never mind, Mr. Carleton, you may go on."

Mr. Carleton ordered his servant to open the gate, and rode up
to the back of the house.

"I am afraid there is nobody here, Elfie," he said; "the house
seems all shut up."

"I know how I can get in," said Fleda; "there's a window down
stairs — I don't believe it is fastened; if you wouldn't mind
waiting, Mr. Carleton; I wont keep you long."

The child had dried her tears, and there was the eagerness of
something like hope in her face. Mr. Carleton dismounted and
took her off.

"I must find a way to get in too, Elfie; I cannot let you go
alone."

"Oh, I can open the door when I get in," said Fleda.

"But you have not the key."

"There's no key, it's only bolted on the inside, that door. I
can open it."

She found the window unfastened as she had expected: Mr.
Carleton held it open while she crawled in, and then she undid
the door for him. He more than half questioned the wisdom of
his proceeding. The house had a dismal look; cold, empty,
deserted; it was a dreary reminder of Fleda's loss, and he
feared the effect of it would be anything but good. He
followed and watched her, as with an eager business step she
went through the hall and up the stairs, putting her head into
every room and giving an earnest wistful look all round it.
Here and there she went in and stood a moment, where
associations were more thick and strong; sometimes taking a
look out of a particular window, and even opening a cupboard
door, to give that same kind and sorrowful glance of
recognition at the old often-resorted-to hiding-place of her
own or her grandfather's treasures and trumpery. Those old
corners seemed to touch Fleda more than all the rest; and she
turned away from one of them with a face of such extreme
sorrow, that Mr. Carleton very much regretted he had brought
her into the house. For her sake, for his own, it was a
curious show of character. Though tears were sometimes
streaming, she made no delay, and gave him no trouble; with
the calm steadiness of a woman she went regularly through the
house, leaving no place unvisited, but never obliging him to
hasten her away. She said not a word during the whole time;
her very crying was still; the light tread of her little feet
was the only sound in the silent empty rooms; and the noise of
their footsteps in the halls, and of the opening and shutting
doors echoed mournfully through the house.

She had left her grandfather's room for the last. Mr. Carleton
did not follow her in there, guessing that she would rather be
alone. But she did not come back, and he was forced to go to
fetch her.

The chill desolateness of that room had been too much for poor
little Fleda. The empty bedstead, the cold stove, the table
bare of books, only one or two lay upon the old Bible; the
forlorn order of the place that bespoke the master far away;
the very sunbeams that stole in at the little windows, and met
now no answering look of gladness or gratitude; it had struck
the child's heart too heavily, and she was standing crying by
the window. A second time in that room Mr. Carleton sat down
and drew his little charge to his breast; and spoke words of
soothing and sympathy.

"I am very sorry I brought you here, dear Elfie," he said
kindly. "It was too hard for you."

"Oh, no!" even through her tears, Fleda said, "she was very
glad!"

"Hadn't we better try to overtake our friends?" he whispered,
after another pause.

She immediately, almost immediately, put away her tears, and
with a quiet obedience that touched him, went with him from
the room, fastened the door, and got out again at the little
window.

"Oh, Mr. Carleton!" she said, with great earnestness, when
they had almost reached the horses, "wont you wait for me one
minute more? I just want a piece of the burning bush."

Drawing her hand from him she rushed round to the front of the
house. A little more slowly Mr. Carleton followed, and found
her under the burning bush, tugging furiously at a branch,
beyond her strength to break off.

"That's too much for you, Elfie," said he, gently taking her
hand from the tree; "let my hand try."

She stood back and watched, tears running down her face, while
he got a knife from his pocket and cut off the piece she had
been trying for, nicely, and gave it to her. The first
movement of Fleda's head was down, bent over the pretty spray
of red berries; but by the time she stood at the horse's side
she looked up at Mr. Carleton and thanked him with a face of
more than thankfulness.

She was crying, however, constantly, till they had gone
several miles on their way again, and Mr. Carleton doubted he
had done wrong. It passed away, and she had been sitting quite
peacefully for some time, when he told her they were near the
place where they were to stop and join their friends. She
looked up most gratefully in his face.

"I am very much obliged to you, Mr. Carleton, for what you
did!"

"I was afraid I had made a mistake, Elfie."

"Oh, no, you didn't."

"Do you think you feel any easier after it, Elfie?"

"Oh, yes! — indeed I do," said she, looking up again, — "thank
you, Mr. Carleton."

A gentle kind pressure of his arm answered her thanks.

"I ought to be a good sprite to you, Mr. Carleton," Fleda
said, after musing a little while, — "you are so very good to
me!"

Perhaps Mr. Carleton felt too much pleasure at this speech to
make any answer, for he made none.

"It is only selfishness, Elfie," said he, presently, looking
down to the quiet sweet little face which seemed to him, and
was, more pure than anything of earth's mould he had ever
seen. — "You know I must take care of you for my own sake."

Fleda laughed a little.

"But what will you do when we get to Paris?"

"I don't know. I should like to have you always, Elfie."

"You'll have to get aunt Lucy to give me to you," said Fleda.

"Mr. Carleton," said she, a few minutes after, — "is that
story in a book?"

"What story ?"

"About the lady and the little sprites that waited on her."

"Yes, it is in a book; you shall see it, Elfie. — Here we
are!"

And here it was proposed to stay till the next day, lest Fleda
might not be able to bear so much travelling at first. But the
country inn was not found inviting; the dinner was bad, and
the rooms were worse; uninhabitable, the ladies said; and
about the middle of the afternoon they began to cast about for
the means of reaching Albany that night. None very comfortable
could be had; however, it was thought better to push on at any
rate than wear out the night in such a place. The weather was
very mild; the moon at the full.

"How is Fleda to go this afternoon," said Mrs. Evelyn.

"She shall decide herself," said Mrs. Carleton. "How will you
go, my sweet Fleda?"

Fleda was lying upon a sort of rude couch which had been
spread for her, where she had been sleeping incessantly ever
since she arrived, the hour of dinner alone excepted. Mrs.
Carleton repeated her question.

"I am afraid Mr. Carleton must be tired," said Fleda, without
opening her eyes.

"That means that you are, don't it?" said Rossitur.

"No," said Fleda, gently.

Mr. Carleton smiled, and went out to press forward the
arrangements. In spite of good words and good money there was
some delay. It was rather late before the cavalcade left the
inn; and a journey of several hours was before them. Mr.
Carleton rode rather slowly, too, for Fleda's sake, so the
evening had fallen while they were yet a mile or two from the
city.

His little charge had borne the fatigue well, thanks partly to
his admirable care, and partly to her quiet pleasure in being
with him. She had been so perfectly still for some distance,
that he thought she had dropped asleep. Looking down closer,
however, to make sure about it, he saw her thoughtful clear
eyes most unsleepily fixed upon the sky.

"What are you gazing at, Elfie?"

The look of thought changed to a look of affection as the eyes
were brought to bear upon him, and she answered with a smile,

"Nothing, — I was looking at the stars."

"What are you dreaming about?"

"I wasn't dreaming," said Fleda, — "I was thinking."

"Thinking of what?"

"Oh, of pleasant things."

"Mayn't I know them? — I like to hear of pleasant things."

"I was thinking, —" said Fleda, looking up again at the stars,
which shone with no purer ray than those grave eyes sent back
to them, — "I was thinking — of being ready to die."

The words, and the calm thoughtful manner in which they were
said, thrilled upon Mr. Carleton with a disagreeable shock.

"How came you to think of such a thing?" said he, lightly.

"I don't know," — said Fleda, still looking at the stars," — I
suppose — I was thinking —"

"What?" said Mr. Carleton, inexpressibly curious to get at the
workings of the child's mind, which was not easy, for Fleda
was never very forward to talk of herself; — "what were you
thinking? I want to know how you could get such a thing into
your head."


"It wasn't very strange," said Fleda. "The stars made me think
of heaven, and grandpa's being there, and then I thought how
he was ready to go there, and that made him ready to die —"

"I wouldn't think of such things, Elfie," said Mr. Carleton,
after a few minutes.

"Why not, Sir?" said Fleda, quickly.

"I don't think they are good for you."

"But, Mr. Carleton," said Fleda, gently, — "if I don't think
about it, how shall I ever be ready to die?"

"It is not fit for you," said he, evading the question, — "it
is not necessary now, — there's time enough. You are a little
body, and should have none but gay thoughts."

"But, Mr. Carleton," said Fleda, with timid earnestness, —
"don't you think one could have gay thoughts better if one
knew one was ready to die?"

"What makes a person ready to die, Elfie?" said her friend,
disliking to ask the question, but yet more unable to answer
hers, and curious to hear what she would say.

"Oh, to be a Christian," said Fleda.

"But I have seen Christians," said Mr. Carleton, "who were no
more ready to die than other people."

"Then they were make-believe Christians," said Fleda,
decidedly.

"What makes you think so?" said her friend, carefully guarding
his countenance from anything like a smile.

"Because," said Fleda, "grandpa was ready, and my father was
ready, and my mother, too; and I know it was because they were
Christians."

"Perhaps your kind of Christians are different from my kind,"
said Mr. Carleton, carrying on the conversation half in spite
of himself. "What do you mean by a Christian, Elfie?"

"Why, what the Bible means," said Fleda, looking at him with
innocent earnestness.

Mr. Carleton was ashamed to tell her he did not know what that
was, or he was unwilling to say what he felt would trouble the
happy confidence she had in him. He was silent; but as they
rode on, a bitter wish crossed his mind that he could have the
simple purity of the little child in his arms; and he thought
he would give his broad acres, supposing it possible that
religion could be true, — in exchange for that free happy
spirit that looks up to all its possessions in heaven.


CHAPTER XI.


Starres are poore books, and oftentimes do misse;
This book of starres lights to eternall blisse.
GEORGE HERBERT.


The voyage across the Atlantic was not, in itself, at all
notable. The first half of the passage was extremely unquiet,
and most of the passengers uncomfortable to match. Then the
weather cleared; and the rest of the way, though lengthened
out a good deal by the tricks of the wind, was very fair and
pleasant.

Fifteen days of tossing and sea-sickness had brought little
Fleda to look like the ghost of herself. So soon as the
weather changed, and sky and sea were looking gentle again,
Mr. Carleton had a mattress and cushions laid in a sheltered
corner of the deck for her, and carried her up. She had hardly
any more strength than a baby.

"What are you looking at me so for, Mr. Carleton?" said she, a
little while after he had carried her up, with a sweet serious
smile that seemed to know the answer to her question.

He stooped down and clasped her little thin hand, as
reverentially as if she really had not belonged to the earth.

"You are more like a sprite than I like to see you just now,"
said he, unconsciously fastening the child's heart to himself
with the magnetism of those deep eyes. — "I must get some of
the sailors' salt beef and sea-biscuit for you — they say that
is the best thing to make people well."

"Oh, I feel better already," said Fleda; and settling her
little face upon the cushion and closing her eyes, she added,
"thank you, Mr. Carleton!"

The fresh air began to restore her immediately; she was no
more sick; her appetite came back; and from that time, without
the help of beef and sea-biscuit, she mended rapidly. Mr.
Carleton proved himself as good a nurse on the sea as on land.
She seemed to be never far from his thoughts. He was
constantly finding out something that would do her good or
please her; and Fleda could not discover that he took any
trouble about it; she could not feel that she was a burden to
him; the things seemed to come as a matter of course. Mrs.
Carleton was not wanting in any show of kindness or care, and
yet, when Fleda looked back upon the day, it somehow was Guy
that had done everything for her; she thought little of
thanking anybody but him.

There were other passengers that petted her a great deal, or
would have done so, if Fleda's very timid, retiring nature had
not stood in the way. She was never bashful, nor awkward; but
yet it was only a very peculiar sympathetic style of address
that could get within the wall of reserve which, in general,
hid her from other people. Hid what it could: for through that
reserve a singular modesty, sweetness, and gracefulness of
spirit would show themselves. But there was much more behind.
There were no eyes, however, on board, that did not look
kindly on little Fleda, excepting only two pair. The Captain
showed her a great deal of flattering attention, and said she
was a pattern of a passenger; even the sailors noticed and
spoke of her, and let slip no occasion of showing the respect
and interest she had raised. But there were two pair of eyes,
and one of them Fleda thought most remarkably ugly, that were
an exception to the rest; these belonged to her cousin
Rossitur and Lieutenant Thorn. Rossitur had never forgiven her
remarks upon his character as a gentleman, and declared
preference of Mr. Carleton in that capacity; and Thorn was
mortified at the invincible childish reserve which she opposed
to all his advances; and both, absurd as it seems, were
jealous of the young Englishman's advantage over them. Both
not the less, because their sole reason for making her a
person of consequence was that he had thought fit to do so.
Fleda would permit neither of them to do anything for her that
she could help.

They took their revenge in raillery, which was not always
good-natured. Mr. Carleton never answered it in any other way
than by his look of cold disdain, — not always by that; little
Fleda could not be quite so unmoved. Many a time her nice
sense of delicacy confessed itself hurt, by the deep and
abiding colour her cheeks would wear after one of their ill-
mannered flings at her. She bore them with a grave dignity
peculiar to herself, but the same nice delicacy forbade her to
mention the subject to any one; and the young gentlemen
contrived to give the little child in the course of the voyage
a good deal of pain. She shunned them at last as she would the
plague. As to the rest, Fleda liked her life on board ship
amazingly. In her quiet way she took al the good that offered
and seemed not to recognise the ill.

Mr. Carleton had bought for her a copy of The Rape of the
Lock, and Bryant's poems. With these, sitting or lying among
her cushions, Fleda amused herself a great deal; and it was an
especial pleasure when he would sit down by her and read and
talk about them. Still a greater was to watch the sea, in its
changes of colour and varieties of agitation, and to get from
Mr. Carleton, bit by bit, all the pieces of knowledge
concerning it that he had ever made his own. Even when Fleda
feared it she was fascinated; and while the fear went off the
fascination grew deeper. Daintily nestling among her cushions,
she watched with charmed eyes the long rollers that came up in
detachments of three to attack the good ship, that like a
slandered character rode patiently over them; or the crested
green billows, or sometimes the little rippling waves that
showed old Ocean's placidest face; while with ears as charmed
as if he had been delivering a fairy tale, she listened to all
Mr. Carleton could tell her of the green water where the
whales feed, or the blue water where Neptune sits in his own
solitude, the furthest from land, and the pavement under his
feet outdoes the very canopy overhead in its deep colouring;
of the transparent seas where the curious mysterious marine
plants and animals may be clearly seen many feet down, and in
the North where hundreds of feet of depth do not hide the
bottom; of the icebergs; and whirling great fields of ice,
between which, if a ship get, she had as good be an almond in
a pair of strong nut-crackers. How the water grows colder and
murkier as it is nearer the shore; how the mountain waves are
piled together; and how old Ocean, like a wise man,. however
roughened and tumbled outwardly by the currents of life, is
always calm at heart. Of the signs of the weather; the out-
riders of the winds, and the use the seaman makes of the
tidings they bring, and before Mr. Carleton knew where he was,
he found himself deep in the science of navigation, and making
a star-gazer of little Fleda. Sometimes kneeling beside him as
he sat on her mattress, with her hand leaning on his shoulder,
Fleda asked, listened, and looked; as engaged, as rapt, as
interested, as another child would be in Robinson Crusoe,
gravely drinking in knowledge with a fresh healthy taste for
it that never had enough. Mr. Carleton was about as amused and
as interested as she. There is a second taste of knowledge
that some minds get in imparting it, almost as sweet as the
first relish. At any rate, Fleda never felt that she had any
reason to fear tiring him; and his mother, complaining of his
want of sociableness, said she believed Guy did not like to
talk to any-body but that little pet of his, and one or two of
the old sailors. If left to her own resources, Fleda was never
at a loss; she amused herself with her books, or watching the
sailors, or watching the sea, or with some fanciful
manufacture she had learned from one of the ladies on board,
or with what the company about her were saying and doing.

One evening she had been some time alone, looking out upon the
restless little waves that were tossing and tumbling in every
direction. She had been afraid of them at first, and they were
still rather fearful to her imagination. This evening, as heir
musing eye watched them rise and fall, her childish fancy
likened them to the up-springing chances of life, — uncertain,
unstable, alike too much for her skill and her strength to
manage. She was not more helpless before the attacks of the
one than of the other. But then — that calm blue heaven that
hung over the sea. It was like the heaven of power and love
above her destinies; only this was far higher, and more pure
and abiding. "He knoweth them that trust in him." "There shall
not a hair of your head perish."

Not these words, perhaps, but something like the sense of
them, was in little Fleda's head. Mr. Carleton coming up, saw
her gazing out upon the water, with an eye that seemed to see
nothing.

"Elfie! — Are you looking into futurity!"

"No, — yes — not exactly!" said Fleda, smiling.

"No, yes, and not exactly!" said he, throwing himself down
beside her. "What does all that mean?"

"I wasn't exactly looking into futurity," said Fleda.

"What then? — Don't tell me you were 'thinking;' I know that
already. What?"

Fleda was always rather shy of opening her cabinet of
thoughts. She glanced at him, and hesitated, and then yielded
to a fascination of eye and smile that rarely failed of its
end. Looking off to the sea again as if she had left her
thoughts there, she said,

"I was only thinking of that beautiful hymn of Mr. Newton's."

"What hymn?"

"That long one, 'The Lord will provide.' "

"Do you know it? Tell it to me, Elfie; let us see whether I
shall think it beautiful."

Fleda knew the whole, and repeated it.


"Though troubles assail,
And dangers affright,
Though friends should all fail,
And foes all unite;
Yet one thing secures us
Whatever betide,
The Scripture assures us
'The Lord will provide.'


"The birds without barn
Or storehouse are fed;
From them let us learn
To trust for our bread.
His saints what is fitting
Shall ne'er be denied,
So long as 'tis written,
'The Lord will provide.'


"His call we obey,
Like Abraham of old,
Not knowing our way,
But faith makes us bold.
And though we are strangers,
We have a good guide,
And trust in all dangers
'The Lord will provide.'

"We may like the ships
In tempests be tossed
On perilous deeps,
But cannot be lost.
Though Satan enrages
The wind and the tide,
The promise engages
'The Lord will provide.'


"When Satan appears
To stop up our path,
And fills us with fears,
We triumph by faith.
He cannot take from us,
Though oft he has tried,
This heart-cheering promise,
'The Lord will provide.'


"He tells us we're weak,
Our hope is in vain,
The good that we seek
We ne'er shall obtain;
But when such suggestions
Our spirits have tried,
This answers all questions,
'The Lord will provide.'


"No strength of our own,
Or goodness we claim;
But since we have known
The Saviour's great name,
In this, our strong tower,
For safety we hide;
The Lord is our power!
'The Lord will provide.'

"When life sinks apace,
And death is in view,
This word of his grace
Shall comfort us through.
No fearing nor doubting,
With Christ on our side,
We hope to die shouting
'The Lord will provide!' "


Guy listened very attentively to the whole. He was very far
from understanding the meaning of several of the verses, but
the bounding expression of confidence and hope he did
understand, and did feel.

"Happy to be so deluded!" he thought. "I almost wish I could
share the delusion!"

He was gloomily silent when she had done, and little Fleda's
eyes were so full that it was a little while before she could
look towards him, and ask in her gentle way, "Do you like it,
Mr. Carleton?"

She was gratified by his grave "Yes!"

"But Elfie," said he, smiling again, "you have not told me
your thoughts yet. What had these verses to do with the sea
you were looking at so hard?"

"Nothing; I was thinking," said Fleda, slowly, "that the sea
seemed something like the world — I don't mean it was like,
but it made me think of it; and I thought how pleasant it is
to know that God takes care of his people."

"Don't he take care of everybody?"

"Yes, in one sort of way," said Fleda; "but then it is only
his children that he has promised to keep from everything that
will hurt them."

"I don't see how that promise is kept, Elfie. I think those
who call themselves so meet with as many troubles as the rest
of the world, and perhaps more."

"Yes," said Fleda, quickly, "they have troubles, but then God
wont let the troubles do them any harm."

A subtle evasion, thought Mr. Carleton. "Where did you learn
that, Elfie?"

"The Bible says so," said Fleda.

"Well, how do you know it from that?" said Mr. Carleton,
impelled, he hardly knew whether by his bad or his good angel,
to carry on the conversation.

"Why," said Fleda, looking as if it were a very simple
question, and Mr. Carleton were catechising her, "you know,
Mr. Carleton, the Bible was written by men who were taught by
God exactly what to say, so there could be nothing in it that
is not true."

"How do you know those men were so taught?"

"The Bible says so."

A child's answer! but with a child's wisdom in it, not learnt
of the schools. "He that is of God heareth God's words." To
little Fleda, as to every simple and humble intelligence, the
Bible proved itself; she had no need to go further.

Mr. Carleton did not smile, for nothing would have tempted him
to hurt her feelings; but he said, though conscience did not
let him do it without a twinge, —

"But don't you know, Elfie, there are some people who do not
believe the Bible?"

"Ah, but those are bad people," replied Fleda, quickly; "all
good people believe it."

A child's reason again, but hitting the mark this time.
Unconsciously, little Fleda had brought forward a strong
argument for her cause. Mr. Carleton felt it, and rising up,
that he might not be obliged to say anything more, he began to
pace slowly up and down the deck, turning the matter over.

Was it so? that there were hardly any good men (he thought
there might be a few), who did not believe in the Bible and
uphold its authority? and that all the worst portion of
society was comprehended in the other class? — and if so, how
had he overlooked it? He had reasoned most unphilosophically,
from a few solitary instances that had come under his own eye;
but applying the broad principle of induction, it could not be
doubted that the Bible was on the side of all that is sound,
healthful, and hopeful, in this disordered world. And whatever
might be the character of a few exceptions, it was not
supposable that a wide system of hypocrisy should tell
universally for the best interests of mankind. Summoning
history to produce her witnesses, as he went on with his walk
up and down, he saw with increasing interest, what he had
never seen before, that the Bible had come like the breath of
spring upon the moral waste of mind; that the ice-bound
intellect and cold heart of the world had waked into life
under its kindly influence, and that all the rich growth of
the one and the other had come forth at its bidding. And
except in that sun-lightened tract, the world was and had been
a waste indeed. Doubtless, in that waste, intellect had at
different times put forth sundry barren shoots, such as a
vigorous plant can make in the absence of the sun, but also
like them immature, unsound, and groping vainly after the
light in which alone they could expand and perfect themselves;
ripening no seed for a future and richer growth. And flowers
the wilderness had none. The affections were stunted and
overgrown.

All this was so — how had he overlooked it? His unbelief had
come from a thoughtless, ignorant, one-sided view of life and
human things. The disorder and ruin which he saw, where he did
not also see the adjusting hand at work, had led him to refuse
his credit to the Supreme Fabricator. He thought the waste
would never be reclaimed, and did not know how much it already
owed to the sun of revelation; but what was the waste where
that light had not been! Mr. Carleton was staggered. He did
not know what to think. He began to think he had been a fool.

Poor little Fleda was meditating less agreeably the while.
With the sure tact of truth, she had discerned that there was
more than jest in the questions that had been put to her. She
almost feared that Mr. Carleton shared himself the doubts he
had so lightly spoken of, and the thought gave her great
distress. However, when he came to take her down to tea, with
all his usual manner, Fleda's earnest look at him ended in the
conviction that there was. nothing very wrong under that face.

For several days, Mr. Carleton pondered the matter of this
evening's conversation, characteristically restless till he
had made up his mind. He wished very much to draw Fleda to
speak further upon the subject, but it was not easy; she never
led to it. He sought in vain an opportunity to bring it in
easily, and at last resolved to make one..

"Elfie," said he, one morning, when all the rest of the
passengers were happily engaged at a distance with the letter-
bags — "I wish you would let me hear that favourite hymn of
yours again; l like it very much."

Fleda was much gratified, and immediately with great
satisfaction repeated the hymn. Its peculiar beauty struck him
yet more the second time than the first.

"Do you understand those two last verses?" said he, when she
had done.

Fleda said "Yes!" rather surprised.

"I do not," he said, gravely.

Fleda paused a minute or two, and then finding that it
depended on her to enlighten him, said in her modest way, —

"Why, it means that we have no goodness of our own, and only
expect to be forgiven, and taken to heaven, for the Saviour's
sake."

Mr. Carleton asked, "How _for his sake?_"

"Why, you know, Mr. Carleton, we don't deserve to go there,
and if we are forgiven at all, it must be for what He has
done."

"And what is that, Elfie?"

"He died for us," said Fleda, with a look of some anxiety into
Mr. Carleton's face.

"Died for us! — And what end was that to serve, Elfie?" said
he, partly willing to hear the full statement of the matter,
and partly willing to see how far her intelligence could give
it.

"Because we are sinners," said Fleda, "and God has said that
sinners shall die."

"Then how can he keep his word, and forgive at all?"

"Because Christ has died _for us_," said Fleda, eagerly —
"instead of us."

"Do you understand the justice of letting one take the place
of others?"

"He was willing, Mr. Carleton," said Fleda, with a singular
wistful expression, that touched him.

"Still, Elfie," said he, after a minute's silence, "how could
the ends of justice be answered by the death of one man in the
place of millions?"

"No, Mr. Carleton, but He was God as well as man," Fleda said,
with a sparkle in her eye which perhaps delayed her
companion's rejoinder.

"What should induce him, Elfie," he said, gently, "to do such
a thing for people who had displeased him?"

"Because he loved us, Mr. Carleton."

She answered with so evident a strong and clear appreciation
of what she was saying, that it half made its way into Mr.
Carleton's mind by the force of sheer sympathy. Her words came
almost as something new.

Certainly Mr. Carleton had heard these things before; though
perhaps never in a way that appealed so directly to his
intelligence and his candour. He was again silent an instant,
pondering, and so was Fleda.

"Do you know, Elfie," said Mr. Carleton, "there are some
people who do not believe that the Saviour was anything more
than a man?"

"Yes, I know it," said Fleda; — "it is very strange!"

"Why is it strange?"

"Because the Bible says it so plainly."

"But those people hold, I believe, that the Bible does not say
it."

"I don't see how they could have read the Bible," said Fleda.
"Why, he said so himself."

"Who said so?"

"Jesus Christ. Don't you believe it, Mr. Carleton?"

She saw he did not, and the shade that had come over her face
was reflected in his before he said "No."

"But perhaps I shall believe it yet, Elfie," he said, kindly.
"Can you show me the place in your Bible where Jesus says this
of himself?"

Fleda looked in despair. She hastily turned over the leaves of
her Bible to find the passages he had asked for, and Mr.
Carleton was cut to the heart to see that she twice was
obliged to turn her face from him, and brush her hand over her
eyes, before she could find them. She turned to Matt. xxvi.
63-65, and, without speaking, gave him the book, pointing to
the passage. He read it with great care, and several times
over.

"You are right, Elfie," he said. "I do not see how those who
honour the authority of the Bible, and the character of Jesus
Christ, can deny the truth of His own declaration. If that is
false, so must those be."

Fleda took the Bible, and hurriedly sought out another
passage.

"Grandpa showed me these places," she said, "once when we were
talking about Mr. Didenhover — _he_ didn't believe that. There
are a great many other places, grandpa said; but one! is
enough." —

She gave him the latter part of the 20th chapter of John.

"You see, Mr. Carleton, he let Thomas fall down and worship
him, and call him God; and if he had _not_ been, you know — God
is more displeased with that than with anything."

"With what, Elfie?"

"With men's worshipping any other than himself. He says he
'will not give his glory to another.' "

"Where is that?"

"I am afraid I can't find it," said Fleda — "it is somewhere
in Isaiah, I know" —

She tried in vain; and failing, then looked up in Mr.
Carleton's face to see what impression had been made.

"You see Thomas believed when he _saw_," said he, answering her;
— "I will believe, too, when I see."

"Ah! if you wait for that" — said Fleda.

Her voice suddenly checked: she bent her face down again to
her little Bible, and there was a moment's struggle with
herself.

"Are you looking for something more to show me?" said Mr.
Carleton, kindly, stooping his face down to hers.

"Not much," said Fleda, hurriedly; and then making a great
effort, she raised her head, and gave him the book again.

"Look here, Mr. Carleton — Jesus said, 'Blessed are they that
have not seen, and yet have believed.' "

Mr. Carleton was profoundly struck, and the thought recurred
to him afterwards, and was dwelt upon. "Blessed are they that
have _not_ seen, and yet have believed." It was strange at
first, and then he wondered that it should ever have been so.
His was a mind peculiarly open to conviction, peculiarly
accessible to truth; and his attention being called to it, he
saw faintly now what he had never seen before, the beauty of
the principle of _faith_ — how natural, how reasonable, how
_necessary_, how honourable to the Supreme Being, how happy even
for man, that the grounds of his trust in God being
established, his acceptance of many other things should rest
on that trust alone.

Mr. Carleton now became more reserved and unsociable than
ever. He wearied himself with thinking. If he could have got
at the books, he would have spent his days and nights in
studying the evidences of Christianity; but the ship was bare
of any such books, and he never thought of turning to the most
obvious of all, the Bible itself. His unbelief was shaken; it
was within an ace of falling in pieces to the very foundation;
or, rather, he began to suspect how foundationless it had
been. It came at last to one point with him — If there were a
God, he would not have left the world without a revelation —
no more would he have suffered that revelation to defeat its
own end by becoming corrupted or alloyed; if there was such a
revelation, it could be no other than the Bible; and his
acceptance of the whole scheme of Christianity now hung upon
the turn of a hair. Yet he could not resolve himself. He
balanced the counter doubts and arguments on one side and on
the other, and strained his mind to the task; he could not
weigh them nicely enough. He was in a maze; and seeking to
clear and calm his judgment that he might see the way out, it
was in vain that he tried to shake his dizzied head from the
effect of the turns it had made. By dint of anxiety to find
the right path, reason had lost herself in the wilderness.

Fleda was not, as Mr. Carleton had feared she would be, at all
alienated from him by the discovery that had given her so much
pain. It wrought in another way, rather to add a touch of
tender and anxious interest to the affection she had for him.
It gave her, however, much more pain than he thought. If he
had seen the secret tears that fell on his account, he would
have been grieved; and if he had known of the many petitions
that little heart made for him, he could hardly have loved her
more than he did.

One evening Mr. Carleton had been a long while pacing up and
down the deck in front of little Fleda's nest, thinking and
thinking, without coming to any end. It was a most fair
evening, near sunset, the sky without a cloud, except two or
three little dainty strips which set off its blue. The ocean
was very quiet, only broken into cheerful mites of waves that
seemed to have nothing to do but sparkle. The sun's rays were
almost level now, and a long path of glory across the sea led
off towards his sinking disk. Fleda sat watching and enjoying
it all in her happy fashion, which always made the most of
everything good, and was especially quick in catching any form
of natural beauty.

Mr. Carleton's thoughts were elsewhere — too busy to take note
of things around him. Fleda looked now and then as he passed
at his gloomy brow, wondering what he was thinking of, and
wishing that he could have the same reason to be happy that
she had. In one of his turns his eye met her gentle glance;
and, vexed and bewildered as he was with study, there was
something in that calm bright face that impelled him
irresistibly to ask the little child to set the proud scholar
right. Placing himself beside her, he said, —

"Elfie, how do you know there is a God? what reason have you
for thinking so, out of the Bible?"

It was a strange look little Fleda gave him. He felt it at the
time, and he never forgot it. Such a look of reproach, sorrow,
and _pity_, he afterwards thought, as an angel's face might have
worn. The _question_ did not seem to occupy her a moment. After
this answering look she suddenly pointed to the sinking sun,
and said —

"Who made that, Mr. Carleton?"

Mr. Carleton's eyes, following the direction of hers, met the
long, bright rays, whose still witness-bearing was almost too
powerful to be borne. The sun was just dipping majestically
into the sea, and its calm self-assertion seemed to him at
that instant hardly stronger than its vindication of its
Author.

A slight arrow may find the joint in the armour before which
many weightier shafts have fallen powerless. Mr. Carleton was
an unbeliever no more from that time.



CHAPTER XII.


"He borrowed a box of the ear of the Englishman, and swore he
would pay him again when he was able. — _Merchant of Venice_.


One other incident alone in the course of the voyage deserves
to be mentioned; both because it served to bring out the
characters of several people, and because it was not — what
is? — without its lingering consequences.

Thorn and Rossitur had kept up indefatigably the game of
teasing Fleda about her "English admirer," as they sometime
styled him. Poor Fleda grew more and more sore on the subject.
She thought it was very strange that two grown men could not
find enough to do to amuse themselves without making sport of
the comfort of a little child. She wondered they could take
pleasure in what gave her so much pain; but so it was; and
they had it up so often that, at last, others caught it from
them, and, though not in malevolence, yet in thoughtless
folly, many a light remark was made and question asked of her
that set little Fleda's sensitive nerves a-quivering. She was
only too happy that they were never said before Mr. Carleton —
that would have been a thousand times worse. As it was, her
gentle nature was constantly suffering from the pain or the
fear of these attacks.

"Where's Mr. Carleton?" said her cousin, coming up one day.

"I don't know," said Fleda; "I don't know but he is gone up
into one of the tops."

"Your humble servant leaves you to yourself a great while this
morning, it seems to me. He is growing very inattentive."

"I wouldn't permit it. Miss Fleda, if I were you," said Thorn,
maliciously. "You let him have his own way too much."

"I wish you wouldn't talk so, cousin Charlton!" said Fleda.

"But seriously," said Charlton, "I think you had better call
him to account. He is very suspicious lately. I have observed
him walking by himself, and looking very glum indeed. I am
afraid he has taken some fancy into his head that would not
suit you. I advise you to inquire into it."

"I wouldn't give myself any concern about it," said Thorn,
lightly, enjoying the child's confusion and his own fanciful
style of backbiting; "I'd let him go if he has a mind to, Miss
Fleda. He's no such great catch. He's neither lord nor knight
— nothing in the world but a private gentleman, with plenty of
money, I dare say, but you don't care for that; and there's as
good fish in the sea as ever came out of it. I don't think
much of him."

"He is wonderfully better than _you_," thought Fleda, as she
looked in the young gentleman's face for a second, but she
said nothing.

"Why, Fleda," said Charlton, laughing, "it wouldn't be a
killing affair, would it? How has this English admirer of
yours got so far in your fancy? praising your pretty eyes, eh?
— eh?" he repeated, as Fleda kept a dignified silence.

"No," said Fleda, in displeasure; "he never says such things."

"No?" said Charlton. "What then! What does he say? I wouldn't
let him make a fool of me, if I were you. Fleda — did he ever
ask you for a kiss?"

"No!" exclaimed Fleda, half beside herself, and bursting into
tears: " I wish you wouldn't talk so! How can you!"

They had carried the game pretty far that time, and thought
best to leave it. Fleda stopped crying as soon as she could,
lest somebody should see her; and was sitting quietly again,
alone as before, when one of the sailors whom she had never
spoken to, came by, and leaning over towards her with a leer
as he passed, said —

"Is this the young English gentleman's little sweet-heart?"

Poor Fleda! She had got more than she could bear. She jumped
up, and ran down into the cabin; and in her berth Mrs.
Carleton found her some time afterwards, quietly crying, and
most sorry to be discovered. She was exceeding unwilling to
tell what had troubled her. Mrs. Carleton, really distressed,
tried coaxing, soothing, reasoning, promising, in a way the
most gentle and kind that she could use.

"Oh, it's nothing — it's nothing," Fleda said, at last,
eagerly; "it's because I am foolish — it's only something they
said to me."

"Who, love?"

Again was Fleda most unwilling to answer, and it was after
repeated urging that she at last said —

"Cousin Charlton and Mr. Thorn."

"Charlton and Mr. Thorn! What did they say? What did they say,
darling Fleda?"

"Oh, it's only that they tease me," said Fleda, trying hard to
put an end to the tears which caused all this questioning, and
to speak as if they were about a trifle. But Mrs. Carleton
persisted.

"What do they say to tease you, love? What is it about? Guy,
come in here, and help me to find out what is the matter with
Fleda."

Fleda hid her face in Mrs. Carleton's neck, resolved to keep
her lips sealed. Mr. Carleton came in, but to her great relief
his question was directed not to her but his mother.

"Fleda has been annoyed by something those young men, her
cousin and Mr. Thorn, have said to her; they tease her, she
says, and she will not tell me what it is."

Mr. Carleton did not ask, and he presently left the state-
room.

"Oh, I am afraid he will speak to them!" exclaimed Fleda, as
soon as he was gone. "Oh, I oughtn't to have said that!"

Mrs. Carleton tried to soothe her, and asked what she was
afraid of. But Fleda would not say any more. Her anxious fear
that she had done mischief helped to dry her tears, and she
sorrowfully resolved she would keep her griefs to herself next
time.

Rossitur and Thorn were in company with a brother officer, and
friend of the latter, when Mr. Carleton approached them.

"Mr. Rossitur and Mr. Thorn," said he, "you have indulged
yourselves in a style of conversation extremely displeasing to
the little girl under my mother's care. You will oblige me by
abandoning it for the future."

There was certainly in Mr. Carleton's manner a sufficient
degree of the cold haughtiness with which he usually
expressed. Displeasure, though his words gave no other cause
of offence. Thorn retorted rather insolently.

"I shall oblige myself in the matter, and do as I think
proper."

"I have a right to speak as I please to my own cousin," said
Rossitur, sulkily, "without asking anybody's leave. I don't
see what you have to do with it."

"Simply that she is under my protection, and that I will not
permit her to be annoyed."

"I don't see how she is under your protection," said Rossitur.

"And I do not see how the potency of it will avail in this
case," said his companion.

"Neither position is to be made out in words," said Mr.
Carleton, calmly. "You see that I desire there be no
repetition of the offence, the rest I will endeavour to make
clear, if I am compelled to it."

"Stop, Sir!" said Thorn, as the young Englishman was turning
away, adding with an oath —"I wont bear this! You shall answer
this to me, Sir!"

"Easily," said the other.

"And me, too," said Rossitur. "You have an account to settle
with me, Carleton."

"I will answer what you please," said Carleton, carelessly;
"and as soon as we get to land, provided you do not, in the
meantime, induce me to refuse you the honour."

However incensed, the young men endeavoured to carry it off
with the same coolness that their adversary showed. No more
words passed; but Mrs. Carleton, possibly quickened by Fleda's
fears, was not satisfied with the carriage of all parties, and
resolved to sound her son, happy in knowing that nothing but
truth was to be had from him. She found an opportunity that
very afternoon, when he was sitting alone on the deck. The
neighbourhood of little Fleda she hardly noticed. Fleda was
curled up among her cushions, luxuriously bending over a
little old black Bible, which was very often in her hand at
times when she was quiet and had no observation to fear.

"Reading! always reading!" said Mrs. Carleton, as she came up
and took a place by her son.

"By no means!" he said, closing his book with a smile; — "not
enough to tire any one's eyes on this voyage, mother."

"I wish you liked intercourse with living society," said Mrs.
Carleton, leaning her arm on his shoulder and looking at him
rather wistfully.

"You need not wish that — when it suits me," he answered.

"But none suits you. Is there any on board?"

"A small proportion," he said, with the slight play of feature
which always effected a diversion of his mother's thoughts, no
matter in what channel they had been flowing.

"But those young men," she said, returning to the charge, "you
hold yourself very much aloof from them?"

He did not answer, even by a look, but to his mother the
perfectly quiet composure of his face was sufficiently
expressive.

"I know what you think; but, Guy, you always had the same
opinion of them?"

"I have never shown any other."

"Guy," she said, speaking low and rather anxiously, "have you
got into trouble with those young men?"

"I am in no trouble, mother," he answered, somewhat haughtily;
"I cannot speak for them."

Mrs. Carleton waited a moment.

"You have done something to displease them, have you not?"

"They have displeased me, which is somewhat more to the
purpose."

"But their folly is nothing to you?"

"No — not their folly."

"Guy," said his mother, again pausing a minute, and pressing
her hand more heavily upon his shoulder, "you will not suffer
this to alter the friendly terms you have been on? — whatever
it be, let it pass."

"Certainly; if they choose to apologize, and behave
themselves."

"What — about Fleda?"

"Yes."

"I have no idea they meant to trouble her; I suppose they did
no at all know what they were doing — thoughtless nonsense —
and they could have had no design to offend you. Promise me
that you will not take any further notice of this."

He shook off the beseeching hand as he rose up, and answered
haughtily, and not without something like an oath, that he
_would_.

Mrs. Carleton knew him better than to press the matter any
further; and her fondness easily forgave the offence against
herself, especially as her son almost immediately resumed his
ordinary manner.

It had well nigh passed from the minds of both parties, when
in the middle of the next day, Mr. Carleton asked what had
become of Fleda? — he had not seen her except at the
breakfast-table. Mrs. Carleton said she was not well.

"What's the matter?"

"She complained of some headache — I think she made herself
sick yesterday — she was crying all the afternoon, and I could
not get her to tell me what for. I tried every means I could
think of, but she would not give me the least clue — she said
'No' to everything I guessed — I can't bear to see her do so —
it makes it all the worse she does it so quietly — it was only
by a mere chance I found she was crying at all, but I think
she cried herself ill before she stopped. She could not eat a
mouthful of breakfast."

Mr. Carleton said nothing, and, with a changed countenance,
went directly down to the cabin. The stewardess whom he sent
in to see how she was, brought back word that Fleda was not
asleep, but was too ill to speak to her. Mr. Carleton went
immediately into the little crib of a state-room. There he
found his little charge, sitting bolt upright, her feet on the
rung of a chair, and her hands grasping the top to support
herself. Her eyes were closed, her face without a particle of
colour, except the dark shade round the eyes which bespoke
illness and pain. She made no attempt to answer his shocked
questions and words of tender concern, not even by the raising
of an eyelid, and he saw that the intensity of pain at the
moment was such as to render breathing itself difficult. He
sent off the stewardess with all despatch after iced water and
vinegar and brandy, and himself went on an earnest quest of
restoratives among the lady passengers in the cabin, which
resulted in sundry supplies of salts and cologne, and also
offers of service, in greater plenty still, which he all
refused. Most tenderly and judiciously he himself applied
various remedies to the suffering child, who could not direct
him otherwise than by gently putting away the things which she
felt would not avail her. Several were in vain. But there was
one bottle of strong aromatic vinegar which was destined to
immortalize its owner in Fleda's remembrance. Before she had
taken three whiffs of it, her colour changed. Mr. Carleton
watched the effect of a few whiffs more, and then bade the
stewardess take away all the other things, and bring him a cup
of fresh strong coffee. By the time it came Fleda was ready
for it; and by the time Mr. Carleton had administered the
coffee, he saw it would do to throw his mother's shawl round
her, and carry her up on deck, which he did without asking any
questions. All this while Fleda had not spoken a word, except
once when he asked her if she felt better. But she had given
him, on finishing the coffee, a full look and half smile of
such pure affectionate gratitude, that the young gentleman's
tongue was tied for some time after.

With happy skill, when he had safely bestowed Fleda among her
cushions on deck, Mr. Carleton managed to keep off the crowd
of busy inquirers after her well-doing, and even presently to
turn his mother's attention another way, leaving Fleda to
enjoy all the comfort of quiet and fresh air at once. He
himself seeming occupied with other things, did no more but
keep watch over her, till he saw that she was able to bear
conversation again. Then he seated himself beside her, and
said softly —

"Elfie, what were you crying about all yesterday afternoon?"

Fleda changed colour, for, soft and gentle as the tone was,
she heard in it a determination to have the answer; and
looking up beseechingly into his face, she saw in the steady
full blue eye, that it was a determination she could not
escape from. Her answer was an imploring request that he would
not ask her. But taking one of her little hands and carrying
it to his lips, he in the same tone repeated his question.
Fleda snatched away her hand, and burst into very frank tears;
Mr. Carleton was silent, but she knew through his silence that
he was only quietly waiting for her to answer him.

"I wish you wouldn't ask me, Sir," said poor Fleda, who still
could not turn her face to meet his eye — "It was only
something that happened yesterday."

"What was it, Elfie? — You need not be afraid to tell me."

"It was only — what you said to Mrs. Carleton yesterday — when
she was talking —"

"About my difficulty with those gentlemen!"

"Yes," said Fleda, with a new gush of tears, as if her grief
stirred afresh at the thought.

Mr. Carleton was silent a moment; and when he spoke, there was
no displeasure, and more tenderness than usual, in his voice.

"What troubled you in that, Elfie? tell me the whole."

"I was sorry, because it wasn't right," said Fleda, with a
grave truthfulness which yet lacked none of her universal
gentleness and modesty.

"What wasn't right?"

"To speak — I am afraid you wont like me to say it, Mr.
Carleton."

"I will, Elfie for I ask you."

"To speak to Mrs. Carleton, so; and, besides, you know what
you said, Mr. Carleton"

"It was _not_ right," said he, after a minute, "and I very
seldom use such an expression, but you know one cannot always
be on one's guard, Elfie."

"But," said Fleda, with gentle persistence, "one can always do
what is right."

"The deuce one can!" thought Mr. Carleton to himself.

"Elfie, was this all that troubled you? that I had said what
was not right?"

"It wasn't quite that only," said Fleda, hesitating.

"What else?"

She stooped her face from his sight, and he could but just
understand her words.

"I was disappointed —"

"What, in me?"

Her tears gave the answer; she could add to them nothing but
an assenting nod of her head.

They would have flowed in double measure if she had guessed
the pain she had given. Her questioner heard her with a keen
pang, which did not leave him. for days. There was some hurt
pride in it, though other and more generous feelings had a far
larger share. He, who had been admired, lauded, followed,
cited, and envied, by all ranks of his countrymen and
countrywomen; in whom nobody found a fault that could be dwelt
upon, amid the lustre of his perfections and advantages — one
of the first young men in England, thought so by himself, as
well as by others — this little pure being had been
_disappointed_ in him. He could not get over it. He reckoned the
one judgment worth all the others. Those whose direct or
indirect flatteries had been poured at his feet, were the
proud, the worldly, the ambitious, the interested, the
corrupted; their praise was given to what they esteemed, and
that, his candour said, was the least estimable part of him.
Beneath all that, this truth-loving, truth-discerning little
spirit had found enough to weep for. She was right, and they
were wrong. The sense of this was so keen upon him, that it
was ten or fifteen minutes before he could recover himself to
speak to his little reprover. He paced up and down the deck,
while Fleda wept more and more from the fear of having
offended or grieved him. But she was soon reassured on the
former point. She was just wiping away her tears, with the
quiet expression of patience her face often wore, when Mr.
Carleton sat down beside her and took one of her hands.

"Elfie," said he, "I promise you I will never say such a thing
again."

He might well call her his good angel, for it was an angelic
look the child gave him; so purely humble, grateful, glad; so
rosy with joyful hope; the eyes were absolutely sparkling
through tears. But when she saw that his were not dry, her own
overflowed. She clasped her other hand to his hand, and
bending down her face affectionately upon it, she wept — if
ever angels weep — such tears as they.

"Elfie," said Mr. Carleton, as soon as he could, "I want you
to go down stairs with me; so dry those eyes, or my mother
will be asking all sorts of difficult questions."

Happiness is a quick restorative. Elfie was soon ready to go
where he would.

They found Mrs. Carleton fortunately wrapped up in a new
novel, some distance apart from the other persons in the
cabin. The novel was immediately laid aside to take Fleda on
her lap, and praise Guy's nursing.

"But she looks more like a wax figure yet than anything else;
don't she, Guy?"

"Not like any that ever I saw," said Mr. Carleton, gravely.
"Hardly substantial enough. Mother, I have come to tell you I
am ashamed of myself for having given you such cause of
offence yesterday."

Mrs. Carleton's quick look, as she laid her hand on her son's
arm, said sufficiently well that she would have excused him
from making any apology, rather than have him humble himself
in the presence of a third person.

"Fleda heard me yesterday," said he; "it was right she should
hear me to-day."

"Then, my dear Guy," said his mother, with a secret eagerness
which she did not allow to appear, "if I may make a condition
for my forgiveness, which you had before you asked for it,
will you grant me one favour?"

"Certainly, mother, if I can."

"You promise me?"

"As well in one word as in two."

"Promise me that you will never, by any circumstances, allow
yourself to be drawn into — what is called an _affair of
honour_."

Mr. Carleton's brow changed, and without making any reply,
perhaps to avoid his mother's questioning gaze, he rose up and
walked two or three times the length of the cabin. His mother
and Fleda watched him doubtfully.

"Do you see how you have got me into trouble, Elfie?" said he,
stopping before them.

Fleda looked wonderingly, and Mrs. Carleton exclaimed —

"What trouble!"

"Elfie," said he, without immediately answering his mother,
"what would your conscience do with two promises, both of
which cannot be kept?"

"What such promises have you made?" said Mrs. Carleton,
eagerly.

"Let me hear first what Fleda says to my question."

"Why," said Fleda, looking a little bewildered, "I would keep
the right one."

"Not the one first made?" said he, smiling.

"No," said Fleda; "not unless it was the right one."

"But don't you think one ought to keep one's word, in any
event?"

"I don't think anything can make it right to do wrong," Fleda
said, gravely, and not without a secret trembling
consciousness to what point she was speaking.

He left them, and again took several turns up and down the
cabin before he sat down.

"You have not given me your promise yet, Guy," said his
mother, whose eye had not once quitted him. "You said you
would."

"I said, if I could."

"Well, you can?"

"I have two honourable meetings of the proscribed kind now on
hand, to which I stand pledged."

Fleda hid her face in an agony. Mrs. Carleton's agony was in
every line of hers as she grasped her son's wrist, exclaiming,
"Guy, promise me!" She had words for nothing else. He
hesitated still a moment, and then meeting his mother's look,
he said gravely and steadily —

"I promise you, mother, I never will."

His mother threw herself upon his breast, and hid her face
there, too much excited to have any thought of her customary
regard to appearances, sobbing out thanks and blessings even
audibly. Fleda's gentle head was bowed in almost equal
agitation; and Mr. Carleton at that moment had no doubt that
he had chosen well which promise to keep.

There remained, however, a less agreeable part of the business
to manage. After seeing his mother and Fleda quite happy
again, though without satisfying in any degree the curiosity
of the former, Guy went in search of the two young West Point
officers. They were together, but without Thorn's friend
Captain Beebee. Him Carleton next sought, and brought to the
forward deck, where the others were enjoying their cigars; or
rather, Charlton Rossitur was enjoying his with the happy
self-satisfaction of a pair of epaulettes, off duty. Thorn had
too busy a brain to be much of a smoker. Now, however, when it
was plain that Mr. Carleton had something to say to them,
Charlton's cigar gave way to his attention; it was displaced
from his mouth, and held in abeyance, while Thorn puffed away
more intently than ever.

"Gentlemen," Carleton began, "I gave you, yesterday, reason to
expect that so soon as circumstances permitted, you should
have the opportunity which offended honour desires of trying
sounder arguments than those of reason upon the offender. I
have to tell you to-day that I will not give it you. I have
thought further of it."

"Is it a new insult that you mean by this, Sir?" exclaimed
Rossitur, in astonishment. Thorn's cigar did not stir.

"Neither new nor old. I mean, simply, that I have changed my
mind."

"But this is very extraordinary!" said Rossitur. "What reason
do you give?"

"I give none, Sir."

"In that case," said Captain Beebee, "perhaps Mr. Carleton
will not object to explain or unsay the things which gave
offence yesterday."

"I apprehend there is nothing to explain, Sir — I think I must
have been understood; and I never take back my words, for I am
in the habit of speaking the truth."

"Then we are to consider this as a further unprovoked
unmitigated insult, for which you will give neither reason nor
satisfaction!" cried Rossitur.

"I have already disclaimed that, Mr. Rossitur."

"Are we, on mature deliberation, considered unworthy of the
honour you so condescendingly awarded to us yesterday?"

"My reasons have nothing to do with you, Sir, nor with your
friend; they are entirely personal to myself."

"Mr. Carleton must be aware," said Captain Beebee, "that his
conduct, if unexplained, will bear a very strange
construction."

Mr. Carleton was coldly silent.

"It never was heard of," the Captain went on, "that a
gentleman declined both to explain and to give satisfaction
for any part of his conduct which had called for it."

"It never was heard that a _gentleman_ did," said Thorn,
removing his cigar a moment, for the purpose of supplying the
emphasis, which his friend had carefully omitted to make.

"Will you say, Mr. Carleton," said Rossitur, "that you did not
mean to offend us yesterday, in what you said?"

"No, Mr. Rossitur."

"You will not!" cried the Captain.

"No Sir; for your friends had given me, as I conceived, just
cause of displeasure; and I was, and am, careless of offending
those who have done so."

"You consider yourself aggrieved, then, in the first place?"
said Beebee.

"I have said so, Sir."

"Then," said the Captain, after a puzzled look out to sea,
"supposing that my friends disclaim all intention to offend
you, in that case —"

"In that case I should be glad, Captain Beebee, that they had
changed their line of tactics — there is nothing to change in
my own."

"Then what are we to understand by this strange refusal of a
meeting, Mr. Carleton? what does it mean?"

"It means one thing in my own mind, Sir, and probably another
in yours; but the outward expression I choose to give it is,
that I will not reward uncalled-for rudeness with an
opportunity of self-vindication."

"You are," said Thorn, sneeringly, "probably careless as to
the figure your own name will cut in connection with this
story?"

"Entirely so," said Mr. Carleton, eyeing him steadily.

"You are aware that your character is at our mercy."

A slight bow seemed to leave at their disposal the very small
portion of his character he conceived to lie in that
predicament.

"You will expect to hear yourself spoken of in terms that
befit a man who has cowed out of an engagement he dared not
fulfil?"

"Of course," said Carleton, haughtily; "by my present refusal
I give you leave to say all that, and as much more as your
ingenuity can furnish in the same style; but not in my
hearing, Sir."

"You can't help yourself," said Thorn, with the same sneer.
"You have rid yourself of a gentleman's means of protection, —
what others will you use?"

"I will leave that to the suggestion of the moment — I do not
doubt it will be found fruitful."

Nobody doubted it who looked just then on his steady sparkling
eye.

"I consider the championship of yesterday given up, of
course," Thorn went on in a kind of aside, not looking at
anybody, and striking his cigar against the guards to clear it
of ashes; — "the champion has quitted the field, and the
little princess but lately so walled in with defences must now
listen to whatever knight and squire may please to address to
her. Nothing remains to be seen of her defender but his
spurs."

"They may serve for the heels of whoever is disposed to annoy
her," said Mr. Carleton. "He will need them."

He left the group with the same air of imperturbable self-
possession which he had maintained during the conference. But
presently, Rossitur, who had his private reasons for wishing
to keep friends with an acquaintance who might be of service
in more ways than one, followed him, and declared himself to
have been, in all his nonsense to Fleda, most undesirous of
giving displeasure to her temporary guardian, and sorry that
it had fallen out so. He spoke frankly, and Mr. Carleton, with
the same cool gracefulness with which he had carried on the
quarrel, waived his displeasure, and admitted the young
gentleman apparently to stand as before in his favour. Their
reconciliation was not an hour old when Captain Beebee joined
them.

"I am sorry I must trouble you with a word more on this
disagreeable subject, Mr. Carleton," he began, after a
ceremonious salutation, "My friend, Lieutenant Thorn,
considers himself greatly outraged by your determination not
to meet him. He begs to ask, by me, whether it is your purpose
to abide by it at all hazards?"

"Yes, Sir."

"There is some misunderstanding here, which I greatly regret.
I hope you will see and excuse the disagreeable necessity I
am. under of delivering the rest of my friend's message."

"Say on, Sir."

"Mr. Thorn declares that if you deny him the common courtesy
which no gentleman refuses to another, he will proclaim your
name with the most opprobrious adjuncts to all the world; and,
in place of his former regard, he will hold you in the most
unlimited contempt, which he will have no scruple about
showing on all occasions."

Mr. Carleton coloured a little, but replied, coolly —

"I have not lived in Mr. Thorn's favour. As to the rest, I
forgive him! — except indeed, he provoke me to measures for
which I never will forgive him."

"Measures!" said the Captain.

"I hope not! for my own self-respect would be more grievously
hurt than his. But there is an unruly spring somewhere about
my composition, that when it gets wound up, is once in a while
too much for me."

"But," said Rossitur, "pardon me, — have you no regard to the
effect of his misrepresentations?"

"You are mistaken, Mr. Rossitur," said Carleton, slightly,
"this is but the blast of a bellows — not the simoon."

"Then what answer shall I have the honour of carrying back to
my friend?" said Captain Beebee, after a sort of astounded
pause of a few minutes.

"None, of my sending, Sir."

Captain Beebee touched his cap, and went back to Mr. Thorn, to
whom he reported that the young Englishman was thoroughly
impracticable, and that there was nothing to be gained by
dealing with him; and the vexed conclusion of Thorn's own
mind, in the end, was in favour of the wisdom of letting him
alone.

In a very different mood, saddened and disgusted, Mr. Carleton
shook himself free of Rossitur, and went and stood alone by
the guards, looking out upon the sea. He did not at all regret
his promise to his mother, nor wish to take other ground than
that he had taken. Both the theory and the practice of
duelling he heartily despised, and he was not weak enough to
fancy that he had brought any discredit upon either his sense
or his honour by refusing to comply with an unwarrantable and
barbarous custom. And he valued mankind too little to be at
all concerned about their judgment in the matter. His own
opinion was at all times enough for him. But the miserable
folly and puerility of such an altercation as that in which he
had just been engaged, the poor display of human character,
the little, low passions which had been called up, even in
himself, alike destitute of worthy cause and aim, and which
had, perhaps, but just missed ending in the death of some, and
the living death of others — it all wrought to bring him back
to his old wearying of human nature and despondent eyeing of
the every-where jarrings, confusions, and discordances in the
moral world. The fresh sea-breeze that swept by the ship,
roughening the play of the waves, and brushing his own cheek
with its health-bearing wing, brought with. it a sad feeling
of contrast. Free, and pure, and steadily directed, it sped on
its way, to do its work. And, like it, all the rest of the
natural world, faithful to the law of its Maker was stamped
with the same signet of perfection. Only man, in all the
universe, seemed to be at cross purposes with the end of his
being. Only man, of all animate or inanimate things, lived an
aimless, fruitless, broken life — or fruitful only in evil.
How was this? and whence? and when would be the end? and would
this confused mass of warring elements ever be at peace? would
this disordered machinery ever work smoothly, without let or
stop any more, and work out the beautiful. something for which
sure it was designed? And could any hand but its first Maker
mend the broken wheel, or supply the spring that was wanting?

Has not the Desire of all nations been often sought of eyes
that were never taught where to look for Him?

Mr. Carleton was standing still by the guards, looking
thoughtfully out to windward to meet the fresh breeze, as if
the spirit of the wilderness were in it, and could teach him
the truth that the spirit of the world knew not and had not to
give, when he became sensible of something close beside him;
and, looking down; met little Fleda's upturned face, with such
a look of purity, freshness, and peace, it said as plainly as
ever the dial-plate of a clock that _that_ little piece of
machinery was working right. There was a sunlight upon it,
too, of happy confidence and affection. Mr. Carleton's mind
experienced a sudden revulsion. Fleda might see the reflection
of her own light in his face as he helped her up to a stand
where she could be more on a level with him, putting his arm
round her to guard against any sudden roll of the ship.

"What makes you wear such a happy face?" said he, with an
expression half envious, half regretful.

"I don't know!" said Fleda, innocently. "You I suppose."

He looked as bright as she did, for a minute.

"Were you ever angry, Elfie?"

"I don't know " said Fleda. " I don't know but I have."

He smiled to see that, although evidently her memory could not
bring the charge, her modesty would not deny it.

"Were you not angry yesterday with your cousin and that
unmannerly friend of his?"

"No," said Fleda, a shade crossing her face — "I was not _angry_
—"

And as she spoke, her hand was softly put upon Mr. Carleton's,
as if partly in the fear of what might have grown out of _his_
anger, and partly in thankfulness to him that he had rendered
it unnecessary. There was a singular delicate timidity and
tenderness in the action.

"I wish I had your secret, Elfie," said Mr. Carleton, looking
wistfully into the clear eyes that met his.

"What secret?" said Fleda, smiling.

"You say one can always do right — is that the reason you are
happy? — because you follow that out?"

"No," said Fleda, seriously. "But I think it is a great deal
pleasanter."

"I have no doubt at all of that — neither, I dare say, have
the rest of the world; only, somehow, when it comes to the
point, they find it is easier to do wrong. What's your secret,
Elfie?"

"I haven't any secret," said Fleda. But presently seeming to
bethink herself, she added gently and gravely —

"Aunt Miriam says —

"What?"

"She says that when we love Jesus Christ, it is easy to please
him."

"And do you love him, Elfie?" Mr. Carleton asked, after a
minute.

Her answer was a very quiet and sober "yes."

He doubted still whether she were not unconsciously using a
form of speech, the spirit of which she did not quite realize.
That one might "not see and yet believe," he could understand;
but for _affection_ to go forth towards an unseen object was
another matter. His question was grave and acute.

"By what do you judge that you do, Elfie?"

"Why, Mr. Carleton," said Fleda, with an instant look of
appeal, "who else _should_ I love?"

"If not him" — her eye and her voice made sufficiently plain.
Mr. Carleton was obliged to confess to himself that she spoke
intelligently, with deeper intelligence than he could follow.
He asked no more questions. Yet truth shines by its own light,
like the sun. He had not perfectly comprehended her answers,
but they struck him as something that deserved to be
understood, and he resolved to make the truth of them his own.

The rest of the voyage was perfectly quiet. Following the
earnest advice of his friend, Captain Beebee, Thorn had given
up trying to push Mr. Carleton to extremity; who, on his part,
did not seem conscious of Thorn's existence.


CHAPTER XIII


"There the most daintie paradise on ground
Itselfe doth offer to his sober eye —
— The painted flowers, the trees upshooting hye,
The dales for shade, the hills for breathing space,
The trembling groves, the christall running by;
And that, which all faire works doth most aggrace,
The art which all that wrought appeared in no place."
FAERY QUEENE.


They had taken ship for London, as Mr. and Mrs. Carleton
wished to visit home for a day or two before going on to
Paris. So leaving Charlton to carry news of them to the French
capital, so soon as he could persuade himself to leave the
English one, they with little Fleda in company posted down to
Carleton, in — shire.

It was a time of great delight to Fleda, that is, as soon as
Mr. Carleton had made her feel at home in England; and,
somehow, he had contrived to do that, and to scatter some
clouds of remembrance that seemed to gather about her, before
they had reached the end of their first day's journey. To be
out of the ship was itself a comfort, and to be along with
kind friends was much more. With great joy Fleda put her
cousin Charlton and Mr. Thorn at once out of sight and out of
mind, and gave herself with even more than her usual happy
readiness, to everything the way and the end of the way had
for her. Those days were to be painted days in Fleda's memory.

She thought Carleton was a very odd place — that is, the
house, not the village, which went by the same name. If the
manner of her two companions had not been such as to put her
entirely at her ease, she would have felt strange and shy. As
it was, she felt half afraid of losing herself in the house;
to Fleda's unaccustomed eyes, it was a labyrinth of halls and
staircases, set with the most unaccountable number and variety
of rooms — old and new, quaint and comfortable, gloomy and
magnificent; some with stern old-fashioned massiveness of
style and garniture, others absolutely bewitching (to Fleda's
eyes and understanding) in the rich beauty and luxuriousness
of their arrangements. Mr. Carleton's own particular haunts
were of these; his private room (the little library as it was
called), the library, and the music-room, which was, indeed,
rather a gallery of the fine arts, so many treasures of art
were gathered there. To an older and nice-judging person,
these rooms would have given no slight indications of their
owner's mind — it had been at work on every corner of them. No
particular fashion had been followed in anything, nor any
model consulted, but that which fancy had built to the mind's
order. The wealth of years had drawn together an enormous
assemblage of matters, great and small, every one of which was
fitted either to excite fancy, or suggest thought, or to
satisfy the eye by its nice adaptation. And if pride had had
the ordering of them, all these might have been but a costly
museum, a literary alphabet that its possessor could not put
together, an ungainly confession of ignorance on the part of
the intellect that could do nothing with this rich heap of
material. But pride was not the genius of the place. A most
refined taste and curious fastidiousness had arranged and
harmonized all the heterogeneous items; the mental
hieroglyphics had been ordered by one to whom the reading of
them was no mystery. Nothing struck a stranger at first
entering, except the very rich effect and faultless air of the
whole, and perhaps the delicious facilities for every kind of
intellectual cultivation which appeared on every hand —
facilities which, it must be allowed, do seem in general not
to facilitate the work they are meant to speed. In this case,
however, it was different. The mind that wanted them had
brought them together to satisfy its own craving.

These rooms were Guy's peculiar domain. In other parts of the
house, where his mother reigned conjointly with him, their
joint tastes had struck out another style of adornment, which
might be called a style of superb elegance. Not superb alone,
for taste had not permitted so heavy a characteristic to be
predominant; not merely elegant, for the fineness of all the
details would warrant an ampler word. A larger part of the
house than both these together had been left as generations
past had left it, in various stages of refinement, comfort,
and comeliness. It was a day or two before Fleda found out
that it was all one; she thought at first that it was a
collection of several houses that had somehow inexplicably sat
down there with their backs to each other; it was so
straggling and irregular a pile of building, covering so much
ground, and looking so very unlike the different parts to each
other. One portion was quite old; the other parts ranged
variously between the present and the far past. After she once
understood this, it was a piece of delicious wonderment, and
musing, and great admiration to Fleda; she never grew weary of
wandering round it, and thinking about it — for, from a child,
fanciful meditation was one of her delights. Within doors, she
best liked Mr. Carleton's favourite rooms. Their rich
colouring and moderated light, and endless stores of beauty
and curiosity, made them a place of fascination.

Out of doors she found still more to delight her. Morning,
noon, and night, she might be seen near the house gazing,
taking in pictures of natural beauty, which were for ever
after to hang in Fleda's memory as standards of excellence in
that sort. Nature's hand had been very kind to the place,
moulding the ground in beautiful style. Art had made happy use
of the advantage thus given her; and now what appeared was
neither art nor nature, but a perfection that can only spring
from the hands of both. Fleda's eyes were bewitched. She stood
watching the rolling slopes of green turf, so soft and lovely,
and the magnificent trees, that had kept their ground for
ages, and seen generations rise and fall before their growing
strength and grandeur. They were scattered here and there on
the lawn; and further back stood on the heights, and stretched
along the ridges of the undulating ground, the outposts of a
wood of the same growth still beyond them.

"How do you like it, Elfie?" Mr. Carleton asked her, the
evening of the first day, as he saw her for a length of time
looking out gravely and intently from before the hall door.

"I think it is beautiful!" said Fleda. "The ground is a great
deal smoother here than it was at home."

"I'll take you to ride to-morrow," said he, smiling, "and show
you rough ground enough."

"As you did when we came from Montepoole?" said Fleda, rather
eagerly.

"Would you like that!"

"Yes, very much — if _you_ would like it, Mr. Carleton.

"Very well," said he. "So it shall be."

And not a day passed during their short stay that he did not
give her one of those rides. He showed her rough ground,
according to his promise, but Fleda still thought it did not
look much like the mountains "at home." And, indeed, unsightly
roughness had been skilfully covered or removed; and though a
large part of the park, which was a very extensive one, was
wildly broken, and had apparently been left as nature left it,
the hand of taste had been there; and many an unsuspected
touch, instead of hindering, had heightened both the wild and
the beautiful character. Landscape gardening had long been a
great hobby of its owner.

"How far does your ground come, Mr. Carleton?" inquired Fleda
on one of these rides, when they had travelled a good distance
from home.

"Further than you can see, Elfie."

"Further than I can see! — It must be a very large farm."

"This is not a farm where we are now," said he; "did you mean
that? This is the park; we are almost at the edge of it on
this side."

"What is the difference between a farm and a park?" said
Fleda.

"The grounds of a farm are tilled for profit; a park is an
uncultivated enclosure, kept merely for men and women and deer
to take pleasure in."

"_I_ have taken a good deal of pleasure in it," said Fleda. "And
have you a farm besides, Mr. Carleton?"

"A good many, Elfie."

Fleda looked surprised; and then remarked, that it must be
very nice to have such a beautiful piece of ground just for
pleasure.

She enjoyed it to the full during the few days she was there.
And one thing more, the grand piano in the music-room. The
first evening of their arrival she was drawn by the far-off
sounds, and Mrs. Carleton seeing it, went immediately to the
music-room with her. The room had no light, except from the
moonbeams that stole in through two glass doors which opened
upon a particularly private and cherished part of the grounds,
in summer-time full of flowers; for, in the very refinement of
luxury, delights had been crowded about this favourite
apartment. Mr. Carleton was at the instrument, playing. Fleda
sat down quietly in one corner, and listened — in a rapture of
pleasure she had hardly ever known from any like source. She
did not think it could be greater; till, after a time, in a
pause of the music, Mrs. Carleton asked her son to sing a
particular ballad; and that one was followed by two or three
more. Fleda left her corner — she could not contain herself,
and, favoured by the darkness, came forward; and stood quite
near; and if the performer had had light to see by, he would
have been gratified with the tribute paid to his power by the
unfeigned tears that ran down her cheeks. This pleasure was
also repeated from evening to evening.

"Do you know we set off for Paris to-morrow?" said Mrs.
Carleton the last evening of their stay, as Fleda came up to
the door after a prolonged ramble in the park, leaving Mr.
Carleton with one or two gardeners at a little distance.

"Yes!" said Fleda, with a sigh that was more than half
audible.

"Are you sorry?" said Mrs. Carleton, smiling.

"I cannot be glad," said Fleda, giving a sober look over the
lawn.

"Then you like Carleton?"

"Very much! — it is a prettier place than Queechy."

"But we shall have you here again, dear Fleda," said Mrs.
Carleton, restraining her smile at this, to her, very moderate
compliment.

"Perhaps not," said Fleda quietly. "Mr. Carleton said," she
added, a minute after, with more animation, "that a park was a
place for men and women and deer to take pleasure in. I am
sure it is for children too!"

"Did you have a pleasant ride this morning?"

"Oh, very! — I always do. There isn't anything I like so
well."

"What, as to ride on horseback with Guy?" said Mrs. Carleton,
looking exceedingly benignant.

"Yes — unless —"

"Unless what, my dear Fleda?"

"Unless, perhaps — I don't know, — I was going to say, unless
perhaps to hear him sing."

Mrs. Carleton's delight was unequivocally expressed; and she
promised Fleda that she should have both rides and songs there
in plenty another time — a promise upon which Fleda built no
trust at all.

The short journey to Paris was soon made. The next morning
Mrs. Carleton, making an excuse of her fatigue, left Guy to
end the care he had rather taken upon himself, by delivering
his little charge into the hands of her friends. So they drove
to the Hôtel —, Rue —, where Mr. Rossitur had apartments in
very handsome style. They found him alone in the saloon.

"Ha! Carleton — come back again. Just in time — very glad to
see you. And who is this? — Ah, another little daughter for
aunt Lucy."

Mr. Rossitur, who gave them this greeting very cordially, was
rather a fine-looking man — decidedly agreeable both in person
and manner. Fleda was pleasantly disappointed after what her
grandfather had led her to expect. There might be something of
sternness in his expression; people gave him credit for a
peremptory, not to say imperious, temper; but, if truly, it
could not often meet with opposition. The sense and
gentlemanly character which marked his face and bearing had an
air of smooth politeness which seemed habitual. There was no
want of kindness nor even of tenderness in the way he drew
Fleda within his arm and held her there, while he went on
talking to Mr. Carleton — now and then stooping his face to
look in at her bonnet and kiss her, which was his only
welcome. He said nothing to her after his first question.

He was too busy talking to Guy. He seemed to have a great deal
to tell him. There was this for him to see, and that for him
to hear, and charming new things which had been done or doing
since Mr. Carleton left Paris. The impression upon Fleda's
mind after listening awhile was, that the French capital was a
great gallery of the fine arts, with a magnified likeness of
Mr. Carleton's music-room at one end of' it. She thought her
uncle must be most extraordinarily fond of pictures and works
of art in general, and must have a great love for seeing
company, and hearing people sing. This latter taste, Fleda was
disposed to allow, might be a very reasonable one. Mr.
Carleton, she observed, seemed much more cool on the whole
subject. But, meanwhile, where was aunt Lucy? — and had Mr.
Rossitur forgotten the little armful that he held so fast and
so perseveringly? No, for here was another kiss, and another
look into her face, so kind, that Fleda gave him a piece of
her heart from that time.

"Hugh!" said Mr. Rossitur suddenly to somebody she had not
seen before — "Hugh! here is your little cousin. Take her off
to your mother."

A child came forward at this bidding, hardly larger than
herself. He was a slender, graceful little figure, with
nothing of the boy in his face or manner; delicate as a girl,
and with something almost melancholy in the gentle sweetness
of his countenance. Fleda's confidence was given to it on the
instant, which had not been the case with anything in her
uncle, and she yielded without reluctance the hand he took to
obey his father's command. Before two steps had been taken,
however, she suddenly broke away from him, and springing to
Mr. Carleton's side, silently laid her hand in his. She made
no answer whatever to a light word or two of kindness that he
spoke just for her ear. She listened with downcast eyes and a
lip that he saw was too unsteady to be trusted, and then after
a moment more, without looking, pulled away her hand, and
followed her cousin. Hugh did not once get a sight of her face
on the way to his mother's room, but owing to her exceeding
efforts; and quiet generalship, he never guessed the cause.
There was nothing in her face to raise suspicion, when he
reached the door, and opening it, announced her with —

"Mother, here's cousin Fleda come."

Fleda had seen her aunt before, though several years back, and
not long enough to get acquainted with her. But no matter — it
was her mother's sister sitting there, whose face gave her so
lovely a welcome at that speech of Hugh's, whose arms were
stretched out so eagerly towards her: and springing to them as
to a very haven of rest, Fleda wept on her bosom those
delicious tears that are only shed where the heart is at home.
And even before they were dried the ties were knit that bound
her to her new sphere.

"Who came with you, dear Fleda?" said Mrs. Rossitur then. "Is
Mrs. Carleton here? I must go and thank her for bringing you
to me."

"_Mr._ Carleton is here." said Hugh.

"I must go and thank him, then. Jump down, dear Fleda — I'll
be back in a minute."

Fleda got off her lap, and stood looking in a kind of
enchanted maze, while her aunt hastily arranged her hair at
the glass; — looking, while fancy and memory were making
strong the net in which her heart was caught. She was trying
to see something of her mother in one who had shared her blood
and her affection so nearly. A miniature of that mother was
left to Fleda, and she had studied it till she could hardly
persuade herself that she had not some recollection of the
original; and now she thought she caught a precious shadow of
something like it in her aunt Lucy. Not in those pretty bright
eyes which had looked through kind tears so lovingly upon her,
but in the graceful ringlets about the temples, the delicate
contour of the face, and a something — Fleda could only have
said it was "a something" — about the mouth when at rest, the
shadow of her mother's image rejoiced her heart. Rather that
faint shadow of the loved lost one for little Fleda, than any
other form or combination of beauty on earth. As she stood
fascinated, watching the movements of her aunt's light figure,
Fleda drew a long breath with which went off the whole burden
of doubt and anxiety that had lain upon her mind ever since
the journey began. She had not known it was there, but she
felt it go, yet even when that sigh of relief was breathed,
and while fancy and feeling were weaving their rich embroidery
into the very tissue of Fleda's happiness, most persons would
have seen merely that the child looked very sober, and have
thought, probably, that she felt very tired and strange.
Perhaps Mrs. Rossitur thought so, for, again tenderly kissing
her before she left the room, she told Hugh to take off her
things and make her feel at home.

Hugh upon this made Fleda sit down, and proceeded to untie her
tippet-strings and take off her coat, with an air of delicate
tenderness which showed he had great pleasure in his task, and
which made Fleda take a good deal of pleasure in it too.

"Are you tired, cousin Fleda?" said he, gently.

"No," said Fleda — "O no!"

"Charlton said you were tired on board ship."

"I wasn't tired," said Fleda, in not a little surprise; "I
liked it very much."

"Then maybe I mistook. I know Charlton said _he_ was tired, and
I thought he said you were too. You know my brother Charlton,
don't you?"

"Yes."

" Are you glad to come to Paris?"

"I am glad, now," said Fleda. "I wasn't glad before."

"I am very glad," said Hugh. "I think you will like it. We
didn't know you were coming till two or three days ago, when
Charlton got here. Do you like to take walks?"

"Yes, very much."

"Father and mother will take us delightful walks in the
Tuileries — the gardens, you know — and the Champs Elysées,
and Versailles, and the Boulevards, and ever so many places,
and it will be a great deal pleasanter now you are here. Do
you know French?"

"No."

"Then you'll have to learn. I'll help you if you will let me.
It is very easy. Did you get my last letter?"

"I don't know," said Fleda; "the last one I had came with one
of aunt Lucy's telling me about Mrs. Carleton — I got it just
before —"

Alas! before what? Fleda suddenly remembered, and was stopped
short. From all the strange scenes and interests which lately
had whirled her along, her spirit leapt back with strong
yearning recollection to her old home and her old ties; and
such a rain of tears witnessed the dearness of what she had
lost, and the tenderness of the memory that had let them slip
for a moment, that Hugh was as much distressed as startled.
With great tenderness and touching delicacy, he tried to
soothe her, and at the same time, though guessing, to find out
what was the matter, lest he should make a mistake.

"Just before what?" said he, laying his hand caressingly on
his little cousin's shoulder. "Don't grieve so, dear Fleda!"

"It was only just before grandpa died," said Fleda.

Hugh had known of that before, though like her he had
forgotten it for a moment. A little while his feeling was too
strong to permit any further attempt at condolence; but as he
saw Fleda grow quiet, he took courage to speak again.

"Was he a good man?" he asked softly.

"O yes!"

"Then," said Hugh, "you know he is happy now, Fleda. If he
loved Jesus Christ, he is gone to be with him. That ought to
make you glad as well as sorry."

Fleda looked up, though tears were streaming yet, to give that
full happy answer of the eye that no words could do. This was
consolation, and sympathy. The two children had a perfect
understanding of each other from that time forward, — a
fellowship that never knew a break nor a weakening.

Mrs. Rossitur found on her return that Hugh had obeyed her
charge to the letter. He had made Fleda feel at home. They
were sitting close together, Hugh's hand affectionately
clasping hers, and he was holding forth on some subject with a
gracious politeness that many of his elders might have copied,
while Fleda listened and assented with entire satisfaction.
The rest of the morning she passed in her aunt's arms,
drinking draughts of pleasure from those dear bright eyes,
taking in the balm of gentlest words of love and soft kisses,
every one of which was felt at the bottom of Fleda's heart,
and the pleasure of talking over her young sorrows with one
who could feel them all, and answer with tears as well as
words of sympathy. And Hugh stood by the while, looking at his
little orphan cousin as if she might have dropped from the
clouds into his mother's lap, a rare jewel or delicate flower,
but much more delicate and precious than they or any other
possible gift.

Hugh and Fleda dined alone: for, as he informed her, his
father never would have children at the dinner-table when he
had company, and Mr. and Mrs. Carleton, and other people were
to be there to-day. Fleda made no remark on the subject, by
word or look, but she thought none the less. She thought it
was a very mean fashion. _She_ not come to the table when
strangers were there! And who would enjoy them more? When Mr.
Rossitur and Mr. Carleton had dined with her grandfather, had
she not taken as much pleasure in their society, and in the
whole thing, as any other one of the party? And at Carleton
had she not several times dined with a tableful, and been
unspeakably amused to watch the different manners and
characteristics of people who were strange to her? However,
Mr. Rossitur had other notions. So she and Hugh had their
dinner in aunt Lucy's dressing-room by themselves; and a very
nice dinner it was, Fleda thought, and Rosaline, Mrs.
Rossitur's French maid, was well affected and took admirable
care of them. Indeed, before the close of the day, Rosaline
privately informed her mistress, "qu'elle serait entêtée
sûrement de cet enfant dans trois jours;" and "que son regard
vraiment lui serrait le coeur." And Hugh was excellent
company, failing all other, and did the honours of the table
with the utmost thoughtfulness, and amused Fleda the whole
time with accounts of Paris, and what they would do, and what
she should see; and how his sister Marion was at school at a
convent, and what kind of a place a convent was; and how he
himself always stayed at home and learned of his mother and
his father; "or by himself," he said, "just as it happened,"
and he hoped they would keep Fleda at home too. So Fleda hoped
exceedingly, but this stern rule about the dining had made her
feel a little shy of her uncle; she thought perhaps he was not
kind and indulgent to children, like her aunt Lucy, and if he
said she must go to a convent, she would not dare to ask him
to let her stay. The next time she saw him, however, she was
obliged to change her opinion again, in part; for he was very
kind and indulgent, both to her and Hugh, and, more than that,
he was very amusing. He showed her pictures, and told her new
and interesting things, and finding that she listened eagerly,
he seemed pleased to prolong her pleasure, even at the expense
of a good deal of his own time.

Mr. Rossitur was a man of cultivated mind and very refined and
fastidious taste. He lived for the pleasures of art and
literature, and the society where these are valued. For this,
and not without some secret love of display, he lived in
Paris; not extravagant in his pleasures, nor silly in his
ostentation, but leading, like a gentleman, as worthy and
rational a life as a man can lead who lives only to himself,
with no further thought than to enjoy the passing hours. Mr.
Rossitur enjoyed them elegantly, and, for a man of the world,
moderately; bestowing, however, few of those precious hours
upon his children. It was his maxim, that they should be kept
out of the way whenever their presence might by any chance
interfere with the amusements of their elders; and this maxim,
a good one certainly in some hands, was, in his reading of it,
a very broad one. Still, when he did take time to give his
family, he was a delightful companion to those of them who
could understand him. If they showed no taste for sensible
pleasure, he had no patience with them, nor desire of their
company. Report had done him no wrong in giving him a stern
temper; but this almost never came out in actual exercise;
Fleda knew it only from in occasional hint now and then, and
by her childish intuitive reading of the lines it had drawn
round the mouth and brow. It had no disagreeable bearing on
his everyday life and manner; and the quiet fact probably
served but to heighten the love and reverence in which his
family held him very high.

Mr. Rossitur did once moot the question, whether Fleda should
not join Marion at her convent. But his wife looked very
grave, and said that she was too tender and delicate a little
thing to be trusted to the hands of strangers. Hugh pleaded,
and argued that she might share all his lessons; and Fleda's
own face pleaded more powerfully. There was something
appealing in its extreme delicacy and purity which seemed to
call for shelter and protection from every rough breath of the
world; and Mr. Rossitur was easily persuaded to let her remain
in the stronghold of home. Hugh had never quitted it. Neither
father nor mother ever thought of such a thing. He was the
cherished idol of the whole family. Always a delicate child,
always blameless in life and behaviour, his loveliness of mind
and person, his affectionateness, the winning sweetness that
was about him like a halo, and the slight tenure by which they
seemed to hold him, had wrought to bind the hearts of father
and mother to this child, as it were, with the very life-
strings of both. Not his mother was more gentle with Hugh than
his much sterner father. And now little Fleda, sharing
somewhat of Hugh's peculiar claims upon their tenderness, and
adding another of her own, was admitted, not to the same place
in their hearts — that could not be — but, to their honour be
it spoken, to the same place in all outward show of thought
and feeling. Hugh had nothing that Fleda did not have, even to
the time, care, and caresses of his parents. And not Hugh
rendered them a more faithful return of devoted affection.

Once made easy on the question of school, which was never
seriously stirred again, Fleda's life became very happy. It
was easy to make her happy; affection and sympathy would have
done it almost anywhere; but in Paris she had much more; and
after time had softened the sorrow she brought with her, no
bird ever found existence less of a burden, nor sang more
light-heartedly along its life. In her aunt she had all but
the name of a mother; in her uncle with kindness and
affection, she had amusement, interest, and improvement; in
Hugh, everything — love, confidence, sympathy, society, help;
their tastes, opinions, pursuits, went hand in hand. The two
children were always together. Fleda's spirits were brighter
than Hugh's, and her intellectual tastes stronger and more
universal. That might be as much from difference of physical
as of mental constitution. Hugh's temperament led him somewhat
to melancholy, and to those studies and pleasures which best
side with subdued feeling and delicate nerves. Fleda's nervous
system was of the finest too, but, in short, she was as like a
bird as possible. Perfect health, which yet a slight thing was
enough to shake to the foundation; joyous spirits, which a
look could quell; happy energies, which a harsh hand might
easily crush for ever. Well for little Fleda that so tender a
plant was permitted to unfold in so nicely tempered an
atmosphere. A cold wind would soon have killed it. Besides all
this, there were charming studies to be gone through every day
with Hugh — some for aunt Lucy to hear, some for masters and
mistresses. There were amusing walks in the Boulevards, and
delicious pleasure-taking in the gardens of Paris, and a new
world of people, and manners, and things, and histories, for
the little American. And despite her early rustic experience,
Fleda had from nature an indefeasible taste for the elegances
of life; it suited her well, to see all about her, in dress,
in furniture, in various appliances, as commodious and
tasteful as wealth and refinement could contrive it; and she
very soon knew what was right in each kind. There were, now
and then, most gleeful excursions in the environs of Paris,
when she and Hugh found in earth and air a world of delights
more than they could tell anybody but each other. And at home,
what peaceful times they two had — what endless conversations,
discussions, schemes, air journeys of memory and fancy,
backward and forward! — what sociable dinners alone, and
delightful evenings with Mr. and Mrs. Rossitur in the saloon,
when nobody, or only a very few people, were there, how
pleasantly in those evenings the foundations were laid of a
strong and enduring love for the works of art, painted,
sculptured, or engraven; what a multitude of curious and
excellent bits of knowledge Fleda's ears picked up from the
talk of different people. They were capital ears; what they
caught they never let fall. In the course of the year her
gleanings amounted to more than many another person's harvest.



CHAPTER XIV.


"Heav'n bless thee;
Thou hast the sweetest face I ever look'd on."
SHAKESPEARE.


One of the greatest of Fleda's pleasures was when Mr. Carleton
came to take her out with him. He did that often. Fleda only
wished he would have taken Hugh too, but somehow he never did.
Nothing but that was wanting to make the pleasure of those
times perfect. Knowing that she saw the _common things_ in other
company, Guy was at the pains to vary the amusement when she
went with him. Instead of going to Versailles or St. Cloud, he
would take her long delightful drives into the country, and
show her some old or interesting place that nobody else went
to see. Often there was a history belonging to the spot, which
Fleda listened to with the delight of eye and fancy at once.
In the city, where they more frequently walked, still he
showed her what she would perhaps have seen under no other
guidance. He made it his business to give her pleasure; and
understanding the inquisitive active little spirit he had to
do with, he went where his own tastes would hardly have led
him. The Quai aux Fleurs was often visited, but also the Halle
aux Blés, the great Halle aux Vins, the Jardin des Plantes,
and the Marché des Innocens. Guy even took the trouble, more
for her sake than his own, to go to the latter place once very
early in the morning, when the market bell had not two hours
sounded, while the interest and prettiness of the scene were
yet in their full life. Hugh was in company this time, and the
delight of both children was beyond words, as it would have
been beyond anybody's patience, that had not a strong motive
to back it. They never discovered that Mr. Carleton was in a
hurry, as indeed he was not. They bargained for fruit with any
number of people, upon all sorts of inducements, and to an
extent of which they had no competent notion; but Hugh had his
mother's purse, and Fleda was skilfully commissioned to
purchase what she pleased for Mrs. Carleton. Verily the two
children that morning bought pleasure, not peaches. Fancy and
Benevolence held the purse-strings, and Economy did not even
look on. They revelled too, Fleda especially, amidst the
bright pictures of the odd, the new, and the picturesque, and
the varieties of character and incident that were displayed
around them, even till the country people began to go away,
and the scene to lose its charm. It never lost it in memory;
and many a time in after life, Hugh and Fleda recurred to
something that was seen or done "that morning when we bought
fruit at the Innocens."

Besides these scenes of everyday life, which interested and
amused Fleda to the last degree, Mr. Carleton showed her many
an obscure part of Paris, where deeds of daring and of blood
had been, and thrilled the little listener's ear with
histories of the past. He judged her rightly. She would rather
at any time have gone to walk with him than with anybody else
to see any show that could be devised. His object in all this
was, in the first place, to give her pleasure; and, in the
second place, to draw out her mind into free communion with
his own, which he knew could only be done by talking sense to
her. He succeeded as he wished. Lost in the interest of the
scenes he presented to her eye and mind, she forgot everything
else, and showed him herself — precisely what he wanted to
see.

It was strange that a young man, an admired man of fashion, a
flattered favourite of the gay and great world, and,
furthermore, a reserved and proud repeller of almost all who
sought his intimacy, should seek and delight in the society of
a little child. His mother would have wondered if she had
known it. Mrs. Rossitur did marvel that even Fleda should have
so won upon the cold and haughty young Englishman; and her
husband said he probably chose to have Fleda with him because
he could make up his mind to like nobody else; a remark which
perhaps arose from the utter failure of every attempt to draw
him and Charlton nearer together. But Mr. Rossitur was only
half right. The reason lay deeper.

Mr. Carleton had admitted the truth of Christianity, upon what
he considered sufficient grounds, and would now have steadily
fought for it, as he would for anything else that he believed
to be truth. But there he stopped. He had not discovered, nor
tried to discover, whether the truth of Christianity imposed
any obligation upon him. He had cast off his unbelief, and
looked upon it now as a singular folly. But his belief was
almost as vague and as fruitless as his infidelity had been.
Perhaps, a little, his bitter dissatisfaction with the world
and human things, or rather his despondent view of them, was
mitigated. If there was, as he now held, a Supreme Orderer of
events, it might be, and it was rational to suppose there
would be, in the issues of time, an entire change wrought in
the disordered and dishonoured state of his handiwork. There
might be a remedial system somewhere — nay, it might be in the
Bible, — he meant to look some day. But that _he_ had anything
to do with that change; that the working of the remedial
system called for hands; that _his_ had any charge in the
matter, had never entered into his imagination nor stirred his
conscience. He was living his old life at Paris, with his old
dissatisfaction — perhaps a trifle less bitter. He was seeking
pleasure in whatever art, learning, literature, refinement,
and luxury can do for a man who has them all at command; but
there was something within him that spurned this ignoble
existence, and called for higher aims and worthier exertion.
He was not vicious, he never had been vicious, or, as somebody
else said, his vices were all refined vices; but a life of
mere self-indulgence, although pursued without self-
satisfaction, is constantly lowering the standard and
weakening the forces of virtue — lessening the whole man. He
felt it so; and to leave his ordinary scenes and occupations,
and lose a morning with little Fleda, was a freshening of his
better nature; it was like breathing pure air after the fever-
heat of a sick-room; it was like hearing the birds sing after
the meaningless jabber of Bedlam. Mr. Carleton, indeed, did
not put the matter quite so strongly to himself. He called
Fleda his good angel. He did not exactly know that the office
this good angel performed was simply to hold a candle to his
conscience; for conscience was not by any means dead in him,
it only wanted light to see by. When he turned from the gay
and corrupt world in which he lived, where the changes were
rung incessantly upon self-interest, falsehood, pride, and the
various, more or less refined forms of sensuality; and when he
looked upon that pure bright little face, so free from
selfishness, those clear eyes so innocent of evil, the
peaceful brow under which a thought of double-dealing had
never hid, Mr. Carleton felt himself in a healthier region.
Here, as elsewhere, he honoured and loved the image of truth,
in the broad sense of truth, — that which suits the perfect
standard of right. But his pleasure in this case was
invariably mixed with a slight feeling of self-reproach; and
it was this hardly recognised stir of his better nature, this
clearing of his mental eyesight under the light of a bright
example, that made him call the little torch-bearer his good
angel. If this were truth, this purity, uprightness, and
singleness of mind, as conscience said it was, where was he?
how far wandering from his beloved idol?

One other feeling saddened the pleasure he had in her society,
— a belief that the ground of it could not last. "If she could
grow up so!" he said to himself. "But it is impossible. A very
few years, and all that clear sunshine of the mind will be
overcast, — there is not a cloud now!"

Under the working of these thoughts, Mr. Carleton sometimes
forgot to talk to his little charge, and would walk for a
length of way by her side, wrapped up in sombre musings. Fleda
never disturbed him then, but waited contentedly and patiently
for him to come out of them, with her old feeling, wondering
what he could be thinking of, and wishing he were as happy as
she. But he never left her very long. He was sure to wave his
own humour and give her all the graceful kind attention which
nobody else could bestow so well. Nobody understood and
appreciated it better than Fleda.

One day, some months after they had been in Paris, they were
sitting in the Place de la Concorde. Mr. Carleton was in one
of these thinking fits. He had been giving Fleda a long detail
of the scenes that had taken place in that spot; a history of
it from the time when it had lain an unsightly waste, — such a
graphic lively account as he knew well how to give. The
absorbed interest with which she had lost everything else in
what he was saying, had given him at once reward and motive
enough as he went on. Standing by his side, with one little
hand confidingly resting on his knee, she gazed alternately
into his face and towards the broad highly-adorned square by
the side of which they had placed themselves, and where it was
hard to realize that the ground had once been soaked in blood,
while madness and death filled the air; and her changing face,
like a mirror, gave him back the reflection of the times he
held up to her view. And still standing there in the same
attitude after he had done, she had been looking out towards
the square in a fit of deep meditation. Mr. Carleton had
forgotten her for a while in his own thoughts, and then the
sight of the little gloved hand upon his knee brought him back
again.

"What are you musing about, Elfie, dear?" he said, cheerfully,
taking the hand in one of his.

Fleda gave a swift glance into his face, as if to see whether
it would be safe for her to answer his question, — a kind of
exploring look, in which her eyes often acted as scouts for
her tongue. Those she met pledged their faith for her
security; yet Fleda's look went back to the square and then
again to his face in silence.

"How do you like living in Paris?" said he. "You should know
by this time."

"I like it very much indeed," said Fleda.

"I thought you would."

"I like Queechy better, though," she went on, gravely, her
eyes turning again to the square.

"Like Queechy better! Were you thinking of Queechy just now
when I spoke to you?"

"O no!" — with a smile.

"Were you going over all those horrors I have been distressing
you with?"

"No," said Fleda; "I was thinking of them, a while ago."

"What then?" said he pleasantly. "You were looking so sober, I
should like to know how near your thoughts were to mine."

"I was thinking," said Fleda, gravely, and a little
unwillingly, but Guy's manner was not to be withstood — "I was
wishing I could be like the disciple whom Jesus loved."

Mr. Carleton let her see none of the surprise he felt at this
answer.

"Was there one more loved than the rest?"

"Yes — the Bible calls him 'the disciple whom Jesus loved.'
That was John."

"Why was he preferred above the others?"

"I don't know. I suppose he was more gentle and good than the
others, and loved Jesus more. I think Aunt Miriam said so when
I asked her once."

Mr. Carleton thought Fleda had not far to seek for the
fulfilment of her wish.

"But how in the world, Elfie, did you work round to this
gentle and good disciple from those scenes of blood you set
out with?"

"Why," said Elfie, "I was thinking how unhappy and bad people
are, especially people here, I think; and how much must be
done before they will all be brought right; and then I was
thinking of the work Jesus gave his disciples to do; and so I
wished I could be like that disciple. Hugh and I were talking
about it this morning."

"What is the work he gave them to do?'" said Mr. Carleton,
more and more interested.

"Why," said Fleda, lifting her gentle wistful eyes to his, and
then looking away, "to bring everybody to be good and happy."

"And how in the world are they to do that?" said Mr. Carleton,
astonished to see his own problem quietly handled by this
child.

"By telling them about Jesus Christ, and getting them to
believe and love him," said Fleda, glancing at him again, "and
living so beautifully that people cannot help believing them."

"That last is an important clause," said Mr. Carleton,
thoughtfully. "But suppose people will not hear when they are
spoken to, Elfie?"

"Some will, at any rate," said Fleda, "and by and by everybody
will."

"How do you know?"

"Because the Bible says so."

"Are you sure of that, Elfie?"

"Why, yes, Mr. Carleton, — God has promised that the world
shall be full of good people, and then they will be all happy.
_I_ wish it was now."

"But if that be so, Elfie, God can make them all good without
our help."

"Yes, but I suppose he wishes to do it with our help, Mr.
Carleton," said Fleda, with equal naïveté and gravity.

"But is not this you speak of," said he, half smiling, "rather
the business of clergymen? you have nothing to do with it?"

"No," said Fleda, "everybody has something to do with it — the
Bible says so; ministers must do it in their way, and other
people in other ways; everybody has his own work. Don't you
remember the parable of the ten talents, Mr. Carleton?"

Mr. Carleton was silent for a minute.

"I do not know the Bible quite as well as you do, Elfie," he
said then, "nor as I ought to do."

Elfie's only answer was by a look somewhat like that he well
remembered on shipboard he had thought was angel-like, — a
look of gentle sorrowful wistfulness, which she did not
venture to put into words. It had not for that the less power.
But he did not choose to prolong the conversation. They rose
up and began to walk homeward, Elfie thinking with all the
warmth of her little heart that she wished very much Mr.
Carleton knew the Bible better; divided between him and "that
disciple" whom she and Hugh had been talking about.

"I suppose you are very busy now, Elfie," observed her
companion, when they had walked the length of several squares
in silence.

"O yes!" said Fleda. " Hugh and I are as busy as we can be. We
are busy every minute."

"Except when you are on some chase after pleasure?"

"Well," said Fleda, laughing, "that is a kind of business; and
all the business is pleasure too. I didn't mean that we were
always busy about work. Oh, Mr. Carleton, we had such a nice
time the day before yesterday!" — And she went on to give him
the history of a very successful chase after pleasure which
they had made to St. Cloud.

"And yet you like Queechy better?"

"Yes," said Fleda, with a gentle steadiness peculiar to
herself — "if I had aunt Lucy, and Hugh, and uncle Rolf there,
and everybody that I care for, I should like it a great deal
better."

" 'Unspotted' yet," he thought.

"Mr. Carleton," said Fleda, presently — "do you play and sing
every day here in Paris?"

"Yes," said he, smiling, — "about every day. Why?"

"I was thinking how pleasant it was at your house in England."

"Has Carleton the honour of rivalling Queechy in your liking?"

"I haven't lived there so long, you know," said Fleda, "I dare
say it would if I had. I think it is quite as pretty a place."

Mr. Carleton smiled with a very pleased expression. Truth and
politeness had joined hands in her answer with a child's
grace.

He brought Fleda to her own door, and there was leaving her.

"Stop! Oh, Mr. Carleton," cried Fleda, "come in, just for one
minute — I want to show you something."

He made no resistance to that. She led him to the saloon,
where it happened that nobody was, and repeating, "One
minute!" — rushed out of the room. In less than that time, she
came running back with a beautiful half-blown bud of a monthly
rose in her hand, and in her face such a bloom of pleasure and
eagerness as more than rivalled it. The rose was fairly
eclipsed. She put the bud quietly, but with a most satisfied
air of affection, into Mr. Carleton's hand. It had come from a
little tree which he had given her on one of' their first
visits to the Quai aux Fleurs. She had had the choice of what
she liked best, and had characteristically taken a flourishing
little rose-bush, that as yet showed nothing but leaves and
green buds, partly, because she would have the pleasure of
seeing its beauties come forward, and partly, because she
thought having no flowers, it would not cost much. The former
reason, however, was all that she had given to Mr. Carleton's
remonstrances.

"What is all this, Elfie?" said he. "Have you been robbing
your rose-tree?"

"No," said Elfie, "there are plenty more buds! Isn't it
lovely? This is the first one. They've been a great while
coming out."

His eye went from the rose to her; he thought the one was a
mere emblem of the other. Fleda was usually very quiet in her
demonstrations; it was as if a little green bud had suddenly
burst into a flush of loveliness; and he saw, it was as plain
as possible, that goodwill to him had been the moving power.
He was so much struck and moved, that his thanks, though as
usual perfect in their kind, were far shorter and graver than
he would have given if he had felt less. He turned away from
the house, his mind full of the bright unsullied purity and
single-hearted goodwill that had looked out of that beaming
little face; he seemed to see them again in the flower he held
in his hand, and he saw nothing else as he went.

Mr. Carleton preached to himself all the way home, and his
text was a rose.

Laugh who will. To many it may seem ridiculous; and to most
minds it would have been impossible; but to a nature very
finely wrought and highly trained, many a voice that grosser
senses cannot hear, comes with an utterance as clear as it is
sweet-spoken; many a touch that coarser nerves cannot heed,
reaches the springs of the deeper life; many a truth that
duller eyes have no skill to see, shows its fair features, hid
away among the petals of a rose, or peering out between the
wings of a butterfly, or reflected in a bright drop of dew.
The material is but a veil for the spiritual; but, then, eyes
must be quickened, or the veil becomes an impassable cloud.

That particular rose was to Mr. Carleton's eye a most perfect
emblem and representative of its little giver. He traced out
the points of resemblance as he went along. The delicacy and
character of refinement for which that kind of rose is
remarkable above many of its more superb kindred; a refinement
essential and unalterable by decay or otherwise, as true a
characteristic of the child as of the flower; a delicacy that
called for gentle handling and tender cherishing; the
sweetness, rare indeed, but asserting itself as it were
timidly, at least with equally rare modesty; the very style of
the beauty that, with all its loveliness, would not startle
nor even catch the eye among its more showy neighbours; and
the breath of purity that seemed to own no kindred with earth,
nor liability to infection.

As he went on with his musing, and drawing out this fair
character from the type before him, the feeling of contrast
that he had known before pressed upon Mr. Carleton's mind; the
feeling of self-reproach, and the bitter wish that he could be
again what he once had been — something like this. How changed
now he seemed to himself — not a point of likeness left. How
much less honourable, how much less worth, how much less
dignified, than that fair innocent child! How much better a
part she was acting in life — what an influence she was
exerting, — as pure, as sweet-breathed, and as unobtrusive, as
the very rose in his hand! And he — doing no good to an
earthly creature, and losing himself by inches.

He reached his room, put the flower in a glass on the table,
and walked up and down before it. It had come to a struggle
between the sense of what was and the passionate wish for what
might have been.

"It is late, Sir," said his servant, opening the door — "and
you were —"

"I am not going out."

"This evening, Sir?"

"No — not at all to-day. Spenser, I don't wish to see anybody
— let no one come near me."

The servant retired, and Guy went on with his walk and his
meditations — looking back over his life, and reviewing, with
a wiser ken now, the steps by which he had come. He compared
the selfish disgust with which he had cast off the world with
the very different spirit of little Fleda's look upon it that
morning; the useless, self-pleasing, vain life he was leading,
with her wish to be like the beloved disciple, and do
something to heal the troubles of those less happy than
herself. He did not very well comprehend the grounds of her
feeling or reasoning, but he began to see, mistily, that his
own had been mistaken and wild.

His step grew slower, his eye more intent, his brow quiet.

"She is right, and I am wrong," he thought. "She is by far the
nobler creature — worth many such as I. Like her I cannot be —
I cannot regain what I have lost — I cannot undo what years
have done. But I can be something other than I am! If there be
a system of remedy, as there well may, it may as well take
effect on myself first. She says everybody has his work; I
believe her. It must, in the nature of things, be so. I will
make it my business to find out what mine is; and when I have
made that sure, I will give myself to the doing of it. An All-
wise Governor must look for service of me. He shall have it.
Whatever my life be, it shall be to some end. If not what I
would, what I can. If not the purity of the rose, that of
tempered steel!"

Mr. Carleton walked his room for three hours; then rung for
his servant, and ordered him to prepare everything for leaving
Paris the second day thereafter.

The next morning over theirs coffee he told his mother of his
purpose.

"Leave Paris! To-morrow! My dear Guy, that is rather a sudden
notice."

"No, mother; for I am going alone."

His mother immediately bent an anxious and somewhat terrified
look upon him. The frank smile she met put half her suspicions
out of her head at once.

"What is the matter?"

"Nothing at all — if by 'matter' you mean mischief."

"You are not in difficulty with those young men again?"

"No, mother," said he, coolly. "I am in difficulty with no one
but myself."

"With yourself! But why will you not let me go with you?"

"My business will go on better if I am quite alone."

"What business?''

"Only to settle this question with myself," said he, smiling.

"But, Guy! you are enigmatical this morning. Is it the
question that of all others I wish to see settled?"

"No, mother," said he, laughing, and colouring a little; "I
don't want another half to take care of till I have this one
under management."

"I don't understand you," said Mrs. Carleton. "There is no
hidden reason under all this that you are keeping from me?"

"I wont say that. But there is none that need give you the
least uneasiness. There are one or two matters I want to study
out; I cannot do it here, so I am going where I shall be
free."

"Where?"

"I think I shall pass the summer between Switzerland and
Germany."

"And when and where shall I meet you again?"

"I think, at home; I cannot say when."

"At home!" said his mother with a brightening face. "Then you
are beginning to be tired of wandering at last?"

"Not precisely, mother," — rather out of humour.

"I shall be glad of anything," said his mother, gazing at him
admiringly, "that brings you home again, Guy."

"Brings me home a better man, I hope, mother," said he,
kissing her as he left the room. "I will see you again by and
by."

" 'A better man!' " thought Mrs. Carleton, as she sat with
full eyes, the image of her son filling the place where his
presence had been; "I would be willing never to see him
better, and be sure of his never being worse."

Mr. Carleton's farewell visit found Mr. and Mrs. Rossitur not
at home. They had driven out early into the country to fetch
Marion from her convent for some holiday. Fleda came alone
into the saloon to receive him.

"I have your rose in safe keeping, Elfie," he said. "It has
done me more good than ever a rose did before."

Fleda smiled an innocently pleased smile. But her look changed
when he added —

"I have come to tell you so, and to bid you good-bye."

"Are you going away, Mr. Carleton?"

"Yes."

"But you will be back soon?"

"No, Elfie — I do not know that I shall ever come back."

He spoke gravely, more gravely than he was used, and Fleda's
acuteness saw that there was some solid reason for this sudden
determination. Her face changed sadly, but she was silent, her
eyes never wavering from those that read hers with such gentle
intelligence.

"You will be satisfied to have me go, Elfie, when I tell you
that I am going on business which I believe to be duty.
Nothing else takes me away. I am going to try to do right,"
said he, smiling.

Elfie could not answer the smile. She wanted to ask whether
she should never see him again, and there was another thought
upon her tongue too; but her lip trembled, and she said
nothing.

"I shall miss my good fairy," Mr. Carleton went on, lightly;
"I don't know how I shall do without her. If your wand was
long enough to reach so far I would ask you to touch me now
and then, Elfie."

Poor Elfie could not stand it. Heir head sank. She knew she
had a wand that could touch him, and well and gratefully she
resolved that its light blessing should "now and then" rest on
his head; but he did not understand that; he was talking,
whether lightly or seriously — and Elfie knew it was a little
of both — he was talking of wanting her help, and was ignorant
of the help that alone could avail him. "O that he knew but
that!" What with this feeling and sorrow together, the child's
distress was exceeding great; and the tokens of grief in one
so accustomed to hide them were the more painful to see. Mr.
Carleton drew the sorrowing little creature within his arm,
and endeavoured with a mixture of kindness and lightness in
his tone to cheer her.

"I shall often remember you, dear Elfie," he said; "I shall
keep your rose always, and take it with me wherever I go. You
must not make it too hard for me to quit Paris — you are glad
to have me go on such an errand, are you not?"

She presently commanded herself, bade her tears wait till
another time as usual, and trying to get rid of those that
covered her face, asked him "What errand?"

He hesitated.

"I have been thinking of what we were talking of yesterday,
Elfie," he said at length. "I am going to try to discover my
duty, and then to do it."

But Fleda at that clasped his hand, and squeezing it in both
hers, bent down her little head over it to hide her face and
the tears that streamed again. He hardly knew how to
understand, or what to say to her. He half suspected that
there were depths in that childish mind beyond his fathoming.
He was not, however, left to wait long. Fleda, though she
might now and then be surprised into showing it, never allowed
her sorrow of any kind to press upon the notice or the time of
others. She again checked herself and dried her face.

"There is nobody else in Paris that will be so sorry for my
leaving it," said Mr. Carleton, half tenderly and half
pleasantly.

"There is nobody else that has so much cause," said Elfie,
near bursting out again, but she restrained herself.

"And you will not come here again;, Mr. Carleton?" she said,
after a few minutes.

"I do not say that — it is possible — if I do, it will be to
see you, Elfie."

A shadow of a smile passed over her face at that. It was gone
instantly.

"My mother will not leave Paris yet," he went on — you will
see her often."

But he saw that Fleda was thinking of something else; she
scarce seemed to hear him. She was thinking of something that
troubled her.

"Mr. Carleton," she began, and her colour changed.

"Speak, Elfie."

Her colour changed again. "Mr. Carleton, will you be
displeased if I say something?"

"Don't you know me better than to ask me that, Elfie?" he
said, gently.

"I want to ask you something — if you wont mind my saying it?"

"What is it?" said he, reading in her face that a request was
behind. "I will do it."

Her eyes sparkled, but she seemed to have some difficulty in
going on.

"I will do it whatever it is," he said, watching her.

"Will you wait for me one moment, Mr. Carleton?"

"Half an hour."

She sprang away, her face absolutely flashing pleasure through
her tears. It was much soberer, and again doubtful and
changing colour, when a few minutes afterwards she came back
with a book in her hand. With a striking mixture of timidity,
modesty, and eagerness in her countenance, she came forward,
and putting the little volume, which was her own Bible, into
Mr. Carleton's hands, said, under her breath, "Please read
it." She did not venture to look up.

He saw what the book was; and then taking the gentle hand
which had given it, he kissed it two or three times — if it
had been a princess's he could not with more respect.

"You have my promise, Elfie," he said; "I need not repeat it."

She raised her eves and gave him a look so grateful, so
loving, so happy, that it dwelt for ever in his remembrance. A
moment after it had faded, and she stood still where he had
left her listening to his footsteps as they went down the
stairs. She heard the last of them, and then sank upon her
knees by a chair, and burst into a passion of tears. Their
time was now, and she let them come. It was not only the
losing a loved and pleasant friend, it was not only the
stirring of sudden and disagreeable excitement — poor Elfie
was crying for her Bible. It had been her father's own — it
was filled with his marks — it was precious to her above price
— and Elfie cried with all her heart for the loss of it. She
had done what she had on the spur of the emergency — she was
satisfied she had done right; she would not take it back if
she could; but not the less her Bible was gone, and the pages
that loved eyes had looked upon were for hers to look upon no
more. Her very heart was wrung that she should have parted
with it; and yet, what could she do? It was as bad as the
parting with Mr. Carleton.

That agony was over, and even that was shortened, for "Hugh
would find out that she had been crying." Hours had passed,
and the tears were dried, and the little face was bending over
the wonted tasks, with a shadow upon its wonted cheerfulness,
when Rosaline came to tell her that Victor said there was
somebody in the passage who wanted to see her and would not
come in.

It was Mr. Carleton himself. He gave her a parcel, smiled at
her without saying a word, kissed her hand earnestly, and was
gone again. Fleda ran to her own room, and took the wrappers
off such a beauty of a Bible as she had never seen — bound in
blue velvet, with clasps of gold, and her initials in letters
of gold upon the cover. Fleda hardly knew whether to be most
pleased or sorry; for to have its place so supplied seemed to
put her lost treasure further away than ever. The result was
another flood of very tender tears; in the very shedding of
which, however, the new little Bible was bound to her heart
with cords of association as bright and as incorruptible as
its gold mountings.



CHAPTER XV.


"Her sports were such as carried riches of knowledge upon the
stream of delight."
SIDNEY.


Fleda had not been a year in Paris, when her uncle suddenly
made up his mind to quit it and go home. Some trouble in money
affairs, felt or feared, brought him to this step, which a
month before he had no definite purpose of ever taking. There
was cloudy weather in the financial world of New York, and he
wisely judged it best that his own eyes should be on the spot
to see to his own interests. Nobody was sorry for this
determination. Mrs. Rossitur always liked what her husband
liked, but she had at the same time a decided predilection for
home. Marion was glad to leave her convent for the gay world,
which her parents promised she should immediately enter. And
Hugh and Fleda had too lively a spring of happiness within
themselves to care where its outgoings should be.

So home they came, in good mood, bringing with them all manner
of Parisian delights that Paris could part with — furniture,
that at home at least they might forget where they were;
dresses, that, at home or abroad, nobody might forget where
they had been; pictures, and statuary, and engravings, and
books, to satisfy a taste really strong and well cultivated.
And, indeed, the other items were quite as much for this
purpose as for any other. A French cook for Mr. Rossitur, and
even Rosaline for his wife, who declared she was worth all the
rest of Paris. Hugh cared little for any of these things; he
brought home a treasure of books and a flute, to which he was
devoted. Fleda cared for them all, even Monsieur Emile and
Rosaline, for her uncle's and aunt's sake; but her special joy
was a beautiful little King Charles, which had been sent her
by Mr. Carleton a few weeks before. It came with the kindest
of letters, saying, that some matters had made it inexpedient
for him to pass through Paris on his way home, but that he
hoped, nevertheless, to see her soon. That intimation was the
only thing that made Fleda sorry to leave Paris. The little
dog was a beauty, allowed to be so not only by his mistress
but by every one else, of the true black and tan colours; and
Fleda's dearly loved and constant companion.

The life she and Hugh led was little changed by the change of
place. They went out and came in as they had done in Paris,
and took the same quiet but intense happiness in the same
quiet occupations and pleasures; only the Tuileries and Champs
Elysées had a miserable substitute in the Battery, and no
substitute at all anywhere else. And the pleasant drives in
the environs of Paris were missed too, and had nothing in New
York to supply their place. Mrs. Rossitur always said it was
impossible to get out of New York by land, and not worth the
trouble to do it by water. But, then, in the house Fleda
thought there was a great gain. The dirty Parisian hotel was
well exchanged for the bright, clean, well-appointed house in
State street. And if Broadway was disagreeable, and the Park a
weariness to the eyes, after the dressed gardens of the French
capital, Hugh and Fleda made it up in the delights of the
luxuriously furnished library, and the dear at-home feeling of
having the whole house their own.

They were left, those two children, quite as much to
themselves as ever. Marion was going into company, and she and
her mother were swallowed up in the consequent necessary calls
upon their time. Marion never had been anything to Fleda. She
was a fine, handsome girl, outwardly, but seemed to have more
of her father than her mother in her composition, though
colder-natured, and more wrapped up in self than Mr. Rossitur
would be called by anybody that knew him. She had never done
anything to draw Fleda towards her, and even Hugh had very
little of her attention. They did not miss it. They were
everything to each other.

Everything — for now morning and night there was a sort of
whirlwind in the house which carried the mother and daughter
round and round, and permitted no rest; and Mr. Rossitur
himself was drawn in. It was worse than it had been in Paris.
There, with Marion in her convent, there were often evenings
when they did not go abroad nor receive company, and spent the
time quietly and happily in each other's society. No such
evenings now: if by chance there were an unoccupied one, Mrs.
Rossitur and her daughter were sure to be tired, and Mr.
Rossitur busy.

Hugh and Fleda in those bustling times retreated to the
library; Mr. Rossitur would rarely have that invaded; and
while the net was so eagerly cast for pleasure among the gay
company below, pleasure had often slipped away, and hid
herself among the things on the library table, and was dancing
on every page of Hugh's book, and minding each stroke of
Fleda's pencil, and cocking the spaniel's ears whenever his
mistress looked at him. King, the spaniel, lay on a silk
cushion on the library table, his nose just touching Fleda's
fingers. Fleda's drawing was mere amusement; she and Hugh were
not so burdened with studies that they had not always their
evenings free, and, to tell truth, much more than their
evenings. Masters, indeed, they had; but the heads of the
house were busy with the interests of their grown-up child,
and, perhaps, with other interests, and took it for granted
that all was going right with the young ones.

"Haven't we a great deal better time than they have down
stairs, Fleda?" said Hugh, one of these evenings.

"Hum — yes" — answered Fleda, abstractedly, stroking into
order some old man in her drawing with great intentness.
"King! you rascal — keep back and be quiet, Sir!"

Nothing could be conceived more gentle and loving than Fleda's
tone of fault-finding, and her repulse only fell short of a
caress.

"What's he doing?"

"Wants to get into my lap."

"Why don't you let him?"

"Because I don't choose to — a silk cushion is good enough for
his majesty. King!" (laying her soft cheek against the little
dog's soft head, and forsaking her drawing for the purpose.)

"How you do love that dog!" said Hugh.

"Very well — why shouldn't I? — provided he steals no love
from anybody else," said Fleda, still caressing him.

"What a noise somebody is making down stairs!" said Hugh. " I
don't think I should ever want to go to large parties, Fleda;
do you?"

"I don't know," said Fleda, whose natural taste for society
was strongly developed; "it would depend upon what kind of
parties they were."

"I shouldn't like them, I know, of whatever kind," said Hugh.
"What are you smiling at?"

"Only Mr. Pickwick's face, that I am drawing here."

Hugh came round to look and laugh, and then began again.

"I can't think of anything pleasanter than this room as we are
now."

"You should have seen Mr. Carleton's library," said Fleda, in
a musing tone, going on with her drawing.

"Was it so much better than this?"

Fleda's eyes gave a slight glance at the room, and then looked
down again with a little shake of her head sufficiently
expressive.

"Well," said Hugh, "you and I do not want any better than
this; do we, Fleda?"

Fleda's smile — a most satisfactory one — was divided between
him and King.

"I don't believe," said Hugh, "you would have loved that dog
near so well if anybody else had given him to you."

"I don't believe I should! — not a quarter," said Fleda, with
sufficient distinctness.

"I never liked that Mr. Carleton as well as you did."

"That is because you did not know him," said Fleda, quietly.

"Do you think he was a good man, Fleda?"

"He was very good to me," said Fleda, "always. What rides I
did have on that great black horse of his!" —

"A black horse?"

"Yes, a great black horse, strong, but so gentle, and he went
so delightfully. His name was Harold. Oh, I should like to see
that horse! When I wasn't with him, Mr. Carleton used to ride
another, the greatest beauty of a horse, Hugh — a brown
Arabian — so slender and delicate — her name was Zephyr, and
she used to go like the wind, to be sure. Mr. Carleton said he
wouldn't trust me on such a fly-away thing."

"But you didn't use to ride alone?" said Hugh.

"O no! — and I wouldn't have been afraid if he had chosen to
take me on any one."

"But do you think, Fleda, he was a good man — as I mean?"

"I am sure he was better than a great many others," answered
Fleda, evasively — "the worst of him was infinitely better
than the best of half the people down stairs — Mr. Sweden
included."

"Sweden! — you don't call his name right."

"The worse it is called the better, in my opinion," said
Fleda.

"Well, I don't like him; but what makes you dislike him so
much?"

"I don't know — partly because Uncle Rolf and Marion like him
so much, I believe — I don't think there is any moral
expression in his face."

"I wonder why they like him," said Hugh.

It was a somewhat irregular and desultory education that the
two children gathered under this system of things. The masters
they had were rather for accomplishments and languages than
for anything solid — the rest they worked out for themselves.
Fortunately they both loved books, and rational books; and
hours and hours, when Mrs. Rossitur and her daughter were
paying or receiving visits, they, always together, were stowed
away behind the book-cases or in the library window, poring
patiently over pages of various complexion — the soft turning
of the leaves, or Fleda's frequent attentions to King, the
only sound in the room. They walked together, talking of what
they had read, though, indeed, they ranged beyond that into
nameless and numberless fields of speculation, where, if they
sometimes found fruit, they as often lost their way. However,
the habit of ranging was something. Then when they joined the
rest of the family at the dinner-table, especially if others
were present, and most especially if a certain German
gentleman happened to be there, who, the second winter after
their return, Fleda thought came very often, she and Hugh
would be sure to find the strange talk of the world that was
going on unsuited and wearisome to them, and they would make
their escape up-stairs again to handle the pencil, and to play
the flute, and to read, and to draw plans for the future,
while King crept upon the skirts of his mistress's gown, and
laid his little head on her feet. Nobody ever thought of
sending them to school. Hugh was a child of frail health, and
though not often very ill, was often near it; and as for
Fleda, she and Hugh were inseparable, and besides, by this
time her uncle and aunt would almost as soon have thought of
taking the mats off their delicate shrubs in winter, as of
exposing her to any atmosphere less genial than that of home.

For Fleda, this doubtful course of mental training wrought
singularly well. An uncommonly quick eye, and strong memory,
and clear head, which she had even in childhood, passed over
no field of truth or fancy without making their quiet
gleanings; and the stores thus gathered, though somewhat
miscellaneous and unarranged, were both rich and uncommon, and
more than any one or she herself knew. Perhaps such a mind
thus left to itself knew a more free and luxuriant growth than
could ever have flourished within the confinement of rules —
perhaps a plant at once so strong and so delicate was safest
without the hand of the dresser — at all events it was
permitted to spring and to put forth all its native
gracefulness alike unhindered and unknown. Cherished as little
Fleda dearly was, her mind kept company with no one but
herself — and Hugh. As to externals; music was uncommonly
loved by both the children, and by both cultivated with great
success. So much came under Mrs. Rossitur's knowledge; also
every foreign Signor and Madame that came into the house to
teach them spoke with enthusiasm of the apt minds and flexible
tongues that honoured their instructions. In private and in
public, the gentle, docile, and affectionate children answered
every wish, both of taste and judgment. And perhaps, in a
world where education is not understood, their guardians might
be pardoned for taking it for granted that all was right where
nothing appeared that was wrong — certainly they took no pains
to make sure of the fact. In this case, one of a thousand,
their neglect was not punished with disappointment. They never
found out that Hugh's mind wanted the strengthening that early
skilful training might have given it. His intellectual tastes
were not so strong as Fleda's — his reading was more
superficial — his gleanings not so sound, and in far fewer
fields, and they went rather to nourish sentiment and fancy
than to stimulate thought, or lay up food for it. But his
parents saw nothing of this.

The third winter had not passed, when Fleda's discernment saw
that Mr. Sweden, as she called him, the German gentleman,
would not cease coming to the house till he had carried off
Marion with him. Her opinion on the subject was delivered to
no one but Hugh.

That winter introduced them to a better acquaintance. One
evening Dr. Gregory, an uncle of Mrs. Rossitur's, had been
dining with her, and was in the drawing-room. Mr. Schwiden had
been there too, and he and Marion, and one or two other young
people, had gone out to some popular entertainment. The
children knew little of Dr. Gregory, but that he was a very
respectable-looking elderly gentleman, a little rough in his
manners. The doctor had not long been returned from a stay of
some years in Europe, where he had been collecting rare books
for a fine public library, the charge of which was now
entrusted to him. After talking some time with Mr. and Mrs.
Rossitur, the doctor pushed round his chair to take a look at
the children.

"So that's Amy's child," said he. "Come here, Amy."

"That is not my name," said the little girl, coming forward.

"Isn't it? It ought to be. What is, then?"

"Elfleda."

"Elfleda! where in the name of all that is auricular did you
get such an outlandish name?"

"My father gave it to me, Sir," said Fleda, with a dignified
sobriety which amused the old gentleman.

"Your father! — hum — I understand. And couldn't your father
find a cap that fitted you without going back to the old-
fashioned days of King Alfred?"

"Yes, Sir; it was my grandmother's cap."

"I am afraid your grandmother's cap isn't all of her that's
come down to you," said he, tapping his snuff-box, and looking
at her with a curious twinkle in his eyes. "What do you call
yourself? Haven't you some variations of this tongue-twisting
appellative to serve for every day, and save trouble?"

"They call me Fleda," said the little girl, who could not help
laughing.

"Nothing better than that?"

Fleda remembered two prettier nicknames which had been her's;
but one had been given by dear lips long ago, and she was not
going to have it profaned by common use; and "Elfie" belonged
to Mr. Carleton. She would own to nothing but Fleda.

"Well, Miss Fleda," said the doctor, "are you going to
school?"

"No, Sir."

"You intend to live without such a vulgar thing as learning?"

"No, Sir. Hugh and I have our lessons at home."

"Teaching each other, I suppose?"

"O no, Sir," said Fleda, laughing; "Mme. Lascelles and Mr.
Schweppenhesser, and Signor Barytone come to teach us, besides
our music masters."

"Do you ever talk German with this Mr. What's-his-name, who
has just gone out with your cousin Marion!"

"I never talk to him at all, Sir."

"Don't you? Why not? Don't you like him?"

Fleda said, "Not particularly," and seemed to wish to let the
subject pass, but the doctor was amused, and pressed it.

"Why, why don't you like him?" said he; "I am sure he's a
fine-looking dashing gentleman; — dresses as well as anybody,
and talks as much as most people — why don't you like him?
Isn't he a handsome fellow — eh?"

"I dare say he is, to many people," said Fleda.

"She said she didn't think there was any moral expression in
his face," said Hugh, by way of settling the matter.

"Moral expression!" cried the doctor, "moral expression! and
what if there isn't, you Elf! — what if there isn't?"

"I shouldn't care what other kind of expression it had," said
Fleda, colouring a little.

Mr. Rossitur "pished" rather impatiently. The doctor glanced
at his niece, and changed the subject.

"Well, who teaches you English, Miss Fleda? you haven't told
me that yet."

"Oh, that we teach ourselves," said Fleda, smiling, as if it
was a very innocent question.

"Hum! — you do! Pray how do you teach yourselves?"

"By reading, Sir."

"Reading! And what do you read? what have you read in the last
twelve months, now?"

"I don't think I could remember all exactly," said Fleda.

"But you have got a list of them all," said Hugh, who chanced
to have been looking over said list a day or two before, and
felt quite proud of it.

"Let's have it, let's have it," said the doctor. And Mrs.
Rossitur, laughing, said, "Let's have it;" and even her
husband commanded Hugh to go and fetch it; so poor Fleda,
though not a little unwilling, was obliged to let the list be
forthcoming. Hugh brought it, in a neat little book covered
with pink blotting paper.

"Now for it!" said the doctor; "let us see what this English
amounts to. Can you stand fire, Elfleda?"

" 'Jan. 1. Robinson Crusoe.' * [* A true list made by a child
of that age.]

"Hum — that sounds reasonable, at all events."

"I had it for a New Year's present," remarked Fleda, who stood
by with downcast eyes, like a person undergoing an
examination.

" 'Jan. 2. Histoire de France.'

"What History of France is this?"

Fleda hesitated, and then said it was by Lacretelle.

"Lacretelle? — what? of the Revolution?"

"No, Sir; it is before that; it is in five or six large
volumes."

"What, Louis XV.'s time," said the doctor, muttering to
himself.

" 'Jan. 27. 2 ditto, ditto.'

" 'Two' means the second volume, I suppose?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Hum — if you were a mouse, you would gnaw through the wall in
time, at that rate. This is in the original?"

"Yes Sir."

" 'Feb. 3. Paris. L. E. K.'

"What do these hieroglyphics mean?"

"That stands for the 'Library of Entertaining Knowledge,' "
said Fleda.

"But how is this? do you go hop, skip, and jump through these
books, or read a little, and then throw them away'? Here it is
only seven days since you began the second volume of
Lacretelle — not time enough to get through it."

"Oh no, Sir," said Fleda, smiling: "I like to have several
books that I am reading in at once; I mean at the same time,
you know; and then if I am not in the mood of one I take up
another."

"She reads them all through," said Hugh, "always, though she
reads them very quick."

"Hum — I understand," said the old doctor, with a humorous
expression, going on with the list.

" 'March 3. 3 Hist. de France.'

"But you finish one of these volumes, I suppose, before you
begin another; or do you dip into different parts of the same
work at once?"

"Oh no, Sir; of course not!"

" 'Mar. 5. Modern Egyptians. L. E. K. Ap. 13.'

"What are these dates on the right, as well as on the left?"

"Those on the right show when I finished the volume."

"Well, I wonder what you were cut out for!" said the doctor.
"A Quaker! you aren't a Quaker, are you?"

"No, Sir," said Fleda, laughing.

"You look like it," said he.

" 'Feb. 24. Five Penny Magazines, finished Mar. 4.'

"They are in paper numbers, you know, Sir."

" 'April 4. 4 Hist. de. F.'

"Let us see — the third volume was finished, March 29 — I
declare you keep it up pretty well."

" 'Ap. 19. Incidents of Travel.'

"Whose is that?"

"It is by Mr. Stephens."

"How did you like it?"

"Oh, very much, indeed."

"Ay, I see you did; you finished it by the first of May. 'Tour
to the Hebrides' — what, Johnson's?"

"Yes Sir."

"Read it all fairly through?"

"Yes, Sir; certainly."

He smiled, and went on.

" 'May 12. Peter Simple.'"

There was quite a shout at the heterogeneous character of
Fleda's reading, which she, not knowing exactly what to make
of it, heard rather abashed.

" 'Peter Simple!' " said the doctor, settling himself to go on
with his list; "well, let us see. 'World without Souls.' Why,
you Elf! read in two days."

"It is very short, you know, Sir."

"What did you think of it?"

"I liked parts of it very much."

He went on, still smiling.

" 'June 15. Goldsmith's Animated Nature.'

" 'June I8. 1 Life of Washington.'

"What Life of Washington?"

"Marshall's."

"Hum. — 'July 9. 2 Goldsmith's An. Na.' As I live, begun the
very day the first volume was finished! Did you read the whole
of that?"

"Oh yes, Sir. I liked that book very much."

" 'July 12. 5 Hist. de France.'

"Two histories on hand at once! Out of all rule, Miss Fleda!
We must look after you."

"Yes Sir; sometimes I wanted to read one, and sometimes I
wanted to read the other."

"And you always do what you want to do, I suppose?"

"I think the reading does me more good in that way."

" 'July 15. Paley's Natural Theology!' "

There was another shout. Poor Fleda's eyes filled with tears.

"What in the world put that book into your head, or before
your eyes?" said the doctor.

"I don't know, Sir — I thought I should like to read it," said
Fleda, drooping her eyelids, that the bright drops under them
might not be seen.

"And finished in eleven days, as I live!" said the doctor,
wagging his head. " 'July 19. 3 Goldsmith's A. N.'

" 'Aug. 6. 4 Do. Do.' "

"That is one of Fleda's favourite books," put in Hugh.

"So it seems. '6 Hist. de France.' — What does this little
cross mean?"

"That shows when the book is finished," said Fleda, looking on
the page — "the last volume, I mean."

" 'Retrospect of Western Travel' — 'Goldsmith's A. N., last
vol.' — 'Mémoires de Sully' — in the French ?"

"Yes, Sir."

" 'Life of Newton' — What's this? — 'Sep. 8. 1 Fairy Queen!' —
not Spenser's?"

"Yes, Sir, I believe so — the Fairy Queen, in five volumes."

The doctor looked up comically at his niece and her husband,
who were both sitting or standing close by.

" 'Sep. 10. Paolo e Virginia' — in what language?"

"Italian, Sir; I was just beginning, and I haven't finished it
yet."

" 'Sep. 16. Milner's Church History!' —What the deuce! — 'Vol.
2. Fairy Queen.' — Why, this must have been a favourite book,
too."

"That's one of the books Fleda loves best," said Hugh; — "she
went through that very fast."

"Over it, you mean, I reckon; how much did you skip, Fleda?"

"I didn't skip at all," said Fleda; "I read every word of it."

" ' Sep. 20. 2 Mém. de Sully.' Well, you're an industrious
mouse, I'll say that for you. What's this? — 'Don Quixote!' —
'Life of Howard.' — 'Nov. 17. 3 Fairy Queen.' — 'Nov. 29. 4
Fairy Queen.' — 'Dec. 8. 1 Goldsmith's England.' — Well, if
this list of books is a fair exhibit of your taste and
capacity, you have a most happily proportioned set of
intellectuals. Let us see — history, fun, facts, nature,
theology, poetry and divinity! — upon my soul! — and poetry
and history the leading features! — a little fun — as much as
you could lay your hand on, I'll warrant, by that pinch in the
corner of your eye. And here, the eleventh of December, you
finished the Fairy Queen; and ever since, I suppose, you have
been imagining yourself the 'faire Una,' with Hugh standing
for Prince Arthur or the Red-cross Knight — haven't you?"

"No, Sir. I didn't imagine anything about it."

"Don't tell me. What did you read it for?"

"Only because I liked it, Sir. I liked it better than any
other book I read last year."

"You did! Well, the year ends, I see, with another volume of
Sully. I wont enter upon this year's list. Pray, how much of
all these volumes do you suppose you remember? I'll try and
find out next time I come to see you. I can give a guess, if
you study with that little pug in your lap."

"He is not a pug!" said Fleda, in whose arms King was lying
luxuriously — "and he never gets into my lap, besides."

"Don't he! Why not?"

"Because I don't like it, Sir. I don't like to see dogs in
laps."

"But all the ladies in the land do it, you little Saxon! it is
universally considered a mark of distinction."

"I can't help what all the ladies in the land do," said Fleda.
"That wont alter my liking; and I don't think a lady's lap is
a place for a dog."

"I wish you were my daughter!' said the old doctor, shaking
his head at her with a comic fierce expression of countenance,
which Fleda perfectly understood and laughed at accordingly.
Then as the two children with the dog went off into the other
room, he said, turning to his niece and Mr. Rossitur —

"If that girl ever takes a wrong turn with the bit in her
teeth, you'll be puzzled to hold her. What stuff will you make
the reins of?"

"I don't think she ever will take a wrong turn," said Mr.
Rossitur.

"A look is enough to manage her, if she did," said his wife. "
Hugh is not more gentle."

"I should be inclined rather to fear her not having stability
of character enough," said Mr. Rossitur. "She is so very meek
and yielding, I almost doubt whether anything would give her
courage to take ground of her own, and keep it."

"Hum — well, well!" said the old doctor, walking off after the
children. "Prince Arthur, will you bring this damsel up to my
den some of these days? — the 'faire Una' is safe from the
wild beasts, you know; — and I'll show her books enough to
build herself a house with, if she likes."

The acceptance of this invitation led to some of the
pleasantest hours of Fleda's city life. The visits to the
great library became very frequent. Dr. Gregory and the
children were little while in growing fond of each other; he
loved to see them, and taught them to come at such times as
the library was free of visitors and his hands of engagements.
Then he delighted himself with giving them pleasure,
especially Fleda, whose quick curiosity and intelligence were
a constant amusement to him. He would establish the children
in some corner of the large apartments, out of the way behind
a screen of books and tables; and there, shut out from the
world, they would enjoy a kind of fairyland pleasure over some
volume or set of engravings that they could not see at home.
Hours and hours were spent so. Fleda would stand clasping her
hands before Audubon, or rapt over a finely illustrated book
of travels, or going through and through, with Hugh, the works
of the best masters of the pencil and the graver. The doctor
found he could trust them, and then all the treasures of the
library were at their disposal. Very often he put chosen
pieces of reading into their hands; and it was pleasantest of
all when he was not busy and came and sat down with them; for
with all his odd manner he was extremely kind, and could and
did put them in the way to profit greatly by their
opportunities. The doctor and the children had nice times
there together.

They lasted for many months, and grew more and more worth. Mr.
Schwiden carried off Marion, as Fleda had foreseen he would,
before the end of spring; and after she was gone, something
like the old pleasant Paris life was taken up again. They had
no more company now than was agreeable, and it was picked not
to suit Marion's taste, but her father's — a very different
matter. Fleda and Hugh were not forbidden the dinner-table,
and so had the good of hearing much useful conversation, from
which the former, according to custom, made her steady,
precious gleanings. The pleasant evenings in the family were
still better enjoyed than they used to be. Fleda was older;
and the snug, handsome American house had a home-feeling to
her that the wide Parisian saloons never knew. She had become
bound to her uncle and aunt by all but the ties of blood;
nobody in the house ever remembered that she was not born
their daughter; except, indeed, Fleda herself, who remembered
everything, and with whom the forming of any new affections or
relations somehow never blotted out or even faded the register
of the old. It lived in all its brightness; the writing of
past loves and friendships was as plain as ever in her heart;
and often, often the eye and the kiss of memory fell upon it.
In the secret of her heart's core; for still, as at the first,
no one had a suspicion of the movings of thought that were
beneath that childish brow. No one guessed how clear a
judgment weighed and decided upon many things. No one dreamed,
amid their busy, bustling, thoughtless life, how often, in the
street, in her bed, in company and alone, her mother's last
prayer was in Fleda's heart; well cherished; never forgotten.

Her education and Hugh's meanwhile went on after the old
fashion. If Mr. Rossitur had more time, he seemed to have no
more thought for the matter; and Mrs. Rossitur, fine-natured
as she was, had never been trained to self-exertion, and, of
course, was entirely out of the way of training others. Her
children were pieces of perfection, and needed no oversight;
her house was a piece of perfection too. If either had not
been, Mrs. Rossitur would have been utterly at a loss how to
mend matters, — except in the latter instance, by getting a
new housekeeper; and as Mrs. Renney, the good woman who held
that station, was in everybody's opinion another treasure,
Mrs. Rossitur's mind was uncrossed by the shadow of such a
dilemma. With Mrs. Renney, as with every one else, Fleda was
held in highest regard — always welcome to her premises, and
to those mysteries of her trade which were sacred from other
intrusion. Fleda's natural inquisitiveness carried her often
to the housekeeper's room, and made her there the same curious
and careful observer that she had been in the library or at
the Louvre.

"Come," said Hugh, one day when he had sought and found her in
Mrs. Renney's precincts — "come away, Fleda! What do you want
to stand here and see Mrs. Renney roll butter and sugar for?"

"My dear Mr. Rossitur," said Fleda, "you don't understand
quelquechoses. How do you know but I may have to get my living
by making them, some day?"

"By making what?" said Hugh.

"Quelquechoses — Anglice, kickshaws — alias, sweet trifles,
denominated merrings."

"Pshaw, Fleda!"

"Miss. Fleda is more likely to get her living by eating them,
Mr. Hugh, isn't she?" said the housekeeper.

"I hope to decline both lines of life," said Fleda,
laughingly, as she followed Hugh out of the room. But her
chance remark had grazed the truth sufficiently near.

Those years in New York were a happy time for little Fleda — a
time when mind and body flourished under the sun of
prosperity. Luxury did not spoil her; and any one that saw her
in the soft furs of her winter wrappings, would have said that
delicate cheek and frame were never made to know the
unkindliness of harsher things.



CHAPTER XVI


"Whereunto is money good?
Who has it not wants hardihood.
Who has it has much trouble and care,
Who once has had it has despair."
LONGFELLOW. _From the German_.


It was the middle of winter. One day Hugh and Fleda had come
home from their walk. They dashed into the parlour,
complaining that it was bitterly cold, and began unrobing
before the glowing grate, which was a mass of living fire from
end to end. Mrs. Rossitur was there in an easy chair, alone,
and doing nothing. That was not a thing absolutely unheard of,
but Fleda had not pulled off her second glove before she bent
down towards her, and in a changed tone tenderly asked if she
did not feel well.

Mrs. Rossitur looked up in her face a minute, and then drawing
her down, kissed the blooming cheeks, one and the other,
several times. But as she looked off to the fire again, Fleda
saw that it was through watering eyes. She dropped on her
knees by the side of the easy chair, that she might have a
better sight of that face, and tried to read it as she asked
again what was the matter; and Hugh, coming to the other side,
repeated her question. His mother passed an arm round each,
looking wistfully from one to the other, and kissing them
earnestly, but she said only, with a very heart-felt emphasis,
"Poor children!"

Fleda was now afraid to speak, but Hugh pressed his inquiry.

"Why 'poor', Mamma? what makes you say so?"

"Because you are poor really, dear Hugh. We have lost
everything we have in the world."

"Mamma! What do you mean?"

"Your father has failed."

"Failed! — But, Mamma, I thought he wasn't in business?"

"So I thought," said Mrs. Rossitur; "I didn't know people
could fail that were not in business; but it seems they can.
He was a partner in some concern or other, and it's all broken
to pieces, and your father with it, he says!"

Mrs. Rossitur's face was distressful. They were all silent for
a little, Hugh kissing his mother's wet cheeks. Fleda had
softly nestled her head in her bosom. But Mrs. Rossitur soon
recovered herself.

"How bad is it, mother?" said Hugh.

"As bad as can possibly be."

"Is everything gone?"

"Everything!" —

"You don't mean the house, Mamma?"

"The house, and all that is in it."

The children's hearts were struck, and they were silent again,
only a trembling touch of Fleda's lips spoke sympathy and
patience, if ever a kiss did.

"But, Mamma," said Hugh, after he had gathered breath for it,
"do you mean to say that everything, literally everything, is
gone? Is there nothing left?"

"Nothing in the world — not a sou."

"Then what are we going to do?"

Mrs. Rossitur shook her head, and had no words.

Fleda looked across to Hugh to ask no more, and putting her
arms around her aunt's neck, and laying cheek to cheek, she
spoke what comfort she could.

"Don't, dear aunt Lucy! — there will be some way — things
always turn out better than at first, I dare say we shall find
out it isn't so bad by and by. Don't you mind it, and then we
wont. We can be happy anywhere together."

If there was not much in the reasoning, there was something in
the tone of the words, to bid Mrs. Rossitur bear herself well.
Its tremulous sweetness, its anxious love, was without a taint
of self-recollection; its sorrow was for her. Mrs. Rossitur
felt that she must not show herself overcome. She again kissed
and blessed, and pressed closer in her arms, her little
comforter, while her other hand was given to Hugh.

"I have only heard about it this morning. Your uncle was here
telling me just now — a little while before you came in. Don't
say anything about it before him."

Why not? The words struck Fleda disagreeably.

"What will be done with the house, Mamma?" said Hugh.

"Sold — sold, and everything in it."

"Papa's books, Mamma! and all the things in the library!"
exclaimed Hugh, looking terrified.

Mrs. Rossitur's face gave the answer; do it in words she could
not.

The children were a long time silent, trying hard to swallow
this bitter pill; and still Hugh's hand was in his mother's,
and Fleda's head lay on her bosom. Thought was busy, going up
and down, and breaking the companionship they had so long held
with the pleasant drawing-room, and the tasteful arrangements
among which Fleda was so much at home; the easy chairs in
whose comfortable arms she had had so many an hour of nice
reading; the soft rug, where, in the very wantonness of
frolic, she had stretched herself to play with King; that very
luxurious bright grateful of fire, which had given her so
often the same warm welcome home — an apt introduction to the
other stores of comfort which awaited her above and below
stairs; the rich-coloured curtains and carpet, the beauty of
which had been such a constant gratification to Fleda's eye;
and the exquisite French table and lamps they had brought out
with them, in which her uncle and aunt had so much pride, and
which could nowhere be matched for elegance — they must all be
said "good-bye" to; and as yet fancy had nothing to furnish
the future with; it looked very bare.

King had come in, and wagged himself up close to his mistress,
but even he could obtain nothing but the touch of most
abstracted finger-ends. Yet, though keenly recognised, these
thoughts were only passing compared with the anxious and
sorrowful ones that went to her aunt and uncle; for Hugh and
her, she judged, it was less matter. And Mrs. Rossitur's care
was most for her husband; and Hugh's was for them all. His
associations were less quick, and his tastes less keen, than
Fleda's, and less a part of himself. Hugh lived in his
affections; with a salvo to them he could bear to lose
anything and go anywhere.

"Mamma," said he, after a long time — "will anything be done
with Fleda's books?"

A question that had been in Fleda's mind before, but which she
had patiently forborne just then to ask.

"No, indeed!" said Mrs. Rossitur, pressing Fleda more closely,
and kissing in a kind of rapture the sweet, thoughtful face —
"not yours, my darling; they can't touch anything that belongs
to you — I wish it was more — and I don't suppose they will
take anything of mine either."

"Ah, well!" said Fleda, raising her head, "you have got quite
a parcel of books, aunt Lucy, and I have a good many — how
well it is I have had so many given me since I have been here!
That will make quite a nice little library, both together, and
Hugh has some; I thought perhaps we shouldn't have one at all
left, and that would have been rather bad."

"Rather bad!" Mrs. Rossitur looked at her, and was dumb.

"Only don't you wear a sad face for anything!" Fleda went on
earnestly; "we shall be perfectly happy if you and uncle Rolf
only will be."

"My dear children!" said Mrs. Rossitur, wiping her eyes, "it
is for you I am unhappy — you and your uncle; I do not think
of myself."

"And we do not think of ourselves, Mamma," said Hugh.

"I know it; but having good children don't make one care less
about them," said Mrs. Rossitur, the tears fairly raining over
her fingers.

Hugh pulled the fingers down and again tried the efficacy of
his lips.

"And you know Papa thinks most of you, Mamma."

"Ah, your father!" said Mrs. Rossitur shaking her head; "I am
afraid it will go hard with him! But I will be happy as long
as I have you two, or else I should be a very wicked woman. It
only grieves me to think of your education and prospects" —

"Fleda's piano, Mamma!" said Hugh, with sudden dismay.

Mrs. Rossitur shook her head again and covered her eyes, while
Fleda stretching across to Hugh, gave him, by look and touch,
an earnest admonition to let that subject alone. And then,
with a sweetness and gentleness like nothing but the breath of
the south wind, she wooed her aunt to hope and resignation.
Hugh held back, feeling or thinking that Fleda could do it
better than he, and watching her progress, as Mrs. Rossitur
took her hand from her face and smiled, at first mournfully,
and then really mirthfully, in Fleda's face, at some sally
that nobody but a nice observer would have seen was got up for
the occasion; and it was hardly that, so completely had the
child forgotten her own sorrow in ministering to that of
another. "Blessed are the peacemakers!" It is always so.

"You are a witch or a fairy," said Mrs. Rossitur, catching her
again in her arms — "nothing else! You must try your powers of
charming upon your uncle."

Fleda laughed without any effort; but as to trying her slight
wand upon Mr. Rossitur, she had serious doubts. And the doubts
became certainty when they met at dinner; he looked so grave
that she dared not attack him. It was a gloomy meal, for the
face that should have lighted the whole table cast a shadow
there.

Without at all comprehending the whole of her husband's
character, the sure magnetism of affection had enabled Mrs.
Rossitur to divine his thoughts. Pride was his ruling passion;
not such pride as Mr. Carleton's, which was rather like
exaggerated self-respect, but wider and more indiscriminate in
its choice of objects. It was pride in his family name; pride
in his own talents, which were considerable; pride in his
family, wife, and children, and all of which he thought did
him honour — if they had not, his love for them assuredly
would have known some diminishing; pride in his wealth, and in
the attractions with which it surrounded him; and, lastly,
pride in the skill, taste, and connoisseurship which enabled
him to bring those attractions together. Furthermore, his love
for both literature and art was true and strong; and for many
years he had accustomed himself to lead a life of great
luxuriousness, catering for body and mind in every taste that
could be elegantly enjoyed; and again proud of the elegance of
every enjoyment. The change of circumstances which touched his
pride, wounded him at every point where he was vulnerable at
all.

Fleda had never felt so afraid of him. She was glad to see Dr.
Gregory come in to tea. Mr. Rossitur was not there. The Doctor
did not touch upon affairs, if he had heard of their
misfortune; he went on as usual in a rambling cheerful way all
tea-time, talking mostly to Fleda and Hugh. But after tea he
talked no more, but sat still and waited till the master of
the house came in.

Fleda thought Mr. Rossitur did not look glad to see him. But
how could he look glad about anything? He did not sit down,
and for a few minutes there was a kind of meaning silence.
Fleda sat in the corner with the heartache, to see her uncle's
gloomy tramp up and down the rich apartment, and her aunt
Lucy's gaze at him.

"Humph! — well! — So!" said the Doctor, at last, "You've all
gone overboard with a smash, I understand?"

The walker gave him no regard.

"True, is it?" said the doctor.

Mr. Rossitur made no answer, unless a smothered grunt might be
taken for one.

"How came it about?"

"Folly and devilry."

"Humph! — bad capital to work upon. I hope the principal is
gone with the interest. What's the amount of your loss?"

"Ruin."

"Humph! French ruin, or American ruin? because there's a
difference. What do you mean?"

"I am not so happy as to understand you, Sir; but we shall not
pay seventy cents, on the dollar."

The old gentleman got up, and stood before the fire, with his
back to Mr. Rossitur, saying, "That was rather bad."

"What are you going to do?"

Mr. Rossitur hesitated a few moments for an answer, and then
said —

"Pay the seventy cents, and begin the world anew with
nothing."

"Of course," said the doctor. "I understand that; but where
and how? What end of the world will you take up first?."

Mr. Rossitur writhed in impatience or disgust, and after again
hesitating, answered drily, that he had not determined.

"Have you thought of anything in particular?"

"Zounds! no, Sir, nothing except my misfortune. That's enough
for one day."

"And too much," said the old doctor, "unless you can mix some
other thought with it. That's what I came for. Will you go
into business?"

Fleda was startled by the vehemence with which her uncle said,
"No, never!" and he presently added, "I'll do nothing here."

"Well, well," said the doctor to himself; "will you go into
the country?"

"Yes! — anywhere! the further the better."

Mrs. Rossitur startled, but her husband's face did not
encourage her to open her lips.

"Ay; but on a farm, I mean?"

"On anything, that will give me a standing."

"I thought that, too," said Dr. Gregory, now whirling about.
"I have a fine piece of land that wants a tenant. You may take
it at an easy rate, and pay me when the crops come in. I
shouldn't expect so young a farmer, you know, to keep any
closer terms."

"How far is it?"

"Far enough — up in Wyandot County."

"How large?"

"A matter of two or three hundred acres of so. It is very
fine, they say. It came into a fellow's hands that owed me
what I thought was a bad debt: so, for fear he would never pay
me, I thought best to take it and pay him; whether the place
will ever fill my pockets again remains to be seen — doubtful,
I think."

"I'll take it, Dr. Gregory, and see if I cannot bring that
about."

"Pooh, pooh! fill your own. I am not careful about it; the
less money one has the more it jingles, unless it gets too
low, indeed."

"I will take it, Dr. Gregory, and feel myself under obligation
to you."

"No, I told you, not till the crops come in. No obligation is
binding till the term is up. Well, I'll see you further about
it."

"But Rolf!" said Mrs. Rossitur, "stop a minute; uncle, don't
go yet; Rolf don't know anything in the world about the
management of a farm; neither do I."

"The 'faire Una' can enlighten you," said the doctor, waving
his hand towards his little favourite in the corner. — "But I
forgot! Well, if you don't know, the crops wont come in;
that's all the difference."

But Mrs. Rossitur looked anxiously at her husband. "Do you
know exactly what you are undertaking, Rolf!" she said.

"If I do not, I presume I shall discover in time."

"But it may be too late," said Mrs. Rossitur, in the tone of
sad remonstrance that had gone all the length it dared.

"It can not be too late!" said her husband, impatiently. "If I
do not know what I am taking up, I know very well what I am
laying down; and it does not signify a straw what comes after
— if it was a snail-shell, that would cover my head!"

"Hum —" said the old doctor, — "the snail is very well in his
way, but I have no idea that he was ever cut out for a
farmer."

"Do you think you will find it a business you would like, Mr.
Rossitur?" said his wife, timidly.

"I tell you," said he, facing about, "it is not a question of
liking. I will like anything that will bury me out of the
world."

Poor Mrs. Rossitur! She had not yet come to wishing herself
buried alive, and she had small faith in the permanence of her
husband's taste for it. She looked desponding.

"You don't suppose," said Mr. Rossitur, stopping again in the
middle of the floor, after another turn and a half — "you do
not suppose that I am going to take the labouring of the farm
upon myself? I shall employ some one, of course, who
understands the matter, to take all that off my hands."

The doctor thought of the old proverb, and the alternative the
plough presents to those who would thrive by it; Fleda thought
of Mr. Didenhover; Mrs. Rossitur would fain have suggested
that such an important person must be well paid; but neither
of them spoke.

"Of course," said Mr. Rossitur, haughtily, as he went on with
his walk, "I do not expect, any more than you, to live in the
back woods the life we have been leading here. That is at an
end."

"Is it a very wild country?" asked Mrs. Rossitur of the
doctor.

"No wild beasts, my dear, if that is your meaning — and I do
not suppose there are even many snakes left by this time."

"No, but, dear uncle, I mean, is it in all unsettled state?"

"No, my dear, not at all — perfectly quiet."

"Ah! but do not play with me," exclaimed poor Mrs. Rossitur,
between laughing and crying; — "I mean, is it far from any
town, and not among neighbours?"

"Far enough to be out of the way of morning calls," said the
doctor; "and when your neighbours come to see you, they will
expect tea by four o'clock. There are not a great many near
by, but they don't mind coming from five or six miles off."

Mrs. Rossitur looked chilled, and horrified. To her he had
described a very wild country indeed. Fleda would have laughed
if it had not been for her aunt's face; but that settled down
into a doubtful anxious look that pained her. It pained the
old doctor too.

"Come," said he, touching her pretty chin with his fore-finger
— "what are you thinking of? folks may be good folks, and yet
have tea at four o'clock, mayn't they?"

"When do they have dinner!" said Mrs. Rossitur.

"I really don't know. When you get settled up there, I'll come
and see."

"Hardly," said Mrs. Rossitur. "I don't believe it would be
possible for Emile to get dinner before the tea-time; and I am
sure I shouldn't like to propose such a thing to Mrs. Renney."

The doctor fidgeted about a little on the hearth-rug, and
looked comical, perfectly understood by one acute observer in
the corner.

"Are you wise enough to imagine, Lucy," said Mr. Rossitur,
sternly, "that you can carry your whole establishment with
you? What do you suppose Emile and Mrs. Renney would do in a
farmhouse?"

"I can do without whatever you can," said Mrs. Rossitur,
meekly. "I did not know that you would be willing to part with
Emile, and I do not think Mrs. Renney would like to leave us."

"I told you before, it is no more a question of liking,"
answered he.

"And if it were," said the doctor, "I have no idea that
Monsieur Emile and Madame Renney would be satisfied with the
style of a country kitchen, or think the interior of
Yankeeland a hopeful sphere for their energies."

"What sort of a house is it?" said Mrs. Rossitur.

"A wooden-frame house, I believe."

"No, but, dear uncle, do tell me."

"What sort of a house? — Humph — large enough, I am told. It
will accommodate you in one way."

"Comfortable?"

"I don't know," said the doctor, shaking his head — "depends
on who's in it. No house is that per se. But I reckon there
isn't much plate glass. I suppose you'll find the doors all
painted blue, and every fireplace with a crane in it."

"A crane!" said Mrs. Rossitur, to whose imagination the word
suggested nothing but a large water-bird with a long neck.

"Ay!" said the doctor. "But it's just as well. You wont want
hanging lamps there — and candelabra would hardly be in place
either, to hold tallow candles."

"Tallow candles!" exclaimed Mrs. Rossitur. Her husband winced,
but said nothing.

"Ay," said the doctor, again — "and make them yourself, if you
are a good housewife. Come, Lucy," said he, taking her hand,
"do you know how the wild fowl do on the Chesapeake? — duck
and swim under water till they can show their heads with
safety. 'T wont spoil your eyes to see by a tallow candle."

Mrs. Rossitur half smiled, but looked anxiously towards her
husband.

"Pooh, pooh! Rolf wont care what the light burns that lights
him to independence — and when you get there, you may
illuminate with a whole whale if you like. By the way, Rolf,
there is a fine water power up yonder, and a saw-mill in good
order, they tell me, but a short way from the house. Hugh
might learn to manage it, and it would be fine employment for
him."

"Hugh!" said his mother, disconsolately. Mr. Rossitur neither
spoke nor looked an answer. Fleda sprang forward.

"A saw-mill! — Uncle Orrin! — where is it?"

"Just a little way from the house, they say. You can't manage
it, fair Saxon! — though you look as if you would undertake
all the mills in creation, for a trifle."

"No, but the place, uncle Orrin; — where is the place?"

"The place? Hum — why it's up in Wyandot County — some five or
six miles from the Montepoole Spring — what's this they call
it? — Queechy! — By the way!" said he, reading Fleda's
countenance, "it is the very place where your father was born!
— it is! I didn't think of that before."

Fleda's hands were clasped.

"Oh, I am very glad!" she said. "It's my old home. It is the
most lovely place, aunt Lucy! — most lovely — and we shall
have some good neighbours there too. Oh, I am very glad! — The
dear old saw-mill! —"

"Dear old saw-mill!" said the doctor, looking at her. "Rolf,
I'll tell you what, you shall give me this girl. I want her. I
can take better care of her, perhaps, now, than you can. Let
her come to me when you leave the city — it will be better for
her than to help work the saw-mill; and I have as good a right
to her as anybody, for Amy before her was like my own child."

The doctor spoke not with his usual light jesting manner, but
very seriously. Hugh's lips parted — Mrs. Rossitur looked with
a sad thoughtful look at Fleda — Mr. Rossitur walked up and
down looking at nobody. Fleda watched him.

"What does Fleda herself say?" said he, stopping short
suddenly. His face softened, and his eye changed as it fell
upon her, for the first time that day. Fleda saw her opening;
she came to him, within his arms, and laid her head upon his
breast.

"What does Fleda say?" said he, softly kissing her.

Fleda's tears said a good deal, that needed no interpreter.
She felt her uncle's hand passed more and more tenderly over
her head — so tenderly that it made it all the more difficult
for her to govern herself and stop her tears. But she did stop
them, and looked up at him then with such a face — so glowing
through smiles and tears — it was like a very rainbow of hope
upon the cloud of their prospects. Mr. Rossitur felt the power
of the sunbeam wand; it reached his heart; it was even with a
smile that he said, as he looked at her —

"Will you go to your uncle Orrin, Fleda?"

"Not if uncle Rolf will keep me."

"Keep you!" said Mr. Rossitur; "I should like to see who
wouldn't keep you! There, Dr. Gregory, you have your answer."

"Hum! — I might have known," said the doctor, "that the 'faire
Una' would abjure cities. Come here, you Elf!" — and he
wrapped her in his arms so tight she could not stir — "I have
a spite against you for this. What amends will you make me for
such an affront?"

"Let me take breath," said Fleda, laughing, "and I'll tell
you. You don't want any amends, uncle Orrin."

"Well," said he, gazing with more feeling than he cared to
show into that sweet face, so innocent of apology-making — you
shall promise me that you will not forget uncle Orrin, and the
old house in Bleecker Street."

Fleda's eyes grew more wistful.

"And will you promise me that if ever you want anything, you
will come, or send straight there?"

"If ever I want anything I can't get nor do without," said
Fleda.

"Pshaw!" said the doctor, letting her go, but laughing at the
same time. " Mind my words, Mr. and Mrs. Rossitur — if ever
that girl takes the wrong bit in her mouth — Well, well! I'll
go home."

Home he went. The rest drew together particularly near, round
the fire — Hugh at his father's shoulder, and Fleda kneeling
on the rug, between her uncle and aunt, with a hand on each;
and there was not one of them whose gloom was not lightened by
her bright face and cheerful words of hope, that, in the new
scenes they were going to, "they would all be so happy."

The days that followed were gloomy, but Fleda's ministry was
unceasing. Hugh seconded her well, though more passively.
Feeling less pain himself, he perhaps for that very reason was
less acutely alive to it in others — not so quick to foresee
and ward off, not so skilful to allay it. Fleda seemed to have
intuition for the one and a charm for the other. To her there
was pain in every parting; her sympathies clung to whatever
wore the livery of habit. There was hardly any piece of
furniture, there was no book or marble or picture, that she
could take leave of without a pang. But it was kept to
herself; her sorrowful good-byes were said in secret; before
others, in all those weeks, she was a very Euphrosyne — light,
bright, cheerful of eye, and foot, and hand — a shield between
her aunt and every annoyance that she could take instead — a
good little fairy, that sent her sunbeam wand, quick as a
flash, where any eye rested gloomily. People did not always
find out where the light came from, but it was her witchery.

The creditors would touch none of Mrs. Rossitur's things, her
husband's honourable behaviour had been so thorough. They even
presented him with one or two pictures, which he sold for a
considerable sum; and to Mrs. Rossitur they gave up all the
plate in daily use, a matter of great rejoicing to Fleda, who
knew well how sorely it would have been missed. She and her
aunt had quite a little library, too, of their own private
store; a little one it was indeed, but the worth of every
volume was now trebled in her eyes. Their furniture was all
left behind; and in its stead went some of neat light painted
wood, which looked to Fleda deliciously countrified. A
promising cook and housemaid were engaged to go with them to
the wilds, and about the first of April they turned their
backs upon the city.



CHAPTER XVII.


"The thresher's weary flinging-tree
The lee-lang day had tired me:
And whan the day had closed his e'e,
Far i' the west,
Ben i' the spence, right pensivelie,
I gaed to rest."
BURNS.


Queechy was reached at night. Fleda had promised herself to be
off almost with the dawn of light the next morning to see aunt
Miriam, but a heavy rain kept her fast at home the whole day.
It was very well; she was wanted there.

Despite the rain and her disappointment it was impossible for
Fleda to lie abed from the time the first grey light began to
break in at her windows — those old windows that had rattled
their welcome to her all night. She was up and dressed, and
had had a long consultation with herself over matters and
prospects before anybody else had thought of leaving the
indubitable comfort of a feather bed for the doubtful
contingency of happiness that awaited them down stairs. Fleda
took in the whole length and breadth of it, half wittingly and
half through some finer sense than that of the understanding.

The first view of things could not strike them pleasantly; it
was not to be looked for. The doors did not happen to be
painted blue; they were a deep chocolate colour — doors and
wainscot. The fire-places were not all furnished with cranes,
but they were all uncouthly wide and deep. Nobody would have
thought them so indeed in the winter, when piled up with
blazing hickory logs; but in summer they yawned uncomfortably
upon the eye. The ceilings were low; the walls rough papered
or rougher whitewashed; the sashes not hung; the rooms,
otherwise well enough proportioned, stuck with little
cupboards, in recesses and corners, and out-of-the-way places,
in a style impertinently suggestive of housekeeping, and
fitted to shock any symmetrical set of nerves. The old house
had undergone a thorough putting in order, it is true; the
chocolate paint was just dry, and the paper-hangings freshly
put up; and the bulk of the new furniture had been sent on
before and unpacked, though not a single article of it was in
its right place. The house was clean and tight — that is, as
tight as it ever was. But the colour had been unfortunately
chosen — perhaps there was no help for that; the paper was
very coarse and countrified; the big windows were startling,
they looked so bare, without any manner of drapery; and the
long reaches of wall were unbroken by mirror or picture-frame.
And this to eyes trained to eschew ungracefulness and that
abhorred a vacuum as much as nature is said to do! Even Fleda
felt there was something disagreeable in the change, though it
reached her more through the channel of other people's
sensitiveness than her own. To her it was the dear old house
still, though her eyes had seen better things since they loved
it. No corner or recess could have a pleasanter filling, to
her fancy, than the old brown cupboard or shelves which had
always been there. But what would her uncle say to them! and
to that dismal paper! and what would aunt Lucy think of those
rattling window sashes! this cool raw day, too, for the first!
—

Think as she might, Fleda did not stand still to think. She
had gone softly all over the house, taking a strange look at
the old places and the images with which memory filled them,
thinking of the last time, and many a time before that — and
she had at last come back to the sitting-room, long before
anybody else was down stairs; the two tired servants were just
rubbing their eyes open in the kitchen, and speculating
themselves awake. Leaving them, at their peril, to get ready a
decent breakfast (by the way she grudged them the old
kitchen), Fleda set about trying what her wand could do
towards brightening the face of affairs in the other part of
the house. It was quite cold enough for a fire, luckily. She
ordered one to be made, and meanwhile busied herself with the
various stray packages and articles of wearing apparel that
lay scattered about, giving the whole place a look of
discomfort. Fleda gathered them up, and bestowed them in one
or two of the impertinent cupboards, and then undertook the
labour of carrying out all the wrong furniture that had got
into the breakfast-room, and bringing in that which really
belonged there from the hall and the parlour beyond, moving
like a mouse that she might not disturb the people up stairs.
A quarter of an hour was spent in arranging to the best
advantage these various pieces of furniture in the room; it
was the very same in which Mr. Carleton and Charlton Rossitur
had been received the memorable day of the roast-pig dinner,
but that was not the uppermost association in Fleda's mind.
Satisfied at last that a happier effect could not be produced
with the given materials, and well pleased too, with her
success, Fleda turned to the fire. It was made, but not by any
means doing its part to encourage the other portions of the
room to look their best. Fleda knew something of wood fires
from old times; she laid hold of the tongs, and touched and
loosened and coaxed a stick here and there, with a delicate
hand, till, seeing the very opening it had wanted — without
which neither fire nor hope can keep its activity — the blaze
sprang up energetically, crackling through all the piled oak
and hickory, and driving the smoke clean out of sight. Fleda
had done her work. It would have been a misanthropical person
indeed that could have come into the room then, and not felt
his face brighten. One other thing remained — setting the
breakfast-table; and Fleda would let no hands but hers do it
this morning; she was curious about the setting of tables. How
she remembered or divined where everything had been stowed;
how quietly and efficiently her little fingers unfastened
hampers and pried into baskets, without making any noise; till
all the breakfast paraphernalia of silver, china, and table-
linen was found, gathered from various receptacles, and laid
in most exquisite order on the table. State Street never saw
better. Fleda stood and looked at it then, in immense
satisfaction, seeing that her uncle's eye would miss nothing
of its accustomed gratification. To her the old room, shining
with firelight and new furniture, was perfectly charming. If
those great windows were staringly bright, health and
cheerfulness seemed to look in at them. And what other images
of association, with "nods and becks and wreathed smiles,"
looked at her out of the curling flames in the old wide fire-
place! And one other angel stood there unseen — the one whose
errand it is to see fulfilled the promise, "Give, and it shall
be given to you; full measure, and pressed down, and heaped
up, and running over."

A little while Fleda sat contentedly eyeing her work; then a
new idea struck her and she sprang up. In the next meadow,
only one fence between, a little spring of purest water ran
through from the woodland; water-cresses used to grow there.
Uncle Rolf was very fond of them. It was pouring with rain;
but no matter. Her heart beating between haste and delight,
Fleda slipped her feet into galoches, and put an old cloak of
Hugh's over her head, and ran out through the kitchen, the old
accustomed way. The servants exclaimed and entreated, but
Fleda only flashed a bright look at them from under her cloak
as she opened the door, and ran off, over the wet grass, under
the fence, and over half the meadow, till she came to the
stream. She was getting a delicious taste of old times; and
though the spring water was very cold, and with it and the
rain one-half of each sleeve was soon thoroughly wetted, she
gathered her cresses, and scampered back with a pair of eyes
and cheeks that might have struck any city belle chill with
envy.

"Then, but that's a sweet girl!" said Mary the cook to Jane
the housemaid.

"A lovely countenance she has," answered Jane, who was refined
in her speech.

"Take her away, and you've taken the best of the house, I'm a
thinking."

"Mrs. Rossitur is a lady," said Jane, in a low voice.

"Ay, and a very proper behaved one she is, and him the same,
that is, for a gentleman I mean; but Jane; I say, I'm thinking
he'll have eat too much sour bread lately! I wish I knowed how
they'd have their eggs boiled till I'd have them ready."

"Sure it's on the table itself they'll do 'em," said Jane.
"They've an elegant little fixture in there for the purpose."

"Is that it!"

Nobody found out how busy Fleda's wand had been in the old
breakfast-room. But she was not disappointed; she had not
worked for praise. Her cresses were appreciated; that was
enough. She enjoyed her breakfast — the only one of the party
that did. Mr. Rossitur looked moody; his wife looked anxious;
and Hugh's face was the reflection of theirs. If Fleda's face
reflected anything, it was the sunlight of heaven.

"How sweet the air is after New York!" said she.

They looked at her. There was a fresh sweetness of another
kind about that breakfast-table. They all felt it, and
breathed more freely.

"Delicious cresses!' said Mrs. Rossitur.

"Yes; I wonder where they came from," said her husband. "Who
got them?"

"I guess Fleda knows," said Hugh.

"They grow in a little stream of spring water over here in the
meadow," said Fleda, demurely.

"Yes, but you don't answer my question," said her uncle,
putting his hand under her chin, and smiling at the blushing
face he brought round to view. "Who got them?"

"I did."

"You have been out in the rain?"

"Oh, Queechy rain don't hurt me, uncle Rolf."

"And don't it wet you either?"

"Yes, Sir — a little."

"How much?"

"My sleeves — oh, I dried them long ago."

"Don't you repeat that experiment, Fleda," said he, seriously,
but with a look that was a good reward to her, nevertheless.

"It is a raw day!" said Mrs. Rossitur, drawing her shoulders
together, as an ill-disposed window-sash gave one of its
admonitory shakes.

"What little panes of glass for such big windows!" said Hugh.

"But what a pleasant prospect through them," said Fleda —
"look, Hugh! — worth all the Batteries and Parks in the
world."

"In the world! in New York, you mean," said her uncle. "Not
better than the Champs Elysées?"

"Better to me," said Fleda.

"For to-day I must attend to the prospect in-doors," said Mrs.
Rossitur.

"Now, aunt Lucy," said Fleda, "you are just going to put
yourself down in the corner, in the rocking-chair there, with
your book, and make yourself comfortable; and Hugh and I will
see to all these things. Hugh and I and Mary and Jane — that
makes quite an army of us, and we can do everything without
you, and you must just keep quiet. I'll build you up a fine
fire, and then, when I don't know what to do, I will come to
you for orders. Uncle Rolf, would you be so good as just to
open that box of books in the hall, because I am afraid Hugh
isn't strong enough. I'll take care of you, aunt Lucy."

Fleda's plans were not entirely carried out, but she contrived
pretty well to take the brunt of the business on her own
shoulders. She was as busy as a bee the whole day. To her all
the ins and outs of the house, its advantages and
disadvantages, were much better known than to anybody else;
nothing could be done but by her advice; and, more than that,
she contrived by some sweet management to baffle Mrs.
Rossitur's desire to spare her, and to bear the larger half of
every burden that should have come upon her aunt. What she had
done in the breakfast-room, she did or helped to do in the
other parts of the house; she unpacked boxes and put away
clothes and linen, in which Hugh was her excellent helper; she
arranged her uncle's dressing-table with a scrupulosity that
left nothing uncared-for; and the last thing before tea she
and Hugh dived into the book-box to get out some favourite
volumes to lay upon the table in the evening, that the room
might not look to her uncle quite so dismally bare. He had
been abroad, notwithstanding the rain, near the whole day.

It was a weary party that gathered round the supper-table that
night — weary, it seemed, as much in mind as in body; and the
meal exerted its cheering influence over only two of them; Mr.
and Mrs. Rossitur sipped their cups of tea abstractedly.

"I don't believe that fellow, Donohan, knows much about his
business," remarked the former at length.

"Why don't you get somebody else, then?" said his wife.

"I happen to have engaged him, unfortunately."

A pause.

"What doesn't he know?"

Mr. Rossitur laughed, not a pleasant laugh.

"It would take too long to enumerate. If you had asked me what
part of his business he does understand, I could have told you
shortly that I don't know."

"But you do not understand it very well yourself. Are you
sure?"

"Am I sure of what?"

"That this man does not know his business?"

"No further sure than I can have confidence in my own common
sense."

"What will you do?" said Mrs. Rossitur, after a moment.

A question men are not fond of answering, especially when they
have not made up their minds. Mr. Rossitur was silent, and his
wife too, after that.

"If I could get some long-headed Yankee to go along with him,"
he remarked again, balancing his spoon on the edge of his cup,
in curious illustration of his own mental position at the
moment — Donohan being the only fixed point, and all the rest
wavering in uncertainty. There were a few silent minutes
before anybody answered.

"If you want one, and don't know of one, uncle Rolf," said
Fleda, "I dare say cousin Seth might."

That gentle modest speech brought his attention round upon
her. His face softened.

"Cousin Seth? who is cousin Seth?"

"He is aunt Miriam's son," said Fleda. "Seth Plumfield. He's a
very good farmer, I know; grandpa used to say he was; and he
knows everybody."

"Mrs. Plumfield," said Mrs. Rossitur, as her husband's eyes
went inquiringly to her — "Mrs. Plumfield was Mr. Ringgan's
sister, you remember. This is her son."

"Cousin Seth, eh?" said Mr. Rossitur, dubiously. " Well — Why,
Fleda, your sweet air don't seem to agree with you, as far as
I see; I have not known you look so — so triste — since we
left Paris. What have you been doing, my child?"

"She has been doing everything, father," said Hugh.

"Oh! it's nothing," said Fleda, answering Mr. Rossitur's look
and tone of affection with a bright smile. " I'm a little
tired, that's all!"

"A little tired!' She went to sleep on the sofa directly after
supper, and slept like a baby all the evening; but her power
did not sleep with her; for that quiet, sweet, tired face,
tired in their service, seemed to bear witness against the
indulgence of anything harsh or unlovely in the same
atmosphere. A gentle witness-bearing, but strong in its
gentleness. They sat close together round the fire, talked
softly, and from time to time cast loving glances at the quiet
little sleeper by their side. They did not know that she was a
fairy, and that though her wand had fallen out of her hand it
was still resting upon them.



CHAPTER XVIII.


"_Gon_. Here is everything advantageous to life.
_Ant_. True; save means to live."
TEMPEST.


Fleda's fatigue did not prevent her being up before sunrise
the next day. Fatigue was forgotten, for the light of a fair
spring morning was shining in at her windows, and she meant to
see aunt Miriam before breakfast. She ran out to find Hugh,
and her merry shout reached him before she did, and brought
him to meet her.

"Come, Hugh! I'm going off up to aunt Miriam's, and I want
you. Come! Isn't this delicious?"

"Hush!" said Hugh. " Father's just here in the barn. I can't
go, Fleda."

Fleda's countenance clouded.

"Can't go! what's the matter? can't you go, Hugh?"

He shook his head, and went off into the barn.

A chill came upon Fleda. She turned away with a very sober
step. What if her uncle was in the barn, why should she hush?
He never had been a check upon her merriment — never; what was
coming now? Hugh, too, looked disturbed. It was a spring
morning no longer. Fleda forgot the glittering wet grass that
had set her own eyes a-sparkling but a minute ago; she walked
along, cogitating, swinging her bonnet by the strings in
thoughtful vibration, till, by the help of sunlight and sweet
air, and the loved scenes, her spirits again made head and
swept over the sudden hindrance they had met. There were the
blessed old sugar maples, seven in number, that fringed the
side of the road — how well Fleda knew them! Only skeletons
now, but she remembered how beautiful they looked after the
October frosts; and presently they would be putting out their
new green leaves, and be beautiful in another way. How
different in their free-born luxuriance from the dusty and
city-prisoned elms and willows she had left! She came to the
bridge then, and stopped with a thrill of pleasure and pain to
look and listen. Unchanged! — all but herself. The mill was
not going; the little brook went by quietly chattering to
itself, just as it had done the last time she saw it, when she
rode past on Mr. Carleton's horse. Four and a half years ago!
And now how strange that she had come to live there again.

Drawing a long breath, and swinging her bonnet again, Fleda
softly went on up the hill, past the saw-mill, the ponds, the
factories, the houses of the settlement. The same, and not the
same! Bright with the morning sun, and yet, somehow, a little
browner and homelier than of old they used to be. Fleda did
not care for that — she would hardly acknowledge it to herself
— her affection never made any discount for infirmity. Leaving
the little settlement behind her thoughts as behind her back,
she ran on now towards aunt Miriam's, breathlessly, till field
after field was passed, and her eye caught a bit of the smooth
lake, and the old farm-house in its old place. Very brown it
looked, but Fleda dashed on, through the garden, and in at the
front door.

Nobody at all was in the entrance-room, the common sitting-
room of the family. With trembling delight, Fleda opened the
well-known door, and stole noiselessly through the little
passage-way to the kitchen. The door of that was only on the
latch, and a gentle movement of it gave to Fleda's eye the
tall figure of aunt Miriam, just before her, stooping down to
look in at the open mouth of the oven, which she was at that
moment engaged in supplying with more work to do. It was a
huge one, and, beyond her aunt's head, Fleda could see in the
far end the great loaves of bread, half baked, and more near a
perfect squad of pies and pans of gingerbread just going in to
take the benefit of the oven's milder mood. Fleda saw all
this, as it were, without seeing it; she stood still as a
mouse and breathless, till her aunt turned, and then — a
spring and a half shout of joy, and she had clasped her in her
arms, and was crying with her whole heart. Aunt Miriam was
taken all aback — she could do nothing but sit down and cry
too, and forgot her oven-door."

"Aint breakfast ready yet, mother?" said a manly voice coming
in. "I must be off to see after them ploughs. Hollo — why,
mother!"

The first exclamation was uttered as the speaker put the door
to the oven's mouth; the second as he turned in quest of the
hand that should have done it. He stood wondering, while his
mother and Fleda, between laughing and crying, tried to rouse
themselves and look up.

"What is all this?"

"Don't you see, Seth?"

"I see somebody that had like to have spoiled your whole
baking — I don't know who it is yet."

"Don't you now, cousin Seth?" said Fleda, shaking away her
tears and getting up.

"I ha'n't quite lost my recollection. Cousin, you must give me
a kiss. How do you do! You ha'n't forgot how to colour, I see,
for all you've been so long among the pale city folks."

"I hav'n't forgotten anything, cousin Seth," said Fleda,
blushing indeed, but laughing and shaking his hand with as
hearty good-will.

"I don't believe you have — anything that is good," said he.
"Where have you been all this while?"

"Oh, part of the time in New York, and part of the time in
Paris, and some other places."

"Well, you ha'n't seen anything better than Queechy, or
Queechy bread and butter, have you?"

"No, indeed!"

"Come, you shall give me another kiss for that," said he,
suiting the action to the word; "and now sit down and eat as
much bread and butter as you can. It's just as good as it used
to be. Come, mother, I guess breakfast is ready by the looks
of that coffee-pot."

"Breakfast ready!" said Fleda.

"Ay indeed; it's a good half-hour since it ought to ha' been
ready. If it aint, I can't stop for it. Them boys will be
running their furrows like sarpents if I aint there to start
them."

"Which like sarpents," said Fleda, — "the furrows or the men?"

"Well, I was thinking of the furrows," said he, glancing at
her. "I guess there aint cunning enough in the others to
trouble them. Come, sit down, and let me see whether you have
forgot a Queechy appetite."

"I don't know," said Fleda, doubtfully; "they will expect me
at home."

"I don't care who expects you — sit down! you aint going to
eat any bread and butter this morning but my mother's — you
haven't got any like it at your house. Mother, give her a cup
of coffee, will you, and set her to work."

Fleda was too willing to comply with the invitation, were it
only for the charm of old times. She had not seen such a table
for years, and little as the conventionalities of delicate
taste were known there, it was not without a comeliness of its
own in its air of wholesome abundance and the extreme purity
of all its arrangements. If but a piece of cold pork were on
aunt Miriam's table, it was served with a nicety that would
not have offended the most fastidious; and amid irregularities
that the fastidious would scorn, there was a sound excellence
of material and preparation that they very often fail to know.
Fleda made up her mind she would be wanted at home; all the
rather, perhaps, for Hugh's mysterious "hush;" and there was
something in the hearty kindness and truth of these friends
that she felt particularly genial. And if there was a lack of
silver at the board, its place was more than filled with the
pure gold of association. They sat down to table, but aunt
Miriam's eyes devoured Fleda. Mr. Plumfield set about his more
material breakfast with all despatch.

"So Mr. Rossitur has left the city for good?" said aunt
Miriam. "How does he like it?"

"He hasn't been here but a day, you know, aunt Miriam," said
Fleda evasively.

"Is he anything of a farmer?" asked her cousin.

"Not much," said Fleda.

"Is he going to work the farm himself?"

"How do you mean?"

"I mean, is he going to work the farm himself, or hire it out,
or let somebody else work it on shares?"

"I don't know," said Fleda — "I think he is going to have a
farmer, and oversee things himself."

"He'll get sick o' that," said Seth; "unless he's the luck to
get hold of just the right hand."

"Has he hired anybody yet?" said aunt Miriam, after a little
interval of supplying Fleda with "bread and butter."

"Yes, Ma'am, I believe so."

"What's his name?"

"Donohan — an Irishman, I believe; uncle Rolf hired him in New
York."

"For his head man?" said Seth, with a sufficiently
intelligible look.

"Yes," said Fleda. "Why?"

But he did not immediately answer her.

"The land's in poor heart now," said he, "a good deal of it;
it has been wasted; it wants first-rate management to bring it
in order, and make much of it for two or three years to come.
I never see an Irishman's head yet that was worth more than a
joke. Their hands are all of 'em that's good for anything."

"I believe uncle Rolf wants to have an American to go with
this man," said Fleda.

Seth said nothing; but Fleda understood the shake of his head
as he reached over after a pickle.

"Are you going to keep a dairy, Fleda?" said her aunt.

"I don't know, Ma'am — I haven't heard anything about it."

"Does Mrs. Rossitur know anything about country affairs?"

"No — nothing," Fleda said, her heart sinking perceptibly with
every new question.

"She hasn't any cows yet?"

She? — any cows! — But Fleda only said they had not come; she
believed they were coming.

"What help has she got?"

"Two women — Irishwomen," said Fleda.

"Mother, you'll have to take hold and learn her," said Mr.
Plumfield.

"Teach her?" cried Fleda, repelling the idea — "aunt Lucy? she
cannot do anything — she isn't strong enough; not anything of
that kind."

"What did she come here for?" said Seth.

"You know," said his mother, "that Mr. Rossitur's
circumstances obliged him to quit New York."

"Ay, but that aint my question. A man had better keep his
fingers off anything he can't live by. A farm's one thing or
t'other, just as it's worked. The land wont grow specie — it
must be fetched out of it. Is Mr. Rossitur a smart man?"

"Very," Fleda said, "about everything but farming."

"Well, if he'll put himself to school, maybe he'll learn,"
Seth concluded, as he finished his breakfast and went off.
Fleda rose too, and was standing thoughtfully by the fire,
when aunt Miriam came up and put her arms round her. Fleda's
eyes sparkled again.

"You're not changed — you're the same little Fleda," she said.

"Not quite so little," said Fleda, smiling.

"Not quite so little, but my own darling. The world hasn't
spoiled thee yet."

"I hope not, aunt Miriam."

"You have remembered your mother's prayer, Fleda?"

"Always!"

How tenderly aunt Miriam's hand was passed over the bowed head
— how fondly she pressed her! And Fleda's answer was as fond.

"I wanted to bring Hugh up to see you, aunt Miriam, with me,
but he couldn't come. You will like Hugh. He is so good!"

"I will come down and see him," said aunt Miriam; and then she
went to look after her oven's doings. Fleda stood by, amused
to see the quantities of nice things that were rummaged out of
it. They did not look like Mrs. Renney's work, but she knew
from old experience that they were good.

"How early you must have been up to put these things in," said
Fleda.

"Put them in! yes, and make them. These were all made this
morning, Fleda."

"This morning! — before breakfast! Why, the sun was only just
rising when I set out to come up the hill, and I wasn't long
coming, aunt Miriam."

"To be sure; that's the way to get things done. Before
breakfast! — What time do you breakfast, Fleda?"

"Not till eight or nine o'clock."

"Eight or nine! — Here?"

"There hasn't been any change made yet, and I don't suppose
there will be. Uncle Rolf is always up early, but he can't
bear to have breakfast early."

Aunt Miriam's face showed what she thought; and Fleda went
away with all its gravity and doubt settled like lead upon her
heart. Though she had one of the identical apple pies in her
hands, which aunt Miriam had quietly said was for "her and
Hugh," and though a pleasant savour of old times was about it,
Fleda could not get up again the bright feeling with which she
had come up the hill. There was a miserable misgiving at
heart. It would work off in time.

It had begun to work off, when, at the foot of the hill, she
met her uncle. He was coming after her to ask Mr. Plumfield
about the desideratum of a Yankee. Fleda put her pie in safety
behind a rock, and turned back with him, and aunt Miriam told
them the way to Seth's ploughing ground.

A pleasant word or two had set Fleda's spirits a-bounding
again, and the walk was delightful. Truly the leaves were not
on the trees, but it was April, and they soon would be; there
was promise in the light, and hope in the air, and everything
smelt of the country and spring-time. The soft tread of the
sod, that her foot had not felt for so long, the fresh look of
the newly-turned earth; here and there the brilliance of a
field of winter grain, and that nameless beauty of the budding
trees, that the full luxuriance of summer can never equal —
Fleda's heart was springing for sympathy. And to her, with
whom association was everywhere so strong, there was in it all
a shadowy presence of her grandfather, with whom she had so
often seen the spring-time bless those same hills and fields
long ago. She walked on in silence, as her manner commonly was
when deeply pleased; there were hardly two persons to whom she
would speak her mind freely then. Mr. Rossitur had his own
thoughts.

"Can anything equal the spring-time?" she burst forth at
length.

Her uncle looked at her and smiled. "Perhaps not; but it is
one thing," said he, sighing, "for taste to enjoy, and another
thing for calculation to improve."

"But one can do both, can't one?" said Fleda, brightly.

"I don't know," said he, sighing again. "Hardly."

Fleda knew he was mistaken, and thought the sighs out of
place. But they reached her; and she had hardly condemned them
before they set her off upon a long train of excuses for him,
and she had wrought herself into quite a fit of tenderness by
the time they reached her cousin.

They found him on a gentle side-hill, with two other men and
teams, both of whom were stepping away in different parts of
the field. Mr. Plumfield was just about setting off to work
his way to the other side of the lot, when they came up with
him.

Fleda was not ashamed of her aunt Miriam's son, even before
such critical eyes as those of her uncle. Farmer-like as were
his dress and air, they showed him, nevertheless, a well-
built, fine-looking man, with the independent bearing of one
who has never recognised any but mental or moral superiority.
His face might have been called handsome; there was at least
manliness in every line of it; and his excellent dark eye
showed an equal mingling of kindness and acute common sense.
Let Mr. Plumfield wear what clothes he would, one felt obliged
to follow Burns' notable example, and pay respect to the man
that was in them.

"A fine day, Sir," he remarked to Mr. Rossitur, after they had
shaken hands.

"Yes, and I will not interrupt you but a minute. Mr.
Plumfield, I am in want of hands — hands for this very
business you are about, ploughing — and Fleda says you know
everybody; so I have come to ask if you can direct me."

" Heads or hands, do you want?" said Seth, clearing his boot-
sole from some superfluous soil upon the share of his plough.

"Why both, to tell you the truth. I want bands and teams, for
that matter, for I have only two, and I suppose there is no
time to be lost. And I want very much to get a person
thoroughly acquainted with the business to go along with my
man. He is an Irishman, and I am afraid not very well
accustomed to the ways of doing things here."

"Like enough," said Seth; " and the worst of 'em is, you can't
learn 'em."

"Well! — can you help me?"

"Mr. Douglass!" said Seth, raising his voice to speak to one
of his assistants who was approaching them — "Mr. Douglass!
you're holding that 'ere plough a little too obleekly for my
grounds."

"Very good, Mr. Plumfield!" said the person called upon, with
a quick accent that intimated, "If you don't know what is
best, it is not my affair!" — the voice very peculiar, seeming
to come from no lower than the top of his throat, with a
guttural roll of the words.

"Is that Earl Douglass?" said Fleda.

"You remember him?" said her cousin, smiling. "He's just where
he was, and his wife too. Well, Mr. Rossitur, 'tain't very
easy to find what you want just at this season, when most
folks have their hands full, and help is all taken up. I'll
see if I can't come down and give you a lift myself with the
ploughing, for a day or two, as I'm pretty beforehand with the
spring, but you'll want more than that. I ain't sure — I
haven't more hands than I'll want myself, but I think it is
possible Squire Springer may spare you one of his'n. He aint
taking in any new land this year, and he's got things pretty
snug; I guess he don't care to do any more than common, —
anyhow, you might try. You know where uncle Joshua lives,
Fleda? Well, Philetus — what now?"

They had been slowly walking along the fence towards the
furthest of Mr. Plumfield's coadjutors, upon whom his eye had
been curiously fixed as he was speaking — a young man who was
an excellent sample of what is called "the raw material." He
had just come to a sudden stop in the midst of the furrow when
his employer called to him; and he answered, somewhat lack-a-
daisically —

"Why, I've broke this here clavis: I ha'n't touched anything
nor nothing, and it broke right in teu!"

"What do you 'spose 'll be done now?" said Mr. Plumfield,
gravely, going up to examine the fracture.

"Well, 't wa'n't none of my doings," said the young man. "I
ha'n't touched anything nor nothing, and the mean thing broke
right in teu. 'Tain't so handy as the old kind o' plough, by a
long jump."

"You go 'long down to the house and ask my mother for a new
clavis; and talk about ploughs when you know how to hold 'em,"
said Mr. Plumfield.

"It don't look so difficult a matter," said Mr. Rossitur, —
"but I am a novice myself. What is the principal thing to be
attended to in ploughing, Mr. Plumfield?"

There was a twinkle in Seth's eye, as he looked down upon a
piece of straw he was breaking to bits, which Fleda, who could
see, interpreted thoroughly.

"Well," said he, looking up — "the breadth of the stitches and
the width and depth of the furrow must be regulated according
to the nature of the soil and the lay of the ground, and what
you're ploughing for. There's stubble-ploughing, and breaking
up old leys, and ploughing for fallow crops, and ribbing,
where the land has been some years in grass, and so on; and
the plough must be geared accordingly, and so as not to take
too much land nor go out of the land; and after that the best
part of the work is to guide the plough right, and run the
furrows straight and even."

He spoke with the most impenetrable gravity, while Mr.
Rossitur looked blank and puzzled. Fleda could hardly keep her
countenance.

"That row of poles," said Mr. Rossitur, presently, "are they
to guide you in running the furrow straight?"

"Yes, Sir, they are to mark out the crown of the stitch. I
keep 'em right between the horses, and plough 'em down one
after another. It's a kind of way country-folks play at nine-
pins," said Seth, with a glance half inquisitive, half sly, at
his questioner.

Mr. Rossitur asked no more. Fleda felt a little uneasy again.
It was rather a longish walk to uncle Joshua's, and hardly a
word spoken on either side.

The old gentleman was "to hum;" and while Fleda went back into
some remote part of the house to see "aunt Syra," Mr. Rossitur
set forth his errand.

"Well, and so you're looking for help — eh?" said uncle
Joshua, when he had heard him through.

"Yes, Sir — I want help."

"And a team too?"

"So I have said, Sir," Mr. Rossitur answered rather shortly.
"Can you supply me?"

"Well, I don't know as I can," said the old man, rubbing his
hands slowly over his knees. "You ha'n't got much done yet, I
s'pose?"

"Nothing. I came the day before yesterday."

"Land's in rather poor condition in some parts, aint it?"

"I really am not able to say, Sir, — till I have seen it."

"It ought to be," said the old gentleman, shaking his head, —
"the fellow that was there last didn't do right by it. He
worked the land too hard, and didn't put on it anywhere near
what he had ought to; I guess you'll find it pretty poor in
some places. He was trying to get all he could out of it, I
s'pose. There's a good deal of fencing to be done too, aint
there?"

"All that there was, Sir, — I have done none since I came."

"Seth Plumfield got through ploughing yet?"

"We found him at it."

"Ay, he's a smart man. What are you going to do, Mr. Rossitur,
with that piece of marsh land that lies off to the south east
of the barn, beyond the meadow, between the hills? I had just
sich another, and I —"

"Before I do anything with the wet land, Mr. — I am so unhappy
as to have forgotten your name —"

"Springer, Sir," said the old gentleman, — "Springer — Joshua
Springer. That is my name, Sir."

"Mr. Springer, before I do anything with the wet land, I
should like to have something growing on the dry; and as that
is the present matter in hand, will you be so good as to let
me know whether I can have your assistance."

"Well, I don't know," said the old gentleman; "there aint
anybody to send but my boy Lucas, and I don't know whether he
would make up his mind to go or not."

"Well, Sir!" said Mr. Rossitur, rising, "in that case, I will
bid you good morning. I am sorry to have given you the
trouble."

"Stop," said the old man, "stop a bit. Just sit down. I'll go
in and see about it."

Mr. Rossitur sat down, and uncle Joshua left him to go into
the kitchen and consult his wife, without whose counsel, of
late years especially, he rarely did anything. They never
varied in opinion, but aunt Syra's wits supplied the steel
edge to his heavy metal.

"I don't know but Lucas would as lieve go as not," the old
gentleman remarked on coming back from this sharpening
process, — "and I can make out to spare him, I guess. You
calculate to keep him, I s'pose?"

"Until this press is over; and perhaps longer, if I find he
can do what I want."

"You'll find him pretty handy at a'most anything, but I mean —
I s'pose he'll get his victuals with you?"

"I have made no arrangement of the kind," said Mr. Rossitur,
controlling with some effort his rebelling muscles. "Donohan
is boarded somewhere else, and for the present it will be best
for all in my employ to follow the same plan."

"Very good," said uncle Joshua; "it makes no difference —
only, of course, in that case it is worth more, when a man has
to find himself and his team."

"Whatever it is worth, I am quite ready to pay, Sir."

"Very good. You and Lucas can agree about that. He'll be along
in the morning."

So they parted; and Fleda understood the impatient quick step
with which her uncle got over the ground.

"Is that man a brother of your grandfather?"

"No, Sir — Oh no! only his brother-in-law. My grandmother was
his sister, but they weren't in the least like each other."

"I should think they could not," said Mr. Rossitur.

"Oh, they were not!" Fleda repeated. "I have always heard
that."

After paying her respects to aunt Syra in the kitchen, she had
come back time enough to hear the end of the discourse in the
parlour, and had felt its full teaching. Doubts returned, and
her spirits were sobered again. Not another word was spoken
till they reached home; when Fleda seized upon Hugh, and went
off to the rock after her forsaken pie.

"Have you succeeded?" asked Mrs. Rossitur, while they were
gone.

"Yes — that is, a cousin has kindly consented to come and help
me."

"A cousin!" said Mrs. Rossitur.

"Ay — we're in a nest of cousins."

"In a what, Mr. Rossitur?"

"In a nest of cousins; and I had rather be in a nest of rooks.
I wonder if I shall be expected to ask my ploughmen to dinner!
Every second man is a cousin, and the rest are uncles."



CHAPTER XIX.


"Whilst skies are blue and bright,
Whilst flowers are gay,
Whilst eyes that change ere night
Make glad the day;
Whilst yet the calm hours creep,
Dream thou — and from thy sleep
Then wake to weep."
SHELLEY.


The days of summer flew by, for the most part lightly, over
the heads of Hugh and Fleda. The farm was little to them but a
place of pretty and picturesque doings, and the scene of
nameless delights by wood and stream, in all which, all that
summer, Fleda rejoiced; pulling Hugh along with her, even when
sometimes he would rather have been poring over his books at
home. She laughingly said it was good for him, and one half,
at least, of every fine day their feet were abroad. They knew
nothing, practically, of the dairy, but that it was an
inexhaustible source of the sweetest milk and butter, and,
indirectly, of the richest custards and syllabubs. The flock
of sheep that now and then came in sight, running over the
hill-side, were to them only an image of pastoral beauty, and
a soft link with the beauty of the past. The two children took
the very cream of country life. The books they had left were
read with greater eagerness than ever. When the weather was
"too lovely to stay in the house," Shakespeare, or Massillon,
or Sully, or the "Curiosities of Literature," or "Corinne," or
Milner's Church History — for Fleda's reading was as
miscellaneous as ever — was enjoyed under the flutter of
leaves and along with the rippling of the mountain spring;
whilst King curled himself up on the skirt of his mistress's
gown, and slept for company; hardly more thoughtless and
fearless of harm than his two companions. Now and then Fleda
opened her eyes to see that her uncle was moody and not like
himself, and that her aunt's gentle face was clouded in
consequence; and she could not sometimes help the suspicion
that he was not making a farmer of himself; but the next
summer-wind would blow these thoughts away, or the next look
of her flowers would put them out of her head. The whole
courtyard in front of the house had been given up to her
peculiar use as a flower garden, and there she and Hugh made
themselves very busy.

But the summer-time came to an end.

It was a November morning, and Fleda had been doing some of
the last jobs in her flower-beds. She was coming in with
spirits as bright as her cheeks, when her aunt's attitude and
look, more than usually spiritless, suddenly checked them.
Fleda gave her a hopeful kiss, and asked for the explanation.

"How bright you look, darling!" said her aunt, stroking her
cheek.

"Yes, but you don't, aunt Lucy. What has happened?"

"Mary and Jane are going away."

"Going away! — What for?"

"They are tired of the place — don't like it, I suppose."

"Very foolish of them! Well, aunt Lucy, what matter? we can
get plenty more in their room."

"Not from the city — not possible; they would not come at this
time of year."

"Sure? — Well, then, here we can, at any rate."

"Here! But what sort of persons shall we get here? And your
uncle — just think!" —

"Oh, but I think we can manage," said Fleda. "When do Mary and
Jane want to go?"

"Immediately! — to-morrow; they are not willing to wait till
we can get somebody. Think of it!"

"Well, let them go," said Fleda; "the sooner the better."

"Yes: and I am sure I don't want to keep them; but" — and Mrs.
Rossitur wrung her hands — "I haven't money enough to pay them
quite — and they wont go without it."

Fleda felt shocked; so much that she could not help looking
it.

"But can't uncle Rolf give it you?"

Mrs. Rossitur shook her head. "I have asked him."

"How much is wanting?"

"Twenty-five. Think of his not being able to give me that!" —
Mrs. Rossitur burst into tears.

"Now don't, aunt Lucy!" said Fleda, guarding well her own
composure; "you know he has had a great deal to spend upon the
farm, and paying men, and all, and it is no wonder that he
should be a little short just now — now, cheer up! — we can
get along with this, anyhow."

"I asked him," said Mrs. Rossitur, through her tears, "when he
would be able to give it to me; and he told me he didn't
know!"

Fleda ventured no reply, but some of the tenderest caresses
that lips and arms could give; and then sprang away, and in
three minutes was at her aunt's side again.

"Look here, aunt Lucy," said she, gently, "here is twenty
dollars, if you can manage the five."

"Where did you get this?" Mrs. Rossitur exclaimed.

"I got it honestly. It is mine, aunt Lucy," said Fleda,
smiling. "Uncle Orrin gave me some money, just before we came
away, to do what I liked with; and I haven't wanted to do
anything with it till now."

But this seemed to hurt Mrs. Rossitur more than all the rest.
Leaning her head forward upon Fleda's breast, and clasping her
arms about her, she cried worse tears than Fleda had seen her
shed. If it had not been for the emergency, Fleda would have
broken down utterly too.

"That it should have come to this! — I can't take it, dear
Fleda! —"

"Yes, you must, aunt Lucy," said Fleda, soothingly. "I
couldn't do anything else with it that would give me so much
pleasure. I don't want it; it would lie in my drawer till I
don't know when. We'll let these people be off as soon as they
please. Don't take it so; uncle Rolf will have money again —
only just now he is out, I suppose — and we'll get somebody
else in the kitchen that will do nicely; you see if we don't."

Mrs. Rossitur's embrace said what words were powerless to say.

"But I don't know how we're to find any one here in the
country — I don't know who'll go to look — I am sure your
uncle wont want to; and Hugh wouldn't know —"

"I'll go," said Fleda, cheerfully — "Hugh and I. We can do
famously, if you'll trust me. I wont promise to bring home a
French cook."

"No, indeed; we must take what we can get. But you can get no
one to-day, and they will be off by the morning's coach; what
shall we do to-morrow — for dinner? — your uncle —"

"I'll get dinner," said Fleda, caressing her; "I'll take all
that on myself. It sha'n't be a bad dinner either. Uncle Rolf
will like what I do for him, I dare say. Now, cheer up, aunt
Lucy; do; that's all I ask of you. Wont you — for me?"

She longed to speak a word of that quiet hope with which in
every trouble she secretly comforted herself — she wanted to
whisper the words that were that moment in her own mind,
"Truly, I know that it shall be well with them that fear God;"
but her natural reserve and timidity kept her lips shut to her
grief.

The women were paid off and dismissed, and departed in the
next day's coach from Montepoole. Fleda stood at the front
door to see them go, with a curious sense that there was an
empty house at her back, and indeed upon her back. And in
spite of all the cheeriness of her tone to her aunt, she was
not without some shadowy feeling that soberer times might be
coming upon them.

"What is to be done now?" said Hugh, close beside her.

"Oh, we are going to get somebody else," said Fleda.

"Where?"

"I don't know! You and I are going to find out."

"You and I!"

"Yes. We are going out after dinner, Hugh, dear," said she,
turning her bright merry face towards him — "to pick up
somebody."

Linking her arm within his, she went back to the deserted
kitchen premises, to see how her promise about talking Mary's
place was to be fulfilled.

"Do you know where to look?" said Hugh.

"I've a notion; but the first thing is dinner, that uncle Rolf
mayn't think the world is turning topsy-turvy. There is
nothing at all here, Hugh — nothing in the world but bread —
it's a blessing there is that. Uncle Rolf will have to be
satisfied with a coffee dinner to-day, and I'll make him the
most superb omelette that my skill is equal to! Hugh, dear,
you shall set the table. — You don't know how? — then you
shall make the toast, and I will set it the first thing of
all. You perceive it is well to know how to do everything, Mr.
Hugh Rossitur."

"Where did you learn to make omelettes?" said Hugh, with
laughing admiration, as Fleda bared two pretty arms, and ran
about, the very impersonation of good-humoured activity. The
table was set — the coffee was making — and she had him
established at the fire with two great plates, a pile of
slices of bread, and the toasting-iron.

"Where? oh, don't you remember the days of Mrs. Renney? I have
seen Emile make them. And by dint of trying to teach Mary this
summer, I have taught myself. There is no knowing, you see,
what a person may come to."

"I wonder what father would say, if he knew you had made all
the coffee this summer?"

"That is an unnecessary speculation, my dear Hugh, as I have
no intention of telling him. But see! that is the way with
speculators! 'while they go on refining,' the toast burns!"

The coffee, and the omelette, and the toast, and Mr.
Rossitur's favourite French salad, were served with beautiful
accuracy; and he was quite satisfied. But aunt Lucy looked
sadly at Fleda's flushed face, and saw that her appetite
seemed to have gone off in the steam of her preparations.
Fleda had a kind of heart-feast, however, which answered as
well.

Hugh harnessed the little wagon, for no one was at hand to do
it, and he and Fleda set off as early as possible after
dinner. Fleda's thoughts had turned to her old acquaintance,
Cynthia Gall, who she knew was out of employment, and staying
at home somewhere near Montepoole. They got the exact
direction from aunt Miriam, who approved of her plan.

It was a pleasant, peaceful drive they had. They never were
alone together, they two, but vexations seemed to lose their
power, or be forgotten; and an atmosphere of quietness gather
about them, the natural element of both hearts. It might
refuse its presence to one, but the attraction of both
together was too strong to be resisted.

Miss Cynthia's present abode was in an out-of-the-way place,
and a good distance off; they were some time in reaching it.
The barest-looking and dingiest of houses, set plump in a
green field, without one softening or home-like touch from any
home-feeling within; not a flower, not a shrub, not an out-
house, not a tree near. One would have thought it a deserted
house, but that a thin wreath of smoke lazily stole up from
one of the brown chimneys; and graceful as that was, it took
nothing from the hard, stern barrenness below, which told of a
worse poverty than that of paint and glazing.

"Can this be the place?" said Hugh.

"It must be. You stay here with the horse, and I'll go in and
seek my fortune. — Don't promise much," said Fleda, shaking
her head.

The house stood back from the road. Fleda picked her way to it
along a little footpath which seemed to be the equal property
of the geese. Her knock brought an invitation to "come in."

An elderly woman was sitting there, whose appearance did not
mend the general impression. She had the same dull and
unhopeful look that her house had.

"Does Mrs. Gall live here?"

"I do," said this person.

"Is Cynthia at home?"

The woman, upon this, raised her voice, and directed it at an
inner door.

"Lucindy!" said she, in a diversity of tones; "Lucindy! tell
Cynthy here's somebody wants to see her." But no one answered;
and throwing the work from her lap, the woman muttered she
would go and see, and left Fleda, with a cold invitation to
sit down.

Dismal work! Fleda wished herself out of it. The house did not
look poverty-stricken within, but poverty must have struck to
the very heart, Fleda thought, where there was no apparent
cherishing of anything. There was no absolute distress
visible, neither was there a sign of real comfort, or of a
happy home. She could not fancy it was one.

She waited so long, that she was sure Cynthia did not hold
herself in readiness to see company. And when the lady at last
came in, it was with very evident marks of "smarting up" about
her.

"Why, it's Flidda Ringgan!" said Miss Gall, after a dubious
look or two at her visitor. "How do you do? I didn't 'spect to
see you. How much you have growed!"

She looked really pleased, and gave Fleda's hand a very strong
grasp as she shook it.

"There aint no fire here to-day," pursued Cynthy, paying her
attentions to the fire-place; "we let it go down on account of
our being all busy out at the back of the house. I guess
you're cold, aint you."

Fleda said, "No;" and remembered that the woman she had first
seen was certainly not busy at the back of the house, nor
anywhere else but in that very room, where she had found her
deep in a pile of patchwork.

"I heerd you had come to the old place. Were you glad to be
back again?" Cynthy asked, with a smile that might be taken to
express some doubt upon the subject.

"I was very glad to see it again."

"I ha'n't seen it in a great while. I've been staying to hum
this year or two. I got tired o' going out," Cynthy remarked,
with again a smile very peculiar, and, Fleda thought, a little
sardonical. She did not know how to answer.

"Well, how do you come along down yonder?" Cynthy went on,
making a great fuss with the shovel and tongs to very little
purpose. "Ha' you come all the way from Queechy?"

"Yes. I came on purpose to see you, Cynthy."

Without staying to ask what for, Miss Gall now went out to
"the back of the house," and came running in again with a live
brand pinched in the tongs, and a long tail of smoke running
after it. Fleda would have compounded for no fire and no
choking. The choking was only useful to give her time to
think. She was uncertain how to bring in her errand.

"And how is Mis' Plumfield?" said Cynthy, in an interval of
blowing the brand.

"She is quite well; but, Cynthy, you need not have taken all
that trouble for me. I cannot stay but a few minutes."

"There is wood enough!" Cynthia remarked, with one of her grim
smiles — an assertion Fleda could not help doubting. Indeed,
she thought Miss Gall had grown altogether more disagreeable
than she used to be in old times. Why, she could not divine,
unless the souring effect had gone on with the years.

"And what's become of Earl Douglass and Mis' Douglass? I
hain't heerd nothin' of 'em this great while. I always told
your grandpa he'd ha' saved himself a great deal o' trouble if
he'd ha' let Earl Douglass take hold of things. You han't got
Mr. Didenhover into the works again, I guess, have you? He was
there a good spell after your grandpa died.''

"I haven't seen Mrs. Douglass," said Fleda. "But, Cynthy, what
do you think I have come here for?"

"I don't know," said Cynthy, with another of her peculiar
looks directed at the fire. "I s'pose you want someh'n nother
of me."

"I have come to see if you wouldn't come and live with my
aunt, Mrs. Rossitur. We are left alone, and want somebody very
much; and I thought I would find you out and see if we
couldn't have you, first of all, before I looked for anybody
else."

Cynthy was absolutely silent. She sat before the fire, her
feet stretched out towards it as far as they would go, and her
arms crossed, and not moving her steady gaze at the smoking
wood, or the chimney-back, whichever it might be; but there
was in the corners of her mouth the threatening of a smile
that Fleda did not at all like.

"What do you say to it, Cynthy?"

"I reckon you'd best get somebody else," said Miss Gall, with
a kind of condescending dryness, and the smile showing a
little more.

"Why?" said Fleda. "I would a great deal rather have an old
friend than a stranger."

"Be you the housekeeper?" said Cynthy, a little abruptly.

"Oh, I am a little of everything," said Fleda — "cook and
housekeeper, and whatever comes first. I want you to come and
be housekeeper, Cynthy."

"I reckon Mis' Rossitur don't have much to do with her help,
does she?" said Cynthy, after a pause, during which the
corners of her mouth never changed. The tone of piqued
independence let some light into Fleda's mind.

"She is not strong enough to do much herself, and she wants
some one that will take all the trouble from her. You'd have
the field all to yourself, Cynthy."

"Your aunt sets two tables, I calculate, don't she?"

"Yes; my uncle doesn't like to have any but his own family
around him."

"I guess I shouldn't suit!" said Miss Gall, after another
little pause, and stooping very diligently to pick up some
scattered shreds from the floor. But Fleda could see the
flushed face, and the smile which pride and a touch of
spiteful pleasure in the revenge she was taking made
particularly hateful. She needed no more convincing that Miss
Gall "wouldn't suit;" but she was sorry, at the same time, for
the perverseness that had so needlessly disappointed her; and
went rather pensively back again down the little footpath to
the waiting wagon.

"This is hardly the romance of life, dear Hugh," she said, as
she seated herself.

"Haven't you succeeded?"

Fleda shook her head.

"What's the matter?"

"Oh — pride — injured pride of station! The wrong of not
coming to our table and putting her knife into our butter."

"And living in such a place!" said Hugh.

"You don't know what a place. They are rniserably poor, I am
sure; and yet — I suppose that the less people have to be
proud of, the more they make of what is left. Poor people!" —

"Poor Fleda!" said Hugh, looking at her. "What will you do
now?"

"Oh, we'll do somehow," said she, cheerfully. "Perhaps it is
just as well, after all; for Cynthy isn't the smartest woman
in the world. I remember grandpa used to say he didn't believe
she could get a bean into the middle of her bread."

"A bean into the middle of her bread!" said Hugh.

But Fleda's sobriety was quite banished by his mystified look,
and her laugh rang along over the fields before she answered
him.

That laugh had blown away all the vapours, for the present at
least, and they jogged on again very sociably.

"Do you know," said Fleda, after a while of silent enjoyment
in the changes of scene and the mild autumn weather — "I am
not sure that it wasn't very well for me that we came away
from New York."

"I dare say it was," said Hugh — "since we came; but what
makes you say so?"

"I don't mean that it was for anybody else, but for me. I
think I was a little proud of our nice things there."

"You, Fleda!" said Hugh, with a look of appreciating
affection.

"Yes, I was, a little. It didn't make the greatest part of my
love for them, I am sure; but I think I had a little undefined
sort of pleasure in the feeling that they were better and
prettier than other people had."

"You are sure you are not proud of your little King Charles
now?" said Hugh.

"I don't know but I am," said Fleda, laughing. "But how much
pleasanter it is here on almost every account! Look at the
beautiful sweep of the ground off among those hills — isn't
it? What an exquisite horizon line, Hugh!"

"And what a sky over it!"

"Yes — I love these fall skies. Oh, I would a great deal
rather be here than in any city that ever was built!"

"So would I," said Hugh. "But the thing is —"

Fleda knew quite well what the thing was, and did not answer.

"But, my dear Hugh," she said, presently — "I don't remember
that sweep of hills when we were coming?"

"You were going the other way," said Hugh.

"Yes, but Hugh — I am sure we did not pass these grain fields.
We must have got into the wrong road."

Hugh drew the reins, and looked and doubted.

"There is a house yonder," said Fleda — we had better drive
on, and ask."

"There is no house —"

"Yes, there is — behind that piece of wood. Look over it;
don't you see a light curl of blue smoke against the sky? — We
never passed that house and wood, I am certain. We ought to
make haste, for the afternoons are short now, and you will
please to recollect there is nobody at home to get tea."

"I hope Lucas will get upon one of his everlasting talks with
father," said Hugh.

"And that it will hold till we get home," said Fleda. "It will
be the happiest use Lucas has made of his tongue in a good
while."

Just as they stopped before a substantial-looking farm-house,
a man came from the other way and stopped there too, with his
hand upon the gate.

"How far are we from Queechy, Sir?" said Hugh.

"You're not from it at all, Sir," said the man, politely.
"You're in Queechy, Sir, at present."

"Is this the right road from Montepoole to Queechy village?"

"It is not, Sir. It is a very tortuous direction, indeed. Have
I not the pleasure of speaking to Mr. Rossitur's young
gentleman?"

Mr. Rossitur's young gentleman acknowledged his relationship,
and begged the favour of being set in the right way home.

"With much pleasure! You have been showing Miss Rossitur the
picturesque country about Montepoole?"

"My cousin and I have been there on business, and lost our way
coming back."

"Ah, I dare say! Very easy. First time you have been there?"

"Yes, Sir; and we are in a hurry to get home."

"Well, Sir — you know the road by Deacon Patterson's? — comes
out just above the lake."

Hugh did not remember.

"Well — you keep this road straight on, — I'm sorry you are in
a hurry, — you keep on till — do you know when you strike Mr.
Harris's ground?"

No, Hugh knew nothing about it, nor Fleda.

"Well, I'll tell you now how it is," said the stranger, "if
you'll permit me. You and your — a — cousin — come in and do
us the pleasure of taking some refreshment. I know my sister
'll have her table set out by this time — and I'll do myself
the honour of introducing you to — a — these strange roads,
afterwards."

"Thank you, Sir, but that trouble is unnecessary — cannot you
direct us?"

"No trouble — indeed, Sir, I assure you, I should esteem it a
favour — very highly. I — I am Dr. Quackenboss, Sir; you may
have heard —"

"Thank you, Dr. Quackenboss, but we have no time this
afternoon — we are very anxious to reach home as soon as
possible, if you would be so good as to put us in the way."

"I — really, Sir, I am afraid — to a person ignorant of the
various localities — you will lose no time — I will just hitch
your horse here, and I'll have mine ready by the time this
young lady has rested. Miss — a — wont you join with me? I
assure you I will not put you to the expense of a minute.
Thank you, Mr. Harden! — just clap the saddle on to Lollypop,
and have him up here in three seconds. Thank you! — My dear
Miss — a — wont you take my arm? I am gratified, I assure
you."

Yielding to the apparent impossibility of getting anything out
of Dr. Quackenboss, except civility, and to the real
difficulty of disappointing such very earnest good will, Fleda
and Hugh did what older persons would not have done — alighted
and walked up to the house.

"This is quite a fortuitous occurrence," the doctor went on.
"I have often had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Rossitur's family
in church — in the little church at Queechy Run — and that
enabled me to recognise your cousin, as soon as I saw him in
the wagon. Perhaps, Miss — a — you may have possibly heard of
my name? — Quackenboss — I don't know that you understood —"

"I have heard it, Sir."

"My Irishmen, Miss — a — my Irish labourers, can't get hold of
but one end of it — they call me Boss — ha, ha, ha!"

Fleda hoped his patients did not get hold of the other end of
it, and trembled, visibly.

"Hard to pull a man's name to pieces before his face — ha, ha!
but I am — a — not one thing myself — a kind of heterogynous —
I am a piece of a physician, and a little in the agricultural
line also; so it's all fair."

"The Irish treat my name as hardly, Dr. Quackenboss — they
call me nothing but Miss Ring-again."

And then Fleda could laugh — and laugh she did — so heartily,
that the doctor was delighted.

"Ring-again! ha, ha! — very good! Well, Miss — a — I shouldn't
think that anybody in your service would ever — a — ever let
you put your name in practice."

But Fleda's delight at the excessive gallantry and awkwardness
of this speech was almost too much; or, as the doctor
pleasantly remarked, her nerves were too many for her; and
every one of them was dancing by the time they reached the
hall door. The doctor's flourishes lost not a bit of their
angularity from his tall, ungainly figure, and a lantern-jawed
face, the lower member of which had now and then a somewhat
lateral play when he was speaking, which curiously aided the
quaint effect of his words. He ushered his guests into the
house, seeming in a flow of self-gratulation.

The supper-table was spread, sure enough, and hovering about
it was the doctor's sister; a lady in whom Fleda only saw a
Dutch face, with eyes that made no impression, disagreeable
fair hair, and a string of gilt beads round her neck. A
painted yellow floor under foot, a room that looked
excessively _wooden_ and smelt of cheese, bare walls, and a
well-filled table, was all that she took in besides.

"I have the honour of presenting you to my sister," said the
doctor, with suavity. "Flora, the Irish domestics of this
young lady call her name Miss Ring-again — if she will let us
know how it ought to be called, we shall be happy to be
informed."

Dr. Quackenboss was made happy.

"Miss _Ringgan_ — and this young gentleman is young Mr. Rossitur
— the gentleman that has taken Squire Ringgan's old place. We
were so fortunate as to have them lose their way this
afternoon, coming from the Pool, and they have just stepped in
to see if you can't find 'em a mouthful of something they can
eat, while Lollypop is a-getting ready to see them home."

Poor Miss Flora immediately disappeared into the kitchen, to
order a bit of superior cheese, and to have some slices of ham
put on the gridiron, and then, coming back to the common room,
went rummaging about, from cupboard to cupboard, in search of
cake and sweetmeats. Fleda protested and begged in vain.

"She was so sorry she hadn't knowed," Miss Flora said — "she'd
ha' had some cakes made that maybe they could have eaten, but
the bread was dry; and the cheese wa'n't as good somehow as
the last one they cut; maybe Miss Ringgan would prefer a piece
of newer made, if she liked it; and she hadn't had good luck
with her preserves last summer — the most of 'em had fomented
— she thought it was the damp weather; but there was some
stewed pears that maybe she would be so good as to approve —
and there was some ham! whatever else it was, it was hot!" —

It was impossible — it was impossible, to do dishonour to all
this hospitality and kindness and pride that was brought out
for them. Early or late, they must eat, in mere gratitude. The
difficulty was to avoid eating everything. Hugh and Fleda
managed to compound the matter with each other, one taking the
cake and pears, and the other the ham and cheese. In the midst
of all this overflow of goodwill, Fleda bethought her to ask
if Miss Flora knew of any girl or woman that would go out to
service. Miss Flora took the matter into grave consideration
as soon as her anxiety on the subject of their cups of tea had
subsided. She did not commit herself, but thought it possible
that one of the Finns might be willing to go out.

"Where do they live?"

"It's — a — not far from Queechy Run," said the doctor, whose
now and then hesitation in the midst of his speech was never
for want of a thought, but simply and merely for the best
words to clothe it in.

"Is it in our way to-night?"

He could make it so, the doctor said, with pleasure, for it
would give him permission to gallant them a little further.

They had several miles yet to go, and the sun went down as
they were passing through Queechy Run. Under that still, cool,
clear, autumn sky, Fleda would have enjoyed the ride very
much, but that her unfulfilled errand was weighing upon her,
and she feared her aunt and uncle might want her services
before she could be at home. Still, late as it was, she
determined to stop for a minute at Mrs. Finn's, and go home
with a clear conscience. At her door, and not till there, the
doctor was prevailed upon to part company, the rest of the way
being perfectly plain.

Mrs. Finn's house was a great unprepossessing building, washed
and dried by the rain and sun into a dark, dingy colour, the
only one that had ever supplanted the original hue of the
freshsawn boards. This, indeed, was not an uncommon thing in
the country; near all the houses of the Deepwater settlement
were in the same case. Fleda went up a flight of steps to what
seemed the front door, but the girl that answered her knock
led her down them again, and round to a lower entrance on the
other side. This introduced Fleda to a large ground-floor
apartment, probably the common room of the family, with the
large kitchen fireplace, and flagged hearth, and wall
cupboards, and the only furniture, the usual red backed
splinter chairs and wooden table. A woman standing before the
fire with a broom in her hand, answered Fleda's inclination
with a saturnine nod of the head, and, fetching one of the
red-backs from the wall, bade her "sit down."

Poor Fleda's nerves bade her "go away." The people looked like
their house. The principal woman, who remained standing, broom
in hand, to hear Fleda's business, was, in good truth, a dark
personage — her head covered with black hair, her person with
a dingy black calico, and a sullen cloud lowering over her
eye. At the corner of the fireplace was an old woman, laid by
in an easy-chair; disabled, it was plain, not from mental but
bodily infirmity; for her face had a cast of mischief which
could not stand with the innocence of second childhood. At the
other corner sat an elderly woman sewing, with tokens of her
trade for yards on the floor around her. Back at the far side
of the room, a young man was eating his supper at the table,
alone; and under the table, on the floor, the enormous family
bread-trough was unwontedly filled with the sewing-woman's
child, which had with superhuman efforts crawled into it, and
lay kicking and crowing in delight at its new cradle. Fleda
did not know how to enter upon her business.

"I have been looking," she began, "for a person who is willing
to go out to work. Miss Flora Quackenboss told me perhaps I
might find somebody here."

"Somebody to help?" said the woman, beginning to use her broom
upon the hearth. "Who wants 'em?"

"Mrs. Rossitur — my aunt."

"Mrs. Rossitur? — what, down to old Squire Ringgan's place?"

"Yes. We are left alone, and want somebody very much."

"Do you want her only a few days, or do you calculate to have
her stop longer? because you know it wouldn't be worth the
while to put oneself out for a week."

"Oh, we want her to stay; if we suit each other."

"Well, I don't know," said the woman, going on with her
sweeping. "I could let you have Hannah, but I 'spect I'll want
her to hum. What does Mis' Rossitur calculate to give?"

"I don't know — anything that's reasonable."

"Hannah kin go — just as good as not," said the old woman in
the corner, rubbing her hands up and down her lap — "Hannah
kin go, — just as good as not!"

"Hannah ain't a-going," said the first speaker, answering
without looking at her. "Hannah 'll be wanted to hum; and she
aint a well girl neither; she's kind o' weak in her muscles;
and I calculate you'll want somebody that call take hold
lively. There's Lucy, if she took a notion, she could go — but
she'd please herself about it. She wont do nothing without she
has a notion."

This was inconclusive, and desiring to bring matters to a
point, Fleda, after a pause, asked if this lady thought Lucy
would have a notion to go.

"Well, I can't say — she ain't to hum, or you could ask her.
She's down to Mis' Douglass's, working for her to-day. Do you
know Mis' Douglass? — Earl Douglass's wife?"

"O yes, I knew her long ago," said Fleda, thinking it might be
as well to throw in a spice of ingratiation. "I am Fleda
Ringgan. I used to live here with my grandfather."

"Don't say! Well, I thought you had a kind o' look — the old
Squire's granddarter, ain't you?"

"She looks like her father," said the sewing-woman, laying
down her needle, which indeed had been little hindrance to her
admiration since Fleda came in.

"She's a real pretty gal," said the old woman in the corner.

"He was as smart a looking man as there was in Queechy
township, or Montepoole either," the sewing-woman went on, "Do
you mind him, Flidda?"

"Anastasy," said the old woman aside, "let Hannah go!"

"Hannah's a-going to keep to hum — Well, about Lucy," she
said, as Fleda rose to go — "I can't just say — suppos'n you
come here to-morrow afternoon — there's a few coming to quilt
— and Lucy 'll be to hum then. I should admire to have you,
and then you and Lucy can agree what you'll fix upon. You can
get somebody to bring you, can't you?"

Fleda inwardly shrank, but managed to get off with thanks, and
without making a positive promise, which Miss Anastasia would
fain have had. She was glad to be out of the house, and
driving off with Hugh.

"How delicious the open air feels!"

"What has this visit produced?" said Hugh.

"An invitation to a party, and a slight possibility that at
the party I may find what I want."

"A party," said Hugh. Fleda laughed and explained.

"And do you intend to go?"

"Not I — at least I think not. But, Hugh, don't say anything
about all this to aunt Lucy. She would be troubled."

Fleda had certainly, when she came away, no notion of
improving her acquaintance with Miss Anastasia; but the
supper, and the breakfast and the dinner of the next day, with
all the nameless and almost numberless duties of house work
that filled up the time between, wrought her to a very strong
sense of the necessity of having some kind of "help" soon.
Mrs. Rossitur wearied herself excessively with doing very
little, and then looked so sad to see Fleda working on, that
it was more disheartening and harder to bear than the fatigue.
Hugh was a most faithful and invaluable coadjutor, and his
lack of strength was, like her own, made up by energy of will;
but neither of them could bear the strain long; and when the
final clearing away of the dinner-dishes gave her a breathing-
time, she resolved to dress herself, and put her thimble in
her pocket, and go over to Miss Finn's quilting. Miss Lucy
might not be like Miss Anastasia; and if she were, anything
that had hands and feet to move instead of her own, would be
welcome.

Hugh went with her to the door, and was to come for her at
sunset.



CHAPTER XX.


"With superfluity of breeding
First makes you sick, and then with feeding."
JENYNS.


Miss Anastasia was a little surprised and a good deal
gratified, Fleda saw, by her coming, and played the hostess
with great benignity. The quilting-frame was stretched in an
upper room, not in the long kitchen, to Fleda's joy; most of
the company were already seated at it, and she had to go
through a long string of introductions before she was
permitted to take her place. First of all, Earl Douglass's
wife, who rose up, and taking both Fleda's hands, squeezed and
shook them heartily, giving her, with eye and lip, a most
genial welcome. This lady had every look of being a very
clever woman — "a manager," she was said to be; and, indeed,
her very nose had a little pinch, which prepared one for
nothing superfluous about her. Even her dress could not have
wanted another breadth from the skirt, and had no fullness to
spare about the body — neat as a pin, though; and a well-to-do
look through it all. Miss Quackenboss Fleda recognised as an
old friend, gilt beads and all. Catherine Douglass had grown
up to a pretty girl during the five years since Fleda had left
Queechy, and gave her a greeting, half-smiling, half-shy.
There was a little more affluence about the flow of her
drapery, and the pink ribbon round her neck was confined by a
little dainty Jew's-harp of a brooch; she had her mother's
pinch of the nose too. Then there were two other young ladies
— Miss Letitia Ann Thornton, a tall-grown girl in pantalettes,
evidently a would-be aristocrat, from the air of her head and
lip, with a well-looking face, and looking well knowing of the
same, and sporting neat little white cuffs at her wrists — the
only one who bore such a distinction. The third of these
damsels, Jessie Healy, impressed Fleda with having been
brought up upon coarse meat, and having grown heavy in
consequence; the other two were extremely fair and delicate,
both in complexion and feature. Her aunt Syra, Fleda
recognised without particular pleasure, and managed to seat
herself at the quilt with the sewing-woman and Miss Hannah
between them. Miss Lucy Finn she found seated at her right
hand, but after all the civilities she had just gone through,
Fleda had not courage just then to dash into business with
her, and Miss Lucy herself stitched away, and was dumb.

So were the rest of the party — rather. The presence of the
new comer seemed to have the effect of a spell. Fleda could
not think they had been as silent before her joining them, as
they were for some time afterwards. The young ladies were
absolutely mute, and conversation seemed to flag even among
the elder ones; and if Fleda ever raised her eyes from the
quilt to look at somebody, she was sure to see somebody's eyes
looking at her, with a curiosity well enough defined, and
mixed with a more or less amount of benevolence and pleasure.
Fleda was growing very industrious and feeling her cheeks grow
warm, when the checked stream of conversation began to take
revenge by turning its tide upon her.

"Are you glad to be back to Queechy, Fleda?" said Mrs.
Douglass, from the opposite far end of the quilt.

"Yes Ma'am," said Fleda, smiling back her answer — "on some
accounts."

"Ain't she growed like her father, Mis' Douglass?" said the
sewing-woman. "Do you recollect Walter Ringgan? What a
handsome feller he was!"

The two opposite girls immediately found something to say to
each other.

"She aint a bit more like him than she is like her mother,"
said Mrs. Douglass, biting off the end of her thread
energetically. "Amy Ringgan was a sweet good woman as ever was
in this town."

Again her daughter's glance and smile went over to the
speaker.

"You stay in Queechy, and live like Queechy folks do," Mrs.
Douglass added, nodding encouragingly, "and you'll beat both
on 'em."

But this speech jarred, and Fleda wished it had not been
spoken.

"How does your uncle like farming?" said aunt Syra.

A home thrust, which Fleda parried by saying he had hardly got
accustomed to it yet.

"What's been his business? what has he been doing all his life
till now?" said the sewing-woman.

Fleda replied that he had had no business; and after the minds
of the company had had time to entertain this statement, she
was startled by Miss Lucy's voice at her elbow.

"It seems kind o' curious, don't it, that a man should live to
be forty or fifty years old, and not know anything of the
earth he gets his bread from?"

"What makes you think he don't?" said Miss Thornton, rather
tartly.

"She wa'n't speaking o' nobody," said aunt Syra.

"I was — I was speaking of man — I was speaking abstractly,"
said Fleda's right-hand neighbour.

"What's abstractly?" said Miss Anastasia, scornfully.

"Where do you get hold of such hard words, Lucy?" said Mrs.
Douglass.

"I don't know, Mis' Douglass, they come to me; it's practice,
I suppose. I had no intention of being obscure."

"One kind o' word 's as easy as another, I suppose, when
you're used to it, aint it?" said the sewing-woman.

"What's abstractly?" said the mistress of the house, again.

"Look in the dictionary, if you want to know," said her
sister.

"I don't want to know — I only want you to tell."

"When do you get time for it, Lucy? ha'n't you nothing else to
practise?" pursued Mrs. Douglass.

"Yes, Mis' Douglass; but then there are times for exertion,
and other times less disposable; and when I feel thoughtful or
low, I commonly retire to my room, and contemplate the stars,
or write a composition."

The sewing-woman greeted this speech with an unqualified ha!
ha! and Fleda involuntarily raised her head to look at the
last speaker; but there was nothing to be noticed about her,
except that she was in rather nicer order than the rest of the
Finn family.

"Did you get home safe last night?" inquired Miss Quackenboss,
bending forward over the quilt to look down to Fleda.

Fleda thanked her, and replied that they had been overturned,
and had several ribs broken.

"And where have you been, Fleda, all this while?" said Mrs.
Douglass.

Fleda told, upon which all the quilting party raised their
heads simultaneously, to take another review of her.

"Your uncle's wife aint a Frenchwoman, be she?" asked the
sewing-woman.

Fleda said, "Oh, no!" and Miss Quackenboss remarked, that "she
thought she wa'n't;" whereby Fleda perceived it had been a
subject of discussion.

"She lives like one, don't she?" said aunt Syra.

Which imputation Fleda also refuted to the best of her power.

"Well, don't she have dinner in the middle of the afternoon?"
pursued aunt Syra.

Fleda was obliged to admit that.

"And she can't eat without she has a fresh piece of roast meat
on table every day, can she?"

"It is not always roast," said Fleda, half vexed and half
laughing.

"I'd rather have a good dish o' bread and 'lasses, than the
hull on't," observed old Mrs. Finn, from the corner where she
sat, manifestly turning up her nose at the far-off joints on
Mrs. Rossitur's dinner-table.

The girls on the other side of the quilt again held counsel
together, deep and low.

"Well, didn't she pick up all them notions in that place
yonder? — where you say she has been?" aunt Syra went on.

"No," said Fleda; "everybody does so in New York."

"I want to know what kind of a place New York is, now," said
old Mrs. Finn, drawlingly. "I s'pose it's pretty big, aint
it?"

Fleda replied that it was.

"I shouldn't wonder if it was a'most as far as from here to
Queechy Run, now; aint it?"

The distance mentioned being somewhere about one-eighth of New
York's longest diameter, Fleda answered that it was quite as
far.

"I s'pose there's plenty o' mighty rich folks there, aint
there?"

"Plenty, I believe," said Fleda.

"I should hate to live in it awfully," was the old woman's
conclusion.

"I should admire to travel in many countries," said Miss Lucy,
for the first time seeming to intend her words particularly
for Fleda's ear. "I think nothing makes people more genteel. I
have observed it frequently."

Fleda said it was very pleasant; but though encouraged by this
opening, could not muster enough courage to ask if Miss Lucy
had a "notion" to come and prove their gentility. Her next
question was startling — if Fleda had ever studied
mathematics.

"No," said Fleda. "Have you?"

"O my, yes! There was a lot of us concluded we would learn it;
and we commenced to study it a long time ago. I think it's a
most elevating —"

The discussion was suddenly broken off, for the sewing-woman
exclaimed, as the other sister came in and took her seat —

"Why, Hannah! you ha'n't been makin' bread with that clock on
your hands!"

"Well, Mis' Barnes!" said the girl; "I've washed 'em, and I've
made bread with 'em, and even that did not take it off!"

"Do you look at the stars, too, Hannah?" said Mrs. Douglass.

Amidst a small hubbub of laugh and talk which now became
general, poor Fleda fell back upon one single thought, one
wish — that Hugh would come to fetch her home before tea-time.
But it was a vain hope. Hugh was not to be there till sundown,
and supper was announced long before that. They all filed
down, and Fleda with them, to the great kitchen below stairs;
and she found herself placed in the seat of honour indeed, but
an honour she would gladly have escaped, at Miss Anastasia's
right hand.

A temporary locked-jaw would have been felt a blessing. Fleda
dared hardly even look about her; but under the eye of her
hostess the instinct of good breeding was found sufficient to
swallow everything, literally and figuratively. There was a
good deal to swallow. The usual variety of cakes, sweetmeats,
beef, cheese, biscuits, and pies, was set out with some
peculiarity of arrangement which Fleda had never seen before,
and which left that of Miss Quackenboss elegant by comparison.
Down each side of the table ran an advanced guard of little
sauces in Indian file, but in companies of three, the file
leader of each being a saucer of custard, its follower a ditto
of preserves, and the third keeping a sharp look-out in the
shape of pickles; and to Fleda's unspeakable horror, she
discovered that the guests were expected to help themselves at
will from these several stores with their own spoons,
transferring what they took either to their own plates, or at
once to its final destination, which last mode several of the
company preferred. The advantage of this plan was the
necessary great display of the new silver tea-spoons, which
Mrs. Douglass slily hinted to aunt Syra were the moving cause
of the tea-party. But aunt Syra swallowed sweetmeats, and
would not give heed.

There was no relief for poor Fleda. Aunt Syra was her next
neighbour, and opposite to her, at Miss Anastasia's left hand,
was the disagreeable countenance and peering eyes of the old
crone, her mother. Fleda kept her own eyes fixed upon her
plate, and endeavoured to see nothing but that.

"Why, here's Fleda aint eating anything," said Mrs. Douglass.
"Wont you have some preserves? take some custard, do!
Anastasy, she ha'n't a spoon — no wonder!"

Fleda had secretly conveyed hers under cover.

"There was one," said Miss Anastasia, looking about where one
should have been. I'll get another as soon as I give Mis'
Springer her tea."

"Ha'n't you got enough to go round?" said the old woman,
plucking at her daughter's sleeve. "Anastasy! ha'n't you got
enough to go round?"

This speech, which was spoken with a most spiteful simplicity,
Miss Anastasia answered with superb silence, and presently
produced spoons enough to satisfy herself and the company. But
Fleda! No earthly persuasion could prevail upon her to touch
pickles, sweetmeats, or custard that evening; and even in the
bread and cakes she had a vision of hands before her that took
away her appetite. She endeavoured to make a show with hung
beef and cups of tea, which indeed was not Pouchong; but her
supper came suddenly to an end upon a remark of her hostess,
addressed to the whole table, that they needn't be surprised
if they found any bits of pudding in the gingerbread, for it
was made from the molasses the children left the other day.
Who "the children" were Fleda did not know, neither was it
material.

It was sundown, but Hugh had not come when they went to the
upper rooms again. Two were open now, for they were small, and
the company promised not to be such. Fathers and brothers, and
husbands began to come, and loud talking, and laughing and
joking took place of the quilting chit-chat. Fleda would fain
have absorbed herself in the work again, but though the frame
still stood there, the minds of the company were plainly
turned aside from their duty, or perhaps they thought that
Miss Anastasia had had admiration enough to dispense with
service. Nobody showed a thimble but one or two old ladies;
and as numbers and spirits gathered strength, a kind of
romping game was set on foot, in which a vast deal of kissing
seemed to be the grand wit of the matter. Fleda shrank away
out of sight behind the open door of communication between the
two rooms, pleading, with great truth, that she was tired, and
would like to keep perfectly quiet; and she had soon the
satisfaction of being apparently forgotten.

In the other room, some of the older people were enjoying
themselves more soberly. Fleda's ear was too near the crack of
the door, not to have the benefit of more of their
conversation than she cared for. It soon put quiet of mind out
of the question.

"He'll twist himself up pretty short — that's my sense of it;
and he wont take long to do it, nother," said Earl Douglass's
voice.

Fleda would have known it anywhere, from its extreme
peculiarity. It never either rose or fell much from a certain
pitch; and at that level the words gurgled forth, seemingly
from an everbrimming fountain; he never wanted one; and the
stream had neither let nor stay till his modicum of sense had
fairly run out. People thought he had not a greater stock of
that than some of his neighbours; but he issued an amount of
word-currency sufficient for the use of the county.

"He'll run himself agin a post pretty quick," said uncle
Joshua, in a confirmatory tone of voice.

Fleda had a confused idea that somebody was going to hang
himself.

"He aint a-workin' things right," said Douglass; "he aint a-
workin' things right; he's takin' hold o' everything by the
tail end. He aint studied the business; he doesn't know when
things is right, and he doesn't know when things is wrong; and
if they're wrong, he don't know how to set 'em right. He's got
a feller there that aint no more fit to be there, than I am to
be Vice-President of the United States; and I aint a-going to
say what I think I am fit for, but I ha'n't studied for that
place, and I shouldn't like to stand an examination for't; and
a man hadn't ought to be a farmer no more if he ha'n't
qualified himself. That's my idee. I like to see a thing done
well, if it's to be done at all; and there aint a stitch o'
land been laid right on the hull farm, nor a furrow driv' as
it had ought to be, since he came on to it; and I say, Squire
Springer, a man aint going to get along in that way, and he
hadn't ought to. I work hard myself, and I calculate to work
hard, and I make a livin' by't; and I'm content to work hard.
When I see a man with his hands in his pockets, I think he'll
have nothin' else in 'em soon. I don't believe he's done a
hand's turn himself on the land the hull season!"

And upon this Mr. Douglass brought up.

"My son, Lucas, has been workin' with him, off and on, pretty
much the hull time since he come; and he says he ha'n't begun
to know how to spell farmer yet."

"Ay, ay! My wife — she's a little harder on folks than I be —
I think it aint worth while to say nothin' of a man without I
can say some good of him — that's my idee; and it don't do no
harm, nother; but my wife, she says he's got to let down his
notions a peg or two afore they'll hitch just in the right
place; and I wont say but what I think she aint, maybe, fur
from right. If a man's above his business, he stands a pretty
fair chance to be below it some day. I wont say myself, for I
haven't any acquaintance with him, and a man oughtn't to speak
but of what he's knowing to; but I have heerd say, that he
wa'n't as conversationable as it would ha' been handsome in
him to be, all things considerin.' There seems to be a good
many things said of him, somehow, and l always think men don't
talk of a man if he don't give 'em occasion; but, anyhow, I've
been past the farm pretty often myself this summer, working
with Seth Plumfield; and I've took notice of things myself;
and I know he's been makin' beds o' sparrowgrass when he had
ought to ha' been makin' fences, and he's been helpin' that
little girl o' his'n set her flowers, when he would ha' been
better sot to work lookin' after his Irishman. But I don't
know as it made much matter, nother; for if he went wrong, Mr.
Rossitur wouldn't know how to set him right, and if he was a-
going right, Mr. Rossitur would ha' been just as likely to ha'
set him wrong. Well, I'm sorry for him!"

"Mr. Rossitur is a most gentlemanlike man," said the voice of
Dr. Quackenboss.

"Ay — I dare say he is," Earl responded, in precisely the same
tone. "I was down to his house one day last summer to see him.
He wa'n't to hum, though."

"It would be strange if harm come to a man with such a
guardian angel in the house as that man has in his'n." said
Dr. Quackenboss.

"Well she's a pretty creetur!" said Douglass, looking up with
some animation. "I wouldn't blame any man that sot a good deal
by her. I will say I think she's as handsome as my own darter;
and a man can't go no furder than that, I suppose."

"She wont help his farming much, I guess," said uncle Joshua,
"nor his wife nother."

Fleda heard Dr. Quackenboss coming through the doorway, and
started from her corner, for fear he might find her out there,
and know what she had heard.

He very soon found her out in the new place she had chosen,
and came up to pay his compliments. Fleda was in a mood for
anything but laughing, yet the mixture of the ludicrous which
the doctor administered set her nerves a-twitching. Bringing
his chair down sideways at one angle and his person at
another, so as to meet at the moment of the chair's touching
the floor, and with a look and smile, slanting to match, the
doctor said —

"Well, Miss Ringgan, has — a — Mrs. Rossitur — does she feel
herself reconciled yet?"

"Reconciled, Sir?' said Fleda.

"Yes — a — to Queechy?"

"She never quarrelled with it, Sir," said Fleda, quite unable
to keep from laughing.

"Yes — I mean — a — she feels that she can sustain her spirits
in different situations?"

"She is very well, Sir, thank you."

"It must have been a great change to her — and to you all —
coming to this place."

"Yes, Sir; the country is very different from the city."

"In what part of New York was Mr. Rossitur's former
residence?"

" In State-street, Sir."

"State-street — that is somewhere in the direction of the
Park?"

"No, Sir, not exactly."

"Was Mrs. Rossitur a native of the city?"

"Not of New York. Oh, Hugh! my dear Hugh!" exclaimed Fleda, in
another tone — "what have you been thinking of?"

"Father wanted me," said Hugh. "I could not help it, Fleda."

"You are not going to have the cruelty to take your — a —
cousin away, Mr. Rossitur?" said the doctor.

But Fleda was for once happy to be cruel; she would hear no
remonstrances. Though her desire for Miss Lucy's "help" had
considerably lessened, she thought she could not in politeness
avoid speaking on the subject, after being invited there on
purpose. But Miss Lucy said she "calculated to stay at home
this winter," unless she went to live with somebody at Kenton,
for the purpose of attending a course of philosophy lectures
that she heard were to be given there. So that matter was
settled; and, clasping Hugh's arm, Fleda turned away from the
house with a step and heart both lightened by the joy of being
out of it.

"I coudn't come sooner, Fleda," said Hugh.

"No matter — Oh, I'm so glad to be away! Walk a little faster,
dear Hugh. Have you missed me at home?"

"Do you want me to say no or yes?" said Hugh, smiling. "We did
very well — mother and I — and I have left everything ready to
have tea the minute you get home. What sort of a time have you
had?"

In answer to which Fleda gave him a long history, and then
they walked on a while in silence. The evening was still, and
would have been dark but for the extreme brilliancy of the
stars through the keen, clear atmosphere. Fleda looked up at
them, and drew large draughts of bodily and mental refreshment
with the bracing air.

"Do you know to-morrow will be Thanksgiving-day?"

"Yes; what made you think of it?"

"They were talking about it; they make a great fuss here
Thanksgiving-day."

"I don't think we shall make much of a fuss," said Hugh.

"I don't think we shall. I wonder what I shall do — I am
afraid uncle Rolf will get tired of coffee and omelettes in
the course of time; and my list of receipts is very limited."

"It is a pity you didn't beg one of Mrs. Renney's books," said
Hugh, laughing. "If you had only known —"

" 'Tisn't too late!" said Fleda, quickly. "I'll send to New
York for one. I will! I'll ask uncle Orrin to get it for me.
That's the best thought!"

"But, Fleda, you're not going to turn cook in that fashion?"

"It would be no harm to have the book," said Fleda. "I can
tell you, we mustn't expect to get anybody here that can make
an omelette, or even coffee, that uncle Rolf will drink. Oh,
Hugh! —"

"What?"

"I don't know where we are going to get anybody! But don't say
anything to aunt Lucy about it."

"Well, we can keep Thanksgiving-day, Fleda, without a dinner,"
said Hugh, cheerfully.

"Yes, indeed — I am sure I can — after being among these
people to-night. How much I have that they want! Look at the
Great Bear over there! Isn't that better than New York?"

"The Great Bear hangs over New York, too," Hugh said, with a
smile.

"Ah! but it isn't the same thing. Heaven hasn't the same eyes
for the city and the country."

As Hugh and Fleda went quick up to the kitchen-door, they
overtook a dark figure, at whom looking narrowly as she
passed, Fleda recognised Seth Plumfield. He was joyfully let
into the kitchen, and there proved to be the bearer of a huge
dish, carefully covered with a napkin.

"Mother guessed you hadn't any Thanksgiving ready," he said,
"and she wanted to send this down to you; so I thought I would
come and fetch it myself."

"Oh, thank her! and thank you, cousin Seth; how good you are!"

"Mother ha'n't lost her old trick at 'em," said he; "so I hope
that's good."

"Oh, I know it is," said Fleda. "I remember aunt Miriam's
Thanksgiving chicken-pies. Now, cousin Seth, you must come in,
and see aunt Lucy."

"No," said he, quietly: "I've got my farm boots on. I guess I
wont see anybody but you."

But Fleda would not suffer that; and finding she could not
move him, she brought her aunt out into the kitchen. Mrs.
Rossitur's manner of speaking, and thanking him, quite charmed
Seth, and he went away with a kindly feeling towards those
gentle, bright eves, which he never forgot.

"Now, we've something for to-morrow, Hugh !" said Fleda; "and
such a chicken-pie, I can tell you, as you never saw. Hugh,
isn't it odd, how different a thing is in different
circumstances? You don't know how glad I was when I put my
hands upon that warm pie-dish, and knew what it was; and when
did I ever care in New York about Emile's doings?"

"Except the almond gauffres," said Hugh, smiling.

"I never thought to be so glad of a chicken-pie," said Fleda,
shaking her head.

Aunt Miriam's dish bore out Fleda's praise, in the opinion of
all that tasted it; for such fowls, such butter, and such
cream, as went to its composition, could hardly be known but
in an unsophisticated state of society. But one pie could not
last for ever; and as soon as the signs of dinner were got rid
of, Thanksgiving-day though it was, poor Fleda was fain to go
up the hill, to consult aunt Miriam about the possibility of
getting "help."

"I don't know, dear Fleda," said she; "if you cannot get Lucy
Flinn, I don't know who else there is you can get. Mrs. Toles
wants both her daughters at home, I know, this winter, because
she is sick; and Marietta Winchel is working at aunt Syra's. I
don't know — do you remember Barby Elster, that used to live
with me?"

"O yes!"

"She might go — she has been staying at home these two years,
to take care of her old mother, that's the reason she left me;
but she has another sister come home now — Hetty, that
married, and went to Montepoole; she's lost her husband and
come home to live; so perhaps Barby would go out again. But I
don't know — how do you think your aunt Lucy would get along
with her?"

"Dear aunt Miriam, you know we must do as we can. We must have
somebody."

"Barby is a little quick," said Mrs. Plumfield, "but I think
she is good-hearted, and she is thorough and faithful as the
day is long. If your aunt and uncle can put up with her ways."

"I am sure we can, aunt Miriam. Aunt Lucy's the easiest person
in the world to please; and I'll try and keep her away from
uncle Rolf. I think we can get along. I know Barby used to
like me."

"But then Barby knows nothing about French cooking, my child;
she can do nothing but the common, country things. What will
your uncle and aunt say to that?"

"I don't know," said Fleda, "but anything is better than
nothing. I must try and do what she can't do. I'll come up and
get you to teach me, aunt Miriam."

Aunt Miriam hugged and kissed her before speaking.

"I'll teach you what I know, my darling: — and now we'll go
right off and see Barby — we shall catch her just in a good
time."

It was a poor little unpainted house, standing back from the
road, and with a double row of' boards laid down to serve as a
path to it. But this board walk was scrubbed perfectly clean.
They went in without knocking. There was nobody there but an
old woman seated before the fire, shaking all over with the
St. Vitus's Dance. She gave them no salutation, calling
instead on "Barby!" — who presently made her appearance from
the inner door.

"Barby! who's this?"

"That's Mis' Plumfield, mother," said the daughter, speaking
loud as to a deaf person.

The old lady immediately got up and dropped a very quick and
what was meant to be a very respect-showing courtesy, saying
at the same time, with much deference, and with one of her
involuntary twitches, "I ' 'maun ' to know!" The sense of the
ludicrous and the feeling of pity together, were painfully
oppressive. Fleda turned away to the daughter, who came
forward and shook hands with a frank look of pleasure at the
sight of her elder visitor.

"Barby," said Mrs. Plumfield, "this is little Fleda Ringgan —
do you remember her?"

"I 'mind to know!" said Barby, transferring her hand to
Fleda's, and giving it a good squeeze. "She's growed a fine
gal, Mis' Plumfield. You ha'n't lost none of your good looks —
- ha' you kept all your old goodness along with 'em?"

Fleda laughed at this abrupt question, and said she didn't
know.

"If you ha'n't, I wouldn't give much for your eyes," said
Barby, letting go her hand.

Mrs. Plumfield laughed too at Barby's equivocal mode of
complimenting.

"Who's that young gal, Barby?" inquired Mrs. Elster.

"That's Mis' Plumfield's niece, mother."

"She's a handsome little creetur, aint she?"

They all laughed at that, and Fleda's cheeks growing crimson,
Mrs. Plumfield stepped forward to ask after the old lady's
health; and while she talked and listened, Fleda's eyes noted
the spotless condition of the room — the white table, the nice
rag-carpet, the bright many-coloured patchwork counterpane on
the bed, the brilliant cleanliness of the floor, where the
small carpet left the boards bare, the tidy look of the two
women; and she made up her mind that she could get along with
Miss Barbara very well. Barby was rather tall, and in face
decidedly a fine-looking woman, though her figure had the
usual scantling proportions which nature or fashion assigns to
the hard-working dwellers in the country. A handsome, quick,
gray eye, and the mouth, were sufficiently expressive of
character, and perhaps of temper, but there were no lines of
anything sinister or surly; you could imagine a flash, but not
a cloud.

"Barby, you are not tied at home any longer, are you?" said.
Mrs. Plumfield, coming back from the old lady and speaking
rather low; — "now that Hetty is here, can't your mother spare
you?"

"Well, I reckon she could, Mis' Plumfield, if I could work it
so that she'd be more comfortable by my being away."

"Then you'd have no objection to go out again?"

"Where to?"

"Fleda's uncle, you know, has taken my brother's old place,
and they have no help. They want somebody to take the whole
management — just you, Barby. Mrs. Rossitur isn't strong."

"Nor don't want to be, does she? I've heerd tell of her, Mis'
Plumfield — I should despise to have as many legs and arms as
other folks, and not be able to help myself!"

"But you wouldn't despise to help other folks, I hope," said
Mrs. Plumfield, smiling.

"People that want you very much, too," said Fleda; for she
quite longed to have that strong hand and healthy eye to rely
upon at home. Barby looked at her with a relaxed face, and,
after a little consideration, said she guessed "she'd try."

"Mis' Plumfield," cried the old lady, as they were moving —
"Mis' Plumfield, you said you'd send me a piece of pork."

"I haven't forgotten it, Mrs. Elster — you shall have it."

"Well, you get it out for me yourself," said the old woman,
speaking very energetically — "don't you send no one else to
the barrel for't, because I know you'll give me the biggest
piece."

Mrs. Plumfield laughed and promised.

"I'll come up and work it out some odd day," said the
daughter, nodding intelligently, as she followed them to the
door.

"We'll talk about that," said Mrs. Plumfield.

"She was wonderful pleased with the pie," said Barby, "and so
was Hetty; she ha'n't seen anything so good, she says, since
she quit Queechy."

"Well, Barby," said Mrs. Plumfield, as she turned and grasped
her hand, "did you remember your thanksgiving over it?"

"Yes, Mis' Plumfield," and the fine grey eyes fell to the
floor; "but I minded it only because it had come from you. I
seemed to hear you saying just that out of every bone I
picked."

"You minded my message," said the other, gently.

"Well, I don't mind the things I had ought to most," said
Barby, in a subdued voice — "never! — 'cept mother — I aint
very apt to forget her."

Mrs. Plumfield saw a tell-tale glittering beneath the drooping
eyelid. She added no more but a sympathetic strong squeeze of
the hand she held, and turned to follow Fleda who had gone on
ahead.

"Mis' Plumfield," said Barby, before they had reached the
stile that led into the road, where Fleda was standing, "will
I be sure of having the money regular down yonder? You know, I
hadn't ought to go otherways, on account of mother."

"Yes, it will be sure," said Mrs. Plumfield, "and regular;"
adding quietly, "I'll make it so."

There was a bond for the whole amount in aunt Miriam's eyes;
and, quite satisfied, Barby went back to the house.

"Will she expect to come to our table, aunt Miriam'? said
Fleda, when they had walked a little way.

"No, she will not expect that; but Barby will want a different
kind of managing from those Irish women of yours. She wont
bear to be spoken to in a way that don't suit her notions of
what she thinks she deserves; and perhaps your aunt and uncle
will think her notions rather high — I don't know."

"There is no difficulty with aunt Lucy," said Fleda; "and I
guess I can manage uncle Rolf — I'll try. _I_ like her very
much."

"Barby is very poor," said Mrs. Plumfield; "she has nothing
but her own earnings to support herself and her old mother,
and now, I suppose, her sister and her child; for Hetty is a
poor thing — never did much, and now I suppose does nothing."

"Are those Finns poor, aunt Miriam?"

"O no — not at all — they are very well off."

"So I thought — they seemed to have plenty of everything, and
silver spoons and all. But why then do they go out to work?"

"They are a little too fond of getting money, I expect," said
aunt Miriam. "And they are a queer sort of people rather — the
mother is queer, and the children are queer — they aint like
other folks exactly — never were."

"I am very glad we are to have Barby, instead of that Lucy
Finn," said Fleda. "Oh, aunt Miriam! you can't think how much
easier my heart feels."

"Poor child!" said aunt Miriam, looking at her. "But it isn't
best, Fleda, to have things work too smooth in this world."

"No, I suppose not," said Fleda, sighing. "Isn't it very
strange, aunt Miriam, that it should make people worse instead
of better to have everything go pleasantly with them?"

"It is because they are apt then to be so full of the present,
that they forget the care of the future."

"Yes, and forget there is anything better than the present, I
suppose," said Fleda.

"So we mustn't fret at the ways our Father takes to keep us
from hurting ourselves," said aunt Miriam, cheerfully.

"O no!" said Fleda, looking up brightly, in answer to the
tender manner in which these words were spoken; — "and I
didn't mean that _this_ is much of a trouble — only I am very
glad to think that somebody is coming to-morrow."

Aunt Miriam thought that gentle unfretful face could not stand
in need of much discipline.



CHAPTER XXI.


"Wise men alway
Affyrme and say,
That best is for a man
Diligently,
For to apply,
The business that he can." — MORE


Fleda waited for Barby's coming the next day with a little
anxiety. The introduction and installation, however, were
happily got over. Mrs. Rossitur, as Fleda knew, was most
easily pleased, and Barby Elster's quick eye was satisfied
with the unaffected and universal gentleness and politeness of
her new employer. She made herself at home in half an hour;
and Mrs. Rossitur and Fleda were comforted to perceive, by
unmistakable signs, that their presence was not needed in the
kitchen, and they might retire to their own premises and
forget there was another part of the house. Fleda had
forgotten it utterly, and deliciously enjoying the rest of
mind and body, she was stretched upon the sofa, luxuriating
over some volume from her remnant of a library, when the inner
door was suddenly pushed open far enough to admit of the
entrance of Miss Elster's head.

"Where's the soft soap?"

Fleda's book went down, and her heart jumped to her mouth, for
her uncle was sitting over by the window. Mrs. Rossitur looked
up in amaze, and waited for the question to be repeated.

"I say, where's the soft soap?"

"Soft soap!" said Mrs. Rossitur — "I don't know whether there
is any — Fleda, do you know?"

"I was trying to think, aunt Lucy — I don't believe there is
any."

"_Where_ is it?" said Barby.

"There is none, I believe," said Mrs. Rossitur

"Where _was_ it, then?"

"Nowhere — there has not been any in the house," said Fleda,
raising herself up to see over the back of her sofa.

"There ha'n't been none!" said Miss Elster, in a tone more
significant than her words, and shutting the door as abruptly
as she had opened it.

"What upon earth does the woman mean?" exclaimed Mr. Rossitur,
springing up and advancing towards the kitchen door. Fleda
threw herself before him.

"Nothing at all, uncle Rolf — she doesn't mean anything at all
— she doesn't know any better."

"I will improve her knowledge — get out of the way, Fleda."

"But, uncle Rolf, just hear me one moment — please don't! —
she didn't mean any harm — these people don't know any manners
— just let me speak to her, please, uncle Rolf!" said Fleda,
laying both hands upon her uncle's arms — "I'll manage her."

Mr. Rossitur's wrath was high, and he would have run over or
knocked down anything less gentle that had stood in his way;
hut even the harshness of strength shuns to set itself in
array against the meekness that does not _oppose;_ if the touch
of those hands had been a whit less light, or the glance of
her eye less submissively appealing, it would have availed
nothing. As it was, he stopped and looked at her, at first
scowling, but then with a smile.

"_You_ manage her!" said he.

"Yes," said Fleda, laughing, and now exerting her force, she
gently pushed him back towards the seat he had quitted — "yes,
uncle Rolf, you've enough else to manage, don't undertake our
'help.' Deliver over all your displeasure upon me when
anything goes wrong — I will be the conductor to carry it off
safely into the kitchen, and discharge it just at that point
where I think it will do most execution. Now, will you, uncle
Rolf? — Because we have got a new-fashioned piece of fire-arms
in the other room, that I am afraid will go off unexpectedly
if it is meddled with by an unskilful hand; and that would
leave us without arms, you see, or with only aunt Lucy's and
mine, which are not reliable."

"You saucy girl!" said her uncle, who was laughing partly at
and partly with her, "I don't know what you deserve exactly.
Well, keep this precious new operative of yours out of my way,
and I'll take care to keep out of hers. But mind, you must
manage not to have your piece snapping in my face in this
fashion, for I wont stand it."

And so, quieted, Mr. Rossitur sat down to his book again; and
Fleda, leaving hers open, went to attend upon Barby.

"There ain't much yallow soap neither," said this personage,
"if this is all. There's one thing — if we ha'n't got it, we
can make it. I must get Mis' Rossitur to have a leach-tub sot
up right away. I'm a dreadful hand for havin' plenty o' soap."

"What is a leach-tub?" said Fleda.

"Why, a leach-tub, for to leach ashes in. That's easy enough.
I'll fix it, afore we're any on us much older. If Mr. Rossitur
'll keep me in good hard wood, I sha'n't cost him hardly
anything for potash."

"I'll see about it," said Fleda; "and I will see about having
the leach-tub, or whatever it is, put up for you. And, Barby,
whenever you want anything, will you just speak to me about
it? — and if I am in the other room, ask me to come out here;
because my aunt is not strong, and does not know where things
are as well as I do; and when my uncle is in there, he
sometimes does not like to be disturbed with hearing any such
talk. If you'll tell me, I'll see and have everything done for
you."

"Well — you get me a leach sot up — that's all I'll ask of you
just now," said Barby, good-humouredly, "and help me to find
the soap-grease, if there is any. As to the rest, I don't want
to see nothin' o' him in the kitchen, so I'll relieve him if
he don't want to see much o' me in the parlour. I shouldn't
wonder if there wa'n't a speck of it in the house."

Not a speck was there to be found.

"Your uncle's pockets must ha' had a good hole in 'em by this
time," remarked Barby, as they came back from the cellar.
"However, there never was a crock so empty it couldn't be
filled. You get me a leach-tub sot up, and I'll find work for
it."

From that time, Fleda had no more trouble with her uncle and
Barby. Each seemed to have a wholesome appreciation of the
other's combative qualities, and to shun them. With Mrs.
Rossitur, Barby was soon all-powerful. It was enough that she
wanted a thing, if Mrs. Rossitur's own resources could compass
it. For Fleda, to say that Barby had presently a perfect
understanding with her, and joined to that, a most
affectionate, careful regard, is not, perhaps, saying much;
for it was true of every one, without exception, with whom
Fleda had much to do. Barby was to all of them a very great
comfort and stand-by.

It was well for them that they had her within doors to keep
things, as she called it, "right and tight;" for abroad the
only system in vogue was one of fluctuation and uncertainty.
Mr. Rossitur's Irishman, Donohan, staid his year out, doing as
little good, and as much, at least, negative harm, as he well
could; and then went, leaving them a good deal poorer than he
found them. Dr. Gregory's generosity had added to Mr.
Rossitur's own small stock of ready money, giving him the
means to make some needed outlays on the farm. But the outlay,
ill-applied, had been greater than the income; a scarcity of'
money began to be more and more felt; and the comfort of the
family accordingly drew within more and more narrow bounds.
The temper of the head of the family suffered in at least
equal degree.

From the first of Barby's coming, poor Fleda had done her
utmost to prevent the want of Mons. Emile from being felt. Mr.
Rossitur's table was always set by her careful hand, and all
the delicacies that came upon it were, unknown to him, of her
providing — even the bread. One day, at breakfast, Mr.
Rossitur had expressed his impatient displeasure at that of
Miss Elster's manufacture. Fleda saw the distressed shade that
came over her aunt's face, and took her resolution. It was the
last time. She had followed her plan of sending for the
receipts, and she studied them diligently, both at home and
under aunt Miriam. Natural quickness of eye and hand came in
aid of her affectionate zeal, and it was not long before she
could trust herself to undertake any operation in the whole
range of her cookery-book. But, meanwhile, materials were
growing scarce, and hard to come by. The delicate French rolls
which were now always ready for her uncle's plate in the
morning, had sometimes nothing to back them, unless the
unfailing water-cress from the good little spring in the
meadow. Fleda could not spare her eggs, for, perhaps, they
might have nothing else to depend upon for dinner. It was no
burden to her to do these things; she had a sufficient reward
in seeing that her aunt and Hugh ate the better, and that her
uncle's brow was clear; but it was a burden when her hands
were tied by the lack of means, for she knew the failure of
the usual supply was bitterly felt, not for the actual want,
but for that other want which it implied and prefigured.

On the first dismissal of Donohan, Fleda hoped for a good turn
of affairs. But Mr. Rossitur, disgusted with his first
experiment, resolved this season to be his own head man; and
appointed Lucas Springer the second in command, with a possé
of labourers to execute his decrees. It did not work well. Mr.
Rossitur found he had a very tough prime minister, who would
have every one of his plans to go through a kind of winnowing
process by being tossed about in an argument. The arguments
were interminable, until Mr. Rossitur not unfrequently quit
the field with, "Well, do what you like about it!" — not
conquered, but wearied. The labourers, either from want of
ready money, or of what they called "manners" in their
employer, fell off at the wrong times, just when they were
most wanted. Hugh threw himself then into the breach and
wrought beyond his strength; and that tried Fleda worst of
all. She was glad to see haying and harvest pass over; but the
change of seasons seemed to bring only a change of
disagreeableness, and she could not find that hope had any
better breathing-time in the short days of winter than in the
long days of summer. Her gentle face grew more gentle than
ever, for under the shade of sorrowful patience, which was
always there, now its meekness had no eclipse.

Mrs. Rossitur was struck with it one morning. She was coming
down from her room and saw Fleda standing on the landing-place
gazing out of the window. It was before breakfast one cold
morning in winter. Mrs. Rossitur put her arms round her softly
and kissed her.

"What are you thinking about, dear Fleda? — you ought not to
be standing here."

"I was looking at Hugh," said Fleda, and her eye went back to
the window. Mrs. Rossitur's followed it. The window gave them
a view of the ground behind the house; and there was Hugh,
just coming in with a large armful of heavy wood which he had
been sawing.

"He isn't strong enough to do that, aunt Lucy," said Fleda,
softly.

"I know it," said his mother, in a subdued tone, and not
moving her eye, though Hugh had disappeared.

"It is too cold for him; he is too thinly clad to bear this
exposure," said Fleda, anxiously.

"I know it," said his mother, again.

"Can't you tell uncle Rolf? can't you get him to do it? I am
afraid Hugh will hurt himself, aunt Lucy."

"I did tell him the other day — I did speak to him about it,"
said Mrs. Rossitur; "but he said there was no reason why Hugh
should do it — there were plenty of other people —"

"But how can he say so when he knows we never can ask Lucas to
do anything of the kind, and that other man always contrives
to be out of the way when he is wanted? Oh, what is he
thinking of?" said Fleda, bitterly, as she saw Hugh again at
his work.

It was so rarely that Fleda was seen to shed tears, that they
always were a signal of dismay to any of the household. There
was even agony in Mrs. Rossitur's voice as she implored her
not to give way to them. But, notwithstanding that, Fleda's
tears came this time from too deep a spring to be stopped at
once.

"It makes me feel as if all was lost, Fleda, when I see you do
so."

Fleda put her arms about her neck, and whispered that "she
would not" — that "she should not —"

Yet it was a little while before she could say any more.

"But, aunt Lucy, he doesn't know what he is doing."

"No; and I can't make him know. I cannot say anything more,
Fleda — it would do no good. I don't know what is the matter —
he is entirely changed from what he used to be."

"I know what is the matter," said Fleda, now turning comforter
in her turn, as her aunt's tears fell more quietly, because
more despairingly, than her own — "I know what it is — he is
not happy; — that is all. He has not succeeded well in these
farm doings, and he wants money, and he is worried — it is no
wonder if he don't seem exactly as he used to."

"And oh, that troubles me most of all!" said Mrs. Rossitur.
"The farm is bringing in nothing, I know — he don't know how
to get along with it — I was afraid it would be so; — and we
are paying nothing to uncle Orrin — and it is just a dead
weight on his hands; — and I can't bear to think of it! And
what will it come to?"

Mrs. Rossitur was now in her turn surprised into showing the
strength of her sorrows and apprehensions. Fleda was fain to
put her own out of sight, and bend her utmost powers to soothe
and compose her aunt, till they could both go down to the
breakfast-table. She had got ready a nice little dish that her
uncle was very fond of; but her pleasure in it was all gone;
and indeed it seemed to be thrown away upon the whole table.
Half the meal was over before anybody said a word.

"I am going to wash my hands of these miserable farm affairs,"
said Mr. Rossitur.

"Are you?" said his wife.

"Yes — of all personal concern in them; that is, I am wearied
to death with the perpetual annoyances and vexations, and
petty calls upon my time — life is not worth having at such a
rate! I'll have done with it."

"You will give up the entire charge to Lucas?" said Mrs.
Rossitur.

"Lucas! — No! — I wouldn't undergo that man's tongue for
another year if he would take out his wages in talking. I
could not have more of it in that case than I have had the
last six months. After money, the thing that man loves best is
certainly the sound of his own voice; — and a most
insufferable egotist! No — I have been talking with a man who
wants to take the whole farm for two years upon shares — that
will clear me of all trouble."

There was sober silence for a few minutes, and then Mrs.
Rossitur asked who it was.

"His name is Didenhover."

"Oh, uncle Rolf, don't have anything to do with him!"
exclaimed Fleda.

"Why not?"

"Because he lived with grandpa a great while ago, and behaved
very ill. Grandpa had a great deal of trouble with him."

"How old were you then?"

"I was young to be sure," said Fleda, hanging her head, "but I
remember very well how it was."

"You may have occasion to remember it a second time," said Mr.
Rossitur, drily, "for the thing is done. I have engaged him."

Not another word was spoken.

Mr. Rossitur went out after breakfast, and Mrs. Rossitur
busied herself with the breakfast cups and a tub of hot water
— a work she never would let Fleda share with her, and which
lasted in consequence long enough, Barby said, to cook and eat
three breakfasts. Fleda and Hugh sat looking at the floor and
the fire respectively.

"I am going up the hill to get a sight of aunt Miriam," said
Fleda, bringing her eyes from the fire upon her aunt.

"Well, dear, do. You have been shut up long enough by the
snow. Wrap yourself up well, and put on my snow-boots."

"No, indeed!" said Fleda. "I shall just draw on another pair
of stockings over my shoes, within my India-rubbers — I will
take a pair of Hugh's woollen ones."

"What has become of your own?" said Hugh.

"My own what? Stockings?"

"Snow-boots."

"Worn out, Mr. Rossitur! I have run them to death, poor
things! Is that a slight intimation that you are afraid of the
same fate for your socks?"

"No," said Hugh, smiling in spite of himself, at her manner —
"I will lend you anything I have got, Fleda."

His tone put Fleda in mind of the very doubtful pretensions of
the socks in question to be comprehended under the term — she
was silent a minute.

"Will you go with me, Hugh?"

"No, dear, I can't; I must get a little ahead with the wood
while I can; it looks as if it would snow again, and Barby
isn't provided for more than a day or two."

"And how for this fire?"

Hugh shook his head, and rose up to go forth into the kitchen.
Fleda went too, linking her arm in his, and bearing
affectionately upon it; a sort of tacit saying, that they
would sink or swim together. Hugh understood it perfectly.

"I am very sorry you have to do it, dear Hugh; oh, that
woodshed! If it had only been made —"

"Never mind — can't help it now — we shall get through the
winter by and by."

"Can't you get uncle Rolf to help you a little?" whispered
Fleda; "It would do him good."

But Hugh only shook his head.

"What are we going to do for dinner, Barby?" said Fleda, still
holding Hugh there before the fire.

"Aint much choice," said Barby. "It would puzzle anybody to
spell much more out of it than pork and ham. There's plenty of
them. _I_ sha'n't starve this some time."

"But we had ham yesterday, and pork the day before yesterday,
and ham Monday," said Fleda. "There is plenty of vegetables,
thanks to you and me, Hugh," she said, with a little reminding
squeeze of his arm. "I could make soups nicely, if I had
anything to make them of!"

"There's enough to be had for the catching," said Barby. "If I
hadn't a man-mountain of work upon me, I'd start out and shoot
or steal something."

"_You_ shoot, Barby!" said Fleda, laughing.

"I guess I can do most anything I set my hand to. If I
couldn't, I'd shoot myself. It wont do to kill no more o' them
chickens."

"O no, — now they are laying so finely. Well, I am going up
the hill, and when I come home I'll try and make up something,
Barby."

"Earl Douglass 'll go out in the woods now and then, of a day,
when he ha'n't no work particular to do, and fetch hum as many
pigeons and woodchucks as you could shake a stick at."

"Hugh, my dear," said Fleda, laughing, "it's a pity you aren't
a hunter — I would shake a stick at you with great pleasure.
Well, Barby, we will see when I come home."

"I was just a-thinkin'," said Barby; — "Mis' Douglass sent
round to know if Mis' Rossitur would like a piece of fresh
meat — Earl's been killing a sheep — there's a nice quarter,
she says, if she'd like to have it."

"A quarter of mutton!" said Fleda, — "I don't know — no, I
think not, Barby; I don't know when we should be able to pay
it back again. And yet, Hugh — do you think uncle Rolf will
kill another sheep this winter?"

"I am sure he will not," said Hugh; "there have so many died."

"If he only knowed it, that is a reason for killing more,"
said Barby — "and have the good of them while he can."

"Tell Mrs. Douglass we are obliged to her, but we do not want
the mutton, Barby."

Hugh went to his chopping, and Fleda set out upon her walk —
the lines of her face settling into a most fixed gravity so
soon as she turned away from the house. It was what might be
called a fine winter's day — cold and still, and the sky
covered with one uniform grey cloud. The snow lay in
uncompromising whiteness, thick over all the world — a kindly
shelter for the young grain and covering for the soil; but
Fleda's spirits, just then in another mood, saw in it only the
cold refusal to hope, and the barren check to exertion. The
wind had cleared the snow from the trees and fences, and they
stood in all their unsoftened blackness and nakedness, bleak
and stern. The high grey sky threatened a fresh fall of snow
in a few hours; it was just now a lull between two storms; and
Fleda's spirits, that sometimes would have laughed in the face
of nature's soberness, to-day sank to its own quiet. Her pace
neither slackened nor quickened till she reached aunt Miriam's
house, and entered the kitchen.

Aunt Miriam was in high tide of business over a pot of boiling
lard, and the enormous bread-tray by the side of the fire was
half-full of very tempting light-brown cruller, which,
however, were little more than a kind of sweet bread for the
workmen. In the bustle of putting in and taking out, aunt
Miriam could give her visitor but a word and a look. Fleda
pulled off her hood, and sitting down, watched in unusual
silence the old lady's operations.

"And how are they all at your house to-day?" aunt Miriam
asked, as she was carefully draining her cruller out of the
kettle.

Fleda answered that they were as well as usual, but a slight
hesitation and the tell-tale tone of her voice made the old
lady look at her more narrowly. She came near and kissed that
gentle brow, and looking in her eyes, asked her what the
matter was?

"I don't know; " said Fleda, eyes and voice wavering alike —
"I am foolish, I believe —"

Aunt Miriam tenderly put aside the hair from her forehead, and
kissed it again, but the cruller was burning, and she went
back to the kettle.

"I got down-hearted somehow this morning," Fleda went on,
trying to steady her voice and school herself.

"_You_ down-hearted, dear! About what?"

There was a world of sympathy in these words, in the warmth of
which Fleda's shut-up heart unfolded itself at once.

"It's nothing new, aunt Miriam — only somehow I felt it
particularly this morning — I have been kept in the house so
long by this snow, I have got dumpish, I suppose —"

Aunt Miriam looked anxiously at the tears which seemed to come
involuntarily, but she said nothing.

"We are not getting along well at home."

"I supposed that," said Mrs. Plumfield, quietly. "But anything
new?"

"Yes — uncle Rolf has let the farm — only think of it! — he
has let the farm to that Didenhover."

"Didenhover!"

"For two years."

"Did you tell him what you knew about him?"

"Yes, but it was too late — the mischief was done."

Aunt Miriam went on skimming out her cruller with a very grave
face.

"How came your uncle to do so without learning about him
first?"

"Oh, I don't know! — he was in a hurry to do anything that
would take the trouble of the farm off his hands; he don't
like it."

"On what terms has he let him have it?"

"On shares — and I know, I know under that Didenhover it will
bring us in nothing, and it has brought us in nothing all the
time we have been here; and I don't know what we are going to
live upon —"

"Has your uncle nor your aunt no property at all left?"

"Not a bit — except some waste lands in Michigan? I believe,
that were left to aunt Lucy a year or two ago; but they are as
good as nothing."

"Has he let Didenhover have the saw-mill too?"

"I don't know — he didn't say — if he has, there will be
nothing at all left for us to live upon. I expect nothing from
Didenhover, — his face is enough. I should have thought it
might have been for uncle Rolf. Oh, if it wasn't for aunt Lucy
and Hugh, I shouldn't care!" —

"What has your uncle been doing all this year past?"

"I don't know, aunt Miriam — he can't bear the business, and
he has left the most of it to Lucas, and I think Lucas is more
of a talker than a doer. Almost nothing has gone right. The
crops have been ill-managed — I do not know a great deal about
it, but I know enough for that; and uncle Rolf did not know
anything about it but what he got from books. And the sheep
are dying off — Barby says it is because they were in such
poor condition at the beginning of winter, and I dare say she
is right."

"He ought to have had a thorough good man at the beginning, to
get along well."

"O yes! — but he hadn't, you see, and so we have just been
growing poorer every month. And now, aunt Miriam, I really
don't know from day to day what to do to get dinner. You know,
for a good while after we came we used to have our marketing
brought every few days from Albany, but we have run up such a
bill there already at the butcher's as I don't know when in
the world will get paid, and aunt Lucy and I will do anything
before we will send for any more; and if it wasn't for her and
Hugh I wouldn't care, but they haven't much appetite, and I
know that all this takes what little they have away — this,
and seeing the effect it has upon uncle Rolf —"

"Does he think so much more of eating than of anything else?"
said aunt Miriam.

"O no, it is not that," said Fleda, earnestly, "it is not that
at all — he is not a great eater — but he can't bear to have
things different from what they used to be, and from what they
ought to be — O no, don't think that! I don't know whether I
ought to have said what I have said, but I couldn't help it —"

Fleda's voice was lost for a little while.

"He is changed from what he used to be — a little thing vexes
him now, and I know it is because he is not happy; — he used
to be so kind and pleasant, and he is still sometimes; but
aunt Lucy's face — Oh, aunt Miriam!"

"Why, dear?" said aunt Miriam, tenderly.

"It is so changed from what it used to be!"

Poor Fleda covered her own, and aunt Miriam came to her side
to give softer and gentler expression to sympathy than words
could do, till the bowed face was raised again and hid in her
neck.

"I can't see thee do so, my child — my dear child! Hope for
brighter days, dear Fleda."

"I could bear it," said Fleda, after a little interval, "if it
wasn't for aunt Lucy and Hugh — oh, that is the worst!"

"What about Hugh?" said aunt Miriam, soothingly.

"Oh, he does what he ought not to do, aunt Miriam, and there
is no help for it — and he did last summer, when we wanted
men; and in the hot haying-time he used to work, I know,
beyond his strength, and aunt Lucy and I did not know what to
do with ourselves."

Fleda's head, which had been raised, sunk again and more
heavily.

"Where was his father?" said Mrs. Plumfield.

"Oh, he was in the house — he didn't know it — he didn't think
about it."

"Didn't think about it?"

"No — oh, he didn't think Hugh was hurting himself, but he
was; he showed it for weeks afterward. I have said what I
ought not now," said Fleda, looking up, and seeming to check
her tears, and the spring of them at once.

"So much security any woman has in a man without religion,"
said aunt Miriam, going back to her work. Fleda would have
said something if she could; she was silent; she stood looking
into the fire, while the tears seemed to come as it were by
stealth, and ran down her face unregarded.

"Is Hugh not well?"

"I don't know," said Fleda, faintly; "he is not ill, but he
never was very strong, and he exposes himself now, I know, in
a way he ought not. I am sorry I have just come and troubled
you with all this now, aunt Miriam," she said, after a little
pause; "I shall feel better by and by — I don't very often get
such a fit."

"My dear little Fleda!" — and there was unspeakable tenderness
in the old lady's voice, as she came up, and drew Fleda's head
again to rest upon her — "I would not let a rough wind touch
thee if I had the holding of it. But we may be glad the
arranging of things is not in my hand — I should be a poor
friend after all, for I do not know what is best. Canst thou
trust Him who does know, my child?"

"I do, aunt Miriam — oh, I do," said Fleda, burying her face
in her bosom — "I don't often feel so as I did to-day."

"There comes not a cloud that its shadow is not wanted," said
aunt Miriam. "I cannot see why, but it is that thou mayest
bloom the brighter, my dear one."

"I know it" — Fleda's words were hardly audible — "I will
try." —

"Remember his own message to every one under a cloud — 'Cast
all thy care upon him, for he careth for thee;' — thou mayest
keep none of it; and then the peace that passeth understanding
shall keep thee. — 'So he giveth his beloved sleep.' "

Fleda wept for a minute on the old lady's neck, and then she
looked up, dried her tears, and sat down with a face greatly
quieted and lightened of its burden, while aunt Miriam once
more went back to her work. The one wrought and the other
looked on in silence.

The cruller were all done at last — the great bread-trough was
filled and set away — the remnant of the fat was carefully
disposed of, and aunt Miriam's handmaid was called in to "take
the watch." She herself and her visitor adjourned to the
sitting-room.

"Well," said Fleda., in a tone again steady and clear, "I must
go home to see about getting up a dinner. I am the greatest
hand at making something out of nothing, aunt Miriam, that
ever you saw. There is nothing like practice. I only wish the
man uncle Orrin talks about would come along once in a while."

"Who was that?" said aunt Miriam.

"A man that used to go about from house to house," said Fleda,
laughing, "when the cottagers were making soup, with a ham-
bone to give it a relish, and he used to charge them so much
for a dip, and so much for a wallop."

"Come, come, I can do as much for you as that," said aunt
Miriam, proceeding to her store pantry — "see here — wouldn't
this be as good as a ham-bone?" said she, bringing out of it a
fat fowl; "how would a wallop of this do?"

"Admirably! — only — the ham-bone used to come out again, and
I am confident this never would."

"Well, I guess I'll stand that," said aunt Miriam, smiling —
"you wouldn't mind carrying this under your cloak, would you?"

"I have no doubt I shall go home lighter with it than without
it, Ma'am, — thank you, dear aunty! —dear aunt Miriam!"

There was a change of tone, and of eye, as Fleda sealed each
thank with a kiss.

"But how is it? — does all the charge of the house come upon
you, dear?"

"Oh, this kind of thing, because aunt Lucy doesn't understand
it, and can't get along with it so well. She likes better to
sew, and I had quite as lief do this."

"And don't you sew, too?"

"Oh, a little. She does as much as she can," said Fleda,
gravely.

"Where is your other cousin?" said Mrs. Plumfield, abruptly.

"Marion? — she is in England, I believe — we don't hear from
her very often."

"No, no — I mean the one who is in the army?"

"Charlton! — Oh, he is just ordered off to Mexico," said
Fleda, sadly, "and that is another great trouble to aunt Lucy.
This miserable war!"

"Does he never come home?"

"Only once since we came from Paris — while we were in New
York. He has been stationed away off at the West."

"He has a captain's pay now, hasn't he?"

"Yes, but he doesn't know at all how things are at home; he
hasn't an idea of it — and he will not have. Well, good-bye,
dear aunt Miriam — I must run home to take care of my
chicken."

She ran away; and if her eyes many a time on the way down the
hill filled and overflowed, they were not bitter nor dark
tears; they were the gushings of high and pure and generous
affections, weeping for fullness, not for want.

That chicken was not wasted in soup; it was converted into the
nicest possible little fricassee, because the toast would make
so much more of it; and to Fleda's own dinner, little went
beside the toast, that a greater portion of the rest might be
for her aunt and Hugh.

That same evening, Seth Plumfield came into the kitchen, while
Fleda was there.

"Here is something belongs to you, I believe," said he, with a
covert smile, bringing out from under his cloak the mate to
Fleda's fowl — "mother said somethin' had run away with
t'other one, and she didn't know what to do with this one
alone. Your uncle at home?"

The next news that Fleda heard was, that Seth had taken a
lease of the saw-mill for two years.

Mr. Didenhover did not disappoint Fleda's expectations. Very
little could be got from him, or the farm under him, beyond
the immediate supply wanted for the use of the family; and
that in kind, not in cash. Mrs. Rossitur was comforted by
knowing, that some portion of rent had also gone to Dr.
Gregory — how large or how small a portion, she could not find
out. But this left the family in increasing straits, which
narrowed and narrowed during the whole first summer and winter
of Didenhover's administration. Very straitened they would
have been, but for the means of relief adopted by the two
_children_, as they were always called. Hugh, as soon as the
spring opened, had a quiet hint through Fleda, that if he had
a mind to take the working of the saw-mill he might, for a
consideration merely nominal. This offer was immediately and
gratefully closed with; and Hugh's earnings were thenceforward
very important at home. Fleda had her own ways and means. Mr.
Rossitur, more low-spirited and gloomy than ever, seemed to
have no heart to anything. He would have worked, perhaps, if
he could have done it alone; but to join Didenhover and his
men, or any other gang of workmen, was too much for his
magnanimity. He helped nobody but Fleda. For her he would do
anything, at any time; and in the garden, and among her
flowers in the flowery courtyard, he might often be seen at
work with her. But nowhere else.



CHAPTER XXII.


"Some bring a capon, some a rurall cake,
Some nuts, some apples; some that thinke they make
The better cheeses, bring 'hem; or else send
By their ripe daughters, whom they would commend
This way to husbands; and whose baskets beare
An embleme of themselves in plum or pears."
BEN JOHNSON.


So the time walked away — for this family was not now of those
"whom time runneth withal" — to the second summer of Mr.
Didenhover's term.

One morning Mrs. Rossitur was seated in the breakfast-room at
her usual employment, mending and patching — no sinecure now.
Fleda opened the kitchen door and came in, folding up a calico
apron she had just taken off.

"You are tired, dear," said Mrs. Rossitur, sorrowfully; — you
look pale."

"Do I?" said Fleda, sitting down. "I am a little tired!"

"Why do you do so?"

"Oh, it's nothing," said Fleda, cheerfully; "I haven't hurt
myself. I shall be rested again in a few minutes."

"What have you been doing?"

"Oh, I tired myself a little before breakfast in the garden, I
suppose. Aunt Lucy, don't you think I had almost a bushel of
pease? — and there was a little over a half bushel last-time,
so I shall call it a bushel. Isn't that fine?"

"You didn't pick them all yourself?"

"Hugh helped me a little while; but he had the horse to get
ready, and I was out before him this morning — poor fellow, he
was tired from yesterday, I dare say."

Mrs. Rossitur looked at her, a look between remonstrance and
reproach, and cast her eves down without saying a word,
swallowing a whole heartful of thoughts and feelings. Fleda
stooped forward till her own forehead softly touched Mrs.
Rossitur's, as gentle a chiding of despondency as a very
sunbeam could have given.

"Now, aunt Lucy! — what do you mean? Don't you know it's good
for me? — And do you know, Mr. Sweet will give me four
shillings a bushel? and, aunt Lucy, I sent three dozen heads
of lettuce this morning besides. Isn't that doing well? and I
sent two dozen day before yesterday. It is time they were
gone, for they are running up to seed, this set; I have got
another fine set almost ready."

Mrs. Rossitur looked at her again, as if she had been a sort
of terrestrial angel.

"And how much will you get for them?"

"I don't know exactly — threepence, or sixpence, perhaps — I
guess not so much — they are so easily raised; though I don't
believe there are so fine as mine to be seen in this region.
If I only had somebody to water the strawberries! — we should
have a great many. Aunt Lucy, I am going to send as many as I
can without robbing uncle Rolf — he sha'n't miss them; but the
rest of us don't mind eating rather fewer than usual? I shall
make a good deal by them. And I think these morning rides do
Hugh good; don't you think so?"

"And what have you been busy about ever since breakfast,
Fleda?"

"Oh — two or three things," said Fleda, lightly.

"What?"

"I had bread to make — and then I thought, while my hands were
in, I would make a custard for uncle Rolf."

"You needn't have done that, dear, it was not necessary."

"Yes it was, because, you know, we have only fried pork for
dinner to-day; and while we have the milk and eggs, it doesn't
cost much — the sugar is almost nothing. He will like it
better, and so will Hugh. As for you," said Fleda, gently
touching her forehead again, "you know it is of no
consequence!"

"I wish you would think yourself of some consequence," said
Mrs. Rossitur.

"Don't I think myself of consequence?" said Fleda,
affectionately. "I don't know how you'd all get on without me.
What do you think I have a mind to do now, by way of resting
myself?"

"Well?" said Mrs. Rossitur, thinking of something else.

"It is the day for making presents to the minister, you know?"

"The minister? —"

"Yes, the new minister — they expect him to-day; you have
heard of it; the things are all to be carried to his house to-
day. I have a great notion to go and see the fun — If I only
had anything in the world I could possibly take with me —"

"Aren't you too tired, dear?"

"No — it would rest me; it is early yet; if I only had
something to take! I couldn't go without taking something —"

"A basket of eggs?" said Mrs. Rossitur.

"Can't, aunt Lucy — I can't spare them; so many of the hens
are setting now. A basket of strawberries! — that's the thing!
I've got enough picked for that and to-night too. That will
do!"

Fleda's preparations were soon made, and with her basket on
her arm she was ready to set forth.

"If pride had not been a little put down in me," she said,
smiling, "I suppose I should rather stay at home than go with
such a petty offering. And no doubt every one that sees it or
hears of it will lay it to anything but the right reason. So
much the world knows about the people it judges! It is too bad
to leave you all alone, aunt Lucy."

Mrs. Rossitur pulled her down for a kiss — a kiss in which how
much was said on both sides! — and Fleda set forth, choosing,
as she very commonly did, the old-time way through the
kitchen.

"Off again?" said Barby, who was on her knees scrubbing the
great flag-stones of the hearth.

"Yes, I am going up to see the donation party."

"Has the minister come?"

"No, but he is coming to-day, I understand."

"He ha'n't preached for 'em yet, has he?"

"Not yet; I suppose he will next Sunday."

"They are in a mighty hurry to give him a donation party!"
said Barby. "I'd a' waited till he was here first. I don't
believe they'd be quite so spry with their donations if they
had paid the last man up as they ought. I'd rather give a man
what belongs to him, and make him presents afterwards."

"Why, so I hope they will, Barby," said Fleda, laughing. But
Barby said no more.

The parsonage-house was about a quarter of a mile, a little
more, from the saw-mill, in a line at right angles with the
main road. Fleda took Hugh from his work, to see her safe
there. The road ran north, keeping near the level of the mid-
hill, where it branched off a little below the saw-mill; and
as the ground continued rising towards the east, and was well
clothed with woods, the way, at this hour, was still
pleasantly shady. To the left, the same slope of ground
carried down to the foot of the hill gave them an
uninterrupted view over a wide plain or bottom, edged in the
distance with a circle of gently swelling hills. Close against
the hills, in the far corner of the plain, lay the little
village of Queechy Run, hid from sight by a slight intervening
rise of ground. Not a chimney showed itself in the whole
spread of country. A sunny landscape just now; but rich in
picturesque associations of hay-cocks and win-rows, spotting
it near and far; and close by below them was a field of mowers
at work; they could distinctly hear the measured rush of the
scythes through the grass, and then the soft clink of the
rifles would seem to play some old delicious tune of childish
days. Fleda made Hugh stand still to listen. It was a warm
day, but "the sweet south that breathes upon a bank of
violets" could hardly be more sweet than the air which, coming
to them over the whole breadth of the valley, had been charged
by the new-made hay.

"How good it is, Hugh," said Fleda, "that one can get out of
doors, and forget everything that ever happened or ever will
happen within four walls!"

"Do you?" said Hugh, rather soberly.

"Yes, I do — even in my flower-patch, right before the house-
door; but here" — said Fleda, turning away, and swinging her
basket of strawberries as she went, "I have no idea I ever did
such a thing as make bread, — and how clothes get mended I do
not comprehend in the least!"

"And have you forgotten the pease and the asparagus too?"

"I am afraid you haven't, dear Hugh," said Fleda, linking her
arm within his. "Hugh — I must find some way to make money."

"More money!" said Hugh, smiling.

"Yes — this garden business is all very well, but it doesn't
come to any very great things after all, if you are aware of
it; and Hugh, I want to get aunt Lucy a new dress. I can't
bear to see her in that old merino, and it isn't good for her.
Why, Hugh, she couldn't possibly see anybody, if anybody
should come to the house."

"Who is there to come?" said Hugh.

"Why, nobody; but still, she ought not to be so."

"What more can you do, dear Fleda? You work a great deal too
hard already," said Hugh, sighing. "You should have seen the
way father and mother looked at you last night when you were
asleep on the sofa."

Fleda stifled her sigh, and went on.

"I am sure there are things that might be done — things for
the booksellers — translating, or copying, or something — I
don't know exactly — I have heard of people's doing such
things. I mean to write to uncle Orrin, and ask him. I am sure
he can manage it for me."

"What were you writing the other night?" said Hugh, suddenly.

"When!"

"The other night — when you were writing by the fire-light? I
saw your pencil scribbling away at a furious rate over the
paper, and you kept your hand up carefully between me and your
face, but I could see it was something very interesting. Ha!"
— said Hugh, laughingly trying to get another view of Fleda's
face which was again kept from him. "Send that to uncle Orrin,
Fleda; — or show it to me first, and then I will tell you."

Fleda made no answer; and at the parsonage-door Hugh left her.

Two or three wagons were standing there, but nobody to be
seen. Fleda went up the steps and crossed the broad piazza,
brown and unpainted, but picturesque still, and guided by the
sound of tongues turned to the right, where she found a large
low room, the very centre of the stir. But the stir had not by
any means reached the height yet. Not more than a dozen people
were gathered. Here were aunt Syra and Mrs. Douglass,
appointed a committee to receive and dispose the offerings as
they were brought in.

"Why, there is not much to be seen yet," said Fleda. "I did
not know I was so early."

"Time enough," said Mrs. Douglass. "They'll come the thicker
when they do come. Good morning, Dr. Quackenboss! I hope
you're a-going to give us something else besides a bow? and I
wont take none of your physic neither."

"I humbly submit," said the doctor, graciously, "that nothing
ought to be expected of gentlemen that — a — are so unhappy as
to be alone; for they really — a — have nothing to give — but
themselves."

There was a shout of merriment.

"And suppos'n that's a gift that nobody wants?" said Mrs.
Douglass's sharp eye and voice at once.

"In that case," said the doctor, "I really — Miss Ringgan, may
I — a — may I relieve your hand of this fair burden?"

"It is not a very fair burden, Sir," said Fleda, laughing, and
relinquishing her strawberries.

"Ah, but, fair, you know, I mean — we speak — in that sense —
Mrs. Douglass, here is by far the most elegant offering that
your hands will have the honour of receiving this day."

"I hope so," said Mrs. Douglass, "or there wont be much to eat
for the minister. Did you never take notice how elegant things
somehow made folks grow poor?"

"I guess he'd as lieve see something a little substantial,"
said aunt Syra.

"Well, now," said the doctor, "here is Miss Ringgan, who is
unquestionably — a —elegant! — and I am sure nobody will say
that she — looks poor."

In one sense, surely not! There could not be two opinions. But
with all the fairness of health, and the flush which two or
three feelings had brought to her cheeks, there was a look as
if the workings of the mind had refined away a little of the
strength of the physical frame, and as if growing poor in Mrs.
Douglass's sense — that is, thin, might easily be the next
step.

"What's your uncle going to give us, Fleda?" said aunt Syra.

But Fleda was saved replying; for Mrs. Douglass, who, if she
was sharp, could be good-natured too, and had watched to see
how Fleda took the double fire upon elegance and poverty,
could bear no more trial of that sweet gentle face. Without
giving her time to answer, she carried her off to see the
things already stored in the closet, bidding the doctor, over
her shoulder, "be off after his goods, whether he had got 'em
or no."

There was certainly a promising beginning made for the future
minister's comfort. One shelf was already completely stocked
with pies, and another showed a quantity of cake, and biscuits
enough to last a good-sized family for several meals.

"That is always the way," said Mrs. Douglass; "it's the
strangest thing that folks has no sense! Now, one half o' them
pies 'll be dried up afore they can eat the rest; 't aint much
loss, for Mis' Prin sent 'em down, and if they are worth
anything, it's the first time anything ever come out of her
house that was. Now look at them biscuit!"

"How many are coming to eat them?" said Fleda.

"How?"

"How large a family has the minister?"

"He ha'n't a bit of a family! He ain't married."

"Not!"

At the grave way in which Mrs. Douglass faced round upon her
and answered, and at the idea of a single mouth devoted to all
that closetful Fleda's gravity gave place to most
uncontrollable merriment.

"No," said Mrs. Douglass, with a curious twist of her mouth,
but commanding herself, — "he aint, to be sure, not yet. He
ha'n't any family but himself and some sort of a housekeeper,
I suppose; they'll divide the house between 'em."

"And the biscuits, I hope," said Fleda. "But what will he do
with all the other things, Mrs. Douglass?"

"Sell 'em if he don't want 'em," said Mrs. Douglass,
quizzically. "Shut up, Fleda, I forget who sent them biscuit —
somebody that calculated to make a show for a little, I
reckon. My sakes! I believe it was Mis' Springer herself! she
didn't hear me though," said Mrs. Douglass, peeping out of the
half-open door. "It's a good thing the world aint all alike;
there's Mis' Plumfield — stop now, and I'll tell you all she
sent; that big jar of lard, there's as good as eighteen or
twenty pound — and that basket of eggs, I don't know how many
there is — and that cheese, a real fine one, I'll be bound,
she wouldn't pick out the worst in her dairy; and Seth fetched
down a hundred weight of corn meal, and another of rye flour;
now, that's what I call doing things something like; if
everybody else would keep up their end as well as they keep up
their'n, the world wouldn't be quite so one-sided as it is. I
never see the time yet when I couldn't tell where to find Mis'
Plumfield."

"No, nor anybody else," said Fleda, looking happy.

"There's Mis' Silbert couldn't find nothing better to send
than a kag of soap," Mrs. Douglass went on, seeming very much
amused; "I _was_ beat when I saw that walk in! I should think
she'd feel streaked to come here by and by, and see it a-
standing between Mis' Plumfield's lard and Mis' Clavering's
pork — that's a handsome kag of pork, aint it? What's that man
done with your strawberries? I'll put 'em up here, afore
somebody takes a notion to 'em. I'll let the minister know who
he's got to thank for 'em," said she, winking at Fleda.
"Where's Dr. Quackenboss?"

"Coming, Ma'am!" sounded from the hall, and forthwith, at the
open door, entered the doctor's head, simultaneously with a
large cheese, which he was rolling before him, the rest of the
doctor's person being thrown into the background in
consequence — a curious natural representation of a
wheelbarrow, the wheel being the only artificial part.

"Oh! that's you, doctor, is it?" said Mrs. Douglass.

"This is me, Ma'am," said the doctor, rolling up to the closet
door; "this has the honour to be — a — myself, — bringing my
service to the feet of Miss Ringgan."

" 'Tain't very elegant," said the sharp lady.

Fleda thought if his service was at her feet, her feet should
be somewhere else, and accordingly stepped quietly out of the
way, and went to one of the windows, from whence she could
have a view both of the comers and the come; and by this time,
thoroughly in the spirit of the thing, she used her eyes upon
both with great amusement. People were constantly arriving
now, in wagons and on foot; and stores of all kinds were most
literally pouring in. Bags, and even barrels of meal, flour,
pork, and potatoes; strings of dried apples, salt, hams, and
beef; hops, pickles, vinegar, maple-sugar and molasses; rolls
of fresh butter, cheese, and eggs; cake, bread, and pies,
without end. Mr. Penny, the storekeeper, sent a box of tea.
Mr. Winegar, the carpenter, a new ox-sled. Earl Douglass
brought a handsome axe-helve of his own fashioning; his wife,
a quantity of rolls of wool. Zan Finn carted a load of wood
into the wood-shed, and Squire Thornton another. Home-made
candles, custards, preserves, and smoked liver, came in a
batch from two or three miles off, up on the mountain. Half-a-
dozen chairs from the factory-man; half-a-dozen brooms from
the other storekeeper at the Deepwater settlement; a carpet
for the best room from the ladies of the township, who had
clubbed forces to furnish it — and a home-made concern it was,
from the shears to the loom.

The room was full now, for every one, after depositing his
gift, turned aside to see what others had brought and were
bringing; and men and women, the young and old, had their
several circles of gossip in various parts of the crowd. Apart
from them all Fleda sat in her window, probably voted
"elegant" by others than the doctor, for they vouchsafed her
no more than a transitory attention, and sheered off to find
something more congenial. She sat watching the people, smiling
very often as some odd figure, or look, or some peculiar turn
of expression or tone of voice, caught her ear or her eye.

Both ear and eye were fastened by a young countryman, with a
particularly fresh face, whom she saw approaching the house.
He came up on foot, carrying a single fowl slung at his back
by a stick thrown across his shoulder, and, without stirring
hat or stick, he came into the room, and made his way through
the crowd of people, looking to the one hand and the other,
evidently in a maze of doubt to whom he should deliver himself
and his chicken, till brought up by Mrs. Douglass's sharp
voice.

"Well, Philetus, what are you looking for?"

"Do, Mis' Douglass!" — it is impossible to express the
abortive attempt at a bow which accompanied this salutation —
"I want to know if the minister 'll be in town to-day."

"What do you want of him?"

"I don't want nothin' of him. I want to know if he'll be in
town to-day?"

"Yes; I expect he'll be along directly. Why, what then?"

" 'Cause I've got teu chickens for him here, and mother said
they hadn't ought to be kept no longer, and if he wan't to
hum, I were to fetch 'em back, straight."

"Well, he'll be here, so let's have 'em," said Mrs. Douglass,
biting her lips.

"What's become o' t'other one?" said Earl, as the young man's
stick was brought round to the table: "I guess you've lost it,
ha'n't you?"

"My gracious!" was all Philetus's powers were equal to. Mrs.
Douglass went off into fits, which rendered her incapable of
speaking, and left the unlucky chicken-bearer to tell his
story his own way, but all he brought forth was, "Du tell! — I
_am_ beat!"

"Where's t'other one?" said Mrs. Douglass, between paroxysms.

"Why, I ha'n't done nothin' to it," said Philetus, dismally;
"there was teu on 'em afore I started, and I took and tied 'em
together, and hitched 'em onto the stick, and that one must
ha' loosened itself off some way — I believe the darned thing
did it o' purpose."

"I guess your mother knowed that one wouldn't keep till it got
here," said Mrs. Douglass.

The room was now all one shout, in the midst of which poor
Philetus took himself off as speedily as possible. Before
Fleda had dried her eyes, her attention was taken by a lady
and gentleman who had just got out of a vehicle of more than
the ordinary pretension, and were coming up to the door. The
gentleman was young — the lady was not; both had a
particularly amiable and pleasant appearance; but about the
lady there was something that moved Fleda singularly, and,
somehow, touched the spring of old memories, which she felt
stirring at the sight of her. As they neared the house she
lost them; then they entered the room and came through it
slowly, looking about them with an air of good-humoured
amusement. Fleda's eye was fixed, but her mind puzzled itself
in vain to recover what, in her experience, had been connected
with that fair and lady-like physiognomy, and the bland smile
that was overlooked by those acute eyes. The eyes met hers,
and then seemed to reflect her doubt, for they remained as
fixed as her own, while the lady, quickening her steps, came
up to her.

"I am sure," she said, holding out her hand, and with a gentle
graciousness that was very agreeable, "I am sure you are
somebody I know. What is your name?"

"Fleda Ringgan."

"I thought so!" said the lady, now shaking her hand warmly,
and kissing her; "I knew nobody could have been your mother
but Amy Charlton! How like her you look! Don't you know me?
don't you remember Mrs. Evelyn?"

"Mrs. Evelyn!" said Fleda, the whole coming back to her at
once.

"You remember me now? — How well I recollect you! and all that
old time at Montepoole. Poor little creature that you were!
and dear little creature, as I am sure you have been ever
since! And how is your dear aunt Lucy?"

Fleda answered that she was well.

"I used to love her very much — that was before I knew you —
before she went abroad. We have just got home — this spring;
and now we are staying at Montepoole for a few days. I shall
come and see her to-morrow — I knew you were somewhere in this
region, but I did not know exactly where to find you; that was
one reason why I came here to-day, I thought I might hear
something of you. And where are your aunt Lucy's children? and
how are they?"

"Hugh is at home," said Fleda, "and rather delicate — Charlton
is in the army."

"In the army! In Mexico! —"

"In Mexico he has been —"

"Your poor aunt Lucy!"

"— In Mexico he has been, but he is just coming home now — he
has been wounded, and he is coming home to spend a long
furlough."

"Coming home. That will make you all very happy. And Hugh is
delicate; and how are you, love? you hardly look like a
country-girl. Mr. Olmney!" said Mrs. Evelyn, looking round for
her companion, who was standing quietly a few steps off,
surveying the scene. "Mr. Olmney! I am going to do you a
favour, Sir, in introducing you to Miss Ringgan, a very old
friend of mine. Mr. Olmney, these are not exactly the apple-
cheeks and _robustious_ demonstrations we are taught to look for
in country-land."

This was said with a kind of sly funny enjoyment, which took
away everything disagreeable from the appeal; but Fleda
conceived a favourable opinion of the person to whom it was
made from the fact that he paid her no compliment, and made no
answer beyond a very pleasant smile.

"What is Mrs. Evelyn's definition of a _very old_ friend?" said
he, with another smile, as that lady moved off to take a more
particular view of what she had come to see. "To judge by the
specimen before me, I should consider it very equivocal."

"Perhaps Mrs. Evelyn counts friendships by inheritance," said
Fleda. "I think they ought to be counted so."

" 'Thine own friend, and thy father's friend, forsake not,' "
said the young man.

Fleda looked up and smiled a pleased answer.

"There is something very lovely in the faithfulness of tried
friendship, and very uncommon."

"I know that it is uncommon only by hearsay," said Fleda. "I
have so many good friends."

He was silent for an instant, possibly thinking there might be
a reason for that, unknown only to Fleda herself.

"Perhaps one must be in peculiar circumstances to realize it,"
he said, sighing; — "circumstances that leave one of no
importance to any one in the world. But it is a kind lesson, —
one learns to depend more on the one friendship that can never
disappoint."

Fleda's eyes again gave an answer of sympathy; for she thought
from the shade that had come upon his face, that these
circumstances had probably been known to himself.

"This is rather an amusing scene," he remarked presently, in a
low tone.

"Very," said Fleda. "I have never seen such a one before."

"Nor I," said he. "It is a pleasant scene, too; it is pleasant
to see so many evidences of kindness and good feeling on the
part of all these people."

"There is all the more show of it, I suppose, to-day," said
Fleda, "because we have a new minister coming; they want to
make a favourable impression."

"Does the old proverb of the 'new broom' hold good here too?"
said he, smiling. "What's the name of your new minister?"

"I am not certain," said Fleda; "there were two talked of; the
last I heard was, that it was an old Mr. Carey; but from what
I hear this morning, I suppose it must be the other — a Mr.
Ollum, or some such queer name, I believe."

Fleda thought her hearer looked very much amused, and followed
his eye into the room, where Mrs. Evelyn was going about in
all quarters looking at everything, and finding occasion to
enter into conversation with at least a quarter of the people
who were present. Whatever she was saying, it seemed at that
moment to have something to do with them, for sundry eyes
turned in their direction; and presently Dr. Quackenboss came
up, with even more than common suavity of manner.

"I trust Miss Ringgan will do me the favour of making me
acquainted with — a — with our future pastor!" said the
doctor, looking, however, not at all at Miss Ringgan, but
straight at the pastor in question. "I have great pleasure in
giving you the first welcome, Sir — or, I should say, rather
the second; since, no doubt, Miss Ringgan has been in advance
of me. It is not un — a — appropriate, Sir, for I may say we —
a — divide the town between us. You are, I am sure, a worthy
representative of Peter and Paul; and I am — a — a pupil of
Esculapius, Sir! You are the intellectual physician, and I am
the external."

"I hope we shall both prove ourselves good workmen, Sir," said
the young minister, shaking the doctor's hand heartily.

"This is Dr. Quackenboss; Mr. Olmney," said Fleda, making a
tremendous effort. But though she could see corresponding
indications about her companion's eyes and mouth, she admired
the kindness and self-command with which he listened to the
doctor's civilities and answered them; expressing his grateful
sense of the favours received, not only from him, but from
others.

"Oh — a little to begin with," said the doctor, looking round
upon the room, which would certainly have furnished _that_ for
fifty people; "I hope we aint done yet by considerable — But
here is Miss Ringgan, Mr. — a — Ummin, that has brought you
some of the fruits of her own garden, with her own fair hands
— a basket of fine strawberries, which, I am sure — a — will
make you forget everything else!"

Mr. Olmney had the good-breeding not to look at Fleda, as he
answered, "I am sure the spirit of kindness was the same in
all, Dr. Quackenboss, and I trust not to forget that readily."

Others now came up; and Mr. Olmney was walked off to be "made
acquainted" with all, or with all the chief of his
parishioners then and there assembled. Fleda watched him going
about, shaking hands, talking and smiling, in all directions,
with about as much freedom of locomotion as a fly in a
spider's web; till, at Mrs. Evelyn's approach, the others fell
off a little, and taking him by the arm, she rescued him.

"My dear Mr. Olmney," she whispered, with an intensely amused
face, "I shall have a vision of you every day for a month to
come, sitting down to dinner, with a rueful face, to a
whortleberry pie; for there are so many of them, your
conscience will not let you have anything else cooked, — you
cannot manage more than one a day."

"Pies!" said the young gentleman, as Mrs. Evelyn left talking,
to indulge her feelings in ecstatic quiet laughing — "I have a
horror of pies!"

"Yes, yes," said Mrs. Evelyn, nodding her head delightedly, as
she drew him towards the pantry — "I know! — Come and see what
is in store for you. You are to do penance for a month to come
with tin pans of blackberry jam, fringed with pie crust — no,
they can't be blackberries, they must be raspberries, the
blackberries are not ripe yet. And you may sup upon cake and
custards, unless you give the custards for the little pig out
there, he will want something."

"A pig!" said Mr. Olmney, in amaze — Mrs. Evelyn again giving
out in distress. "A pig!" said Mr. Olmney.

"Yes, a pig — a very little one," said Mrs. Evelyn,
convulsively. "I am sure he is hungry now."

They had reached the pantry, and Mr. Olmney's face was all
that was wanting to Mrs. Evelyn's delight. How she smothered
it, so that it should go no further than to distress his self-
command, is a mystery known only to the initiated. Mrs.
Douglass was forthwith called into council.

"Mrs. Douglass," said Mr. Olmney, "I feel very much inclined
to play the host, and beg my friends to share with me some of
these good things they have been so bountifully providing."

"He would enjoy them much more than he would alone, Mrs.
Douglass," said Mrs. Evelyn, who still had hold of Mr.
Olmney's arm, looking round to the lady with a most benign
face.

"I reckon some of 'em would be past enjoying by the time he
got to 'em, wouldn't they?" said the lady. "Well, they'll have
to take 'em in their fingers, for our crockery ha'n't come yet
— I shall have to jog Mr. Flatt's elbow; but hungry folks aint
curious."

"In their fingers, or any way, provided you have only a knife
to cut them with," said Mr. Olmney, while Mrs. Evelyn squeezed
his arm in secret mischief; "and pray, if we can muster two
knives, let us cut one of these cheeses, Mrs. Douglass."

And presently Fleda saw pieces of pie walking about in all
directions, supported by pieces of cheese. And then Mrs.
Evelyn and Mr. Olmney came out from the pantry and came
towards her, the latter bringing her, with his own hands, a
portion in a tin pan. The two ladies sat down in the window
together to eat and be amused.

"My dear Fleda, I hope you are hungry," said Mrs. Evelyn,
biting her pie, Fleda could not help thinking, with an air of
good-humoured condescension.

"I am, Ma'am," she said, laughing.

"You look just as you used to do," Mrs. Evelyn went on,
earnestly.

"Do I?" said Fleda, privately thinking that the lady must have
good eyes for features of resemblance.

"Except that you have more colour in your cheeks and more
sparkles in your eyes. Dear little creature that you were; I
want to make you know my children. Do you remember that Mr.
and Mrs. Carleton that took such care of you at Montepoole?"

"Certainly I do! — very well."

"We saw them last winter; we were down at their country place
in — shire. They have a magnificent place there — everything
you can think of to make life pleasant. We spent a week with
them. My dear Fleda, I wish I could show you that place! you
never saw anything like it."

Fleda ate her pie.

"We have nothing like it in this country; of course, cannot
have. One of those superb English country seats is beyond even
the imagination of an American."

"Nature has been as kind to us, hasn't she?" said Fleda.

"O yes; but such fortunes, you know. Mr. Olmney, what do you
think of those overgrown fortunes? I was speaking to Miss
Ringgan just now of a gentleman who has forty thousand pounds
a year income — sterling, Sir; forty thousand pounds a year
sterling. Somebody says, you know, that 'he who has more than
enough is a thief of the rights of his brother' — what do you
think?"

But Mr. Olmney's attention was at the moment forcibly called
off by the "income" of a parishioner.

"I suppose," said Fleda, "his thievish character must depend
entirely on the use he makes of what he has."

"I don't know," said Mrs. Evelyn, shaking her head; "I think
the possession of great wealth is very hardening."

"To a fine nature?" said Fleda.

Mrs. Evelyn shook her head again, but did not seem to think it
worth while to reply; and Fleda was trying the question in her
own mind whether wealth or poverty might be the most hardening
in its effects; when Mr. Olmney, having succeeded in getting
free again, came and took his station beside them, and they
had a particularly pleasant talk, which Fleda, who had seen
nobody in a great while, enjoyed very much. They had several
such talks in the course of the day; for though the
distractions caused by Mr. Olmney's other friends were many
and engrossing, he generally contrived in time to find his way
back to their window. Meanwhile, Mrs. Evelyn had a great deal
to say to Fleda, and to hear from her; and left her at last
under an engagement to spend the next day at the Pool.

Upon Mr. Olmney's departure with Mrs. Evelyn, the attraction
which had held the company together was broken, and they
scattered fast. Fleda presently finding herself in the
minority, was glad to set out with Miss Anastasia Finn, and
her sister Lucy, who would leave her but very little way from
her own door. But she had more company than she bargained for.
Dr. Quackenboss was pleased to attach himself to their party,
though his own shortest road certainly lay in another
direction; and Fleda wondered what he had done with his wagon,
which, beyond a question, must have brought the cheese in the
morning. She edged herself out of the conversation as much as
possible, and hoped it would prove so agreeable that he would
not think of attending her home. In vain. When they made a
stand at the cross roads the doctor stood on her side.

"I hope now you've made a commencement, you will come to see
us again, Fleda," said Miss Lucy.

"What's the use of asking?" said her sister, abruptly. "If she
has a mind to, she will, and if she ha'n't, I am sure we don't
want her."

They turned off.

"Those are excellent people," said the doctor, when they were
beyond hearing; "really respectable!"

"Are they?" said Fleda.

"But your goodness does not look, I am sure, to find — a —
Parisian graces in so remote a circle?"

"Certainly not," said Fleda.

"We have had a genial day!" said the doctor, quitting the
Finns.

"I don't know," said Fleda, permitting a little of her inward
merriment to work off; "I think it has been rather too hot."

"Yes," said the doctor, "the sun has been ardent; but I
referred rather to the — a — to the warming of affections, and
the pleasant exchange of intercourse on all sides which has
taken place. How do you like our — a — the stranger?"

"Who, Sir?"

"The new-comer — this young Mr. Ummin?"

Fleda answered, but she hardly knew what, for she was musing
whether the doctor would go away or come in. They reached the
door, and Fleda invited him, with terrible effort after her
voice; the doctor having just blandly offered an opinion upon
the decided polish of Mr. Olmney's manners.



CHAPTER XXIII.


"Labour is light, where love (quoth I) doth pay;
(Saith he) light burthens heavy, if far borne."
DRAYTON.


Fleda pushed open the parlour door, and preceded her convoy,
in a kind of tip-toe state of spirits. The first thing that
met her eyes was her aunt, in one of the few handsome silks
which were almost her sole relic of past wardrobe prosperity,
and with a face uncommonly happy and pretty; and the next
instant she saw the explanation of this appearance in her
cousin Charlton, a little palish, but looking better than she
had ever seen him, and another gentleman, of whom her eye took
in only the general outlines of fashion and comfortable
circumstances, now too strange to it to go unnoted. In Fleda's
usual mood her next movement would have been made with a
demureness that would have looked like bashfulness. But the
amusement and pleasure of the day just passed had for the
moment set her spirits free from the burden that generally
bound them down; and they were as elastic as her step, as she
came forward and presented to her aunt "Dr. Quackenboss," and
then turned to shake her cousin's hand.

"Charlton! — Where did you come from? We didn't expect you so
soon."

"You are not sorry to see me, I hope?"

"Not at all — very glad;" — and then as her eye glanced
towards the other new-comer, Charlton presented to her "Mr.
Thorn," and Fleda's fancy made a sudden quick leap on the
instant to the old hall at Montepoole, and the shot dog. And
then Dr. Quackenboss was presented, an introduction which
Captain Rossitur received coldly, and Mr. Thorn with something
more than frigidity.

The doctor's elasticity, however, defied depression,
especially in the presence of a silk dress and a military
coat. Fleda presently saw that he was agonizing her uncle.
Mrs. Rossitur had drawn close to her son. Fleda was left to
take care of the other visitor. The young men had both seemed
more struck at the vision presented to them than she had been
on her part. She thought neither of them was very ready to
speak to her.

"I did not know," said Mr. Thorn, softly, "what reason I had
to thank Rossitur for bringing me home with him to-night — he
promised me a supper and a welcome — but I find he did not
tell me the half of my entertainment."

"That was wise in him," said Fleda; "the half that is not
expected is always worth a great deal more than the other."

"In this case, most assuredly," said Thorn, bowing, and, Fleda
was sure, not knowing what to make of her.

"Have you been in Mexico, too, Mr. Thorn?"

"Not I! — that's an entertainment I beg to decline. I never
felt inclined to barter an arm for a shoulder-knot, or to
abridge my usual means of locomotion for the privilege of
riding on parade — or selling one's-self for a name. Peter
Schlemil's selling his shadow I can understand; but this is
really lessening one's-self that one's shadow may grow the
larger."

"But you were in the army?" said Fleda.

"Yes, it wasn't my doing. There is a time, you know, when one
must please the old folks — I grew old enough and wise enough
to cut loose from the army before I had gained or lost much by
it."

He did not understand the displeased gravity of Fleda's face,
and went on insinuatingly —

"Unless I have lost what Charlton has gained — something I did
not know hung upon the decision — Perhaps you think a man is
taller for having iron heels to his boots?"

"I do not measure a man by his inches," said Fleda.

"Then you have no particular predilection for shooting-men?"

"I have no predilection for shooting anything, Sir?"

"Then I am safe!" said he, with an arrogant little air of
satisfaction. "I was born under an indolent star, but I
confess to you, privately, of the two I would rather gather my
harvests with the sickle than the sword. How does your uncle
find it?"

"Find what, Sir?"

"The worship of Ceres? — I remember he used to be devoted to
Apollo and the Muses."

"Are they rival deities?"

"Why — I have been rather of the opinion that they were too
many for one house to hold," said Thorn, glancing at Mr.
Rossitur. "But perhaps the Graces manage to reconcile them."

"Did you ever hear of the Graces getting supper?" said Fleda.
"Because Ceres sometimes sets them at that work. Uncle Rolf,"
she added as she passed him — "Mr. Thorn is inquiring after
Apollo — will you set him right, while I do the same for the
tablecloth?"

Her uncle looked from her sparkling eyes to the rather puzzled
expression of his guest's face.

"I was only asking your lovely niece," said Mr. Thorn, coming
down from his stilts, "how you liked this country life."

Dr. Quackenboss bowed, probably in approbation of the epithet.

"Well, Sir, what information did she give you on the subject?"

"Left me in the dark, Sir, with a vague hope that you would
enlighten me."

"I trust Mr. Rossitur can give a favourable report?" said the
doctor, benignly.

But Mr. Rossitur's frowning brow looked very little like it.

"What do you say to our country life, Sir?"

"It's a confounded life, Sir," said Mr. Rossitur, taking a
pamphlet from the table to fold and twist as he spoke; "it is
a confounded life; for the head and the hands must either live
separate, or the head must do no other work but wait upon the
hands. It is an alternative of loss and waste, Sir."

"The alternative seems to be of — a — limited application,"
said the doctor, as Fleda, having found that Hugh and Barby
had been beforehand with her, now came back to the company. "I
am sure this lady would not give such a testimony."

"About what?" said Fleda, colouring under the fire of so many
eyes.

"The blighting influence of Ceres' sceptre," said Mr. Thorn.

"This country life," said her uncle — "do you like it, Fleda?"

"You know, uncle," said she, cheerfully, "I was always of the
old Douglass's mind — I like better to hear the lark sing than
the mouse squeak."

"Is that one of Earl Douglass's sayings," said the doctor.

"Yes, Sir," said Fleda with quivering lips, "but not the one
you know — an older man."

"Ah!" said the doctor, intelligently, "Mr. Rossitur — speaking
of hands — I have employed the Irish very much of late years —
they are as good as one can have, if you do not want a head."

"That is to say — if you have a head," said Thorn.

"Exactly!" said the doctor, all abroad — "and when there are
not too many of them together. I had enough of that, Sir, some
years ago, when a multitude of them were employed on the
public works. The Irish were in a state of mutilation, Sir,
all through the country."

"Ah!" said Thorn, "had the military been at work upon them?"

"No, Sir, but I wish they had, I am sure; it would have been
for the peace of the town. There were hundreds of them. We
were in want of an army."

"Of surgeons, I should think," said Thorn.

Fleda saw the doctor's dubious air and her uncle's compressed
lips; and, commanding herself, with even a look of something
like displeasure, she quitted her seat by Mr. Thorn, and
called the doctor to the window to look at a cluster of rose
acacias just then in their glory. He admired, and she
expatiated, till she hoped everybody but herself had forgotten
what they had been talking about. But they had no sooner
returned to their seats than Thorn began again.

"The Irish in your town are not in the same mutilated state
now, I suppose, Sir?"

"No, Sir, no," said the doctor: "there are much fewer of them
to break each other's bones. It was all among themselves,
Sir."

"The country is full of foreigners," said Mr. Rossitur, with
praiseworthy gravity.

"Yes, Sir," said Dr. Quackenboss, thoughtfully, "we shall have
none of our ancestors left in a short time, if they go on as
they are doing."

Fleda was beaten from the field, and, rushing into the
breakfast-room, astonished Hugh by seizing hold of him and
indulging in a most prolonged and unbounded laugh. She did not
show herself again till the company came in to supper; but
then she was found as grave as Minerva. She devoted herself
particularly to the care and entertainment of Dr. Quackenboss
till he took leave; nor could Thorn get another chance to talk
to her through all the evening.

When he and Rossitur were at last in their rooms, Fleda told
her story.

"You don't know how pleasant it was, aunt Lucy — how much I
enjoyed it — seeing and talking to somebody again. Mrs. Evelyn
was so very kind."

"I a very glad, my darling," said Mrs. Rossitur, stroking away
the hair from the forehead that was bent down towards her — "I
am glad you had it to-day, and I am glad you will have it
again to-morrow."

"You will have it too, aunt Lucy. Mrs. Evelyn will be here in
the morning — she said so."

"I shall not see her."

"Why? Now, aunt Lucy! — you will."

"I have nothing in the world to see her in — I cannot."

"You have this?"

"For the morning? A rich French silk? — It would be absurd.
No, no — it would be better to wear my old merino than that."

"But you will have to dress in the morning for Mr. Thorn? — he
will be here to breakfast."

"I shall not come down to breakfast. Don't look so, love! — I
can't help it."

"Why was that calico got for me and not for you!" said Fleda,
bitterly.

"A sixpenny calico!" said Mrs. Rossitur, smiling — "it would
be hard if you could not have so much as that, love."

"And you will not see Mrs. Evelyn and her daughters at all! —
and I was thinking that it would do you so much good!"

Mrs. Rossitur drew her face a little nearer and kissed it,
over and over.

"It will do you good, my darling — that is what I care for
much more."

"It will not do me half as much," said Fleda, sighing.

Her spirits were in their old place again; no more a tiptoe
to-night. The short light of pleasure was overcast. She went
to bed feeling very quiet indeed; and received Mrs. Evelyn and
excused her aunt the next day, almost wishing the lady had not
been as good as her word. But though in the same mood she set
off with her to drive to Montepoole, it could not stand the
bright influences with which she found herself surrounded. She
came home again at night with dancing spirits.

It was some days before Captain Rossitur began at all to
comprehend the change which had come upon his family. One
morning Fleda and Hugh, having finished their morning's work,
were in the breakfast-room waiting for the rest of the family,
when Charlton made his appearance, with the cloud on his brow
which had been lately gathering.

"Where is the paper?" said he. "I haven't seen a paper since I
have been here."

"You mustn't expect to find Mexican luxuries in Queechy,
Captain Rossitur," said Fleda pleasantly. — "Look at these
roses, and don't ask me for papers!"

He did look a minute at the dish of flowers she was arranging
for the breakfast table, and at the rival freshness and
sweetness of the face that hung over them.

"You don't mean to say you live without a paper?"

"Well, it's astonishing how many things people can live
without," said Fleda, rather dreamily, intent upon settling an
uneasy rose that would topple over.

"I wish you'd answer me really," said Charlton. "Don't you
take a paper here?"

"We would take one, thankfully, if it would be so good as to
come; but, seriously, Charlton, we haven't any," she said,
changing her tone.

"And have you done without one all through the war?"

"No — we used to borrow one from a kind neighbour once in a
while, to make sure, as Mr. Thorn says, that you had not
bartered an arm for a shoulder-knot."

"You never looked to see whether I was killed in the
meanwhile, I suppose?"

"No — never," said Fleda, gravely, as she took her place on a
low seat in the corner — "I always knew you were safe before I
touched the paper."

"What do you mean?"

"I am not an enemy, Charlton," said Fleda, laughing. "I mean
that I used to make aunt Miriam look over the accounts before
I did."

Charlton walked up and down the room for a little while in
sullen silence; and then brought up before Fleda.

"What are you doing?"

Fleda looked up — a glance that, as sweetly and brightly as
possible, half asked, half bade him be silent and ask no
questions.

"What are you doing?" he repeated.

"I am putting a patch on my shoe."

His look expressed more indignation than anything else.

"What do you mean?"

"Just what I say," said Fleda, going on with her work.

"What in the name of all the cobblers in the land do you do it
for?"

"Because I prefer it to having a hole in my shoe; which would
give me the additional trouble of mending my stockings."

Charlton muttered an impatient sentence, of which Fleda only
understood that "the devil" was in it, and then desired to
know if whole shoes would not answer the purpose as well as
either holes or patches.

"Quite — if I had them," said Fleda, giving him another
glance, which, with all its gravity and sweetness, carried
also a little gentle reproach.

"But do you know," said he, after standing still a minute
looking at her, "that any cobbler in the country would do what
you are doing much better for sixpence?"

"I am quite aware of that," said Fleda, stitching away.

"Your hands are not strong enough for that work."

Fleda again smiled at him, in the very dint of giving a hard
push to her needle — a smile that would have witched him into
good humour if he had not been determinately in a cloud, and
proof against everything. It only admonished him that he could
not safely remain in the region of sunbeams; and he walked up
and down the room furiously again. The sudden ceasing of his
footsteps presently made her look up.

"What have you got there? — Oh, Charlton, don't! — please put
that down! — I didn't know I had left them there. They were a
little wet, and I laid them on the chair to dry."

"What do you call this?" said he, not minding her request.

"They are only my gardening gloves — I thought I had put them
away."

"Gloves!" said he, pulling at them disdainfully — "why, here
are two — one within the other — what's that for?"

"It's an old-fashioned way of mending matters — two friends
covering each other's deficiencies. The inner pair are too
thin alone, and the outer ones have holes that are past
cobbling."

"Are we going to have any breakfast to-day?" said he, flinging
the gloves down. "You are very late!"

"No," said Fleda, quietly — "it is not time for aunt Lucy to
be down yet."

"Don't you have breakfast before nine o'clock?"

"Yes — by half-past eight generally."

"Strange way of getting along on a farm! Well, I can't wait, —
I promised Thorn I would meet him this morning — Barby! I wish
you would bring me my boots!" —

Fleda made two springs, — one to touch Charlton's mouth, the
other to close the door of communication with the kitchen.

"Well! — what is the matter? — can't I have them?"

"Yes, yes, but ask me for what you want. You mustn't call upon
Barby in that fashion."

"Why not? Is she too good to be spoken to? What is she in the
kitchen for?"

"She wouldn't be in the kitchen long if we were to speak to
her in that way," said Fleda. "I suppose she would as soon put
your boots on for you as fetch and carry them. I'll see about
it."

"It seems to me Fleda rules the house," remarked Captain
Rossitur, when she had left the room.

"Well, who should rule it?" said Hugh.

"Not she!"

"I don't think she does," said Hugh; "but if she did, I am
sure it could not be in better hands."

"It shouldn't be in her hands at all. But I have noticed since
I have been here that she takes the arrangement of almost
everything. My mother seems to have nothing to do in her own
family."

"I wonder what the family or anybody in it would do without
Fleda!" said Hugh, his gentle eyes quite firing with
indignation. "You had better know more before you speak,
Charlton."

"What is there for me to know?"

"Fleda does everything."

"So I say — and that is what I don't like."

"How little you know what you are talking about!" said Hugh.
"I can tell you she is the life of the house, almost
literally, we should have had little enough to live upon this
summer if it had not been for her."

"What do you mean?" — impatiently enough.

"Fleda — if it had not been for her gardening and management —
she has taken care of the garden these two years, and sold I
can't tell you how much from it. Mr. Sweet, the hotelman at
the Pool, takes all we can give him."

"How much does her 'taking care of the garden' amount to?"

"It amounts to all the planting, and nearly all the other
work, after the first digging — by far the greater part of
it."

Charlton walked up and down a few turns in most unsatisfied
silence.

"How does she get the things to Montepoole?"

"I take them."

"You! — When?"

"I ride with them there before breakfast. Fleda is up very
early to gather them."

"You have not been there this morning?"

"Yes."

"With what?"

"Pease and strawberries."

"And Fleda picked them?"

"Yes — with some help from Barby and me."

"That glove of hers was wringing wet."

"Yes, with the pea-vines, and strawberries too; you know they
get so loaded with dew. Oh, Fleda gets more than her gloves
wet. But she does not mind anything she does for father and
mother."

"Humph! and does she get enough when all is done to pay for
the trouble?"

"I don't know," said Hugh, rather sadly. "_She_ thinks so. It is
no trifle."

"Which, the pay or the trouble?"

"Both. But I meant the pay. Why, she made ten dollars last
year from the asparagus beds alone, and I don't know how much
more this year."

"Ten dollars! — The devil!"

"Why?"

"Have you come to counting your dollars by the tens?"

"We have counted our sixpences so a good while," said Hugh,
quietly.

Charlton strode about the room again in much perturbation.
Then came in Fleda, looking as bright as if dollars had been
counted by the thousand, and bearing his boots.

"What on earth did you do that for?" said he, angrily. "I
could have gone for them myself."

"No harm done," said Fleda, lightly; "only I have got
something else instead of the thanks I expected."

"I can't conceive," said he, sitting down and sulkily drawing
on his foot-gear, "why this piece of punctiliousness should
have made any more difficulty about bringing me my boots than
about blacking them."

A sly glance of intelligence, which Charlton was quick enough
to detect, passed between Fleda and Hugh. His eye carried its
question from one to the other. Fleda's gravity gave way.

"Don't look at me so, Charlton," said she, laughing; "I can't
help it, you are so excessively comical! — I recommend that
you go out upon the grass-plat before the door and turn round
two or three times.

"Will you have the goodness to explain yourself? Who did black
these boots?"

"Never pry into the secrets of families," said Fleda. "Hugh
and I have a couple of convenient little fairies in our
service that do things _unknownst_."

"I blacked them, Charlton," said Hugh.

Captain Rossitur gave his slippers a fling that carried them
clean into the corner of the room.

"I will see," he said, rising, "whether some other service
cannot be had more satisfactory than that of fairies!"

"Now, Charlton," said Fleda, with a sudden change of manner,
corning to him and laying her hand most gently on his arm,
"please don't speak about these things before uncle Rolf or
your mother — please do not, Charlton. It would only do a
great deal of harm, and do no good."

She looked up in his face, but he would not meet her pleading
eye, and shook off her hand.

"I don't need to be instructed how to speak to my father and
mother; and I am not one of the household that has submitted
itself to your direction."

Fleda sat down on her bench and was quiet, but with a lip that
trembled a little and eyes that let fall one or two witnesses
against him. Charlton did not see them, and he knew better
than to meet Hugh's look of reproach. But for all that, there
was a certain consciousness that hung about the neck of his
purpose and kept it down in spite of him; and it was not till
breakfast was half over that his ill-humour could make head
against this gentle thwarting and cast it off. For so long the
meal was excessively dull; Hugh and Fleda had their own
thoughts; Charlton was biting his resolution into every slice
of bread-and-butter that occupied him; and Mr. Rossitur's face
looked like anything but encouraging an inquiry into his
affairs. Since his son's arrival he had been most uncommonly
gloomy; and Mrs. Rossitur's face was never in sunshine when
his was in shade.

"You'll have a warm day of it at the mill, Hugh," said Fleda,
by way of saying something to break the dismal monotony of
knives and forks.

"Does that mill make much?" suddenly inquired Charlton.

"It has made a new bridge to the brook, literally," said Fleda
gaily; "for it has sawn out the boards; and you know you
mustn't speak evil of what carries you over the water."

"Does that mill pay for the working?' said Charlton, turning
with the dryest disregard from her interference, and
addressing himself determinately to his father.

"What do you mean? It does not work gratuitously," answered
Mr. Rossitur, with at least equal dryness.

"But, I mean, are the profits of it enough to pay for the loss
of Hugh's time?"

"If Hugh judges they are not, he is at liberty to let it
alone."

"My time is not lost," said Hugh; "I' don't know what I should
do with it."

"I don't know what we should do without the mill," said Mrs.
Rossitur.

That gave Charlton an unlucky opening.

"Has the prospect of farming disappointed you, father?"

"What is the prospect of your company?" said Mr. Rossitur,
swallowing half an egg before he replied.

"A very limited prospect!" said Charlton, "if you mean the one
that went with me. Not a fifth part of them left."

"What have you done with them?"

"Showed them where the balls were flying, Sir, and did my best
to show them the thickest of it."

"Is it necessary to show it to us too?" said Fleda.

"I believe there are not twenty living that followed me into
Mexico," he went on, as if he had not heard her.

"Was all that havoc made in one engagement?" said Mrs.
Rossitur, whose cheek had turned pale.

"Yes, mother; in the course of a few minutes."

"I wonder what would pay for _that_ loss," said Fleda,
indignantly.

"Why, the point was gained! and it did not signify what the
cost was, so we did that. My poor boys were a small part of
it."

"What point do you mean?"

"I mean the point we had in view, which was taking the place."

"And what was the advantage of gaining the place?"

"Pshaw! the advantage of doing one's duty."

"But what made it duty?" said Hugh.

"Orders."

"I grant you," said Fleda; "I understand that — but bear with
me, Charlton — what was the advantage to the army or the
country?"

"The advantage of great honour if we succeeded, and avoiding
the shame of failure."

"Is that all?" said Hugh.

"All!" said Charlton.

"Glory must be a precious thing, when other men's lives are so
cheap to buy it," said Fleda.

"We did not risk theirs without our own," said Charlton,
colouring.

"No; but still theirs were risked for you."

"Not at all; why, this is absurd! you are saying that the
whole war was for nothing."

"What better than nothing was the end of it? We paid Mexico
for the territory she yielded to us, didn't we, uncle Rolf?"

"Yes."

"How much?"

"Twenty millions, I believe."

"And what do you suppose the war has cost?"

"Hum — I don't know — a hundred."

"A hundred million! Besides — how much besides! And don't you
suppose, uncle Rolf, that for half of that sum Mexico would
have sold us peaceably what she did in the end?"

"It is possible — I think it is very likely."

"What was the fruit of the war, Captain Rossitur?"

"Why, a great deal of honour to the army and the nation at
large."

"Honour again! But granting that the army gained it, which
they certainly did, for one I do not feel very proud of the
nation's share."

"Why, they are one," said Charlton, impatiently.

"In an unjust war?"

"It was _not_ an unjust war."

"That's what you call a knock-downer," said Fleda, laughing.
"But I confess myself so simple as to have agreed with Seth
Plumfield, when I heard him and Lucas disputing about it last
winter, that it was a shame to a great and strong nation like
ours to display its might in crushing a weak one."

"But they drew it upon themselves. _They_ began hostilities."

"There is a diversity of opinion about that."

"Not in heads that have two grains of information."

"I beg your pardon. Mrs. Evelyn and Judge Sensible were
talking over that very question the other day at Montepoole;
and he made it quite clear to my mind that we were the
aggressors."

"Judge Sensible is a fool!" said Mr. Rossitur.

"Very well!" said Fleda, laughing; — "but as I do not wish to
be comprehended in the same class, will you show me how he was
wrong, uncle?"

This drew on a discussion of some length, to which Fleda
listened with profound attention, long after her aunt had
ceased to listen at all, and Hugh was thoughtful, and Charlton
disgusted. At the end of it, Mr. Rossitur left the table and
the room, and Fleda subsiding, turned to her cold coffee-cup.

"I didn't know you ever cared anything about politics before,"
said Hugh.

"Didn't you?" said Fleda, smiling. "You do me injustice."

Their eyes met for a second, with a most appreciating smile on
his part; and then he too went off to his work. There was a
few minutes' silent pause after that.

"Mother," said Charlton, looking up and bursting forth, "what
is all this about the mill and the farm? — is not the farm
doing well?"

"I am afraid not very well," said Mrs. Rossitur, gently.

"What is the difficulty?"

"Why, your father has let it to a man by the name of
Didenhover, and I am afraid he is not faithful; it does not
seem to bring us in what it ought."

"What did he do that for?"

"He was wearied with the annoyances he had to endure before,
and thought it would be better and more profitable to have
somebody else take the whole charge and management. He did not
know Didenhover's character at the time."

"Engaged him without knowing him!"

Fleda was the only third party present, and Charlton
unwittingly allowing himself to meet her eye, received a look
of keen displeasure that he was not prepared for.

"That is not like him," he said, in a much moderated tone.
"But you must be changed too, mother, or you would not endure
such anomalous service in your kitchen."

"There are a great many changes, dear Charlton," said his
mother, looking at him with such a face of sorrowful sweetness
and patience that his mouth was stopped. Fleda left the room.

"And have you really nothing to depend upon but that child's
strawberries and Hugh's wood-saw?" he said, in the tone he
ought to have used from the beginning.

"Little else."

Charlton stifled two or three sentences that rose to his lips,
and began to walk up and down the room again. His mother sat
musing by the tea-board still, softly clinking her spoon
against the edge of her tea-cup.

"She has grown up very pretty," he remarked, after a pause.

"Pretty!" said Mrs. Rossitur.

"Why?"

"No one that has seen much of Fleda would ever describe her by
that name."

Charlton had the candour to think he had seen something of her
that morning.

"Poor child!" said Mrs. Rossitur, sadly, " I can't bear to
think of her spending her life as she is doing — wearing
herself out, I know, sometimes — and buried alive."

"Buried!" said Charlton, in his turn.

"Yes; without any of the advantages and opportunities she
ought to have. I can't bear to think of it. And yet how should
I ever live without her" said Mrs. Rossitur, leaning her lace
upon her hands. "And if she were known she would not be mine
long. But It grieves me to have her go without her music, that
she is so fond of, and the book she wants; she and Hugh have
gone from end to end of every volume there is in the house, I
believe, in every language, except Greek."

"Well, she looks pretty happy and contented, mother."

"I don't know!'" said Mrs.. Rossitur, shaking her head.

"Isn't she happy?"

"I don't know," said Mrs. Rossitur, again; "she has a spirit
that is happy in doing her duty, or anything for those she
loves; but I see her sometimes wearing a look that pains me
exceedingly. I am afraid the way she lives, and the changes in
our affairs, have worn upon her more than we know of — she
feels doubly everything that touches me, or Hugh, or your
father. She is a gentle spirit!" —

"She seems to me not to want character," said Charlton.

"Character! I don't know who has so much. She has at least
fifty times as much character as I have. And energy. She is
admirable at managing people — she knows how to influence them
somehow, so that everybody does what she wants."

"And who influences her?" said Charlton.

"Who influences her? Everybody that she loves. Who has the
most influence over her, do you mean? I am sure I don't know —
Hugh, if anybody — but she is rather the moving spirit of the
household."

Captain Rossitur resolved that he would be an exception to her
rule.

He forgot, however, for some reason or other, to sound his
father any more on the subject of mismanagement. His thoughts,
indeed, were more pleasantly taken up.



CHAPTER XXIV.


"My lord Sebastian,
The truth you speak doth lack some gentleness,
And time to speak it in: you rub the sore,
When you should bring the plaster."
_Tempest_.


The Evelyns spent several weeks at the Pool; and both mother
and daughters conceiving a great affection for Fleda, kept her
in their company as much as possible. For those weeks Fleda
had enough of gaiety. She was constantly spending the day with
them at the Pool, or going on some party of pleasure, or
taking quiet sensible walks and rides with them alone, or with
only one or two more of the most rational and agreeable people
that the place could command. And even Mrs. Rossitur was
persuaded, more times than one, to put herself in her plainest
remaining French silk, and entertain the whole party, with the
addition of one or two of Charlton's friends, at her Queechy
farm-house.

Fleda enjoyed it all with the quick spring of a mind
habitually bent to the patient fulfilment of duty, and
habitually under the pressure of rather sobering thoughts. It
was a needed and very useful refreshment. Charlton's being at
home gave her the full good of the opportunity more than would
else have been possible. He was her constant attendant,
driving her to and from the Pool, and finding as much to call
him there as she had; for, besides the Evelyns, his friend
Thorn abode there all this time. The only drawback to Fleda's
pleasure as she drove off from Queechy would be the leaving
Hugh plodding away at his saw-mill. She used to nod and wave
to him as they went by, and almost feel that she ought not to
go on and enjoy herself while he was tending that wearisome
machinery all day long. Still she went on and enjoyed herself;
but the mere thought of his patient smile as she passed would
have kept her from too much elation of spirits, if there had
been any danger. There never was any.

"That's a lovely little cousin of yours," said Thorn, one
evening, when he and Rossitur, on horseback, were leisurely
making their way along the up-and-down road between Montepoole
and Queechy.

"She is not particularly little," said Rossitur, with a
dryness that somehow lacked any savour of gratification.

"She is of a most fair stature," said Thorn; "I did not mean
anything against that; but there are characters to which one
gives instinctively a softening appellative."

"Are there?" said Charlton.

"Yes. She is a lovely little creature."

"She is not to compare to one of those girls we have left
behind us at Montepoole," said Charlton.

"Hum — well, perhaps you are right; but which girl do you
mean? — for I profess I don't know."

"The second of Mrs. Evelyn's daughters — the auburn-haired
one."

"Miss Constance, eh?" said Thorn. "In what isn't the other one
to be compared to her?"

"In anything! Nobody would ever think of looking at her in the
same room."

"Why not?" said Thorn, coolly.

"I don't know why not," said Charlton, "except that she has
not a tithe of her beauty. That's a superb girl!"

For a matter of twenty yards, Mr. Thorn went softly humming a
tune to himself, and leisurely switching the flies off his
horse.

"Well," said he, "there's no accounting for tastes —


'I ask no red and white
To make up my delight,
No odd becoming graces,
Black eyes, or little know-not-what in faces.' "


"What _do_ you want, then?" said Charlton, half laughing at him
though his friend was perfectly grave.

"A cool eye, and a mind in it."

"A cool eye!" said Rossitur.

"Yes. Those we have left behind us are arrant will-o'-the-
wisps — dancing fires — no more."

"I can tell you, there is fire sometimes in the other eyes,"
said Charlton.

"Very likely," said his friend, composedly; "I could have
guessed as much; but that is a fire you may warm yourself at;
no eternal phosphorescence — it is the leaping up of all
internal fire, that only shows itself upon occasion."

"I suppose you know what you are talking about," said
Charlton; "but I can't follow you into the region of
volcanoes. Constance Evelyn has superb eyes. It is uncommon to
see a light blue so brilliant."

"I would rather trust a sick head to the handling of the
lovely lady than the superb one, at a venture."

"I thought you never had a sick head," said Charlton.

"That is lucky for me, as the hands do not happen to be at my
service. But no imagination could put Miss Constance in
Desdemona's place, when Othello complained of his headache —
you remember, Charlton, —


"Faith, that's with watching — 'twill away again —
Let me but bind this handkerchief about it hard.' "


Thorn gave the intonation truly and admirably.

"Fleda never said anything so soft as that," said Charlton.

"No?"

"No."

"You speak — well, but _soft!_ — do you know what you are
talking about there?"

"Not very well," said Charlton. "I only remember there was
nothing soft about Othello; what you quoted of his wife just
now seemed to me to smack of that quality."

"I forgive your memory," said Thorn, "or else I certainly
would not forgive you. If there is a fair creation in all
Shakespeare, it is Desdemona; and if there is a pretty
combination on earth that nearly matches it, I believe it is
that one."

"What one?"

"Your pretty cousin."

Charlton was silent.

"It is generous in me to undertake her defence," Thorn went
on, "for she bestows as little of her fair countenance upon me
as she can well help. But try as she will, she cannot be so
repellent as she is attractive."

Charlton pushed his horse into a brisker pace not favourable
to conversation; and they rode forward in silence, till, in
descending the hill below Deepwater, they came within view of
Hugh's work-place, the saw-mill. Charlton suddenly drew
bridle.

"There she is."

"And who is with her?" said Thorn. "As I live! — our friend —
what's his name? — who has lost all his ancestors. — And who
is the other?"

"My brother," said Charlton.

"I don't mean your brother, Captain Rossitur," said Thorn,
throwing himself off his horse.

He joined the party, who were just leaving the mill to go down
towards the house. Very much at his leisure, Charlton
dismounted, and came after him.

"I have brought Charlton safe home, Miss Ringgan," said Thorn,
who, leading his horse, had quietly secured a position at her
side.

"What's the matter?" said Fleda, laughing. "Couldn't he bring
himself home?"

"I don't know what's the matter, but he's been uncommonly
dumpish; we've been as near as possible to quarrelling for
half a dozen miles back."

"We have been — a — more agreeably employed," said Dr.
Quackenboss, looking round at him with a face that was a
concentration of affability.

"I make no doubt of it, Sir; I trust we shall bring no
unharmonious interruption. If I may change somebody else's
words," he added more low to Fleda — " 'disdain itself must
convert to courtesy in your presence.' "

"I am sorry disdain should live to pay me a compliment," said
Fleda. "Mr. Thorn, may I introduce to you, Mr. Olmney?"

Mr. Thorn honoured the introduction with perfect civility, but
then fell back to his former position and slightly lowered
tone.

"Are you then a sworn foe to compliments?"

"I was never so fiercely attacked by them as to give me any
occasion."

"I should be very sorry to furnish the occasion; but what's
the harm in them, Miss Ringgan?"

"Chiefly a want of agreeableness."

"Of agreeableness! Pardon me; I hope you will be so good as to
give me the rationale of that?"

"I am of Miss Edgeworth's opinion, Sir," said Fleda, blushing,
" that a lady may always judge of the estimation in which she
is held, by the conversation which is addressed to her."

"And you judge compliments to be a doubtful indication of
esteem!"

"I am sure you do not need information on that point, Sir."

"As to your opinion, or the matter of fact?" said he, somewhat
keenly.

"As to the matter of fact," said Fleda, with a glance both
simple and acute in its expression.

"I will not venture to say a word," said Thorn, smiling.
"Protestations would certainly fall flat at the gates where
_les douces paroles_ cannot enter. But do you know this is
picking a man's pocket of all his silver pennies, and obliging
him to produce his gold?"

"That _would_ be a hard measure upon a good many people," said
Fleda, laughing. "But they're not driven to that. There's
plenty of small change left."

"You certainly do not deal in the coin you condemn," said
Thorn, bowing. "But you will remember that none call for gold
but those who can exchange it, and the number of them is few.
In a world where cowrie passes current, a man may be excused
for not throwing about his guineas."

"I wish you'd throw about a few for our entertainment," said
Charlton, who was close behind. "I haven't seen a yellow-boy
in a good while."

"A proof that your eyes are not jaundiced," said his friend,
without turning his head, "whatever may be the case with you
otherwise. Is he out of humour with the country-life you like
so well, Miss Ringgan? or has he left his domestic tastes in
Mexico? How do you think he likes Queechy?"

"You might as well ask myself," said Charlton.

"How do you think he likes Queechy, Miss Ringgan?"

"I am afraid something after the fashion of Touchstone," said
Fleda, laughing; — "he thinks, that 'in respect of itself, it
is a good life; but in respect that it is a shepherd's life,
it is nought. In respect that it is solitary, he likes it very
well; but in respect that it is private, it is a very vile
life. Now, in respect it is in the fields, it pleaseth him
well; but in respect it is not in the court, it is tedious.' "

"There's a guinea for you, Captain Rossitur," said his friend.
"Do you know out of what mint?"

"It doesn't bear the head of Socrates," said Charlton.

" 'Hast no philosophy in thee,' Charlton?" said Fleda,
laughing back at him.

"Has not Queechy — a — the honour of your approbation, Captain
Rossitur?" said the doctor.

"Certainly, Sir; I have no doubt of its being a very fine
country."

"Only he has imbibed some doubts whether happiness be an
indigenous crop," said Thorn.

"Undoubtedly," said the doctor, blandly; "to one who has
roamed over the plains of Mexico, Queechy must seem rather — a
— a rather flat place."

"If he could lose sight of the hills," said Thorn.

"Undoubtedly, Sir, undoubtedly," said the doctor; "they are a
marked feature in the landscape, and do much to relieve — a —
the charge of sameness."

"Luckily," said Mr. Olmney, smiling, "happiness is not a thing
of circumstance; it depends on a man's self."

"I used to think so," said Thorn; "that is what I have always
subscribed to; but I am afraid I could not live in this region
and find it so long."

"What an evening!" said Fleda. "Queechy is doing its best to
deserve our regards under this light. Mr. Olmney, did you ever
notice the beautiful curve of the hills in that hollow where
the sun sets?"

"I do notice it now," he said.

"It is exquisite!" said the doctor. "Captain Rossitur, do you
observe, Sir — in that hollow where the sun sets?"

Captain Rossitur's eye made a very speedy transition from the
hills to Fleda, who had fallen back a little to take Hugh's
arm, and placing herself between him and Mr. Olmney, was
giving her attention undividedly to the latter. And to him she
talked perseveringly of the mountains, the country, and the
people, till they reached the courtyard gate. Mr. Olmney then
passed on. So did the doctor, though invited to tarry,
averring that the sun had gone down behind the firmament, and
he had something to attend to at home.

"You will come in, Thorn," said Charlton.

"Why, I had intended returning; but the sun has gone down
indeed, and as our friend says there is no chance of our
seeing him again, I may as well go in and take what comfort is
to be had in the circumstances. Gentle Euphrosyne, doth it not
become the Graces to laugh?"

"They always ask leave, Sir," said Fleda, hesitating.

"A most Grace-ful answer, though it does not smile upon me,"
said Thorn.

"I am sorry, Sir," said Fleda, smiling now, "that you have so
many silver pennies to dispose of — we shall never get at the
gold."

"I will do my very best," said he.

So he did, and made himself agreeable that evening to every
one of the circle; though Fleda's sole reason for liking to
see him come in had been, that she was glad of everything that
served to keep Charlton's attention from home subjects. She
saw sometimes the threatening of a cloud that troubled her.

But the Evelyns and Thorn, and everybody else whom they knew,
left the Pool at last, before Charlton, who was sufficiently
well again, had near run out his furlough; and then the cloud,
which had only showed itself by turns during all those weeks,
gathered and settled determinately upon his brow.

He had long ago supplied the want of a newspaper. One evening
in September, the family were sitting in the room where they
had had tea, for the benefit of the fire, when Barby pushed
open the kitchen door and came in.

"Fleda, will you let me have one of the last papers? I've a
notion to look at it."

Fleda rose and went to rummaging in the cupboards.

"You can have it again in a little while," said Barby,
considerately.

The paper was found, and Miss Elster went out with it.

"What an unendurable piece of ill-manners that woman is!" said
Charlton.

"She has no idea of being ill-mannered, I assure you," said
Fleda,.

His voice was like a brewing storm — hers was so clear and
soft that it made a lull in spite of him. But he began again.

"There is no necessity for submitting to impertinence. I never
would do it."

"I have no doubt you never will," said his father. "Unless you
can't help yourself."

"Is there any good reason, Sir, why you should not have proper
servants in the house?"

"A very good reason," said Mr. Rossitur. "Fleda would be in
despair."

"Is there none beside that?" said Charlton, dryly.

"None — except a trifling one," Mr. Rossitur answered, in the
same tone.

"We cannot afford it, dear Charlton," said his mother, softly.

There was a silence, during which Fleda moralized on the ways
people take to make themselves uncomfortable.

"Does that man — to whom you let the farm — does he do his
duty?"

"I am not the keeper of his conscience."

" I am afraid it would be a small charge to any one," said
Fleda.

"But are you the keeper of the gains you ought to have from
him? Does he deal fairly by you?"

"May I ask first what interest it is of yours?"

"It is my interest, Sir, because I come home and find the
family living upon the exertions of Hugh and Fleda, and find
them growing thin and pale under it."

"You, at least, are free from all pains of the kind, Captain
Rossitur."

"Don't listen to him, uncle Rolf!" said Fleda, going round to
her uncle, and making, as she passed, a most warning
impression upon Charlton's arm — "don't mind what he says —
that young gentleman has been among the Mexican ladies till he
has lost an eye for a really proper complexion. Look at me! —
do I look pale and thin? I was paid a most brilliant
compliment the other day upon my roses. Uncle, don't listen to
him! — he hasn't been in a decent humour since the Evelyns
went away."

She knelt down before him and laid her hands upon his, and
looked up in his face to bring all her plea — the plea of most
winning sweetness of entreaty in features yet flushed and
trembling. His own did not unbend as he gazed at her, but he
gave her a silent answer in a pressure of the hands that went
straight from his heart to hers. Fleda's eye turned to
Charlton appealingly.

"Is it necessary," he repeated, "that that child and this boy
should spend their days in labour to keep the family alive?"

"If it were," replied Mr. Rossitur, "I am very willing that
their exertions should cease. For my own part, I would quite
as lief be out of the world as in it."

"Charlton! — how can you!" said Fleda, half-beside herself —
"you should know of what you speak, or be silent! — Uncle,
don't mind him! he is talking wildly — my work does me good."

"You do not understand yourself," said Charlton, obstinately;
— "it is more than you ought to do, and I know my mother
thinks so, too."

"Well!" said Mr. Rossitur — "it seems there is an agreement in
my own family to bring me to the bar — get up, Fleda, — let us
hear all the charges to be brought against me, at once, and
then pass sentence. What have you and your mother agreed upon,
Charlton? — go on!"

Mrs. Rossitur, now beyond speech, left the room, weeping even
aloud. Hugh followed her. Fleda wrestled with her agitation
for a minute or two, and than got up and put both arms round
her uncle's neck.

"Don't talk so, dear uncle Rolf! — you make us very unhappy —
aunt Lucy did not mean any such thing — it is only Charlton's
nonsense. Do go and tell her you don't think so — you have
broken her heart by what you said; — do go, uncle Rolf! — do
go and make her happy again! Forget it all! — Charlton did not
know what he was saying — wont you go, dear uncle Rolf? —"

The words were spoken between bursts of tears that utterly
overcame her, though they did not hinder the utmost
caressingness of manner. It seemed at first spent upon a rock.
Mr. Rossitur stood like a man that did not care what happened
or what became of him — dumb and unrelenting — suffering her
sweet words and imploring tears, with no attempt to answer the
one or stay the other. But he could not hold out against her
beseeching. He was no match for it. He returned at last
heartily the pressure of her arms, and, unable to give her any
other answer, kissed her two or three times — such kisses as
are charged with the heart's whole message; and, disengaging
himself, left the room.

For a minute after he was gone, Fleda cried excessively; and
Charlton, now alone with her, felt as if he had not a particle
of self-respect left to stand upon. One such agony would do
her more harm than whole weeks of labour and weariness. He was
too vexed and ashamed of himself to be able to utter a word,
but when she recovered a little, and was leaving the room, he
stood still by the door in an attitude that seemed to ask her
to speak a word to him.

"I am sure, Charlton," she said, gently, "you'll be sorry to-
morrow for what you have done."

"I am sorry now," he said. But she passed out without saying
anything more.

Captain Rossitur passed the night in unmitigated vexation with
himself. But his repentance could not have been very genuine,
since his most painful thought was, what Fleda must think of
him.

He was somewhat reassured at breakfast to find no traces of
the evening's storm; indeed, the moral atmosphere seemed
rather clearer and purer than common. His own face was the
only one which had an unusual shade upon it. There was no
difference in anybody's manner towards himself; and there was
even a particularly gentle and kind pleasantness about Fleda,
intended, he knew, to soothe and put to rest any movings of
self-reproach he might feel. It somehow missed of its aim, and
made him feel worse; and after, on his part, a very silent
meal, he quitted the house, and took himself and his
discontent to the woods.

Whatever effect they had upon him, it was the middle of the
morning before he came back again. He found Fleda alone in the
breakfast-room, sewing; and for the first time noticed the
look his mother had spoken of — a look not of sadness, but
rather of settled, patient gravity; the more painful to see,
because it could only have been wrought by long-acting causes,
and might be as slow to do away as it must have been to bring.
Charlton's displeasure with the existing state of things had
revived as his remorse died away, and that quiet face did not
have a quieting effect upon him.

"What on earth is going on?" he began, rather abruptly, as
soon as he entered the room. "What horrible cookery is on
foot?"

"I venture to recommend that you do not inquire," said Fleda.
"It was set on foot in the kitchen, and it has walked in here.
If you open the window, it will walk out."

"But you will be cold?"

"Never mind — in that case I will walk out too, into the
kitchen."

"Into the thick of it! No — I will try some other way of
relief. This is unendurable!"

Fleda looked, but made no other remonstrance, and not heeding
the look, Mr. Charlton walked out into the kitchen, shutting
the door behind him.

"Barby," said he, "you have got something cooking here that is
very disagreeable in the other room."

"Is it?" said Barby. "I reckoned it would all fly up chimney.
I guess the draught ain't so strong as I thought it was."

"But I tell you it fills the house!"

"Well, it'll have to a spell yet," said Barby, "cause if it
didn't, you see, Captain Rossitur, there'd be nothing to fill
Fleda's chickens with."

"Chickens! — where's all the corn in the land?"

"It's some place besides in our barn," said Barby. "All last
year's is out, and Mr. Didenhover aint fetched any of this
year's home; so I made a bargain with 'em, they shouldn't
starve as long as they'd eat boiled pursley."

"What do you give them?"

"Most everything — they aint particular now-a-days — chunks o'
cabbages, and scarcity, and pun'kin, and that — all the sass
that aint wanted."

"And do they eat that?"

"Eat it!" said Barby; "they don't know how to thank me for't."

"But it ought to be done out of doors," said Charlton, coming
black from a kind of maze in which he had been listening to
her. "It is unendurable."

"Then I guess you'll have to go some place where you wont know
it," said Barby — "that's the most likely plan I can hit upon;
for it'll have to stay on till it's ready."

Charlton went back into the other room really down-hearted,
and stood watching the play of Fleda's fingers.

"Is it come to this!" he said at length. "Is it possible that
you are obliged to go without such a trifle as the miserable
supply of food your fowls want?"

"That's a small matter!" said Fleda, speaking lightly though
she smothered a sigh. "We have been obliged to do without more
than that."

"What is the reason?"

"Why, this man Didenhover is a rogue, I suspect, and he
manages to spirit away all the profits that should come to
uncle Rolf's hands — I don't know how. We have lived almost
entirely upon the mill for some time."

"And has my father been doing nothing all this while?"

"Nothing on the farm."

"And what of anything else?"

"I don't know," said Fleda, speaking with evident
unwillingness. "But surely, Charlton, he knows his own
business best. It is not our affair."

"He is mad!" said Charlton, violently striding up and down the
floor.

"No," said Fleda, with equal gentleness and sadness, "he is
only unhappy; I understand it all — he has had no spirit to
take hold of anything ever since we came here."

"Spirit!" said Charlton; "he ought to have worked off his
fingers to their joints before he let you do as you have been
doing!"

"Don't say so!" said Fleda, looking even pale in her eagerness
— "don't think so, Charlton! it isn't right. We cannot tell
what he may have had to trouble him; I know he has suffered,
and does suffer a great deal. Do not speak again about
anything as you did last night! Oh," said Fleda, now shedding
bitter tears, "this is the worst of growing poor — the
difficulty of keeping up the old kindness, and sympathy, and
care, for each other!"

"I am sure it does not work so upon you," said Charlton, in an
altered voice.

"Promise me, dear Charlton," said Fleda, looking up after a
moment, and drying her eyes again, "promise me you will not
say any more about these things! I am sure it pains uncle Rolf
more than you think. Say you will not — for your mother's
sake!"

"I will not Fleda for your sake. I would not give you any more
trouble to bear. Promise me that you will be more careful of
yourself in future."

"Oh there is no danger about me," said Fleda, with a faint
smile, and taking up her work again!

"Who are you making shirts for?" said Charlton, after a
pause."

"Hugh."

"You do everything for Hugh, don't you?"

"Little enough. Not half so much as he does for me."

"Is he up at the mill to-day?"

"He is always there," said Fleda, sighing.

There was another silence.

"Charlton," said Fleda, looking up with a face of the
loveliest insinuation — "isn't there something _you_ might do to
help us a little?"

"I will help you garden, Fleda, with pleasure."

"I would rather you should help somebody else," said she,
still looking at him.

"What, Hugh? You would have me go and work at the mill for
him, I suppose?"

"Don't be angry with me, Charlton, for suggesting it," said
Fleda, looking down again.

"Angry!" said he. "But is that what you would have me do."

"Not unless you like; I didn't know but you might take his
place once in a while for a little, to give him a rest —"

"And suppose some of the people from Montepoole, that know me,
should come by? — What are you thinking of?" said he, in a
tone that certainly justified Fleda's deprecation.

"Well!" said Fleda, in a kind of choked voice — "there is a
strange rule of honour in vogue in the world."

"Why should I help Hugh rather than anybody else?"

"He is killing himself!" said Fleda, letting her work fall,
and hardly speaking the words through thick tears. Her head
was down, and they came fast. Charlton stood abashed for a
minute.

"You sha'n't do so, Fleda," said he gently, endeavouring to
raise her — "you have tired yourself with this miserable work!
Come to the window — you have got low-spirited, but, I am
sure, without reason about Hugh — but you shall set me about
what you will; you are right, I dare say, and I am wrong; but
don't make me think myself a brute, and I will do anything you
please."

He had raised her up, and made her lean upon him. Fleda wiped
her eyes and tried to smile.

"I will do anything that will please you, Fleda."

"It is not to please _me_," she answered, meekly.

"I would not have spoken a word last night if I had known it
would have grieved you so."

"I am sorry you should have none but so poor a reason for
doing right," said Fleda, gently.

"Upon my word, I think you are about as good reason as anybody
need have," said Charlton.

She put her hand upon his arm, and looked up — such a look of
pure rebuke, as carried to his mind the full force of the
words she did not speak, — "Who art thou that carest for a
worm which shall die, and forgettest the Lord thy Maker!"
Charlton's eyes fell. Fleda turned gently away, and began to
mend the fire. He stood watching her for a little.

"What do you think of me, Fleda?" he said at length.

"A little wrong-headed," answered Fleda, giving him a glance
and a smile. "I don't think you are very bad."

"If you will go with me, Fleda, you shall make what you please
of me."

He spoke half in jest, half in earnest, and did not himself
know at the moment which way he wished Fleda to take it. But
she had no notion of any depth in his words.

"A hopeless task!" she answered, lightly, shaking her head, as
she got down on her knees to blow the fire; — "I am afraid it
is too much for me. I have been trying to mend you ever since
you came, and I cannot see the slightest change for the
better."

"Where is the bellows?" said Charlton, in another tone.

"It has expired — its last breath," said Fleda. "In other
words, it has lost its nose."

"Well, look here," said he, laughing and pulling her away —
"you will stand a fair chance of losing your face if you put
it in the fire. You sha'n't do it. Come and show me where to
find the scattered parts of that old wind instrument, and I
will see if it cannot be persuaded to play again."



CHAPTER XXV.


"I dinna ken what I should want
If I could get but a man."
SCOTCH BALLAD.


Captain Rossitur did no work at the saw-mill. But Fleda's
words had not fallen to the ground. He began to show care for
his fellow-creatures in getting the bellows mended; his next
step was to look to his gun; and from that time, so long as he
stayed, the table was plentifully supplied with all kinds of
game the season and the country could furnish. Wild ducks and
partridges banished pork and bacon even from memory; and Fleda
joyfully declared she would not see another omelette again
till she was in distress.

While Charlton was still at home came a very urgent invitation
from Mrs. Evelyn, that Fleda should pay them a long visit in
New York, bidding her care for no want of preparation, but
come and make it there. Fleda demurred, however, on that very
score. But before her answer was written another missive came
from Dr. Gregory, not asking so much as demanding her
presence, and enclosing a fifty dollar bill, for which he said
he would hold her responsible till she had paid him with, not
her own hands, but her own lips. There was no withstanding the
manner of this entreaty. Fleda packed up some of Mrs.
Rossitur's laid-by silks, to be refreshed with an air of
fashion, and set off with Charlton at the end of his furlough.

To her simple spirit of enjoyment the weeks ran fast; and all
manner of novelties and kindnesses helped them on. It was a
time of cloudless pleasure. But those she had left thought it
long. She wrote them how delightfully she kept house for the
old doctor, whose wife had long been dead, and how joyously
she and the Evelyns made time fly And every pleasure she felt
awoke almost as strong a throb in the hearts at home. But they
missed her, as Barby said, "dreadfully;" and she was most
dearly welcomed when she came back. It was just before New
Year.

For half an hour there was most gladsome use of eyes and
tongues. Fleda had a great deal to tell them.

"How well — how well you are looking, dear Fleda!" said her
aunt, for the third or fourth time.

"That's more than I can say for you and Hugh, aunt Lucy. What
have you been doing to yourselves?"

"Nothing new," they said, as her eye went from one to the
other.

"I guess you have wanted me!" said Fleda, shaking her head, as
she kissed them both again.

"I guess we have," said Hugh, "but don't fancy we have grown
thin upon the want."

"But where's uncle Rolf? you didn't tell me."

"He is gone to look after those lands in Michigan."

"In Michigan! — When did he go?"

"Very soon after you."

"And you didn't let me know! — Oh, why didn't you? How lonely
you must have been!"

"Let you know, indeed!" said Mrs. Rossitur, wrapping her in
her arms again; — "Hugh and I counted every week that you
stayed, with more pleasure each one."

"I understand!" said Fleda, laughing under her aunt's kisses.
"Well, I am glad I am at home again to take care of you. I see
you can't get along without me."

"People have been very kind, Fleda," said Hugh.

"Have they?"

"Yes — thinking we were desolate, I suppose. There has been no
end to aunt Miriam's goodness and pleasantness."

"Oh, aunt Miriam, always!" said Fleda. "And Seth."

"Catherine Douglass has been up twice to ask if her mother
could do anything for us; and Mrs. Douglass sent us once a
rabbit, and once a quantity of wild pigeons that Earl had
shot. Mother and I lived upon pigeons for I don't know how
long. Barby wouldn't eat 'em — she said she liked pork better;
but I believe she did it on purpose."

"Like enough," said Fleda, smiling, from her aunt's arms where
she still lay.

"And Seth has sent you plenty of your favourite hickory nuts,
very fine ones; and I gathered butternuts enough for you near
home."

"Everything is for me," said Fleda. "Well, the first thing I
do shall be to make some butternut candy for _you_. You wont
despise that Mr. Hugh?"

Hugh smiled at her, and went on.

"And your friend Mr. Olmney has sent us a corn-basket fill of
the superbest apples you ever saw. He has one tree of the
finest in Queechy, he says."

"_My_ friend!" said Fleda, colouring a little.

"Well, I don't know whose he is, if he isn't yours," said
Hugh. "And even the Finns sent us some fish that their brother
had caught, because, they said, they had more than they
wanted. And Dr. Quackenboss sent us a goose and a turkey. We
didn't like to keep them, but we were afraid, if we sent them
back, it would not be understood."

"Send them back!" said Fleda. "That would never do! All
Queechy would have rung with it."

"Well, we didn't," said Hugh. "But so we sent one of them to
Barby's old mother, for Christmas."

"Poor Dr. Quackenboss!" said Fleda. "That man has as near as
possible killed me two or three times. As for the others, they
are certainly the oddest of all the finny tribes. I must go
out and see Barby for a minute."

It was a good many minutes, however, before she could get free
to do any such thing.

"You han't lost no flesh," said Barby, shaking hands with her
anew. "What did they think of Queechy keep, down in York?"

"I don't know — I didn't ask them," said Fleda. "How goes the
world with you, Barby?"

"I'm mighty glad you are come home, Fleda," said Barby,
lowering her voice.

"Why?" said Fleda, in a like tone.

"I guess I aint all that's glad of it," Miss Elster went on,
with a glance of her bright eye.

"I guess not," said Fleda, reddening a little — "but what is
the matter?"

"There's two of our friends ha'n't made us but one visit
apiece since — oh, ever since some time in October!"

"Well, never mind the people," said Fleda. "Tell me what you
were going to say."

"And Mr. Olmney," said Barby, not minding her, "he's took and
sent us a great basket chock full of apples. Now, wa'n't that
smart of him, when he knowed there wa'n't no one here that
cared about 'em ?"

"They are a particularly fine kind," said Fleda.

"Did you hear about the goose and turkey?"

"Yes," said Fleda, laughing.

"The doctor thinks he has done the thing just about right,
this time, I 'spect. He had ought to take out a patent right
for his invention. He'd feel spry if he knowed who ate one on
'em."

"Never mind the doctor, Barby. Was this what you wanted to see
me for?"

"No," said Barby, changing her tone. "I'd give something it
was. I've been all but at my wit's end; for you know, Mis'
Rossitur aint no hand about anything — I couldn't say a word
to her; and ever since he went away, we have been just winding
ourselves up. I thought I should clear out, when Mis' Rossitur
said, maybe you wa'n't a-coming till next week."

"But what is it, Barby? what is wrong?"

"There ha'n't been anything right, to my notions, for a long
spell," said Barby, wringing out her dish-cloth hard, and
flinging it down, to give herself uninterruptedly to talk;
"but now you see, Didenhover, nor none of the men, never comes
near the house to do a chore; and there aint wood to last
three days; and Hugh aint fit to cut it if it was piled up in
the yard; and there aint the first stick of it out of the
woods yet."

Fleda sat down, and looked very thoughtfully into the fire.

"He had ought to ha' seen to it afore he went away; but he
ha'n't done it, and there it is."

"Why, who takes care of the cows?" said Fleda.

"Oh, never mind the cows," said Barby, "they aint suffering —
I wish we was as well off as they be; but I guess, when he
went away, he made a hole in our pockets for to mend his'n. I
don't say he hadn't ought to ha' done it, but we've been
pretty short ever sen, Fleda — we're in the last bushel of
flour, and there aint but a handful of corn meal, and mighty
little sugar, white or brown. I did say something to Mis'
Rossitur, but all the good it did was to spoil her appetite, I
s'pose; and if there's grain in the floor, there aint nobody
to carry it to mill — nor to thrash it — nor a team to draw
it, fur's I know."

"Hugh cannot cut wood," said Fleda, "nor drive to mill either,
in this weather."

"I could go to mill," said Barby, "now you're to hum; but
that's only the beginning, and it's no use to try to do
everything — flesh and blood must stop somewhere."

"No, indeed!" said Fleda. "We must have somebody immediately."

"That's what I had fixed upon," said Barby. "If you could get
hold o' some young feller that wa'n't sot up with an idee that
he was a grown man and too big to be told, I'd just clap to
and fix that little room up-stairs for him, and give him his
victuals here, and we'd have some good of him; instead o'
having him streaking off just at the minute when he'd ought to
be along."

"Who is there we could get, Barby?"

"I don't know," said Barby; "but they say there is never a
nick that there aint a jog some place; so I guess it can be
made out. I asked Mis' Plumfield, but she didn't know anybody
that was out of work; nor Seth Plumfield. I'll tell you who
does — that is, if there is anybody — Mis' Douglass. She keeps
hold. of one end of most everybody's affairs, I tell her.
Anyhow, she's a good hand to go to."

"I'll go there at once," said Fleda. "Do you know anything
about making maple sugar, Barby?"

"That's the very thing," exclaimed Barby, ecstatically.
"There's lots o' sugar-maples on the farm, and it's murder to
let them go to loss; and they ha'n't done us a speck o' good
ever since I come here. And in your grandfather's time, they
used to make barrels and barrels. You and me and Hugh, and
somebody else we'll have, we could clap to and make as much
sugar and molasses in a week as would last us till spring come
round again. There's no sense into it All we'd want would be
to borrow a team some place. I had all that in my head long
ago. If we could see the last of that man, Didenhover, oncet,
I'd take hold of the plough myself, and see if I couldn't make
a living out of it. I don't believe the world would go now,
Fleda, if it wa'n't for women. I never see three men, yet,
that didn't try me more than they were worth."

"Patience, Barby!" said Fleda, smiling. "Let us take things
quietly."

"Well, I declare, I'm beat, to see how you take 'em," said
Barby, looking at her lovingly.

"Don't you know why, Barby?"

"I s'pose I do," said Barby, her face softening still more —
"or I can guess."

"Because I know that all these troublesome things will be
managed in the best way, and by my best Friend, and I know
that He will let none of them hurt me. I am sure of it — isn't
that enough to keep me quiet?"

Fleda's eyes were filling, and Barby looked away from them.

"Well, it beats me," she said, taking up her dish-cloth again,
"why you should have anything to trouble you. I can understand
wicked folks being plagued, but I can't see the sense of the
good ones."

"Troubles are to make good people better, Barby."

"Well," said Barby, with a very odd mixture of real feeling
and seeming want of it, "it's a wonder I never got religion,
for I will say that all the decent people I ever see were of
that kind, — Mis' Rossitur aint, though, is she?"

"No," said Fleda, a pang crossing her at the thought that all
her aunt's loveliness must tell directly and heavily in this
case to lighten religion's testimony. It was that thought, and
no other, which saddened her brow as she went back into the
other room.

"Troubles already!" said Mrs. Rossitur. "You will be sorry you
have come back to them, dear."

"No, indeed," said Fleda, brightly; "I am very glad I have
come home. We will try and manage the troubles, aunt Lucy."

There was no doing anything that day, but the very next
afternoon Fleda and Hugh walked down through the snow to Mrs.
Douglass's. It was a long walk and a cold one, and the snow
was heavy; but the pleasure of being together made up for it
all. It was a bright walk, too, in spite of everything.

In a most thrifty-looking well-painted farm-house, lived Mrs.
Douglass.

"Why, 'taint you, is it'?" she said, when she opened the door
— "Catharine said it was, and I said I guessed it wa'n't, for
I reckoned you had made up your mind not to come and see me at
all. How do you do?"

The last sentence in the tone of hearty and earnest
hospitality. Fleda made her excuses.

"Ay, ay — I can understand all that just as well as if you
said it. I know how much it means, too. Take off your hat."

Fleda said she could not stay, and explained her business.

"So you ha'n't come to see me, after all? Well, now, take off
your hat 'cause I wont have anything to say to you till you
do. I'll give you supper right away."

"But I have left my aunt alone, Mrs. Douglass; and the
afternoons are so short now, it would be dark before we could
get home."

"Serve her right for not coming along! and you sha'n't walk
home in the dark, for Earl will harness the team, and carry
you home like a streak — the horses have nothing to do. Come,
you sha'n't go."

And as Mrs. Douglass laid violent hands on her bonnet, Fleda
thought best to submit. She was presently rewarded with the
promise of the very person she wanted — a boy, or young man,
then in Earl Douglass's employ; but his wife said, "she
guessed he'd give him up to her;" and what his wife said,
Fleda knew Earl Douglass was in the habit of making good.

"There aint enough to do to keep him busy," said Mrs.
Douglass. "I told Earl he made me more work than he saved; but
he's hung on till now."

"What sort of a boy is he, Mrs. Douglass."

"He aint a steel-trap, I tell you beforehand," said the lady,
with one of her sharp intelligent glances; "he don't know
which way to go till you show him; but he's a clever enough
kind of a chap — he don't mean no harm. I guess he'll do for
what you want."

"Is he to be trusted?"

"Trust him with anything but a knife and fork," said she, with
another look and shake of the head. "He has no idee but what
everything on the supper-table is meant to be eaten straight
off. I would keep two such men as my husband as soon as I
would Philetus."

"Philetus!" said Fleda — "the person that brought the chicken,
and thought he had brought two?"

"You've hit it," said Mrs. Douglass. "Now you know him. How do
you like our new minister?"

"We are all very much pleased with him."

"He's very good-looking, don't you think so?"

"A very pleasant face."

"I ha'n't seen him much yet except in church; but those that
know, say he is very agreeable in the house."

"Truly, I dare say," answered Fleda, for Mrs. Douglass's face
looked for her testimony.

"But I think he looks as if he was beating his brains out
there among his books. I tell him he is getting the blues,
living in that big house by himself."

"Do you manage to do all your work without help, Mrs.
Douglass?" said Fleda, knowing that the question was in
"order," and that the affirmative answer was not counted a
thing to he ashamed of.

"Well, I guess I'll know good reason," said Mrs. Douglass,
complacently, "before I'll have any help to spoil _my_ work.
Come along, and I'll let you see whether I want one."

Fleda went, very willingly, to be shown all Mrs. Douglass's
household arrangements and clever contrivances, of her own or
her husband's devising, for lessening or facilitating labour.
The lady was proud, and had some reason to be, of the very
superb order and neatness of each part and detail. No corner
or closet that might not be laid open fearlessly to a
visitor's inspection. Miss Catharine was then directed to open
her piano, and amuse Fleda with it while her mother performed
her promise of getting an early supper — a command grateful to
one or two of the party, for Catharine had been carrying on
all this while a most stately tête-à-tête with Hugh, which
neither had any wish to prolong. So Fleda filled up the time
good naturedly with thrumming over the two or three bits of
her childish music that she could recall, till Mr. Douglass
came in, and they were summoned to sit down to supper; which
Mrs. Douglass introduced by telling her guests "they must take
what they could get, for she had made fresh bread and cake and
pies for them two or three times, and she wasn't a-going to do
it again."

Her table was abundantly spread, however, and with most
exquisite neatness; and everything was of excellent quality,
saving only certain matters which call for a free hand in the
use of material. Fleda thought the pumpkin pies must have been
made from that vaunted stock which is said to want no eggs nor
sugar, and the cakes, she told Mrs. Rossitur afterwards, would
have been good if half the flour had been left out, and the
other ingredients doubled, The deficiency in one kind,
however, was made up by superabundance in another; the table
was stocked with such wealth of crockery that one could not
imagine any poverty in what was to go upon it. Fleda hardly
knew how to marshal the confusion of plates which grouped
themselves around her cup and saucer, and none of them might
be dispensed with. There was one set of little glass dishes
for one kind of sweetmeat, another set of ditto for another
kind; an army of tiny plates to receive and shield the
tablecloth from the dislodged cups of tea, saucers being the
conventional drinking vessels; and there were the standard
bread and butter plates, which, besides their proper charge of
bread and butter, and beef, and cheese, were expected, Fleda
knew, to receive a portion of every kind of cake that might
happen to be on the table. It was a very different thing,
however, from Miss Anastasia's tea-table, or that of Miss
Flora Quackenboss. Fleda enjoyed the whole time without
difficulty.

Mr. Douglass readily agreed to the transfer of Philetus's
services.

"He's a good boy!" said Earl — he's a good boy; he's as good a
kind of a boy as you need to have. He wants tellin'; most boys
want tellin'; but he'll do when he is told, and he means to do
right."

"How long do you expect your uncle will be gone?" said Mrs.
Douglass.

"I do not know," said Fleda.

"Have you heard from him since he left?"

"Not since I came home," said Fleda. "Mr. Douglass, what is
the first thing to be done about the maple-trees in the sugar
season?"

"Why, you calculate to try makin' sugar in the spring?"

"Perhaps — at any rate I should like to know about it."

"Well, I should think you would," said Earl, "and it's easy
done — there aint nothin' easier, when you know the right way
to set to work about it; and there's a fine lot of sugar trees
on the old farm — I recollect of them sugar trees as long ago
as when I was a boy — I've helped to work them afore now, but
there's a good many years since — has made me a leetle older;
but the first thing you want is a man and a team, to go about
and empty the buckets — the buckets must be emptied every day
— and then carry it down to the house."

"Yes, I know," said Fleda; "but what is the first thing to be
done to the trees?"

"Why, la! 'tain't much to do to the trees — all you've got to
do is to take an axe and chip a bit out, and stick a chip a
leetle way into the cut for to dreen the sap, and set a trough
under, and then go on to the next one, and so on; — you may
make one or two cuts in the south side of the tree, and one or
two cuts in the north side, if the tree's big enough, and if
it aint, only make one or two cuts in the south side of the
tree; and for the sap to run good, it had ought to be that
kind o' weather when it freezes in the day and thaws by night;
I would say! — when it friz in the night and thaws in the day;
the sap runs more bountifully in that kind o' weather."

It needed little from Fleda to keep Mr. Douglass at the maple-
trees till supper was ended; and then, as it was already
sundown, he went to harness the sleigh.

It was a comfortable one, and the horses, if not very handsome
nor bright-curried, were well fed and had good heart to their
work. A two-mile drive was before them, and with no
troublesome tongues or eyes to claim her attention, Fleda
enjoyed it fully. In the soft clear winter twilight, when
heaven and earth mingle so gently, and the stars look forth
brighter and cheerfuller than ever at another time, they slid
along over the fine roads, too swiftly, towards home; and
Fleda's thoughts as easily and swiftly slipped away from Mr.
Douglass, and maple-sugar, and Philetus, and an unfilled
woodyard, and an empty flour-barrel, and revelled in the pure
ether. A dark rising ground covered with wood sometimes rose
between her and the western horizon; and then a long stretch
of snow, only less pure, would leave free view of its
unearthly white light, dimmed by no exhalation, a gentle,
mute, but not the less eloquent, witness to earth of what
heaven must be.

But the sleigh stopped at the gate, and Fleda's musings came
home.

"Good night!" said Earl, in reply to their thanks and adieus;
— " 'taint anything to thank a body for — let me know when
you're a-goin' into the sugar-making, and I'll come and help
you."

"How sweet a pleasant message may make an unmusical tongue!"
said Fleda, as she and Hugh made their way up to the house.

"We had a stupid enough afternoon," said Hugh.

"But the ride home was worth it all!"



CHAPTER XXVI.


" 'Tis merry, 'tis merry, in good green wood,
So blithe Lady Alice is singing;
On the beech's pride, and the oak's brown side,
Lord Richard's axe is ringing."
LADY OF THE LAKE.


Philetus came, and was inducted into office and the little
room immediately; and Fleda felt herself eased of a burden.
Barby reported him stout and willing, and he proved it by what
seemed a perverted inclination for bearing the most enormous
logs of wood he could find into the kitchen.

"He will hurt himself!" said Fleda.

"I'll protect him! — against anything but buckwheat batter,"
said Barby, with a grave shake of her head. "Lazy folks takes
the most pains, I tell him. But it would be good to have some
more ground, Fleda, for Philetus says he don't care for no
dinner when he has griddles to breakfast, and there aint
anything much cheaper than that."

"Aunt Lucy, have you any change in the house?" said Fleda,
that same day.

"There isn't but three and sixpence," said Mrs. Rossitur, with
a pained, conscious look. "What is wanting, dear?"

"Only candles — Barby has suddenly found we are out, and she
wont have any more made before to-morrow. Never mind."

"There is only that," repeated Mrs. Rossitur. "Hugh has a
little money due to him from last summer, but he hasn't been
able to get it yet. You may take that, dear."

"No," said Fleda, "we mustn't. We might want it more."

"We can sit in the dark for once, said Hugh, "and try to make
an uncommon display of what Dr. Quackenboss calls 'sociality!'
"

"No," said Fleda, who had stood busily thinking, "I am going
to send Philetus down to the post-office for the paper, and
when it comes, I am not to be balked of reading it; I've made
up my mind. We'll go right off into the woods and get some
pine knots, Hugh — come! They make a lovely light. You get us
a couple of baskets and the hatchet; I wish we had two; and
I'll be ready in no time. That'll do!"

It is to be noticed, that Charlton had provided against any
future deficiency of news in his family. Fleda skipped away,
and in five minutes returned arrayed for the expedition, in
her usual out-of-door working trim, namely, an old dark merino
cloak, almost black, the effect of which was continued by the
edge of an old dark mousseline below, and rendered decidedly
striking by the contrast of a large whitish yarn shawl worn
over it; the whole crowned with a little close-fitting hood
made of some old silver-grey silk, shaped tight to the head,
without any bow or furbelow to break the outline. But such a
face within side of it! She came almost dancing into the room.

"This is Miss Ringgan! as she appeared when she was going to
see the pine-trees. Hugh, don't you wish you had a picture of
me?"

"I have got a tolerable picture of you, somewhere," said Hugh.

"This is somebody very different from the Miss Ringgan that
went to see Mrs. Evelyn, I can tell you," Fleda went on,
gaily. "Do you know, aunt Lucy, I have made up my mind that my
visit to New York was a dream, and the dream is nicely folded
away with my silk dresses. Now, I must go tell that precious
Philetus about the post-office; I am so comforted, aunt Lucy,
whenever I see that fellow staggering into the house under a
great log of wood! I have not heard anything in a long time so
pleasant as the ringing strokes of his axe in the yard. Isn't
life made up of little things?"

"Why don't you put a better pair of shoes on?"

"Can't afford it, Mrs. Rossitur. You are extravagant."

"Go and put on my India-rubbers."

"No, Ma'am — the rocks would cut them to pieces. I have
brought my mind down to — my shoes."

"It isn't safe, Fleda; you might see somebody."

"Well, Ma'am! But I tell you I am not going to see anybody but
the chick-a-dees and the snow-birds, and there is great
simplicity of manners prevailing among them."

The shoes were changed, and Hugh and Fleda set forth,
lingering a while, however, to give a new edge to their
hatchet — Fleda turning the grindstone. They mounted then the
apple-orchard hill, and went a little distance along the edge
of the table-land, before striking off into the woods. They
had stood still a minute to look over the little white valley
to the snow-dressed woodland beyond.

"This is better than New York, Hugh," said Fleda.

"I am very glad to hear you say that," said another voice.
Fleda turned, and started a little to see Mr. Olmney at her
side, and congratulated herself instantly on her shoes.

"Mrs. Rossitur told me where you had gone, and gave me
permission to follow you, but I hardly hoped to overtake you
so soon."

"We stopped to sharpen our tools," said Fleda. "We are out on
a foraging expedition."

"Will you let me help you?"

"Certainly — if you understand the business. Do you know a
pine-knot when you see it?"

He laughed, and shook his head, but avowed a wish to learn.

"Well, it would be a charity to teach you anything wholesome,"
said Fleda; "for I heard one of Mr. Olmney's friends lately
saying that he looked like a person who was in danger of
committing suicide."

"Suicide! One of my friends!" he exclaimed, in the utmost
astonishment.

"Yes," said Fleda, laughing; "and there is nothing like the
open air for clearing away vapours."

"You cannot have known that by experience," said he, looking
at her.

Fleda shook her head, and, advising him to take nothing for
granted, set off into the woods.

They were in a beautiful state. A light snow, but an inch or
two deep, had fallen the night before; the air had been
perfectly still during the day; and though the sun was out,
bright and mild, it had done little but glitter on the earth's
white capping. The light dry flakes of snow had not stirred
from their first resting-place. The long branches of the large
pines were just tipped with snow at the ends; on the smaller
evergreens every leaf and tuft had its separate crest. Stones
and rocks were smoothly rounded over, little shrubs and sprays
that lay along the ground were all doubled in white; and the
hemlock branches, bending with their feathery burden, stooped
to the foreheads of the party, and gave them the freshest of
salutations as they brushed by. The whole wood-scene was
particularly fair and graceful. A light veil of purity, no
more, thrown over the wilderness of stones, and stumps, and
bare ground — like the blessing of charity, covering all
roughnesses and unsightlinesses — like the innocent, unsullied
nature that places its light shield between the eye and
whatever is unequal, unkindly, and unlovely in the world.

"What do you think of this for a misanthropical man, Mr.
Olmney? there's a better tonic to be found in the woods than
in any remedies of man's devising."

"Better than books?" said he.

"Certainly! — No comparison."

"I have to learn that yet."

"So I suppose," said Fleda. "The very danger to be
apprehended, as I hear, Sir, is from your running a tilt into
some of those thick folios of yours, head foremost. There's no
pitch there, Hugh — you may leave it alone. We must go on —
there are more yellow pines higher up."

"But who could give such a strange character of me to you?"
said Mr. Olmney.

"I am sure your wisdom would not advise me to tell you that,
Sir. You will find nothing there, Mr. Olmney."

They went gaily on, careering about in all directions, and
bearing down upon every promising stump or dead pine-tree they
saw in the distance. Hugh and Mr. Olmney took turns in the
labour of hewing out the fat pine knots, and splitting down
the old stumps to get at the pitchy heart of the wood; and the
baskets began to grow heavy. The whole party were in excellent
spirits, and as happy as the birds that filled the woods, and
whose cheery "chick-a-dee-dee-dee" was heard whenever they
paused to rest, and let the hatchet be still.

"How one sees everything in the colour of one's own
spectacles!" said Fleda.

"May I ask what colour yours are to-day?" said Mr. Olmney.

"Rose, I think," said Hugh.

"No," said Fleda, "they are better than that — they are no
worse colour than the snow's own — they show me everything
just as it is. It could not be lovelier."

"Then we may conclude, may we not," said Mr. Olmney, "that you
are not sorry to find yourself in Queechy again?"

"I am not sorry to find myself in the woods again. That is not
pitch, Mr. Olmney."

"It has the same colour — and weight."

"No, it is only wet — see this, and smell of it — do you see
the difference? Isn't it pleasant?"

"Everything is pleasant to-day," said he, smiling.

"I shall report you a cure. Come, I want to go a little higher
and show you a view. Leave that, Hugh — we have got enough."

But Hugh chose to finish an obstinate stump, and his
companions went on without him. It was not very far up the
mountain, and they came to a fine look-out point — the same
where Fleda and Mr. Carleton had paused long before on their
quest after nuts. The wide spread of country was a white waste
now; the delicate beauties of the snow were lost in the far
view; and the distant Catskill showed wintrily against the
fair blue sky. The air was gentle enough to invite them to
stand still, after the exercise they had taken; and as they
both looked in silence, Mr. Olmney observed that his
companion's face settled into a gravity rather at variance
with the expression it had worn.

"I should hardly think," said he, softly, "that you were
looking through white spectacles, if you had not told us so."

"Oh — a shade may come over what one is looking at, you know,"
said Fleda. But seeing that he still watched her inquiringly,
she added —

"I do not think a very wide landscape is ever gay in its
effect upon the mind — do you?"

"Perhaps — I do not know," said he, his eyes turning to it
again, as if to try what the effect was.

"My thoughts had gone back," said Fleda, "to a time a good
while ago, when I was a child, and stood here in summer
weather — and I was thinking that the change in the landscape
is something like that which years make in the mind."

"But you have not, for a long time at least, known any very
acute sorrow?"

"No," said Fleda, "but that is not necessary. There is a
gentle kind of discipline which does its work, I think, more
surely."

"Thank God for _gentle_ discipline!" said Mr. Olmney; "if you do
not know what those griefs are that break down mind and body
together."

"I am not unthankful, I hope, for anything," said Fleda,
gently; "but I have been apt to think that, after a crushing
sorrow, the mind may rise up again, but that a long-continued
though much lesser pressure in time breaks the spring."

He looked at her again with a mixture of incredulous and
tender interest, but her face did not belie her words, strange
as they sounded from so young and in general so bright-seeming
a creature.

"There shall no evil happen to the just," he said, presently,
and with great sympathy.

Fleda flashed a look of gratitude at him — it was no more, for
she felt her eyes watering, and turned them away.

"You have not, I trust, heard any bad news?"

"No, Sir — not at all."

"I beg pardon for asking, but Mrs. Rossitur seemed to be in
less good spirits than usual." He had some reason to say so,
having found her in a violent fit of weeping.

"You do not need to be told," he went on, "of the need there
is that a cloud should now and then come over this lower scene
— the danger that, if it did not, our eyes would look nowhere
else?"

There is something very touching in hearing a kind voice say
what one has often struggled to say to one's-self.

"I know it, Sir," said Fleda, her words a little choked — "and
one may not wish the cloud away — but it does not the less
cast a shade upon the face. I guess Hugh has worked his way
into the middle of that stump by this time, Mr. Olmney."

They rejoined him; and the baskets being now sufficiently
heavy, and arms pretty well tired, they left the further
riches of the pine woods unexplored, and walked sagely
homewards. At the brow of the table-land, Mr. Olmney left them
to take a shorter cut to the high road, having a visit to make
which the shortening day warned him not to defer.

"Put down your basket, and rest a minute, Hugh," said Fleda.
"I had a world of things to talk to you about, and this
blessed man has driven them all out of my head."

"But you are not sorry he came along with us?"

"O no. We had a very good time. How lovely it is, Hugh! Look
at the snow down there — without a track; and the woods have
been dressed by the fairies. Oh, look how the sun is glinting
on the west side of that hillock!"

"It is twice as bright since you have come home," said Hugh.

"The snow is too beautiful to-day. Oh, I was right! One may
grow morbid over books, but I defy anybody, in the company of
those chick-a-dees. I should think it would be hard to keep
quite sound in the city."

"You are glad to be here again, aren't you?" said Hugh.

"Very! O, Hugh! — it is better to be poor, and have one's feet
on these hills, than to be rich, and shut up to brick walls!"

"It is best as it is," said Hugh, quietly.

"Once," Fleda went on — "one fair day, when I was out driving
in New York, it did come over me with a kind of pang, how
pleasant it would be to have plenty of money again, and be at
ease; and then, as I was looking off over that pretty north
river to the other shore, I bethought me — 'A little that a
righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked.'
"

Hugh did not answer, for the face she turned to him, in its
half-tearful, half-bright submission, took away his speech.

"Why, you cannot have enjoyed yourself as much as we thought,
Fleda, if you dislike the city so much."

"Yes, I did. Oh, I enjoyed a great many things. I enjoyed
being with the Evelyns. You don't know how much they made of
me — every one of them — father and mother, and all the three
daughters — and uncle Orrin. I have been well petted, I can
tell you, since I have been gone."

"I am glad they showed so much discrimination," said Hugh;
"they would be puzzled to make too much of you."

"I must have been in a remarkably discriminating society,"
said Fleda, "for everybody was very kind."

"How do you like the Evelyns, on a nearer view?"

"Very much, indeed; and I believe they really love me. Nothing
could possibly be kinder, in all ways of showing kindness. I
shall never forget it."

"Who were you driving with that day?" said Hugh.

"Mr. Thorn."

"Did you see much of him?"

"Quite as much as I wished. Hugh, I took your advice."

"About what?" said Hugh.

"I carried down some of my scribblings, and sent them to a
magazine."

"Did you!" said Hugh, looking delighted. "And will they
publish them?"

"I don't know," said Fleda; "that's another matter. I sent
them, or uncle Orrin did, when I first went down; and I have
heard nothing of them yet."

"You showed them to uncle Orrin?"

"Couldn't help it, you know. I had to."

"And what did he say to them?"

"Come! — I'm not going to be cross-questioned," said Fleda,
laughing. "He did not prevent my sending them."

"And if they take them, do you expect they will give anything
for them — the magazine people?"

"I am sure, if they don't, they shall have no more; that is my
only possible inducement to let them be printed. For my own
pleasure, I would far rather not."

"Did you sign with your own name?"

"My own name! — Yes, and desired it to be printed in large
capitals. What are you thinking of? No! — I hope you'll
forgive me, — but I signed myself what our friend the doctor
calls 'Yugh.' "

"I'll forgive you, if you'll do one thing for me."

"What?"

"Show me all you have in your portfolio — Do, Fleda! — to-
night, by the light of the pitch-pine knots. Why shouldn't you
give me that pleasure? And, besides, you know Molière had an
old woman?"

"Well," said Fleda, with a face that to Hugh was extremely
satisfactory, "we'll see — I suppose you might as well read my
productions in manuscript as in print. But they are in a
terribly scratchy condition — they go sometimes for weeks in
my head before I find time to put them down — you may guess,
polishing is pretty well out of the question. Suppose we try
to get home with these baskets."

Which they did.

"Has Philetus got home?" was Fleda's first question.

"No," said Mrs. Rossitur, "but Dr. Quackenboss has been here,
and brought the paper; he was at the post-office this morning,
he says. Did you see Mr. Olmney?"

"Yes, Ma'am, and I feel he has saved me from a lame arm —
those pine-knots are so heavy."

"He is a lovely young man!" said Mrs. Rossitur, with uncommon
emphasis.

"I should have been blind to the fact, aunt Lucy, if you had
not made me change my shoes. At present, no disparagement to
him, I feel as if a cup of tea would be rather more lovely
than anything else."

"He sat with me some time," said Mrs. Rossitur; "I was afraid
he would not overtake you."

Tea was ready, and only waiting for Mrs. Rossitur to come down
stairs, when Fleda, whose eye was carelessly running along the
columns of the paper, uttered a sudden shout, and covered her
face with it. Hugh looked up in astonishment, but Fleda was
beyond anything but exclamations, laughing and flushing to the
very roots of her hair.

"What is the matter, Fleda?"

"Why," said Fleda, "how comical! — I was just looking over the
list of articles in the January number of the _Excelsior_" —

"The _Excelsior!_" said Hugh.

"Yes — the magazine I sent my things to — I was running over
their advertisement here, where they give a special puff of
the publication in general, and of several things in
particular, and I saw — here they speak of 'A tale of
thrilling interest, by Mrs. Eliza Lothbury, unsurpassed,' and
so forth, and so forth; 'another valuable communication from
Mr. Charleston, whose first acute and discriminating paper all
our leaders will remember; the beginning of a new tale from
the infallibly graceful pen of Miss Delia Lawriston: we are
sure it will be so and so; '_The Wind's Voices_,' _by our new
correspondent_, '_Hugh_,' _has a delicate sweetness that would do
no discredit to some of our most honoured names!_' What do you
think of that?"

What Hugh thought he did not say, but he looked delighted, and
came to read the grateful words for himself.

"I did not know but they had declined it utterly," said Fleda;
"it was so long since I had sent it, and they had taken no
notice of it; but it seems they kept it for the beginning of a
new volume."

" 'Would do no discredit to some of our most honoured names!'
" said Hugh. "Dear Fleda, I am very glad! But it is no more
than I expected."

"Expected!" said Fleda. "When you had not seen a line! Hush,
my dear Hugh, aren't you hungry?"

The tea, with this spice to their appetites, was wonderfully
relished; and Hugh and Fleda kept making despatches of secret
pleasure and sympathy to each other's eyes; though Fleda's
face, after the first flush had faded, was perhaps rather
quieter than usual. Hugh's was illuminated.

"Mr. Skillcorn is a smart man," said Barby, coming in with a
package; "he has made out to go two miles in two hours, and
get back again safe."

"More from the post-office!" exclaimed Fleda, pouncing upon
it. — "O yes, there has been another mail. A letter for you,
aunt Lucy, from uncle Rolf. We'll forgive him, Barby — and
here's a letter for me, from uncle Orrin, and — yes — the
_Excelsior_. Hugh, uncle Orrin said he would send it. Now for
those blessed pineknots. Aunt Lucy, you shall be honoured with
the one whole candle the house contains."

The table soon cleared away, the basket of fat fuel was
brought in; and one or two splinters being delicately
insinuated between the sticks on the fire, a very brilliant
illumination sprang out. Fleda sent a congratulatory look over
to Hugh on the other side of the fireplace, as she cosily
established herself on her little bench at one corner with her
letter: he had the magazine. Mrs. Rossitur between them at the
table, with her one candle, was already insensible to all
outward things.

And soon the other two were as delightfully absorbed. The
bright light of the fire shone upon three motionless and rapt
figures, and getting no greeting from them, went off and
danced on the old cupboard doors and paper-hangings, in a
kindly hearty joviality, that would have put any number of
stately wax candles out of countenance. There was no poverty
in the room that night. But the people were too busy to know
how cosy they were, till Fleda was ready to look up from her
note, and Hugh had gone twice carefully over the new poem —
when there was a sudden giving out of the pine splinters. New
ones were supplied in eager haste and silence, and Hugh was
beginning "The Wind's Voices," for the third time, when a
soft-whispered "Hugh!" across the fire, made him look over to
Fleda's corner. She was holding up, with both hands, a five-
dollar bank note, and just showing him her eyes over it.

"What's that?" said Hugh, in an energetic whisper.

"I don't know!" said Fleda, shaking her head comically; "I am
told 'The Wind's Voices' have blown it here, but, privately, I
am afraid it is a windfall of another kind."

"What?" said Hugh, laughing.

"Uncle Orrin says it is the first-fruits of what I sent to the
_Excelsior_, and that more will come; but I do not feel at all
sure that it is entirely the growth of that soil."

"I dare say it is," said Hugh; "I am sure it is worth more
than that. Dear Fleda, I like it so much!"

Fleda gave him such a smile of grateful affection — not at all
as if she deserved his praise, but as if it was very pleasant
to have.

"What put it into your head? anything in particular?"

"No — nothing — I was looking out of the window one day, and
seeing the willow-tree blow; and that looked over my shoulder;
as you know Hans Andersen says his stories did."

"It is just like you! — exactly as it can be."

"Things put themselves in my head," said Fleda, tucking
another splinter into the fire. "Isn't this better than a
chandelier?"

"Ten times!"

"And so much pleasanter for having got it ourselves. What a
nice time we had, Hugh!"

"Very. Now for the portfolio, Fleda — come — mother is fast;
she wont see or hear anything. What does father say, mother?"

In answer to this they had the letter read, which, indeed,
contained nothing remarkable beyond its strong expressions of
affection to each one of the little family — a cordial which
Mrs. Rossitur drank and grew strong upon in the very act of
reading. It is pity the medicine of kind words is not more
used in the world — it has so much power. Then, having folded
up her treasure and talked a little while about it, Mrs.
Rossitur caught up the magazine like a person who had been
famished in that kind; and soon she and it and her tallow
candle formed a trio apart from all the world again. Fleda and
Hugh were safe to pass most mysterious-looking little papers
from hand to hand right before her, though they had the care
to read them behind newspapers, and exchanges of thought and
feeling went on more swiftly still, and softly, across the
fire. Looks, and smiles, and whispers, and tears too, under
cover of a _Tribune_ and an _Express_. And the blaze would die
down just when Hugh had got to the last verse of something,
and then while impatiently waiting for the new pine splinters
to catch, he would tell Fleda how much he liked it, or how
beautiful he thought it, and whisper inquiries and critical
questions; till the fire reached the fat vein, and leaped up
in defiant emulation of gas-lights unknown, and then he would
fall to again with renewed gusto. And Fleda hunted out in her
portfolio what bits to give him first, and bade him, as she
gave them, remember this and understand that, which was
necessary to be borne in mind in the reading. And through all
the brightening and fading blaze, and all the whispering,
congratulating, explaining, and rejoicing going on at her
side, Mrs. Rossitur and her tallow candle were devoted to each
other, happily and engrossingly. At last, however, she flung
the magazine from her, and turning from the table sat looking
into the fire with a rather uncommonly careful and unsatisfied
brow.

"What did you think of the second piece of poetry there,
mother?" said Hugh — "that ballad? — 'The Wind's Voices,' it
is called."

" 'The Wind's Voices?' — I don't know — I didn't read it, I
believe."

"Why, mother! I liked it very much. Do read it — read it
aloud."

Mrs. Rossitur took up the magazine again abstractedly, and
read


" 'Mamma, what makes your face so sad?
The sound of the wind makes me feel glad;
But whenever it blows, as grave you look
As if you were reading a sorrowful book.'


" 'A sorrowful book I am reading, dear —
A book of weeping, and pain, and fear —
A book deep printed on my heart,
Which I cannot read but the tears will start.


" 'That breeze to my ear was soft and mild,
Just so, when I was a little child;
But now I hear in its freshening breath
The voices of those that sleep in death.'


" 'Mamma,' said the child, with shaded brow,
What is this book you are reading now?
And why do you read what makes you cry?'
'My child, it comes up before my eye;


" ' 'Tis the memory, love, of a far-off day,
When my life's best friend was taken away; —
Of the weeks and months that my eyes were dim,
Watching for tidings — watching for him.


" 'Many a year has come and pass'd
Since a ship sailed over the ocean fast,
Bound for a port on England's shore —
She sail'd — but was never heard of more.'


" 'Mamma' — and she closer press'd her side —
'Was that the time when my father died? —
Is it his ship you think you see? —
Dearest mamma — wont you speak to me?'


"The lady paused, but then calmly said —
Yes, Lucy — the sea was his dying bed!
And now, whenever I hear the blast,
I think again of that storm long past.


" 'The winds' fierce howlings hurt not me,
But I think how they beat on the pathless sea —
Of the breaking mast — of the parting rope —
Of the anxious strife, and the failing hope.'


" 'Mamma,' said the child, with streaming eyes,
My father has gone above the skies;
And you tell me this world is mean and base
Compared with heaven — that blessed place.'


" 'My daughter, I know — I believe it all —
I would not his spirit to earth recal.
The bless'd one he — his storm was brief —
Mine, a long tempest of tears and grief.


" 'I have you, my darling — I should not sigh —
I have one star more in my cloudy sky —
The hope that we both shall join him there,
In that perfect rest from weeping and care.' "


"Well, mother; how do you like it?" said Hugh, whose eyes gave
tender witness to his liking for it.

"It is pretty" — said Mrs. Rossitur.

Hugh exclaimed, and Fleda, laughing, took it out of her hand.

"Why, mother," said Hugh — "it is Fleda's!"

"Fleda's!" exclaimed Mrs. Rossitur, snatching the magazine
again. "My dear child, I was not thinking in the least of what
I was reading. Fleda's!" —

She read it over anew, with swimming eyes this time, and then
clasped Fleda in her arms, and gave her, not words, but the
better reward of kisses and tears. They remained so a long
time, even till Hugh left them; and then Fleda, released from
her aunt's embrace, still crouched by her side with one arm in
her lap.

They both sat thoughtfully looking into the fire till it had
burnt itself out, and nothing but a glowing bed of coals
remained.

"That is an excellent young man," said Mrs. Rossitur.

"Who?"

"Mr. Olmney. He sat with me some time after you had gone."

"So you said before," said Fleda, wondering at the troubled
expression of her aunt's face.

"He made me wish," said Mrs. Rossitur, hesitating, "that I
could be something different from what I am — I believe I
should be a great deal happier."

The last word was hardly spoken. Fleda rose to her knees, and
putting both arms about her aunt, pressed face to face, with a
clinging sympathy that told how very near her spirit was,
while tears from the eyes of both fell without measure.

"Dear aunt Lucy — _dear_ aunt Lucy — I wish you would — I am
sure you would be a great deal happier —"

But the mixture of feelings was too much for Fleda; her head
sank lower on her aunt's bosom, and she wept aloud.

"But I don't know anything about it," said Mrs. Rossitur, as
well as she could speak — "I am as ignorant as a child!"

"Dear aunty! that is nothing — God will teach you, if you ask
him — he has promised. Oh, ask him, aunt Lucy! I know you
would be happier. I know it is better — a million times — to
be a child of God, than to have everything in the world. If
they only brought us that, I would be very glad of all our
troubles — indeed I would."

"But I don't think I ever did anything right in my life," said
poor Mrs. Rossitur.

"Dear aunt Lucy!" said Fleda, straining her closer, and with
her very heart gushing out at these words — "_dear_ aunty,
Christ came for just such sinners — for just such as you and
I."

"_You_," said Mrs. Rossitur, but speech failed utterly, and with
a muttered prayer that Fleda would help her she sunk her head
upon her shoulder, and sobbed herself into quietness, or into
exhaustion. The glow of the fire-light faded away till only a
faint sparkle was left in the chimney.

There was not another word spoken, but when they rose up, with
such kisses as gave and took unuttered affection, counsel, and
sympathy, they bade each other good-night.

Fleda went to her window, for the moon rode high, and her
childish habit had never been forgotten. But surely the face
that looked out that night was as the face of an angel. In all
the pouring moonbeams that filled the air, she could see
nothing but the flood of God's goodness on a dark world. And
her heart that night had nothing but an unbounded and
unqualified thanksgiving for all the "gentle discipline" they
had felt — for every sorrow, and weariness, and
disappointment; except, besides, the prayer, almost too deep
to be put into words, that its due and hoped-for fruit might
be brought forth unto perfection.



CHAPTER XXVII.


"If I become not a cart as well as another man, a plague on my
bringing up."
SHAKESPEARE.


Every day could not be as bright as the last, even by the help
of pitch pine knots. They blazed, indeed, many a time, but the
blaze shone upon faces that it could not sometimes light up.
Matters drew gradually within a smaller and smaller compass.
Another five dollars came from uncle Orrin, and the hope of
more; but these were carefully laid by to pay Philetus; and
for all other wants of the household excepting those the farm
supplied, the family were dependent on mere driblets of sums.
None came from Mr. Rossitur. Hugh managed to collect a very
little. That kept them from absolute distress — that, and
Fleda's delicate instrumentality. Regular dinners were given
up, fresh meat being now unheard of, unless when a kind
neighbour made them a present; and appetite would have lagged
sadly but for Fleda's untiring care. She thought no time nor
pains ill bestowed which could prevent her aunt and Hugh from
feeling the want of old comforts; and her nicest skill was
displayed in varying the combinations of their very few and
simple stores. The diversity and deliciousness of her bread-
stuffs, Barby said, was "beyond everything!" and a cup of rich
coffee was found to cover all deficiencies of removes and
_entremets;_ and this was always served, Barby said further, as
if the President of the United States was expected. Fleda
never permitted the least slackness in the manner of doing
this or anything else that she could control.

Mr. Plumfield had sent down an opportune present of a fine
porker. One cold day in the beginning of February, Fleda was
busy in the kitchen, making something. for dinner, and Hugh at
another table was vigorously chopping sausage-meat.

"I should like to have some cake again," said Fleda.

"Well, why don't you?" said Hugh, chopping away.

"No eggs, Mr. Rossitur — and can't afford 'em at two shillings
a dozen. I believe I am getting discontented — I have a great
desire to do something to distinguish myself — I would make a
plumpudding if I had raisins, but there is not one in the
house."

"You can get 'em up to Mr. Hemps's for six pence a pound,"
said Barby.

But Fleda shook her head at the sixpence, and went on moulding
out her biscuits diligently.

"I wish Philetus would make his appearance with the cows — it
is a very odd thing they should be gone since yesterday
morning, and no news of them."

"I only hope the snow aint so bright it'll blind his eyes,"
said Barby.

"There he is this minute," said Hugh. "It is impossible to
tell from his countenance whether successful or not."

"Well, where are the cows, Mr. Skillcorn?" said Barby, as he
came in.

"I have went all over town," said the person addressed, "and
they aint no place."

"Have you asked news of them, Philetus?"

"I have asked the hull town, and I have went all over, 'till I
was a'most beat out with the cold — and I ha'n't seen the
first sight of 'em yet!"

Fleda and Hugh exchanged looks, while Barby and Mr. Skillcorn
entered into an animated discussion of probabilities and
impossibilities.

"If we should be driven from our coffee dinners to tea with no
milk in it!" said Hugh, softly, in mock dismay.

"Wouldn't!" said Fled. "We'd beat up an egg and put it in the
coffee."

"We couldn't afford it," said Hugh, smiling.

"Could! — cheaper than to keep the cows. I'll have some sugar
at any rate, I'm determined. — Philetus!"

"Marm!"

"I wish, when you have got a good pile of wood chopped, you
would make some troughs to put under the maple trees — you
know how to make them, don't you?"

"I do."

"I wish you would make some — you have pine logs out there
large enough, haven't you?"

"They hadn't ought to want much of it — there's some 'gregious
big ones!"

"I don't know how many we shall want, but a hundred or two, at
any rate; and the sooner the better. Do you know how much
sugar they make from one tree?"

"Waul, I don't," said Mr. Skillcorn, with the air of a person
who was at fault on no other point; "the big trees gives more
than the little ones —"

Fleda's eyes flashed at Hugh, who took to chopping in sheer
desperation; and the muscles of both gave them full occupation
for five minutes. Philetus stood comfortably warming himself
at the fire, looking first at one and then at the other, as if
they were a show, and he had paid for it. Barby grew
impatient.

"I guess this cold weather makes lazy people of me!' she said,
bustling about her fire with an amount of energy that was
significant. It seemed to signify nothing to Philetus; he only
moved a little out of the way.

"Didenhover's cleared out," he burst forth, at length,
abruptly.

"What!" said Fleda and Barby at once, the broom and the
biscuits standing still.

"Mr. Didenhover."

"What of him?"

"He has tuk himself off out o' town."

"Where to?"

"I can't tell where teu — he aint coming back, tain't likely."

"How do you know?"

" 'Cause he's tuk all his traps and went, and he said farming
didn't pay, and he wa'n't a-going to have nothin' more to deu
with it; — he telled Mis' Simpson so — he lived to Mis'
Simpson's; and she telled Mr. Ten Eyck."

"Are you sure, Philetus?"

"Sure as 'lection! — he telled Mis' Simpson so, and she telled
Mr. Ten Eyck; and he's cleared out."

Fleda and Hugh again looked at each other. Mr. Skillcorn
having now delivered himself of his news, went out to the
woodyard.

"I hope he ha'n't carried off our cows along with him," said
Barby, as she, too, went out to some other part of her
premises.

"He was to have made us quite a payment on the first of
March," said Fleda.

"Yes, and that was to have gone to uncle Orrin," said Hugh.

"We shall not see a cent of it. And we wanted a little of it
for ourselves. I have that money from the _Excelsior_, but I
can't touch a penny of it, for it must go to Philetus's wages.
What Barby does without hers, I do not know; she has had but
one five dollars in six months. Why she stays I cannot
imagine; unless it is for pure love."

"As soon as the spring opens, I can go to the mill again,"
said Hugh, after a little pause. Fleda looked at him
sorrowfully, and shook her head as she withdrew her eyes.

"I wish father would give up the farm," Hugh went on, under
his breath. "I cannot bear to live upon uncle Orrin so."

Fleda's answer was to clasp her hands. Her only words were,
"Don't say anything to aunt Lucy."

"It is of no use to say anything to anybody," said Hugh. "But
it weighs me to the ground, Fleda."

"If uncle Rolf doesn't come home by spring — I hope, I hope he
will! but if he does not, I will take desperate measures. I
will try farming myself, Hugh. I have thought of it, and I
certainly will. I will get Earl Douglass, or somebody else, to
play second fiddle, but I will have but one head on the farm,
and I will try what mine is worth."

"You could not do it, Fleda."

"One can do anything! with a strong enough motive."

"I'm afraid you'd soon be tired, Fleda."

"Not if I succeeded — not so tired as I am now."

"Poor Fleda! I dare say you are tired!"

"It wasn't _that_ I meant," said Fleda, slightly drawing her
breath; "I meant this feeling of everything going wrong, and
uncle Orrin, and all."

"But you _are_ weary," said Hugh, affectionately. "I see it in
your face."

"Not so much body as mind, after all. Oh, Hugh! this is the
worst part of being poor — the constant occupation of one's
mind on a miserable succession of trifles. I am so weary
sometimes! If I only had a nice book to rest myself for a
while, and forget all these things, I would give so much for
it! —"

"Dear Fleda, I wish you had!"

"That was one delight of being in New York; I forgot all about
money, from one end of it to the other; I put all that away;
and not having to think of meals till I came to eat them. You
can't think how tired I get of ringing the changes on pork and
flour, and Indian meal, and eggs, and vegetables!"

Fleda looked tired, and pale; and Hugh looked sadly conscious
of it.

"Don't tell aunt Lucy I have said all this!" she exclaimed,
after a moment, rousing herself; "I don't always feel so; only
once in a while I get such a fit. And now, I have just
troubled you by speaking of it."

"You don't trouble any one in that way very often, dear
Fleda," said Hugh, kissing her.

"I ought not at all — you have enough else to think of; but it
is a kind of relief sometimes. I like to do these things in
general — only now and then I get tired, as I was just now, I
suppose, and then one sees everything through a different
medium."

"I am afraid it would tire you more to have the charge of Earl
Douglass and the farm upon your mind; and mother could be no
help to you, — nor I, if I am at the mill."

"But there's Seth Plumfield. Oh, I've thought of it all. You
don't know what I am up to, Mr. Rossitur. You shall see how I
will manage — unless uncle Rolf comes home, in which case I
will very gladly forego all my honours and responsibilities
together."

"I hope he will come!" said Hugh.

But this hope was to be disappointed. Mr. Rossitur wrote again
about the first of March, saying, that he hoped to make
something of his lands in Michigan, and that he had the
prospect of being engaged in some land agencies, which would
make it worth his while to spend the summer there. He bade his
wife let anybody take the farm that could manage it, and would
pay; and to remit to Dr. Gregory whatever she should receive,
and could spare. He hoped to do something where he was.

It was just then the beginning of the sugar season, and Mrs.
Douglass having renewed and urged Earl's offer of help, Fleda
sent Philetus down to ask him to come the next day with his
team. Seth Plumfield's, which had drawn the wood in the
winter, was now busy in his own sugar business. On Earl
Douglass's ground there happened to be no maple-trees. His
lands were of moderate extent, and almost entirely cultivated
as a sheep farm; and Mr. Douglass himself, though in very
comfortable circumstances, was in the habit of assisting, on
advantageous terms, all. the farmers in the neighbourhood.

Philetus came back again in a remarkably short time; and
announced that he had met Dr. Quackenboss in the way, who had
offered to come with his team for the desired service.

"Then you have not been to Mr. Douglass's?"

"I have not," said Philetus — "I thought likely you wouldn't
calculate to want him teu."

"How came the doctor to know what you were going for?"

"I told him."

"But how came you to tell him?''

"Waul, I guess he had a mind to know," said Philetus; "so I
didn't keep it no closer than I had teu."

"Well," said Fleda, biting her lips, "you will have to go down
to Mr. Douglass's, nevertheless, Philetus, and tell him the
doctor is coming to-morrow, but I should be very much obliged
to him if he will be here next day. Will you?"

"Yes, marm!"

"Now, dear Hugh, will you make me those little spouts for the
trees? — of some dry wood : you can get plenty out here. You
want to split them, up with a hollow chisel, about a quarter
of an inch thick, and a little more than half an inch broad.
Have you got a hollow chisel?"

"No, but I can get one up the hill. Why must it be hollow?"

"To make little spouts, you know, for the sap to run in. And
then, my dear Hugh, they must be sharpened at one end so as to
fit where the chisel goes in. I am afraid I have given you a
day's work of it. How sorry I am you must go to-morrow to the
mill! — and yet I am glad too."

"Why need you go round yourself with these people?" said Hugh.
"I don't see the sense of it."

"They don't know where the trees are," said Fleda.

"I am sure I do not. Do you?"

"Perfectly well. And besides," said Fleda, laughing, "I should
have great doubts of the discreetness of Philetus's auger if
it were left to his simple direction. I have no notion the
trees would yield their sap as kindly to him as to me. But I
didn't bargain for Dr. Quackenboss."

Dr. Quackenboss arrived punctually the next morning with his
oxen and sled; and, by the time it was loaded with the sap-
troughs, Fleda, in her black cloak, yarn shawl, and grey
little hood, came out of the house to the wood-yard. Earl
Douglass was there, too, not with his team, but merely to see
how matters stood, and give advice.

"Good day, Mr. Douglass!" said the doctor. "You see I'm so
fortunate as to have got the start of you."

"Very good," said Earl, contentedly; "you may have it: the
start's one thing, and the pull's another. I'm willin' anybody
should have the start, but it takes a pull to know whether a
man's got stuff in him or no."

"What do you mean?" said the doctor.

"I don't mean nothin' at all. You make a start to-day, and
I'll come ahint and take the pull to-morrow. Ha' you got
anythin' to boil down in, Fleda? There's a potash kittle
somewheres, aint there? I guess there is. There is in most
houses."

"There is a large kettle — I suppose large enough," said
Fleda.

"That'll do, I guess. Well, what do you calculate to put the
syrup in? Ha' you got a good big cask, or plenty o' tubs and
that? or will you sugar off the hull lot every night, and fix
it that way? You must do one thing or t'other, and it's good
to know what you're a-going to do afore you come to do it."

"I don't know, Mr. Douglass," said Fleda. "Whichever is the
best way: we have no cask large enough, I am afraid."

"Well, I tell you what I'll do. I know where there's a tub,
and where they aint usin' it, nother, and I reckon I can get
'em to let me have it — I reckon I can; and I'll go round
for't and fetch it here to-morrow mornin' when I come with the
team. 'Twont be much out of my way. It's more handier to leave
the sugarin' off till the next day; and it had ought to have a
settlin' besides. Where'll you have your fire built? — in
doors or out?"

"Out, I would rather, if we can. But can we?"

"La! 'tain't nothin' easier; it's as easy out as in. All
you've got to do is to take and roll a couple of pretty sized
billets for your fireplace, and stick a couple o' crotched
sticks for to hang the kittle over: I'd as lieve have it out
as in, and if anythin', a leetle liever. If you'll lend me
Philetus, me and him 'll fix it all ready agin you come back;
'tain't no trouble at all; and if the sticks aint here, we'll
go into the woods after 'em, and have it all sot up."

But Fleda represented that the services of Philetus were just
then in requisition, and that there would be no sap brought
home till to-morrow.

"Very good!" said Earl, amicably — "_very_ good! it's just as
easy done one day as another — it don't make no difference to
me: and if it makes any difference to you, of course, we'll
leave it to-day, and there'll be time enough to do it to-
morrow. Me and him 'll knock it up in a whistle. What's them
little shingles for?"

Fleda explained the use and application of Hugh's mimic
spouts. He turned one about, whistling, while he listened to
her.

"That's some o' Seth Plumfield's new jigs, aint it? I wonder
if he thinks now the sap's a-goin' to run any sweeter out o'
that 'ere than it would off the end of a chip that wa'n't
quite so handsome?"

"No, Mr. Douglass," said Fleda smiling, "he only thinks that
this will catch a little more."

"His sugar wont never tell where it come from," remarked Earl,
throwing the spout down. "Well, you shall see more o' me to-
morrow. Good-bye, Dr. Quackenboss."

"Do you contemplate the refining process?" said the doctor, as
they moved off.

"I have often contemplated the want of it," said Fleda; "but
it is best not to try to do too much. I should like to make
sure of something worth refining in the first place."

"Mr. Douglass and I," said the doctor — "I hope — a — he's a
very good-hearted man, Miss Fleda, but, ha! ha! — he wouldn't
suffer loss from a little refining himself. Haw! you rascal —
where are you going? Haw! I tell ye" —

"I am very sorry, Dr. Quackenboss," said Fleda, when she had
the power and the chance to speak again — "I am very sorry you
should have to take this trouble; but, unfortunately, the art
of driving oxen is not among Mr. Skillcorn's accomplishments."

"My dear Miss Ringgan!" said the doctor, "I — I — nothing, I
assure you, could give me greater pleasure than to drive my
oxen to any place where you would like to have them go."

Poor Fleda wished she could have despatched them and him in
one direction while she took another; the art of driving oxen
_quietly_ was certainly not among the doctor's accomplishments.
She was almost deafened. She tried to escape from the
immediate din by running before to show Philetus about tapping
the trees and fixing the little spouts, but it was a longer
operation than she had counted upon, and by the time they were
ready to leave the tree the doctor was gee-hawing alongside of
it; and then if the next maple was not within sight she could
not in decent kindness leave him alone. The oxen went slowly,
and though Fleda managed to have no delay longer than to throw
down a trough as the sled came up with each tree which she and
Philetus had tapped, the business promised to make a long day
of it. It might have been a pleasant day in pleasant company;
but Fleda's spirits were down to set out with, and Doctor
Quackenboss was not the person to give them the needed spring;
his long-winded complimentary speeches had not interest enough
even to divert her. She felt that she was entering upon an
untried and most weighty undertaking; charging her time and
thoughts with a burden they could well spare. Her energies did
not flag, but the spirit that should have sustained them was
not strong enough for the task.

It was a blustering day of early March, with that
uncompromising brightness of sky and land which has no shadow
of sympathy with a heart overcast. The snow still lay a foot
thick over the ground, thawing a little in sunny spots; the
trees quite bare and brown, the buds even of the early maples
hardly showing colour; the blessed evergreens alone doing
their utmost to redeem the waste, and speaking of patience and
fortitude that can brave the blast and outstand the long
waiting, and cheerfully bide the time when "the winter shall
be over and gone." Poor Fleda thought they were like her in
their circumstances, but she feared she was not like them in
their strong endurance. She looked at the pines and hemlocks
as she passed, as if they were curious preachers to her; and
when she had a chance, she prayed quietly that she might stand
faithfully like them to cheer a desolation far worse, and she
feared far more abiding than snows could make or melt away.
She thought of Hugh, alone in his mill-work that rough chilly
day, when the wind stalked through the woods and over the
country as if it had been the personification of March just
come of age and taking possession of his domains. She thought
of her uncle, doing what? — in Michigan — leaving them to
fight with difficulties as they might — why? — why? and her
gentle aunt at home sad and alone, pining for the want of them
all, but most of him, and fading with their fortunes. And
Fleda's thoughts travelled about from one to the other, and
dwelt with them all by turns till she was heart-sick; and
tears, tears fell hot on the snow many a time when her eyes
had a moment's shield from the doctor and his somewhat more
obtuse coadjutor. She felt half superstitiously, as if with
her taking the farm were beginning the last stage of their
falling prospects, which would leave them with none of hope's
colouring. Not that in the least she doubted her own ability
and success; but her uncle did not deserve to have his affairs
prosper under such a system, and she had no faith that they
would.

"It is most grateful," said the doctor, with that sideway
twist of his jaw and his head at once, in harmony — "it is a
most grateful thing to see such a young lady — Haw! there now!
— what are you about? — haw — haw? then! It is a most grateful
thing to see —"

But Fleda was not at his side — she had bounded away and was
standing under a great maple-tree a little a-head, making sure
that Philetus screwed his auger _up_ into the tree instead of
_down_, which he had several times shown an unreasonable desire
to do. The doctor had steered his oxen by her little grey hood
and black cloak all the day. He made for it now.

"Have we arrived at the termination of our — a — adventure?"
said he, as he came up and threw down the last trough.

"Why, no, Sir," said Fleda, "for we have yet to get home
again."

" 'Tain't so fur going that way as it were this'n," said
Philetus. "My! aint I glad?"

"Glad of what?" said the doctor. "Here's Miss Ringgan's walked
the whole way, and she a lady — aint you ashamed to speak of
being tired?"

"I ha'n't said the first word o' being tired!" said Philetus,
in an injured tone of voice — "but a man ha'n't no right to
kill hisself, if he aint a gal!"

"I'll qualify to your being safe enough," said the doctor.
"But, Miss Ringgan, my dear, you are — a — you have lost
something since you came out —"

"What?" said Fleda, laughing. "Not my patience?"

"No," said the doctor, "no — you're — a — you're an angel! but
your cheeks, my dear Miss Ringgan, show that you have exceeded
your — a —"

"Not my intentions, doctor," said Fleda, lightly. "I am very
well satisfied with our day's work, and with my share of it,
and a cup of coffee will make me quite up again. Don't look at
my cheeks till then."

"I shall disobey you constantly," said the doctor; "but, my
dear Miss Fleda, we must give you some felicities for reaching
home, or Mrs. Rossitur will be — a — distressed when she sees
them. Might I propose — that you should just bear your weight
on this wood-sled, and let my oxen and me have the honour —
The cup of coffee, I am confident, would be at your lips
considerably earlier —"

"The sun wont be a great haighth by the time we get there,"
said Philetus, in a cynical manner; "and I ha'n't took the
first thing to-day!"

"Well, who has?" said the doctor; "you aint the only one.
Follow your nose down hill, Mr. Skillcorn, and it'll smell
supper directly. Now, my dear Miss Ringgan, will you?"

Fleda hesitated, but her relaxed energies warned her not to
despise a homely mode of relief. The wood-sled was pretty
clean, and the road decently good over the snow. So Fleda
gathered her cloak about her, and sat down flat on the bottom
of her rustic vehicle — too grateful for the rest to care if
there had been a dozen people to laugh at her — but the doctor
was only delighted, and Philetus regarded every social
phenomenon as coolly, and in the same business light, as he
would the butter to his bread, or any other infallible every-
day matter.

Fleda was very glad presently that she had taken this plan,
for, besides the rest of body, she was happily relieved from
all necessity of speaking. The doctor, though but a few paces
off, was perfectly given up to the care of his team, in the
intense anxiety to show his skill and gallantry in saving her
harmless from every ugly place in the road that threatened a
jar or a plunge. Why his oxen didn't go distracted was a
question; but the very vehemence and iteration of his cries at
last drowned itself in Fleda's ear, and she could hear it like
the wind's roaring, without thinking of it. She presently
subsided to that. With a weary frame, and with that peculiar
quietness of spirits that comes upon the ending of a day's
work in which mind and body have both been busily engaged, and
the sudden ceasing of any call upon either, fancy asked no
leave, and dreamily roved hither and thither between the
material and the spirit world; the will too subdued to stir.
Days gone by came marshalling their scenes and their actors
before her; again she saw herself a little child under those
same trees that stretched their great black arms over her
head, and, swaying their tops in the wind, seemed to beckon
her back to the past. They talked of their old owner, whose
steps had so often passed beneath them with her own light
tread — light now, but how dancing then! — by his side; and of
her father, whose hand perhaps had long ago tapped those very
trees where she had noticed the old closed-up scars of the
axe. At any rate, his boyhood had rejoiced there, and she
could look back to one time at least in his manhood when she
had taken a pleasant walk with him in summer weather among
those same woods — in that very ox-track she believed. Gone —
two generations that she had known there; hopes and fears and
disappointments, akin to her own, at rest, — as hers would be;
and how sedately the old trees stood telling her of it, and
waving their arms in grave and gentle commenting on the folly
of anxieties that came and went with the wind. Fleda agreed to
it all; she heard all they said; and her own spirit was as
sober and quiet as their quaint moralizing. She felt as if it
would never dance again.

The wind had greatly abated of its violence; as if satisfied
with the show of strength it had given in the morning, it
seemed willing to make no more commotion that day. The sun was
far on his way to the horizon, and many a broad hill-side
slope was in shadow; the snow had blown or melted from off the
stones and rocks, leaving all their roughness and bareness
unveiled; and the white crust of snow that lay between them
looked a cheerless waste in the shade of the wood and the
hill. But there were other spots where the sunbeams struck,
and bright streams of light ran between the trees, smiling and
making them smile. And as Fleda's eye rested there, another
voice seemed to say — "At evening time it shall be light," and
"Sorrow may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the
morning." She could have cried, but spirits were too
absolutely at an ebb. She knew this was partly physical,
because she was tired and faint, but it could not the better
be overcome. Yet those streaks of sunlight were pleasant
company, and Fleda watched them, thinking how bright they used
to be once; till the oxen and sled came out from the woods,
and she could see the evening colours on the hill-tops beyond
the village, lighting up the whole landscape with promise of
the morrow. She thought her day had seen its brightest; but
she thought too that if she must know sorrows, it was a very
great blessing to know them at Queechy.

The smoke of the chimney-tops came in sight, and fancy went
home — a few minutes before her.

"I wonder what you'll take and do to yourself next," said
Barby, in extreme vexation, when she saw her come in. "You're
as white as the wall, and as cold, aint you? I'd ha' let
Philetus cut all the trees, and drink all the sap afterwards.
I wonder which you think is the worst, the want o' you, or the
want o' sugar."

A day's headache was pretty sure to visit Fleda after any
overexertion or exhaustion, and the next day justified Barby's
fears. She was the quiet prisoner of pain. But Earl Douglass
and Mr. Skillcorn could now do without her in the woods; and
her own part of the trouble Fleda always took with speechless
patience. She had the mixed comfort that love could bestow —
Hugh's sorrowful kiss and look before setting off for the
mill, Mrs. Rossitur's caressing care, and Barby's softened
voice, and sympathizing hand on her brow, and hearty heart-
speaking kiss; and poor little King lay all day with his head
in her lap, casting grave wistful glances up at his mistress's
face, and licking her hand with intense affection when even in
her distress it stole to his head to reward and comfort him.
He never would budge from her side, or her feet, till she
could move herself, and he knew that she was well. As sure as
King came trotting into the kitchen, Barby used to look into
the other room, and say, "So you're better, aint you, Fleda? I
knowed it."

After hours of suffering, the fit was at last over; and in the
evening, though looking and feeling racked, Fleda would go out
to see the sap-boilers. Earl Douglass and Philetus had had a
very good day of it, and now were in full blast with the
evening part of the work. The weather was mild, and having the
stay of Hugh's arm, Fleda grew too amused to leave them.

It was a very pretty scene. The sap-boilers had planted
themselves near the cellar door on the other side of the house
from the kitchen door and the woodyard — the casks and tubs
for syrup being under cover there; and there they had made a
most picturesque work-place. Two strong crotched sticks were
stuck in the ground some six or eight feet apart, and a pole
laid upon them, to which by the help of some very rustic hooks
two enormous iron kettles were slung. Under them a fine fire
of smallish split sticks was doing duty, kept in order by a
couple of huge logs which walled it in on the one side and on
the other. It was a dark night, and the fire painted all this
in strong lights and. shadows threw a faint, fading, Aurora-
like light over the snow, beyond the shade of its log
barriers; glimmered by turns upon the paling of the garden
fence, whenever the dark figures that were passing and
repassing between gave it a chance; and invested the cellar-
opening and the outstanding corner of the house with striking
and unwonted dignity, in a light that revealed nothing except
to the imagination. Nothing was more fancifully dignified, or
more quaintly travestied by that light than the figures around
it, busy and flitting about, and showing themselves in every
novel variety of grouping and colouring. There was Earl
Douglass, not a hair different from what he was every day in
reality, but with his dark skin and eyes, and a hat that, like
its master, had concluded to abjure all fashions; and perhaps,
for the same reason, he looked now like any bandit, and now,
in a more pacific view, could pass for nothing less than a
Spanish shepherd at least, with an iron ladle in lieu of
crook. There was Dr. Quackenboss, who had come too,
determined, as Earl said, "to keep his eend up," excessively
bland, and busy, and important; the fire would throw his one-
sidedness of feature into such aspects of gravity or sternness
that Fleda could make nothing of him but a poor clergyman or a
poor schoolmaster alternately. Philetus, who was kept handing
about a bucket of sap, or trudging off for wood, defied all
comparison — he was Philetus still; but when Barby came once
or twice and peered into the kettle, her strong features, with
the handkerchief she always wore about her head, were lit up
into a very handsome gipsy. Fleda stood some time unseen in
the shadow of the house to enjoy the sight, and then went
forward on the same principle that a sovereign princess shows
herself to her army, to grace and reward the labours of her
servants. The doctor was profuse in inquiries after her
health, and Earl informed her of the success of the day.

"We've had first-rate weather," he said; — "I don't want to
see no better weather for sugar-makin'; it's as good kind o'
weather as you need to have. It friz everythin' up tight in
the night, and it thew in the sun this morning as soon as the
sun was anywhere; the trees couldn't do no better than they
have done. I guess we ha'n't got much this side o' two hundred
gallon — I aint sure about it, but that's what I think;
there's nigh two hundred gallon we've fetched down; I'll
qualify to better than a hundred and fifty, or a hundred and
sixty either. We should ha' had more yet if Mr. Skillcorn
hadn't managed to spill over one cask of it — I reckon he
wanted it for sass for his chicken."

"Now, Mr. Douglass!" said Philetus, in a comical tone of
deprecation.

"It is an uncommonly fine lot of sugar trees," said the
doctor; "and they stand so on the ground as to give great
felicities to the oxen."

"Now, Fleda," Earl went on, busy all the while with his iron
ladle in dipping the boiling sap from one kettle into the
other — "you know how this is fixed when we've done all we've
got to do with it? — it must be strained out o' this biler
into a cask or a tub, or somethin' nother — anythin' that'll
hold it — and stand a day or so; — you may strain it through a
cotton cloth, or through a woollen cloth, or through any kind
of a cloth, — and let it stand to settle; and then when it's
biled down — Barby knows about bilin' down — you can tell when
it's comin' to the sugar when the yellow blobbers rises thick
to the top and puffs off; and then it's time to try it in cold
water — it's best to be a leetle the right side o' the sugar
and stop afore it's done too much, for the molasses will dreen
off afterwards" —

"It must be clarified in the commencement," put in the doctor.

"O' course it must be clarified," said Earl — "Barby knows
about clarifyin' — that's when you first put it on — you had
ought to throw in a teeny drop o' milk fur to clear it —
milk's as good as a'most anything — or, if you can get it,
calf's blood's better" —

"Eggs would be a more preferable ingredient on the present
occasion, I presume," said the doctor. "Miss Ringgan's
delicacy would be — a — would shrink from — a — and the
albumen of eggs will answer all the same purpose."

"Well, anyhow you like to fix it," said Earl, — "eggs or
calf's blood — I wont quarrel with you about the eggs, though
I never heerd o' blue ones afore, 'cept the robin's and
bluebird's — and I've heerd say the swamp blackbird lays a
handsome blue egg, but I never happened to see the nest
myself; — and there's the chippin' sparrow; but you'd want to
rob all the bird's nests in creation to get enough of 'em, and
they aint here in sugar time, nother; but, anyhow, any eggs
'll do, I s'pose, if you can get 'em — or milk 'll do, if you
ha'n't nothin' else — and after it is turned out into the
barrel, you just let it stand still a spell, till it begins to
grain and look clean on top" —

"May I suggest an improvement?" said the doctor. "Many persons
are of the opinion that if you take and stir it up well from
the bottom for a length of time, it will help the coagulation
of the particles. I believe that is the practice of Mr.
Plumfield and others."

" 'Taint the practice of as good men as him, and as good sugar
bilers besides," said Earl; "though I don't mean to say
nothin' agin' Seth Plumfield nor agin' his sugar, for the both
is as good as you'd need to have; he's a good man and he's a
good farmer — there aint no better man in town than Seth
Plumfield, nor no better farmer, nor no better sugar nother;
but I hope there's as good; and I've seen as handsome sugar
that wa'n't stirred as I'd want to see or eat either."

"It would lame a man's arms the worst kind," said Philetus.

Fleda stood listening to the discussion and smiling, when
Hugh, suddenly wheeling about, brought her face to face with
Mr. Olmney.

"I have been sitting some time with Mrs. Rossitur," he said,
"and she rewarded me with permission to come and look at you.
I mean — not that I wanted a reward, for I certainly did not —
"

"Ah, Mr. Olmney!" said Fleda, laughing, "you are served right.
You see how dangerous it is to meddle with such equivocal
things as compliments. But we are worth looking at, aren't we?
I have been standing here this half hour."

He did not say this time what he thought.

"Pretty, isn't it?" said Fleda. "Stand a little further back,
Mr. Olmney; isn't it quite a wild looking scene, in that
peculiar light, and with the snowy background? Look at
Philetus now, with that bundle of sticks. Hugh, isn't he
exactly like some of the figures in the old pictures of the
martyrdoms, bringing billets to feed the fire? that old
martyrdom of St. Lawrence — whose was it — Spagnoletto! — at
Mrs. Decatur's — don't you recollect? It is fine, isn't it,
Mr. Olmney?"

"I am afraid," said he, shaking his head a little, "my eye
wants training. I have not been once in your company, I
believe, without your showing me something I could not see."

"That young lady, Sir," said Dr. Quackenboss, from the far
side of the fire, where he was busy giving it more wood; "that
young lady, Sir, is a patron to her — a — to all young
ladies."

"A patron!" said Mr. Olmney.

"Passively, not actively, the doctor means," said Fleda,
softly.

"Well, I wont say but she's a good girl," said Mr. Douglass,
in an abstracted manner, busy with his iron ladle: "she means
to be a good girl, she's as clever a girl as you need to
have."

Nobody's gravity stood this, excepting Philetus, in whom the
principle of fun seemed not to be developed.

"Miss Ringgan, Sir," Dr. Quackenboss went on, with a most
benign expression of countenance — "Miss Ringgan, Sir, Mr.
Olmney, sets an example to all ladies who — a — have had
elegant advantages. She gives her patronage to the
agricultural interest in society."

"Not exclusively, I hope?" said Mr. Olmney, smiling, and
making the question with his eye of Fleda. But she did not
meet it.

"You know," she said, rather quickly, and drawing back from
the fire, "I am of an agricultural turn, perforce; in uncle
Rolf's absence, I am going to be a farmer myself."

"So I have heard— so Mrs. Rossitur told me; but I fear, pardon
me, you do not look fit to grapple with such a burden of
care."

Hugh sighed, and Fleda's eyes gave Mr. Olmney a hint to be
silent.

"I am not going to grapple with any thing, Sir; I intend to
take things easily."

"I wish I could take an agricultural turn, too," said he,
smiling, "and be of some service to you."

"Oh, I shall have no lack of service," said Fleda, gaily; "I
am not going unprovided into the business. There is my cousin
Seth Plumfield who has engaged himself to be my counsellor and
instructor in general; I could not have a better; and Mr.
Douglass is to be my right hand, I occupying only the quiet
and unassuming post of the will, to convey the orders of the
head to the hand. And for the rest, Sir, there is Philetus!"

Mr. Olmney looked, half laughing, at Mr. Skillcorn, who was at
that moment standing with his hands on his sides, eyeing with
concentrated gravity the movements of Earl Douglass and the
doctor.

"Don't shake your head at him!" said Fleda. "I wish you had
come an hour earlier, Mr. Olmney."

"Why?"

"I was just thinking of coming out here," said Fleda, her eyes
flashing with hidden fun; "and Hugh and I were both standing
in the kitchen, when we heard a tremendous shout from the
woodyard. Don't laugh, or I can't go on. We all ran out
towards the lantern which we saw standing there, and so soon
as we got near we heard Philetus singing out, 'Ho, Miss
Elster! I'm dreadfully on't!' — Why he called upon Barby I
don't know, unless from some notion of her general efficiency,
though, to be sure, he was nearer her than the sap-boilers,
and perhaps thought her aid would come quickest. And he was in
a hurry, for the cries came thick, — 'Miss Elster! — here! —
I'm dreadfully on't' —"

"I don't understand —"

"No," said Fleda, whose amusement seemed to be increased by
the gentleman's want of understanding, "and neither did we
till we came up to him. The silly fellow had been sent up for
more wood, and, splitting a log, he had put his hand in to
keep the cleft, instead of a wedge, and when he took out the
axe the wood pinched him; and he had the fate of Milo before
his eyes, I suppose, and could do nothing but roar. You should
have seen the supreme indignation with which Barby took the
axe and released him, with, 'You're a smart man, Mr.
Skillcorn!' "

"What was the fate of Milo?" said Mr. Olmney, presently..

"Don't you remember the famous wrestler that, in his old age,
trying to break open a tree, found himself not strong enough?
and the wood closing upon his hands held him fast till the
wild beasts came and made an end of him. The figure of our
unfortunate wood-cutter, though, was hardly so dignified as
that of the old athlete in the statue. Dr. Quackenboss, and
Mr. Douglass, you will come in and see us when this
troublesome business is done?"

"It'll be a pretty spell yet," said Earl; "but the doctor, he
can go in, he ha'n't nothin' to do. It don't take more'n half
a dozen men to keep one pot a-bilin'."

"Aint there teu on 'em, Mr. Douglass?" said Philetus.



END OF VOL. I.



Typographical errors:


Chapter 1 : =go in, grandpa?'= silently corrected as =go in,
grandpa?"=


Chapter 2 : =read it sometime= silently corrected as =read it
some time=


Chapter 3 : =Carleton, said at length= silently corrected as
=Carleton said, at length=


Chapter 7 : =ain't tright well= silently corrected as =ain't
right well=


Chapter 7 : =trust in him!= Silently corrected as =trust in him!'=


Chapter 8 : =hand, aunt Miriam said.= silently corrected as
=hand, aunt Miriam said,=


Chapter 9 : =If large possessions= silently corrected as ="If
large possessions=


Chapter 11 : =these places;= silently corrected as =these places,=


Chapter 14 : =were to mine.= silently corrected as =were to
mine."=


Chapter 14 : =said he. smiling= silently corrected as =said he,
smiling=


Chapter 15 : =Memoires de Sully' — in French= silently corrected
as =Mémoires de Sully' — in French=


Chapter 15 : =Newton' — 'what's= silently corrected as =Newton' —
what's=


Chapter 15 : =Mem. de Sully= silently corrected as =Mém. de Sully=


Chapter 16 : =that Monsieur Emilie= silently corrected as =that
Monsieur Emile=


Chapter 19 : =other people had.= silently corrected as =other
people had."=


Chapter 19 : =down to Mis' Douglases= silently corrected as =down
to Mis' Douglass's=


Chapter 20 : =hull on't;= silently corrected as =hull on't,=


Chapter 21 : =nowork particular= silently corrected as =no work
particular=


Chapter 21 : =well, god-bye= silently corrected as =well, good-
bye=


Chapter 22 : =came in. folding= silently corrected as =came in,
folding=


Cbapter 22 : =This is me, Ma'am,= said silently corrected as
=This is me, Ma'am,"=


Chapter 22 : =in the army.= silently corrected as =in the army."=


Chapter 23 : =taking the place.= silently corrected as =taking
the place."=


Chapter 23 : =house, a believe= silently corrected as =house, I
believe=


Chapter 25 : =he's took= silently corrected as ="he's took=


Chapter 26 : =as a child!= silently corrected as =as a child!"=


Chapter 26 : =entremêts= silently corrected as =entremets=


Chapter 27 : =tired, Fleda.= silently corrected as =tired,
Fleda."=


Chapter 27 : =on't' —= silently corrected as =on't' —"=





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