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Title: Queechy, Volume II
Author: Warner, Susan, 1819-1885
Language: English
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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 II" ***

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



tome 2



COLLECTION

OF

BRITISH AUTHORS


TAUCHNITZ EDITION.


VOL. 312


QUEECHY. BY ELIZABETH WETHERELL .


IN TWO VOLUMES.


VOL. II.



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. II


LEIPZIG

BERNHARD TAUCHNITZ

1854



CONTENTS

OF VOLUME II.


Chapter I. The Brook's old Song, and the new

II. Flighty and unsatisfactory

III. Disclosures by Mr. Skillcorn

IV. Mr. Olmney's cause argued

V. Sometimes inconvenient, "from the loop-hole of retreat, to
peep at such a world"

VI. Fleda's white Muslin

VII. How the Fairy engaged two Englishmen

VIII. Fleda forgets herself

IX. The Roses and the Gentlemen

X. "An unseen enemy round the corner"

XI. The Fairy at her work again

XII. A Night of uncertain length

XIII. A Thorn enters

XIV. Dealings with the Press

XV. Ends with soft music

XVI. How Fleda was watched by blue eyes

XVII. What pleasant people one meets in Society

XVIII. How much trouble one may have about a note

XIX. Aromatic vinegar

XX. The fur-cloak on a journey

XXI. Quarrenton to Queechy

XXII. Montepoole becomes a point of interest

XXIII. The house on "the hill" once more

XXIV. The first one that left Queechy

XXV. The last Sunset there

XXVI. Fleda alone on an Isthmus

XXVII. The Gothic chapel before breakfast



QUEECHY.


VOL. II.



CHAPTER I.


"He that has light within his own clear breast,
May sit i' th' centre and enjoy bright day."
MILTON.


The farming plan succeeded beyond Fleda's hopes — thanks not
more to her wisdom than to the nice tact with which the wisdom
was brought into play. The one was eked out with Seth
Plumfield's; the other was all her own. Seth was indefatigably
kind and faithful. After his own day's work was done, he used
to walk down to see Fleda, go with her often to view the
particular field or work just then in question, and give her
the best counsel dictated by great sagacity and great
experience. It was given, too, with equal frankness and
intelligence, so that Fleda knew the steps she took, and could
maintain them against the. prejudice or the ignorance of her
subordinates. But Fleda's delicate handling stood her yet more
in stead than her strength. Earl Douglass was sometimes
unmanageable, and held out in favour of an old custom or a
prevailing opinion in spite of all the weight of testimony and
light of discovery that could be brought to bear upon him.
Fleda would let the thing go. But seizing her opportunity
another time, she would ask him to try the experiment on a
piece of the ground, so pleasantly and skilfully, that Earl
could do nothing but shut his mouth and obey, like an animal
fairly stroked into good humour. And as Fleda always forgot to
remind him that she had been right and he wrong, he forgot it
too, and presently took to the new way kindly. In other
matters he could be depended on, and the seed-time and harvest
prospered well. There was hope of making a good payment to Dr.
Gregory in the course of a few months.

As the spring came forward, Fleda took care that her garden
should — both gardens, indeed. There she and Philetus had the
game in their own hands, and beautifully it was managed. Hugh
had full occupation at the mill. Many a dollar this summer was
earned by the loads of fine fruits and vegetables which
Philetus carried to Montepoole; and accident opened a new
source of revenue. When the courtyard was in the full blaze of
its beauty, one day an admiring passer-by modestly inquired if
a few of those exquisite flowers might be had for money. They
were given him most cheerfully that time; but the demand
returned, accompanied by the offer, and Fleda obliged herself
not to decline it. A trial it was, to cut her roses and
jessamines for anything but her own or her friends' pleasure,
but, according to custom, she bore it without hesitation. The
place became a resort for all the flower-lovers who happened
to be staying at the Pool; and rose-leaves were changed into
silver pennies as fast as in a fairy-tale.

But the delicate mainspring that kept all this machinery in
order suffered from too severe a strain. There was too much
running, too much considering, too much watchfulness. In the
garden, pulling peas, and seeing that Philetus weeded the
carrots right — in the field or the wood-yard, consulting and
arranging, or maybe debating, with Earl Douglass, who acquired
by degrees an unwonted and concentrated respect for womankind
in her proper person; breakfast waiting for her often before
she came in; — in the house, her old housewifery concerns, her
share in Barby's cares or difficulties, her sweet
countenancing and cheering of her aunt, her dinner, her work;
— then when evening came, budding her roses, or tying her
carnations, or weeding, or raking the ground between them
(where Philetus could do nothing), or training her multiflora
and sweet-brier branches; and then often, after all, walking
up to the mill to give Hugh a little earlier a home smile, and
make his way down pleasant. No wonder if the energies which
owed much of their strength to love's nerving, should at last
give out, and Fleda's evening be passed in wearied slumbers.
No wonder if many a day was given up to the forced quietude of
a headache, the more grievous to Fleda, because she knew that
her aunt and Hugh always found the day dark that was not
lightened by her sun-beam. How brightly it shone out the
moment the cloud of pain was removed, winning the shadow from
their faces and a smile to their lips, though solitude always
saw her own settle into a gravity as fixed as it was soft.

"You have been doing too much, Fleda," said Mrs. Rossitur, one
morning when she came in from the garden.

"I didn't know it would take me so long," said Fleda, drawing
a long breath: "but I couldn't help it. I had those celery
plants to prick out — and then I was helping Philetus to plant
another patch of corn."

"He might have done that without help, I should think."

"But it must be put in to-day, and he had other things to do."

"And then you were at your flowers?" —

"Oh, well! — budding a few roses — that's only play. It was
time they were done. But I am tired; and I am going up to see
Hugh — it will rest me and him too."

The gardening frock and gloves were exchanged for those of
ordinary wear, and Fleda set off slowly to go up to the saw-
mill.

She stopped a moment when she came upon the bridge, to look
off to the right where the waters of the little run came
hurrying along through a narrow wooded chasm in the hill,
murmuring to her of the time when a little child's feet had
paused there, and a child's heart danced to its music. The
freshness of its song was unchanged, the glad rush of its
waters was as joyous as ever, but the spirits were quieted
that used to answer it with sweeter freshness and lighter
joyousness. Its faint echo of the old-time laugh was blended
now in Fleda's ear with a gentle wail for the rushing days and
swifter-fleeing delights of human life; — gentle, faint, but
clear — she could hear it very well. Taking up her walk again,
with a step yet slower, and a brow yet more quiet, she went on
till she came in sight of the little mill; and presently,
above the noise of the brook, could hear the saw going. To her
childish ears what a signal of pleasure that had always been!
— and now — she sighed, and stopping at a little distance,
looked for Hugh. He was there; she saw him in a moment going
forward to stop the machinery, the piece of timber in hand
having walked its utmost length up to the saw; she saw him
throwing aside the new-cut board, and adjusting what was left
till it was ready for another march up to head-quarters. When
it stopped the second time, Fleda went forward. Hugh must have
been busy in his own thoughts, for he did not see her until he
had again adjusted the log, and set the noisy works in motion.
She stood still. Several huge timbers lay close by, ready for
the saw; and on one of them where he had been sitting, Fleda
saw his Bible lying open. As her eye went from it to him, it
struck her heart with a pang that he looked tired, and that
there was a something of delicacy, even of fragility, in the
air of face and figure both.

He came to meet her, and welcomed her with a smile, that
coming upon this feeling set Fleda's heart a-quivering. Hugh's
smile was always one of very great sweetness, though never
unshadowed; there was often something ethereal in its pure
gentleness. This time it seemed even sweeter than usual; but
though not sadder, perhaps less sad, Fleda could hardly
command herself to reply to it. She could not at the moment
speak; her eye glanced at his open book.

"Yes, it rests me," he said, answering her.

"Rests you, dear Hugh!" —

He smiled again. "Here is somebody else that wants resting, I
am afraid," said he, placing her gently on the log; and before
she had found anything to say, he went off again to his
machinery. Fleda sat looking at him, and trying to clear her
bosom of its thick breathing.

"What has brought you up here through the hot sun?" said he,
coming back after he had stopped the saw, and sitting down
beside her.

Fleda's lip moved nervously, and her eye shunned meeting his.
Softly pushing back the wet hair from his temples, she said —

"I had one of my fits of doing nothing at home — I didn't feel
very bright, and thought perhaps you didn't — so, on the
principle that two negatives make an affirmative —"

"I feel bright," said Hugh, gently.

Fleda's eye came down to his, which was steady and clear as
the reflection of the sky in Deepwater lake — and then hers
fell lower.

"Why don't you, dear Fleda?"

"I believe I am a little tired," Fleda said, trying, but in
vain, to command herself and look up — "and there are states
of body when anything almost is enough to depress one."

"And what depresses you now?" said he, very steadily and
quietly.

"Oh — I was feeling a little down about things in general,"
said Fleda, in a choked voice, trying to throw off her load
with a long breath; "it's because I am tired, I suppose —"

"I felt so too, a little while ago," said Hugh. "But I have
concluded to give all that up, Fleda."

Fleda looked at him. Her eyes were swimming full, but his were
clear and gentle as ever, only glistening a little in sympathy
with hers.

"I thought all was going wrong with us," he went on. "But I
found it was only I that was wrong; and since that, I have
been quite happy, Fleda."

Fleda could not speak to him; his words made her pain worse.

"I told you this rested me," said he, reaching across her for
his book; "and now I am never weary long. Shall I rest you
with it? What have you been troubling yourself about to-day?"

She did not answer while he was turning over the leaves, and
he then said, —

"Do you remember this, Fleda — '_Truly God is good to Israel,
even to them that are of a clean heart_.' "

Fleda bent her head down upon her hands.

"I was moody and restless the other day," said Hugh;
"desponding of everything; and I came upon this psalm; and it
made me ashamed of myself. I had been disbelieving it; and
because I could not see how things were going to work good, I
thought they were going to work evil. I thought we were
wearing out our lives alone here in a wearisome way, and I
forgot that it must be the very straightest way that we could
get home. I am sure we shall not want anything that will do us
good; and the rest I am willing to want — and so are you,
Fleda?"

Fleda squeezed his hand — that was all. For a minute he was
silent, and then went on, without any change of tone.

"I had a notion, awhile ago, that I should like if it were
possible for me to go to college; but I am quite satisfied
now. I have good time and opportunity to furnish myself with a
better kind of knowledge, that I shall want where college
learning wouldn't be of much use to me; and I can do it, I
dare say, better here in this mill, than if we had stayed in
New York, and I had lived in our favourite library."

"But, dear Hugh," said Fleda, who did not like this speech in
any sense of it; "the two things do not clash! The better man,
the better Christian always, other things being equal. The
more precious kind of knowledge should not make one undervalue
the less?"

"No," he said; but the extreme quietness and simplicity of his
reply smote Fleda's fears; it answered her words and waved her
thought. She dared not press him further. She sat looking over
the road with an aching heart.

"You haven't taken enough of my medicine," said Hugh, smiling.
"Listen, Fleda — '_All the paths of the Lord are mercy and
truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies_.' "

But that made Fleda cry again.

" 'All his paths,' Fleda; then, whatever may happen to you,
and whatever may happen to me, or to any of us, I can trust
him. I am willing any one should have the world, if I may have
what Abraham had — '_fear not; I am thy shield and thy
exceeding great reward;_' — and I believe I shall, Fleda; for
it is not the hungry that he has threatened to send empty
away."

Fleda could say nothing, and Hugh just then said no more. For
a little while, near and busy as thoughts might be, tongues
were silent. Fleda was crying quietly, the utmost she could do
being to keep it quiet; Hugh, more quietly, was considering
again the strong pillars on which he had laid his hope, and
trying their strength and beauty, till all other things were
to him as the mist rolling off from he valley is to the man
planted on a watch-tower.

His meditations were interrupted by the tramp of horse; and a
party of riders, male and female, came past them up the hill.
Hugh looked on as they went by; Fleda's head was not raised.

"There are some people enjoying themselves," said Hugh. "After
all, dear Fleda, we should be very sorry to change places with
those gay riders. I would not, for a thousand worlds, give my
hope and treasure for all other they can possibly have in
possession or prospect."

"No, indeed!" said Fleda, energetically, and trying to rouse
herself, — "and, besides that, Hugh, we have, as it is, a
great deal more to enjoy than most other people. We are so
happy —"

In each other, she was going to say, but the words choked her.

"Those people looked very hard at us, or at one of us," said
Hugh. "It must have been you, I think, Fleda."

"They are welcome," said Fleda; "they couldn't have made much
out of the back of my sun-bonnet."

"Well, dear Fleda, I must content myself with little more than
looking at you now, for Mr. Winegar is in a hurry for his
timber to be sawn, and I must set this noisy concern a-going
again."

Fleda sat and watched him, with rising and falling hopes and
fears, forcing her lips to a smile when he came near her, and
hiding her tears at other times; till the shadows stretching
well to the east of the meridian, admonished her she had been
there long enough; and she left him still going backward and
forward tending the saw.

As she went down the hill, she pressed involuntarily her hands
upon her heart, for the dull heavy pain there. But that was no
plaster for it; and when she got to the bridge the soft
singing of the little brook was just enough to shake her
spirits from the doubtful poise they had kept. Giving one
hasty glance along the road and up the hill, to make sure that
no one was near, she sat down on a stone in the edge of the
woods, and indulged in such weeping as her gentle eyes rarely
knew; for the habit of patience so cultivated for others' sake
constantly rewarded her own life with its sweet fruits. But
deep and bitter in proportion was the flow of the fountain
once broken up. She struggled to remind herself that
"Providence runneth not on broken wheels;" she struggled to
repeat to herself what she did not doubt, that, "_all_ the ways
of the Lord are mercy and truth" to his people; — in vain. The
slight check for a moment to the torrent of grief but gave it
greater head to sweep over the barrier; and the self-reproach
that blamed its violence and needlessness only made the flood
more bitter. Nature fought against patience for awhile; but
when the loaded heart had partly relieved itself, patience
came in again, and she rose up to go home. It startled her
exceedingly to find Mr. Olmney standing before her, and
looking so sorrowful that Fleda's eyes could not bear it.

"My dear Miss Ringgan! — forgive me — I hope you will forgive
me — but I could not leave you in such distress. I knew that
in you it could only be from some very serious cause of
grief."

"I cannot say it is from anything new, Mr. Olmney — except to
my apprehensions."

"You are all _well?_" he said, inquiringly, after they had
walked a few steps in silence.

"Well? — yes, Sir," said Fleda, hesitatingly; "but I do not
think that Hugh looks very well."

The trembling of her voice told him her thought. But he
remained silent.

"You have noticed it?" she said, hastily looking up.

"I think you have told me he always was delicate?"

"And you have noticed him looking so, lately, Mr. Olmney!"

"I have thought so — but you say he always was that. If you
will permit me to say so, I have thought the same of you, Miss
Fleda."

Fleda was silent: her heart ached again.

"We would gladly save each other from every threatening
trouble," said Mr. Olmney again, after a pause; — "but it
ought to content us that we do not know how. Hugh is in good
hands, my dear Miss Ringgan."

"I know it, Sir," said Fleda, unable quite to keep back her
tears; "and I know very well this thread of our life will not
bear the strain always — and I know that the strands must, in
all probability, part unevenly — and I know it is in the power
of no blind fate — but that —"

"Does not lessen our clinging to each other. O no! — it grows
but the tenderer and the stronger for the knowledge."

Fleda could but cry.

"And yet," said he, very kindly, "we who are Christians may
and ought to learn to take troubles hopefully, for
'tribulation worketh patience, and patience,' that is, quiet
waiting on God, 'works experience' of his goodness and
faithfulness; and 'experience worketh hope,' and that 'hope,'
we know, 'maketh not ashamed.' "

"I know it," said Fleda; "but, Mr. Olmney, how easily the
brunt of a new affliction breaks down all that chain of
reasoning!"

"Yes!" he said, sadly and thoughtfully; "but, my dear Miss
Fleda, you know the way to build it up again. I would be very
glad to bear all need for it away from you."

They had reached the gate. Fleda could not look up to thank
him; the hand she held out was grasped, more than kindly, and
he turned away.

Fleda's tears came hot again as she went up the walk; she held
her head down to hide them, and went round the back way.


CHAPTER II.


"Now the melancholy god protect thee: and the tailor make thy
doublet of changeable taffeta, for thy mind is a very opal."
TWELFTH NIGHT.


"Well, what did you come home for?" was Barby's salutation;
"here's company been waiting for you till they're tired, and I
am sure I be."

"Company!" said Fleda.

"Yes, and it's ungrateful in you to say so," said Barby; "for
she's been in a wonderful hurry to see you, or to get
somethin' to eat — I don't know which; a little o' both, I
hope in charity."

"Why didn't you give her something to eat? Who is it?"

"I don't know who it is! It's one of your highfliers, that's
all I can make out. She 'a'n't a hat a bit better than a man's
beaver; one 'ud think she had stole her little brother's for a
spree, if the rest of her was like common folks; but she's got
a tail to her dress as long as from here to Queechy Run, and
she's been tiddling in and out here, with it puckered up under
her arm, sixty times. I guess she belongs to some company of
female militie, for the body of it is all thick with braid and
buttons. I believe she ha'n't sot still five minutes since she
come into the house, till I don't know whether I am on my head
or my heels."

"But why didn't you give her something to eat?" said Fleda,
who was hastily throwing off her gloves, and smoothing her
disordered hair with her hands into something of composure.

"Did!" said Barby; "I give her some o' them cold biscuit and
butter and cheese, and a pitcher of milk — sot a good enough
meal for anybody; but she didn't take but a crumb, and she
turned up her nose at that. Come, go! you've slicked up
enough; you're handsome enough to show yourself to her any
time o' day, for all her jig-em bobs."

"Where is aunt Lucy?"

"She's up stairs; there's been nobody to see to her but me.
She's had the hull lower part of the house to herself, kitchen
and all, and she's done nothing but go out of one room into
another ever since she come. She'll be in here again directly,
if you aint spry."

Fleda went in, round to the west room, and there found herself
in the arms of the second Miss Evelyn, who jumped to meet her,
and half-stifled her with caresses.

"You wicked little creature! what have you been doing? Here
have I been growing melancholy over the tokens of your
absence, and watching the decline of the sun, with distracted
feelings these six hours."

"Six hours!" said Fleda, smiling.

"My dear little Fleda! it's so delicious to see you again!"
said Miss Evelyn, with another prolonged hug and kiss.

"My dear Constance! I am very glad! but where are the rest?"

"It's unkind of you to ask after anybody but me, when I came
here this morning on purpose to talk the whole day to you.
Now, dear little Fleda," said Miss Constance, executing an
impatient little persuasive caper round her, — "won't you go
out and order dinner? for I'm raging. Your woman did give me
something, but I found the want of you had taken away all my
appetite; and now the delight of seeing you has exhausted me,
and I feel that nature is sinking. The stimulus of gratified
affection is too much for me."

"You absurd child!" said Fleda; "you haven't mended a bit. But
I told Barby to put on the tea-kettle, and I will administer a
composing draught as soon as it can be got ready; we don't
indulge in dinners here in the wilderness. Meanwhile, suppose
that exhausted nature try the support of this easy-chair."

She put her visitor gently into it, and, seating herself upon
the arm, held her hand, and looked at her with a smiling face,
and yet with eyes that were almost too gentle in their
welcoming.

"My dear little Fleda! you're as lovely as you can be! Are you
glad to see me?"

"Very."

"Why don't you ask after somebody else?"

"I was afraid of overtasking your exhausted energies."

"Come, and sit down here upon my lap! — You shall, or I won't
say another word to you. Fleda! you've grown thin! what have
you been doing to yourself?"

"Nothing, with that particular purpose."

"I don't care — you've done something. You have been insanely
imagining that it is necessary for you to be in three or four
places at the same time; and in the distracted effort after
ubiquity, you are in imminent danger of being nowhere; there's
nothing left of you!"

"I don't wonder you were overcome at the sight of me," said
Fleda.

"But you are looking charmingly for all that," Constance went
on; "so charmingly, that I feel a morbid sensation creeping
all over me while I sit regarding you. Really, when you come
to us next winter, if you persist in being — by way of showing
your superiority to ordinary human nature — a rose without a
thorn, the rest of the flowers may all shut up at once. And
the rose reddens in my very face, to spite me!"

"Is 'ordinary human nature' typified by a thorn? You give it
rather a poor character."

"I never heard of a thorn that didn't bear an excellent
character," said Constance, gravely.

"Hush!" said Fleda, laughing; "I don't want to hear about Mr.
Thorn. Tell me of somebody else."

"I haven't said a word about Mr. Thorn!" said Constance,
ecstatically; "but since you ask about him, I will tell you.
He has not acted like himself since you disappeared from our
horizon — that is, he has ceased to be at all pointed in his
attentions to me; his conversation has lost all the acuteness
for which I remember you admired it; he has walked Broadway in
a moody state of mind all winter, and grown as dull as is
consistent with the essential sharpness of his nature. I ought
to except our last interview, though, for his entreaties to
Mamma that she would bring you home with her were piercing."

Fleda was unable, in spite of herself, to keep from laughing;
but entreated that Constance would tell her of somebody else.

"My respected parents are at Montepoole, with all their
offspring — that is, Florence and Edith; I am at present
anxiously inquired after, being nobody knows where, and to be
fetched by Mamma this evening. Wasn't I good, little Fleda, to
run away from Mr. Carleton, to come and spend a whole day in
social converse with you!"

"Carleton!" said Fleda.

"Yes? Oh, you don't know who he is! he's a new attraction;
there's been nothing like him this great while, and all New
York is topsy-turvy about him; the mothers are dying with
anxiety, and the daughters with admiration; and it's too
delightful to see the cool superiority with which he takes it
all; like a new star that all the people are pointing their
telescopes at, as Thorn said, spitefully, the other day. Oh,
he has turned my head! I have looked till I cannot look at
anything else. I can just manage to see a rose, but my dazzled
powers of vision are equal to nothing more."

"My dear Constance!"

"It's perfectly true! Why, as soon as we knew he was coming to
Montepoole, I wouldn't let Mamma rest till we all made a rush
after him; and when we got here first, and I was afraid he
wasn't coming, nothing can express the state of my feelings!
But he appeared the next morning, and then I was quite happy,"
said Constance, rising and falling in her chair, on what must
have been ecstatic springs, for wire ones it had none.

"Constance," said Fleda, with a miserable attempt at rebuke,
"how can you talk so!"

"And so we were all riding round here this morning, and I had
the self-denial to stop to see you, and leave Florence and the
Marlboroughs to monopolize him all the way home. You ought to
love me for ever for it. My dear Fleda!" said Constance,
clasping her hands, and elevating her eyes in mock ecstasy,
"if you had ever seen Mr. Carleton!"

"I dare say I have seen somebody as good," said Fleda,
quietly.

"My dear Fleda!" said Constance, a little scornfully this
time; "you haven't the least idea what you are talking about!
I tell you, he is an Englishman; he's of one of the best
families in England: not such as you ever see here but once in
an age; he's rich enough to count Mr. Thorn over, I don't know
how many times."

"I don't like anybody the better for being an Englishman,"
said Fleda; "and it must be a small man whose purse will hold
his measure."

Constance made an impatient gesture.

"But I tell you it isn't! We knew him when we were abroad; and
we know what he is; and we know his mother very well. When we
were in England, we were a week with them down at their
beautiful place in — shire — the loveliest time! You see, she
was over here with Mr. Carleton once before, a good while ago;
and mamma and papa were polite to them, and so they showed us
a great deal of attention when we were in England. We had the
loveliest time down there you can possibly conceive. And, my
dear Fleda, he wears such a fur cloak! — lined with the most
exquisite black fox."

"But, Constance!" said Fleda, a little vexed, though laughing
— "any man may wear a fur cloak; the thing is, what is inside
of it."

"It is perfectly indifferent to me what is inside of it," said
Constance, ecstatically. "I can see nothing but the edges of
the black fox, especially when it is worn so very gracefully."

"But, in some cases, there might be a white fox within."

"There is nothing of the fox about Mr. Carleton," said
Constance, impatiently. "If it had been anybody else, I should
have said he was a bear two or three times; but he wears
everything as he does his cloak, and makes you take what he
pleases from him — what I wouldn't take from any- body else, I
know."

"With a fox lining," said Fleda, laughing.

"Then foxes haven't got their true character, that's all. Now
I'll just tell you an instance — it was at a party somewhere —
it was at that tiresome Mrs. Swinburne's, where the evenings
are always so stupid, and there was nothing worth going or
staying for but the supper — except Mr. Carleton — and he
never stays five minutes, except at two or three places; and
it drives me crazy, because they are places I don't go to very
often —"

"Suppose you keep your wits, and tell me your story."

"Well — don't interrupt me — he was there, and he had taken me
into the supper-room, when mamma came along, and took it into
her head to tell me not to take something — I forget what —
punch, I believe — because I had not been well in the morning.
Now, you know, it was absurd. I was perfectly well then, and I
told her I shouldn't mind her; but do you believe, Mr.
Carleton wouldn't give it to me? — absolutely told me he
wouldn't, and told me why, as coolly as possible, and gave me
a glass of water, and made me drink it; and if it had been
anybody else, I do assure you I would have flung it in his
face, and never spoken to him again; and I have been in love
with him ever since. Now, is that tea going to be ready?"

"Presently. How long have you been here?"

"Oh, a day or two — and it has poured with rain every single
day since we came, till this one; and just think," said
Constance with a ludicrously scared face — "I must make haste,
and be back again. You see, I came away on principle, that I
may strike with the effect of novelty when I appear again; but
if I stay _too_ long, you know — there is a point —"

"On the principle of the ice-boats," said Fleda, "that back a
little to give a better blow to the ice, where they find it
tough?"

"Tough!" said Constance.

"Does Florence like this paragon of yours as well as you do?"

"I don't know — she don't talk so much about him, but that
proves nothing; she's too happy to talk _to_ him. I expect our
family concord will be shattered by and by," said Constance,
shaking her head.

"You seem to take the prospect philosophically," said Fleda,
looking amused. "How long are you going to stay at the Pool?"

Constance gave an expressive shrug, intimating that the
deciding of that question did not rest with her.

"That is to say, you are here to watch the transit of this
star over the meridian of Queechy?"

"Of Queechy! — of Montepoole."

"Very well — of Montepoole. I don't wonder that nature is
exhausted. I will go and see after this refection."

The prettiest little meal in the world was presently forth for
the two. Fleda knew her aunt would not come down, and Hugh was
yet at the mill; so she led her visitor into the breakfast-
room alone — Constance, by the way, again fondly embracing
her, and repeating, "My dear little Fleda, how glad I am to
see you!"

The lady was apparently hungry, for there was a minute of
silence while the refection begun, and then Constance claimed,
perhaps with a sudden appreciation of the delicious bread and
butter, and cream and strawberries —

"What a lovely old room this is — and what lovely times you
have here, don't you, Fleda?"

"Yes — sometimes," Fleda said, with a sigh.

"But I shall tell mamma you are growing thin, and the first
minute we get home I shall send for you to come us. Mrs. Thorn
will be amazingly glad to see you."

"Has she got back from Europe?" said Fleda.

"Ages! — and she's been entertaining the world as hard as she
could ever since. I have no doubt Lewis has confided to the
maternal bosom all his distresses; and there never was
anything like the rush that I expect will be made to our
greenhouse next winter. Oh, Fleda, you should see Mr.
Carleton's greenhouses!"

"Should I?" said Fleda.

"Dear me! I hope mamma will come!" said Constance, with a
comical, fidgety shake of herself; "when I think of those
greenhouses I lose my self-command. And the park! — Fleda,
it's the loveliest thing you ever saw in your life; and it's
all that delightful man's doing; only he wont have a geometric
flower-garden, as I did everything I could think of to
persuade him. I pity the woman that will be his wife — she
wont have her own way in a single thing; but then he will
fascinate her into thinking that his way is the best — so it
will do just as well, I suppose. Do you know, I can't conceive
what he has come over here for. He has been here before, you
know, and he don't seem to me to know exactly what he means to
do; at least, I can't find out, and I have tried."

"How long has he been here?"

"Oh, a month or two — since the beginning of April, I believe.
He came over with some friends of his — a Sir George Egerton
and his family; — he is going to Canada, to be established in
some post there, I forget what; and they are spending part of
the summer here before they fix themselves at the North. It is
easy to see what _they_ are here for — they are strangers, and
amusing themselves; but Mr. Carleton is at home, and _not_
amusing himself, at least, he don't seem to be. He goes about
with the Egertons, but that is just for his friendship for
them; and he puzzles me. He don't know whether he is going to
Niagara — he has been once already — and 'perhaps' he may go
to Canada — and 'possibly' he will make a journey to the West
— and I can't find out that he wants anything in particular."

"Perhaps he don't mean that you shall," said Fleda.

"Perhaps he don't; but you see that aggravates my state of
mind to a distressing degree. And then I'm afraid he will go
somewhere where I can't keep watch of him!"

Fleda could not help laughing.

"Perhaps he was tired of home, and came for mere weariness."

"Weariness! it's my opinion he has no idea there is such a
word in the language — I am certain, if he heard it, he would
call for a dictionary the next minute. Why, at Carleton, it
seems to me he was half the time on horseback, flying about
from one end of the country to the other; and, when he is in
the house, he is always at work at something; it's a piece of
condescension to get him to attend to you at all; only when he
does, my dear Fleda! — he is so enchanting that you live in a
state of delight till next time. And yet, I never could get
him to pay me a compliment to this minute — I tried two or
three times, and he rewarded me with some very rude speeches."

"Rude!" said Fleda.

"Yes — that is, they were the most graceful and fascinating
things possible, but they would have been rudeness in anybody
else. Where is mamma?" said Constance, with another comic
counterfeit of distress. "My dear Fleda, it's the most
captivating thing to breakfast at Carleton!"

"I have no idea the bread and butter is sweeter there than in
some other parts of the world," said Fleda.

"I don't know about the bread and butter," said Constance,
"but those exquisite little sugar-dishes! My dear Fleda, every
one has his own sugar-dish and cream-ewer — the loveliest
little things!"

"I have heard of such things before," said Fleda.

"I don't care about the bread and butter," — said Constance —
"eating is immaterial, with those perfect little things right
opposite to me. They weren't like any you ever saw, Fleda —
the sugar-bowl was just a little, plain, oval box, with the
lid on a hinge, and not a bit of chasing, only the arms on the
cover — like nothing I ever saw but a old-fashioned silver
tea-caddy; and the cream-jug, a little, straight, up-and-down
thing to match. Mamma said they were clumsy, but they
bewitched me!"

"I think everything bewitched you," said Fleda, smiling.
"Can't your head stand a sugar-dish and milk-cup?"

"My dear Fleda, I never had your superiority to the ordinary
weaknesses of human nature — I can stand _one_ sugar-bowl, but I
confess myself overcome by a dozen. How we have all wanted to
see you, Fleda! and papa — you have captivated papa! — and he
says —"


"Never mind; don't tell me what he says," said Fleda.

"There! — that's your modesty that everybody rave about: I
wish I could catch it. Fleda, where did you get that little
Bible? While I was waiting for you I tried to soothe my
restless anticipations with examining all the things in all
the rooms. Where did you get it?"

"It was given me a long while ago," said Fleda.

"But it is real gold on the outside — the clasps and all. Do
you know it? it is not washed."

"I know it," said Fleda, smiling; "and it is better than gold
inside."

"Wasn't that mamma's favourite, Mr. Olmney, that parted from
you at the gate?" said Constance, after a minute's silence.

"Yes."

"Is he a favourite of yours, too?"

"You must define what you mean by a favourite," said Fleda,
gravely.

"Well, how do you like him?"

"I believe everybody likes him," said Fleda, colouring, and
vexed at herself that she could not help it. The bright eyes
opposite her took note of the fact with a sufficiently wide-
awake glance.

"He's very good!" said Constance, hugging herself, and taking
a fresh supply of butter; "but don't let him know I have been
to see you, or he'll tell you all sorts of evil things about
me, for fear you should innocently be contaminated. Don't you
like to be taken care of?"

"Very much," said Fleda, smiling, "by people that know how."

"I can't bear it!" said Constance, apparently with great
sincerity; "I think it is the most impertinent thing in the
world people can do; I can't endure it, except from — ! Oh, my
dear Fleda, it is perfect luxury to have him put a shawl round
your shoulders!"

"Fleda," said Earl Douglass, putting his head in from the
kitchen, and before he said any more, bobbing it frankly at
Miss Evelyn, half in acknowledgment of her presence, and half,
as it seemed, in apology for his own; "Fleda, will you let
Barby pack up somethin' 'nother for the men's lunch? — my wife
would ha' done it, as she had ought to, if she wa'n't down
with the teethache, and Catherine's away on a jig to Kenton,
and the men wont do so much work on nothin', and I can't say
nothin' to 'em if they don't; and I'd like to get that 'ere
clover-field down afore night: it's goin' to be a fine spell
o' weather. I was a-goin' to try to get along without it, but
I believe we can't."

"Very well," said Fleda. "But, Mr. Douglass, you'll try the
experiment of curing it in cocks?"

"Well, I don't know," said Earl, in a tone of very
discontented acquiescence; "I don't see how anythin' should be
as sweet as the sun for dryin' hay; I know folks says it is,
and I've heerd 'em say it is, and they'll stand to it, and you
can't beat 'em off the notion it is, but somehow or 'nother I
can't seem to come into it. I know the sun makes sweet hay,
and I think the sun was meant to make hay, and I don't want to
see no sweeter hay than the sun makes; it's as good hay as you
need to have."

"But you wouldn't mind trying it for once, Mr. Douglass, just
for me?"

"I'll do just what you please," said he, with a little
exculpatory shake of his head; " 'tain't my concern — it's no
concern of mine; the gain or the loss 'll be your'n, and it's
fair you should have the gain or the loss, whichever on 'em
you choose to have. I'll put it in cocks: how much heft should
be in 'em?"

"About a hundred pounds; and you don't want to cut any more
than you can put up to-night, Mr. Douglass. We'll try it."

"Very good! And you'll send along somethin' for the men. Barby
knows," said Earl, bobbing his head again intelligently at
Fleda; "there's four on 'em, and it takes somethin' to feed
'em: workin' men 'll put away a good deal o' meat."

He withdrew his head and closed the door, happily for
Constance, who went off into a succession of ecstatic
convulsions.

"What time of day do your eccentric hay-makers prefer for the
rest of their meals, if they lunch at three o'clock? I never
heard anything so original in my life."

"This is lunch number two," said Fleda, smiling; "lunch number
one is about ten in the morning, and dinner at twelve."

"And do they gladden their families with their presence at the
other ordinary convivial occasions?"

"Certainly."

"And what do they have for lunch?"

"Varieties. Bread and cheese, and pies, and Quirl-cakes; at
every other meal they have meat."

"Horrid creatures!"

"It is only during haying and harvesting."

"And you have to see to all this, poor little Fleda! I
declare, if I was you, I'd do something —"

"No," said Fleda, quietly, "Mrs. Douglass and Barby manage the
lunch between them. I am not at all desperate."

"But to have to talk to these people!"

"Earl Douglass is not a very polished specimen," said Fleda,
smiling; "but I assure you, in some of 'these people' there is
an amount of goodness and wit, and shrewd practical sense and
judgment, that would utterly distance many of those that would
call them bears."

Constance looked a good deal more than she said.

"My dear little Fleda! you're too sensible for anything; but
as I don't like sense from anybody but Mr. Carleton, I would
rather look at you in the capacity of a rose, smiling a gentle
rebuke upon me while I talk nonsense."

And she did talk, and Fleda did smile and laugh, in spite of
herself, till Mrs. Evelyn and her other daughters made their
appearance.

Then Barby said she thought they'd have talked the house down;
and she expected there'd be nothing left of Fleda after all
the kissing she got. But it was not too much for Fleda's
pleasure. Mrs. Evelyn was so tenderly kind, and Miss Evelyn as
caressing as her sister had been, and Edith, who was but a
child, so joyously delighted, that Fleda's eyes were swimming
in happiness as she looked from one to the other, and she
could hardly answer kisses and questions fast enough.

"Them is good-looking enough girls," said Barby, as Fleda came
back to the house after seeing them to their carriage, if they
knowed how to dress themselves. I never see this fly-away one
afore. I knowed the old one as soon as I clapped my eyes onto
her. Be they stopping at the Pool again?"

"Yes."

"Well, when are you going up there to see 'em?"

"I don't know," said Fleda, quietly. And then, sighing as the
thought of her aunt came into her head, she went off to find
her and bring her down.

Fleda's brow was sobered, and her spirits were in a flutter
that was not all of happiness, and that threatened not to
settle down quietly. But as she went slowly up the stairs,
faith's hand was laid, even as her own grasped the balusters,
on the promise —



"All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as
keep His covenant and His testimonies."


She set faith's foot down on those sure stepping-stones; and
she opened her aunt's door and looked in with a face that was
neither troubled nor afraid.


CHAPTER III.


"_Ant_. He misses not much.
_Seb_. No, he doth but mistake the truth totally."
TEMPEST.


It was the very next morning that several ladies and gentlemen
were gathered on the piazza of the hotel at Montepoole, to
brace minds or appetites with the sweet mountain air while
waiting for breakfast. As they stood there, a young countryman
came by bearing on his hip a large basket of fruit and
vegetables.

"Oh, look at those lovely strawberries!" exclaimed Constance
Evelyn, running down the steps. "Stop, if you please — where
are you going with these?"

"Marm!" responded the somewhat startled carrier.

"What are you going to do with them?"

"I aint going to do nothin' with 'em."

"Whose are they? Are they for sale?"

"Well, 'twon't deu no harm, as I know," said the young man,
making a virtue of necessity, for the fingers of Constance
were already hovering over the dainty little leaf-strewn
baskets, and her eyes complacently searching for the most
promising; "I ha'n't got nothin' to deu with 'ern."

"Constance!" said Mrs. Evelyn, from the piazza, "don't take
that. I dare say they are for Mr. Sweet."

"Well, Mamma," said Constance, with great equanimity, "Mr.
Sweet gets them for me, and I only save him the trouble of
spoiling them. My taste leads me to prefer the simplicity of
primitive arrangements this morning."

"Young man!" called out the landlady's reproving voice, "wont
you never recollect to bring that basket round the back way!"

" 't aint no handier than this way," said Philetus, with so
much belligerent demonstration, that the landlady thought
best, in presence of her guests, to give over the question.

"Where do you get them?" said Mrs. Evelyn.

"How?" said Philetus.

"Where do they come from? Are they fresh picked?"

"Just afore I started."

"Started from where?" said a gentleman, standing by Mrs.
Evelyn.

"From Mr. Rossitur's, down to Queechy."

"Mr. Rossitur's!" said Mrs. Evelyn. "Does he send them here?"

"He doos not," said Philetus — "he doosn't keep to hum for a
long spell."

"Who does send them, then?" said Constance.

"Who doos? It's Miss Fliddy Ringgan."

"Mamma!" exclaimed Constance, looking up.

"What does she have to do with it?" said Mrs. Evelyn.

"There don't nobody else have nothin' to deu with it — I guess
she's pretty much the hull," said her coadjutor. "Her and me
was a-picking 'em afore sunrise."

"All that basketful?"

" 't aint all strawberries — there's garden sass up to the
top."

"And does she send that, too?"

"She sends that teu," said Philetus, succinctly.

"But hasn't she any help in taking care of the garden?" said
Constance.

"Yes, Marm — I calculate to help considerable in the back
garden — she wont let no one into the front where she grows
her posies."

"But where is Mr. Hugh?"

"He's to hum."

"But has he nothing to do with all this? Does he leave it all
to his cousin?"

"He's to the mill."

"And Miss Ringgan manages farm, and garden, and all?" said
Mrs. Evelyn.

"She doos," said Philetus.

And receiving a gratuity, which he accepted without
demonstration of any kind whatever, the basket-bearer, at
length released, moved off.

"Poor Fleda!" said Miss Evelyn, as he disappeared with his
load.

"She's a very clever girl," said Mrs. Evelyn, dismissing the
subject.

"She's too lovely for anything!" said Constance. "Mr.
Carleton, if you will just imagine we are in China, and
introduct a pair of familiar chopsticks into this basket, I
shall be repaid for the loss of a strawberry by the expression
of ecstasy which will immediately spread itself over your
features. I intend to patronize the natural mode of eating in
future. I find the ends of my fingers decidedly odoriferous."

He smiled a little as he complied with the young lady's
invitation, but the expression of ecstasy did not come.

"Are Mr. Rossitur's circumstances so much reduced?" he said,
drawing nearer to Mrs. Evelyn.

"Do you know them?" exclaimed both the daughters at once.

"I knew Mrs. Rossitur very well some years ago, when she was
in Paris."

"They are all broken to pieces," said Mrs. Evelyn, as Mr.
Carleton's eye went back to her for his answer; "Mr. Rossitur
failed and lost everything — bankrupt — a year or two after
they came home."

"And what has he been doing since?"

"I don't know — trying to farm it here; but I am afraid he has
not succeeded well — I am afraid not. They don't look like it.
Mrs. Rossitur will not see anybody, and I don't believe they
have done any more than struggle for a living since they came
here."

"Where is Mr. Rossitur now?"

"He is at the West, somewhere — Fleda tells me he is engaged
in some agencies there; but I doubt," said Mrs. Evelyn,
shaking her head, compassionately, "there is more in the name
of it than anything else. He has gone down hill sadly since
his misfortunes. I am very sorry for them."

"And his niece takes care of his farm in the meantime?"

"Do you know her?" asked both the Miss Evelyns again.

"I can hardly say that," he replied. "I had such a pleasure
formerly. Do I understand that she is the person to fill Mr.
Rossitur's place when he is away?"

"So she says."

"And so she acts," said Constance. "I wish you had heard her
yesterday. It was beyond everything. We were conversing very
amicably, regarding each other through a friendly vista formed
by the sugar-bowl and tea-pot, when a horrid man, that looked
as if he had slept all his life in a haycock, and only waked
up to turn it over, stuck his head in, and immediately
introduced a clover-field; and Fleda and he went to tumbling
about the cocks till, I do assure you, I was deluded into a
momentary belief that hay-making was the principal end of
human nature, and looked upon myself as a burden to society;
and after I had recovered my locality, and ventured upon a
sentence of gentle commiseration for her sufferings, Fleda
went off into a eulogium upon the intelligence of hay-makers
in general, and the strength of mind barbarians are
universally known to possess."

The manner, still more than the matter of this speech, was
beyond the withstanding of any good-natured muscles, though
the gentleman's smile was a grave one, and quickly lost in
gravity. Mrs. Evelyn laughed and reproved in a breath, but the
laugh was admiring, and the reproof was stimulative. The
bright eye of Constance danced in return with the mischievous
delight of a horse that has slipped his bridle and knows you
can't catch him.

"And this has been her life ever since Mr. Rossitur lost his
property?"

"Entirely, — sacrificed!" said Mrs. Evelyn, with a
compassionately resigned air; — education, advantages, and
everything given up, and set down here, where she has seen
nobody from year's end to year's end but the country people
about — very good people — but not the kind of people she
ought to have been brought up among."

"Oh, Mamma!" said the eldest Miss Evelyn, in a deprecatory
tone, "you shouldn't talk so — it isn't right — I am sure she
is very nice — nicer now than anybody else I know, and clever
too."

"Nice!" said Edith. "I wish I had such a sister."

"She is a good girl— a very good girl," said Mrs. Evelyn, in a
tone which would have deterred any one from wishing to make
her acquaintance.

"And happy, Mamma — Fleda don't look miserable — she seems
perfectly happy and contented."

"Yes," said Mrs. Evelyn, "she has got accustomed to this state
of things — it's her life — she makes delicious bread and
puddings for her aunt, and raises vegetables for market, and
oversees her uncle's farmers; and it isn't a hardship to her —
she finds her happiness in it. She is a very good girl, but
she might have been made something much better than a farmer's
wife."

"You may set your mind at rest on that subject, Mamma," said
Constance, still using her chopsticks with great complacency;
"it's my opinion that the farmer is not in existence who is
blessed with such a conjugal futurity. I think Fleda's strong
pastoral tastes are likely to develop themselves in a new
direction."

Mrs. Evelyn looked, with a partial smile, at the pretty
features which the business of eating the strawberries
displayed in sundry novel and picturesque points of view, and
asked what she meant?

"I don't know," said Constance, intent upon her basket; "I
feel a friend's distress for Mr. Thorn — it's all your doing,
Mamma — you wont be able to look him in the face when we have
Fleda next fall. I am sure I shall not want to look at his.
He'll be too savage for anything."

"Mr. Thorn!" said Mr. Carleton.

"Yes," said Mrs. Evelyn, in an indulgent tone — "he was very
attentive to her last winter when she was with us, but she
went away before anything was decided. I don't think he has
forgotten her."

"I shouldn't think anybody could forget her," said Edith.

"I am confident he would be here at this moment," said
Constance, "if he wasn't in London."

"But what is 'all mamma's doing,' Constance?" inquired her
sister.

"The destruction of the peace of the whole family of Thorns; I
shouldn't sleep sound in my bed if I were she, with such a
reflection. I look forward to heart-rending scenes, with a
very disturbed state of mind."

"But what have I done, my child?" said Mrs. Evelyn.

"Didn't you introduce your favourite, Mr. Olmney, to Miss
Ringgan, last summer? I don't know" — her native delicacy
shrunk from making any disclosures, and, of course, the tongue
of friendship is silent — "but they were out ages yesterday
while I was waiting for her, and their parting at the gate was
— I feel myself unequal to the task of describing it," said
Constance, ecstatically; "and she was in the most elevated
tone of mind during our whole interview afterwards, and took
all my brilliant remarks with as much coolness as if they had
been drops of rain — more, I presume, considering that it was
hay-time."

"Did you see him?" said Mrs. Evelyn.

"Only at that impracticable distance, Mamma; but I introduced
his name afterwards, in my usual happy manner, and I found
that Miss Ringgan's cheeks were by no means indifferent to it.
I didn't dare go any further."

"I am very glad of it. I hope it is so," said Mrs. Evelyn,
energetically. "It would be a most excellent match. He is a
charming young man, and would make her very happy."

"You are exciting gloomy feelings in Mr. Carleton's mind,
Mamma, by your felicitous suggestions. Mr. Carleton, did your
ears receive a faint announcement of ham and eggs, which went
quite through and through mine just now?"

He bowed, and handed the young lady in; but Constance
declared, that though he sat beside her, and took care of her
at breakfast, he had on one of his intangible fits, which
drove her to the last extreme of impatience and captivation.

The sun was not much more than two hours high the next
morning, when a rider was slowly approaching Mr. Rossitur's
house from the bridge, walking his horse, like a man who
wished to look well at all he was passing. He paused behind a
clump of locusts and rose-acacias, in the corner of the court-
yard, as a figure, bonneted and gloved, came out of the house,
and began to be busy among the rose-bushes. Another figure
presently appeared at the hall door, and called out —

"Fleda!"

"Well, Barby —"

This second voice was hardly raised, but it came from so much
nearer that the words could be distinctly heard.

"Mr. Skillcorn wants to know if you're going to fix the
flowers for him to carry?"

"They're not ready, and it wont do for him to wait — Mr. Sweet
must send for them if he wants them. Philetus must make haste
back, for you know Mr. Douglass wants him to help in the barn
meadow. Lucas wont be here, and now the weather is so fine, I
want to make haste with the hay."

"Well, will you have the samp for breakfast?"

"No — we'll keep that for dinner. I'll come in and poach some
eggs, Barby, — if you'll make me some thin pieces of toast —
and call me when it's time. Thin, Barby."

The gentleman turned his horse, and galloped back to
Montepoole.

Some disappointment was created among a portion of Mr. Sweet's
guests that afternoon, by the intelligence that Mr. Carleton
purposed setting off the next morning to join his English
friends at Saratoga, on their way to the Falls and Canada.
Which purpose was duly carried into effect.


CHAPTER IV.


"With your leave, Sir, an' there were no more men living upon
the face of the earth, I should not fancy him, by St. George."
EVERY MAN OUT OF HIS HUMOUR.


October had come, and a fair season and a fine harvest, had
enabled Fleda to ease her mind by sending a good remittance to
Dr. Gregory. The family were still living upon her and Hugh's
energies. Mr. Rossitur talked of coming home, that was all.

It sometimes happened that a pause in the urgency of business
permitted Hugh to take a day's holiday. One of these falling
soon after the frosts had opened the burrs of the chestnut-
trees, and the shells of the hickories, Fleda seized upon it
for a nutting frolic. They took Philetus, and went up to the
fine group of trees on the mountain, the most difficult to
reach, and the best worth reaching of all their nut wood. The
sport was very fine; and after spoiling the trees, Philetus
was left to "shuck" and bring home a load of the fruit, while
Fleda and Hugh took their way slowly down the mountain. She
stopped him, as usual, on the old look-out place. The leaves
were just then in their richest colouring, and the October
sky, in its strong vitality, seemed to fill all inanimate
nature with the breath of life. If ever, then on that day, to
the fancy, "the little hills rejoiced on every side." The
woods stood thick with honours, and earth lay smiling under
the tokens of the summer's harvest, and the promise for the
coming year; and the wind came in gusts over the lower country
and up the hill-side, with a hearty good-will that blew away
all vapours, physical and mental, from its path, bidding
everything follow its example and be up and doing. Fleda drew
a long breath or two that seemed to recognise its freshening
power.

"How long it seems," she said — "how very long — since I was
here with Mr. Carleton; — just nine years ago. How changed
everything is! I was a little child then. It seems such an age
ago!" —

"It is very odd he didn't come to see us," said Hugh.

"He did — don't you know? — the very next day after we heard
he was here — when, most unluckily, I was up at aunt
Miriam's."

"I should think he might have come again, considering what
friends you used to be."

"I dare say he would, if he had not left Montepoole so soon.
But, dear Hugh, I was a mere child — how could he remember me
much?"

"You remember him," said Hugh.

"Ah, but I have good reason. Besides, I never forget anything.
I would have given a great deal to see him — if I had it."

"I wish the Evelyns had staid longer," said Hugh. "I think you
have wanted something to brighten you up. They did you a great
deal of good last year. I am afraid all this taking care of
Philetus and Earl Douglass is too much for you."

Fleda gave him a very bright smile, half affection, half fun.

"Don't you admire my management?" said she. "Because I do.
Philetus is firmly persuaded that he is an invaluable
assistant to me in the mystery of gardening; and the origin of
Earl Douglass's new ideas is so enveloped in mist, that he
does not himself know where they come from. It was rich to
hear him the other day descanting to Lucas upon the evil
effects of earthing up corn, and the advantages of curing hay
in cocks, as to both which matters Lucas is a thorough
unbeliever, and Earl was a year ago."

"But that doesn't hinder your looking pale and thin, and a
great deal soberer than I like to see you," said Hugh. "You
want a change, I know. I don't know how you are to get it. I
wish they would send for you to New York again."

"I don't know that I should want to go, if they did," said
Fleda. "They don't raise my spirits, Hugh. I am amused
sometimes — I can't help that — but such excessive gaiety
rather makes me shrink within myself; I am, too, out of tone
with it. I never feel more absolutely quiet than sometimes
when I am laughing at Constance Evelyn's mad sallies — and
sometimes I cannot laugh at them. I do not know what they must
think of me; it is what they can have no means of
understanding."

"I wish you didn't understand it, either, Fleda."

"But you shouldn't say that. I am happier than they are, now,
Hugh — now that you are better — with all their means of
happiness. They know nothing of our quiet enjoyments; they
must live in a whirl, or they would think they are not living
at all; and I do not believe that all New York can give them
the real pleasure that I have in such a day as this. They
would see almost nothing in all this beauty that my eyes
'drink in,' as Cowper says; and they would be certain to
quarrel with the wind, that to me is like the shake of an old
friend's hand. Delicious!" said Fleda, as the wind rewarded
this eulogium with a very hearty shake indeed.

"I believe you would make friends with everything, Fleda, said
Hugh, laughing.

"The wind is always that to me," said Fleda; "not always in
such a cheerful mood as to-day, though. It talks to me often
of a thousand old-time things, and sighs over them with me, a
most sympathizing friend! but to-day he invites me to a waltz
— Come!"

And pulling Hugh after her, away she went down the rocky path,
with a step too light to care for the stones; the little feet
capering down the mountain with a disdain of the ground that
made Hugh smile to see her; and eyes dancing for company, till
they reached the lower woodland.

"A most spirited waltz!" said Hugh.

"And a most slack partner. Why didn't you keep me company?"

"I never was made for waltzing," said Hugh, shaking his head.

"Not to the tune of the north wind? That has done me good,
Hugh."

"So I should judge, by your cheeks."

"Poverty need not always make people poor," said Fleda,
talking breath and his arm together. "You and I are rich,
Hugh."

"And our riches cannot take to themselves wings and fly away,"
said Hugh.

"No, but besides those riches, there are the pleasures of the
eye and the mind, that one may enjoy everywhere — everywhere
in the country at least — unless poverty bear one down very
hard; and they are some of the purest and most satisfying of
any. Oh, the blessing of a good education! how it makes one
independent of circumstances!"

"And circumstances are education, too," said Hugh, smiling. "I
dare say we should not appreciate our mountains and woods so
well, if we had had our old plenty of everything else."

"I always loved them," said Fleda. "But what good company they
have been to us for years past, Hugh! — to me especially; I
have more reason to love them."

They walked on quietly and soberly to the brow of the table-
land, where they parted; Hugh being obliged to go home, and
Fleda wishing to pay a visit to her aunt Miriam.

She turned off alone to take the way to the high road, and
went softly on, no longer, certainly, in the momentary spirits
with which she had shaken hands with the wind, and skipped
down the mountain; but feeling, and thankful that she felt, a
cheerful patience to tread the dusty highway of life.

The old lady had been rather ailing, and from one or two
expressions she had let fall, Fleda could not help thinking
that she looked upon her ailments with a much more serious eye
than anybody else thought was called for. It did not, however,
appear to-day. She was not worse, and Fleda's slight anxious
feeling could find nothing to justify it, if it were not the
very calm and quietly happy face and manner of the old lady;
and that, if it had something to alarm, did much more to
soothe. Fleda had sat with her a long time, patience and
cheerfulness all the while unconsciously growing in her
company; when, catching up her bonnet with a sudden haste very
unlike her usual collectedness of manner, Fleda kissed her
aunt and was rushing away.

"But stop! where are you going, Fleda?"

"Home, aunt Miriam; I must, don't keep me."

"But what are you going that way for? you can't go home that
way?"

"Yes, I can."

"How?"

"I can cross the blackberry hill behind the barn, and then
over the east hill, and then there's nothing but the water-
cress meadow."

"I sha'n't let you go that way alone; sit down and tell me
what you mean — what is this desperate hurry?"

But, with equal precipitation, Fleda had cast her bonnet out
of sight behind the table, and the next moment turned, with
the utmost possible quietness, to shake hands with Mr. Olmney.
Aunt Miriam had presence of mind enough to make no remark, and
receive the young gentleman with her usual dignity and
kindness.

He stayed some time, but Fleda's hurry seemed to have forsaken
her. She had seized upon an interminable long gray stocking
her aunt was knitting, and sat in the corner working at it
most diligently, without raising her eyes unless spoken to.

"Do you give yourself no rest, at home or abroad, Miss Fleda?"
said the gentleman.

"Put that stocking down, Fleda," said her aunt; "it is in no
hurry."

"I like to do it, aunt Miriam."

But she felt, with warming cheeks, that she did not like to do
it with two people sitting still and looking at her. The
gentleman presently rose.

"Don't go till we have had tea, Mr. Olmney," said Mrs.
Plumfield.

"Thank you, Ma'am; I cannot stay, I believe, unless Miss Fleda
will let me take care of her down the hill by and by."

"Thank you, Mr. Olmney," said Fleda, "but I am not going home
before night, unless they send for me."

"I am afraid," said he, looking at her, "that the agricultural
turn has proved an overmatch for your energies."

"The farm don't complain of me, does it?" said Fleda, looking
up at him with a comic, grave expression of countenance.

"No," said he, laughing, "certainly not; but, if you will
forgive me for saying so, I think you complain of it, tacitly
— and that will raise a good many complaints in other
quarters, if you do not take care of yourself."

He shook hands and left them; and Mrs. Plumfield sat silently
looking at Fleda, who, on her part, looked at nothing but the
gray stocking.

"What is all this, Fleda?"

"What is what, aunt Miriam?" said Fleda, picking up a stitch
with desperate diligence.

"Why did you want to run away from Mr. Olmney?"

"I didn't wish to be delayed, — I wanted to get home."

"Then, why wouldn't you let him go home with you?"

"I liked better to go alone, aunt Miriam."

"Don't you like him, Fleda?"

"Certainly, aunt Miriam; very much."

"I think he likes you Fleda," said her aunt, smiling.

"I am very sorry for it," said Fleda, with great gravity.

Mrs. Plumfield looked at her for a few minutes in silence, and
then said —

"Fleda, love, come over here and sit by me, and tell me what
you mean. Why are you sorry? It has given me a great deal of
pleasure to think of it."

But Fleda did not budge from her seat or her stocking, and
seemed tongue-tied. Mrs. Plumfield pressed for an answer.

"Because, aunt Miriam," said Fleda, with the prettiest red
cheeks in the world, but speaking very clearly and steadily,
"my liking only goes to a point which, I am afraid, will not
satisfy either him or you."

"But why? — it will go further."

"No, Ma'am."

"Why not? — why do you say so?"

"Because I must, if you ask me."

"But what can be more excellent and estimable, Fleda? — who
could be more worth liking? I should have thought he would
just please you. He is one of the most lovely young men I have
ever seen."

"Dear aunt Miriam," said Fleda, looking up beseechingly, "why
should we talk about it?"

"Because I want to understand you, Fleda, and to be sure that
you understand yourself."

"I do," said Fleda, quietly, and with a quivering lip.

"What is there that you dislike about Mr. Olmney?"

"Nothing in the world, aunt Miriam."

"Then, what is the reason you cannot like him enough?"

"Because, aunt Miriam," said Fleda, speaking in desperation,
"there isn't enough of him. He is very good and excellent in
every way, nobody feels that more than I do; I don't want to
say a word against him, but I do not think he has a very
strong mind, and he isn't cultivated enough."

"But you cannot have everything, Fleda."

"No, Ma'am, I don't expect it."

"I am afraid you have set up too high a standard for
yourself," said Mrs. Plumfield, looking rather troubled.

"I don't think that is possible, aunt Miriam."

"But I am afraid it will prevent your ever liking anybody."

"It will not prevent my liking the friends I have already; it
may prevent my leaving them for somebody else," said Fleda,
with a gravity that was touching in its expression.

"But Mr. Olmney is sensible, and well educated."

"Yes, but his tastes are not. He could not at all enter into a
great many things that give me the most pleasure. I do not
think he quite understands above half of what I say to him."

"Are you sure? I know he admires you, Fleda."

"Ah, but that is only half enough, you see, aunt Miriam,
unless I could admire him too."

Mrs. Plumfield looked at her in some difficulty; Mr. Olmney
was not the only one, clearly, whose powers of comprehension
were not equal to the subject.

"Fleda," said her aunt, inquiringly, "is there anybody else
that has put Mr. Olmney out of your head?"

"Nobody in the world!" exclaimed Fleda, with a frank look and
tone of astonishment at the question, and cheeks colouring as
promptly. "How could you ask? — but he never was in my head,
aunt Miriam."

"Mr. Thorn?" said Mrs. Plumfield.

"Mr. Thorn!" said Fleda, indignantly. "Don't you know me
better than that, aunt Miriam? But you do not know him."

"I believe I know you, dear Fleda; but I heard he had paid you
a great deal of attention last year; and you would not have
been the first unsuspecting nature that has been mistaken."

Fleda was silent, flushed, and disturbed; and Mrs. Plumfield
was silent and meditating; when Hugh came in. He came to fetch
Fleda home. Dr. Gregory had arrived. In haste again, Fleda
sought her bonnet, and exchanging a more than usually wistful
and affectionate kiss and embrace with her aunt, set off with
Hugh down the hill.

Hugh had a great deal to say to her all the way home, of which
Fleda's ears alone took the benefit, for her understanding
received none of it; and when she at last came into the
breakfast-room where the doctor was sitting, the fact of his
being there was the only one which had entered her mind.

"Here she is, I declare!" said the doctor, holding her back to
look at her after the first greetings had passed. "I'll be
hanged if you aint handsome. Now, what's the use of pinking
your cheeks any more at that, as if you didn't know it before?
— eh?"

"I will always do my best to deserve your good opinion, Sir,"
said Fleda, laughing.

"Well, sit down now," said he, shaking his head, "and pour me
out a cup of tea — your mother can't make it right."

And sipping his tea for some time, the old doctor sat
listening to Mrs. Rossitur, and eating bread and butter,
saying little, but casting a very frequent glance at the
figure opposite him, behind the tea-board.

"I am afraid," said he, after a while, "that your care for my
good opinion wont outlast an occasion. Is _that_ the way you
look for every day?"

The colour came with the smile; but the old doctor looked at
her in a way that made the tears come too. He turned his eyes
to Mrs. Rossitur for an explanation.

"She is well," said Mrs. Rossitur, fondly — "she has been very
well — except her old headaches now and then; I think she has
grown rather thin, lately."

"Thin!" said the old doctor — "etherealized to a mere abstract
of herself; only that is a very bad figure, for an abstract
should have all the bone and muscle of the subject; and I
should say you had little left but pure spirit. You are the
best proof I ever saw of the principle of the homeopaths — I
see now, that though a little corn may fatten a man, a great
deal may be the death of him."

"But I have tried it both ways, uncle Orrin," said Fleda,
laughing. "I ought to be a happy medium between plethora and
starvation. I am pretty substantial, what there is of me."

"Substantial!" said the doctor; "you look as substantial a
personage as your old friend, the 'faire Una' — just about.
Well, prepare yourself, gentle Saxon, to ride home with me the
day after to-morrow. I'll try a little humanizing regimen with
you."

"I don't think that is possible, uncle Orrin," said Fleda,
gently.

"We'll talk about the possibility afterwards — at present, all
you have to do is to get ready. If you raise difficulties, you
will find me a very Hercules to clear them away — I'm
substantial enough, I can tell you — so it's just as well to
spare yourself and me the trouble."

"There are no difficulties," Mrs. Rossitur and Hugh said, both
at once.

"I knew there weren't. Put a pair or two of clean stockings in
your trunk — that's all you want — Mrs. Pritchard and I will
find the rest. There's the people in Fourteenth street want
you the first of November, and I want you all the time till
then, and longer too. Stop — I've got a missive of some sort
here for you."

He foisted out of his breast-pocket a little package of notes
— one from Mrs. Evelyn, and one from Florence, begging Fleda
to come to them at the time the doctor had named; the third
from Constance:


"MY DARLING LITTLE FLEDA,

"I am dying to see you — so pack up and come down with Dr.
Gregory, if the least spark of regard for me is slumbering in
your breast. Mamma and Florence are writing to beg you — but
though an insignificant member of the family, considering that
instead of being 'next to head', only little Edith prevents my
being at the less dignified end of this branch of the social
system, I could not prevail upon myself to let the
representations of my respected elders go unsupported by mine
— especially as I felt persuaded of the superior efficacy of
the motives I had it in my power to present to your truly
philanthropical mind.

"I am in a state of mind that baffles description — Mr.
Carleton is going home! —

"I have not worn ear-rings in my ears for a fortnight; my
personal appearance is become a matter of indifference to me;
any description of mental exertion is excruciating; I sit
constantly listening for the ringing of the door-bell, and
when it sounds, I rush frantically to the head of the
staircase, and look over to see who it is; the mere sight of
pen and ink excites delirious ideas — judge what I suffer in
writing to you.

"To make the matter worse (if it could be), I have been
informed privately, that he is going home to crown at the
altar of Hymen an old attachment to one of the loveliest of
all England's daughters. Conceive the complication of my
feelings! —

"Nothing is left me but the resources of friendship — so come,
darling Fleda, before a barrier of ice interposes itself
between my chilled heart and your sympathy.

"Mr. Thorn's state would move my pity if I were capable of
being moved by anything — by this you will comprehend he is
returned. He has been informed by somebody, that there is a
wolf in sheep's clothing prowling about Queechy, and his head
is filled with the idea that you have fallen a victim, of
which, in my calmer moments, I have in vain endeavoured to
dispossess him. Every morning we are wakened up at an
unseasonable hour by a furious ringing at the door-bell — Joe
Manton pulls off his nightcap, and slowly descending the
stairs, opens the door, and finds Mr. Thorn, who inquires
distractedly whether Miss Ringgan has arrived; and being
answered in the negative, gloomily walks off towards the East
river. The state of anxiety in which his mother is thereby
kept is rapidly depriving her of all her flesh — but we have
directed Joe lately to reply, 'No, Sir, but she is expected' —
upon which Mr. Thorn regularly smiles faintly, and rewards the
'fowling-piece' with a quarter dollar —

"So make haste, dear Fleda, or I shall feel that we are acting
the part of innocent swindlers.

C.E."


There was but one voice at home on the point whether Fleda
should go. So she went.


CHAPTER V.


_Host_. Now, my young guest! methinks you're allycholy; I pray
you why is it?
_Jul_. Marry, mine host, because I cannot be merry.
TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA.


Some nights after their arrival, the doctor and Fleda were
seated at tea in the little snug old-fashioned back parlour,
where the doctor's nicest of housekeepers, Mrs. Pritchard, had
made it ready for them. In general, Mrs. Pritchard herself
poured it out for the doctor, but she descended most
cheerfully from her post of elevation, whenever Fleda was
there to fill it.

The doctor and Fleda sat cozily looking at each other across
the toast and chipped beef, their glances grazing the tea-urn,
which was just on one side of their range of vision. A
comfortable Liverpool-coal fire in a state of repletion burned
away indolently, and gave everything else in the room somewhat
of its own look of sonsy independence — except, perhaps, the
delicate creature at whom the doctor, between sips of his tea,
took rather wistful observations.

"When are you going to Mrs. Evelyn?" he said, breaking the
silence.

"They say next week, Sir."

"I shall be glad of it!" said the doctor.

"Glad of it?" said Fleda, smiling. "Do you want to get rid of
me, uncle Orrin?"

"Yes!" said he. "This isn't the right place for you. You are
too much alone."

"No, indeed, Sir. I have been reading voraciously, and
enjoying myself as much as possible. I would quite as lieve be
here as there, putting you out of the question."

"I wouldn't as lieve have you," said he, shaking his head.

"What were you musing about before tea? your face gave me the
heartache."

"My face!" said Fleda, smiling, while an instant flush of the
eyes answered him; "what was the matter with my face?"

"That is the very thing I want to know."

"Before tea? — I was only thinking," said Fleda, her look
going back to the fire from association — "thinking of
different things — not disagreeably; taking a kind of bird's-
eye view of things, as one does sometimes."

"I don't believe you ever take other than a bird's-eye view of
anything," said her uncle. "But what were you viewing just
then, my little Saxon?"

"I was thinking of them at home," said Fleda, smiling,
thoughtfully; "and I somehow had perched myself on a point of
observation, and was taking one of those wider views which are
always rather sobering."

"Views of what?"

"Of life, Sir."

"As how?" said the doctor.

"How near the end is to the beginning, and how short the space
between, and how little the ups and downs of it will matter if
we take the right road and get home."

"Pshaw!" said the doctor.

But Fleda knew him too well to take his interjection otherwise
than most kindly. And, indeed, though he whirled round and ate
his toast at the fire discontentedly, his look came back to
her after a little, with even more than its usual gentle
appreciation.

"What do you suppose you have come to New York for?" said he.

"To see you, Sir, in the first place, and the Evelyns in the
second."

"And who in the third?"

"I am afraid the third place is vacant," said Fleda, smiling.

"You are, eh? Well — I don't know — but I know that I have
been inquired of by two several and distinct people as to your
coming. Ah! you needn't open your bright eyes at me, because I
shall not tell you. Only let me ask — you have no notion of
fencing off, my Queechy rose, with a hedge of blackthorn, or
anything of that kind, have you?"

"I have no notion of any fences at all, except invisible ones,
Sir," said Fleda, laughing, and colouring very prettily.

"Well, those are not American fences," said the doctor; "so, I
suppose, I am safe enough. Whom did I see you out riding with
yesterday?"

"I was with Mrs. Evelyn," said Fleda. "I didn't want to go,
but I couldn't very well help myself."

"Mrs. Evelyn! Mrs. Evelyn wasn't driving, was she?"

"No, Sir; Mr. Thorn was driving."

"I thought so. Have you seen your old friend, Mr. Carleton,
yet?"

"Do you know him, uncle Orrin?"

"Why shouldn't I? What's the difficulty of knowing people?
Have you seen him?"

"But how did you know that he was an old friend of mine?"

"Question!" said the doctor. "Hum — well, I won't tell you; so
there's the answer. Now, will you answer me?"

"I have not seen him, Sir."

"Haven't met him, in all the times you have been to Mrs.
Evelyn's?"

"No, Sir. I have been there but once in the evening, uncle
Orrin. He is just about sailing for England."

"Well, you're going there to-night, aren't you? Run, and
bundle yourself up, and I'll take you there before I begin my
work."

There was a small party that evening at Mrs. Evelyn's. Fleda
was very early. She ran up to the first floor — rooms lighted
and open, but nobody there.

"Fleda Ringgan," called out the voice of Constance from over
the stairs, "is that you?"

"No," said Fleda.

"Well, just wait till I come down to you. My darling little
Fleda, it's delicious of you to come so early. Now, just tell
me, am I captivating?"

"Well, I retain self-possession," said Fleda. "I cannot tell
about the strength of head of other people."

"You wretched little creature! Fleda, don't you admire my
hair? it's new style, my dear — just come out; the Delancys
brought it out with them; Eloise Delancy taught it us; isn't
it graceful? Nobody in New York has it yet, except the
Delancys and we."

"How do you know but they have taught somebody else?" said
Fleda.

"I won't talk to you! Don't you like it?"

"I am not sure that I do not like you in your ordinary way
better."

Constance made a gesture of impatience, and then pulled Fleda
after her into the drawing-rooms.

"Come in here; I wont waste the elegancies of my toilet upon
your dull perceptions; come here and let me show you some
flowers — aren't those lovely? This bunch came to-day, 'for
Miss Evelyn', so Florence will have it it is hers, and it's
very mean of her, for I am perfectly certain it is mine; it's
come from somebody who wasn't enlightened on the subject of my
family circle, and has innocently imagined that two Miss
Evelyns could not belong to the same one! I know the floral
representatives of all Florence's dear friends and admirers,
and this isn't from any of them. I have been distractedly
endeavouring all day to find who it came from, for if I don't,
I can't take the least comfort in it."

"But you might enjoy the flowers for their own sake, I should
think," said Fleda, breathing the sweetness of myrtle and
heliotrope.

"No, I can't, for I have all the time the association of some
horrid creature they might have come from, you know; but it
will do just as well to humbug people: I shall make Cornelia
Schenck believe that this came from my dear Mr. Carleton!"

"No, you wont, Constance," said Fleda, gently.

"My dear little Fleda, I shock you, don't I? but I sha'n't
tell any lies; I shall merely expressively indicate a
particular specimen, and say, 'My dear Cornelia, do you
perceive that this is an English rose?' and then it's none of
my business, you know, what she believes; and she will be
dying with curiosity and despair all the rest of the evening."

"I shouldn't think there would be much pleasure in that, I
confess," said Fleda, gravely. "How very ungracefully and
stiffly those are made up!"

"My dear little Queechy rose," said Constance, impatiently,
"you are, pardon me, as fresh as possible. They can't cut the
flowers with long stems, you know; the gardeners would be
ruined. That is perfectly elegant; it must have cost at least
ten dollars. My dear little Fleda!" said Constance, capering
off before the long pier-glass, "I am afraid I am not
captivating! Do you think it would be an improvement if I put
drops in my ears? — or one curl behind them? I don't know
which Mr. Carleton likes best!" —

And with her head first on one side and then on the other, she
stood before the glass looking at herself and Fleda by turns
with such a comic expression of mock doubt and anxiety, that
no gravity but her own could stand it.

"She is a silly girl, Fleda, isn't she?" said Mrs. Evelyn,
coming up behind them.

"Mamma! am I captivating?" cried Constance, wheeling round.

The mother's smile said "Very!"

"Fleda is wishing she were out of the sphere of my influence,
Mamma. Wasn't Mr. Olmney afraid of my corrupting you?" she
said, with a sudden pull-up in front of Fleda. "My blessed
stars! there's somebody's voice I know. Well, I believe it is
true that a rose without thorns is a desideratum. Mamma, is
Mrs. Thorn's turban to be an invariable _pendant_ to your
_coiffure_ all the while Miss Ringgan is here?"

"Hush!"

With the entrance of company came Constance's return from
extravaganzas to a sufficiently graceful every-day manner,
only enough touched with high spirits and lawlessness to free
it from the charge of commonplace. But the contrast of these
high spirits with her own rather made Fleda's mood more quiet,
and it needed no quieting. Of the sundry people that she knew
among those presently assembled there were none that she
wanted to talk to; the rooms were hot, and she felt nervous
and fluttered, partly from encounters already sustained, and
partly from a little anxious expecting of Mr. Carleton's
appearance. The Evelyns had not said he was to be there, but
she had rather gathered it; and the remembrance of old times
was strong enough to make her very earnestly wish to see him,
and dread to be disappointed. She swung clear of Mr. Thorn,
with some difficulty, and ensconced herself under the shadow
of a large cabinet, between that and a young lady who was very
good society, for she wanted no help in carrying on the
business of it. All Fleda had to do was to sit still and
listen, or not listen, which she generally preferred. Miss
Tomlinson discoursed upon varieties, with great sociableness
and satisfaction; while poor Fleda's mind, letting all her
sense and nonsense go, was again taking a somewhat bird's-eye
view of things, and from the little centre of her post in Mrs.
Evelyn's drawing-room, casting curious glances over the
panorama of her life — England, France, New York, and Queechy!
— half coming to the conclusion that her place henceforth was
only at the last, and that the world and she had nothing to do
with each other. The tide of life and gaiety seemed to have
thrown her on one side, as something that could not swim with
it, and to be rushing past too strongly and swiftly for her
slight bark ever to launch upon it again. Perhaps the shore
might be the safest and happiest place; but it was sober in
the comparison; and, as a stranded bark might look upon the
white sails flying by, Fleda saw the gay faces and heard the
light tones with which her own could so little keep company.
But as little they with her. Their enjoyment was not more
foreign to her than the causes which moved it were strange.
Merry? — she might like to be merry, but she could sooner
laugh with the north wind than with one of those vapid faces,
or with any face that she could not trust. Conversation might
be pleasant, but it must be something different from the noisy
cross-fire of nonsense that was going on in one quarter, or
the profitless barter of nothings that was kept up on the
other side of her. Rather Queechy and silence, by far, than
New York and _this!_

And through it all, Miss Tomlinson talked on and was happy.

"My dear Fleda! what are you back here for?" said Florence,
coming up to her.

"I was glad to be at a safe distance from the fire."

"Take a screen — here! Miss Tomlinson, your conversation is
too exciting for Miss Ringgan; look at her cheeks! I must
carry you off; I want to show you a delightful contrivance for
transparencies that I learned the other day."

The seat beside her was vacated, and, not casting so much as a
look towards any quarter whence a possible successor to Miss
Tomlinson might be arriving, Fleda sprang up and took a place
in the far corner of the room by Mrs. Thorn, happily not
another vacant chair in the neighbourhood. Mrs. Thorn had
shown a very great fancy for her, and was almost as good
company as Miss Tomlinson — not quite, for it was necessary
sometimes to answer, and therefore necessary always to hear.
But Fleda liked her; she was thoroughly amiable, sensible, and
good-hearted; and Mrs. Thorn, very much gratified at Fleda's
choice of a seat, talked to her with a benignity which Fleda
could not help answering with grateful pleasure.

"Little Queechy, what has driven you into the corner?" said
Constance, pausing a moment before her.

"It must have been a retiring spirit," said Fleda.

"Mrs. Thorn, isn't she lovely?"

Mrs. Thorn's smile at Fleda might almost have been called
that, it was so full of benevolent pleasure. But she spoiled
it by her answer. "I don't believe I am the first one to find
it out.".

"But what are you looking so sober for?" Constance went on,
taking Fleda's screen from her hand and fanning her diligently
with it — "you don't talk. The gravity of Miss Ringgan's face
casts a gloom over the brightness of the evening. I couldn't
conceive what made me feel chilly in the other room till I
looked about and found that the shade came from this corner;
and Mr. Thorn's teeth, I saw, were chattering."

"Constance," said Fleda, laughing and vexed, and making the
reproof more strongly with her eyes — "how can you talk so?"

"Mrs. Thorn, isn't it true?"

Mrs. Thorn's look at Fleda was the essence of good humour.

"Will you let Lewis come and take you a good long ride to-
morrow?"

"No, Mrs. Thorn, I believe not — I intend to stay
perseveringly at home to-morrow, and see if it is possible to
be quiet a day in New York."

"But you will go with me to the concert to-morrow night? —
both of you — and hear Truffi; — come to my house and take
tea, and go from there? will you, Constance?"

"My dear Mrs. Thorn," said Constance, "I shall be in
ecstasies, and Miss Ringgan was privately imploring me last
night to find some way of getting her to it. We regard such
material pleasures as tea and muffins with great indifference,
but when you look up after swallowing your last cup you will
see Miss Ringgan and Miss Evelyn, cloaked and hooded,
anxiously awaiting your next movement. My dear Fleda, there is
a ring!" —

And giving her the benefit of a most comic and expressive
arching of her eyebrows, Constance flung back the screen into
Fleda's lap, and skimmed away.

Fleda was too vexed for a few minutes to understand more of
Mrs. Thorn's talk than that she was first enlarging upon the
concert, and afterwards detailing to her a long shopping
expedition in search of something which had been a morning's
annoyance. She almost thought Constance was unkind, because
she wanted to go to the concert herself, to lug her in so
unceremoniously, and wished herself back in her uncle's snug,
little, quiet parlour, unless M. Carleton would come.

And there he is, said a quick beat of her heart, as his
entrance explained Constance's "ring."

Such a rush of associations came over Fleda that she was in
imminent danger of losing Mrs. Thorn altogether. She managed,
however, by some sort of instinct, to disprove the assertion
that the mind cannot attend to two things at once, and carried
on a double conversation with herself and with Mrs. Thorn for
some time very vigorously.

"Just the same! — he has not altered a jot," she said to
herself as he came forward to Mrs. Evelyn; — "it is himself! —
his very self — he doesn't look a day older — I'm very glad! —
(Yes, Ma'am, it's extremely tiresome —). How exactly as when
he left me in Paris, — and how much pleasanter than anybody
else! — more pleasant than ever, it seems, to me, but that is
because I have not seen him in so long; he only wanted one
thing. That same grave eye — but quieter, isn't it than it
used to be? — I think so — (It's the best store in town, I
think, Mrs. Thorn, by far — yes, Ma'am —). Those eyes are
certainly the finest I ever saw. How I have seen him stand and
look just so when he was talking to his workmen — without that
air of consciousness that all these people have, comparatively
— what a difference! (I know very little about it, Ma'am; — I
am not learned in laces — I never bought any —). I wish he
would look this way — I wonder if Mrs. Evelyn does not mean to
bring him to see me — she must remember; — now there is that
curious old smile and looking down! how much better I know
what it means than Mrs. Evelyn does! — (Yes, Ma'am, I
understand — I mean! — it is very convenient — I never go
anywhere else to get anything — at least, I should not if I
lived here —). She does not know whom she is talking to. She
is going to walk him off into the other room! How very much
more gracefully he does everything than anybody else — it
comes from that entire high-mindedness and frankness, I think
— not altogether, a fine person must aid the effect, and that
complete independence of other people — I wonder if Mrs.
Evelyn has forgotten my existence? — he has not, I am sure — I
think she is a little odd — (Yes, Ma'am, my face is flushed —
the room is very warm —.)"

"But the fire has gone down — it will be cooler now," said
Mrs. Thorn.

Which were the first words that fairly entered Fleda's
understanding. She was glad to use the screen to hide her face
now, not the fire.

Apparently the gentleman and lady found nothing to detain them
in the other room, for, after sauntering off to it, they
sauntered back again, and placed themselves to talk just
opposite her. Fleda had an additional screen now in the person
of Miss Tomlinson, who had sought her corner, and was earnest
talking across her to Mrs. Thorn, so that she was sure, even
if Mr. Carleton's eyes should chance to wander that way, they
would see nothing but the unremarkable skirt of her green silk
dress, most unlikely to detain them.

The trade in nothings going on over the said green silk was
very brisk indeed; but, disregarding the buzz of tongues near
at hand, Fleda's quick ears were able to free the barrier, and
catch every one of the quiet tones beyond.

"And you leave us the day after to-morrow?" said Mrs. Evelyn.

"No, Mrs. Evelyn, I shall wait another steamer."

The lady's brow instantly revealed to Fleda a trap setting
beneath to catch his reason.

"I'm very glad!" exclaimed little Edith, who, in defiance of
conventionalities and proprieties, made good her claim to be
in the drawing-room on all occasions — "then you will take me
another ride, wont you, Mr. Carleton?"

"You do not flatter us with a very long stay," pursued Mrs.
Evelyn.

"Quite as long as I expected — longer than I meant it to be,"
he answered, rather thoughtfully.

"Mr. Carleton," said Constance, sidling up in front of him. "I
have been in distress to ask you a question, and I am afraid —
"

"Of what are you afraid, Miss Constance?"

"That you would reward me with one of your severe looks, which
would petrify me; and then, I am afraid I should feel
uncomfortable" —

"I hope he will!" said Mrs. Evelyn, settling herself back in
the corner of the sofa, and with a look at her daughter which
was complacency itself — "I hope Mr. Carleton will, if you are
guilty of any impertinence."

"What is the question, Miss Constance?"

"I want to know what brought you out here?"

"Fie, Constance," said her mother. "I am ashamed of you. Do
not answer her, Mr. Carleton."

"Mr. Carleton will answer me, Mamma — he looks benevolently
upon my faults, which are entirely those of education. What
was it, Mr. Carleton?"

"I suppose," said he, smiling, "it might be traced more or
less remotely to the restlessness incident to human nature."

"But you are not restless, Mr. Carleton," said Florence, with
a glance which might be taken as complimentary.

"And knowing that I am," said Constance, in comic impatience,
"you are maliciously prolonging my agonies. It is not what I
expected of you, Mr. Carleton."

"My dear," said her father, "Mr. Carleton, I am sure, will
fulfil all reasonable expectations. What is the matter?"

"I asked him where a certain tribe of Indians was to be found,
Papa, and he told me they were supposed originally to have
come across Behring's Strait, one cold winter."

Mr. Evelyn looked a little doubtfully, and Constance with so
unhesitating gravity, that the gravity of nobody else was
worth talking about.

"But it is so uncommon," said Mrs. Evelyn, when they had done
laughing, "to see an Englishman of your class here at all,
that when he comes a second time we may be forgiven for
wondering what has procured us such an honour."

"Women may always be forgiven for wondering, my dear," said
Mr. Evelyn, "or the rest of mankind must live at odds with
them."

"Your principal object was to visit our western prairies,
wasn't it, Mr. Carleton?" said Florence.

"No," he replied, quietly, "I cannot say that. I should choose
to give a less romantic explanation of my movements. From,
some knowledge growing out of my former visit to this country,
I thought there were certain negotiations I might enter into
here with advantage; and it was for the purpose of attending
to these, Miss Constance, that I came."

"And have you succeeded?" said Mrs. Evelyn, with an expression
of benevolent interest.

"No, Ma'am — my information had not been sufficient."

"Very likely," said Mr. Evelyn. "There isn't one man in a
hundred whose representations on such a matter are to be
trusted at a distance."

"On such a matter," repeated his wife, funnily; "you don't
know what the matter was, Mr. Evelyn — you don't know what you
are talking about."

"Business, my dear — business — I take only what Mr. Carleton
said; it doesn't signify a straw what business. A man must
always see with his own eyes."

Whether Mr. Carleton had seen or had not seen, or whether even
he had his faculty of hearing in present exercise, a glance at
his face was incompetent to discover.

"I never should have imagined," said Constance, eyeing him
keenly, "that Mr. Carleton's errand to this country was one of
business, and not of romance. I believe it's a humbug!"

For an instant this was answered by one of those looks of
absolute composure, in every muscle and feature, which put an
effectual bar to all further attempts from without, or
revelations from within — a look Fleda remembered well, and
felt even in her corner. But it presently relaxed, and he said
with his usual manner,

"You cannot understand, then, Miss Constance, that there
should be any romance about business?"

"I cannot understand," said Mrs. Evelyn, "why romance should
not come after business. Mr. Carleton, Sir, you have seen
American scenery this summer; isn't American beauty worth
staying a little while longer for?"

"My dear," said Mr. Evelyn, "Mr. Carleton is too much of a
philosopher to care about beauty — every man of sense is."

"I am sure he is not," said Mrs. Evelyn, smoothly. "Mr.
Carleton, you are an admirer of beauty, are you not, Sir ?"

"I hope so, Mrs. Evelyn," he said smiling; "but perhaps, I
shall shock you by adding — not of beauties."

"That sounds very odd," said Florence.

"But let us understand," said Mrs. Evelyn, with the air of a
person solving a problem; "I suppose we are to infer that your
taste in beauty is of a peculiar kind?"

"That may be a fair inference," he said.

"What is it, then?" said Constance, eagerly.

"Yes — what is it you look for in a face?" said Mrs. Evelyn.

"Let us hear whether America has any chance," said Mr. Thorn,
who had joined the group, and placed himself precisely so as
to hinder Fleda's view.

"My fancy has no stamp of nationality, in this, at least," he
said, pleasantly.

"Now, for instance, the Miss Delancys — don't you call them
handsome, Mr. Carleton?" said Florence.

"Yes," he said, half smiling.

"But not beautiful? Now, what is it they want?"

"I do not wish, if I could, to make the want visible to other
eyes than my own."

"Well, Cornelia Schenck — how do you like her face?"

"It is very pretty-featured."

"Pretty-featured! Why, she is called beautiful! She has a
beautiful smile, Mr. Carleton!"

"She has only one."

"Only one! and how many smiles ought the same person to have?"
cried Florence, impatiently. But that which instantly answered
her said forcibly, that a plurality of them was possible.

"I have seen one face," he said, gravely, and his eye seeking
the floor, "that had, I think, a thousand."

"Different smiles!" said Mrs. Evelyn, in a constrained voice.

"If they were not all absolutely that, they had so much of
freshness and variety that they all seemed new."

"Was the mouth so beautiful?" said Florence.

"Perhaps it would not have been remarked for beauty when it
was perfectly at rest, but it could not move with the least
play of feeling, grave or gay, that it did not become so in a
very high degree. I think there was no touch or shade of
sentiment in the mind that the lips did not give with singular
nicety; and the mind was one of the most finely wrought I have
ever known."

"And what other features went with this mouth?" said Florence.

"The usual complement, I suppose," said Thorn. " '_Item_, two
lips indifferent red; _item_, two gray eyes, with lids to them;
_item_, one neck, one chin, and so forth."

"Mr. Carleton, Sir," said Mrs. Evelyn, blandly," as Mr. Evelyn
says, women may be forgiven for wondering, wont you answer
Florence's question?"

"Mr. Thorn has done it, Mrs. Evelyn, for me."

"But I have great doubts of the correctness of Mr. Thorn's
description, Sir; wont you indulge us with yours?"

"Word-painting is a difficult matter, Mrs. Evelyn, in some
instances; if I must do it, I will borrow my colours. In
general, 'that which made her fairness much the fairer was,
that it was but an ambassador of a most fair mind.' "

"A most exquisite picture!" said Thorn; "and the originals
don't stand so thick that one is in any danger of mistaking
them. Is the painter Shakespeare? — I don't recollect."

"I think Sidney, Sir; I am not sure."

"But still, Mr. Carleton," said Mrs. Evelyn, "this is only in
general — I want very much to know the particulars; what style
of features belonged to this face?"

"The fairest, I think, I have ever known," said Mr. Carleton.
"You asked me, Miss Evelyn, what was my notion of beauty; this
face was a good illustration of it. Not perfection of outline,
though it had that, too, in very uncommon degree; but the
loveliness of mind and character to which these features were
only an index; the thoughts were invariably telegraphed
through eye and mouth more faithfully than words could give
them."

"What kind of eyes?" said Florence.

His own grew dark as he answered —

"Clear and pure as one might imagine an angel's — through
which I am sure my good angel many a time looked at me."

Good angels were at a premium among the eyes that were
exchanging glances just then.

"And Mr. Carleton," said Mrs. Evelyn, "is it fair to ask —
this paragon — is she living, still?"

"I hope so," he answered, with his old light smile, dismissing
the subject.

"You spoke so much in the past tense," said Mrs. Evelyn,
apologetically.

"Yes; I have not seen it since it was a child's."

"A child's face! Oh," said Florence, "I think you see a great
many children's faces with that kind of look."

"I never saw but the one," said Mr. Carleton, drily.

So far Fleda listened, with cheeks that would certainly have
excited Mrs. Thorn's alarm, if she had not been happily
engrossed with Miss Tomlinson's affairs; though up to the last
two minutes the idea of herself had not entered Fleda's head
in connection with the subject of conversation. But then,
feeling it impossible to make her appearance in public that
evening, she quietly slipped out of the open window close by,
which led into a little greenhouse on the piazza, and by
another door gained the hall and the dressing-room.

When Dr. Gregory came to Mrs. Evelyn's an hour or two after, a
figure all cloaked and hooded ran down the stairs and met him
in the hall.

"Ready!" said the doctor, in surprise.

"I have been ready some time, Sir," said Fleda.

"Well," said he, "then we'll go straight home, for I've not
done my work yet."

"Dear uncle Orrin," said Fleda, "if I had known you had work
to do, I wouldn't have come."

"Yes, you would," said he, decidedly.

She clasped her uncle's arm, and walked with him briskly home
through the frosty air, looking at the silent lights and
shadows on the walls of the street, and feeling a great desire
to cry.

"Did you have a pleasant evening?" said the doctor, when they
were about half way.

"Not particularly, Sir," said Fleda, hesitating.

He said not another word till they got home, and Fleda went up
to her room. But the habit of patience overcame the wish to
cry; and though the outside of her little gold-clasped bible
awoke it again, a few words of the inside were enough to lay
it quietly to sleep.

"Well," said the doctor, as they sat at breakfast the next
morning, "where are you going next?"

"To the concert, I must, to-night," said Fleda. "I couldn't
help myself."

"Why should you want to help yourself?" said the doctor. "And
to Mrs. Thorn's to-morrow night?"

"No, Sir; I believe not."

"I believe you will," said he, looking at her.

"I am sure I should enjoy myself more at home, uncle Orrin.
There is very little rational pleasure to be had in these
assemblages."

"Rational pleasure!" said he. "Didn't you have any rational
pleasure last night?"

"I didn't hear a single word spoken, Sir, that was worth
listening to; at least, that was spoken to me; and the hollow
kind of rattle that one hears from every tongue, makes me more
tired than anything else, I believe. I am out of tune with it,
somehow."

"Out of tune!" said the old doctor, giving her a look made up
of humourous vexation and real sadness; "I wish I knew the
right tuning-key to take hold of you!"

"I become harmonious rapidly, uncle Orrin, when I am in this
pleasant little room alone with you."

"That wont do!" said he, shaking his head at the smile with
which this was said — "there is too much tension upon the
strings. So that was the reason you were all ready waiting for
me last night? Well, you must tune up, my little piece of
discordance, and go with me to Mrs. Thorn's to-morrow night —
I wont let you off."

"With you, Sir!" said Fleda.

"Yes," he said. "I'll go along and take care of you, lest you
get drawn into something else you don't like."

"But, dear uncle Orrin, there is another difficulty — it is to
be a large party, and I have not a dress exactly fit."

"What have you got?" said he, with a comic kind of fierceness.

"I have silks, but they are none of them proper for this
occasion — they are ever so little old-fashioned."

"What do you want?"

"Nothing, Sir," said Fleda; "for I don't want to go."

"You mend a pair of stockings to put on," said he, nodding at
her, "and I'll see to the rest."

"Apparently you place great importance in stockings," said
Fleda, laughing, "for you always mention them first. But,
please don't get anything for me, uncle Orrin — please don't!
I have plenty for common occasions, and I don't care to go to
Mrs. Thorn's."

"I don't care either," said the doctor, working himself into
his great coat. "By the by, do you want to invoke the aid of
St. Crispin?"

He went off, and Fleda did not know whether to cry or to laugh
at the vigorous way in which he trod through the hall, and
slammed the front door after him. Her spirits just kept the
medium, and did neither. But they were in the same doubtful
mood still an hour after, when he came back with a paper
parcel he had brought home under his arm, and unrolled a fine
embroidered muslin; her eyes were very unsteady in carrying
their brief messages of thankfulness, as if they feared saying
too much. The doctor, however, was in the mood for doing, not
talking, by looks or otherwise. Mrs. Pritchard was called into
consultation, and with great pride and delight engaged to have
the dress and all things else in due order by the following
night; her eyes saying all manner of gratulatory things as
they went from the muslin to Fleda, and from Fleda to Dr.
Gregory.

The rest of the day was, not books, but needlefuls of thread;
and from the confusion of laces and draperies, Fleda was
almost glad to escape, and go to the concert — but for one
item; that spoiled it.

They were in their seats early. Fleda managed successfully to
place the two Evelyns between her and Mr. Thorn, and then
prepared herself to wear out the evening with patience.

"My dear Fleda!" whispered Constance, after some time spent in
restless reconnoitring of everything — "I don't see my English
rose anywhere!"

"Hush!" said Fleda, smiling. "That happened not to be an
English rose, Constance."

"What was it?"

"American, unfortunately; it was a Noisette; the variety, I
think, that they call 'Conque de Vénus.' "

"My dear little Fleda, you're too wise for anything!" said
Constance, with a rather significant arching of her eye-brows.
"You mustn't expect other people to be as rural in their
acquirements as yourself. I don't pretend to know any rose by
sight but the Queechy," she said, with a change of expression,
meant to cover the former one.

Fleda's face, however, did not call for any apology. It was
perfectly quiet.

"But what has become of him?" said Constance, with her comic
impatience. "My dear Fleda! if my eyes cannot rest upon that
development of elegance, the parterre is become a wilderness
to me!"

"Hush, Constance!" Fleda whispered earnestly — "you are not
safe — he may be near you."

"Safe!" ejaculated Constance; but a half backward hasty glance
of her eye brought home so strong an impression that the
person in question was seated a little behind her, that she
dared not venture another look, and became straightway
extremely well-behave.

He was there; and being presently convinced that he was in the
neighbourhood of his little friend of former days, he resolved
with his own excellent eyes to test the truth of the opinion
he had formed as to the natural and inevitable effect of
circumstances upon her character; whether it could by
possibility have retained its great delicacy and refinement,
under the rough handling and unkindly bearing of things
seemingly foreign to both. He had thought not.

Truffi did not sing, and the entertainment was of a very
secondary quality. This seemed to give no uneasiness to the
Miss Evelyns, for if they pouted, they laughed and talked in
the same breath, and that incessantly. It was nothing to Mr.
Carleton, for his mind was bent on something else. And with a
little surprise, he saw that it was nothing to the subject of
his thoughts, either because her own were elsewhere, too, or
because they were in league with a nice taste, that permitted
them to take no interest in what was going on. Even her eyes,
trained as they had been to recluse habits, were far less busy
than those of her companions; indeed, they were not busy at
all; for the greater part of the time, one hand was upon the
brow, shielding them from the glare of the gas-lights.
Ostensibly — but the very quiet air of the face led him to
guess that the mind was glad of a shield too. It relaxed
sometimes. Constance, and Florence, and Mr. Thorn, and Mr.
Thorn's mother, were every now and then making demands upon
her, and they were met always with an intelligent well-bred
eye, and often with a smile of equal gentleness and character;
but her observer noticed that though the smile came readily,
it went as readily, and the lines of the face quickly settled
again into what seemed to be an habitual composure. There were
the same outlines, the same characters, he remembered very
well; yet there was a difference; not grief had changed them,
but life had. The brow had all its fine chiselling and high
purity of expression; but now there sat there a hopelessness,
or rather a want of hopefulness, that a child's face never
knows. The mouth was sweet and pliable as ever, but now often
patience and endurance did not quit their seat upon the lip
even when it smiled. The eye, with all its old clearness and
truthfulness, had a shade upon it that, nine years ago, only
fell at the bidding of sorrow; and in every line of the face
there was a quiet gravity that went to the heart of the person
who was studying it. Whatever causes had been at work, he was
very sure, had done no harm to the character; its old
simplicity had suffered no change, as every look and movement
proved; the very unstudied careless position of the fingers
over the eyes showed that the thoughts had nothing to do
there.


On one half of his doubt Mr. Carleton's mind was entirely made
up; but education? the training and storing of the mind — how
had that fared? He would know!

Perhaps he would have made some attempt that very evening
towards satisfying himself; but noticing that, in coming out,
Thorn permitted the Evelyns to pass him, and attached himself
determinately to Fleda, he drew back, and resolved to make his
observations indirectly, and on more than one point, before he
should seem to make them at all.


CHAPTER VI.


"Hark: I hear the sound of coaches,
The hour of attack approaches."
GAY.


Mrs. Pritchard had arrayed Fleda in the white muslin, with an
amount of satisfaction and admiration that all the lines of
her face were insufficient to express.

"Now," she said, "you must just run down and let the doctor
see you, afore you take the shine off, or he wont be able to
look at anything else when you get to the place."

"That would be unfortunate!" said Fleda, and she ran down,
laughing, into the room where the doctor was waiting for her;
but her astonished eyes encountering the figure of Dr.
Quackenboss, she stopped short, with an air that no woman of
the world could have bettered. The physician of Queechy, on
his part, was at least equally taken aback.

"Dr. Quackenboss!" said Fleda.

"I — I was going to say, Miss Ringgan!" said the doctor, with
a most unaffected obeisance, "but — a — I am afraid, Sir, it
is a deceptive influence!"

"I hope not," said Dr. Gregory, smiling; one corner of his
mouth for his guest and the other for his niece. "Real enough
to do real execution, or I am mistaken, Sir."

"Upon my word, Sir," said Dr. Quackenboss, bowing again, "I
hope — a — Miss Ringgan — will remember the acts of her
executive power at home, and return in time to prevent an
unfortunate termination!"

Dr. Gregory laughed heartily now, while Fleda's cheeks
relieved her dress to admiration.

"Who will complain of her if she don't?" said the doctor. "Who
will complain of her if she don't?"

But Fleda put in her question.

"How are you all at home, Dr. Quackenboss?"

"All Queechy, Sir," answered the doctor, politely, on the
principle of 'first come, first served' — "and individuals — I
shouldn't like to specify" —

"How are you all in Queechy, Dr. Quackenboss?" said Fleda.

"I — have the pleasure to say — we are coming along as usual,"
replied the doctor, who seemed to have lost his power of
standing up straight. "My sister Flora enjoys but poor health
lately — they are all holding their heads up at your house.
Mr. Rossitur has come home."

"Uncle Rolf! Has he?" exclaimed Fleda, the colour of joy quite
supplanting the other. "Oh, I'm very glad!"

"Yes," said the doctor — "he's been home now — I guess, going
on four days."

"I am very glad!" repeated Fleda. "But wont you come and see
me another time, Dr. Quackenboss? — I am obliged to go out."

The doctor professed his great willingness, adding that he had
only come down to the city to do two or three chores, and
thought she might perhaps like to take the opportunity — which
would afford him such very great gratification.

"No, indeed, faire Una," said Dr. Gregory, when they were on
their way to Mrs. Thorn's — "they've got your uncle at home
now, and we've got you; and I mean to keep you till I'm
satisfied. So you may bring home that eye that has been
squinting at Queechy ever since you have been here, and make
up your mind to enjoy yourself; I shan't let you go till you
do."

"I ought to enjoy myself, uncle Orrin," said Fleda, squeezing
his arm gratefully.

"See you do," said he.

The pleasant news from home had given Fleda's spirits the
needed spur, which the quick walk to Mrs. Thorn's did not take
off.

"Did you ever see Fleda look so well, Mamma?" said Florence,
as the former entered the drawing-room.

"That is the loveliest and best face in the room," said Mr.
Evelyn; "and she looks like herself to-night."

"There is a matchless simplicity about her," said a gentleman,
standing by.

"Her dress is becoming," said Mrs. Evelyn.

"Why, where did you ever see her, Mr. Stackpole, except at our
house?" said Constance.

"At Mrs. Decatur's — I have had that pleasure — and once at
her uncle's."

"I didn't know you ever noticed ladies' faces, Mr. Stackpole,"
said Florence.

"How Mrs. Thorn does look at her!" said Constance, under her
breath. "It is too much."

It was almost too much for Fleda's equanimity, for the colour
began to come.

"And there goes Mr. Carleton!" said Constance. "I expect
momentarily to hear the company strike up, 'Sparkling and
Bright.' "

"They should have done that some time ago, Miss Constance,"
said the gentleman.

Which compliment, however, Constance received with hardly
disguised scorn, and turned her attention again to Mr.
Carleton.

"I trust I do not need presentation," said his voice and his
smile at once, as he presented himself to Fleda.

How little he needed it, the flash of feeling which met his
eyes said sufficiently well. But apparently the feeling was a
little too deep, for the colour mounted, and the eyes fell,
and the smile suddenly died on the lips. Mr. Thorn came up to
them, and releasing her hand, Mr. Carleton stepped back and
permitted him to lead her away.

"What do think of _that_ face?" said Constance, finding herself
a few moments after at his side.

" 'That' must define itself," said he, "or I can hardly give a
safe answer."

"What face? Why, I mean, of course, the one Mr. Thorn carried
off just now."

"You are her friend, Miss .Constance," he said, coolly. "May I
ask for your judgment upon it before I give mine?"

"Mine? why, I expected every minute that Mr. Thorn would make
the musicians play 'Sparkling and Bright,' and tell Miss
Ringgan that to save trouble he had directed them to express
what he was sure were the sentiments of the whole company in
one burst."

He smiled a little, but in a way that Constance could not
understand, and did not like.

"Those are common epithets," he said.

"Must I use uncommon?" said Constance, significantly.

"No; but these may say one thing or another."

"I have said one thing," said Constance; "and now you may say
the other."

"Pardon me — you have said nothing. These epithets are
deserved by a great many faces, but on very different grounds;
and the praise is a different thing, accordingly."

"Well, what is the difference?" said Constance.

"On what do you think this lady's title to it rests?"

"On what? — why, on that bewitching little air of the eyes and
mouth, I suppose."

"Bewitching is a very vague term," said he, smiling again,
more quietly. "But you have had an opportunity of knowing it
much better of late than I — to which class of bright faces
would you refer this one? Where does the light come from?"

"I never studied faces in a class," said Constance, a little
scornfully. "Come from? — a region of mist and clouds, I
should say, for it is sometimes pretty well covered up."

"There are some eyes whose sparkling is nothing more than the
play of light upon a bright bead of glass."

"It is not that," said Constance, answering in spite of
herself, after delaying as long as she dared.

"There is the brightness that is only the reflection of
outward circumstances, and passes away with them."

"It isn't that in Fleda Ringgan," said Constance, "for her
outward circumstances have no brightness, I should think, that
reflection would not utterly absorb."

She would fain have turned the conversation, but the questions
were put so lightly and quietly that it could not be
gracefully done. She longed to cut it short, but her hand was
upon Mr. Carleton's arm, and they were slowly sauntering down
the rooms — too pleasant a state of things to be relinquished
for a trifle.

"There is the broad day-light of mere animal spirits," he went
on, seeming rather to be suggesting these things for her
consideration than eager to set forth any opinions of his own
— "there is the sparkling of mischief, and the fire of hidden
passions — there is the passing brilliance of wit, as
satisfactory and resting as these gaslights — and there is now
and then the light of refined affections out of a heart
unspotted from the world, as pure and abiding as the stars,
and, like them, throwing its soft ray especially upon the
shadows of life."

"I have always understood," said Constance, "that cat's eyes
are brightest in the dark."

"They do not love the light, I believe," said Mr. Carleton,
calmly.

"Well," said Constance, not relishing the expression of her
companion's eye, which, from glowing, had suddenly be come
cool and bright — "where would you put me, Mr. Carleton, among
all these illuminators of the social system?"

"You may put yourself — where you please, Miss Constance," he
said, again turning upon her an eye so deep and full in its
meaning, that her own and her humour fell before it; for a
moment she looked most unlike the gay scene around her.

"Is not that the best brightness," he said speaking low, "that
will last forever? — and is not that lightness of heart best
worth having which does not depend on circumstances, and will
find its perfection just when all other kinds of happiness
fail utterly?"

"I can't conceive," said Constance, presently rallying, or
trying to rally herself — "what you and I have to do in a
place where people are enjoying themselves at this moment, Mr.
Carleton!"

He smiled at that, and led her out of it into the
conservatory, close to which they found themselves. It was a
large and fine one, terminating the suite of rooms in this
direction. Few people were there; but, at the far end stood a
group, among whom Fleda and Mr. Thorn were conspicuous. He was
busying himself in putting together a quantity of flowers for
her; and Mrs. Evelyn and old Mr. Thorn stood looking on; with
Mr. Stackpole. Mr. Stackpole was an Englishman, of certainly
not very prepossessing exterior, but somewhat noted as an
author, and a good deal sought after in consequence. At
present he was engaged by Mrs. Evelyn. Mr. Carleton and
Constance sauntered up towards them, and paused at a little
distance to look at some curious plants.

"Don't try for that, Mr. Thorn," said Fleda, as the gentleman
was making rather ticklish efforts to reach a superb fuchsia
that hung high. "You are endangering sundry things besides
yourself."

"I have learned, Miss Fleda," said Thorn, as with much ado he
grasped the beautiful cluster, "that what we take the most
pains for is apt to be reckoned the best prize — a truth I
should never think of putting into a lady's head if I believed
it possible that a single one of them was ignorant of its
practical value."

"I have this same rose in my garden at home," said Fleda.

"You are a great gardener, Miss Fleda, I hear," said the old
gentleman. "My son says you are an adept in it."

"I am very fond of it, Sir," said Fleda, answering him with an
entirely different face.

"I thought the delicacy of American ladies was beyond such a
masculine employment as gardening," said Mr. Stackpole, edging
away from Mrs. Evelyn.

"I guess this young lady is an exception to the rule," said
old Mr. Thorn.

"I guess she is an exception to most rules that you have got
in your note-book, Mr. Stackpole," said the younger man. "But
there is no guessing about the garden, for I have with my own
eyes seen these gentle hands at one end of a spade, and her
foot at the other — a sight that, I declare, I don't know
whether I was most filled with astonishment or admiration."

"Yes," said Fleda, half laughing and colouring, "and he
ingenuously confessed in his surprise that he didn't know
whether politeness ought to oblige him to stop and shake
hands, or to pass by without seeing me; evidently showing that
he thought I was about something equivocal."

The laugh was now turned against Mr. Thorn, but he went on
cutting his geraniums with a grave face.

"Well," said he at length, "I think it is something of very
equivocal utility. Why should such gentle hands and feet spend
their strength in clod-breaking, when rough ones are at
command?"

There was nothing equivocal about Fleda's merriment this time.

"I have learned, Mr. Thorn, by sad experience, that the rough
hands break more than the clods. One day I set Philetus to
work among my flowers; and the first thing I knew, he had
pulled up a fine passion-flower which didn't make much show
above ground, and was displaying it to me with the grave
commentary, 'Well! that root did grow to a great haigth!' "

"Some mental clod-breaking to be done up there, isn't there?"
said Thorn, in a kind of aside. "I cannot express my
admiration at the idea of your dealing with those boors, as it
has been described to me."

"They do not deserve the name, Mr. Thorn," said Fleda. "They
are many of them most sensible and excellent people, and
friends that I value very highly."

"Ah! your goodness would make friends of everything."

"Not of boors, I hope," said Fleda, coolly. "Besides, what do
you mean by the name?"

"Anybody incapable of appreciating that of which you alone
should be unconscious," he said, softly.

Fleda stood impatiently tapping her flowers against her left
hand.

"I doubt their power of appreciation reaches a point that
would surprise you, Sir."

"It does indeed — if I am mistaken in my supposition," he
said, with a glance which Fleda refused to acknowledge.

"What proportion, do you suppose," she went on, "of all these
roomfuls of people behind us — without saying anything
uncharitable — what proportion of them, if compelled to amuse
themselves for two hours at a bookcase, would pitch upon
Macaulay's Essays, or anything like them, to spend the time?"

"Hum — really, Miss Fleda," said Thorn, "I should want to
brush up my Algebra considerably before I could hope to find
x, y, and z in such a confusion of the alphabet."

"Or extract the small sensible root of such a quantity of
light matter," said Mr. Stackpole.

"Will you bear with my vindication of my country friends? —
Hugh and I sent for a carpenter to make some new arrangement
of shelves in a cupboard where we kept our books; he was one
of these boors, Mr. Thorn, in no respect above the rest. The
right stuff for his work was wanting, and while it was sent
for, he took up one of the volumes that were lying about, and
read perseveringly until the messenger returned. It was a
volume of Macaulay's Miscellanies; and afterwards he borrowed
the book of me."

"And you lent it to him?" said Constance.

"Most assuredly; and with a great deal of pleasure."

"And is this no more than a common instance, Miss Ringgan?"
said Mr. Carleton.

"No, I think not," said Fleda; the quick blood in her cheeks
again answering the familiar voice and old associations; — "I
know several of the farmers' daughters around us that have
studied Latin and Greek; and philosophy is a common thing; and
I am sure there is more sense —"

She suddenly checked herself, and her eye which had been
sparkling grew quiet.

"It is very absurd!" said Mr. Stackpole.

"Why, Sir?"

"Oh, these people have nothing to do with such things — do
them nothing but harm!"

"May I ask again, what harm?" said Fleda, gently.

"Unfit them for the duties of their station, and make them
discontented with it."

"By making it pleasanter?"

"No, no — not by making it pleasanter."

"By what then, Mr. Stackpole?" said Thorn, to draw him on, and
to draw her out, Fleda was sure.

"By lifting them out of it."

"And what objection to lifting them out of it?" said Thorn.

"You can't lift every body out of it," said the gentleman,
with a little irritation in his manner — "that station must be
filled — there must always be poor people."

"And what degree of poverty ought to debar a man from the
pleasures of education and a cultivated taste, such as he can
attain?"

"No, no, not that," said Mr. Stackpole; "but it all goes to
fill them with absurd notions about their place in society,
inconsistent with proper subordination."

Fleda looked at him, but shook her head slightly, and was
silent.

"Things are in very different order on our side the water,"
said Mr. Stackpole, hugging himself.

"Are they?" said Fleda.

"Yes — we understand how to keep things in their places a
little better."

"I did not know," said Fleda, quietly, "that it was by _design_
of the rulers of England that so many of her lower class are
in the intellectual condition of our slaves."

"Mr. Carleton," said Mrs. Evelyn, laughing, "what do you say
to that, Sir?"

Fleda's face turned suddenly to him with a quick look of
apology, which she immediately knew was not needed.

"But this kind of thing don't make the people any happier,"
pursued Mr. Stackpole; — "only serves to give them uppish and
dissatisfied longings that cannot be gratified."

"Somebody says," observed Thorn, "that 'under a despotism all
are contented, because none can get on, and in a republic,
none are contented, because all can get on.' "

"Precisely," said Mr. Stackpole.

"That might do very well if the world were in a state of
perfection," said Fleda. "As it is, commend me to discontent
and getting on. And the uppishness, I am afraid, is a national
fault, Sir; you know our state motto is 'Excelsior.' "

"We are at liberty to suppose," said Thorn, "that Miss Ringgan
has followed the example of her friends, the farmers'
daughters? — or led them in it?"

"It is dangerous to make surmises," said Fleda, colouring.

"It is a pleasant way of running into danger," said Mr. Thorn,
who was leisurely pruning the prickles from the stem of a
rose.

"I was talking to a gentleman once," said Fleda, "about the
birds and flowers we find in our wilds; and he told me
afterwards gravely, that he was afraid I was studying too many
things at once! — when I was innocent of all ornithology but
what my eyes and ears had picked up in the wood, except some
childish reminiscences of Audubon."

"That is just the right sort of learning for a lady," said Mr.
Stackpole, smiling at her, however; "women have nothing to do
with books."

"What do you say to that, Miss Fleda?" said Thorn.

"Nothing, Sir; it is one of those positions that are
unanswerable."

"But, Mr. Stackpole," said Mrs. Evelyn, "I don't like that
doctrine, Sir. I do not believe in it at all."

"That is unfortunate — for my doctrine," said the gentleman.

"But I do not believe it is yours. Why must women have nothing
to do with books? what harm do they do, Mr. Stackpole?"

"Not needed, Ma'am; a woman, as somebody says, knows
intuitively all that is really worth knowing."

"Of what use is a mine that is never worked?" said Mr.
Carleton.

"It is worked," said Mr. Stackpole. "Domestic life is the true
training for the female mind. One woman will learn more wisdom
from the child on her breast than another will learn from ten
thousand volumes."

"It is very doubtful how much wisdom the child will ever learn
from her," said Mr. Carleton, smiling.

"A woman who never saw a book," pursued Mr. Stackpole,
unconsciously quoting his author, "may be infinitely superior,
even in all those matters of which books treat, to the woman
who has read, and read intelligently, a whole library."

"Unquestionably; and it is, likewise, beyond question, that a
silver sixpence may be worth more than a washed guinea."

"But a woman's true sphere is in her family — in her home
duties, which furnish the best and most appropriate training
for her faculties — pointed out by nature itself."

"Yes!" said Mr. Carleton — "and for those duties, some of the
very highest and noblest that are entrusted to human agency,
the fine machinery that is to perform them should be wrought
to its last point of perfectness. The wealth of a woman's
mind, instead of lying in the rough, should be richly brought
out and fashioned for its various ends, while yet those ends
are in the future, or it will never meet the demand. And, for
her own happiness, all the more because her sphere is at home,
her home stores should be exhaustless — the stores she cannot
go abroad to seek. I would add to strength beauty, and to
beauty grace, in the intellectual proportions, so far as
possible. It were ungenerous in man to condemn the _best_ half
of human intellect to insignificance, merely because it is not
his own."

Mrs. Evelyn wore a smile of admiration that nobody saw, but
Fleda's face was a study while Mr. Carleton was saying this.
Her look was fixed upon him with such intent satisfaction and
eagerness, that it was not till he had finished that she
became aware that those dark eyes were going very deep into
hers, and suddenly put a stop to the inquisition.

"Very pleasant doctrine to the ears that have an interest in
it," said Mr. Stackpole, rather discontentedly.

"The man knows little of his own interest," said Mr. Carleton,
"who would leave that ground waste, or would cultivate it only
in the narrow spirit of a utilitarian. He needs an influence
in his family not more refreshing than rectifying; and no man
will seek that in one greatly his inferior. He is to be pitied
who cannot fall back upon his home with the assurance that he
has there something better than himself."

"Why, Mr. Carleton, Sir," said Mrs. Evelyn, with every line of
her mouth saying funny things — "I am afraid you have sadly
neglected your own interest — have you anything at Carleton
better than yourself?"

Suddenly cool again, he laughed, and said, "You were there,
Mrs. Evelyn."

"But, Mr. Carleton," pursued the lady, with a mixture of
insinuation and fun — "why were you never married?"

"Circumstances have always forbade it," he answered, with a
smile, which Constance declared was the most fascinating thing
she ever saw in her life.

Fleda was arranging her flowers, with the help of some very
unnecessary suggestions from the donor.

"Mr. Lewis," said Constance, with a kind of insinuation very
different from her mother's, made up of fun and dating, — "Mr.
Carleton has been giving me a long lecture on botany, while my
attention was distracted by listening to your _spirituel_
conversation."

"Well, Miss Constance?"

"And I am morally certain I sha'n't recollect a word of it if
I don't carry away some specimens to refresh my memory, and in
that case he would never give me another."

It was impossible to help laughing at the distressful position
of the young lady's eyebrows, and, with at least some measure
of outward grace, Mr. Thorn set about complying with her
request. Fleda again stood tapping her left hand with her
flowers, wondering a little that somebody else did not come
and speak to her, but he was talking to Mrs. Evelyn and Mr.
Stackpole. Fleda did not wish to join them, and nothing better
occurred to her than to arrange her flowers over again; so,
throwing them all down before her on a marble slab, she began
to pick them up one by one, and put them together, with, it
must be confessed, a very indistinct realization of the
difference between myrtle and lemon blossoms; and as she
seemed to be laying acacia to rose, and disposing some sprigs
of beautiful heath behind them, in reality she was laying
kindness alongside of kindness, and looking at the years
beyond years where their place had been. It was with a little
start that she suddenly found the person of her thoughts
standing at her elbow, and talking to her in bodily presence.
But while he spoke with all the ease and simplicity of old
times, almost making Fleda think it was but last week they had
been strolling through the Place de la Concorde together,
there was a constraint upon her that she could not get rid of,
and that bound eye and tongue. It might have worn off, but his
attention was presently claimed again by Mrs. Evelyn, and
Fleda thought best, while yet Constance's bouquet was
unfinished, to join another party, and make her escape into
the drawing-rooms.


CHAPTER VII.


"Have you observed a sitting hare,
List'ning, and, fearful of the storm
Of horns and hounds, clap back her ear,
Afraid to keep or leave her form?
PRIOR.


By the Evelyns' own desire, Fleda's going to them was delayed
for a week, because, they said, a furnace was to be brought
into the house, and they would be all topsy-turvy till that
fuss was over. Fleda kept herself very quiet in the meantime,
seeing almost nobody but the person whom it was her especial
object to shun. Do her best, she could not quite escape him,
and was even drawn into two or three walks and rides, in spite
of denying herself utterly to gentlemen at home, and losing,
in consequence, a visit from her old friend. She was glad at
last to go to the Evelyns, and see company again, hoping that
Mr. Thorn would be merged in a crowd.

But she could not merge him, and sometimes was almost inclined
to suspect that his constant prominence in the picture must be
owing to some mysterious and wilful conjuration going on in
the background. She was at a loss to conceive how else it
happened that, despite her utmost endeavours to the contrary,
she was so often thrown upon his care, and obliged to take up
with his company. It was very disagreeable. Mr. Carleton she
saw almost as constantly, but, though frequently near, she had
never much to do with him. There seemed to be a dividing
atmosphere always in the way, and whenever he did speak to
her, she felt miserably constrained, and unable to appear like
herself. Why was it? she asked herself, in a very vexed state
of mind. No doubt, partly from the remembrance of that
overheard conversation which she could not help applying, but
much more from an indefinable sense that at these times there
were always eyes upon her. She tried to charge the feeling
upon her consciousness of their having heard that same talk,
but it would not the more go off. And it had no chance to wear
off, for somehow, the occasions never lasted long — something
was sure to break them up — while an unfortunate combination
of circumstances, or of connivers, seemed to give Mr. Thorn
unlimited facilities in the same kind. Fleda was quick-witted
and skilful enough to work herself out of them once in a
while; more often the combination was too much for her
simplicity and straightforwardness.

She was a little disappointed and a little surprised at Mr.
Carleton's coolness. He was quite equal to withstand or out-
general the schemes of any set of manoeuvrers; therefore it
was plain he did not care for the society of his little friend
and companion of old time. Fleda felt it, especially as she
now and then heard him in delightful talk with somebody else,
making himself so interesting that, when Fleda could get a
chance to listen, she was quite ready to forgive his not
talking to her for the pleasure of hearing him talk at all.
But at other times she said, sorrowfully to herself, "He will
be going home presently, and I shall not have seen him."

One day she had successfully defended herself against taking a
drive which Mr. Thorn came to propose, though the proposition
had been laughingly backed by Mrs. Evelyn. Raillery was much
harder to withstand than persuasion, but Fleda's quiet
resolution had proved a match for both. The better to cover
her ground, she declined to go out at all, and remained at
home, the only one of the family, that fine day.

In the afternoon Mr. Carleton was there. Fleda sat a little
apart from the rest, industriously bending over a complicated
piece of embroidery belonging to Constance, and in which that
young lady had made a great blunder, which she declared her
patience unequal to the task of rectifying. The conversation
went gaily forward among the others, Fleda taking no part in
it beyond an involuntary one. Mr. Carleton's part was rather
reserved and grave, according to his manner in ordinary
society.

"What do you keep bothering yourself with that for?" said
Edith, coming to Fleda's side.

"One must be doing something, you know," said Fleda, lightly.

"No, you mustn't — not when you're tired — and I know you are.
I'd let Constance pick out her own work."

"I promised her I would do it," said Fleda.

"Well, you didn't promise her when. Come! — everybody's been
out but you, and you have sat here over this the whole day.
Why don't you come over there and talk with the rest? I know
you want to, for I've watched your mouth going."

"Going! — how!"

"Going — off at the corners. I've seen it! Come."

But Fleda said she could listen and work at once, and would
not budge. Edith stood looking at her a little while in a kind
of admiring sympathy, and then went back to the group.

"Mr. Carleton," said the young lady, who was treading with
laudable success in the steps of her sister Constance — "what
has become of that ride you promised to give me?"

"I do not know, Miss Edith," said Mr. Carleton, smiling, "for
my conscience never had the keeping of it."

"Hush, Edith!" said her mother; "do you think Mr. Carleton has
nothing to do but to take you riding?"

"I don't believe he has much to do," said Edith, securely.
"But, Mr. Carleton, you did promise, for I asked you, and you
said nothing; and I always have been told that silence gives
consent; so what is to become of it?"

"Will you go now, Miss Edith?"

"Now? — O, yes! And will you go out to Manhattanville, Mr.
Carleton — along by the river?"

"If you like. But, Miss Edith, the carriage will hold another
— cannot you persuade one of these ladies to go with us?"

"Fleda!" said Edith, springing off to her with extravagant
capers of joy — "Fleda, you shall go! you haven't been out to-
day."

"And I cannot go out to-day," said Fleda, gently.

"The air is very fine," said Mr. Carleton, approaching her
table, with no want of alacrity in step or tone, her ears
knew; "and this weather makes everything beautiful. Has that
piece of canvas any claims upon you that cannot be put aside
for a little?"

"No, Sir," said Fleda, "but, I am sorry I have a stronger
reason that must keep me at home."

"She knows how the weather looks," said Edith; "Mr. Thorn
takes her out every other day. It's no use to talk to her, Mr.
Carleton — when she says she wont, she wont."

"Every other day!" said Fleda.

"No, no," said Mrs. Evelyn, coming up, and with that smile
which Fleda had never liked so little as at that minute — "not
_every other_ day, Edith; what are you talking of? Go, and don't
keep Mr. Carleton waiting."

Fleda worked on, feeling a little aggrieved. Mr. Carleton
stood still by her table, watching her, while his companions
were getting themselves ready; but he said no more, and Fleda
did not raise her head till the party were off. Florence had
taken her resigned place.

"I dare say the weather will be quite as fine to-morrow, dear
Fleda," said Mrs. Evelyn, softly.

"I hope it will," said Fleda, in a tone of resolute
simplicity.

"I only hope it will not bring too great a throng of carriages
to the door," Mrs. Evelyn went on, in a tone of great internal
amusement; "I never used to mind it, but I have lately a
nervous fear of collisions."

"To-morrow is not your reception-day?" said Fleda.

"No, not mine," said Mrs. Evelyn, softly — "but that doesn't
signify — it may be one of my neighbours."

Fleda pulled away at her threads of worsted, and wouldn't know
anything else.

"I have read of the servants of Lot and the servants of
Abraham quarrelling," Mrs. Evelyn went on, in the same
undertone of delight — "because the land was too strait for
them — I should be very sorry to have anything of the sort
happen again, for I cannot imagine where Lot would go to find
a plain that would suit him."

"Lot and Abraham, Mamma," said Constance, from the sofa —
"what on earth are you talking about?"

"None of your business," said Mrs. Evelyn; "I was talking of
some country friends of mine that you don't know."

Constance knew her mother's laugh very well, but Mrs. Evelyn
was impenetrable.

The next day Fleda ran away, and spent a good part of the
morning with her uncle in the library, looking over new books,
among which she found herself quite a stranger, so many had
made their appearance since the time when she had much to do
with libraries or book stores. Living friends, male and
female, were happily forgotten in the delighted acquaintance-
making with those quiet companions, which, whatever their
deficiencies in other respects, are at least never importunate
nor variable. Fleda had come home rather late, and was
dressing for dinner, with Constance's company and help, when
Mrs. Evelyn came into her room.

"My dear Fleda," said the lady, her face and voice as full as
possible of fun, "Mr. Carleton wants to know if you will ride
with him this afternoon. I told him I believed you were, in
general, shy of gentlemen that drove their own horses; that I
thought I had noticed you were; but I would come up and see."

"Mrs. Evelyn! — you did not tell him that?"

"He said he was sorry to see you looked pale yesterday when he
was asking you; and he was afraid that embroidery is not good
for you. He thinks you are a very charming girl —"

And Mrs. Evelyn went off into little fits of laughter, which
unstrung all Fleda's nerves. She stood absolutely trembling.

"Mamma, don't plague her!" said Constance. "He didn't say so."

"He did! — upon my word!" said Mrs. Evelyn, speaking with
great difficulty — "he said she was very charming, and it
might be dangerous to see too much of her."

"You made him say that, Mrs. Evelyn," said Fleda,
reproachfully.

"Well, I did ask him if you were not very charming, but he
answered — without hesitation," said the lady — "I am only so
afraid that Lot will make his appearance —"

Fleda turned round to the glass, and went on arranging her
hair, with a quivering lip.

"Lot! Mamma," said Constance, somewhat indignantly.

"Yes," said Mrs. Evelyn, in ecstasies; "because the land will
not bear both of them. But Mr. Carleton is very much in
earnest for his answer, Fleda, my dear — what shall I tell it
him? You need be under no apprehensions about going — he will
perhaps tell you that you are charming, but I don't I think he
will say anything more. You know, he is a kind of patriarch;
and when I asked him if he didn't think it might be dangerous
to see too much of you, he said he thought it might to some
people, so, you see, you are safe."

"Mrs. Evelyn, how could you use my name so?" said Fleda, with
a voice that carried a good deal of reproach.

"My dear Fleda, shall I tell him you will go? You need not be
afraid to go riding, only you must not let yourself be seen
walking with him."

"I shall not go, Ma'am," said Fleda, quietly.

"I wanted to send Edith with you, thinking it would be
pleasanter; but I knew Mr. Carleton's carriage would hold but
two to-day. So what shall I tell him?"

"I am not going, Ma'am," repeated Fleda.

"But what shall I tell him? I must give him some reason. Shall
I say that you think a sea-breeze is blowing, and you don't
like it? or shall I say that prospects are a matter of
indifference to you?"

Fleda was quite silent, and went on dressing herself with
trembling fingers.

"My dear Fleda," said the lady, bringing her face a little
into order, "wont you go? I am very sorry —"

"So am I sorry," said Fleda. "I can't go, Mrs. Evelyn."

"I will tell Mr. Carleton you are very sorry," said Mrs.
Evelyn, every line of her face drawing again — "that will
console him; and let him hope that you will not mind sea-
breezes by and by, after you have been a little longer in the
neighbourhood of them. I will tell him you are a good
republican, and have an objection, at present, to an English
equipage, but I have no doubt that is a prejudice which will
wear off."

She stopped to laugh, while Fleda had the greatest difficulty
not to cry. The lady did not seem to see her disturbed brow;
but recovering herself after a little, though not readily, she
bent forward and touched her lips to it in kind fashion. Fleda
did not look up, and saying again, "I will tell him, dear
Fleda," Mrs. Evelyn left the room.

Constance, after a little laughing and condoling, neither of
which Fleda attempted to answer, ran off, too, to dress
herself; and Fleda, after finishing her own toilette, locked
her door, sat down, and cried heartily. She thought Mrs.
Evelyn had been, perhaps unconsciously, very unkind; and to
say that unkindness has not been meant, is but to shift the
charge from one to another vital point in the character of a
friend, and one, perhaps, sometimes not less grave. A moment's
passionate wrong may consist with the endurance of a
friendship worth having, better than the thoughtlessness of
obtuse wits that can never know how to be kind. Fleda's whole
frame was still in a tremor from disagreeable excitement, and
she had serious causes of sorrow to cry for. She was sorry she
had lost what would have been a great pleasure in the ride —
and her great pleasures were not often — but nothing would
have been more impossible than for her to go after what Mrs.
Evelyn had said. She was sorry Mr. Carleton should have asked
her twice in vain — what must he think? — she was exceeding
sorry that a thought should have been put into her head that
never before had visited the most distant dreams of her
imagination, so needlessly, so gratuitously — she was very
sorry, for she could not be free of it again, and she felt it
would make her miserably hampered and constrained, in mind and
manner both, in any future intercourse with the person in
question. And then again, what would he think of that? Poor
Fleda came to the conclusion that her best place was at home,
and made up her mind to take the first good opportunity of
getting there.

She went down to dinner with no traces of either tears or
unkindness on her sweet face, but her nerves were quivering
all the afternoon — she could not tell whether Mrs. Evelyn and
her daughters found it out; and it was impossible for her to
get back even her old degree of freedom of manner before
either Mr. Carleton or Mr. Thorn, all the more, because Mrs.
Evelyn was every now and then bringing out some sly allusion,
which afforded herself intense delight, and wrought Fleda to
the last degree of quietness. Unkind — Fleda thought now it
was but half from ignorance of the mischief she was doing, and
the other half from the mere desire of selfish gratification.
The times and ways in which Lot and Abraham were walked into
the conversation were incalculable, and unintelligible, except
to the person who understood it only too well. On one
occasion, Mrs. Evelyn went on with a long rigmarole to Mr.
Thorn about sea-breezes, with a face of most exquisite delight
at his mystification and her own hidden fun, till Fleda was
absolutely trembling. Fleda shunned both the gentlemen, at
length, with a kind of nervous horror.

One steamer had left New York, and another, and still Mr.
Carleton did not leave it. Why he staid, Constance was as much
in a puzzle as ever, for no mortal could guess. Clearly, she
said, he did not delight in New York society, for he honoured
it as slightly and partially as might be; and it was equally
clear, if he had a particular reason for staying, he didn't
mean anybody should know it.

"If he don't mean it, you wont find it out, Constance," said
Fleda.

"But it is that very consideration, you see, which inflames my
impatience to a most dreadful degree. I think our house is
distinguished with his regards, though I am sure I can't
imagine why, for he never condescends to anything beyond
general benevolence when he is here, and not always to that.
He has no taste for embroidery, or Miss Ringgan's crewels
would receive more of his notice — he listens to my spirited
conversation with a self-possession which invariably deprives
me of mine! —and his ear is evidently dull to musical
sensibilities, or Florence's harp would have greater charms. I
hope there is a web weaving somewhere that will catch him — at
present he stands in an attitude of provoking independence of
all the rest of the world. It is curious," said Constance,
with an indescribable face — "I feel that the independence of
another is rapidly making a slave of me!" —

"What do you mean, Constance?' said Edith, indignantly. But
the others could do nothing but laugh.

Fleda did not wonder that Mr. Carleton made no more efforts to
get her to ride, for the very next day after his last failure
he had met her driving with Mr. Thorn. Fleda had been asked by
Mr. Thorn's mother, in such a way as made it impossible to get
off; but it caused her to set a fresh seal of unkindness to
Mrs. Evelyn's behaviour.

One evening, when there was no other company at Mrs. Evelyn's
Mr. Stackpole was entertaining himself with a long
dissertation upon the affairs of America, past, present, and
future. It was a favourite subject; Mr. Stackpole always
seemed to have more complacent enjoyment of his easy chair
when he could succeed in making every American in the room sit
uncomfortably. And this time, without any one to thwart him,
he went on to his heart's content disposing of the subject as
one would strip a rose of its petals, with as much seeming
_nonchalance_ and ease, and with precisely the same design, to
make a rose no rose. Leaf after leaf fell under Mr.
Stackpole's touch, as if it had been a black frost. The
American government was a rickety experiment — go to pieces
presently; American institutions an alternative between
fallacy and absurdity, the fruit of raw minds and precocious
theories; American liberty a contradiction; American character
a compound of quackery and pretension; American society
(except at Mrs. Evelyn's) an anomaly; American destiny the
same with that of a cactus, or a volcano — a period of rest
followed by a period of excitement; not, however, like the
former, making successive shoots towards perfection, but, like
the latter, grounding every new face of things upon the
demolition of that which went before. Smoothly and pleasantly
Mr. Stackpole went on compounding this cup of entertainment
for himself and his hearers, smacking his lips over it, and
all the more, Fleda thought, when they made wry faces;
throwing in a little truth, a good deal of fallacy, a great
deal of perversion and misrepresentation; while Mrs. Evelyn
listened and smiled, and half parried and half assented to his
positions; and Fleda sat impatiently drumming upon her elbow
with the fingers of her other hand, in the sheer necessity of
giving some expression to her feelings. Mr. Stackpole at last
got his finger upon the sore spot of American slavery, and
pressed it hard.

"This is the land of the stars and the stripes!" said the
gentleman, in a little fit of virtuous indignation; — "this is
the land where all are brothers! where 'All men are born free
and equal!' "

"Mr. Stackpole," said Fleda, in a tone that called his
attention; "are you well acquainted with the popular proverbs
of your country?"

"Not particularly," he said. He had never made it a branch of
study.

"I am a great admirer of them."

He bowed, and begged to be excused for remarking that he
didn't see the point yet.

"Do you remember this one, Sir," said Fleda, colouring a
little; " 'Those that live in glass houses shouldn't throw
stones?' "

"I have heard it; but, pardon me, though your remark seems to
imply the contrary, I am in the dark yet. What unfortunate
points of vitrification have I laid open to your fire?"

"I thought they were probably forgotten by you, Sir."

"I shall be exceedingly obliged to you if you will put me in
condition to defend myself."

"I think nothing could do that, Mr. Stackpole. Under whose
auspices and fostering care was this curse of slavery laid
upon America?"

"Why, of course — but you will observe, Miss Ringgan, that at
that day the world was unenlightened on a great many points;
since then, we have cast off the wrong which we then shared
with the rest of mankind."

"Ay, Sir, but not until we had first repudiated it, and
Englishmen had desired to force it back upon us at the point
of the sword. Four times —"

"But, my dear Fleda," interrupted Mrs. Evelyn, "the English
nation have no slaves, nor slave-trade; they have put an end
to slavery entirely, everywhere under their flag."

"They were very slow about it," said Fleda. "Four times the
government of Massachusetts abolished the slave-trade under
their control, and four times the English government thrust it
back upon them. Do you remember what Burke says about that, in
his speech on Conciliation with America?"

"It don't signify what Burke says about it," said Mr.
Stackpole, rubbing his chin — "Burke is not the first
authority; but, Miss Ringgan, it is undeniable that slavery,
and the slave-trade too, does at this moment exist in the
interior of your own country."

"I will never excuse what is wrong, Sir; but I think it
becomes an Englishman to be very moderate in putting forth
that charge."

"Why?" said he, hastily: "we have done away with it entirely
in our own dominions — wiped that stain clean off. Not a slave
can touch British ground but he breathes free air from that
minute."

"Yes, Sir; but candour will allow that we are not in a
condition in this country to decide the question by a _tour de
force_."

"What is to decide it, then!" said he, a little arrogantly.

"The progress of truth in public opinion."

"And why not the government, as well as our government!"

"It has not the power, you know, Sir."

"Not the power! well, that speaks for itself."

"Nothing against us, on a fair construction," said Fleda,
patiently. "It is well known, to those who understand the
subject" —

"Where did you learn so much about it, Fleda?" said Mrs.
Evelyn, humourously.

"As the birds pick up their supplies, Ma'am — here and there.
It is well known, Mr. Stackpole, that our constitution never
could have been agreed upon, if that question of slavery had
not been, by common consent, left where it was — with the
separate state governments."

"The separate state governments! — well, why do not _they_ put
an end to it? The disgrace is only shifted."

"Of course, they must first have the consent of the public
mind of those states."

"Ah! their consent! and why is their consent wanting?"

"We cannot defend ourselves there," said Mrs. Evelyn. "I wish
we could."

"The disgrace, at least, is shifted from the whole to a part.
But will you permit me," said Fleda, "to give another
quotation from my despised authority, and remind you of an
Englishman's testimony, that beyond a doubt that point of
emancipation would never have been carried in parliament had
the interests of even a part of the electors been concerned in
it!"

"It was done, however, and done at the expense of twenty
millions of money."

"And I am sure that was very noble," said Florence.

"It was what no nation but the English would ever have done,"
said Mrs. Evelyn.

"I do not wish to dispute it," said Fleda; "but still it was
doing what did not touch the sensitive point of their own
well-being."

"_We_ think there is a little national honour concerned in it,"
said Mr. Stackpole, drily, stroking his chin again.

"So does every right-minded person," said Mrs. Evelyn. "I am
sure I do."

"And I am sure so do I," said Fleda; "but I think the honour
of a piece of generosity is considerably lessened by the fact
that it is done at the expense of another."

"Generosity!" said Mr. Stackpole; "it was not generosity, it
was justice — there was no generosity about it."

"Then it deserves no honour at all," said Fleda, "if it was
merely that; the tardy execution of justice is but the removal
of a reproach."

"We Englishmen are of opinion, however," said Mr. Stackpole,
contentedly, "that the removers of a reproach are entitled to
some honour, which those who persist in retaining it cannot
claim."

"Yes," said Fleda, drawing rather a long breath, "I
acknowledge that; but I think that, while some of these same
Englishmen have shown themselves so unwilling to have the
condition of their own factory slaves ameliorated, they should
be very gentle in speaking of wrongs which we have far less
ability to rectify."

"Ah! I like consistency," said Mr. Stackpole. "America
shouldn't dress up poles with liberty caps, till all who walk
under are free to wear them. She cannot boast that the breath
of her air and the breath of freedom are one."

"Can England?" said Fleda, gently — "when her own citizens are
not free from the horrors of impressment?"

"Pshaw!" said Mr. Stackpole, half in a pet and half laughing;
"why where did you get such a fury against England? you are
the first _fair_ antagonist I have met on this side of the
water."

"I wish I was a better one, Sir," said Fleda, laughing.

"Miss Ringgan has been prejudiced by an acquaintance with one
or two unfortunate specimens," said Mrs. Evelyn.

"Ay!" said Mr. Stackpole, a little bitterly; "America is the
natural birthplace of prejudice — always was."

"Displayed, first, in maintaining the rights against the
swords of Englishmen; latterly, how, Mr. Stackpole?"

"It isn't necessary to enlighten _you_ on any part of the
subject," said he, a little pointedly.

"Fleda, my dear, you are answered," said Mrs. Evelyn,
apparently with great internal amusement.

"Yet you will indulge me so far as to indicate what part of
the subject you are upon?" said Fleda, quietly.

"You must grant so much as that to so gentle a requisition,
Mr. Stackpole," said the older lady.

"I venture to assume that you do not say that on your own
account, Mrs. Evelyn?"

"Not at all — I agree with you, that Americans are prejudiced;
but I think it will pass off, Mr. Stackpole, as they learn to
know themselves and other countries better."

"But how do they deserve such a charge and such a defence? or
how have they deserved it?" said Fleda.

"Tell her, Mr. Stackpole," said Mrs. Evelyn.

"Why," said Mr. Stackpole, "in their absurd opposition to all
the old and tried forms of things, and rancorous dislike of
those who uphold them; and in their pertinacity on every point
where they might be set right, and impatience of hearing the
truth."

"Are they singular in that last item?" said Fleda.

"Now," said Mr. Stackpole, not heeding her, "there's your
treatment of the aborigines of this country — what do call
that, for a _free_ people?"

"A powder magazine, communicating with a great one of your own
somewhere else; so, if you are a good subject, Sir, you will
not carry a lighted candle into it."

"One of our own — where?" said he.

"In India," said Fleda with a glance — "and there are I don't
know how many trains leading to it — so, better hands off,
Sir."

"Where did you pick up such a spite against us?" said Mr.
Stackpole, drawing a little back and eyeing her as one would a
belligerent mouse or cricket. "Will you tell me now that
Americans are not prejudiced?"

"What do you call prejudice?" said Fleda, smiling.

"Oh, there is a great deal of it, no doubt, here, Mr.
Stackpole," said Mrs. Evelyn, blandly; "but we shall grow out
of it in time; it is only the premature wisdom of a young
people."

"And young people never like to hear their wisdom rebuked,"
said. Mr. Stackpole, bowing.

"Fleda, my dear, what for is that little significant shake of
your head?" said Mrs. Evelyn, in her amused voice.

"A trifle, Ma'am."

"Covers a hidden rebuke, Mrs. Evelyn, I have no doubt, for
both our last remarks. What is it, Miss Fleda? — I dare say we
can bear it."

"I was thinking, Sir, that none would trouble themselves much
about our foolscap if we had not once made them wear it."

"Mr. Stackpole, you are worsted! — I only wish Mr. Carleton
had been here!" said Mrs. Evelyn, with a face of excessive
delight.

"I wish he had," said Fleda, "for then I need not have spoken
a word."

"Why," said Mr. Stackpole, a little irritated, "you suppose he
would have fought for you against me?"

"I suppose he would have fought for truth against anybody,
Sir," said Fleda.

"Even against his own interests?"

"If I am not mistaken in him," said Fleda, "he reckons his own
and those of truth identical."

The shout that was raised at this by all the ladies of the
family made her look up in wonderment.

"Mr. Carleton," said Mrs. Evelyn, "what do you say to that,
Sir?"

The direction of the lady's eye made Fleda spring up and face
about. The gentleman in question was standing quietly at the
back of her chair — too quietly, she saw, to leave any doubt
of his having been there some time. Mr. Stackpole uttered an
ejaculation, but Fleda stood absolutely motionless, and
nothing could be prettier than her colour.

"What do you say to what you have heard, Mr. Carleton?" said
Mrs. Evelyn.

Fleda's eyes were on the floor, but she thoroughly appreciated
the tone of the question.

"I hardly know whether I have listened with most pleasure or
pain, Mrs. Evelyn."

"Pleasure!" said Constance.

"Pain!" said Mr. Stackpole.

"I am certain Miss Ringgan was pure from any intention of
giving pain," said Mrs. Evelyn, with her voice of contained
fun. "She has no national antipathies, I am sure — unless in
the case of the Jews — she is too charming a girl for that."

"Miss Ringgan cannot regret less than I a word that she has
spoken," said Mr. Carleton, looking keenly at her as she drew
back and took a seat a little off from the rest.

"Then why was the pain?" said Mr. Stackpole.

"That there should have been any occasion for them, Sir."

"Well, I wasn't sensible of the occasion, so I didn't feel the
pain," said Mr. Stackpole, drily — for the other gentleman's
tone was almost haughtily significant. "But if I had, the
pleasure of such sparkling eyes would have made me forget it.
Good evening, Mrs. Evelyn — good evening, my gentle antagonist
— it seems to me you have learned, if it is permissible to
alter one of your favourite proverbs, that it is possible to
_break two windows_ with one stone. However, I don't feel that I
go away with any of mine shattered."

"Fleda, my dear," said Mrs. Evelyn, laughing, "what do you say
to that?"

"As he is not here, I will say nothing to it, Mrs. Evelyn,"
said Fleda, quietly drawing off to the table with her work,
and again in a tremor from head to foot.

"Why, didn't you see Mr. Carleton come in?" said Edith,
following her; "I did — he came in long before you had done
talking, and mamma held up her finger and made him stop; and
he stood at the back of your chair the whole time listening.
Mr. Stackpole didn't know he was there either. But what's the
matter with you?"

"Nothing," said Fleda; but she made her escape out of the room
the next instant.

"Mamma," said Edith, "what ails Fleda?"

"I don't know, my love," said Mrs. Evelyn. "Nothing, I hope."

"There does, though," said Edith, decidedly.

"Come here, Edith," said Constance, "and don't meddle with
matters above your comprehension. Miss Ringgan has probably
hurt her hand with throwing stones."

"Hurt her hand!" said Edith. But she was taken possession of
by her eldest sister.

"That is a lovely girl, Mr. Carleton," said Mrs. Evelyn, with
an indescribable look — outwardly benign, but beneath that
most keen in its scrutiny.

He bowed rather abstractedly.

"She will make a charming little farmer's wife — don't you
think so?"

"Is that her lot, Mrs. Evelyn?" he said, with a somewhat
incredulous smile.

"Why, no — not precisely," said the lady; "you know, in the
country, or you do not know, the ministers are half farmers,
but I suppose not more than half; just such a mixture as will
suit Fleda, I should think. She has not told me in so many
words, but it is easy to read so ingenuous a nature as hers,
and I have discovered that there is a most deserving young
friend of mine settled at Queechy that she is by no means
indifferent to. I take it for granted that will be the end of
it," said Mrs. Evelyn, pinching her sofa cushion in a great
many successive places, with a most composed and satisfied
air.

But Mr. Carleton did not seem at all interested in the
subject, and presently introduced another.


CHAPTER VIII.


"It is a hard matter for friends to meet: but mountains may be
removed with earthquakes, and so encounter."
AS YOU LIKE IT.


"What have we to do to-night?" said Florence, at breakfast the
next morning.

"You have no engagement, have you?" said her mother.

"No, Mamma," said Constance, arching her eyebrows — "we are to
taste the sweets of domestic life — you, as head of the
family, will go to sleep in the _dormeuse_, and Florence and I
shall take turns in yawning by your side."

"And what will Fleda do?" said Mrs. Evelyn, laughing.

"Fleda, Mamma, will be wrapped in remorseful recollections of
having enacted a mob last evening, and have enough occupation
in considering how she shall repair damages."

"Fleda , my dear, she is very saucy," said Mrs. Evelyn,
sipping her tea with great comfort.

"Why should we yawn to-night any more than last night?" said
Fleda — a question which Edith would certainly have asked if
she had not been away at school. The breakfast was too late
for both her and her father.

"Last night, my dear, your fractious disposition kept us upon
half breath; there wasn't time to yawn. I meant to have eased
my breast by laughing afterwards, but that expectation was
stifled."

"What stifled it?"

"I was afraid!" said Constance, with a little flutter of her
person up and down in her chair.

"Afraid of what?"

"And besides, you know, we can't have our drawing-rooms filled
with distinguished foreigners every evening we are not at
home. I shall direct the fowling-piece to be severe in his
execution of orders to-night, and let nobody in. I forgot!"
exclaimed Constance, with another flutter — "it is Mr. Thorn's
night! My dearest mamma, will you consent to have the dormeuse
wheeled round with its back to the fire? — and Florence and I
will take the opportunity to hear little Edith's lessons in
the next room, unless Mr. Decatur comes. I must endeavour to
make the Manton comprehend what he has to do."

"But what is to become of Mr. Evelyn?" said Fleda; "you make
Mrs. Evelyn the head of the family very unceremoniously."

"Mr. Evelyn, my dear," said Constance, gravely, "makes a
futile attempt semi-weekly to beat his brains out with a club;
and every successive failure encourages him to try again; the
only effect being a temporary decapitation of his family; and
I believe this is the night on which he periodically turns a
frigid eye upon their destitution."

"You are too absurd!" said Florence, reaching over for a
sausage.

"Dear Constance!" said Fleda, half laughing, "why do you talk
so?"

"Constance, behave yourself," said her mother.

"Mamma," said the young lady, "I am actuated by a benevolent
desire to effect a diversion of Miss Ringgan's mind from its
gloomy meditations, by presenting to her some more real
subjects of distress."

"I wonder if you ever looked at such a thing," said Fleda.

"What 'such a thing'?"

"As a real subject of distress."

"Yes; I have one incessantly before me in your serious
countenance. Why in the world, Fleda, don't you look like
other people?"

"I suppose, because I don't feel like them."

"And why don't you? I am sure you ought to be as happy as most
people."

"I think I am a great deal happier," said Fleda.

"Than I am?" said the young lady, with arched eyebrows. But
they went down, and her look softened in spite of herself, at
the eye and smile which answered her.

"I should be very glad, dear Constance, to know you were as
happy as I."

"Why do you think I am not?" said the young lady, a little
tartly.

"Because no happiness would satisfy me that cannot last."

"And why can't it last?"

"It is not built upon lasting things."

"Pshaw!" said Constance, "I wouldn't have such a dismal kind
of happiness as yours, Fleda, for anything."

"Dismal!" said Fleda, smiling; "because it can never
disappoint me? or because it isn't noisy?"

"My dear little Fleda," said Constance, in her usual manner,
"you have lived up there among the solitudes till you have got
morbid ideas of life, which it makes me melancholy to observe.
I am very much afraid they verge towards stagnation."

"No, indeed!" said Fleda, laughing; "but, if you please, with
me the stream of life has flowed so quietly, that I have
looked quite to the bottom, and know how shallow it is, and
growing shallower; I could not venture my bark of happiness
there; but with you it is like a spring torrent — the foam and
the roar hinder your looking deep into it."

Constance gave her a significant glance; a strong contrast to
the earnest simplicity of Fleda's face, and presently inquired
if she ever wrote poetry.

"Shall I have the pleasure, some day, of discovering your
uncommon signature in the secular corner of some religious
newspaper?"

"I hope not," said Fleda, quietly.

Joe Manton just then brought in a bouquet for Miss Evelyn, a
very common enlivener of the breakfast-table, all the more
when, as in the present case, the sisters could not divine
where it came from. It moved Fleda's wonder to see how very
little the flowers were valued for their own sake; the
probable cost, the probable giver, the probable _éclat_, were
points enthusiastically discussed and thoroughly appreciated;
but the sweet messengers themselves were carelessly set by for
other eyes, and seemed to have no attraction for those they
were destined to. Fleda enjoyed them at a distance, and could
not help thinking that Heaven sends almonds to those that have
no teeth.

"This camellia will just do for my hair to-morrow night!" said
Florence; "just what I want with my white muslin."

"I think I will go with you to-morrow, Florence," said Fleda;
"Mrs. Decatur has asked me so often."

"Well, my dear, I shall be made happy by your company," said
Florence abstractedly, examining her bouquet. "I am afraid it
hasn't stem enough, Constance; never mind — I'll fix it —
where is the end of this myrtle? I shall be very glad, of
course, Fleda, my dear, but" — picking her bouquet to pieces —
"I think it right to tell you, privately, I am afraid you will
find it very stupid."

"Oh, I dare say she will not," said Mrs. Evelyn; "she can go
and try, at any rate; she would find it very stupid with me
here alone, and Constance at the concert; I dare say she will
find some one there whom she knows."

"But the thing is, Mamma, you see, at these _conversaziones_
they never talk anything but French and German — I don't know
— _of course_ I should be delighted to have Fleda with me, and I
have no doubt Mrs. Decatur would be very glad to have her; but
I am afraid she wont enjoy herself."

"I do not want to go where I shall not enjoy myself," said
Fleda, quietly; "that is certain."

"Of course, you know, dear, I would a great deal rather have
you than not; I only speak for what I think would be for your
pleasure."

"I would do just as I felt inclined, Fleda," said Mrs. Evelyn.

"I shall let her encounter the dullness alone, Ma'am," said
Fleda, lightly.

But it was not in a light mood that she put on her bonnet
after dinner, and set out to pay a visit to her uncle at the
library; she had resolved that she would not be near the
_dormeuse_ in whatsoever relative position that evening. Very,
very quiet she was; her grave little face walked through the
crowd of busy, bustling, anxious people, as if she had nothing
in common with them; and Fleda felt that she had very little.
Half unconsciously, as she passed along the streets, her eye
scanned the countenances of that moving panorama; and the
report it brought back made her draw closer within herself.

She wondered that her feet had ever tripped lightly up those
library stairs.

"Ha! my fair Saxon," said the doctor, "what has brought you
down here to-day?"

"I felt in want of something fresh, uncle Orrin, so I thought
I would come and see you."

"Fresh!" said he. "Ah! you are pining for green fields, I
know. But, you little piece of simplicity, there are no green
fields now at Queechy, they are two feet deep with snow by
this time."

"Well, I am sure _that_ is fresh," said Fleda, smiling.

The doctor was turning over great volumes one after another in
a delightful confusion of business.

"When do you think you shall go north, uncle Orrin?"

"North?" said he — "what do you want to know about the north?"

"You said, you know, Sir, that you would go a little out of
your way to leave me at home."

"I wont go out of my way for anybody. If I leave you there, it
will be in my way. Why, you are not getting home-sick?"

"No Sir, not exactly; but I think I will go with you when you
go."

"That wont be yet awhile; I thought those people wanted you to
stay till January."

"Ay, but suppose I want to do something else?"

He looked at her with a comical kind of indecision, and said —

"You don't know what you want; I thought when you came in you
needn't go further than the glass to see something fresh; but
I believe the sea-breezes haven't had enough of you yet. Which
part of you wants freshening?" he said, in his mock-fierce
way.

Fleda laughed, and said she didn't know.

"Out of humour, I guess," said the doctor. "I'll talk to you.
Take this and amuse yourself awhile with something that isn't
fresh till I get through, and then you shall go home with me."

Fleda carried the large volume into one of the reading-rooms,
where there was nobody, and sat down at the baize-covered
table. But the book was not of the right kind, or her mood was
not, for it failed to interest her. She sat nonchalantly
turning over the leaves; but mentally she was busy turning
over other leaves, which had by far most of her attention. The
pages that memory read — the record of the old times passed in
that very room, and the old childish light-hearted feelings
that were, she thought, as much beyond recall. Those pleasant
times, when the world was all bright and friends all fair, and
the light heart had never been borne down by the pressure of
care, nor sobered by disappointment, nor chilled by
experience. The spirit will not spring elastic again from
under that weight; and the flower that has closed upon its own
sweetness will not open a second time to the world's breath.
Thoughtfully, softly, she was touching and feeling of the
bands that years had fastened about her heart — they would not
be undone — though so quietly and almost stealthily they had
been bound there. She was remembering the shadows that, one
after another, had been cast upon her life, till now one soft
veil of a cloud covered the whole; no storm-cloud certainly,
but also there was nothing left of the glad sunlight that her
young eyes rejoiced in. At Queechy the first shadow had
fallen; it was a good while before the next one, but then they
came thick. There was the loss of some old comforts and
advantages, that could have been borne; then, consequent upon
that, the annoyances and difficulties that had wrought such a
change in her uncle, till Fleda could hardly look back and.
believe that he was the same person. Once manly, frank, busy,
happy and making his family so — now reserved, gloomy,
irritable, unfaithful to his duty, and selfishly throwing down
the burden they must take up, but were far less able to bear.
And so Hugh was changed too; not in loveliness of character
and demeanour, nor even much in the always gentle and tender
expression of countenance; but the animal spirits and frame,
that should have had all the strong cherishing and bracing
that affection and wisdom together could have applied, had
been left to wear themselves out under trials his father had
shrunk from, and other trials his father had made. And Mrs.
Rossitur— it was hard for Fleda to remember the face she wore
at Paris — the bright eye and joyous corners of the mouth,
that now were so utterly changed. All by his fault — that made
it so hard to bear. Fleda had thought all this a hundred
times; she went over it now as one looks at a thing one is
well accustomed to; not with new sorrow, only in a subdued
mood of mind just fit to make the most of it. The familiar
place took her back to the time when it became familiar; she
compared herself sitting there, and feeling the whole world a
blank, except for the two or three at home, with the child who
had sat there years before in that happy time "when the
feelings were young and the world was new."

Then the Evelyns — why should they trouble one so inoffensive,
and so easily troubled as her poor little self? They did not
know all they were doing; but if they had eyes, they must see
a little of it. Why could she not have been allowed to keep
her old free, simple feeling with everybody, instead of being
hampered, and constrained, and miserable, from this
pertinacious putting of thoughts in her head that ought not to
be there? It had made her unlike herself, she knew, in the
company of several people. And perhaps _they_ might be sharp-
sighted enough to read it; but, even if not, how it had
hindered her enjoyment! She had taken so much pleasure in the
Evelyns last year, and in her visit; well, she would go home
and forget it, and maybe they would come to their right minds
by the next time she saw them.

"What pleasant times we used to have here once, uncle Orrin!"
she said, with half a sigh, the other half quite made up by
the tone in which she spoke. But it was not, as she thought,
uncle Orrin that was standing by her side, and looking up as
she finished speaking — Fleda saw, with a start, that it was
Mr. Carleton. There was such a degree of life and pleasantness
in his eyes, that, in spite of the start, her own quite
brightened.

"That is a pleasure one may always command," he said,
answering part of her speech.

"Ay, provided one has one's mind always under command," said
Fleda. "It is possible to sit down to a feast with a want of
appetite."

"In such a case, what is the best tonic?"

His manner, even in those two minutes, had put Fleda perfectly
at her ease, ill-bred eyes and ears being absent. She looked
up and answered, with such entire trust in him, as made her
forget that she had ever had any cause to distrust herself.

"For me," she said, "as a general rule, nothing is better than
to go out of doors — into the woods or the garden — they are
the best fresheners I know of. I can do myself good there at
times when books are a nuisance."

"You are not changed from your old self," he said.

The wish was strong upon Fleda to know whether _he_ was, but it
was not till she saw the answer in his face that she knew how
plainly hers had asked the question. And then she was so
confused that she did not know what the answer had been.

"I find it so, too," he said. "The influences of pure nature
are the best thing I know for some moods — after the company
of a good horse."

"And you on his back, I suppose?"

"That was my meaning. What is the doubt thereupon?" said he,
laughing.

"Did I express any doubt?"

"Or my eyes were mistaken."

"I remember they never used to be that," said Fleda.

"What was it?"

"Why," said Fleda, thinking that Mr. Carleton had probably
retained more than one of his old habits, for she was
answering with her old obedience — "I was doubting what the
influence is in that case — worth analyzing, I think. I am
afraid the good horse's company has little to do with it."

"What, then, do you suppose?" said he, smiling.

"Why," said Fleda — "it might be — but I beg your pardon, Mr.
Carleton! I am astonished at my own presumption."

"Go on, and let me know why," he said, with that happiness of
manner which was never resisted. Fleda went on, reassuring her
courage now and then with a glance.

"The relief _might_ spring, Sir, from the gratification of a
proud feeling of independence — or from a dignified sense of
isolation — or an imaginary riding down of opposition — or the
consciousness of being master of what you have in hand."

She would have added to the general category, "the running
away from one's-self;" but the eye and bearing of the person
before her forbade even such a thought as connected with him.
He laughed, but shook his head.

"Perhaps, then," said Fleda, "it may be nothing worse than the
working off of a surplus of energy or impatience that leaves
behind no more than can be managed."

"You have learned something of human nature since I had the
pleasure of knowing you," he said, with a look at once amused
and penetrating.

"I wish I hadn't," said Fleda.

Her countenance absolutely fell.

"I sometimes think," said he, turning over the leaves of her
book, "that these are the best companionship one can have —
the world at large is very unsatisfactory."

"O, how much!" said Fleda, with a long breath. "The only
pleasant thing that my eyes rested upon as I came through the
streets this afternoon, was a huge bunch of violets that
somebody was carrying. I walked behind them as long as I
could."

"Is your old love for Queechy in full force?" said Mr.
Carleton, still turning over the leaves, and smiling.

"I believe so — I should be very sorry to live here long — at
home I can always go out and find society that refreshes me."

"You have set yourself a high standard," he said, with no
displeased expression of the lips.

"I have been charged with that," said Fleda; "but is it
possible to set too high a standard, Mr. Carleton?"

"One may leave one's-self almost alone in the world."

"Well, even then," said Fleda, "I would rather have only the
image of excellence than be contented with inferiority."

"Isn't it possible to do both?" said he, smiling again.

"I don't know," said Fleda; "perhaps I am too easily
dissatisfied — I believe I have grown fastidious, living alone
— I have sometimes almost a disgust at the world and
everything in it."

"I have often felt so," he said; "but I am not sure that it is
a mood to be indulged in — likely to further our own good or
that of others."

"I am sure it is not," said Fleda; "I often feel vexed with
myself for it; but what can one do, Mr. Carleton?"

"Don't your friends the flowers help you in this?"

"Not a bit," said Fleda — "they draw the other way; their
society is so very pure and satisfying, that one is all the
less inclined to take up with the other."

She could not tell quite what to make of the smile with which
he began to speak; it half abashed her.

"When I spoke, a little while ago," said he, "of the best cure
for an ill mood, I was speaking of secondary means simply —
the only really humanizing, rectifying, peace-giving thing I
ever tried, was looking at time in the light of eternity, and
shaming or melting my coldness away in the rays of the Sun of
Righteousness."

Fleda's eyes, which had fallen on her book, were raised again
with such a flash of feeling that it quite prevented her
seeing what was in his. But the feeling was a little too
strong — the eyes went down, lower than ever, and the features
showed that the utmost efforts of self-command were needed to
control them.

"There is no other cure," he went on in the same tone; — "but
disgust and weariness and selfishness shrink away and hide
themselves before a word or a look of the Redeemer of men.
When we hear him say, 'I have bought thee — thou art mine,' it
is like one of those old words of healing, 'Thou art loosed
from thine infirmity' — 'Be thou clean' — and the mind takes
sweetly the grace and the command together, 'That he who
loveth God love his brother also.' Only the preparation of the
gospel of peace can make our feet go softly over the
roughnesses of the way."

Fleda did not move, unless her twinkling eyelashes might seem
to contradict that.

"I need not tell you," Mr. Carleton went on, a little lower,
"where this medicine is to be sought."

"It is strange," said Fleda, presently, "how well one may
know, and how well one may forget. But I think the body has a
great deal to do with it sometimes — these states of feeling,
I mean."

"No doubt it has; and in these cases the cure is a more
complicated matter. I should think the roses would be useful
there?"

Fleda's mind was crossed by an indistinct vision of peas,
asparagus, and sweet corn; she said nothing.

"An indirect remedy is sometimes the very best that can be
employed. However, it is always true that the more our eyes
are fixed upon the source of light, the less we notice the
shadows that things we are passing fling across our way."

Fleda did not know how to talk for a little while; she was too
happy. Whatever kept Mr. Carleton from talking, he was silent
also. Perhaps it was the understanding of her mood.

"Mr. Carleton," said Fleda, after a little time, "did you ever
carry out that plan of a rose-garden that you were talking of
a long while ago?"

"You remember it?" said he, with a pleased look. "Yes, that
was one of the first things I set about, after I went home —
but I did not follow the regular fashion of arrangement that
one of your friends is so fond of."

"I should not like that for anything," said Fleda, "and least
of all for roses."

"Do you remember the little shrubbery path that opened just in
front of the library windows —leading, at the distance of half
a mile, to a long, narrow, winding glen?"

"Perfectly well," said Fleda, — "through the wood of
evergreens — Oh, I remember the glen very well."

"About half way from the house," said he, smiling at her eyes,
"a glade opens, which merges at last in the head of the glen —
I planted my roses there — the circumstances of the ground
were very happy for disposing them according to my wish."

"And how far?"

"The roses? — Oh, all the way, and some distance down the
glen. Not a continuous thicket of them," he added, smiling
again — "I wished each kind to stand so that its peculiar
beauty should be fully relieved and appreciated; and that
would have been lost in a crowd."

"Yes, I know it," said Fleda; "one's eye rests upon the chief
objects of attraction, and the others are hardly seen — they
do not even serve as foils. And they must show beautifully
against that dark background of firs and larches!"

"Yes; and the windings of the ground gave me every sort of
situation and exposure. I wanted room, too, for the different
effects of masses of the same kind growing together, and of
fine individuals or groups standing alone, where they could
show the full graceful development of their nature."

"What a pleasure! — What a beauty it must be!"

"The ground is very happy — many varieties of soil and
exposure were needed for the plants of different habits, and I
found or made them all. The rocky beginnings of the glen even
furnished me with south walls for the little tea-roses, and
the Macartneys, and musk roses; the banksias I kept nearer
home."

"Do you know them all, Mr. Carleton?"

"Not quite," said he, smiling at her.

"I have seen one banksia — the Macartney is a name that tells
me nothing."

"They are evergreens — with large white flowers — very
abundant and late in the season, but they need the shelter of
a wall with us."

"I should think you would say 'with me,' " said Fleda. "I
cannot conceive that the head-quarters of the rose tribe
should be anywhere else."

"One of the queens of the tribe is there, in the neighbourhood
of the Macartneys — the difficult _rosa sulphurea_ — it finds
itself so well accommodated, that it condescends to play its
part to perfection. Do you know that?"

"Not at all."

"It is one of the most beautiful of all, though not my
favourite — it has large double yellow flowers, shaped like
the Provence — very superb, but as wilful as any queen of them
all."

"Which is your favourite, Mr. Carleton?"

"Not that which shows itself most splendid to the eye, but
which offers fairest indications to the fancy."

Fleda looked a little wistfully, for there was a smile rather
of the eye than of the lips, which said there was a hidden
thought beneath.

"Don't you assign characters to your flowers?" said he,
gravely.

"Always."

"That _rosa sulphurea_ is a haughty high-bred beauty, that
disdains even to show herself beautiful, unless she is pleased
— I love better what comes nearer home to the charities and
wants of every-day life."

He had not answered her, Fleda knew; she thought of what he
had said to Mrs. Evelyn about liking beauty, but not _beauties_.

"Then." said he, smiling again in that hidden way, "the head
of the glen gave me the soil I needed for the Bourbons and
French roses."

"Bourbons?" said Fleda.

"Those are exceeding fine — a hybrid between the Chinese and
the _rose-à-quatre-saisons_ — I have not confined them all to
the head of the glen; many of them are in richer soil, grafted
on standards."

"I like standard roses," said Fleda, "better than any."

"Not better than climbers?"

"Better than any climbers I ever saw — except the banksia."

"There is hardly a more elegant variety than that, though it
is not strictly a climber; and, indeed, when I spoke, I was
thinking as much of the training roses. Many of the _noisettes_
are very fine. But I have the climbers all over — in some
parts nothing else, where the wood closes in upon the path —
there the evergreen roses or the Ayrshire, cover the ground
under the trees, or are trained up the trunks, and allowed to
find their own way through the branches down again — the
_multiflora_ in the same manner. I have made the _boursault_ cover
some unsightly rocks that were in my way. Then in wider parts
of the glade, nearer home, are your favourite standards — the
damask, and Provence, and moss, which, you know, are varieties
of the _centifolia_, and the _noisette_ standards — some of them
are very fine, and the Chinese roses, and countless hybrids
and varieties of all these, with many Bourbons; and your
beautiful American yellow rose, and the Austrian briar and
eglantine, and the Scotch, and white and dog roses, in their
innumerable varieties, change admirably well with the others,
and relieve the eye very happily."

"Relieve the eye!" said Fleda; "my imagination wants
relieving! Isn't there — I have a fancy that there is — a view
of the sea from some parts of that walk, Mr. Carleton?"

"Yes — you have a good memory," said he, smiling. "On one side
the wood is rather dense, and in some parts of the other side;
but elsewhere the trees are thinned off towards the south-
west, and in one or two points the descent of the ground and
some cutting have given free access to the air and free range
to the eye, bounded only by the sea-line in the distance; if,
indeed, that can be said to bound anything."

"I haven't seen it since I was a child," said Fleda. "And for
how long a time in the year is this literally a garden of
roses, Mr. Carleton?"

"The perpetual roses are in bloom for eight months — the
damask and the Chinese, and some of their varieties; the
Provence roses are in blossom all the summer."

"Ah! we can do nothing like that in this country," said Fleda,
shaking her head; "our winters are unmanageable."

She was silent a minute, turning over the leaves of her book
in an abstracted manner.

"You have struck out upon a grave path of reflection," said
Mr. Carleton, gently, "and left me bewildered among the
roses."

"I was thinking," said Fleda, looking up and laughing, "I was
moralizing to myself upon the curious equalization of
happiness in the world; I just sheered off from a feeling of
envy, and comfortably reflected that one measures happiness by
what one knows — not by what one does not know; and so, that
in all probability I have had near as much enjoyment in the
little number of plants that I have brought up and cherished,
and know intimately, as you, Sir, in your superb walk through
fairy-land."

"Do you suppose," said he, laughing, "that I leave the whole
care of fairy-land to my gardener? No, you are mistaken; when
the roses are to act as my correctors, I find I must become
theirs. I seldom go among them without a pruning knife, and
never without wishing for one. And you are certainly right so
far — that the plants on which I bestow most pains give me the
most pleasure. There are some that no hand but mine ever
touches, and those are by far the best loved of my eye."

A discussion followed — partly natural, partly moral — on the
manner of pruning various roses, and on the curious connection
between care and complacency, and the philosophy of the same.

"The rules of the library are to shut up at sundown, Sir,"
said one the bookmen, who had come into the room.

"Sundown!" exclaimed Fleda, jumping up; "is my uncle not here,
Mr. Frost?"

"He has been gone half an hour, Ma'am."

"And I was to have gone home with him; I have forgotten
myself."

"If that is at all the fault of my roses," said Mr. Carleton,
smiling, "I will do my best to repair it."

"I am not disposed to call it a fault," said Fleda, tying her
bonnet-strings; "it is rather an agreeable thing once in a
while. I shall dream of those roses, Mr. Carleton."

"That would be doing them too much honour."

Very happily she had forgotten herself; and during all the
walk home her mind was too full of one great piece of joy,
and, indeed, too much engaged with conversation to take up her
own subject again. Her only wish was that they might not meet
any of the Evelyns; Mr. Thorn, whom they did meet, was a
matter of entire indifference.

The door was opened by Dr. Gregory himself. To Fleda's utter
astonishment, Mr. Carleton accepted his invitation to come in.
She went up stairs to take off her things, in a kind of maze.

"I thought he would go away without my seeing him; and now,
what a nice time I have had — in spite of Mrs. Evelyn!"

That thought slipped in without Fleda's knowledge, but she
could not get it out again.

"I don't know how much it has been her fault either, but one
thing is certain — I never could have had it at her house. How
very glad I am! — how _very_ glad I am! — that I have seen him,
and heard all this from his own lips. But how very funny that
he will be here to tea!"

"Well!" said the doctor, when she came down, "you _do_ look
freshened up, I declare. Here is this girl, Sir, was coming to
me a little while ago, complaining that she wanted something
_fresh_, and begging me to take her back to Queechy, forsooth,
to find it with two feet of snow on the ground. Who wants to
see you at Queechy?" he said, facing round upon her with a
look half fierce, half quizzical.

Fleda laughed, but was vexed to feel that she could not help
colouring, and colouring exceedingly, partly from the
consciousness of his meaning, and partly from a vague notion
that somebody else was conscious of it, too. Dr. Gregory,
however, dashed right off into the thick of conversation with
his guest, and kept him busily engaged till tea-time. Fleda
sat still on the sofa, looking and listening with simple
pleasure — memory served her up a rich entertainment enough.
Yet she thought her uncle was the most heartily interested of
the two in the conversation; there was a shade more upon Mr.
Carleton, not than he often wore, but than he had worn a
little while ago. Dr. Gregory was a great bibliopole, and in
the course of the hour hauled out, and made his guest
overhaul, no less than several musty old folios, and Fleda
could not help fancying that he did it with an access of
gravity greater even than the occasion called for. The grace
of his manner, however, was unaltered; and at tea, she did not
know whether she had been right or not. Demurely as she sat
there behind the tea-urn — for Dr. Gregory still engrossed all
the attention of his guest, as far as talking was concerned —
Fleda was again inwardly smiling to herself at the oddity and
the pleasantness of the chance that had brought those three
together in such a quiet way, after all the weeks she had been
seeing Mr. Carleton at a distance. And she enjoyed the
conversation, too; for though Dr. Gregory was a little fond of
his hobby, it was still conversation worthy the name.

"I have been so unfortunate in the matter of the drives," Mr.
Carleton said, when he was about to take leave, and standing
before Fleda, "that I am half afraid to mention it again."

"I could not help it both those times, Mr. Carleton," said
Fleda, earnestly.

"Both the last? — or both the first?" said he, smiling.

"The last!" said Fleda.

"I have had the honour of making such an attempt twice within
the last ten days — to my disappointment."

"It was not by my fault then, either, Sir," Fleda said,
quietly.

But he knew very well from the expression of her face a moment
before, where to put the emphasis her tongue would not make.

"Dare I ask you to go with me, to-morrow?"

"I don't know," said Fleda, with the old childish sparkle of
her eye; "but if you ask me, Sir, I will go."

He sat down beside her immediately, and Fleda knew, by his
change of eye, that her former thought had been right.

"Shall I see you at Mrs. Decatur's, to-morrow?"

"No, Sir."

"I thought I understood," said he, in an explanatory tone,
"from your friends, the Miss Evelyns, that they were going."

"I believe they are, and I did think of it; but I have changed
my mind, and shall stay at home with Mrs. Evelyn."

After some further conversation, the hour for the drive was
appointed, and Mr. Carleton took leave.

"Come for me twice, and Mrs. Evelyn refused without consulting
me!" thought Fleda. "What could make her do so? How very rude
he must have thought me! And how glad I am I have had an
opportunity of setting that right!"

So, quitting Mrs. Evelyn, her thoughts went off upon a long
train of wandering over the afternoon's talk.

"Wake up!" said the doctor, laying his hand kindly upon her
shoulder; "you'll want something fresh again presently. What
mine of profundity are you digging into now?"

Fleda looked up, and came back from her profundity with a
glance and smile as simple as a child's.

"Dear uncle Orrin, how came you to leave me alone in the
library?"

"Was that what you were trying to discover?"

"Oh no, Sir! But why did you, uncle Orrin? I might have been
left utterly alone."

"Why," said the doctor, "I was going out, and a friend, that I
thought I could confide in, promised to take care of you."

"A friend! — Nobody came near me," said Fleda.

"Then I'll never trust anybody again," said the doctor. "But
what were you hammering at, mentally, just now? — Come, you
shall tell me."

"O nothing, uncle Orrin," said Fleda, looking grave again,
however; "I was thinking that I had been talking too much to-
day."

"Talking too much? — why, whom have you been talking to?"

"Oh, nobody but Mr. Carleton."

"Mr. Carleton! Why, you didn't say six and a quarter words
while he was here."

"No, but I mean in the library, and walking home."

"Talking too much! I guess you did," said the doctor; — "your
tongue is like


'the music of the spheres,
So loud it deafens human ears.'


How came you to talk too much? I thought you were too shy to
talk at all in company."

"No, Sir, I am not; I am not at all shy unless people frighten
me. It takes almost nothing to do that; but I am very bold if
I am not frightened."

"Were you frightened this afternoon?"

"No, Sir?"

"Well, if you weren't frightened, I guess nobody else was,"
said the doctor.


CHAPTER IX.


"Whence came this?
This is some token from a newer friend."
SHAKESPEARE.


The snow-flakes were falling softly and thick when Fleda got
up the next morning.

"No ride for me to-day — but how very glad I am that I had a
chance of setting that matter right. What could Mrs. Evelyn
have been thinking of? Very false kindness! if I had disliked
to go ever so much, she ought to have made me, for my own
sake, rather than let me seem so rude — it is true she didn't
know _how_ rude. O snow-flakes, how much purer and prettier you
are than most things in this place!"

No one was in the breakfast-parlour when Fleda came down, so
she took her book and the _dormeuse_, and had an hour of
luxurious quiet before anybody appeared. Not a footfall in the
house, nor even one outside to be heard, for the soft
carpeting of snow which was laid over the streets. The gentle
breathing of the fire the only sound in the room, while the
very light came subdued through the falling snow and the thin
muslin curtains, and gave an air of softer luxury to the
apartment. "Money is pleasant," thought Fleda, as she took a
little complacent review of all this before opening her book.
"And yet how unspeakably happier one may be without it, than
another with it. Happiness never was locked up in a purse vet.
I am sure Hugh and I — They must want me at home!" —

There was a little sober consideration of the lumps of coal
and the contented-looking blaze in the grate, a most
essentially home-like thing — and then Fleda went to her book,
and for the space of an hour turned over her pages without
interruption. At the end of the hour "the fowling-piece,"
certainly the noisiest of his kind, put his head in, but
seeing none of his ladies, took it and himself away again, and
left Fleda in peace for another half-hour. Then appeared Mrs.
Evelyn in her morning wrapper, and only stopping at the bell-
handle, came up to the _dormeuse_, and stooping down, kissed
Fleda's forehead with so much tenderness that it won a look of
most affectionate gratitude in reply.

"Fleda, my dear, we set you a sad example. But you won't copy
it. Joe, breakfast. Has Mr. Evelyn gone down town?"

"Yes, Ma'am, two hours ago."

"Did it ever occur to you, Fleda, my dear," said Mrs. Evelyn,
breaking the lumps of coal with the poker, in a very leisurely
satisfied kind of a way — "Did it ever occur to you to rejoice
that you were not born a business man? What a life —"

"I wonder how it compares with that of a business woman," said
Fleda, laughing. "There is an uncompromising old proverb which
says —


'Man's work is from sun to sun —
But a woman's work is never done.' "


A saying which, she instantly reflected, was entirely beyond
the comprehension of the person to whose consideration she had
offered it.

And then came in Florence, rubbing her hands and knitting her
eyebrows.

"Why, you don't look as bright as the rest of the world this
morning," said Fleda.

"What a wretched storm!"

"Wretched! This beautiful snow! Here have I been enjoying it
for this hour."

But Florence rubbed her hands, and looked as if Fleda were no
rule for other people.

"How horrid it will make the going out to-night, if it snows
all day!"

"Then you, can stay at home," said her mother, composedly.

"Indeed I shall not, Mamma."

"Mamma," said Constance, now coming in with Edith, "isn't
breakfast ready? It strikes me that the fowling-piece wants
polishing up. I have an indistinct impression that the sun
would be upon the meridian, if he was anywhere."

"Not quite so bad as that," said Fleda, smiling; "it is only
an hour and a half since I came down stairs."

"You horrid little creature! — Mamma, I consider it an act of
inhospitality to permit studious habits on the part of your
guests. And I am surprised your ordinary sagacity has not
discovered that it is the greatest impolicy towards the
objects of your maternal care. We are labouring under growing
disadvantages; for when we have brought the enemy to, at long
shot, there is a mean little craft that comes in and unmans
him, in a close fight, before we can get our speaking-trumpets
up."

"Constance! — do hush!" said her sister. "You are too absurd."

"Fact," said Constance, gravely. "Captain Lewiston was telling
me the other night how the thing is managed; and I recognised
it immediately, and told him I had often seen it done."

"Hold your tongue, Constance," said her mother, smiling, "and
come to breakfast."

Half, and but half, of the mandate the young lady had any idea
of obeying.

"I can't imagine what you are talking about, Constance," said
Edith.

"And then, being a friend, you see," pursued Constance, "we
can do nothing but fire a salute, instead of demolishing her."

"Can't you!" said Fleda. "I am sure many a time I have felt as
if you had left me nothing but my colours."

"Except your prizes, my dear. I am sure I don't know about
your being a friend, either, for I have observed that you
engage English and American alike."

"She is getting up her colours now," said Mrs. Evelyn, in mock
gravity — "you call tell what she is."

"Blood-red!" said Constance. "A pirate! — I thought so," she
exclaimed, with an ecstatic gesture. "I shall make it my
business to warn everybody."

"Oh, Constance!" said Fleda, burying her face in her hands.
But they all laughed.

"Fleda, my dear, I would box her ears," said Mrs. Evelyn,
commanding herself. It is a mere envious insinuation — I have
always understood those were the most successful colours
carried."

"Dear Mrs. Evelyn!" —

"My dear Fleda, that is not a hot roll — you shan't eat it —
take this. Florence, give her a piece of the bacon — Fleda, my
dear, it is good for the digestion — you must try it.
Constance was quite mistaken in supposing yours were those
obnoxious colours — there is too much white with the red — it
is more like a very different flag."

"Like what, then, Mamma!" said Constance; "a good American
would have blue in it."

"You may keep the American yourself," said her mother.

"Only," said Fleda, trying to recover herself, "there is a
slight irregularity; with you the stars are blue and the
ground white."

"My dear little Fleda," exclaimed Constance, jumping up, and
capering round the table to kiss her, "you are too delicious
for anything; and in future I will be blind to your colours,
which is a piece of self-denial I am sure nobody else will
practise."

"Mamma," said Edith, "what _are_ you all talking about? Can't
Constance sit down and let Fleda eat her breakfast?"

"Sit down, Constance, and eat your breakfast."

"I will do it, Mamma, out of consideration for the bacon.
Nothing else would move me."

"Are you going to Mrs. Decatur's to-night, Fleda?"

"No, Edith, I believe not."

"I'm very glad; then there'll be somebody at home. But why
don't you?"

"I think, on the whole, I had rather not."

"Mamma," said Constance, "you have done very wrong in
permitting such a thing. I know just how it will be. Mr. Thorn
and Mr. Stackpole will make indefinite voyages of discovery
round Mrs. Decatur's rooms, and then, having a glimmering
perception that the light of Miss Ringgan's eyes is in another
direction, they will sheer off; and you will presently see
them come sailing blandly in, one after the other, and cast
anchor for the evening; when, to your extreme delight, Mr.
Stackpole and Miss Ringgan will immediately commence fighting.
I shall stay at home to see!" exclaimed Constance, with little
bounds of delight up and down upon her chair, which this time
afforded her the additional elasticity of springs; "I will not
go. I am persuaded how it will be, and I would not miss it for
anything."

"Dear Constance," said Fleda, unable to help laughing through
all her vexation, "please do not talk so. You know very well
Mr. Stackpole only comes to see your mother."

"He was here last night," said Constance, in an extreme state
of delight, "with all the rest of your admirers, ranged in the
hall, with their hats in a pile at the foot of the staircase,
as a token of their determination not to go till you came
home; and, as they could not be induced to come up to the
drawing-room, Mr. Evelyn was obliged to go down, and with some
difficulty persuaded them to disperse."

Fleda was by this time in a state of indecision betwixt crying
and laughing, assiduously attentive to her breakfast.

"Mr. Carleton asked me if you would go to ride with him again
the other day, Fleda," said Mrs. Evelyn, with her face of
delighted mischief, "and I excused you, for I thought you
would thank me for it."

"Mamma," said Constance, "the mention of that name rouses all
the bitter feelings I am capable of. My dear Fleda, we have
been friends; but if I see you abstracting my English rose —"

"Look at those roses behind you!" said Fleda.

The young lady turned and sprang at the word, followed by both
her sisters; and for some moments nothing but a hubbub of
exclamations filled the air.

"Joe, you are enchanting! But did you ever see such flowers?
Oh, those rose-buds!"

"And these camellias," said Edith; "look, Florence, how they
are cut — with such splendid long stems!"

"And the roses, too — all of them — see, Mamma, just cut from
the bushes, with the buds all left on, and immensely long
stems! Mamma, these must have cost an immensity!"

"That is what I call a bouquet," said Fleda, fain to leave the
table, too, and draw near the tempting show in Florence's
hand.

"This is the handsomest you have had all winter, Florence,"
said Edith.

"Handsomest! I never saw anything like it. I shall wear some
of these to-night, Mamma."

"You are in a great hurry to appropriate it," said Constance;
"how do you know but it is mine?"

"Which of us is it for, Joe?"

"Say it is mine, Joe, and I will vote you — the best article
of your kind," said Constance, with an inexpressible glance at
Fleda.

"Who brought it, Joe?" said Mrs. Evelyn.

"Yes, Joe, who brought it? where did it come from, Joe?" Joe
had hardly a chance to answer.

"I really couldn't say, Miss Florence; the man wasn't known to
me."

"But did he say it was for Florence or for me?"

"No, Ma'am — he —"

"_Which_ did he say it was for?"

"He didn't say it was either for Miss Florence or for you,
Miss Constance; he —"

"But didn't he say who sent it?"

"No, Ma'am. It's —"

"Mamma, here is a white moss that is beyond everything! with
two of the most lovely buds. Oh!" said Constance, clasping her
hands, and whirling about the room in comic ecstasy, "I
sha'n't survive it if I cannot find out where it is from."

"How delicious the scent of these tea-roses is!" said Fleda.
"You ought not to mind the snow-storm to-day, after this,
Florence. I should think you would be perfectly happy."

"I shall be, if I can contrive to keep them fresh to wear to-
night. Mamma, how sweetly they would dress me!"

"They're a great deal too good to be wasted so," said Mrs.
Evelyn; "I sha'n't let you do it."

"Mamma! it wouldn't take any of them at all for my hair, and
the _bouquet de corsage_, too; there'd be thousands left. Well,
Joe, what are you waiting for?"

"I didn't say," said Joe, looking a good deal blank and a
little afraid — "I should have said — that the bouquet — is —"

"What is it?"

"It is — I believe, Ma'am — the man said it was for Miss
Ringgan."

"For me!" exclaimed Fleda, her cheeks forming instantly the
most exquisite commentary on the gift that the giver could
have desired. She took in her hand the superb bunch of flowers
from which the fingers of Florence unclosed as if it had been
an icicle.


"Why didn't you say so before?" she inquired sharply; but the
"fowling-piece" had wisely disappeared.

"I am very glad!" exclaimed Edith. "They have had plenty all
winter, and you haven't had one. I am very glad it is yours,
Fleda."

But such a shadow had come upon every other face that Fleda's
pleasure was completely overclouded. She smelled at her roses,
just ready to burst into tears, and wishing sincerely that
they had never come.

"I am afraid, my dear Fleda," said Mrs. Evelyn, quietly going
on with her breakfast, "that there is a thorn somewhere among
those flowers."

Fleda was too sure of it; but not by any means the one Mrs.
Evelyn intended.

"He never could have got half those from his own green-house,
Mamma," said Florence, "if he had cut every rose that was in
it; and he isn't very free with his knife, either."

"I said nothing about anybody's greenhouse," said Mrs. Evelyn,
"though I don't suppose there is more than one Lot in the city
they could have come from."

"Well," said Constance, settling herself back in her chair and
closing her eyes, "I feel extinguished! Mamma, do you suppose
it possible that a hot cup of tea might revive me? I am
suffering from a universal sense of unappreciated merit, and
nobody can tell what the pain is that hasn't felt it."

"I think you are extremely foolish, Constance," said Edith.
"Fleda hasn't had a single flower sent her since she has been
here, and you have had them every other day. I think Florence
is the only one that has a right to be disappointed."

"Dear Florence," said Fleda, earnestly, "you shall have as
many of them as you please, to dress yourself — and welcome!"

"Oh, no — of course not!" Florence said; "it's of no sort of
consequence — I don't want them in the least, my dear. I
wonder what somebody would think to see his flowers in my
head!"

Fleda secretly had mooted the same question, and was very well
pleased not to have it put to the proof. She took the flowers
up stairs after breakfast, resolving that they should not be
an eyesore to her friends; placed them in water, and sat down
to enjoy and muse over them in a very sorrowful mood. She
again thought she would take the first opportunity of going
home. How strange! — out of their abundance of tributary
flowers, to grudge her this one bunch! To be sure, it was a
magnificent one. The flowers were mostly roses, of the rarer
kinds, with a very few fine camellias; all of them cut with a
freedom that evidently had known no constraint but that of
taste, and put together with an exquisite skill that Fleda
felt sure was never possessed by any gardener. She knew that
only one hand had had anything to do with them, and that the
hand that had bought, not the one that had sold; and "How very
kind!" presently quite supplanted "How very strange!" "How
exactly like him! and how singular that Mrs. Evelyn and her
daughters should have supposed they could have come from Mr.
Thorn!" It was a moral impossibility that _he_ should have put
such a bunch of flowers together; while to Fleda's eye they so
bore the impress of another person's character, that she had
absolutely been glad to get them out of sight for fear they
might betray him. She hung over their varied loveliness,
tasted and studied it, till the soft breath of the roses had
wafted away every cloud of disagreeable feeling, and she was
drinking in pure and strong pleasure from. each leaf and bud.
What a very apt emblem of kindness and friendship she thought
them; when their gentle preaching and silent sympathy could
alone so nearly do friendship's work; for to Fleda there was
both counsel and consolation in flowers. So she found it this
morning. An hour's talk with them had done her a great deal of
good; and, when she dressed herself and went down to the
drawing-room, her grave little face was not less placid than
the roses she had left; she would not wear even one of them
down to be a disagreeable reminder. And she thought that still
snowy day was one of the very pleasantest she had had in New
York.

Florence went to Mrs. Decatur's; but Constance, according to
her avowed determination, remained at home to see the fun.
Fleda hoped most sincerely there would be none for her to see.

But, a good deal to her astonishment, early in the evening,
Mr. Carleton walked in, followed very soon by Mr. Thorn.
Constance and Mrs. Evelyn were forthwith in a perfect
effervescence of delight, which as they could not very well
give it full play, promised to last the evening; and Fleda,
all her nervous trembling awakened again, took her work to the
table, and endeavoured to bury herself in it. But ears could
not be fastened as well as eyes; and the mere sound of Mrs.
Evelyn's voice sometimes sent a thrill over her.

"Mr. Thorn," said the lady, in her smoothest manner, "are you
a lover of floriculture, Sir?"

"Can't say that I am, Mrs. Evelyn — except as practised by
others."

"Then you are not a _connoisseur_ in roses? Miss Ringgan's happy
lot — sent her a most exquisite collection this morning, and
she has been wanting to apply to somebody who could tell her
what they are — I thought you might know. Oh, they are not
here," said Mrs. Evelyn, as she noticed the gentleman's look
round the room; "Miss Ringgan judges them too precious for any
eyes but her own. Fleda, my dear, wont you bring down your
roses to let Mr. Thorn tell us their names?"

"I am sure Mr. Thorn will excuse me, Mrs. Evelyn — I believe
he would find it a puzzling task."

"The surest way, Mrs. Evelyn, would be to apply at the
fountain head for information," said Thorn, drily.

"If I could get at it," said Mrs. Evelyn (Fleda knew, with
quivering lips) — "but it seems to me I might as well try to
find the Dead Sea!"

"Perhaps Mr. Carleton might serve your purpose," said Thorn.

That gentleman was at the moment talking to Constance.

"Mr. Carleton," said Mrs. Evelyn, "are you a judge, Sir?"

"Of what, Mrs. Evelyn? — I beg your pardon."

The lady's tone somewhat lowered.

"Are you a judge of roses, Mr. Carleton?"

"So far as to know a rose when I see it," he answered,
smiling, and with an imperturbable coolness that it quieted
Fleda to hear.

"Ay, but the thing is," said Constance, "do you know twenty
roses when you see them?"

"Miss Ringgan, Mr. Carleton," said Mrs. Evelyn, "has received
a most beautiful supply this morning; but, like a true woman,
she is not satisfied to enjoy unless she can enjoy
intelligently — they are strangers to us all, and she would
like to know what name to give them; Mr. Thorn suggested that
perhaps you might help us out of our difficulty."

"With great pleasure, so far as I am able — if my judgment may
be exercised by day-light. I cannot answer for shades of green
in the night-time."

But he spoke with an ease and simplicity that left no mortal
able to guess whether he had ever heard of a particular bunch
of roses in his life before.

"You give me more of Eve in my character, Mrs. Evelyn, than I
think belongs to me," said Fleda, from her work at the far
centre-table, which certainly did not get its name from its
place in the room. "My enjoyment to-day has not been in the
least troubled by curiosity."

Which none of the rest of the family could have affirmed.

"Do you mean to say, Mr. Carleton," said Constance, "that it
is necessary to distinguish between shades of green in judging
of roses?"

"It is necessary to make shades of distinction in judging of
almost anything, Miss Constance. The difference between
varieties of the same flower is often extremely nice."

"I have read of magicians," said Thorn, softly, bending down
towards Fleda's work — "who did not need to see things to
answer questions respecting them."

Fleda thought that was a kind of magic remarkably common in
the world; but even her displeasure could not give her courage
to speak. It gave her courage to be silent, however; and Mr.
Thorn's best efforts, in a conversation of some length, could
gain nothing but very uninterested rejoinders. A sudden pinch
from Constance then made her look up, and almost destroyed her
self-possession, as she saw Mr. Stackpole male his way into
the room.

"I hope I find my fair enemy in a mollified humour," he said,
approaching them.

"I suppose you have repaired damages, Mr. Stackpole," said
Constance, "since you venture into the region of broken
windows again."

"Mr. Stackpole declared there were none to repair," said Mrs.
Evelyn, from the sofa.

"More than I knew of," said the gentleman, laughing — "there
were more than I knew of; but you see I court the danger,
having rashly concluded that I might as well know all my weak
points at once."

"Miss Ringgan will break nothing to-night, Mr. Stackpole — she
promised me she would not."

"Not even her silence?" said the gentleman.

"Is she always so desperately industrious?" said Mr. Thorn.

"Miss Ringgan, Mr. Stackpole," said Constance, "is subject to
occasional fits of misanthropy, in which cases her retreating
with her work to the solitude of the centre-table is
significant of her desire to avoid conversation — as Mr. Thorn
has been experiencing."

"I am happy to see that the malady is not catching, Miss
Constance."

"Mr. Stackpole," said Constance, "I am in a morose state of
mind! — Miss Ringgan, this morning, received a magnificent
bouquet of roses, which, in the first place, I rashly
appropriated to myself; and ever since I discovered my
mistake, I have been meditating the renouncing of society — it
has excited more bad feelings than I thought had existence in
my nature."

"Mr. Stackpole," said Mrs. Evelyn, "would you ever have
supposed that roses could be a cause of discord?"

Mr. Stackpole looked as if he did not exactly know what the
ladies were driving at.

"There have five thousand emigrants arrived at this port
within a week!" said he, as if that were something worth
talking about.

"Poor creatures! where will they all go?" said Mrs. Evelyn,
comfortably.

"Country's large enough," said Thorn.

"Yes — but such a stream of immigration will reach the
Pacific, and come back again before long; and then there will
be a meeting of the waters! This tide of German and Irish will
sweep over everything."

"I suppose, if the land will not bear both, one party will
have to seek other quarters," said Mrs. Evelyn, with an
exquisite satisfaction, which Fleda could hear in her voice.
"You remember the story of Lot and Abraham, Mr. Stackpole —
when a quarrel arose between them? — not about roses."

Mr. Stackpole looked as if women were — to say the least —
incomprehensible.

"Five thousand a week!" he repeated.

"I wish there was a Dead Sea for them all to sheer off into!"
said Thorn.

"If you had seen the look of grave rebuke that speech called
forth, Mr. Thorn," said Constance, "your feelings would have
been penetrated — if you have any."

"I had forgotten," he said, looking round with a bland change
of manner, "what gentle charities were so near me."

"Mamma!" said Constance, with a most comic show of
indignation, "Mr. Thorn thought that with Miss Ringgan he had
forgotten all the gentle charities in the room! — I am of no
further use to society! — I will trouble you to ring that
bell, Mr. Thorn, if you please. I shall request candles, and
retire to the privacy of my own apartment."

"Not till you have permitted me to expiate my fault," said Mr.
Thorn, laughing.

"It cannot be expiated! — My worth will be known at some
future day. Mr. Carleton, will you have the goodness to summon
our domestic attendant?"

"If you will permit me to give the order," he said, smiling,
with his hand on the bell. "I am afraid you are hardly fit to
be trusted alone."

"Why?"

"May I delay obeying you long enough to give my reasons?"

"Yes."

"Because," said he, coming up to her, "when people turn away
from the world in disgust, they generally find worse company
in themselves."

"Mr. Carleton! — I would not sit still another minute, if
curiosity didn't keep me. I thought solitude was said to be
such a corrector!"

"Like a clear atmosphere — an excellent medium if your object
is to take an observation of your position; worse than lost if
you mean to shut up the windows and burn sickly lights of your
own."

"Then, according to that, one shouldn't seek solitude unless
one doesn't want it."

"No," said Mr. Carleton, with that eye of deep meaning to
which Constance always rendered involuntary homage — "every
one wants, it; if we do not daily take an observation to find
where we are, we are sailing about wildly, and do not know
whither we are going."

"An observation?" said Constance, understanding part, and
impatient of not catching the whole of his meaning.

"Yes," he said, with a smile of singular fascination — "I
mean, consulting the unerring guides of the way to know where
we are, and if we are sailing safely and happily in the right
direction — otherwise we are in danger of striking upon some
rock, or of never making the harbour; and in either case, all
is lost."

The power of eye and smile was too much for Constance, as it
had happened more than once before; her own eyes fell, and for
a moment she wore a look of unwonted sadness and sweetness, at
what from any other person would have roused her mockery.

"Mr. Carleton," said she, trying to rally herself, but still
not daring to look up, knowing that would put it out of her
power, "I can't understand how you ever came to be such a
grave person."

"What is your idea of gravity?" said he smiling. "To have a
mind so at rest about the future, as to be able to enjoy
thoroughly all that is worth enjoying in the present?"

"But I can't imagine how _you_ ever came to take up such
notions."

"May I ask again, why not I?"

"Oh, you know, you have so much to make you otherwise."

"What degree of present contentment ought to make one
satisfied to leave that of the limitless future an uncertain
thing?"

"Do you think it can be made certain?"

"Undoubtedly! — why not? the tickets are free — the only thing
is, to make sure that ours has the true signature. Do you
think the possession of that ticket makes life a sadder thing?
The very handwriting of it is more precious to me, by far,
Miss Constance, than everything else I have."

"But you are a very uncommon instance," said Constance, still
unable to look up, and speaking without any of her usual
attempt at jocularity.

"No, I hope not," he said, quietly.

"I mean," said Constance, "that it is very uncommon language
to hear from a person like you."

"I suppose I know your meaning," he said, after a minute's
pause; "but, Miss Constance, there is hardly a graver thought
to me, than that power and responsibility go hand in hand."

"It don't generally work so," said Constance, rather uneasily.

"What are you talking about, Constance?" said Mrs. Evelyn.

"Mr. Carleton, Mamma, has been making me melancholy."

"Mr. Carleton," said Mrs. Evelyn, "I am going to petition that
you will turn your efforts in another direction. I have felt
oppressed all the afternoon, from the effects of that funeral
service I was attending — I am only just getting over it. The
preacher seemed to delight in putting together all the gloomy
thoughts he could think of."

"Yes," said Mr. Stackpole, putting his hands in his pockets,
"it is the particular enjoyment of some of them, I believe, to
do their best to make other people miserable."

Mr. Thorn said nothing, being warned by the impatient little
hammering of Fleda's worsted needle upon the marble, while her
eye was no longer considering her work, and her face rested
anxiously upon her hand.

"There wasn't a thing," the lady went on, "in anything he
said; in his prayer or his speech, there wasn't a single
cheering or elevating consideration — all he talked and prayed
for was, that the people there might be filled with a sense of
their wickedness —"

"It's their trade, Ma'am," said Mr. Stackpole — "it's their
trade! I wonder if it ever occurs to them to include
themselves in that petition."

"There wasn't the slightest effort made, in anything he said,
or prayed for — and one would have thought that would have
been so natural; there was not the least endeavour to do away
with that superstitious fear of death which is so common — and
one would think it was the very occasion to do it; he never
once asked that we might be led to look upon it rationally and
calmly. It's so unreasonable, Mr. Stackpole — it is so
dissonant with our views of a benevolent Supreme Being — as if
it could be according to _his_ will that his creatures should
live lives of tormenting themselves — it so shows a want of
trust in his goodness."

"It's a relic of barbarism, Ma'am," said Mr. Stackpole — it's
a popular delusion, and it is like to be, till you can get men
to embrace wider and more liberal views of things."

"What do you suppose it proceeds from?" said Mr. Carleton, as
if the question had just occurred to him.

"I suppose from false notions received from education, Sir."

"Hardly," said Mr. Carleton; "it is too universal. You find it
everywhere; and to ascribe it everywhere to education would be
but shifting the question back one generation."

"It is a root of barbarous ages," said Mr. Stackpole — "a
piece of superstition handed down from father to son — a set
of false ideas which men are bred up and almost born with, and
that they can hardly get rid of."

"How can that be a root of barbarism, which the utmost degree
of intelligence and cultivation has no power to do away, nor
even to lessen, however it may afford motive to control? Men
may often put a brave face upon it, and show none of their
thoughts to the world; but I think, no one, capable of
reflection, has not at times felt the influence of that
dread."

"Men have often sought death, of purpose and choice," said Mr.
Stackpole, drily, and rubbing his chin.

"Not from the absence of this feeling, but from the greater
momentary pressure of some other."

"Of course," said Mr. Stackpole, rubbing his chin still,
"there is a natural love of life — the world could not get on
if there was not."

"If the love of life is natural, the fear of death must be so,
by the same reason."

"Undoubtedly," said Mrs. Evelyn, "it is natural — it is part
of the constitution of our nature."

"Yes," said Mr. Stackpole, settling himself again in his
chair, with his hands in his pockets — "it is not unnatural, I
suppose — but then that is the first view of the subject — it
is the business of reason to correct many impressions and
prejudices that are, as we say, natural."

"And there was where my clergyman of to-day failed utterly,"
said Mrs. Evelyn — "he aimed at strengthening that feeling,
and driving it down as hard as he could into everybody's mind
— not a single lisp of anything to do it away, or lessen the
gloom with which we are, naturally, as you say, disposed to
invest the subject."

"I dare say he has held it up as a bugbear till it has become
one to himself," said Mr. Stackpole.

"Is it nothing more than the mere natural dread of
dissolution?" said Mr. Carleton.

"I think it is that," said Mrs. Evelyn — "I think that is the
principal thing."

"Is there not, besides, an undefined fear of what lies beyond
— an uneasy misgiving, that there may be issues which the
spirit is not prepared to meet?"

"I suppose there is," said Mrs. Evelyn — "but, Sir —"

"Why, that is the very thing," said Mr. Stackpole — "that is
the mischief of education I was speaking of — men are brought
up to it."

"You cannot dispose of it so, Sir, for this feeling is quite
as universal as the other, and so strong, that men have not
only been willing to render life miserable, but even to endure
death itself, with all the aggravation of torture, to smooth
their way in that unknown region beyond."

"It is one of the maladies of human nature," said Mr.
Stackpole, "that it remains for the progress of enlightened
reason to dispel."

"What is the cure for the malady?" said Mr. Carleton, quietly.

"Why, Sir, the looking upon death as a necessary step in the
course of our existence, which simply introduces us from a
lower to a higher sphere — from a comparatively narrow to a
wider and nobler range of feeling and intellect."

"Ay, but how shall we be sure that it is so?"

"Why, Mr. Carleton, Sir," said Mrs. Evelyn, "do you doubt
that? Do you suppose it possible, for a moment, that a
benevolent being would make creatures to be anything but
happy?"

"You believe the Bible, Mrs. Evelyn?" he said, smiling
slightly.

"Certainly, Sir; but, Mr. Carleton, the Bible, I am sure,
holds out the same views, of the goodness and glory of the
Creator — you cannot open it but you find them on every page.
If I could take such views of things as some people have,"
said Mrs. Evelyn, getting up to punch the fire in her
extremity — "I don't know what I should do! Mr. Carleton, I
think I would rather never have been born, Sir!"

"Every one runs to the Bible!" said Mr. Stackpole. "It is the
general armoury, and all parties draw from it to fight each
other."

"True," said Mr. Carleton, "but only while they draw
partially. No man can fight the battle of truth but in the
whole panoply, and no man so armed can fight any other."

"What do you mean, Sir?"

"I mean that the Bible is not a riddle, neither inconsistent
with itself; but if you take off one leg of a pair of
compasses, the measuring power is gone."

"But, Mr. Carleton, Sir," said Mrs. Evelyn — "do you think
that reading the Bible is calculated to give one gloomy ideas
of the future?"

"By no means," he said, with one of those meaning-fraught
smiles; "but is it safe, Mrs. Evelyn, in such a matter, to
venture a single grasp of hope without the direct warrant of
God's Word?"

"Well, Sir?"

"Well, Ma'am, that says, 'The soul that sinneth, it shall
die.' "

"That disposes of the whole matter comfortably at once," said
Mr. Stackpole.

"But, Sir," said Mrs. Evelyn — "that doesn't stand alone — the
Bible everywhere speaks of the fulness and freeness of
Christ's salvation!"

"Full and free as it can possibly be," he answered, with
something of a sad expression of countenance; "but, Mrs.
Evelyn, _never offered but with conditions_."

"What conditions?" said Mr. Stackpole, hastily.

"I recommend you to look for them, Sir," answered Mr.
Carleton, gravely; — "they should not be unknown to a wise
man."

"Then you would leave mankind ridden by this nightmare of
fear? — or what is your remedy?"

"There is a remedy, Sir," said Mr. Carleton, with that
dilating and darkening eye which showed him deeply engaged in
what he was thinking about; "it is not mine. When men feel
themselves lost, and are willing to be saved in God's way,
then the breach is made up — then hope can look across the gap
and see its best home and its best friend on the other side —
then faith lays hold on forgiveness, and trembling is done —
then, sin being pardoned, the sting of death is taken away and
the fear of death is no more, for it is swallowed up in
victory. But men will not apply to a physician while they
think themselves well; and people will not seek the sweet way
of safety by Christ till they know there is no other; and so,
do you see, Mrs. Evelyn, that when the gentleman you were
speaking of sought to-day to persuade his hearers that they
were poorer than they thought they were, he was but taking the
surest way to bring them to be made richer than they ever
dreamed."

There was a power of gentle earnestness in his eye that Mrs.
Evelyn could not answer; her look fell as that of Constance
had done, and there was a moment's silence.

Thorn had kept quiet, for two reasons — that he might not
displease Fleda, and that he might watch her. She had left her
work and turning half round from the table, had listened
intently to the conversation, towards the last, very forgetful
that there might be anybody to observe her — with eyes fixed
and cheeks flushing, and the corners of the mouth just
indicating delight — till the silence fell; and then she
turned round to the table and took up her worsted-work. But
the lips were quite grave now, and Thorn's keen eyes discerned
that upon one or two of the artificial roses there lay two or
three very natural drops.

"Mr. Carleton," said Edith, "what makes you talk such sober
things? — you have set Miss Ringgan to crying."

"Mr. Carleton could not be better pleased than at such a
tribute to his eloquence," said Mr. Thorn, with a saturnine
expression.

"Smiles are common things," said Mr. Stackpole, a little
maliciously; "but any man may be flattered to find his words
drop diamonds."

"Fleda, my dear," said Mrs. Evelyn, with that trembling tone
of concealed ecstasy which always set every one of Fleda's
nerves a-jarring — "you may tell the gentlemen that they do
not always know when they are making an unfelicitous
compliment — I never read what poets say about 'briny drops'
and 'salt tears', without imagining the heroine immediately to
be something like Lot's wife."

"Nobody said anything about briny drops, Mamma," said Edith;
"why, there's Florence!"

Her entrance made a little bustle, which Fleda was very glad
of. Unkind! — She was trembling again in every finger. She
bent down over her canvas and worked away as hard as she
could. That did not hinder her becoming aware presently that
Mr. Carleton was standing close beside her.

"Are you not trying your eyes?" said he.

The words were nothing, but the tone was a great deal; there
was a kind of quiet intelligence in it. Fleda looked up, and
something in the clear steady self-reliant eye she met wrought
an instant change in her feeling. She met it a moment, and
then looked at her work again with nerves quieted.

"Cannot I persuade them to be of my mind?" said Mr. Carleton,
bending down a little nearer to their sphere of action.

"Mr. Carleton is unreasonable to require more testimony of
that this evening," said Mr. Thorn; "his own must have been
ill employed."

Fleda did not look up, but the absolute quietness of Mr.
Carleton's manner could be felt; she felt it, almost with
sympathetic pain. Thorn immediately left them, and took leave.

"What are you searching for in the papers, Mr. Carleton?" said
Mrs. Evelyn, presently coming up to them.

"I was looking for the steamers, Mrs. Evelyn."

"How soon do you think of bidding us good-bye?"

"I do not know, Ma'am," he answered, coolly; "I expect my
mother."

Mrs. Evelyn walked back to her sofa.

But in the space of two minutes she came over to the centre-
table again, with an open magazine in her hand.

"Mr. Carleton," said the lady, "you must read this for me, and
tell me what you think of it, will you, Sir? I have been
showing it to Mr. Stackpole, and he can't see any beauty in
it; and I tell him it is his fault, and there is some serious
want in his composition. Now, I want to know what you will say
to it."

"An arbiter, Mrs. Evelyn, should be chosen by both parties."

"Read it and tell me what you think!" repeated the lady,
walking away, to leave him opportunity. Mr. Carleton looked it
over.

"That is something pretty," he said, putting it before Fleda.
Mrs. Evelyn was still at a distance.

"What do you think of that print for trying the eyes?" said
Fleda, laughing as she took it. But he noticed that her colour
rose a little.

"How do you like it?"

"I like it pretty well," said Fleda, rather hesitatingly.

"You have seen it before?"

"Why?" Fleda said, with a look up at him, at once a little
startled and a little curious — "what makes you say so?"

"Because — pardon me — you did not read it."

"Oh," said Fleda, laughing, but colouring at the same time
very frankly, "I can tell how I like some things without
reading them very carefully."

Mr. Carleton looked at her, and then took the magazine again.

"What have you there, Mr. Carleton?" said Florence.

"A piece of English, on which I was asking this lady's
opinion, Miss Evelyn."

"Now, Mr. Carleton," exclaimed Constance, jumping up — "I am
going to ask you to decide a quarrel between Fleda and me
about a point of English —"

"Hush, Constance!" said her mother — "I want to speak to Mr.
Carleton. Mr. Carleton, how do you like it?"

"Like what, Mamma?" said Florence.

"A piece I gave Mr. Carleton to read. Mr. Carleton, tell me
how you like it, Sir."

"But what is it, Mamma!"

"A piece of poetry in an old _Excelsior_ — 'The Spirit of the
Fireside.' Mr. Carleton, wont you read it aloud, and let us
all hear? but tell me, first, what you think of it."

"It has pleased me particularly, Mrs. Evelyn."

"Mr. Stackpole says he does not understand it, Sir."

"Fanciful," said Mr. Stackpole; "it's a little fanciful — and
I can't quite make out what the fancy is."

"It has been the misfortune of many good things before, not to
be prized, Mr. Stackpole," said the lady, funnily.

"True, Ma'am," said that gentleman, rubbing his chin, "and the
converse is also true, unfortunately, and with a much wider
application."

"There is a peculiarity of mental development or training,"
said Mr. Carleton, "which must fail of pleasing many minds,
because of their wanting the corresponding key of nature or
experience. Some literature has a hidden free-masonry of its
own."

"Very hidden, indeed!" said Mr. Stackpole; "the cloud is so
thick that I can't see the electricity."

"Mr. Carleton," said Mrs. Evelyn, laughing, "I take that
remark as a compliment, Sir; I have always appreciated that
writer's pieces; I enjoy them very much."

"Well, wont you, please, read it, Mr. Carleton?" said
Florence, "and let us know what we are talking about."

Mr. Carleton obeyed, standing where he was, by the centre-
table.


"By the old hearthstone a Spirit dwells,
The child of bygone years —
He lieth hid the stones amid,
And liveth on smiles and tears.


"But when the night is drawing on,
And the fire burns clear and bright,
He cometh out and walketh about
In the pleasant grave twilight.


"He goeth round on tiptoe soft,
And scanneth close each face;
If one in the room be sunk in gloom,
By him he taketh his place.


"And then with fingers cool and soft
(Their touch who does not know?)
With water brought from the well of thought,
That was dug long years ago,


"He layeth his hand on the weary eyes —
They are closed and quiet now; —
And he wipeth away the dust of the day
Which had settled on the brow.


"And gently then he walketh away
And sits in the corner chair;
And the closed eyes swim — it seemeth to him
The form that once sat there.


"And whisper'd words of comfort and love
Fall sweet on the ear of sorrow; —
'Why weepest thou? — thou art troubled now,
But there cometh a bright to-morrow.


" 'We, too, have pass'd over life's wild stream
In a frail and shatter'd boat,
But the pilot was sure — and we sail'd secure
When we seem'd but scarce afloat.


" 'Though toss'd by the rage of waves and wind,
The bark held together still,
One arm was strong — it bore us along,
And has saved from every ill.'


"The Spirit returns to his hiding-place,
But his words have been like balm.
The big tears start, but the fluttering heart
Is sooth'd, and soften'd, and calm."


"I remember that," said Florence; "it is beautiful."

"Who's the writer?" said Mr. Stackpole.

"I don't know," said Mrs. Evelyn, "it is signed 'Hugh'. There
have been a good many of his pieces in the _Excelsior_, for a
year past, and all of them pretty."

"Hugh!" exclaimed Edith, springing forward, "that's the one
that wrote the Chestnuts! Fleda, wont you read Mr. Carleton
the Chestnuts?"

"Why, no, Edith; I think not."

"Ah, do! I like it so much, and I want him to hear it; and you
know Mamma says they're all pretty. Wont you?"

"My dear Edith, you have heard it once already to-day"

"But I want you to read it for me again."

"Let me have it, Miss Edith," said Mr. Carleton, smiling. "I
will read it for you."

"Ah, but it would be twice as good if you could hear her read
it," said Edith, fluttering over the leaves of the magazine,
"she reads it so well. It's so funny — about the coffee and
buckwheat cakes."

"What is that, Edith?" said her mother.

"Something Mr. Carleton is going to read for me, Mamma."

"Don't you trouble Mr. Carleton."

"It won't trouble him, Mamma; he promised of his own accord."

"Let us all have the benefit of it, Mr. Carleton," said the
lady.

It is worthy of remark that Fleda's politeness utterly
deserted her during the reading of both this piece and the
last. She as near as possible turned her back upon the reader.


"Merrily sang the crickets forth
One fair October night;
And the stars look'd down, and the northern crown
Gave its strange fantastic light.


"A nipping frost was in the air,
On flowers and grass it fell;
And the leaves were still on the eastern hill,
As if touched by a fairy spell.


"To the very top of the tall nut-trees
The frost-king seemed to ride;
With his wand he stirs the chestnut burrs,
And straight they are open'd wide.


"And squirrels and children together dream
Of the coming winter's hoard;
And many, I ween, are the chestnuts seen
In hole or in garret stored.


"The children are sleeping in feather-beds —
Poor Bun in his mossy nest;
_He_ courts repose with his tail on his nose,
On the others warm blankets rest.


"Late in the morning the sun gets up
From behind the village spire;
And the children dream that the first red gleam
Is the chestnut-trees on fire!


"The squirrel had on when he first awoke,
All the clothing he could command;
And his breakfast was light — he just took a bite
Of an acorn that lay at hand:


"And then he was off to the trees to work:
While the children some time it takes
To dress and to eat what _they_ think meet
Of coffee and buckwheat cakes.


"The sparkling frost, when they first go out,
Lies thick upon all around;
And earth and grass, as they onward pass,
Give a pleasant crackling sound.


"Oh, there is a heap of chestnuts, see!'
Cried the youngest of the train;
For they came to a stone where the squirrel had thrown
What he meant to pick up again.


"And two bright eyes, from the tree o'er head,
Look'd down at the open bag
Where the nuts went in — and so to begin,
Almost made his courage flag.


"Away on the hill, outside the wood,
Three giant trees there stand:
And the chestnuts bright, that hang in sight,
Are eyed by the youthful band.


"And one of their number climbs the tree,
And passes from bough to bough —
And the children run — for with pelting fun
The nuts fall thickly now.


"Some of the burrs are still shut tight —
Some open with chestnuts three,
And some nuts fall with no burrs at all —
Smooth, shiny, as nuts should be.


"Oh, who can tell what fun it was
To see the prickly shower:
To feel what a whack on head or back
Was within a chestnut's power!


"To run beneath the shaking tree,
And then to scamper away;
And with laughing shout to dance about
The grass where the chestnuts lay.


"With flowing dresses, and blowing hair,
And eyes that no shadow knew,
Like the growing light of a morning bright —
The dawn of the summer blue!


"The work was ended — the trees were stripped —
The children were 'tired of play:'
And they forgot (but the squirrel did not)
The wrong they had done that day."


Whether it was from the reader's enjoyment or good giving of
these lines, or from Edith's delight in them, he was
frequently interrupted with bursts of laughter.

"I can understand _that_," said Mr. Stackpole, "without any
difficulty."

"You are not lost in the mysteries of chestnutting in open
daylight," said Mrs. Evelyn.

"Mr. Carleton," said Edith, "wouldn't you have taken the
squirrel's chestnuts?"

"I believe I should, Miss Edith, if I had not been hindered."

"But what would have hindered you? don't you think it was
right?"

"Ask your friend, Miss Ringgan, what she thinks of it," said
he, smiling.

"Now, Mr. Carleton," said Constance, as he threw down the
magazine, "will you decide that point of English between Miss
Ringgan and me?"

"I should like to hear the pleadings on both sides, Miss
Constance."

"Well, Fleda, will you agree to submit it to Mr. Carleton?"

"I must know by what standards Mr. Carleton will be guided,
before I agree to any such thing," said Fleda.

"Standards! but aren't you going to trust anybody in anything,
without knowing what standards they go by ?"

"Would that be a safe rule to follow in general?" said Fleda,
smiling.

"You wont be a true woman if you don't follow it, sooner or
later, my dear Fleda," said Mrs. Evelyn. "Every woman must."

"The later the better, Ma'am, I cannot help thinking."

"You will change your mind," said Mrs. Evelyn, complacently.

"Mamma's notions, Mr. Stackpole, would satisfy any man's
pride, when she is expatiating upon the subject of woman's
dependence," said Florence.

"The dependence of affection," said Mrs. Evelyn. "Of course!
It's their lot. Affection always leads a true woman to merge
her separate judgment, on anything, in the judgment of the
beloved object."

"Ay," said Fleda, laughing, "suppose her affection is wasted
on an object that has none?"

"My dear Fleda!" said Mrs. Evelyn, with a funny expression,
"that can never be, you know; don't you remember what your
favourite, Longfellow, says, — 'Affection never is wasted'? —
Florence, my love, just hand me 'Evangeline,' there — I want
you to listen to it, Mr. Stackpole, here it is —


'Talk not of wasted affection: affection never was wasted:
If it enrich not the heart of another, its waters returning
Back to their springs, shall fill them full of refreshment.
That which the fountain sends forth returns again to the
fountain.' "


"How very plain it is that was written by a man," said Fleda.

"Why?" said Mr. Carleton, laughing.

"I always thought it was so exquisite!" said Florence.

"_I_ was so struck with it," said Constance, "that I have been
looking ever since for an object to waste _my_ affections upon."

"Hush, Constance!" said her mother. "Don't you like it, Mr.
Carleton?"

"I should like to hear Miss Ringgan's commentary," said Mr.
Stackpole; "I can't anticipate it. I should have said the
sentiment was quite soft and tender enough for a woman."

"Don't you agree with it, Mr. Carleton?" repeated Mrs. Evelyn.

"I beg leave to second Mr. Stackpole's motion," he said,
smiling.

"Fleda, my dear, you must explain yourself; the gentlemen are
at a stand."

"I believe, Mrs. Evelyn," said Fleda, smiling and blushing —
"I am of the mind of the old woman who couldn't bear to see
anything wasted."

"But the assertion is, that it _isn't_ wasted," said Mr.
Stackpole.

" 'That which the fountain sends forth returns again to the
fountain,' " said Mrs. Evelyn.

"Yes, to flood and lay waste the fair growth of nature," said
Fleda, with a little energy, though her colour rose and rose
higher. "Did it never occur to you, Mrs. Evelyn, that the
streams which fertilize as they flow, do but desolate if their
course be checked?"

"But your objection lies only against the author's figure,"
said Mr. Stackpole — "come to the fact."

"I was speaking as he did, Sir, of the fact under the figure —
I did not mean to separate them."

Both the gentlemen were smiling, though with very different
expression.

"Perhaps," said Mr. Carleton, "the writer was thinking of a
gentler and more diffusive flow of kind feeling, which,
however it may meet with barren ground and raise no fruit
there, is sure, in due time, to come back, heaven-refined, to
refresh and replenish its source."

"Perhaps so," said Fleda, with a very pleased answering look —
"I do not recollect how it is brought in — I may have answered
rather Mrs. Evelyn than Mr. Longfellow."

"But granting that it is an error," said Mr. Stackpole, "as
you understood it — what shows it to have been made by a man?"

"Its utter ignorance of the subject, Sir."

"You think _they_ never waste their affections?" said he.

"By no means! but I think they rarely waste so much in any one
direction as to leave them quite impoverished."

"Mr. Carleton, how do you bear that, Sir?" said Mrs. Evelyn.
"Will you let such an assertion pass unchecked?"

"I would not, if I could help it, Mrs. Evelyn."

"That isn't saying much for yourself," said Constance; "but
Fleda, my dear, where did you get such an experience of waste
and desolation?"

"Oh, 'man is a microcosm,' you know," said Fleda, lightly.

"But you make it out that only one-half of mankind can
appropriate that axiom," said Mr. Stackpole. "How can a woman
know _men's_ hearts so well?"

"On the principle that the whole is greater than a part?' said
Mr. Carleton, smiling.

"I'll sleep upon that, before I give my opinion," said Mr.
Stackpole. "Mrs. Evelyn, good evening!" —

"Well, Mr. Carleton!" said Constance, "you have said a great
deal for women's minds."

"Some women's minds," he said, with a smile.

"And some men's minds," said Fleda. "I was speaking only in
the general."

Her eye half unconsciously reiterated her meaning as she shook
hands with Mr. Carleton. And without speaking a word for other
people to hear, his look and smile in return were more than an
answer. Fleda sat for some time after he was gone, trying to
think what it was in eye and lip which had given her so much
pleasure. She could not make out anything but approbation —
the look of loving approbation that one gives to a good child;
but she thought it had also something of that quiet
intelligence — a silent communication of sympathy which the
others in company could not share.

She was roused from her reverie by Mrs. Evelyn.

"Fleda, my dear, I am writing to your aunt Lucy — have you any
message to send?"

"No, Mrs. Evelyn — I wrote myself to-day."

And she went back to her musings.

"I am writing about you, Fleda," said Mrs. Evelyn again, in a
few minutes.

"Giving a good account, I hope, ma'am," said Fleda, smiling.

"I shall tell her I think sea-breezes have an unfavourable
effect upon you," said Mrs. Evelyn — "that I am afraid you are
growing pale; and that you have clearly expressed yourself in
favour of a garden at Queechy, rather than any lot in the city
— or anywhere else — so she had better send for you home
immediately."

Fleda tried to find out what the lady really meant; but Mrs.
Evelyn's delighted amusement did not consist with making the
matter very plain. Fleda's questions did nothing but aggravate
the cause of them, to her own annoyance; so she was fain at
last to take her light and go to her own.

She looked at her flowers again with a renewal of the first
pleasure and of the quieting influence the giver of them had
exercised over her that evening; thought again how very kind
it was of him to send them, and to choose them so; how
strikingly he differed from other people; how glad she was to
have seen him again, and how more than glad that he was so
happily changed from his old self. And then from that change
and the cause of it, to those higher, more tranquillizing, and
sweetening influences that own no kindred with earth's dust,
and descend like the dew of heaven to lay and fertilize it.
And when she laid herself down to sleep, it was with a spirit
grave, but simply happy; every annoyance and unkindness as
unfelt now as ever the parching heat of a few hours before
when the stars are abroad.


CHAPTER X.


"A snake bedded himself under the threshold of a country
house."
L'ESTRANGE.


To Fleda's very great satisfaction Mr. Thorn was not seen
again for several days. It would have been to her very great
comfort, too, if he could have been permitted to die out of
mind as well as out of sight; but he was brought up before her
"lots of times," till poor Fleda almost felt as if she was
really in the moral neighbourhood of the Dead Sea, every
natural growth of pleasure was so withered under the barren
spirit of raillery. Sea-breezes were never so disagreeable
since winds blew; and nervous and fidgety again whenever Mr.
Carleton was present, Fleda retreated to her work and the
table, and withdrew herself as much as she could from notice
and conversation; feeling humbled — feeling sorry, and vexed,
and ashamed, that such ideas should have been put into her
head, the absurdity of which, she thought, was only equalled
by their needlessness. "As much as she could" she withdrew;
but that was not entirely; now and then interest made her
forget herself, and quitting her needle she would give eyes
and attention to the principal speaker as frankly as he could
have desired. Bad weather and bad roads for those days put
riding out of the question.

One morning she was called down to see a gentleman, and came
eschewing in advance the expected image of Mr. Thorn. It was a
very different person.

"Charlton Rossitur! My dear Charlton, how do you do? Where did
you come from?"

"You had better ask me what I have come for," he said,
laughing, as he shook hands with her.

"What have you come for?"

"To carry you home."

"Home?" said Fleda.

"I am going up there for a day or two, and mamma wrote me I
had better act as your escort, which, of course, I am most
willing to do. See what mamma says to you."

"When are you going, Charlton?" said Fleda, as she broke the
seal of the note he gave her.

"To-morrow morning."

"That is too sudden a notice, Captain Rossitur," said Mrs.
Evelyn. "Fleda will hurry herself out of her colour, and then
your mother will say there is something in sea-breezes that
isn't good for her; and then she will never trust her within
reach of them again — which I am sure Miss Ringgan would be
sorry for."

Fleda took her note to the window, half angry with herself
that a kind of banter, in which certainly there was very
little wit, should have power enough to disturb her. But
though the shaft might be a slight one, it was winged with a
will; the intensity of Mrs. Evelyn's enjoyment in her own
mischief gave it all the force that was wanting. Fleda's head
was in confusion; she read her aunt's note three times over
before she had made up her mind on any point respecting it.


"MY DEAREST FLEDA,

"Charlton is coming home for a day or two — hadn't you better
take the opportunity to return with him? I feel as if you had
been long away, my dear child — don't you feel so too? Your
uncle is very desirous of seeing you; and as for Hugh and me,
we are but half ourselves. I would not still say a word about
your coming home if it were for your good to stay; but I fancy
from something in Mrs. Evelyn's letter, that Queechy air will
by this time do you good again; and opportunities of making
the journey are very uncertain. My heart has grown lighter
since I gave it leave to expect you. — Yours, my darling,


R.


"P. S. — I will write to Mrs. E. soon."


"What string has pulled these wires that are twitching me
home?" thought Fleda, as her eyes went over and over the words
which the feeling of the lines of her face would alone have
told her were unwelcome. And why unwelcome? — "One likes to be
moved by fair means and not by foul," was the immediate
answer. "And, besides, it is very disagreeable to be taken by
surprise. Whenever in any matter of my staying or going, did
aunt Lucy have any wish but my pleasure?" Fleda mused a little
while; and then, with a perfect understanding of the machinery
that had been at work, though an extremely vague and repulsed
notion of the spring that had moved it, she came quietly out
from her window and told Charlton she would go with him.

"But not to-morrow?" said Mrs. Evelyn, composedly. "You will
not hurry her off so soon as that Captain Rossitur?"

"Furloughs are the stubbornest things in the world, Mrs.
Evelyn; there is no spirit of accommodation about them. Mine
lies between to-morrow morning, and one other morning some two
days thereafter; and you might as soon persuade Atlas to
change his place. Will you be ready, coz?"

"I will be ready," said Fleda; and her cousin departed.

"Now, my dear Fleda,"' said Mrs. Evelyn, but it was with that
funny face, as she saw Fleda standing thoughtfully before the
fire; "you must be very careful in getting your things
together —"

"Why, Mrs. Evelyn?"

"I am afraid you will leave something behind you, my love."

"I will take care of that, Ma'am, and that I may, I will go
and see about it at once."

Very busy till dinner-time; she would not let herself stop to
think about anything. At dinner, Mr. Evelyn openly expressed
his regrets for her going, and his earnest wishes that she
would at least stay till the holidays were over.

"Don't you know Fleda better, Papa," said Florence, "than to
try to make her alter her mind? When she says a thing is
determined upon, I know there is nothing to do but to submit
with as good a grace as you can."

"I tried to make Captain Rossitur leave her a little longer,"
said Mrs. Evelyn; "but he says furloughs are immovable, and
his begins to-morrow morning — so he was immovable too. I
should keep her notwithstanding, though, if her aunt Lucy
hadn't sent for her."

"Well, see what she wants, and come back again," said Mr.
Evelyn.

"Thank you, Sir," said Fleda, smiling gratefully; "I think not
this winter."

"There are two or three of my friends that will be
confoundedly taken aback," said Mr. Evelyn, carefully helping
himself to gravy.

"I expect that an immediate depopulation of New York will
commence," said Constance, "and go on till the heights about
Queechy are all thickly settled with elegant country seats,
which is the conventional term for a species of mouse-trap."

"Hush, you baggage," said her father. "Fleda, I wish you could
spare her a little of your common sense, to go through the
world with."

"Papa thinks, you see, my dear, that you have _more than
enough_, which is not, perhaps, precisely the compliment he
intended."

"I take the full benefit of his and yours," said Fleda,
smiling.

After dinner, she had just time to run down to the library to
bid Dr. Gregory good-bye — her last walk in the city. It
wasn't a walk she enjoyed much.

"Going to-morrow!" said he. "Why, I am going to Boston in a
week, you had better stay, and go with me."

"I can't now, uncle Orrin, I am dislodged, and you know there
is nothing to do then but to go."

"Come and stay with me till next week."

But Fleda said it was best not, and went home to finish her
preparations.

She had no chance till late, for several gentlemen spent he
evening with them. Mr. Carleton was there part of the time,
but he was one of the first to go; and Fleda could not find an
opportunity to say that she should not see him again. Her
timidity would not allow her to make one. But it grieved her.

At last she escaped to her own room, where most of her packing
was still to do. By the time half the floor and all the bed
was strewn with neat-looking piles of things — the varieties
of her modest wardrobe — Florence and Constance came in to see
and talk with her, and sat down on the floor too; partly,
perhaps, because the chairs were all bespoken in the service
of boxes and baskets, and partly to follow what seemed to be
the prevailing style of things.

"What do you suppose has become of Mr. Thorn?" said Constance.
"I have a presentiment that you will find him cracking nuts
sociably with Mr. Rossitur, or drinking one of aunt Lucy's
excellent cups of coffee, in comfortable expectation of your
return."

"If I thought that, I should stay here," said Fleda. "My dear,
those were my cups of coffee."

"I wish I could make you think it, then," said Constance.

"But you are glad to go home, aren't you, Fleda?" said
Florence.

"She isn't," said her sister. "She knows Mamma contemplates
making a grand entertainment of all the Jews, as soon as she
is gone. What _does_ mamma mean by that, Fleda? I observe you
comprehend her with most invariable quickness."

"I should be puzzled to explain all that your mother means,"
said Fleda, gently, as she went on bestowing her things in the
trunk. "No, I am not particularly glad to go home, but I fancy
it is time. I am afraid I have grown too accustomed to your
luxury of life, and want knocking about to harden me a
little."

"Harden you!" said Constance. "My dear Fleda, you are under a
delusion. Why should any one go through an indurating process?
Will you inform me?"

"I don't say that every one should," said Fleda; "but isn't it
well for those whose lot does not lie among soft things?"

There was extreme sweetness, and a touching insinuation in her
manner, and both the young ladies were silent for some time
thereafter, watching somewhat wistfully the gentle hands and
face that were so quietly busy, till the room was cleared
again, and looked remarkably empty, with Fleda's trunk
standing in the middle of it. And then, reminding them that
she wanted some sleep to fit her for the hardening process,
and must therefore send them away, she was left alone.

One thing Fleda had put off till then — the care of her bunch
of flowers. They were beautiful still. They had given her a
very great deal of pleasure; and she was determined they
should be left to no servant's hands to be flung into the
street. If it had been summer, she was sure she could have got
buds from them; as it was, perhaps she might strike some
cuttings; at all events, they should go home with her. So,
carefully taking them out of the water, and wrapping the ends
in some fresh earth she had got that very afternoon from her
uncle's garden, Fleda bestowed them in the corner of her trunk
that she had left for them, and went to bed, feeling weary in
body, and in mind to the last degree quiet.

In the same mind and mood she reached Queechy the next
afternoon. It was a little before January — just the same time
that she had come home last year. As then, it was a bright
day, and the country was again covered thick with the
unspotted snow; but Fleda forgot to think how bright and fresh
it was. Somehow she did not feel this time quite so glad to
find herself there. It had never occurred to her so strongly
before, that Queechy could want anything.

This feeling flew away before the first glimpse of her aunt's
smile, and, for half an hour after, Fleda would have certified
that Queechy wanted nothing. At the end of that time came in
Mr. Rossitur. His greeting of Charlton was sufficiently
unmarked; but eye and lip wakened when he turned to Fleda.

"My dear child," he said, holding her face in both his hands,
"how lovely you have grown!"

"That's only because you have forgotten her, father," said
Hugh, laughing.

It was a very lovely face just then. Mr. Rossitur gazed into
it a moment, and again kissed first one cheek and then the
other, and then suddenly withdrew his hands and turned away,
with an air — Fleda could not tell what to make of it — an air
that struck her with an immediate feeling of pain; somewhat as
if for some cause or other he had nothing to do with her or
her loveliness. And she needed not to see him walk the room
for three minutes to know that Michigan agencies had done
nothing to lighten his brow, or uncloud his character. If this
had wanted confirmation, Fleda would have found it in her
aunt's face. She soon discovered, even in the course of the
pleasant talkative hours before supper, that it was not
brightened, as she had expected to find it, by her uncle's
coming home; and her ears now caught painfully the occasional
long breath, but half smothered, which told of a burden upon
the heart but half concealed. Fleda supposed that Mr.
Rossitur's business affairs at the West must have disappointed
him; and resolved not to remember that Michigan was in the map
of North America.

Still they talked on, through the afternoon and evening, all
of them except him: he was moody and silent. Fleda felt the
cloud overshadow sadly her own gaiety; but Mrs. Rossitur and
Hugh were accustomed to it, and Charlton was much too tall a
light to come under any external obscuration whatever. He was
descanting brilliantly upon the doings and prospects at Fort
Hamilton, where he was stationed, much to the entertainment of
his mother and brother. Fleda could not listen to him, while
his father was sitting lost in something not half so pleasant
as sleep, in the corner of the sofa. Her eyes watched him
stealthily, till she could not bear it any longer. She
resolved to bring the power of her sunbeam to bear, and, going
round, seated herself on the sofa close by him, and laid her
hand on his arm. He felt it immediately. The arm was instantly
drawn away to be put round her, and Fleda was pressed nearer
to his side, while the other hand took hers; and his lips were
again on her forehead.

"And how do you like me for a farmer, uncle Rolf?" she said,
looking up at him, laughingly, and then fearing immediately
that she had chosen her subject ill. Not from any change in
his countenance, however — that decidedly brightened up. He
did not answer at once.

"My child, you make me ashamed of mankind!"

"Of the dominant half of them, Sir, do you mean?" said
Charlton — "or is your observation a sweeping one?"

"It would sweep the greatest part of the world into the
background, Sir," answered his father, drily, "if its sense
were the general rule."

"And what has Fleda done to be such a besom of desolation?"

Fleda's laugh set everybody else a-going, and there was
immediately more life and common feeling in the society than
had been all day. They all seemed willing to shake off a
weight, and even Fleda, in the endeavour to chase the gloom
that hung over others, as it had often happened, lost half of
her own.

"But still I am not answered," said Charlton, when they were
grave again. "What has Fleda done to put such a libel upon
mankind?"

"You should call it a _label_, as Dr. Quackenboss does," said
Fleda, in a fresh burst; "he says he never would stand being
labelled!"

"But come back to the point," said Charlton; "I want to know
what is the label in this case, that Fleda's doings put upon
those of other people?"

"Insignificance," said his father, drily.

"I should like to know how bestowed," said Charlton.

"Don't enlighten him, uncle Rolf," said Fleda, laughing; "let
my doings remain in safe obscurity, please."

"I stand as a representative of mankind," said Charlton, "and
I demand an explanation."

"Look at what this slight frame and delicate nerves have been
found equal to, and then tell me if the broad shoulders of all
your mess would have borne half the burden, or their united
heads accomplished a quarter the results."

He spoke with sufficient depth of meaning, though now with no
unpleasant expression. But Charlton, notwithstanding, rather
gathered himself up.

"Oh, uncle Rolf," said Fleda, gently, "nerves and muscles
haven't much to do with it; after all, you know, I have just
served the place of a mouthpiece. Seth was the head, and good
Earl Douglass the hand."

"I am ashamed of myself and of mankind," Mr. Rossitur
repeated, "when I see what mere weakness can do, and how
proudly valueless strength is contended to be. You are
looking, Captain Rossitur; but, after all, a cap and plume
really makes a man taller only to the eye."

"When I have flung my plume in anybody's face, Sir," said
Charlton, rather hotly, "it will be time enough to throw it
back again."

Mrs. Rossitur put her. hand on his arm, and looked her
remonstrance.

"Are you glad to be home again, dear Fleda?" she said, turning
to her.

But Fleda was making some smiling communications to her uncle,
and did not seem to hear.

"Fleda, does it seem pleasant to be here again?"

"Very pleasant, dear aunt Lucy, though I have had a very
pleasant visit too."

"On the whole, you do not wish you were at this moment driving
out of town in Mr. Thorn's cabriolet?" said her cousin.

"Not in the least," said Fleda, coolly. How did you know I
ever did such a thing?"

"I wonder what should bring Mr. Thorn to Queechy at this time
of year," said Hugh.

Fleda started at this confirmation of Constance's words; and,
what was very odd, she could not get rid of the impression
that Mr. Rossitur had started too. Perhaps it was only her own
nerves, but he had certainly taken away the arm that was round
her.

"I suppose he has followed Miss Ringgan," said Charlton,
gravely.

"No," said Hugh, "he has been here some little time."

"Then he preceded her, I suppose, to see and get the sleighs
in order."

"He did not know I was coming," said Fleda.

"Didn't!"

"No, I have not seen him for several days."

"My dear little cousin," said Charlton, laughing, "you are not
a witch in your own affairs, whatever you may be in those of
other people."

"Why, Charlton?"

"You are no adept in the art of concealment."

"I have nothing to conceal," said Fleda. "How do you know he
is here, Hugh?"

"I was anxiously asked the other day," said Hugh, with a
slight smile, "whether you had come home, and then told that
Mr. Thorn was in Queechy. There is no mistake about it, for my
informant had actually seen him, and given him the directions
to Mr. Plumfield's, for which he was inquiring."

"The direction to Mr. Plumfield's!" said Fleda.

"What's your old friend, Mr. Carleton, doing in New York?"
said Charlton.

"Is he there still?" said Mrs. Rossitur.

"Large as life," answered her son.

"Which, though you might not suppose it, aunt Lucy, is about
the height of Captain Rossitur, with — I should judge — a
trifle less weight."

"Your eyes are observant!" said Charlton.

"Of a good many things," said Fleda, lightly.

"He is _not_ my height by half an inch!" said Charlton; "I am
just six feet without my boots."

"An excellent height!" said Fleda — " 'your six feet was ever
the only height.' "

"Who said that?" said Charlton.

"Isn't it enough that I say it?"

"What's he staying here for?"

"I don't know really," said Fleda. "It's very difficult to
tell what people do things for."

"Have you seen much of him?" said Mrs. Rossitur.

"Yes, Ma'am, a good deal — he was often at Mrs. Evelyn's."

"Is he going to marry one of her daughters?"

"Oh, no!" said Fleda, smiling; "he isn't thinking of such a
thing; — not in America — I don't know what he may do in
England."

"No!" said Charlton, "I suppose he would think himself
contaminated by matching with any blood in this hemisphere."

"You do him injustice" said Fleda, colouring; — "you do not
know him, Charlton."

"You do?"

"Much better than that."

"And he is not one of the most touch-me-not pieces of English
birth and wealth that ever stood upon their own dignity?"

"Not at all," said Fleda, — "How people may be misunderstood!
— he is one of the most gentle and kind persons I ever saw."

"To you!"

"To everybody that deserves it."

"Humph! — And not proud?"

"No, not as you understand it," — and she felt it was very
difficult to make him understand it, as the discovery involved
a very offensive implication; — "he is too fine a character to
be proud."

"That _is_ arguing in a circle with a vengeance!" said Charlton.

"I know what you are thinking of," said Fleda, "and I suppose
it passes for pride with a great many people who cannot
comprehend it — he has a singular power of quietly rebuking
wrong, and keeping impertinence at a distance — where, Captain
Rossitur, for instance, I suppose, would throw his cap in a
man's face, Mr. Carleton's mere silence would make the
offender doff his and ask pardon."

The manner in which this was said precluded all taking
offence.

"Well," said Charlton, shrugging his shoulders "then I don't
know what pride is — that's all!"

"Take care, Captain Rossitur," said Fleda, laughing — "I have
heard of such a thing as American pride before now."

"Certainly!" said Charlton; "and I'm quite willing — but it
never reaches quite such a towering height on our side the
water."

"I am sure I don't know how that may be," said Fleda; "but I
know I have heard a lady, an enlightened, gentle-tempered
American lady, so called — I have heard her talk to a poor
Irishwoman with whom she had nothing in the world to do, in a
style that moved my indignation — it stirred my blood! — and
there was nothing whatever to call it out. 'All the blood of
all the Howards,' I hope, would not have disgraced itself so."

"What business have you to 'hope' anything about it?"

"None — except from the natural desire to find what one has a
right to look for. But, indeed, I wouldn't take the blood of
all the Howards for any security: pride, as well as high-
breeding, is a thing of natural not adventitious growth: it
belongs to character, not circumstance."

"Do you know that your favourite, Mr. Carleton, is nearly
connected with those same Howards, and quarters their arms
with his own?"

"I have a very vague idea of the dignity implied in that
expression of 'quartering arms,' which comes so roundly out of
your mouth, Charlton," said Fleda, laughing. "No, I didn't
know it. But, in general, I am apt to think that pride is a
thing which reverses the usual rules of architecture, and
builds highest on the narrowest foundations."

"What do you mean?"

"Never mind," said Fleda; "if a meaning isn't plain, it isn't
worth looking after. But it will not do to measure pride by
its supposed materials. It does not depend on them, but on the
individual. You everywhere see people assert that most of
which they feel least sure, and then it is easy for them to
conclude that where there is so much more of the reality,
there must be proportionably more of the assertion. I wish
some of our gentlemen and ladies, who talk of pride where they
see, and can see nothing but the habit of wealth; I wish they
could see the universal politeness with which Mr. Carleton
returns the salutes of his inferiors. Not more respectfully
they lift their hats to him than he lifts his to them — unless
when he speaks."

"You have seen it?"

"Often."

"Where?"

"In England, at his own place, among his own servants and
dependents. I remember very well, it struck even my childish
eyes."

"Well, after all, that is nothing still but a refined kind of
haughtiness."

"It is a kind that I wish some of our Americans would copy,"
said Fleda.

"But, dear Fleda," said Mrs. Rossitur, "all Americans are not
like that lady you were talking of — it would be very unfair
to make her a sample. I don't think I ever heard any one speak
so in my life — you never heard me speak so."

"Dear aunt Lucy! — no — I was only giving instance for
instance. I have no idea that Mr. Carleton is a type of
Englishmen in general — I wish he were. But I think it is the
very people that cry out against superiority, who are the most
happy to assert their own where they can; the same jealous
feeling that repines on the one hand, revenges itself on the
other."

"Superiority of what kind?" said Charlton, stiffly.

"Of any kind — superiority of wealth, or refinement, or name,
or standing. Now, it does not follow that an Englishman is
proud because he keeps liveried servants, and it by no means
follows that an American lacks the essence of haughtiness
because he finds fault with him for doing so."

"I dare say some of our neighbours think we are proud," said
Hugh, "because we use silver forks instead of steel."

"Because we're _too good for steel forks_, you ought to say,"
said Fleda. "I am sure they think so. I have been given to
understand as much. Barby, I believe, has a good opinion of
us, and charitably concludes that we mean right; but some
other of our country friends would think I was far gone in
uppishness if they knew that I never touch fish with a steel
knife; and it wouldn't mend the matter much to tell them that
the combination of flavours is disagreeable to me — it hardly
suits the doctrine of liberty and equality that my palate
should be so much nicer than theirs."

"Absurd!" said Charlton.

"Very," said Fleda; "but on which side, in all probability, is
the pride?"

"It wasn't for liveried servants that I charged Mr. Carleton,"
said her cousin. "How do the Evelyns like this paragon of
yours?"

"Oh, everybody likes him, " said Fleda, smiling, "except you
and your friend, Mr. Thorn."

"Thorn don't like him, eh?"

"I think not."

"What do you suppose is the reason?" said Charlton, gravely.

"I don't think Mr. Thorn is particularly apt to like anybody,"
said Fleda, who knew very well the original cause of both
exceptions, but did not like to advert to it.

"Apparently you don't like Mr. Thorn?" said Mr. Rossitur,
speaking for the first time.

"I don't know who does, Sir, much — except his mother."

"What is he?"

"A man not wanting in parts, Sir, and with considerable force
of character — but I am afraid more for ill than good. I
should be very sorry to trust him with anything dear to me."

"How long were you in forming that opinion?" said Charlton,
looking at her curiously.

"It was formed, substantially, the first evening I saw him,
and I have never seen cause to alter it since."

The several members of the family therewith fell into a
general muse, with the single exception of Hugh, whose eyes
and thoughts seemed to be occupied with Fleda's living
presence. Mr. Rossitur then requested that breakfast might be
ready very early — at six o'clock.

"Six o'clock!" exclaimed Mrs. Rossitur.

"I have to take a long ride, on business, which must be done
early in the day."

"When will you be back?"

"Not before nightfall."

"But going on _another_ business journey!" said Mrs. Rossitur.
"You have but just these few hours come home from one."

"Cannot breakfast be ready?"

"Yes, uncle Rolf," said Fleda, bringing her bright face before
him — "ready at half-past five, if you like — now that _I_ am to
the fore, you know."

He clasped her to his breast and kissed her again, but with a
face so very grave that Fleda was glad nobody else saw it.

Then Charlton went, averring that he wanted at least a night
and a half of sleep between two such journeys as the one of
that day and the one before him on the next — especially as he
must resign himself to going without anything to eat. Him also
Fleda laughingly promised that, precisely half an hour before
the stage time, a cup of coffee and a roll should be smoking
on the table, with whatever substantial appendages might be
within the bounds of possibility, or the house.

"I will pay you for that beforehand with a kiss," said he.

"You will do nothing of the kind," said Fleda, stepping back;
"a kiss is a favour taken, not given — and I am entirely
ignorant what you have done to deserve it."

"You make a curious difference between me and Hugh," said
Charlton, half in jest, half in earnest.

"Hugh is my brother, Captain Rossitur," said Fleda, smiling —
"and that is an honour you never made any pretensions to."

"Come, you shall not say that any more," said he, taking the
kiss that Fleda had no mind to give him.

Half laughing, but with eyes that were all too ready for
something else, she turned again to Hugh, when his brother had
left the room, and looked wistfully in his face, stroking back
the hair from his temples with a caressing hand.

"You are just as you were when I left you!" she said, with
lips that seemed too unsteady to say more, and remained
parted.

"I am afraid so are you," he replied; "not a bit fatter. I
hoped you would be."

"What have you been smiling at so this evening?"

"I was thinking how well you talked."

"Why, Hugh! you should have helped me — I talked too much."

"I would much rather listen," said Hugh. "Dear Fleda, what a
different thing the house is with you in it!"

Fleda said nothing, except an inexplicable little shake of her
head, which said a great many things; and then she and her
aunt were left alone. Mrs. Rossitur drew her to her bosom,
with a look so exceeding fond that its sadness was hardly
discernible. It was mingled, however, with an expression of
some doubt.

"What has made you keep so thin?"

"I have been very well, aunt Lucy — thinness agrees with me."

"Are you glad to be home again, dear Fleda?"

"I am very glad to be with you, dear aunt Lucy!"

"But not glad to be home?"

"Yes, I am," said Fleda; "but somehow — I don't know — I
believe I have got a little spoiled — it is time I was at
home, I am sure. I shall be quite glad after a day or two,
when I have got into the works again. I am glad now, aunt
Lucy."

Mrs. Rossitur seemed unsatisfied, and stroked the hair from
Fleda's forehead, with an absent look.

"What was there in New York, that you were so sorry to leave?"

"Nothing, Ma'am, in particular," said Fleda, brightly; "and I
am not sorry, aunt Lucy — I tell you, I am a little spoiled
with company and easy living — I am glad to be with you
again."

Mrs. Rossitur was silent.

"Don't you get up to uncle Rolf's breakfast, to-morrow, aunt
Lucy."

"Nor you."

"I sha'n't, unless I want to; but there'll be nothing for you
to do; and you must just lie still. We will all have our
breakfast together when Charlton has his."

"You are the veriest sunbeam that ever came into a house,"
said her aunt, kissing her.


CHAPTER XI.


"My flagging soul flies under her own pitch."
DRYDEN.


Fleda mused as she went up stairs, whether the sun were a
luminous body to himself or no, feeling herself at that moment
dull enough. Bright was she, to others? nothing seemed bright
to her. Every old shadow was darker than ever. Her uncle's
unchanged gloom — her aunt's unrested face — Hugh's unaltered,
delicate, sweet look, which always, to her fancy, seemed to
write upon his face, "Passing away!" — and the thickening
prospects whence sprang the miasm that infected the whole
moral atmosphere — alas, yes! — "Money is a good thing,"
thought Fleda; "and poverty need not be a bad thing, if people
can take it right; but if they take it wrong!"

With a very drooping heart, indeed, she went to the window.
Her old childish habit had never been forgotten; whenever the
moon or the stars were abroad, Fleda rarely failed to have a
talk with them from her window. She stood there, now, looking
out into the cold, still night, with eyes just dimmed with
tears — not that she lacked sadness enough, but she did lack
spirit enough to cry. It was very still; after the rattle and
confusion of the city streets, that extent of snow-covered
country, where the very shadows were motionless — the entire
absence of soil and of disturbance — the rest of nature — the
breathlessness of the very wind — all preached a quaint kind
of sermon to Fleda. By the force of contrast, they told her
what should be; and there was more yet — she thought that by
the force of example, they showed what might be. Her eyes had
not long travelled over the familiar old fields and fences
before she came to the conclusion that she was home in good
time — she thought she had been growing selfish, or in danger
of it; and she made up her mind she was glad to be back again
among the rough things of life, where she could do so much to
smooth them for others, and her own spirit might grow to a
polish it would never gain in the regions of ease and
pleasure. " To do life's work!" thought Fleda, clasping her
hands — "no matter where — and mine is here. I am glad I am in
my place again — I was forgetting I had one."

It was a face of strange purity and gravity that the moon
shone upon, with no power to brighten as in past days; the
shadows of life were upon the child's brow. But nothing to
brighten it from within! One sweet, strong ray of other light
suddenly found its way through the shadows, and entered her
heart. "The Lord reigneth! let the earth be glad!" and then
the moonbeams, pouring down with equal ray upon all the
unevenness of this little world, seemed to say the same thing
over and over. Even so! Not less equally his providence
touches all — not less impartially his faithfulness guides.
"The Lord reigneth! let the earth be glad!" There was
brightness in the moonbeams now that Fleda could read this in
them; she went to sleep, a very child again, with these words
for her pillow.

It was not six, and darkness yet filled the world, when Mr.
Rossitur came down stairs, and softly opened the sitting-room
door. But the home fairy had been at work; he was greeted with
such a blaze of cheerfulness as seemed to say what a dark
place the world was everywhere but at home; his breakfast-
table was standing ready, well set and well supplied; and even
as he entered by one door, Fleda pushed open the other, and
came in from the kitchen, looking as if she had some strange
spirit-like kindred with the cheery, hearty glow which filled
both rooms.

"Fleda! — you up at this hour!"

"Yes, uncle Rolf," she said, coming forward to put her hands
upon his; "you are not sorry to see me, I hope."

But he did not say he was glad; and he did not speak at all;
he busied himself gravely with some little matters of
preparation for his journey. Evidently, the gloom of last
night was upon him yet. But Fleda had not wrought for praise,
and could work without encouragement; neither step nor hand
slackened, till all she and Barby had made ready was in nice
order on the table, and she was pouring out a cup of smoking
coffee.

"You are not fit to be up," said Mr. Rossitur, looking at her;
"you are pale, now. Put yourself in that arm-chair, Fleda, and
go to sleep; I will do this for myself."

"No, indeed, uncle Rolf," she answered, brightly: "l have
enjoyed getting breakfast very much at this out-of-the-way
hour, and now I am going to have the pleasure of seeing you
eat it. Suppose you were to take a cup of coffee instead of my
shoulder!"

He took it and sat down; but Fleda found that the pleasure of
seeing him was to be a very qualified thing. He ate like a
business man, in unbroken silence and gravity; and her
cheerful words and looks got no return. It became an effort at
length to keep either bright. Mr. Rossitur's sole remarks
during breakfast were, to ask if Charlton was going back that
day, and if Philetus was getting the horse ready?

Mr. Skillcorn had been called in good time by Barby, at
Fleda's suggestion, and coming down stairs had opined
discontentedly that "a man hadn't no right to be took out of
bed in the morning afore he could see himself." But this, and
Barby's spirited reply, that "there was no chance of his doing
_that_ at any time of day, so it was no use to wait," Fleda did
not repeat. Her uncle was in no humour to be amused.

She expected almost that he would go off without speaking to
her. But he came up kindly to where she stood watching him.

"You must bid me good-bye for all the family, uncle Rolf, as I
am the only one here," she said, laughing.

But she was sure that the embrace and kiss which followed were
very exclusively for her. They made her face almost as sober
as his own.

"There will be a blessing for you," said he, "if there is a
blessing anywhere!"

"_If_, uncle Rolf," said Fleda, her heart swelling to her eyes.

He turned away, without answering her.

Fleda sat down in the easy chair, then, and cried, but that
lasted very few minutes; she soon left crying for herself to
pray for him, that he might have the blessing he did not know.
That did not stop tears. She remembered the poor man sick of
the palsy, who was brought in by friends to be healed, and
that "Jesus seeing _their_ faith, said unto the sick of the
palsy, 'Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.' " It was a handle
that faith took hold of and held fast, while love made its
petition. It was all she could do, she thought; _she_ never
could venture to speak to her uncle on the subject.

Weary and tired, tears and longing at length lost themselves
in sleep. When she awaked, she found the daylight broadly
come, little King in her lap, the fire, instead of being burnt
out, in perfect preservation, and Barby standing before it,
and looking at her.

"You ha'n't got one speck o' good by _this_ journey to New
York," was Miss Elster's vexed salutation.

"Do you think so?" said Fleda, rousing herself. "I wouldn't
venture to say as much as that, Barby."

"If you have, 'tain't in your cheeks," said Barby, decidedly.
"You look just as if you was made of anything that wouldn't
stand wear, and that isn't the way you used to look."

"I have been up a good while without breakfast — my cheeks
will be a better colour when I have had that, Barby — they
feel pale."

The second breakfast was a cheerfuller thing. But when the
second traveller was despatched, and the rest fell back upon
their old numbers, Fleda was very quiet again. It vexed her to
be so, but she could not change her mood. She felt as if she
had been whirled along in a dream, and was now just opening
her eyes to daylight and reality. And reality — she could not
help it — looked rather dull after dream-land. She thought it
was very well she was waked up; but it cost her some effort to
appear so. And then she charged herself with ingratitude, her
aunt and Hugh were so exceedingly happy in her company.

"Earl Douglass is quite delighted with the clover hay, Fleda.
said Hugh, as the three sat at an early dinner.

"Is he?" said Fleda.

"Yes — you know he was very unwilling to cure it in your way,
and he thinks there never was anything like it now."

"Did you ever see finer ham, Fleda?" inquired her aunt. "Mr.
Plumfield says it could not be better."

"Very good!" said Fleda, whose thoughts had somehow got upon
Mr. Carleton's notions about female education, and were very
busy with them.

"I expected you would have remarked upon our potatoes before
now," said Hugh. "These are the Elephants — have you seen
anything like them in New York?"

"There cannot be more beautiful potatoes," said Mrs. Rossitur.
"We had not tried any of them before you went away, Fleda, had
we?"

"I don't know, aunt Lucy — no, I think not."

"You needn't talk to Fleda, mother," said Hugh, laughing —
"she is quite beyond attending to all such ordinary matters;
her thoughts have learned to take a higher flight since she
has been in New York."

"It is time they were brought down, then, said Fleda, smiling;
"but they have not learned to fly out of sight of home, Hugh."

"Where were they, dear Fleda?" said her aunt.

"I was thinking, a minute ago, of something I heard talked
about in New York, aunt Lucy; and, afterwards, I was trying to
find out by what possible or imaginable road I had got round
to it."

"Could you tell?"

Fleda said, "No," and tried to bear her part in the
conversation. But she did not know whether to blame the
subjects which had been brought forward, or herself, for her
utter want of interest in them. She went into the kitchen,
feeling dissatisfied with both.

"Did you ever see potatoes that would beat them Elephants?"
said Barby.

"Never, certainly," said Fleda, with a most involuntary smile.

"I never did," said Barby. "They beat all, for bigness and
goodness both. I can't keep 'em together. There's thousands of
'em, and I mean to make Philetus eat 'em for supper — such
potatoes and milk is good enough for him, or anybody. The cow
has gained on her milk wonderful, Fleda, since she begun to
have them roots fed out to her."

"Which cow?" said Fleda.

"Which cow? — why — the blue cow — there aint none of the
others that's giving any, to speak of," said Barby, looking at
her. "Don't you know — the cow you said them carrots should be
kept for?"

Fleda half laughed, as there began to rise up before her the
various magazines of vegetables, grain, hay, and fodder, that
for many weeks had been deliciously distant from her
imagination.

"I made butter for four weeks, I guess, after you went away,"
Barby went on; — "just come in here and see — and the carrots
makes it as yellow and sweet as June — I churned as long as I
had anything to churn, and longer; and now we live on cream —
you can make some cheesecakes just as soon as you're a mind to
— see! aint that doing pretty well? — and fine it is — put
your nose down to it —"

"Bravely, Barby — and it is very sweet."

"You ha'n't left nothing behind you in New York, have you?"
said Barby, when they returned to the kitchen.

"Left anything! no — what do you think I have left?"

"I didn't know but you might have forgotten to pack up your
memory," said Barby, drily.

Fleda laughed, and then in walked Mr. Douglass.

"How d'ye do?" said he. "Got back again. I heerd you was hum,
and so I thought I'd just step up and see. Been getting along
pretty well?"

Fleda answered, smiling internally at the wide distance
between her "getting along," and his idea of it.

"Well, the hay's first rate!" said Earl, taking off his hat,
and sitting down in the nearest chair —"I've been feedin' it
out now for a good spell, and I know what to think about it.
We've been feedin' it out ever since some time this side o'
the middle o' November — I never see nothin' sweeter, and I
don't want to see nothin' sweeter than it is! and the cattle
eats it liked May roses — they don't know how to thank you
enough for it."

"To thank _you_, Mr. Douglass," said Fleda, smiling.

"No," said he, in a decided manner — "I don't want no thanks
for it, and I don't deserve none! 'Twa'n't thanks to none or
_my_ foresightedness that the clover wa'n't served the old way.
I didn't like new notions, and I never did like new notions,
and I never see much good of 'em; but I suppose there's some
on 'em that aint moonshine — my woman says there is, and I
suppose there is, and after this clover hay I'm willin' to
allow that there is. It's as sweet as a posie if you smell to
it — and all of it's cured alike; and I think, Fleda, there's
a quarter more weight of it. I ha'n't proved it nor weighed
it, but I've an eye and a hand as good as most folks, and I'll
qualify to there being a fourth part more weight of it — and
it's a beautiful colour. The critters is as fond of it as you
and I be of strawberries."

"Well, that is satisfactory, Mr. Douglass," said Fleda. "How
is Mrs. Douglass and Catherine?"

"I ha'n't heerd 'em sayin' nothin' about it," he said; "and if
there was anythin' the matter, I suppose they'd let me know.
There don't much go wrong in a man's house without his hearin'
tell of it. So I think. Maybe 'tan't the same in other men's
houses. That's the way it is in mine."

"Mrs. Douglass would not thank you," said Fleda, wholly unable
to keep from laughing. Earl's mouth gave way a very little,
and then he went on.

"How be you?" he said. "You ha'n't gained much, as I see. I
don't see but you're as poor as when you went away."

"I am very well, Mr. Douglass."

"I guess New York aint the place to grow fat. Well, Fleda,
there ha'n't been seen in the hull country, or by any man in
it, the like of the crop of corn we took off that 'ere twenty-
acre lot — they're all beat to hear tell of it — they wont
believe me — Seth Plumfield ha'n't showed as much himself; he
says you're the best farmer in the state."

"I hope he gives you part of the credit, Mr. Douglass — how
much was there?"

"I'll take my share of credit whenever I can get it," said
Earl, "and I think it's right to take it, as long as you
ha'n't nothing to be ashamed of; but I wont take no more than
my share; and I will say I thought we was a-goin' to choke the
corn to death, when we seeded the field in that way. Well,
there's better than two thousand bushel — more or less — and
as handsome corn as I want to see — there never was handsomer
corn. Would you let it go for five shillings? — there's a man
I've heerd of wants the hull of it."

"Is that a good price, Mr. Douglass? Why don't you ask Mr.
Rossitur?"

"Do you s'pose Mr. Rossitur knows much about it?" inquired
Earl, with a curious turn of feature, between sly and
contemptuous. "The less he has to do with that heap of corn,
the bigger it'll be — that's my idee. I aint a-goin' to ask
him nothin' — you may ask him what you like to ask him — but I
don't think he'll tell you much that'll make you and me wiser
in the matter o' farmin'."

"But now that he is at home, Mr. Douglass, I certainly cannot
decide without speaking to him."

"Very good," said Earl, uneasily — " 'taint no affair of nine
— as you like to have it, so you'll have it — just as you
please! But now, Fleda, there's another thing I want to speak
to you about — I want you to let me take hold of that 'ere
piece of swamp land and bring it in. I knew a man that fixed a
piece of land like that, and cleared nigh a thousand dollars
off it the first year."

"Which piece?" said Fleda.

"Why, you know which 'tis — just the other side of the trees
over there between them two little hills. There's six or seven
acres of it — nothin' in the world but mud and briers — will
you let me take hold of it. I'll do the hull job if you'll
give me half the profits for one year. Come over and look at
it, and I'll tell you — come! — the walk wont hurt you, and it
aint fur."

All Fleda's inclinations said no, but she thought it was not
best to indulge them. She put on her hood and went off with
him; and was treated to a long and most implicated detail of
ways and means, from which she at length disentangled the
_rationale_ of the matter, and gave Mr. Douglass the consent he
asked for, promising to gain that of her uncle.

The day was fair and mild, and in spite of weariness of body,
a certain weariness of mind prompted Fleda, when she had got
rid of Earl Douglass, to go and see her aunt Miriam. She went,
questioning with herself all the way, for her want of goodwill
to these matters. True, they were not pleasant mind-work; but
she tried to school herself into taking them patiently as good
life-work. She had had too much pleasant company, and enjoyed
too much conversation she said. It had unfitted her for home
duties.

Mrs. Plumfield, she knew, was no better. But her eye found no
change for the worse. The old lady was very glad to see her,
and very cheerful and kind as usual.

"Well, are you glad to be home again?" said aunt Miriam, after
a pause in the conversation.

"Everybody asks me that question," said Fleda, smiling.

"Perhaps for the same reason I did — because they thought you
didn't look very glad."

"I am glad," said Fleda, "but I believe not so glad as I was
last year."

"Why not?"

"I suppose I had a pleasanter time. I have got a little
spoiled, I believe, aunt Miriam," Fleda said, with glistening
eyes and an altering voice — "I don't take up my old cares and
duties kindly at first — I shall be myself again in a few
days."

Aunt Miriam looked at her with that fond, wistful, benevolent
look which made Fleda turn away.

"What has spoiled you, love?"

"Oh! — easy living and pleasure, I suppose," Fleda said, but
said with difficulty.

"Pleasure?" said aunt Miriam, putting one arm gently round
her. Fleda struggled with herself.

"It is so pleasant, aunt Miriam, to forget these money cares!
— to lift one's eyes from the ground, and feel free to stretch
out one's hand — not to be obliged to think about spending
sixpences, and to have one's mind at liberty for a great many
things that I haven't time for here. And Hugh — and aunt Lucy
— somehow things seem sad to me." —

Nothing could be more sympathizingly kind than the way in
which aunt Miriam brought Fleda closer to her side, and
wrapped her in her arms.

"I am very foolish," Fleda whispered. "I am very wrong — I
shall get over it."

"I am afraid, dear Fleda," Mrs. Plumfield said, after a pause,
"it isn't best for us always to be without sad things — though
I cannot bear to see your dear little face look sad — but it
wouldn't fit us for the work we have to do — it wouldn't fit
us to stand where I stand now, and look forward happily."

"Where you stand?" said Fleda, raising her head.

"Yes, and I would not be without a sorrow I have ever known.
They are bitter now, when they are present — but the sweet
fruit comes after."

"But what do you mean by 'where you stand?' "

"On the edge of life."

"You do not think so, aunt Miriam!" Fleda said, with a
terrified look. "You are not worse?"

"I don't expect ever to be better," said Mrs. Plumfield, with
a smile. "Nay, my love," she said, as Fleda's head went down
on her bosom again — "not so! I do not wish it either, Fleda.
I do not expect to leave you soon, but I would not prolong the
time by a day. I would not have spoken of it now if I had
recollected myself; but I am so accustomed to think and speak
of it, that it came out before I knew it. My darling child, it
is nothing to cry for."

"I know it, aunt Miriam."

"Then don't cry," whispered aunt Miriam, when she had stroked
Fleda's head for five minutes.

"I am crying for myself, aunt Miriam," said Fleda. "I shall be
left alone."

"Alone, my dear child?"

"Yes — there is nobody but you that I feel I can talk to."

She would have added that she dared not say a word to Hugh,
for fear of troubling him. But that pain at her heart stopped
her, and pressing her hands together, she burst into bitter
weeping.

"Nobody to talk to but me?" said Mrs. Plumfield, after again
soothing her for some time — "what do you mean, dear?"

"Oh, I can't say anything to them at home," said Fleda, with a
forced effort after voice; "and you are the only one I can
look to for help — Hugh never says anything — almost never —
anything of that kind; he would rather others should counsel
him."

"There is One friend to whom you may always tell everything,
with no fear of wearying Him — of whom you may at all times
ask counsel, without any danger of being denied — more dear,
more precious, more rejoiced in, the more he is sought unto.
Thou mayest lose friend after friend, and gain more than thou
losest — in that one."

"I know it," said Fleda; "but dear aunt Miriam, don't you
think human nature longs for some human sympathy and help
too?"

"My sweet blossom! yes," said Mrs. Plumfield, caressingly,
stroking her bowed head; "but let Him do what he will; he hath
said, 'I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.' "

"I know that too," said Fleda, weeping. "How do people bear
life that do not know it?"

"Or that cannot take the comfort of it. Thou art not poor nor
alone while thou hast him to go to, little Fleda. And you are
not losing me yet, my child; you will have time, I think, to
grow as well satisfied as I with the prospect."

"Is that possible, for _others?_" said Fleda.

The mother sighed as her son entered the room.

He looked uncommonly grave, Fleda thought. That did not
surprise her, but it seemed that it did his mother, for she
asked an explanation, which, however, he did not give.

"So you've got back from New York," said he.

"Just got back yesterday," said Fleda.

"Why didn't you stay longer?"

"I thought my friends at home would be glad to see me," said
Fleda. "Was I mistaken?"

He made no answer for a minute, and then said —

"Is your uncle at home?"

"No," said Fleda; "he went away this morning on business, and
we do not expect him home before nightfall. Do you want to see
him?"

"No," said Seth, very decidedly. "I wish he had staid in
Michigan, or gone further west — anywhere that Queechy'd never
have heard of him."

"Why, what has he done?" said Fleda, looking up, half
laughing, and half amazed at her cousin. But his face was
disagreeably dark, though she could not make out that the
expression was one of displeasure. It did not encourage her to
talk.

"Do you know a man in New York by the name of Thorn?" he said,
after standing still a minute or two.

"I know two men of that name," said Fleda, colouring and
wondering.

"Is either on 'em a friend of your'n?"

"No"

"He aint?" said Mr. Plumfield, giving the forestick on the
fire an energetic kick, which Fleda could not help thinking
was mentally aimed at the said New Yorker.

"No, certainly, what makes you ask?"

"Oh," said Seth, drily, "folks' tongues will find work to do;
I heerd say something like that; I thought you must take to
him more than I do."

"Why what do you know of him?"

"He's been here a spell lately," said Seth, "poking round;
more for ill than for good, I reckon."

He turned, and quitted the room abruptly; and Fleda bethought
her that she must go home while she had light enough.


CHAPTER XII.


"Nothing could be more obliging and respectful than the lion's
letter was, in appearance; but there was death in the true
intent."
L'ESTRANGE.


The landscape had grown more dark since Fleda came up the
hill, or else the eyes that looked at it. Both, probably. It
was just after sundown, and that is a very sober time of day
in winter, especially in some states of the weather. The sun
had left no largesses behind him; the scenery was deserted to
all the coming poverty of night, and looked grim and
threadbare already. Not one of the colours of prosperity left.
The land was in mourning dress; all the ground, and even the
ice on the little mill-ponds, a uniform spread of white, while
the hills were draperied with black stems, here just veiling
the snow, and there on a side view making a thick fold of
black. Every little unpainted workshop or mill showed
uncompromisingly all its forbidding sharpness of angle and
outline darkening against the twilight. In better days,
perhaps, some friendly tree had hung over it, shielding part
of its faults, and redeeming the rest. Now nothing but the
gaunt skeleton of a friend stood there — doubtless to bud
forth again as fairly as ever, should the season smile. Still
and quiet, all was, as Fleda's spirit, and in too good harmony
with it; she resolved to choose the morning to go out in
future. There was as little of the light of spring or summer
in her own mind as on the hills, and it was desirable to catch
at least a cheering reflection. She could rouse herself to no
bright thoughts, try as she would; the happy voices of nature
that used to speak to her were all hushed, or her ear was
deaf; and her eye met nothing that did not immediately fall in
with the train of sad images that were passing through her
mind, and swell the procession. She was fain to fall back and
stay herself upon these words, the only stand-by she could lay
hold of: —


"TO THEM WHO, BY PATIENT CONTINUANCE IN WELL-DOING SEEK FOR
GLORY, AND HONOUR, AND IMMORTALITY, ETERNAL LIFE!"


They toned with the scene and with her spirit exactly; they
suited the darkening sky and the coming night; for "glory,
honour, and immortality" are not now. They filled Fleda's mind
after they had once entered, and then nature's sympathy was
again as readily given; each barren, stern-looking hill in its
guise of present desolation and calm expectancy seemed to echo
softly, "patient continuance in well-doing." And the tears
trembled then in Fleda's eyes; she had set her face, as the
old Scotchman says, "in the right airth."* [* Quarter,
direction.] "How sweet is the wind that bloweth out of the
airth where Christ is!"

"Well," said Hugh, who entered the kitchen with her, "you have
been late enough. Did you have a pleasant walk? You are pale,
Fleda."

"Yes, it was pleasant," said Fleda, with one of her winning
smiles — "a kind of pleasant. But have you looked at the
hills? They are exactly as if they had put on mourning —
nothing but white and black — a crape-like dressing of black
tree-stems upon the snowy face of the ground, and on every
slope and edge of the hills the crape lies in folds. Do look
at it when you go out! It has a most curious effect."

"Not pleasant, I should think?" said Hugh.

"You'll see it is just as I have described it. No; not
pleasant, exactly; the landscape wants the sun to light it up
just now — it is cold and wilderness-looking. I think I'll
take the morning in future. Whither are you bound?"

"I must go over to Queechy Run for a minute, on business —
I'll be home before supper — I should have been back by this
time, but Philetus has gone to bed with a headache, and I had
to take care of the cows."

"Three times and out," said Barby. "I wont try again. [ didn't
know as anything would be too powerful for his head; but I
find, as sure as he has apple dumplin' for dinner, he goes to
bed for his supper, and leaves the cows without none. And then
Hugh has to take it. It has saved so many Elephants — that's
one thing."

Hugh went out by one door, and Fleda by another entered the
breakfast-room, the one generally used in winter for all
purposes. Mrs. Rossitur sat there alone in an easy-chair; and
Fleda no sooner caught the outline of her figure than her
heart sank at once to an unknown depth — unknown before and
unfathomable now. She was cowering over the fire — her head
sunk in her hands, so crouching, that the line of neck and
shoulders instantly conveyed to Fleda the idea of fancied or
felt degradation — there was no escaping it — how, whence,
what, was all wild confusion. But the language of mere
attitude was so unmistakable — the expression of crushing pain
was so strong, that, after Fleda had fearfully made her way up
beside her, she could do no more. She stood there tongue-tied,
spell-bound, present to nothing but a nameless chill of fear
and heart-sinking. She was afraid to speak — afraid to touch
her aunt, and abode motionless in the grasp of that dread for
minutes. But Mrs. Rossitur did not stir a hair, and the terror
of that stillness grew to be less endurable than any other.

Fleda spoke to her — it did not win the shadow of a reply —
again and again. She laid her hand then upon Mrs. Rossitur's
shoulder, but the very significant answer to that, was a
shrinking gesture of the shoulder and neck away from the hand.
Fleda, growing desperate, then implored an answer in words —
prayed for an explanation — with an intensity of distress in
voice and manner, that no one whose ears were not stopped with
a stronger feeling could have been deaf to; but Mrs. Rossitur
would not raise her head, nor slacken in the least the clasp
of the fingers that supported it; that of themselves in their
relentless tension spoke what no words could. Fleda's
trembling prayers were in vain — in vain. Poor nature at last
sought a woman's relief in tears — but they were heart-
breaking, not heart-relieving tears — racking both mind and
body more than they ought to bear, but bringing no cure. Mrs.
Rossitur seemed as unconscious of her niece's mute agony as
she had been of her agony of words; and it was from Fleda's
own self-recollection alone that she fought off pain, and
roused herself above weakness to do what the time called for.

"Aunt Lucy," she said, laying her hand upon her shoulder, and
this time the voice was steady, and the hand would not be
shaken off — "Aunt Lucy, Hugh will be in presently — hadn't
you better rouse yourself and go up stairs — for awhile? —
till you are better? — and not let him see you so?" —

How the voice was broken and quivering before it got through?

The answer this time was a low long-drawn moan, so exceeding
plaintive and full of pain that it made Fleda shake like an
aspen. But after a moment she spoke again, bearing more
heavily with her hand to mark her words.

"I am afraid he will be in presently — he ought not to see you
now. Aunt Lucy, I am afraid it might do him an injury he might
not get over" —

She spoke with the strength of desperation; her nerves were
unstrung by fear, and every joint weakened, so that she could
hardly support herself. She had not, however, spoken in vain;
one or two convulsive shudders passed over her aunt, and then
Mrs. Rossitur suddenly rose, turning her face from Fleda;
neither would she permit her to follow her. But Fleda thought
she had seen that one or two unfolded letters or papers of
some kind — they looked like letters — were in her lap when
she raised her head.

Left alone, Fleda sat down on the floor by the easy chair, and
rested her head there, waiting — she could do nothing else —
till her extreme excitement of body and mind should have
quieted itself. She had a kind of vague hope that time would
do something for her before Hugh came in. Perhaps it did; for
though she lay in a kind of stupor, and was conscious of no
change whatever she was able, when she heard him coming, to
get up and sit in the chair in an ordinary attitude. But she
looked like the wraith of herself an hour ago.

"Fleda!" Hugh exclaimed, as soon as he looked from the fire to
her face; "what is the matter? — what is the matter with you?"

"I am not very well — I don't feel very well," said Fleda,
speaking almost mechanically; "I shall have a headache to-
morrow." —

"Headache! But you look shockingly: what has happened to you?
what is the matter, Fleda?"

"I am not ill — I shall be better by and by. There is nothing
the matter with me that need trouble you, dear Hugh."

"Nothing the matter with you," said he, and Fleda might see
how she looked in the reflection of his face; "where's
mother?"

"She is up stairs — you mustn't go to her, Hugh!" said Fleda,
laying a detaining hand upon him with more strength than she
thought she had; "I don't want anything."

"Why mustn't I go to her?"

"I don't think she wants to be disturbed" —

"I must disturb her" —

"You mustn't! — I know she don't — she isn't well — something
has happened to trouble her" —

"What?"

"I don't know."

"And is that what has troubled you, too?" said Hugh, his
countenance changing as he gained more light on the subject;
"what is it, dear Fleda?"

"I don't know," repeated Fleda, bursting into tears. Hugh was
quiet enough now, and sat down beside her, subdued and still,
without even desiring to ask a question. Fleda's tears flowed
violently for a minute, then she checked them for his sake,
and they sat motionless, without speaking to one another,
looking into the fire, and letting it die out before them into
embers and ashes, neither stirring to put a hand to it. As the
fire died, the moonlight streamed in : how very dismal the
room looked!

"What do you think about having tea?" said Barby, opening the
door of the kitchen.

Neither felt it possible to answer her.

"Mr. Rossitur aint come home, is he?"

"No," said Fleda, shuddering.

"So I thought, and so I told Seth Plumfield, just now — he was
asking for him. My stars! ha'n't you no fire here? what did
you let it go out for?"

Barby came in and began to build it up.

"It's growing cold, I can tell you, so you may as well have
something in the chimney to look at. You'll want it shortly,
if you don't now."

"Was Mr. Plumfield here, did you say, Barby?"

"Yes."

"Why didn't he come in!"

"I s'pose he hadn't a mind to," said Barby. " 'Twa'n't for
want of being asked. I did the civil thing by him if he didn't
by me; but he said he didn't want to see anybody but Mr.
Rossitur."

Did not want to see anybody but Mr. Rossitur, when he had
distinctly said he did not wish to see him! Fleda felt sick,
merely from the mysterious dread which could fasten upon
nothing, and therefore took in everything.

"Well, what about tea?" concluded Barby, when the fire was
going according to her wishes. "Will you have it, or will you
wait longer?"

"No, we wont wait; we will have it now, Barby," said Fleda,
forcing herself to make the exertion; and she went to the
window to put down the hangings.

The moonlight was very bright, and Fleda's eye was caught in
the very act of letting down the curtain, by a figure in the
road slowly passing before the courtyard fence. It paused a
moment by the horse-gate, and turning, paced slowly back till
it was hid behind the rose-acacias. There was a clump of
shrubbery in that corner thick enough even in winter to serve
for a screen. Fleda stood with the curtain in her hand, half
let down, unable to move, and feeling almost as if the very
currents of life within her were standing still, too. She
thought, she was almost sure, she knew the figure; it was on
her tongue to ask Hugh to come and look, but she checked that.
The form appeared again from behind the acacias, moving with
the same leisurely pace the other way towards the horse-gate.
Fleda let down the curtain, then the other two, quietly, and
then left the room, and stole, noiselessly, out at the front
door, leaving it open, that the sound of it might not warn
Hugh what she was about; and stepping like a cat down the
steps, ran, breathlessly, over the snow to the courtyard gate;
there waited, shivering in the cold, but not feeling it for
the cold within, while the person she was watching stood still
a few moments by the horse-gate, and came again, with
leisurely steps towards her.

"Seth Plumfield!" said Fleda, almost as much frightened at the
sound of her own voice as he was. He stopped immediately, with
a start, and came up to the little gate behind which she was
standing, but said nothing.

"What are you doing here?"

"You oughtn't to be out without anything on," said he —
"you're fixing to take your death."

He had good reason to say so. But she gave him no more heed
than the wind.

"What are you waiting here for? What do you want?"

"I have nothing better to do with my time," said he; "I
thought I'd walk up and down here a little. You go in!"

"Are you waiting to see uncle Rolf?" she said, with teeth
chattering.

"You mustn't stay out here," said he, earnestly; "you're like
nothing but a spook this minute — I'd rather see one, or a
hull army of 'em. Go in, go in!"

"Tell me if you want to see him, Seth."

"No, I don't — I told you I didn't."

"Then why are you waiting for him?"

"I thought I'd see if he was coming home to-night — I had a
word to say if I could catch him before he got into the
house."

"_Is_ he coming home to-night?" said Fleda.

"I don't know!" said he, looking at her. "Do you!"

Fleda burst open the gate between them, and putting her hands
on his, implored him to tell her what was the matter. He
looked singularly disturbed; his fine eye twinkled with
compassion; but his face, never a weak one, showed no signs of
yielding now.

"The matter is," said he, pressing hard both her hands, "that
you are fixing to be down sick in your bed by to-morrow. You
mustn't stay another second."

"Come in, then."

"No — not to-night."

"You wont tell me?"

"There is nothing I can tell you — maybe there'll be nothing
to tell — run in, run in, and keep quiet."

Fleda hurried back to the house, feeling that she had gone to
the limit of risk already. Not daring to show herself to Hugh
in her chilled state of body and mind, she went into the
kitchen.

"Why, what on earth's come over you!" was Barby's terrified
ejaculation, when she saw her.

"I have been out and got myself cold —"

"Cold!" said Barby — "you're looking dreadful! What on earth
ails you, Fleda?"

"Don't ask me, Barby," said Fleda, hiding her face in her
hands, and shivering; "I made myself very cold just now — Aunt
Lucy doesn't feel very well, and I got frightened," she added,
presently.

"What's the matter with her?"

"I don't know — if you'll make me a cup of tea, I'll take it
up to her, Barby."

"You put yourself down there," said Barby, placing her with
gentle force in a chair; "you'll do no such a thing till I see
you look as if there was some blood in you. I'll take it up
myself."

But Fleda held her, though with a hand much too feeble indeed
for any but moral suasion. It was enough. Barby stood
silently, and very anxiously watching her, till the fire had
removed the outward chill at least. But even that took long to
do, and before it was well done, Fleda again asked for the cup
of tea. Barby made it without a word, and Fleda went to her
aunt with it, taking her strength from the sheer emergency.
Her knees trembled under her as she mounted the stairs, and
once a glimpse of those words flitted across her mind —
"patient continuance in well-doing." It was like a lightning
flash in a dark night showing the way one must go. She could
lay hold of no other stay. Her mind was full of one intense
purpose — to end the suspense.

She gently tried the door of her aunt's room; it was
unfastened, and she went in. Mrs. Rossitur was lying on the
bed; but her first mood had changed, for at Fleda's soft word
and touch she half rose up, and, putting both arms round her
waist, laid her face against her. There were no tears still,
only a succession of low moans, so inexpressibly weak and
plaintive, that Fleda's nature could hardly bear them without
giving way. A more fragile support was never clung to. Yet her
trembling fingers, in their agony, moved caressingly among her
aunt's hair and over her brow, as she begged her — when she
could, she was not able at first — to let her know the cause
that was grieving her. The straitened clasp of Mrs. Rossitur's
arms, and her increased moaning, gave only an answer of pain.
But Fleda repeated the question. Mrs. Rossitur still
neglecting it, then made her sit down upon the bed, so that
she could lay her head higher on Fleda's bosom; where she hid
it, with a mingling of fondness given and asked — a poor
seeking for comfort and rest, that wrung her niece's heart.

They sat so for a little time; Fleda hoping that her aunt
would by degrees come to the point herself. The tea stood
cooling on the table, not even offered; not wanted there.

"Wouldn't you feel better if you told me, dear aunt Lucy?"
said Fleda, when they had been for a little while perfectly
still. Even the moaning had ceased.

"Is your uncle come home?" whispered Mrs. Rossitur, but so low
that Fleda could but half catch the words.

"Not yet."

"What o'clock is it?"

"I don't know — not early — it must be near eight. — Why?"

"You have not heard anything of him?"

"No — nothing."

There was silence again for a little, and then Mrs. Rossitur
said in a low, fearful whisper —

"Have you seen anybody round the house?"

Fleda's thoughts flew to Seth, with that nameless fear to
which she could give neither shape nor direction, and after a
moment's hesitation she said —

"What do you mean?"

"Have you?" said Mrs. Rossitur, with more energy.

"Seth Plumfield was here a little while ago."

Her aunt had the clue that she had not, for with a half
scream, half exclamation, she quitted Fleda's arms, and fell
back upon the pillows, turning from her and hiding her face
there. Fleda prayed again for her confidence, as well as the
weakness and the strength of fear could do; and Mrs. Rossitur
presently grasping a paper that lay on the bed, held it out to
her, saying only, as Fleda was about quitting the room, "Bring
me a light."

Fleda left the letter there and went down to fetch one. She
commanded herself under the excitement and necessity of the
moment — all but her face; that terrified Barby exceedingly.
But she spoke with a strange degree of calmness; told her Mrs.
Rossitur was not alarmingly ill; that she did not need Barby's
services, and wished to see nobody but herself, and didn't
want a fire. As she was passing through the hall again, Hugh
came out of the sitting-room to ask after his mother. Fleda
kept the light from her face.

"She does not want to be disturbed — I hope she will be better
to-morrow."

"What is the matter, Fleda?"

"I don't know yet."

"And you are ill yourself, Fleda? — you are ill?" —

"No — I shall do very well — never mind me. Hugh, take some
tea — I will be down by and by."

He went back, and Fleda went up stairs. Mrs. Rossitur had not
moved. Fleda set down the light, and herself beside it, with
the paper her aunt had given her. It was a letter.


"Queechy, Thursday.

"It gives me great concern, my dear Madam, to be the means of
bringing to you a piece of painful information — but it cannot
be long kept from your knowledge, and you may perhaps learn it
better from me than by any other channel. May I entreat you
not to be too much alarmed, since I am confident the cause
will be of short duration?

"Pardon me for what I am about to say.

"There are proceedings entered into against Mr. Rossitur —
there are writs out against him — on the charge of having,
some years ago, endorsed my father's name upon a note of his
own giving. Why it has lain so long I cannot explain. There
is, unhappily, no doubt of the fact.

"I was in Queechy some days ago, on business of my own, when I
became aware that this was going on — my father had made no
mention of it to me. I immediately took strict measures, I am
happy to say, I believe with complete success — to have the
matter kept a profound secret. I then made my way as fast
possible to New York to confer on the subject with the
original mover of it — unfortunately I was disappointed. My
father had left for a neighbouring city, to be absent several
days. Finding myself too late to prevent, as I had hoped to
do, any open steps from being taken at Queechy, I returned
hither immediately to enforce secrecy of proceedings and to
assure you, Madam, that my utmost exertions shall not be
wanting to bring the whole matter to a speedy and satisfactory
termination. I entertain no doubt of being able to succeed
entirely — even to the point of having the whole transaction
remain unknown and unsuspected by the world. It is so entirely
as yet, with the exception of one or two law officers, whose
silence I have means of procuring.

"May I confess that I am not entirely disinterested? May the
selfishness of human nature ask its reward, and own its moving
spring! May I own that my zeal in this cause is quickened by
the unspeakable excellencies of Mr. Rossitur's lovely niece —
which I have learned to appreciate with my whole heart — and
be forgiven? And may I hope for the kind offices and
intercession of the lady I have the honour of addressing, with
her niece, Miss Ringgan, that my reward — the single word of
encouragement I ask for — may be given me? Having that, I will
promise anything — I will guarantee the success of any
enterprise, however difficult, to which she may impel me — and
I will undertake that the matter which furnishes the painful
theme of this letter shall never more be spoken or thought of
by the world, or my father, or by Mrs. Rossitur's obliged,
grateful, and faithful servant,

LEWIS THORN."


Fleda felt, as she read, as if icicles were gathering about
her heart. The whirlwind of fear and distress of a little
while ago, which could take no definite direction, seemed to
have died away and given place to a dead frost — the steady
bearing down of disgrace and misery, inevitable, unmitigable,
unchangeable; no lessening, no softening of that blasting
power, no, nor ever any rising up from under it; the landscape
could never be made to smile again. It was the fall of a
bright star from their home constellation, but alas! the star
was fallen long ago, and the failure of light which they had
deplored was all too easily accounted for; yet now they knew
that no restoration was to be hoped. And the mother and son —
what would become of them? And the father — what would become
of him? what further distress was in store? — Public disgrace?
— and Fleda bowed her head forward on her clasped hands with
the mechanical, vain endeavour to seek rest or shelter from
thought. She made nothing of Mr. Thorn's professions, she took
only the facts of his letter; the rest her eye had glanced
over as if she had no concern with it, and it hardly occurred
to her that she had any. But the sense of his words she had
taken in, and knew, better perhaps than her aunt, that there
was nothing to look for from his kind offices. The weight on
her heart was too great just then for her to suspect, as she
did afterwards, that he was the sole mover of the whole
affair.

As the first confusion of thought cleared away, two images of
distress loomed up and filled the view — her aunt, broken
under the news, and Hugh still unknowing to them; her own
separate existence Fleda was hardly conscious of. Hugh
especially — how was he to be told, and how could he bear to
hear, with his most sensitive conformation of both physical
and moral nature? And if an arrest should take place there
that night! — Fleda shuddered, and, unable to go on thinking,
rose up and went to her aunt's bedside. It had not entered her
mind till the moment she read Mr. Thorn's letter that Seth
Plumfield was sheriff for the county. She was shaking again
from head to foot with fear. She could not say anything — the
touch of her lips to the throbbing temples, soft and tender as
sympathy itself, was all she ventured.

"Have you heard anything of him?" Mrs. Rossitur whispered.

"No — I doubt if we do at all to-night."

There was a half breathed "Oh!" — of indescribable pain and
longing; and with a restless change of position Mrs. Rossitur
gathered herself up on the bed and sat with her head leaning
on her knees. Fleda brought a large cloak and put it round
her.

"I am in no danger," she said — "I wish I were!"

Again Fleda's lips softly, tremblingly touched her cheek.

Mrs. Rossitur put her arm round her and drew her down to her
side, upon the bed, and wrapped half of the big cloak about
her; and they sat there still in each other's arms, without
speaking or weeping, while quarter after quarter of an hour
passed away — nobody knew how many. And the cold bright
moonlight streamed in on the floor, mocking them.

"Go!" whispered Mrs. Rossitur, at last — "go down stairs, and
take care of yourself — and Hugh."

"Wont you come?"

Mrs. Rossitur shook her head.

"Mayn't I bring you something? — do let me."

But Mrs. Rossitur's shake of the head was decisive. Fleda
crawled off the bed, feeling as if a month's illness had been
making its ravages upon her frame and strength. She stood a
moment to collect her thoughts; but alas, thinking was
impossible; there was a palsy upon her mind. She went into her
own room, and for a minute kneeled down — not to form a
petition in words — she was as much beyond that; it was only
the mute attitude of appeal, the pitiful outward token of the
mind's bearing, that could not be forborne — a silent uttering
of the plea she had made her own in happy days. There was
something of comfort in the mere feeling of doing it; and
there was more in one or two words that even in that blank
came to her mind — "_Like as a father pitieth his children, so
the Lord pitieth them that fear him;_" and she again
recollected that "Providence runneth not upon broken wheels."
Nothing could be darker than the prospect before her, and
these things did not bring light; but they gave her a sure
stay to hold on by and keep her feet — a bit of strength to
preserve from utterly fainting. Ah! the store-house must be
filled, and the mind well familiarized with what is stored in
it while yet the days are bright, or it will never be able to
find what it wants in the dark.

Fleda first went into the kitchen to tell Barby to fasten the
doors, and not sit up.

"I don't believe uncle Rolf will be home to-night; but if he
comes, I will let him in."

Barby looked at her with absolutely a face of distress; but
not daring to ask, and not knowing how to propose anything,
she looked in silence.

"It must be nine o'clock now," Fleda went on.

"And how long be you going to sit up?" said Barby.

"I don't know — a while yet."

"You look proper for it!" said Barby, half sorrowfully and
half indignantly; "you look as if a straw would knock you down
this minute. There's sense into everything. You catch me a-
going to bed, and leaving you up! It wont do me no hurt to sit
here the hull night; and I'm the only one in the house that's
fit for it, with the exception of Philetus, and the little wit
he has by day seems to forsake him at night. All the light
that ever gets into his head, _I_ believe, comes from the
outside; as soon as ever that's gone, he shuts up his
shutters. He's been snoozing a'ready now this hour and a half.
Go yourself off to bed, Fleda," she added, with a mixture of
reproach and kindness, "and leave me alone to take care of
myself and the house too."

Fleda did not remonstrate, for Barby was as determined in her
way as it was possible for anything to be. She went into the
other room without a particle of notion what she should say or
do.

Hugh was walking up and down the floor — a most unusual sign
of perturbation with him. He met and stopped her as she came
in.

"Fleda, I cannot bear it. What is the matter? Do you know?" he
said, as her eyes fell.

"Yes —"

"What is it?"

She was silent, and tried to pass on to the fire. But he
stayed her.

"What is it?" he repeated.

"Oh, I wish I could keep it from you!" said Fleda, bursting
into tears.

He was still a moment; and then, bringing her to the arm-
chair, made her sit down, and stood himself before her,
silently waiting, perhaps because he could not speak, perhaps
from the accustomed gentle endurance of his nature. But Fleda
was speechless too.

"You are keeping me in distress," he said, at length.

"I cannot end the distress, dear Hugh," said Fleda.

She saw him change colour, and he stood motionless still.

"Do you remember," said Fleda, trembling even to her voice,
"what Rutherford says about Providence 'not running on broken
wheels?' "

He gave her no answer but the intent look of expectation. Its
intentness paralysed Fleda. She did not know how to go on. She
rose from her chair and hung upon his shoulder.

"Believe it now, if you can; for oh, dear Hugh! we have
something to try it."

"It is strange my father don't come home," said he, supporting
her with tenderness, which had very little strength to help
it; "we want him very much."

Whether or not any unacknowledged feeling prompted this
remark, some slight involuntary movement of Fleda's made him
ask, suddenly —

"Is it about him?"

He had grown deadly pale, and Fleda answered, eagerly —

"Nothing that has happened to-day — it is not anything that
has happened to-day: he is perfectly well, I trust and
believe."

"But it is about him?"

Fleda's head sank, and she burst into such an agony of tears
that Hugh's distress was for a time divided.

"When did it happen, Fleda?"

"Years ago."

"And what?"

Fleda hesitated still, and then said —

"It was something he did, Hugh."

"What?"

"He put another person's name on the back of a note he gave."

She did not look up, and Hugh was silent for a moment.

"How do you know?"

"Mr. Thorn wrote it to aunt Lucy; it was Mr. Thorn's father."

Hugh sat down and leaned his head on the table. A long, long,
time passed — unmeasured by the wild coursing of thought to
and fro. Then Fleda came and knelt down at the table beside
him, and put her arm round his neck.

"Dear Hugh," she said — and if ever love, and tenderness, and
sympathy could be distilled in tones, such drops were those
that fell upon the mind's ear — "can't you look up at me?"

He did then, but he did not give her a chance to look at him.
He locked his arms about her, bringing her close to his
breast; and for a few minutes, in utter silence, they knew
what strange sweetness pure affection can mingle, even in the
communion of sorrow. There were tears shed in those minutes
that, bitter as they seemed at the time, memory knew had been
largely qualified with another admixture.

"Dear Hugh," said Fleda, "let us keep what we can. Wont you go
to bed and rest?"

He looked dreadfully as if he needed it; but the usual
calmness and sweetness of his face was not altered; it was
only deepened to very great sadness. Mentally, Fleda thought,
he had borne the shock better than his mother; for the bodily
frame she trembled. He had not answered, and she spoke again.

"You need it worse than I, poor Fleda."

"I will go, too, presently: I do not think anybody will be
here to-night."

"Is — are there — is this what has taken him away?" said Hugh.

Her silence and her look told him; and then, laying her cheek
again alongside of his, she whispered (how unsteadily!) —

"We have only one help, dear Hugh."

They were still and quiet again for minutes, counting the
pulses of pain, till Fleda came back to her poor wish "to keep
what they could." She mixed a restorative of wine and water,
which, however little desired, she felt was necessary for both
of them, and Hugh went up stairs. She staid a few minutes to
prepare another glass, with particular care, for her aunt. It
was just finished, and, taking her candle, she had bid Barby
good night, when there came a loud rap at the front door.
Fleda set down candle and glass, from the quick inability to
hold them, as well as for other reasons, and she and Barby
stood and looked at each other, in such a confusion of doubt
and dread, that some little time had passed before either
stirred even her eyes. Barby then threw down the tongs, with
which she had begun to make preparations for covering up the
fire, and set off to the front.

"You mustn't open the door, Barby," cried Fleda, following
her. "Come in here, and let us look out of one of the
windows."

Before this could be reached, however, there was another
prolonged repetition of the first thundering burst. It went
through Fleda's heart, because of the two up stairs who must
hear it.

Barby threw up the sash.

"Who's there?"

"Is this Mr. Rossitur's place?" inquired a gruff voice.

"Yes, it is."

"Well will you come round and open the door?"

"Who wants it open?"

"A lady wants it open."

"A lady! — what lady?"

"Down yonder, in the carriage."

"What lady? — who is she?"

"I don't know who she is: she wanted to come to Mr. Rossitur's
place. Will you open the door for her?"

Barby and Fleda both now saw a carriage standing in the road.

"We must see who it is first," whispered Fleda.

"When the lady comes, I'll open the door," was Barby's
ultimatum.

The man withdrew to the carriage, and, after a few moments of
intense watching, Fleda and Barby certainly saw something in
female apparel enter the little gate of the court-yard, and
come up over the bright, moonlit snow towards the house,
accompanied by a child; while the man with whom they had had
the interview came behind, transformed into an unmistakable
baggage-carrier.


CHAPTER XIII.


"Zeal was the spring whence flowed her hardiment."
FAIRFAX.


Barby undid bolt and lock, and Fleda met the traveller in the
hall. She was a lady; her air and dress showed that, though
the latter was very plain.

"Does Mr. Rossitur live here?" was her first word.

Fleda answered it, and brought her visitor into the sitting-
room. But the light falling upon a form and face that had seen
more wear and tear than time, gave her no clue as to the who
or what of the person before her. The stranger's hurried look
around the room seemed to expect something.

"Are they all gone to bed?"

"All but me," said Fleda.

"We have been delayed — we took a wrong road — we've been
riding for hours to find the place — hadn't the right
direction." Then, looking keenly at Fleda, from whose vision
an electric spark of intelligence had scattered the clouds,
she said —

"I am Marion Rossitur."

"I knew it!" said Fleda, with lips and eyes that gave her
already a sister's welcome; and they were folded in each
other's arms almost as tenderly and affectionately, on the
part of one at least, as if there had really been the
relationship between them. But more than surprise and
affection struck Fleda's heart.

"And where are they all, Fleda? Can't I see them?"

"You must wait till I have prepared them; Hugh and aunt Lucy
are not very well. I don't know that it will do for you to see
them at all to-night, Marion."

"Not to-night! They are not ill?"

"No — only enough to be taken care of — not ill. But it would
be better to wait."

"And my father?"

"He is not at home."

Marion exclaimed in sorrow, and Fleda, to hide the look that
she felt was on her face, stooped down to kiss the child. He
was a remarkably fine-looking, manly boy.

"That is your cousin Fleda," said his mother.

"No — _aunt_ Fleda," said the person thus introduced — "don't
put me off into cousindom, Marion. I am uncle Hugh's sister —
and so I am your aunt Fleda. Who are you?"

"Rolf Rossitur Schwiden."

Alas, how wide are the ramifications of evil! How was what
might have been very pure pleasure utterly poisoned and turned
into bitterness! It went through Fleda's heart with a keen
pang, when she heard that name and looked on the very fair
brow that owned it, and thought of the ineffaceable stain that
had come upon both. She dared look at nobody but the child. He
already understood the melting eyes that were making
acquaintance with his, and half felt the pain that gave so
much tenderness to her kiss, and looked at her with a grave
face of awakening wonder and sympathy. Fleda was glad to have
business to call her into the kitchen.

"Who is it?" was Barby's immediate question.

"Aunt Lucy's daughter."

"She don't look much like her!" said Barby, intelligently.

"They will want something to eat, Barby."

"I'll put the kettle on. It'll boil directly. I'll go in there
and fix up the fire."

A word or two more, and then Fleda ran up to speak to her aunt
and Hugh.

Her aunt she found in a state of agitation that was frightful.
Even Fleda's assurances, with all the soothing arts she could
bring to bear, were some minutes before they could in any
measure tranquillize her. Fleda's own nerves were in no
condition to stand another shock, when she left her and went
to Hugh's door. But she could get no answer from him, though
she spoke repeatedly.

She did not return to her aunt's room. She went down stairs,
and brought up Barby and a light from thence.

Hugh was lying senseless and white — not whiter than his
adopted sister, as she stood by his side. Her eye went to her
companion.

"Not a bit of it!" said Barby, — "he's in nothing but a faint
— just run down stairs and get the vinegar-bottle, Fleda — the
pepper vinegar. Is there any water here?" —

Fleda obeyed, and watched — she could little more — the
efforts of Barby, who indeed needed no help, with the cold
water, the vinegar, and rubbing of the limbs. They were for
some time unsuccessful — the fit was a severe one, and Fleda
was exceedingly terrified before any signs of returning life
came to reassure her.

"Now, you go down stairs and keep quiet!" said Barby, when
Hugh was fairly restored, and had smiled a faint answer to
Fleda's kiss and explanations — "Go, Fleda! you aint fit to
stand. Go and sit down some place, and I'll be along directly
and see how the fire burns. Don't you s'pose Mis' Rossitur
could come in, and sit in this easy-chair a spell without
hurting herself?"

It occurred to Fleda immediately, that it might do more good
than harm to her aunt if her attention were diverted even by
another cause of anxiety. She gently summoned her, telling her
no more than was necessary to fit her for being Hugh's nurse,
and, in a very few minutes, she and Barby were at liberty to
attend to other claims upon them. But it sank into her heart,
"Hugh will not get over this!" — and when she entered the
sitting-room, what Mr. Carleton, years before, had said of the
wood-flower, was come true in its fullest extent — "A storm-
wind had beaten it to the ground."

She was able, literally, to do no more than Barby had said —
sit down and keep herself quiet. Miss Elster was in her
briskest mood, flew in and out, made up the fire in the
sitting-room, and put on the kettle in the kitchen, which she
had been just about doing when called to see Hugh. The much-
needed supper of the travellers must be still waited for; but
the fire was burning now, the room was cozily warm and bright,
and Marion drew up her chair with a look of thoughtful
contentment. Fleda felt as if some conjurer had been at work
there for the last few hours — the room looked so like and
felt so unlike itself.

"Are you going to be ill too, Fleda?" said Marion, suddenly.
"You are looking — very far from well!"

"I shall have a headache to-morrow," said Fleda, quietly, — "I
generally know the day beforehand."

"Does it always make you look so?"

"Not always — I am somewhat tired."

"Where is my father gone?"

"I don't know. Rolf, dear," said Fleda, bending forward to the
little fellow, who was giving expression to some very fidgety
impatience — "what is the matter? — what do you want?"

The child's voice fell a little from its querulousness towards
the sweet key in which the questions had been put, but he gave
utterance to a very decided wish for "bread and butter."

"Come here," said Fleda, reaching out a hand and drawing him,
certainly with no force but that of attraction, towards her
easy-chair — "come here and rest yourself in this nice place
by me — see, there is plenty of room for you — and you shall
have bread and butter and tea, and something else, too, I
guess, just as soon as Barby can get it ready."

"Who is Barby?" was the next question, in a most
uncompromising tone of voice.

"You saw the woman that came in to put wood on the fire — that
was Barby — she is very good and kind, and will do anything
for you if you behave yourself."

The child muttered, but so low as to show some unwillingness
that his words should reach the ears that were nearest him,
that "he wasn't going to behave himself."

Fleda did not choose to hear, and went on with composing
observations, till the fair little face she had drawn to her
side was as bright as the sun, and returned her smile with
interest.

"You have an admirable talent at moral suasion, Fleda," said
the mother, half smiling — "I wish I had it."

"You don't need it so much here."

"Why not?"

"It may do very well for me, but I think, not so well for
you."

"Why? — what do you mean? I think it is the only way in the
world to bring up children — the only way fit for rational
beings to be guided."

Fleda smiled, though the faintest indication that lips could
give, and shook her head — ever so little.

"Why do you do that? — tell me."

"Because, in my limited experience," said Fleda, as she passed
her fingers through the boy's dark locks of hair — "in every
household where 'moral suasion' has been the law, the children
have been the administrators of it. Where is your husband?"

"I have lost him — years ago" — said Marion, with a quick
expressive glance towards the child. "I never lost what I at
first thought I had, for I never had it. Do you understand?"

Fleda's eyes gave a sufficient answer.

"I am a widow — these five years — in all but what the law
would require," Marion went on. "I have been alone since then
— except my child. He was two years old then; and since then I
have lived such a life, Fleda!"

"Why didn't you come home?"

"Couldn't — the most absolute reason in the world. Think of
it! — Come home! It was as much as I could do to stay there!"

Those sympathizing eyes were enough to make her go on.

"I have wanted everything — except trouble. I have done
everything — except ask alms. I have learned, Fleda, that
death is not the worst form in which distress can come."

Fleda felt stung, and bent down her head to touch her lips to
the brow of little Rolf.

"Death would have been a trifle!" said Marion. "I mean — not
that _I_ should have wished to leave Rolf alone in the world;
but if I had been left — I mean I would rather wear outside
than inside mourning."

Fleda looked up again, and at her.

"Oh, I was so mistaken, Fleda!" she said, clasping her hands —
"so mistaken! — in everything; — so disappointed — in all my
hopes. And the loss of my fortune was the cause of it all."

Nay, verily! thought Fleda, but she said nothing; she hung her
head again; and Marion, after a pause, went on to question her
about an endless string of matters concerning themselves and
other people, past doings and present prospects, till little
Rolf, soothed by the uninteresting soft murmur of voices,
fairly forgot bread and butter and himself in a sound sleep,
his head resting upon Fleda.

"Here is one comfort for you, Marion," she said, looking down
at the dark eyelashes which lay on a cheek rosy and healthy as
ever seven years old knew; " he is a beautiful child, and I am
sure, a fine one."

"It is thanks to his beauty that I have ever seen home again,"
said his mother.

Fleda had no heart this evening to speak words that were not
necessary; her eyes asked Marion to explain herself.

"He was in Hyde Park one day — I had a miserable lodging not
far from it, and I used to let him go in there, because he
must go somewhere, you know — I couldn't go with him —"

"Why not?"

"Couldn't! — Oh Fleda! — I have seen changes! — He was there
one afternoon, alone, and had got into difficulty with some
bigger boys — a little fellow, you know — he stood his ground
manfully, but his strength wasn't equal to his spirit, and
they were tyrannizing over him after the fashion of boys, who
are, I do think, the ugliest creatures in creation!" said Mme.
Schwiden, not apparently reckoning her own to be of the same
gender — "and a gentleman, who was riding by, stopped and
interfered, and took him out of their hands, and then asked
him his name — struck, I suppose, with his appearance. Very
kind, wasn't it? men so seldom bother themselves about what
becomes of children. I suppose there were thousands of others
riding by at the same time."

"Very kind," Fleda said.

"When he heard what his name was, he gave his horse to his
servant, and walked home with Rolf; and the next day he sent
me a note, speaking of having known my father and mother, and
asking permission to call upon me. I never was so mortified, I
think, in my life," said Marion, after a moment's hesitation.

"Why?" said Fleda, not a little at a loss to follow out the
chain of her cousin's reasoning.

"Why, I was in such a sort of a place, you don't know, Fleda;
I was working then for a fancy storekeeper, to support myself
— living in a miserable little two rooms. If it had been a
stranger, I wouldn't have cared so much, but somebody that had
known us in different times. I hadn't a thing in the world to
answer the note upon but a half-sheet of letter paper."

Fleda's lips sought Rolf's forehead again, with a curious rush
of tears and smiles at once. Perhaps Marion had caught the
expression of her countenance, for she added, with a little
energy —

"It is nothing to be surprised at — you would have felt just
the same; for I knew by his note, the whole style of it, what
sort of a person it must be."

"My pride has been a good deal chastened," Fleda said, gently.

"I never want _mine_ to be, beyond minding everything," said
Marion; "and I don't believe yours is. I don't know why in the
world I did not refuse to see him — I had fifty minds to — but
he had won Rolf's heart, and I was a little curious, and it
was something strange to see the face of a friend, any better
one than my old landlady, so I let him come."

"Was _she_ a friend?" said Fleda.

"If she hadn't been, I should not have lived to be here; the
best soul that ever was; but still, you know, she could do
nothing for me but be as kind as she could live; this was
something different. So I let him come, and he came the next
day."

Fleda was silent, a little wondering that Marion should be so
frank with her, beyond what she had ever been in former years;
but, as she guessed, Mme. Schwiden's heart was a little opened
by the joy of finding herself at home, and the absolute
necessity of talking to somebody; and there was a further
reason, which Fleda could not judge of, in her own face and
manner. Marion needed no questions, and went on again, after
stopping a moment.

"I was so glad, in five minutes — I can't tell you, Fleda —
that I had let him come. I forgot entirely about how I looked,
and the wretched place I was in. He was all that I had
supposed, and a great deal more; but, somehow, he hadn't been
in the room three minutes before I didn't care at all for all
the things I had thought would trouble me. Isn't it strange
what a witchery some people have to make you forget everything
but themselves!"

"The reason is, I think, because that is the only thing they
forget," said Fleda, whose imagination, however, was entirely
busy with the _singular_ number.

"I shall never forget him," said Marion. "He was very kind to
me — I cannot tell how kind — though I never realized it till
afterwards; at the time, it always seemed only a sort of
elegant politeness which he could not help. I never saw so
elegant a person. He came two or three times to see me, and he
took Rolf out with him, I don't know how often, to drive; and
he sent me fruit — such fruit! and game, and flowers; and I
had not had anything of the kind, not even seen it, for so
long; I can't tell you what it was to me. He said he had known
my father and mother well when they were abroad."

"What was his name?" said Fleda, quickly.

"I don't know — he never told me — and I never could ask him.
Don't you know, there are some people you can't do anything
with, but just what they please? There wasn't the least thing
like stiffness; you never saw anybody less stiff; but I never
dreamed of asking him questions, except when he was out of
sight. Why, do you know him?" she said, suddenly.

"When you tell me who he was, I'll tell you," said Fleda,
smiling.

"Have you ever heard this story before?"

"Certainly not!"

"He is somebody that knows us very well," said Marion, "for he
asked after every one of the family in particular."

"But what had all this to do with your getting home?"

"I don't wonder you ask. The day after his last visit, came a
note, saying, that he owed a debt in my family, which it had
never been in his power to repay; that he could not give the
enclosure to my father, who would not recognise the
obligation; and that if I would permit him to place it in my
hands, I should confer a singular favour upon him."

"And what was the enclosure?"

"Five hundred pounds."

Fleda's head went down again, and tears dropped fast upon
little Rolf's shoulder.

"I suppose my pride has been a little broken, too," Marion
went on, "or I shouldn't have kept it. But then, if you saw
the person, and the whole manner of it — I don't know how I
could ever have sent it back. Literally I couldn't, though,
for I hadn't the least clue. I never saw or heard from him
afterwards."

"When was this, Marion?"

"Last spring."

"Last spring! — then what kept you so long?"

"Because of the arrival of eyes that I was afraid of. I dared
not make the least move that would show I could move. I came
off the very first packet after I was free."

"How glad you must be!" said Fleda.

"Glad!" —

"Glad of what, Mamma?" said Rolf,. whose dreams the entrance
of Barby had probably disturbed.

"Glad of bread and butter," said his mother; wake up — here it
is."

The young gentleman declared, rubbing his eyes, that he did
not want it now; but, however, Fleda contrived to dispel that
illusion, and bread and butter was found to have the same
dulcifying properties at Queechy that it owns in all the rest
of the world. Little Rolf was completely mollified after a
hearty meal, and was put with his mother to enjoy most
unbroken slumbers in Fleda's room. Fleda herself, after a look
at Hugh, crept to her aunt's bed; whither Barby very soon
despatched Mrs. Rossitur, taking in her place the arm-chair
and the watch with most invincible good-will and
determination; and sleep at last took the joys and sorrows of
that disturbed household into its kind custody.

Fleda was the first one awake, and was thinking how she should
break the last news to her aunt, when Mrs. Rossitur put her
arms round her, and, after a most affectionate look and kiss,
spoke to what she supposed had been her niece's purpose.

"You want taking care of more than I do, poor Fleda!"

"It was not for that I came," said Fleda; "I had to give up my
room to the travellers."

"Travellers!" —

A very few words more brought out the whole, and Mrs. Rossitur
sprang out of bed, and rushed to her daughter's room.

Fleda hid her face in the bed to cry — for a moment's
passionate indulgence in weeping while no one could see. But a
moment was all. There was work to do, and she must not disable
herself. She slowly got up, feeling thankful that her headache
did not announce itself with the dawn, and that she would be
able to attend to the morning affairs and the breakfast, which
was something more of a circumstance now with the new
additions to the family. More than that, she knew, from sure
signs, she would not be able to accomplish.

It was all done, and done well, though with what secret
flagging of mind and body nobody knew or suspected. The
business of the day was arranged, Barby's course made clear,
Hugh visited and smiled upon; and then Fleda set herself down
in the breakfast-room to wear out the rest of the day in
patient suffering. Her little spaniel, who seemed to
understand her languid step and faint tones, and know what was
coming, crept into her lap and looked up at her with a face of
equal truth and affection; and after a few gentle
acknowledging touches from the loved hand, laid his head on
her knees, and silently avowed his determination of abiding
her fortunes for the remainder of the day.

They had been there for some hours. Mrs. Rossitur and her
daughter were gathered in Hugh's room; whither Rolf also,
after sundry expressions of sympathy for Fleda's headache,
finding it a dull companion, had departed. Pain of body,
rising above pain of mind, had obliged, as far as possible,
even thought to be still; when a loud lap at the front door
brought the blood in a sudden flush of pain to Fleda's face.
She knew instinctively what it meant.

She heard Barby's distinct accents saying that somebody was
"not well." The other voice was more smothered. But in a
moment the door of the breakfast-room opened, and Mr. Thorn
walked in.

The intensity of the pain she was suffering effectually
precluded Fleda from discovering emotion of any kind. She
could not move. Only King lifted up his head and looked at the
intruder, who seemed shocked, and well he might. Fleda was in
her old headache position — bolt upright on the sofa, her feet
on the rung of a chair, while her hands supported her by their
grasp upon the back of it. The flush had passed away, leaving
the deadly paleness of pain, which the dark rings under her
eyes showed to be well seated.

"Miss Ringgan!" said the gentleman, coming up softly, as to
something that frightened him — "my dear Miss Fleda! I am
distressed! You are very ill. Can nothing be done to relieve
you?"

Fleda's lips rather than her voice said, "Nothing."

"I would not have come in on any account to disturb you if I
had known — I did not understand you were more than a trifle
ill."

Fleda wished he would mend his .mistake, as his understanding
certainly by this time was mended. But that did not seem to be
his conclusion of the best thing to do.

"Since I am here, can you bear to hear me say three words,
without too much pain? I do not ask you to speak."

A faint whispered "yes" gave him leave to go on. She had never
looked at him. She sat like a statue; to answer by a motion of
her head was more than could be risked.

He drew up a chair and sat down, while King looked at him with
eyes of suspicious indignation.

"I am not surprised," he said gently, "to find you suffering.
I knew how your sensibilities must feel the shock of
yesterday. I would fain have spared it you. I will spare you
all further pain on the same score, if possible. Dear Miss
Ringgan, since I am here, and time is precious, may I say one
word before I cease troubling you? I take it for granted that
you were made acquainted with the contents of my letter to
Mrs. Rossitur? — with _all_ the contents? — were you?"

Again Fleda's lips almost voicelessly gave the answer.

"Will you give me what I ventured to ask for?" said he,
gently, "the permission to work _for you?_ Do not trouble those
precious lips to speak — the answer of these fingers will be
as sure a warrant to me as all words that could be spoken,
that you do not deny my request."

He had taken one of her hands in his own. But the fingers lay
with unanswering coldness and lifelessness for a second in his
clasp, and then were drawn away, and took determinate hold of
the chair-back. Again the flush came to Fleda's cheeks,
brought by a sharp pain — oh, bodily and mental too! — and,
after a moment's pause, with a distinctness of utterance that
let him know every word, she said, —

"A generous man would not ask it, Sir."

Thorn sprang up, and several times paced the length of the
room, up and down, before he said anything more. He looked at
Fleda, but the flush was gone again, and nothing could seem
less conscious of his presence. Pain and patience were in
every line of her face, but he could read nothing more, except
a calmness as unmistakably written. Thorn gave that face
repeated glances as he walked, then stood still and read it at
leisure. Then he came to her side again, and spoke in a
different voice.

"You are so unlike anybody else," he said, "that you shall
make me unlike myself. I will do freely what I hoped to do
with the light of your smile before me. You shall hear no more
of this affair, neither you nor the world — I have the matter
perfectly in my own hands — it shall never raise a whisper
again. I will move heaven and earth rather than fail — but
there is no danger of my failing. I will try to prove myself
worthy of your esteem, even where a man is most excusable for
being selfish."

He took one of her cold hands again — Fleda could not help it
without more force than she cared to use, and, indeed, pain
would by this time almost have swallowed up other sensation if
every word and touch had not sent it ill a stronger throb to
her very finger-ends. Thorn bent his lips to her hand, twice
kissed it fervently, and then left her, much to King's
satisfaction, who thereupon resigned himself to quiet
slumbers.

His mistress knew no such relief. Excitement had dreadfully
aggravated her disorder, at a time when it was needful to
banish even thought as far as possible. Pain effectually
banished it now, and Barby, coming in a little after Mr. Thorn
had gone, found her quite unable to speak, and scarce able to
breathe, from agony. Barby's energies and fainting remedies
were again put in use, but pain reigned triumphant for hours;
and when its hard rule was at last abated, Fleda was able to
do nothing but sleep like a child for hours more.

Towards a late tea-time she was at last awake, and carrying on
a very one-sided conversation with Rolf, her own lips being
called upon for little more than a smile now and then. King,
not able to be in her lap, had curled himself up upon a piece
of his mistress's dress, and as close within the circle of her
arms as possible, where Fleda's hand and his head were on
terms of mutual satisfaction.

"I thought you wouldn't permit a dog to lie in your lap," said
Marion.

Do you remember that?" said Fleda, with a smile. "Ah, I have
grown tender-hearted, Marion, since I have known what it was
to want comfort myself. I have come to the conclusion that it
is best to let everything have all the enjoyment it can in the
circumstances. King crawled into my lap one day when I had not
spirits enough to turn him out, and he has kept the place ever
since. Little King!" —

In answer to which word of intelligence, King looked in her
face and wagged his tail, and then earnestly endeavoured to
lick all her fingers, which, however, was a piece of comfort
she would not give him.

"Fleda," said Barby, putting her head in, "I wish you'd just
step out here and tell me which cheese you'd like to have
cut."

"What a fool !" said Marion. "Let her cut them all if she
likes."

"She is no fool," said Fleda. She thought Barby's
punctiliousness, however, a little ill-timed, as she rose from
her sofa, and went into the kitchen.

"Well, you _do_ look as if you wa'n't good for nothing but to be
taken care of," said Barby. "I wouldn't have riz you up if it
hadn't been just tea-time, and I knowed you couldn't stay
quiet much longer;" and, with a look which explained her
tactics, she put into Fleda's hand a letter, directed to her
aunt.

"Philetus give it to me," she said, without a glance at
Fleda's face; "he said it was give to him by a spry little
shaver, who wa'n't a mind to tell nothin' about himself."

"Thank you, Barby!" was Fleda's most grateful return, and
summoning her aunt up stairs, she took her into her own room,
and locked the door before she gave her the letter, which
Barby's shrewdness and delicacy had taken such care should not
reach its owner in a wrong way. Fleda watched her as her eye
ran over the paper, and caught it as it fell from her fingers.


"My dear wife,

"That villain Thorn has got a handle of me which he will not
fail to use — you know it all, I suppose, by this time. It is
true that in an evil hour, long ago, when greatly pressed, I
did what I thought I should surely undo in a few days. The
time never came — I don't know why he has let it lie so long,
but he has taken it up now, and he will push it to the
extreme. There is but one thing left for me — I shall not see
you again. The rascal would never let me rest, I know, in any
spot that calls itself American ground.

"You will do better without me than with me.

"R. R."


Fleda mused over the letter for several minutes, and then
touched her aunt, who had fallen on a chair, with her head
sunk in her hands.

"What does he mean?" said Mrs. Rossitur, looking up with a
perfectly colourless face.

"To leave the country."

"Are you sure? Is that it?" said Mrs. Rossitur, rising and
looking over the words again. "He would do anything, Fleda."

"That is what he means, aunt Lucy; don't you see he says he
could not be safe anywhere in America?"

Mrs. Rossitur stood eyeing with intense eagerness, for a
minute or two, the note in her niece's hand.

"Then he is gone! now that it is all settled! — And we don't
know where — and we can't get word to him!"

Her cheek, which had a little brightened, became perfectly
white again.

"He isn't gone yet — he can't be — he cannot have left Queechy
till to-day — he will be in New York for several days yet,
probably."

"New York? — it may be Boston!"

"No, he would be more likely to go to New York — I am sure he
would — he is accustomed to it."

"We might write to both places," said poor Mrs. Rossitur. "I
will do it, and send them off at once."

"But he might not get the letters," said Fleda, thoughtfully;
"he might not dare to ask at the post-office."

His wife looked at that possibility, and then wrung her hands.

"Oh, why didn't he give us a clue?"

Fleda put an arm round her affectionately, and stood thinking;
stood trembling, might as well be said, for she was too weak
to be standing at all.

"What can we do, dear Fleda?" said Mrs. Rossitur, in great
distress, "Once out of New York, and we can get nothing to
him. If he only knew that there is no need, and that it is all
over!"

"We must do everything, aunt Lucy," said Fleda, thoughtfully;
"and I hope we shall succeed yet. We will write, but I think
the most hopeful other thing we could do, would be to put
advertisements in the newspapers — he would be very likely to
see them."

"Advertisements! But you couldn't — what would you put in?"

"Something that would catch his eye, and nobody's else; that
is easy, aunt Lucy."

"But there is nobody to put them in, Fleda; you said uncle
Orrin was going to Boston?"

"He wasn't going there till next week, but he was to be in
Philadelphia a few days before that; the letter might miss
him."

"Mr. Plumfield! — couldn't he?"

But Fleda shook her head.

"Wouldn't do, aunt Lucy: he would do all he could, but he
don't know New York, nor the papers; he wouldn't know how to
manage it; he don't know uncle Rolf; I shouldn't like to trust
it to him."

"Who, then? There isn't a creature we could ask."

Fleda laid her cheek to her poor aunt's, and said, —

"I'll do it."

"But you must be in New York to do it, dear Fleda — you can't
do it here."

"I will go to New York."

"When?"

"To-morrow morning."

"But, dear Fleda, you can't go alone! I can't let you, and
you're not fit to go at all, my poor child!" and between
conflicting feelings Mrs. Rossitur sat down and wept without
measure.

"Listen, aunt Lucy," said Fleda, pressing a hand on her
shoulder; "listen, and don't cry so. I'll go and make all
right, if efforts can do it. I am not going alone — I'll get
Seth to go with me, and I can sleep in the cars, and rest
nicely in the steamboat. I shall feel happy and well when I
know that I am leaving you easier, and doing all that can be
done to bring uncle Rolf home. Leave me to manage, and don't
say anything to Marion — it is one blessed thing that she need
not know anything about all this. I shall feel better than if
I were at home, and had trusted this business to any other
hands."

"You are the blessing of my life," said Mrs. Rossitur.

"Cheer up, and come down and let us have some tea," said
Fleda, kissing her; "I feel as if that would make me up a
little; and then I'll write the letters. I sha'n't want but
very little baggage; there'll be nothing to pack up."

Philetus was sent up the hill with a note to Seth Plumfield,
and brought home a favourable answer. Fleda thought, as she
went to rest, that it was well the mind's strength could
sometimes act independently of its servant, the body, — hers
felt so very shattered and unsubstantial.


CHAPTER XIV.


"I thank you for your company; but, good faith, I had as lief
have been myself alone."
AS YOU LIKE IT.


The first thing next morning, Seth Plumfield came down to say
that he had seen Dr. Quackenboss the night before, and had
chanced to find out that he was going to New York, too, this
very day; and knowing that the doctor would be just as safe an
escort as himself, Seth had made over the charge of his cousin
to him; "calculating," he said, "that it would make no
difference to Fleda, and that he had better stay at home with
his mother."

Fleda said nothing, and looked as little as possible of her
disappointment, and her cousin went away wholly unsuspecting
of it.

"Seth Plumfield ha'n't done a smarter thing than that in a
good while," Barby remarked, satirically, as he was shutting
the door. "I should think he'd ha' hurt himself."

"I dare say the doctor will take good care of me," said Fleda;
"as good as he knows how."

"Men beat all!" said Barby, impatiently. "The little sense
there is into them."

Fleda's sinking heart was almost ready to echo the sentiment;
but nobody knew it.

Coffee was swallowed, her little travelling-bag and bonnet on
the sofa — all ready. Then came the doctor.

"My dear Miss Ringgan, I am most happy of this delightful
opportunity — I had supposed you were located at home for the
winter. This is a sudden start."

"Is it sudden to you, Dr. Quackenboss?" said Fleda.

"Why — a — not disagreeably so," said the doctor, smiling;
"nothing could be that in the present circumstances — but I —
a — I hadn't calculated upon it for much of a spell
beforehand."

Fleda was vexed, and looked — only unconversable.

"I suppose," said the doctor, after a pause, "that we have not
much time to waste — a — in idle moments. Which route do you
intend to travel?"

"I was thinking to go by the North River, Sir."

"But the ice has collected, I am afraid."

"At Albany, I know; but when I came up, there was a boat every
other day, and we could get there in time by the stage — this
is her day."

"But we have had some pretty tight weather since, if you
remember," said the doctor; "and the boats have ceased to
connect with the stage. We shall have to go to Greenfield to
take the Housatonic, which will land us at Bridgeport on the
Sound."

"Have we time to reach Greenfield this morning?"

"Oceans of time," said the doctor, delightedly; "I've got my
team here, and they're jumping out of their skins with having
nothing to do, and the weather — they'll carry us there as
spry as grasshoppers — now, if you're ready, my dear Miss
Ringgan."

There was nothing more but to give and receive those
speechless lip-messages that are out of the reach of words,
and Mrs. Rossitur's half-spoken last charge, to take care of
herself; and with these seals upon her mission, Fleda set
forth and joined the doctor, thankful for one foil to
curiosity in the shape of a veil, and only wishing that there
were any invented screen that she could place between her and
hearing.

"I hope your attire is of a very warm description," said the
doctor, as he helped her into the wagon; "it friz pretty hard
last night, and I don't think it has got out of the notion
yet. If I had been consulted in any other— a — form, than that
of a friend, I should have disapprobated, if you'll excuse me,
Miss Ringgan's travelling again before her 'Rose of Cassius'
there was in blow. I hope you have heard no evil tidings? Dr.
— a — Gregory, I hope, is not taken ill?"

"I hope not, Sir," said Fleda.

"He didn't look like it. A very hearty old gentleman. Not very
old either, I should judge. Was he the brother of your mother
or your father?"

"Neither, Sir."

"Ah! — I misunderstood — I thought, but of course I was
mistaken — I thought I heard you speak to him under the title
of uncle. But that is a title we sometimes give to elderly
people as a term of familiarity; there is an old fellow that
works for me, he has been a long time in our family, and we
always call him 'uncle Jenk.' "

Fleda was ready to laugh, cry, and be angry, in a breath. She
looked straight before her, and was mum.

"That 'Rose of Cassius' is a most exquisite thing," said the
doctor, recurring to the cluster of bare bushy stems in the
corner of the garden. "Did Mr. Rossitur bring it with him when
he came to his present residence?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Where is Mr. Rossitur now?"

Fleda replied, with a jump of her heart, that business affairs
had obliged him to be away for a few days.

"And when does he expect to return?" said the doctor.

"I hope he will be home as soon as I am," said Fleda.

"Then you do not expect to remain long in the city this time?"

"I shall not have much of a winter at home if I do," said
Fleda. "We are almost at January."

"Because," said the doctor, "in that case I should have no
higher gratification than in attending upon your motions. I —
a — beg you to believe, my dear Miss Ringgan, that it would
afford me the — a — most particular — it would be most
particularly grateful to me to wait upon you to — a — the
confines of the world."

Fleda hastened to assure her officious friend that the time of
her return was altogether uncertain, resolving rather to abide
a guest with Mrs. Pritchard than to have Dr. Quackenboss
hanging upon her motions every day of her being there. But, in
the meantime, the doctor got upon Captain Rossitur's subject,
then came to Mr. Thorn, and then wanted to know the exact
nature of Mr. Rossitur's business affairs in Michigan, through
all which matters poor Fleda had to run the gauntlet of
questions, interspersed with gracious speeches which she could
bear even less well. She was extremely glad to reach the cars,
and take refuge in seeming sleep from the mongrel attentions,
which, if for the most part prompted by admiration, owned so
large a share of curiosity. Her weary head and heart would
fain have courted the reality of sleep, as a refuge from more
painful thoughts, and a feeling of exhaustion that could
scarcely support itself; but the restless roar and jumble of
the rail-cars put it beyond her power. How long the hours were
— how hard to wear out, with no possibility of a change of
position that would give rest! Fleda would not even raise her
head when they stopped, for fear of being talked to; how
trying that endless noise to her racked nerves! It came to an
end at last, though Fleda would not move for fear they might
be only taking in wood and water.

"Miss Ringgan!" said the doctor in her ear, "my dear Miss
Ringgan, we are here" —

"Are we?" said Fleda, looking up; "what other name has the
place, doctor?"

"Why, Bridgeport," said the doctor; "we're at Bridgeport. Now
we have leave to exchange conveyances. A man feels constrained
after a prolonged length of time in a place. How have you
enjoyed the ride?"

"Not very well — it has seemed long. I am glad we are at the
end of it."

But as she rose and threw back her veil, the doctor looked
startled.

"My dear Miss Ringgan, are you faint?"

"No, Sir."

"You are not well, indeed! — I am very sorry — the ride has
been — Take my arm! — Ma'am," said the doctor, touching a
black satin cloak which filled the passage-way, "will you have
the goodness to give this lady a passport?"

But the black satin cloak preferred a straightforward manner
of doing this, so their egress was somewhat delayed. Happily
faintness was not the matter.

"My dear Miss Ringgan," said the doctor, as they reached the
ground and the outer air, "what was it? — the stove too
powerful? You are looking — you are of a dreadfully delicate
appearance!"

"I had a headache yesterday," said Fleda; "it always leaves me
with a disagreeable reminder the next day. I am not ill."

But he looked frightened, and hurried her, as fast as he
dared, to the steamboat; and there proposed half a dozen
restoratives, the simplest of which Fleda took, and then
sought delicious rest from him and from herself on the
cushions of a settee. Delicious! — though she was alone, in
the cabin of a steamboat, with strange forms and noisy tongues
around her, the closed eyelids shut it out all; and she had
time but for one resting thought of "patient continuance in
well-doing," and one happy heart-look up to Him who has said
that he cares for his children, a look that laid her anxieties
down there — when past misery and future difficulty faded away
before a sleep that lasted till the vessel reached her
moorings and was made fast.

She was too weary and faint even to think during the long
drive up to Bleecker Street. She was fain to let it all go —
the work she had to do, and the way she must set about it, and
rest in the assurance that nothing could be done that night.
She did not so much as hear Dr. Quackenboss's observations,
though she answered a few of them, till, at the door, she was
conscious of his promising to see her to-morrow, and of her
instant conclusion to take measures to see nobody.

How strange everything seemed! She walked through the familiar
hall, feeling as if her acquaintance with every old thing was
broken. There was no light in the back parlour, but a
comfortable fire.

"Is my — is Dr. Gregory at home?" she asked of the girl who
had let her in.

"No, Ma'am; he hasn't got back from Philadelphia."

"Tell Mrs. Pritchard a lady wants to see her."

Good Mrs. Pritchard was much more frightened than Dr.
Quackenboss had been when she came into the back parlour to
see "a lady," and found Fleda in. the great arm-chair, taking
off her things. She poured out questions, wonderings, and
lamentings, not "in a breath," but in a great many; quite
forgot to be glad to see her, she looked so dreadfully; and
"what had been the matter?" Fleda answered her — told of
yesterday's illness and to-day's journey; and met all her
shocked inquiries with so composed a face, and such a calm
smile and bearing, that Mrs. Pritchard was almost persuaded
not to believe her eyes.

"My uncle is not at home?"

"O no, Miss Fleda! I suppose he's in Philadelphy — but his
motions is so little to be depended on, that I never know when
I have him; maybe he'll stop going through to Boston, and
maybe no, and I don't know when; so anyhow I had to have a
fire made, and this room all ready; and aint it lucky it was
ready for you to-night? — and now he aint here, you can have
the great chair all to yourself, and make yourself comfortable
— we can keep warmer here, I guess, than you can in the
country," said the good housekeeper, giving some skilful
admonishing touches to the fire; — "and you must just sit
there and read and rest, and see if you can't get back your
old looks again. If I thought it was _that_ you came for, I'd be
happy. I never did see such a change in any one in five days."

She stood looking down at her guest with a face of very
serious concern, evidently thinking much more than she chose
to give utterance to.

"I am tired, Mrs. Pritchard," said Fleda, smiling up at her.

"I wish you had somebody to take care of you, Miss Fleda, that
wouldn't let you tire yourself. It's a sin to throw your
strength away so — and you don't care for looks, nor nothing
else when it's for other people. You're looking just as
handsome, too, for all," she said, her mouth giving way a
little, as she stooped down to take off Fleda's overshoes;
"but that's only because you can't help it. Now, what is there
you'd like to have for supper? — just say, and you shall have
it — whatever would seem best — because I mightn't hit the
right thing."

Fleda declared her indifference to everything but a cup of
tea, and her hostess bustled away to get that, and tax her own
ingenuity and kindness for the rest. And, leaning her weary
head back in the lounge, Fleda tried to think — but it was not
time yet; she could only feel — feel what a sad change had
come over her since she had sat there last — shut her eyes and
wish she could sleep again.

But Mrs. Pritchard's hospitality must be gone through with
first.

The nicest of suppers was served in the bright little parlour,
and her hostess was a compound of care and good-will; nothing
was wanting to the feast but a merry heart. Fleda could not
bring that, so her performance was unsatisfactory, and Mrs.
Pritchard was distressed. Fleda went to her own room,
promising better doings to-morrow.

She awoke in the morning to the full burden of care and sorrow
which sheer weakness and weariness the day before had in part
laid down — to a quicker sense of the state of things than she
had had yet. The blasting evil that had fallen upon them —
Fleda writhed on her bed when she thought of it. The sternest,
cruellest, most inflexible grasp of distress. Poverty may be
borne, death may be sweetened, even to the survivors; but
_disgrace_ — Fleda hid her head, as if she would shut the idea
out with the light. And the ruin it had wrought! Affection
killed at the root — her aunt's happiness withered for this
world — Hugh's life threatened — the fair name of his family
gone — the wear and weariness of her own spirit — but that had
hardly a thought. Himself! — oh! no one could tell what a
possible wreck, now that self-respect and the esteem of others
— those two safeguards of character — were lost to him. "So
much security has any woman in a man without religion;" she
remembered those words of her aunt Miriam now; and she
thought, if Mr. Thorn had sought an ill wind to blow, upon his
pretensions, he could not have pitched them better. What
fairer promise, without religion, could be than her uncle had
given! Reproach had never breathed against his name, and no
one less than those who knew him best could fancy that he had
ever given it occasion. And who could have more at stake? —
and the stake was lost — that was the summing up thought.

No, it was not — for Fleda's mind presently sprang beyond — to
the remedy; and after a little swift and earnest flitting
about of thought over feasibilities and contingencies, she
jumped up, and dressed herself with a prompt energy which
showed a mind made up to its course. And yet when she came
down to the parlour, though bending herself with nervous
intentness to the work she had to do, her fingers and her
heart were only stayed in their trembling by some of the happy
assurances she had been fleeing to —



"COMMIT THY WORKS UNTO THE LORD, AND ALL THY THOUGHTS SHALL BE
ESTABLISHED."


"IN ALL THY WAYS ACKNOWLEDGE HIM: HE SHALL DIRECT THY PATHS."


— Assurances, not, indeed, that her plans should meet with
success, but that they should have the issue best for them.

She was early, but the room was warm, and in order, and the
servant had left it. Fleda sought out paper and pencil, and
sat down to fashion the form of an advertisement — the first
thing to be done. She had no notion how difficult a thing,
till she came to do it.

"_R. R. is entreated to communicate with his niece at the old
place in Bleecker Street, on business of the greatest
importance_."

"It will not do," said Fleda, to herself, as she sat and
looked at it — "there is not enough to catch his eye, and
there is _too much_, if it caught anybody else's eye — 'R. R.',
and 'his niece,' and 'Bleecker Street,' — that would tell
plain enough."

"_Dear uncle, F. has followed you here on business of the
greatest importance. Pray let her see you; she is at the old
place_."

"It will not do," thought Fleda, again — "there is still less
to catch his eye — I cannot trust it. And if I were to put
'Queechy' over it, that would give the clue to the Evelyns,
and everybody. But I had better risk anything rather than his
seeing it."


The miserable needlessness of the whole thing, the pitiful
weighing of sorrow against sorrow, and shame against shame,
overcame her for a little; and then, dashing away the tears
she had no time for, and locking up the strong-box of her
heart, she took her pencil again.

"_Queechy_.
"_Let me see you at the old place. I have come here on urgent
business for you. Do not deny me, for H—'s sake!_"

With a trifle of alteration, she thought this would do; and
went on to make a number of fair copies of it for so many
papers. This was done, and all traces of it out of the way
before Mrs. Pritchard came in and the breakfast; and after
bracing herself with coffee, though the good housekeeper was
still sadly dissatisfied with her indifference to some more
substantial brace in the shape of chickens and ham, Fleda
prepared herself inwardly and outwardly to brave the wind and
the newspaper offices, and set forth. It was a bright, keen
day; she was sorry; she would it had been cloudy. It seemed as
if she could not hope to escape some eyes in such an
atmosphere.

She went to the library first, and there requested the
librarian, whom she knew, to bring her from the reading-room
the files of morning and evening papers. They were many more
than she had supposed; she had not near advertisements enough.
Paper and ink were at hand, however, and making carefully her
list of the various offices, morning and evening separate, she
wrote out a copy of the notice for each of them.

The morning was well on by the time she could leave the
library. It was yet far from the fashionable hour, however,
and sedulously shunning the recognition of anybody, in hopes
that it would be one step towards her escaping theirs, she
made her way down the bright thoroughfare as far as the City
Hall, and then crossed over the Park and plunged into a region
where it was very little likely she would see a face that she
knew. She saw nothing else either that she knew; in spite of
having studied the map of the city in the library, she was
forced several times to ask her way, as she visited office
after office, of the evening papers first, till she had placed
her notice with each one of them. Her courage almost failed
her — her heart did quite, after two or three. It was a trial
from which her whole nature shrank, to go among the people, to
face the eyes, to exchange talk with the lips that were at
home in those purlieus; look at them she did not. Making her
slow way through the choked narrow streets, where the mere
confusion of business was bewildering — very, to any one come
from Queechy; among crowds, of what mixed and doubtful
character, hurrying along and brushing with little ceremony
past her; edging by loitering groups that filled the whole
sidewalk, or perhaps edging through them — groups whose
general type of character was sufficiently plain and _un_mixed;
entering into parley with clerk after clerk, who looked at
such a visitor as an anomaly — poor Fleda almost thought so
too, and shrank within herself; venturing hardly her eyes
beyond her thick veil, and shutting her ears resolutely as far
as possible to all the dissonant rough voices that helped to
assure her she was where she ought not to be. Sometimes she
felt that it was _impossible_ to go on and finish her task; but
a thought or two nerved her again to plunge into another
untried quarter, or make good her entrance to some new office
through a host of loungers and waiting newsboys collected
round the door. Sometimes, in utter discouragement, she went
on and walked to a distance and came back, in the hope of a
better opportunity. It was a long business; and she often had
to wait. The end of her list was reached at last, and the
paper was thrown away; but she did not draw free breath till
she had got to the west side of Broadway again, and turned her
back upon them all.

It was late then, and the street was thinned of a part of its
gay throng. Completely worn in body as well as mind, with slow
faltering steps, Fleda moved on among those still left;
looking upon them with a curious eye, as if they and she
belonged to different classes of beings; so very far her
sobered and saddened spirit seemed to herself from their stir
of business and gaiety; if they had been a train of lady-flies
or black ants, Fleda would hardly have felt that she had less
in common with them. It was a weary, long way up to Bleecker
Street, as she was forced to travel it.

The relief was unspeakable to find herself within her uncle's
door, with the sense that her dreaded duty was done, and well
and thoroughly. Now her part was to be still and wait. But
with the relief came also a reaction from the strain of the
morning. Before her weary feet had well mounted the stairs,
her heart gave up its control; and she locked herself in her
room to yield to a helpless outpouring of tears which she was
utterly unable to restrain, though conscious that long time
could not pass before she would be called to dinner. Dinner
had to wait.

"Miss Fleda," said the housekeeper, in a vexed tone, when the
meal was half over — "I didn't know you ever did anything
wrong."

"You were sadly mistaken, Mrs. Pritchard," said Fleda, half
lightly, half sadly.

"You're looking not a bit better than last night, and, if
anything, rather worse," Mrs. Pritchard went on. "It isn't
right, Miss Fleda. You oughtn't to ha' set the first step out
of doors, I know you oughtn't, this blessed day; and you've
been on your feet these seven hours — and you show it! You're
just ready to drop."

"I will rest to-morrow," said Fleda, "or try to."

"You are fit for nothing but bed," said the housekeeper — "and
you've been using yourself, Miss Fleda, as if you had the
strength of an elephant. Now, do you think you've been doing
right?"

Fleda would have made some cheerful answer, but she was not
equal to it; she had lost all command of herself, and she
dropped knife and fork to burst into a flood of exceeding
tears. Mrs. Pritchard, equally astonished and mystified,
hurried questions, apologies, and consolations, one upon
another; and made up her mind that there was something
mysterious on foot, about which she had better ask no
questions. Neither did she from that time. She sealed up her
mouth, and contented herself with taking the best care of her
guest that she possibly could. Needed enough, but all of
little avail.

The reaction did not cease with that day. The next Sunday was
spent on the sofa, in a state of utter prostration. With the
necessity for exertion the power had died. Fleda could only
lie upon the cushions and sleep helplessly, while Mrs.
Pritchard sat by, anxiously watching her; curiosity really
swallowed up in kind feeling. Monday was little better; but
towards the after part of the day, the stimulant of anxiety
began to work again, and Fleda sat up to watch for a word from
her uncle. But none came, and Tuesday morning distressed Mrs.
Pritchard with its want of amendment. It was not to be hoped
for, Fleda knew, while this fearful watching lasted. Her uncle
might not have seen the advertisement — he might not have got
her letter — he might be even then setting sail to quit home
for ever. And she could do nothing but wait. Her nerves were
alive to every stir; every touch of the bell made her tremble;
it was impossible to read, to lie down, to be quiet or still
anywhere. She had set the glass of expectancy, for one thing,
in the distance: and all things else were a blur or a blank.

They had sat down to dinner that Tuesday, when a ring at the
door, which had made her heart jump, was followed — yes, it
was — by the entrance of the maid-servant holding a folded bit
of paper in her hand. Fleda did not wait to ask whose it was —
she seized it and saw — and sprang away up stairs. It was a
sealed scrap of paper, that had been the back of a letter,
containing two lines without signature.

"I will meet you _at Dinah's_ — if you come there alone about
sundown."

Enough! Dinah was an old black woman who once had been a very
attached servant in Mr. Rossitur's family, and, having married
and become a widow years ago, had set up for herself in the
trade of a washerwoman, occupying an obscure little tenement
out towards Chelsea. Fleda had rather a shadowy idea of the
locality, though remembering very well sundry journeys of
kindness she and Hugh had made to it in days gone by. But she
recollected it was in Sloman Street, and she knew she could
find it; and dropping upon her knees, poured out thanks too
deep to be uttered, and too strong to be even thought, without
a convulsion of tears. Her dinner after that was but a mental
thanksgiving — she was hardly conscious of anything beside —
and a thankful rejoicing for all her weary labours. Their
weariness was sweet to her now. Let her but see him — the rest
was sure.


CHAPTER XV.


"How well appaid she was her bird to find!"
SIDNEY.


Fleda counted the minutes till it wanted an hour of sundown,
and then, avoiding Mrs. Pritchard, made her escape out of the
house. A long walk was before her, and the latter part of it
through a region which she wished to pass while the light was
good. And she was utterly unable to travel at any but a very
gentle rate; so she gave herself plenty of time.

It was a very bright afternoon, and all the world was astir.
Fleda shielded herself with a thick veil, and went up one of
the narrow streets, not daring to venture into Broadway, and
passing Waverly Place, which was almost as bright, turned down
Eighth Street. A few blocks now, and she would be out of all
danger of meeting any one that knew her. She drew her veil
close, and hurried on. But the proverb saith, "A miss is as
good as a mile," and with reason; for if fate wills, the
chances make nothing. As Fleda set her foot down to cross
Fifth Avenue, she saw Mr. Carleton on the other side coming up
from Waverly Place. She went as slowly as she dared, hoping
that he would pass without looking her way, or be unable to
recognize her through her thick wrapper. In vain — she soon
saw that she was known — he was waiting for her, and she must
put up her veil and speak to him.

"Why, I thought you had left New York," said he — "I was told
so."

"I had left it — I have left it, Sir," said Fleda — "I have
only come back for a day or two." —

"Have you been ill?" he said, with a sudden change of tone,
the light in his eye, and smile, giving place to a very marked
gravity.

Fleda would have answered with a half smile, but such a
sickness of heart came over her, that speech failed, and she
was very near bursting into tears. Mr. Carleton looked at her
earnestly a moment, and then put the hand which Fleda had
forgotten he still held upon his arm, and began to walk
forward gently with her. Something in the grave tenderness
with which this was done, reminded Fleda irresistibly of the
times when she had been a child under his care; and, somehow,
her thoughts went off on a tangent back to the further days of
her mother, and father, and grandfather, the other friends
from whom she had had the same gentle protection, which now
there was no one in the world to give her. And their images
did never seem more winning fair than just then — when their
place was left most especially empty. Her uncle she had never
looked up to in the same way, and whatever stay he had been
was cut down. Her aunt leaned upon _her;_ and Hugh had always
been more of a younger than an elder brother. The quick
contrast of those old happy childish days was too strong; the
glance back at what she had had, made her feel the want. Fleda
blamed herself, reasoned and fought with herself; but she was
weak in mind and body, her nerves were unsteady yet, her
spirits unprepared for any encounter or reminder of pleasure;
and though vexed and ashamed, she _could_ not hold her head up,
and she could not prevent tear after tear from falling as they
went along; she could only hope that nobody saw them.

Nobody spoke of them. But then nobody said anything; and the
silence at last frightened her into rousing herself. She
checked her tears and raised her head; she ventured no more;
she dared not turn her face towards her companion. He looked
at her once or twice, as if in doubt whether to speak or not.

"Are you not going beyond your strength?" he said at length,
gently.

Fleda said, "No," although in a tone that half confessed his
suspicion. He was silent again, however, and she cast about in
vain for something to speak of; it seemed to her that all
subjects of conversation in general had been packed up for
exportation; neither eye nor memory could light upon a single
one. Block after block was passed, the pace at which he
walked, and the manner of his care for her, alone showing that
he knew what a very light hand was resting upon his arm.

"How pretty the curl of blue smoke is from that chimney," he
said.

It was said with a tone so carelessly easy, that Fleda's heart
jumped for one instant in the persuasion that he had seen and
noticed nothing peculiar about her.

"I know it," she said, eagerly — "I have often thought of it —
especially here in the city —"

"Why is it? what is it?"

Fleda's eye gave one of its exploratory looks at his, such as
he remembered from years ago, before she spoke.

"Isn't it contrast? — or at least I think that helps the
effect here."

"What do you make the contrast?" he said, quietly.

"Isn't it," said Fleda, with another glance, "the contrast of
something pure and free and upward-tending, with what is below
it? I did not mean the mere painter's contrast. In the
country, smoke is more picturesque, but in the city I think it
has more character."

"To how many people do you suppose it ever occurred that smoke
had a character?" said he, smiling.

"You are laughing at me, Mr. Carleton; perhaps I deserve it."

"You do not think that," said he, with a look that forbade her
to think it. "But I see you are of Lavater's mind, that
everything has a physiognomy?"

"I think he was perfectly right," said Fleda. "Don't you, Mr.
Carleton?"

"To some people, yes! — But the expression is so subtle, that
only very nice sensibilities, with fine training, can hope to
catch it; therefore, to the mass of the world Lavater would
talk nonsense."

"That is a gentle hint to me. But if I talk nonsense, I wish
you would set me right, Mr. Carleton; I am very apt to amuse
myself with tracing out fancied analogies in almost
everything, and I may carry it too far — too far to be spoken
of wisely. I think it enlarges the field of pleasure very
much. Where one eye is stopped, another is but invited on."

"So," said Mr. Carleton, "while that puff of smoke would lead
one person's imagination only down the chimney to the kitchen
fire, it would take another's — where did yours go?" said he,
suddenly turning round upon her.

Fleda met his eye again, without speaking; but her look had,
perhaps, more than half revealed her thought, for she was
answered with a smile so intelligent and sympathetic, that she
was abashed.

"How very much religion heightens the enjoyments of life!" Mr.
Carleton said, after a while.

Fleda's heart throbbed an answer — she did not speak.

"Both in its direct and indirect action. The mind is set free
from influences that narrowed its range and dimmed its vision,
and refined to a keener sensibility, a juster perception, a
higher power of appreciation, by far, than it had before. And
then, to say nothing of religion's own peculiar sphere of
enjoyment, technically religious — what a field of pleasure it
opens to its possessor in the world of moral beauty, most
partially known to any other — and the fine but exquisite
analogies of things material with things spiritual — those
_harmonies of Nature_, to which, talk as they will, all other
ears are deaf."

"You know," said Fleda, with full eyes that she dared not
show, "how Henry Martyn said that he found he enjoyed painting
and music so much more after he became a Christian."

"I remember. It is the substituting a just medium for a false
one — it is putting nature within and nature without in tune
with each other, so that the chords are perfect now which were
jarring before."

"And yet how far people would be from believing you, Mr.
Carleton."

"Yes, they are possessed with the contrary notion. But in all
the creation nothing has a one-sided usefulness. What a
reflection it would be upon the wisdom of its Author, if
godliness alone were the exception — if it were not
'profitable for the life that now is, as well as for that
which is to come!' "

"They make that work the other way, don't they?" said Fleda;
"not being able to see how thorough religion should be for
anybody's happiness, they make use of your argument to
conclude that it is not what the Bible requires. How I have
heard that urged — that God intended his creatures to be happy
— as a reason why they should disobey him! They lay hold on
the wrong end of the argument, and work backwards."

"Precisely.


" 'God intended his creatures to be happy.
" 'Strict obedience would make them unhappy.
" 'Therefore, he does not intend them to obey.' "


"They never put it before them quite so clearly," said Fleda.

"They would startle at it a little. But so they would at the
right stating of the case."

"And how would that be, Mr. Carleton?"

"It might be somewhat after this fashion —


" 'God requires nothing that is not for the happiness of his
people.
" 'He requires perfect obedience.
" 'Therefore, perfect obedience is for their happiness.'


"But unbelief will not understand that. Did it ever strike you
how much there is in those words, 'Come and see?' All that
argument can do, after all, is but to persuade to that. Only
faith will submit to terms, and enter the narrow gate; and
only obedience knows what the prospect is on the other side."

"But isn't it true, Mr. Carleton, that the world have some
cause for their opinion — judging as they do by the outside?
The peculiar pleasures of religion, as you say, are out of
sight, and they do not always find in religious people that
enlargement and refinement of which you were speaking."

"Because they make unequal comparisons. Recollect that, as God
has declared, the ranks of religion are not for the most part
filled from the wise and the great. In making your estimate,
you must measure things equal in other respects. Compare the
same man with himself before he was a Christian, or with his
unchristianized fellows, and you will find invariably the
refining, dignifying, ennobling, influence of true religion —
the enlarged intelligence, and the greater power of
enjoyment."

"And besides those causes of pleasure-giving that your
mentioned," said Fleda, "there is a mind at ease; and how much
that is, alone! If I may judge others by myself, the mere fact
of being unpoised, unresting, disables the mind from a
thousand things that are joyfully relished by one entirely at
ease."

"Yes," said he; "do you remember that word, — 'The stones of
the field shall be at peace with thee?' "

"I am afraid people would understand you as little as they
would me, Mr. Carleton," said Fleda, laughing.

He smiled, rather a prolonged smile, the expression of which
Fleda could not make out; she felt that _she_ did not quite
understand him.

"I have thought," said he, after a pause, "that much of the
beauty we find in many things is owing to a hidden analogy —
the harmony they make with some unknown string of the mind's
harp which they have set a-vibrating. But the music of that is
so low and soft, that one must listen very closely to find out
what it is."

"Why, that is the very theory of which I gave you a smoky
illustration a little while ago," said Fleda. "I thought I was
on safe ground, after what you said about the characters of
flowers, for that was a little —"

"Fanciful?" said he, smiling.

"What you please,"' said Fleda, colouring a little — "I am
sure it is true. The theory, I mean. I have many a time felt
it, though I never put it in words. I shall think of that."

"Did you ever happen to see the very early dawn of a winter's
morning?" said he.

But he laughed the next instant at the comical expression of
Fleda's face as it was turned to him.

"Forgive me for supposing you as ignorant as myself. I have
seen it —once."

"Appreciated it, I hope, that time?" said Fleda.

"I shall never forget it."

"And it never wrought in you a desire to see it again?"

"I might see many a dawn," said he, smiling, "without what I
saw then. It was very early, and a cloudy morning, so that
night had still almost undisturbed possession of earth and
sky; but in the south-eastern quarter, between two clouds,
there was a space of fair white promise, hardly making any
impression upon the darkness, but only set off by it. And upon
this one bright spot in earth or heaven, rode the planet of
the morning — the sun's forerunner — bright upon the
brightness. All else was dusky, except where overhead the
clouds had parted again and showed a faint old moon,
glimmering down upon the night it could no longer be said to
'rule.' "

"Beautiful!" said Fleda. "There is hardly any time I like so
well as the dawn of a winter morning, with an old moon in the
sky. Summer weather has no beauty like it — in some things."

"Once," continued Mr. Carleton, "I should have seen no more
than I have told you — the beauty that every cultivated eye
must take in. But now, methought I saw the dayspring that has
come upon a longer night; and from out of the midst of it
there was the fair face of the morning star looking at me with
its sweet reminder and invitation; looking over the world with
its aspect of triumphant expectancy: there was its calm
assurance of the coming day — its promise that the star of
hope, which now there were only a few watching eyes to see,
should presently be followed by the full beams of the Sun of
Righteousness making the kingdoms of the world His own. Your
memory may bring to you the words that came to mine, the
promise 'to him that overcometh,' and the beauty of the lips
that made it: the encouragement to 'patient continuance in
well doing,' 'till the day break, and the shadows flee away.'
And there, on the other hand, was the substituted light of
earth's wisdom and inventions, dominant yet, but waning, and
soon to be put out for ever."

Fleda was crying again, and perhaps that was the reason why
Mr. Carleton was silent for some time. She was very sorry to
show herself so weak, but she could not help it; part of his
words had come too close. And when she had recovered again,
she was absolutely silent too, for they were nearing Sloman-
street, and she could not take him there with her. She did not
know what to say, nor what he would think; and she said not
another word till they came to the corner. There she must stop
and speak.

"I am very much obliged to you, Mr. Carleton," she said,
drawing her hand from his arm, "for taking care of me all this
disagreeable way; I will not give you any more trouble."

"You are not going to dismiss me?" said he, looking at her
with a countenance of serious anxiety.

"I must," said Fleda, ingenuously — "I have business to attend
to here —"

"But you will let me have the pleasure of waiting for you?"

"O no," said Fleda, hesitating and flushing — "thank you, Mr.
Carleton; but pray do not — I don't know at all how long I may
be detained."

He bowed, she thought gravely, and turned away; and she
entered the little wretched street, with a strange feeling of
pain that she could not analyze. She did not know where it
came from, but she thought if there only had been a hiding-
place for her, she could have sat down and wept a whole
heartful. The feeling must be kept back now, and it was soon
forgotten in the throbbing of her heart at another thought
which took entire possession.

The sun was not down — there was time enough — but it was with
a step and eye of hurried anxiety that Fleda passed along the
little street, for fear of missing her quest, or lest Dinah
should have changed her domicile. Yet would her uncle have
named it for their meeting if he had not been sure of it? It
was very odd he should have appointed that place at all, and
Fleda was inclined to think he must have seen Dinah by some
chance, or it never would have come into his head. Still her
eye passed unheeding over all the varieties of dinginess and
misery in her way, intent only upon finding that particular
dingy cellar-way which used to admit her to Dinah's premises.
It was found at last, and she went in.

The old woman, herself most unchanged, did not know the young
lady, but well remembered the little girl whom Fleda brought
to her mind. And then she was overjoyed to see her, and asked
a multitude of questions, and told a long story of her having
met Mr. Rossitur in the street the other day, "in the last
place where she'd have looked to see him;" and how old he had
grown, and how surprised she had been to see the gray hairs in
his head. Fleda at last gave her to understand that she
expected him to meet her there, and would like to see him
alone; and the good woman immediately took her work into
another apartment, made up the fire, and set up the chairs,
and leaving her, assured Fleda she would lock up the doors,
"and not let no one come through."

It was sundown, and later, Fleda thought, and she felt as if
every pulse was doing double duty. No matter, if she were
shattered and the work done. But what work! Oh, the
needlessness, the cruelty, the folly of it! And how much of
the ill consequences she might be unable, after all, to ward
off. She took off her hat, to relieve a nervous smothered
feeling; and walked, and sat down; and then sat still, from
trembling inability to do anything else. Dinah's poor little
room, clean though it was, looked to her the most dismal place
in the world, from its association with her errand; she hid
her face on her knees, that she might have no disagreeableness
to contend with, but that which could not be shut out.

It had lain there some time, till a sudden feeling of terror
at the growing lateness made her raise it to look at the
window. Mr. Rossitur was standings still before her — he must
have come in very softly — and looking — oh, Fleda had not
imagined him looking so changed. All was forgotten — the
wrong, and the needlessness, and the indignation with which
she had sometimes thought of it; Fleda remembered nothing but
love and pity, and threw herself upon his neck with such tears
of tenderness and sympathy, such kisses of forgiveness and
comfort-speaking, as might have broken a stouter heart than
Mr. Rossitur's. He held her in his arms for a few minutes,
passively suffering her caresses, and then gently unloosing
her hold, placed her on a seat, sat down a little way off,
covered his face and groaned aloud.

Fleda could not recover herself at once. Then shaking off her
agitation, she came and knelt down by his side, and putting
one arm over his shoulders, laid her cheek against his
forehead. Words were beyond reach, but his forehead was wet
with her tears; and kisses, of soft entreaty, of winning
assurance, said all she could say.

"What did you come here for, Fleda?" said Mr. Rossitur, at
length, without changing his position.

"To bring you home, uncle Rolf."

"Home!" said he, with an accent between bitterness and
despair.

"Yes, for it's all over, it's all forgotten — there is no more
to be said about it at all," said Fleda, getting her words out
she didn't know how.

What is forgotten?" said he, harshly.

"All that you would wish, Sir," replied Fleda, softly and
gently; "there is no more to be done about it; and I came to
tell you, if possible, before it was too late. Oh, I'm so
glad!" and her arms and her cheek pressed closer, as fresh
tears stopped her voice.

"How do you know, Fleda?" said Mr. Rossitur, raising his head,
and bringing hers to his shoulder, while his arms in turn
enclosed her.

Fleda whispered, "He told me so himself."

"Who?"

"Mr. Thorn."

The words were but just spoken above her breath. Mr. Rossitur
was silent for some time.

"Are you sure you understood him?"

"Yes, Sir; it could not have been spoken plainer."

"Are you quite sure he meant what he said, Fleda?"

"Perfectly sure, uncle Rolf! I know he did."

"What stipulation did he make beforehand?"

"He did it without any stipulation, Sir."

"What was his inducement, then? If I know him, he is not a man
to act without any."

Fleda's cheek was dyed, but except that, she gave no other
answer.

"Why has it been left so long?" said her uncle, presently.

"I don't know, Sir — he said nothing about that. He promised
that neither we nor the world should hear anything more of
it."

"The world!" said Mr. Rossitur.

"No, Sir; he said that only one or two persons had any notion
of it, and that their secrecy he had the means of securing."

"Did he tell you anything more?"

"Only that he had the matter entirely under his control, and
that never a whisper of it should be heard again. No promise
could be given more fully and absolutely."

Mr. Rossitur drew a long breath, speaking to Fleda's ear very
great relief, and was silent.

"And what reward is he to have for this, Fleda?" he said,
after some musing.

"All that my hearty thanks and gratitude can give, as far as I
am concerned, Sir."

"Is that what he expects, Fleda?"

"I cannot help what he expects," said Fleda, in some distress.

"What have you engaged yourself to, my child?"

"Nothing in the world, uncle Rolf!" said Fleda, earnestly —
"nothing in the world. I haven't engaged myself to anything.
The promise was made freely, without any sort of stipulation."

Mr. Rossitur looked thoughtful and disquieted. Fleda's tears
were pouring again.

"I will not trust him," he said; "I will not stay in the
country!"

"But you will come home, uncle?" said Fleda, terrified.

"Yes, my dear child — yes, my dear child!" he said, tenderly,
putting his arms round Fleda again, and kissing, with an
earnestness of acknowledgment that went to her heart, her lips
and brow; "you shall do what you will with me; and when I go,
we will all go together."

From Queechy? from America? But she had no time for that
thought now.

"You said, 'for Hugh's sake,' " Mr. Rossitur observed, after a
pause, and with some apparent difficulty; "what of him?"

"He is not well, uncle Rolf," said Fleda; "and I think the
best medicine will be the sight of you again."

Mr. Rossitur looked pale, and was silent a moment.

"And my wife?" he said.

His face, and the thought of those faces at home, were too
much for Fleda; she could not help it. "Oh, uncle Rolf," she
said, hiding her face, "they only want to see you again now!"

Mr. Rossitur leaned his head in his hands and groaned; and
Fleda could but cry; she felt there was nothing to say.

"It was for Marion," he said at length; "it was when I was
hard pressed, and I was fearful if it were known that it might
ruin her prospects. I wanted that miserable sum — only four
thousand dollars — that fellow Schwiden asked to borrow it of
me for a few days, and to refuse would have been to confess
all. I dared not try my credit, and I just madly took that
step that proved irretrievable. I counted at the moment upon
funds that were coming to me only the next week — sure, I
thought, as possible — but the man cheated me, and our
embarrassments thickened from that time; that thing has been a
weight — oh, a weight of deadening power! — round my neck ever
since. I have died a living death these six years!"

"I know it, dear uncle — I know it all!" said Fleda, bringing
the sympathizing touch of her cheek to his again. "The good
that it did has been unspeakably overbalanced by the evil.
Even long ago I knew that."

"The good that it did!" It was no time then to moralize, but
he must know that Marion was at home, or he might incautiously
reveal to her what happily there was no necessity for her ever
knowing. And the story must give him great and fresh pain.

"Dear uncle Rolf," said Fleda, pressing closer to him "we may
be happier than we have been in a long time, if you will only
take it so. The cloud upon you has been a cloud upon us."

"I know it!" he exclaimed — "a cloud that served to show me
that my jewels were diamonds!"

"You have an accession to your jewels, uncle Rolf."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean," said Fleda, trembling, "that there are two more at
home."

He held her back to look at her.

"Can't you guess who?"

"No!" said he. "What do you mean?"

"I must tell you, because they know nothing, and needn't know,
of all this matter."

"What are you talking about?"

"Marion is there!"

"Marion!" exclaimed Mr. Rossitur, with quick changes of
expression — "Marion! At Queechy! — and her husband?"

"No, Sir — a dear little child."

"Marion! — and her husband — where is he?"

Fleda hesitated.

"I don't know — I don't know whether she knows."

"Is he dead?"

"No, Sir."

Mr. Rossitur put her away, and got up and walked, or strode up
and down the little apartment. Fleda dared not look at him,
even by the faint glimmer that came from the chimney.

But abroad it was perfectly dark — the stars were shining, the
only lamps that illumined the poor little street, and for a
long time there had been no light in the room but that of the
tiny wood fire. Dinah never could be persuaded of the superior
cheapness of coal. Fleda came at last to her uncle's side, and
putting her arm within his, said —

"How soon will you set off for home, uncle Rolf?"

"To-morrow morning."

"You must take the boat to Bridgeport now — you know the river
is fast."

"Yes, I know."

"Then I will meet you at the wharf, uncle Rolf — at what
o'clock?"

"My dear child," said he, stopping and passing his hand
tenderly over her cheek, "are you fit for it to-morrow? You
had better stay where you are quietly for a few days — you
want rest."

"No, I will go home with you," said Fleda, "and rest there.
But hadn't we better let Dinah in, and bid her good-bye? for I
ought to be somewhere else to get ready."

Dinah was called, and a few kind words spoken, and with a more
substantial remembrance, or reward, from Fleda's hand, they
left her.

Fleda had the support of her uncle's arm till they came within
sight of the house, and then he stood and watched her while
she went the rest of the way alone.

Anything more white and spirit-looking, and more spirit-like,
in its purity and peacefulness surely did not walk that night.
There was music in her ear, and abroad in the star-light, more
ethereal than Ariel's; but she knew where it came from — it
was the chimes of her heart that were ringing; and never a
happier peal, nor ever had the mental atmosphere been more
clear for their sounding. Thankfulness — that was the oftenest
note — swelling thankfulness for her success — joy for herself
and for the dear ones at home — generous delight at having
been the instrument of their relief — the harmonies of pure
affections, without any grating now — the hope, well grounded
she thought, of improvement in her uncle, and better times for
them all — a childlike peace that was at rest with itself and
the world — these were mingling and interchanging their music,
and again and again, in the midst of it all, faith rang the
last chime in heaven.


CHAPTER XVI.


"As some lone bird at day's departing hour
Sings in the sunbeam of the transient shower,
Forgetful though its wings are wet the while."
BOWLES.


Happily possessed with the notion that there was some hidden
mystery in Fleda's movements, Mrs. Pritchard said not a word
about her having gone out, and only spoke in looks her pain at
the imprudence of which she had been guilty. But when Fleda
asked to have a carriage ordered to take her to the boat in
the morning, the good housekeeper could not hold any longer.

"Miss Fleda," said she, with a look of very serious
remonstrance — "I don't know what you're thinking of, but _I_
know you're fixing to kill yourself. You are no more fit to go
to Queechy to-morrow than you were to be out till seven
o'clock this evening; and if you saw yourself, you wouldn't
want me to say any more. There is not the least morsel of
colour in your face, and you look as if you had a mind to get
rid of your body altogether as fast as you can! You want to be
in bed for two days running, now this minute."

"Thank you, dear Mrs. Pritchard," said Fleda, smiling — "you
are very careful of me, but I must go home to-morrow, and go
to bed afterwards."

The housekeeper looked at her a minute in silence, and then
said, "Don't, dear Miss Fleda!" with an energy of entreaty,
which brought the tears into Fleda's eyes. But she persisted
in desiring the carriage, and Mrs. Pritchard was silenced,
observing, however, that she shouldn't wonder if she wasn't
able to go, after all. Fleda herself was not without a doubt
on the subject before the evening was over. The reaction,
complete now, began to make itself felt, and morning settled
the question. She was not able even to rise from her bed.

The housekeeper was, in a sort, delighted; and Fleda was in
too passive a mood of body and mind to have any care on the
subject. The agitation of the past days had given way to an
absolute quiet, that seemed as if nothing could ever ruffle it
again, and this feeling was seconded by the extreme
prostration of body. She was a mere child in the hands of her
nurse, and had, Mrs. Pritchard said, "if she wouldn't mind her
telling — the sweetest baby-face that ever had so much sense
belonging to it."

The morning was half spent in dozing slumbers, when Fleda
heard a rush of footsteps, much lighter and sprightlier than
good Mrs. Pritchard's, coming up the stairs, and pattering
along the entry to her room, and, with little ceremony, in
rushed Florence and Constance Evelyn. They almost smothered
Fleda with their delighted caresses, and ran so hard their
questions about her looks and her illness, that she was well
nigh spared the trouble of answering.

"You horrid little creature!" said Constance, "why didn't you
come straight to our house? Just think of the injurious
suspicions you have exposed us to! — to say nothing of the
extent of fiction we have found ourselves obliged to execute.
I didn't expect it of you, little Queechy."

Fleda kept her pale face quiet on the pillow, and only smiled
her incredulous curiosity.

"But when did you come back, Fleda?" said Miss Evelyn.

"We should never have known a breath about your being here,"
Constance went on. "We were sitting last night, in peaceful
unconsciousness of there being any neglected calls upon our
friendship in the vicinity, when Mr. Carleton came in and
asked for you. Imagine our horror! We said you had gone out
early in the afternoon, and had not returned."

"You didn't say that!" said Fleda, colouring.

"And he remarked at some length," said Constance, "upon the
importance of young ladies having some attendance when they
are out late in the evening, and that you in particular were
one of those persons — he didn't say, but he intimated, of a
slightly volatile disposition — whom their friends ought not
to lose sight of."

"But what brought you to town again, Fleda " said the elder
sister.

"What makes you talk so, Constance?" said Fleda.

"I haven't told you the half!" said Constance, demurely. "And
then mamma excused herself as well as she could, and Mr.
Carleton said, very seriously, that he knew there was a great
element of headstrongness in your character; he had remarked
it, he said, when you were arguing with Mr. Stackpole."

"Constance, be quiet!" said her sister. "_Will_ you tell me,
Fleda, what you have come to town for? I am dying with
curiosity."

"Then it's inordinate curiosity, and ought to be checked, my
dear," said Fleda, smiling.

"Tell me."

"I came to take care of some business that could not very well
be attended to at a distance."

"Who did you come with?"

"One of our Queechy neighbours that I heard was coming to New
York."

"Wasn't your uncle at home?"

"Of course not. If he had been, there would have been no need
of my stirring."

"But was there nobody else to do it but you?"

"Uncle Orrin away, you know; and Charlton down at his post —
Fort Hamilton, is it? — I forget which fort — he is fast
there."

"He is not so very fast," said Constance, "for I see him every
now and then in Broadway, shouldering Mr. Thorn instead of a
musket; and he has taken up the distressing idea that it is
part of his duty to oversee the progress of Florence's
worsted-work — (I've made over that horrid thing to her,
Fleda) — or else his precision has been struck with the
anomaly of blue stars on a white ground, and he is studying
that — I don't know which; and so every few nights he rushes
over from Governor's Island, or somewhere, to prosecute
inquiries. Mamma is quite concerned about him; she says he is
wearing himself out."

The mixture of amusement, admiration, and affection, with
which the other sister looked at her, and laughed with her was
a pretty thing to see.

"But where is your other cousin — Hugh?" said Florence.

"He was not well."

"Where is your uncle?"

"He will be at home to-day, I expect; and so should I have
been — I meant to be there as soon as he was, but I found this
morning that I was not well enough — to my sorrow."

"You were not going alone!"

"Oh, no! — a friend of ours was going to-day."

"I never saw anybody with so many friends, said Florence. "But
you are coming to us now, Fleda. How soon are you going to get
up?"

"Oh, by to-morrow," said Fleda, smiling; "but I had better
stay where I am the little while I shall be here. I must go
home the first minute I can find an opportunity."

"But you sha'n't find an opportunity till we've had you," said
Constance. "I'm going to bring a carriage for you this
afternoon. I could bear the loss of your friendship, my dear,
but not the peril of my own reputation. Mr. Carleton is under
the impression that you are suffering from a momentary
succession of fainting fits; and if we were to leave you here
in an empty house, to come out of them at your leisure, what
would he think of us?"

What would he think? Oh, world! Is this it?

But Fleda was not able to be moved in the afternoon; and it
soon appeared that nature would take more revenge than a day's
sleep for the rough handling she had had the past week. Fleda
could not rise from her bed the next morning; and instead of
that, a kind of nondescript nervous fever set in, nowise
dangerous, but very wearying. She was, nevertheless, extremely
glad of it, for it would serve to explain to all her friends
the change of look which had astonished them. They would make
it now the token of coming, not of past, evil. The rest she
took with her accustomed patience and quietness, thankful for
everything, after the anxiety and the relief she had just
before known.

Dr. Gregory came home from Philadelphia in the height of her
attack, and aggravated it for a day or two with the fear of
his questioning. But Fleda was surprised at his want of
curiosity. He asked her, indeed, what she had come to town
for, but her whispered answer of "business," seemed to satisfy
him, for he did not inquire what the business was. He did ask
her, furthermore, what had made her get sick; but this time he
was satisfied more easily still, with a very curious, sweet
smile, which was the utmost reply Fleda's wits, at the moment,
could frame. "Well, get well," said he, kissing her heartily
once or twice, "and I wont quarrel with you about it."

The getting well, however, promised to be a leisurely affair.
Dr. Gregory staid two or three days, and then went on to
Boston, leaving Fleda in no want of him.

Mrs. Pritchard was the tenderest and carefullest of nurses.
The Evelyns did everything but nurse her. They sat by her,
talked to her, made her laugh, and not seldom made her look
sober too, with their wild tales of the world and the world's
doings. But they were indeed very affectionate and kind, and
Fleda loved them for it. If they wearied her sometimes with
their talk, it was a change from the weariness of fever and
silence that on the whole was useful.

She was quieting herself one morning, as well as she could, in
the midst of both, lying with shut eyes against her pillow,
and trying to fix her mind on pleasant things, when she heard
Mrs. Pritchard open the door and come in. She knew it was Mrs.
Pritchard, so she didn't move nor look. But, in a moment, the
knowledge that Mrs. Pritchard's feet had stopped just by the
bed, and a strange sensation of something delicious saluting
her, made her open her eyes; when they lighted upon a huge
bunch of violets just before them, and in most friendly
neighbourhood to her nose. Fleda started up, and her "Oh!"
fairly made the housekeeper laugh; it was the very
quintessence of gratification.

"Where did you get them?"

"I didn't get them, indeed, Miss Fleda," said the housekeeper,
gravely, with an immense amount of delighted satisfaction.

"Delicious! — Where did they come from?"

"Well, they must have come from a greenhouse, or hothouse, or
something of that kind, Miss Fleda — these things don't grow
nowhere out o' doors at this time."

Mrs. Pritchard guessed Fleda had got the clue, from her quick
change of colour and falling eye. There was a quick little
smile too; and "How kind!" was upon the end of Fleda's tongue,
but it never got any further. Her energies, so far as
expression was concerned, seemed to be concentrated in the act
of smelling. Mrs. Pritchard stood by.

"They must be put in water," said Fleda — "I must have a dish
for them — Dear Mrs. Pritchard, will you get me one?"

The housekeeper went, smiling to herself. The dish was
brought, the violets placed in it, and a little table, at
Fleda's request, was set by the side of the bed, close to her
pillow, for them to stand upon; and Fleda lay on her pillow
and looked at them.


There never were purer-breathed flowers than those. All the
pleasant associations of Fleda's life seemed to hang about
them, from the time when her childish eyes had first made
acquaintance with violets, to the conversation in the library
a few days ago; and painful things stood aloof — they had no
part. The freshness of youth, and the sweetness of spring-
time, and all the kindly influences which had ever joined with
both to bless her, came back with their blessing in the
violets' reminding breath. Fleda shut her eyes and she felt
it; she opened her eyes, and the little, double blue things
smiled at her good-humouredly, and said, "Here we are — you
may shut them again." And it was curious how often Fleda gave
them a smile back as she did so.

Mrs. Pritchard thought Fleda lived upon the violets that day
rather than upon food and medicine; or, at least, she said,
they agreed remarkably well together. And the next day it was
much the same.

"What will you do when they are withered?" she said, that
evening. "I shall have to see and get some more for you."

"Oh, they will last a great while," said Fleda, smiling.

But the next morning Mrs. Pritchard came into her room with a
great bunch of roses, the very like of the one Fleda had had
at the Evelyns'. She delivered them with a sort of silent
triumph, and then, as before, stood by to enjoy Fleda and the
flowers together. But the degree of Fleda's wonderment,
pleasure, and gratitude, made her reception of them, outwardly
at least, this time rather grave.

"You may throw the others away now, Miss Fleda," said the
housekeeper, smiling.

"Indeed, I shall not!"

"The violets, I suppose, is all gone," Mrs. Pritchard went on;
"but I never did see such a bunch of roses as that since I
lived anywhere. They have made a rose of you, Miss Fleda."

"How beautiful!" was Fleda's answer.

"Somebody — he didn't say who — desired to know particularly
how Miss Ringgan was to-day."

"Somebody is _very_ kind!" said Fleda, from the bottom of her
heart. "But, dear Mrs. Pritchard, I shall want another dish."

Somebody was kind, she thought more and more; for there came
every day or two the most delicious bouquets, every day
different. They were _at least_ equal in their soothing and
refreshing influences, to all the efforts of all the Evelyns
and Mrs. Pritchard put together. There never came any name
with them, and there never was any need. Those bunches of
flowers certainly had a physiognomy; and to Fleda were (not
the flowers, but the choosing, cutting, and putting of them
together) the embodiment of an amount of grace, refined
feeling, generosity, and kindness, that her imagination never
thought of in connection with but one person. And his kindness
was answered, perhaps Mrs. Pritchard better than Fleda guessed
how well, from the delighted colour and sparkle of the eye
with which every fresh arrival was greeted as it walked into
her room. By Fleda's order, the bouquets were invariably put
out of sight before the Evelyns made their first visit in the
morning, and not brought out again till all danger of seeing
them any more for the day was past. The regular coming of
these floral messengers confirmed Mrs. Pritchard in her
mysterious surmises about Fleda, which were still further
strengthened by this incomprehensible order; and at last she
got so into the spirit of the thing, that if she heard an
untimely ring at the door, she would catch up a glass of
flowers and run as if they had been contraband, without a word
from anybody.

The Evelyns wrote to Mrs. Rossitur, by Fleda's desire, so as
not to alarm her; merely saying that Fleda was not quite well,
and that they meant to keep her a little while to recruit
herself; and that Mrs. Rossitur must send her some clothes.
This last clause was the particular addition of Constance.

The fever lasted a fortnight, and then went off by degrees,
leaving her with a very small portion of her ordinary
strength. Fleda was to go to the Evelyns' as soon as she could
bear it; at present she was only able to come down to the
little back parlour, and sit in the doctor's arm-chair, and
eat jelly, and sleep, and look at Constance, and, when
Constance was not there, look at her flowers. She could hardly
bear a book as yet. She hadn't a bit of colour in her face,
Mrs. Pritchard said, but she looked better than when she came
to town; and to herself the good housekeeper added, that she
looked happier too. No doubt that was true. Fleda's principal
feeling, ever since she lay down in her bed, had been
thankfulness; and now that the ease of returning health was
joined to this feeling, her face, with all its subdued
gravity, was as untroubled in its expression as the faces of
her flowers.

She was disagreeably surprised one day, after she had been two
or three days down stairs, by a visit from Mrs. Thorn. In her
well-grounded dread of seeing one person, Fleda had given
strict orders that no _gentleman_ should be admitted; she had
not counted upon this invasion. Mrs. Thorn had always been
extremely kind to her, but though Fleda gave her credit for
thorough good-heartedness, and a true liking for herself, she
could not disconnect her attentions from another thought, and
therefore always wished them away; and never had her kind face
been more thoroughly disagreeable to Fleda than when it made
its appearance in the doctor's little back parlour on this
occasion. With even more than her usual fondness, or Fleda's
excited imagination fancied so, Mrs. Thorn lavished caresses
upon her, and finally besought her to go out and take the air
in her carriage. Fleda tried most earnestly to get rid of this
invitation, and was gently unpersuadable, till the lady at
last was brought to promise that she should see no creature
during the drive but herself. An ominous promise! but Fleda
did not know any longer how to refuse without hurting a person
for whom she had really a grateful regard. So she went, and
doubted afterwards exceedingly whether she had done well.

She took special good care to see nobody again till she went
to the Evelyns'. But then precautions were at an end. It was
no longer possible to keep herself shut up. She had cause,
poor child, the very first night of her coming, to wish
herself back again.

This first evening she would fain have pleaded weakness as her
excuse, and gone to her room, but Constance laid violent hands
on her, and insisted that she should stay at least a little
while with them. And she seemed fated to see all her friends
in a bevy. First came Charlton; then followed the Decaturs,
whom she knew and liked very well, and engrossed her, happily
before her cousin had time to make any inquiries; then came
Mr. Carleton; then Mr. Stackpole. Then Mr. Thorn, in
expectation of whom Fleda's breath had been coming and going
painfully all the evening. She could not meet him without a
strange mixture of embarrassment and confusion with the
gratitude she wished to express, an embarrassment not at all
lessened by the air of happy confidence with which he came
forward to her. It carried an intimation that almost took away
the little strength she had. And if anything could have made
his presence more intolerable, it was the feeling she could
not get rid of, that it was the cause why Mr. Carleton did not
come near her again, though she prolonged her stay in the
drawing-room in the hope that he would. It proved to be for
Mr. Thorn's benefit alone.

"Well, you staid all the evening, after all," said Constance,
as they were going up stairs.

"Yes — I wish I hadn't," said Fleda. "I wonder when I shall be
likely to find a chance of getting back to Queechy?"

"You're not fit yet, so you needn't trouble yourself about
it," said Constance. "We'll find you plenty of chances."

Fleda could not think of Mr. Thorn without trembling. His
manner meant — so much more than it had any right, or than she
had counted upon. He seemed — she pressed her hands upon her
face to get rid of the impression — he seemed to take for
granted precisely that which she had refused to admit; he
seemed to reckon as paid for that which she had declined to
set a price upon. Her uncle's words and manner came up in her
memory. She could see nothing best to do but to get home as
fast as possible. She had no one here to fall back upon. Again
that vision of father and mother, and grandfather, flitted
across her fancy; and though Fleda's heart ended by resting
down on that foundation to which it always recurred, it rested
with a great many tears.

For several days she denied herself absolutely to morning
visitors of every kind. But she could not entirely absent
herself from the drawing-room in the evening; and whenever the
family were at home there was a regular levee. Mr. Thorn could
not be avoided then. He was always there, and always with that
same look and manner of satisfied confidence. Fleda was as
grave, as silent, as reserved, as she could possibly be, and
not be rude; but he seemed to take it in excellent good part,
as being half indisposition and half timidity. Fleda set her
face earnestly towards home, and pressed Mrs. Evelyn to find
her an opportunity, weak or strong, of going there; but for
those days as yet none presented itself.

Mr. Carleton was at the house almost as often as Mr. Thorn,
seldom staying so long, however, and never having any more to
do with Fleda than he had that first evening. Whenever he did
come in contact with her, he was, she thought, as grave as he
was graceful. That was, to be sure, his common manner in
company, yet she could not help thinking there was some
difference since the walk they had taken together — and it
grieved her.


CHAPTER XVII.


"The best-laid schemes o' mice and men
Gang aft ajee."


After a few days, Charlton verified what Constance had said
about his not being very fast at Fort Hamilton, by coming
again to see them one morning. Fleda asked him if he could not
get another furlough to go with her home, but he declared he
was just spending one which was near out; and he could not
hope for a third in some time; he must be back at his post by
the day after to-morrow.

"When do you want to go, coz?"

"I would to-morrow, if I had anybody to go with me," said
Fleda, sighing.

"No, you wouldn't," said Constance; "you are well enough to go
out now, and you forget we are all to make Mrs. Thorn happy
to-morrow night."

"I am not," said Fleda.

"Not? you can't help yourself — you must; you said you would."

"I did not, indeed."

"Well, then, I said it for you, and that will do just as well.
Why, my dear, if you don't — just think! — the Thorns will be
in a state — I should prefer to go through a hedge of any
description rather than meet the trying demonstrations which
will encounter me on every side."

"I am going to Mrs. Decatur's," said Fleda; "she invited me
first, and I owe it to her; she has asked me so often and so
kindly."

"I shouldn't think you'd enjoy yourself there," said Florence;
"they don't talk a bit of English these nights. If I was
going, my dear, I would act as your interpreter, but my
destiny lies in another direction."

"If I cannot make anybody understand my French, I will get
somebody to condescend to my English," said Fleda.

"Why, do you talk French?" was the instant question from both
mouths.

"Unless she has forgotten herself strangely," said Charlton.
"Talk! she will talk to anybody's satisfaction — that happens
to differ from her; and I think her tongue cares very little
which language it wags in. There is no danger about Fleda's
enjoying herself, where people are talking."

Fleda laughed at him, and the Evelyns rather stared at them
both.

"But we are all going to Mrs. Thorn's? you can't go alone?"

"I will make Charlton take me," said Fleda; "or rather I will
take him, if he will let me. Will you, Charlton? will you take
care of me to Mrs. Decatur's to-morrow night?"

"With the greatest pleasure, my dear coz; but I have another
engagement in the course of the evening."

"Oh, that is nothing," said Fleda; "if you will only go with
me, that is all I care for. You needn't stay but ten minutes.
And you can call for me," she added, turning to the Evelyns,
"as you come back from Mrs. Thorn's."

To this no objection could be made, and the ensuing raillery
Fleda bore with steadiness at least, if not with coolness; for
Charlton heard it, and she was distressed.

She went to Mrs. Decatur's the next evening in greater elation
of spirits than she had known since she left her uncle's;
delighted to be missing from the party at Mrs. Thorn's, and
hoping that Mr. Lewis would be satisfied with this very plain
hint of her mind. A little pleased, too, to feel quite free,
alone from too friendly eyes, and ears that had too lively a
concern in her sayings and doings. She did not in the least
care about going to Mrs. Decatur's; her joy was that she was
not at the other place. But there never was elation so
outwardly quiet. Nobody would have suspected its existence.

The evening was near half over when Mr. Carleton came in.
Fleda had half hoped he would be there, and now immediately
hoped she might have a chance to see him alone, and to thank
him for his flowers; she had not been able to do that yet. He
presently came up to speak to her, just as Charlton, who had
found attraction enough to keep him so long, came to tell her
he was going.

"You are looking better," said the former, as gravely as ever,
but with an eye of serious interest that made the words
something.

"I am better," said Fleda, gratefully.

"So much better that she is in a hurry to make herself worse,"
said her cousin. "Mr. Carleton, you are a professor of
medicine, I believe. I have an indistinct impression of your
having once prescribed a ride on horseback for somebody;
wouldn't you recommend some measure of prudence to her
consideration?"

"In general," Mr. Carleton answered, gravely; "but in the
present case I could not venture upon any special
prescription, Captain Rossitur."

"As, for instance, that she should remain in New York till she
is fit to leave it. By the way, what brought you here again in
such a hurry, Fleda? I haven't heard that yet."

The question was rather sudden. Fleda was a little taken by
surprise. Her face showed some pain and confusion both. Mr.
Carleton prevented her answer, she could not tell whether with
design.

"What imprudence do you charge your cousin with, Captain
Rossitur?"

"Why, she is in a great hurry to get back to Queechy, before
she is able to go anywhere — begging me to find an escort for
her. It is lucky I can't. I didn't know I ever should be glad
to be 'posted up' in this fashion, but I am."

"You have not sought very far, Captain Rossitur," said the
voice of Thorn behind him. "Here is one that will be very
happy to attend Miss Fleda, whenever she pleases."

Fleda's shocked start and change of countenance was seen by
more eyes than one pair. Thorn's fell, and a shade crossed his
countenance, too, for an instant, that Fleda's vision was too
dazzled to see. Mr. Carleton moved away.

"Why are _you_ going to Queechy?" said Charlton, astonished.

His friend was silent a moment, perhaps for want of power to
speak. Fleda dared not look at him.

"It is not impossible — unless this lady forbid me. I am not a
fixture."

"But what brought you here, man, to offer your services?" said
Charlton; "most ungallantly leaving so many pairs of bright
eyes to shine upon your absence."

"Mr. Thorn will not find himself in darkness here, Captain
Rossitur," said Mrs. Decatur.

"It's my opinion he ought, Ma'am," said Charlton.

"It is my opinion every man ought, who makes his dependance on
gleams of sunshine," said Mr. Thorn, rather cynically. "I
cannot say I was thinking of brightness, before or behind me."

"I should think not," said Charlton; "you don't look as if you
had seen any in a good while."

"A light goes out every now and then," said Thorn; "and it
takes one's eyes some time to get accustomed to it. What a
singular world we live in, Mrs. Decatur!"

"That is so new an idea," said the lady, laughing, "that I
must request an explanation."

"What new experience of its singularity has your wisdom made?"
said his friend. "I thought you and the world knew each
other's faces pretty well before."

"Then you have not heard the news?"

"What news?"

"Hum — I suppose it is not about, yet," said Thorn,
composedly. "No — you haven't heard it."

"But what, man?" said Charlton; "let's hear your news, for I
must be off."

"Why — but it is no more than rumour yet — but it is said that
strange things are coming to light about a name that used to
be held in very high respect."

"In this city?"

"In this city? — yes; it is said proceedings are afoot against
one of our oldest citizens, on charge of a very grave
offence."

"Who — and what offence? what do you mean?"

"Is it a secret, Mr. Thorn?" said Mrs. Decatur.

"If you have not heard, perhaps it is as well not to mention
names too soon; if it comes out, it will be all over directly;
possibly the family may hush it up, and, in that case, the
less said the better; but those have it in hand that will not
let it slip through their fingers."

Mrs. Decatur turned away, saying, "How shocking such things
were!" and Thorn, with a smile which did not, however, light
up his face, said —

"You may be off, Charlton, with no concern for the bright eyes
you leave behind you; I will endeavour to atone for my
negligence elsewhere, by my mindfulness of them."

"Don't excuse you," said Charlton; but his eye catching at the
moment another attraction opposite in the form of man or
woman, instead of quitting the room, he leisurely crossed it
to speak to the new-comer; and Thorn, with an entire change of
look and manner, pressed forward, and offered his arm to
Fleda, who was looking perfectly white. If his words had
needed any commentary, it was given by his eye as it met hers,
in speaking the last sentence to Mrs. Decatur. No one was near
whom she knew, and Mr. Thorn led her out to a little back room
where the gentlemen had thrown off their cloaks, where the air
was fresher, and placing her on a seat, stood waiting before
her till she could speak to him.

"What do you mean, Mr. Thorn?" Fleda looked as much as said,
when she could meet his face.

"I may rather ask you what _you_ mean, Miss Fleda," he answered,
gravely.

Fleda drew breath painfully.

"I mean nothing," she said, lowering her head again; "I have
done nothing."

"Did you think I meant nothing when I agreed to do all you
wished?"

"I thought you said you would do it freely," she said, with a
tone of voice that might have touched anybody, there was such
a sinking of heart in it.

"Didn't you understand me?"

"And is it all over now?" said Fleda, after a pause.

"Not yet; but it soon may be. A weak hand may stop it now — it
will soon be beyond the power of the strongest."

"And what becomes of your promise that it should no more be
heard of?" said Fleda, looking up at him with a colourless
face, but eyes that put the question forcibly, nevertheless.

"Is any promise bound to stand without its conditions?"

"I made no conditions," said Fleda, quickly.

"Forgive me! but did you not permit me to understand them?"

"No! or if I did, I could not help it."

"Did you say that you wished to help it?" said he, gently.

"I must say so now, then, Mr. Thorn," said Fleda, withdrawing
the hand he had taken; "I did not mean or wish you to think
so, but I was too ill to speak — almost to know what I did. It
was not my fault."

"You do not make it mine, that I chose such a time, selfishly,
I grant, to draw from your lips the words that are more to me
than life?"

"Cannot you be generous ?" _for once_, she was very near saying.

"Where you are concerned, I do not know how."

Fleda was silent a moment, and then bowed her face in her
hands.

"May I not ask that question of you?" said he, bending down
and endeavouring to remove them; "will you not say — or look —
that word that will make others happy beside me?"

"I cannot, Sir."

"Not for their sakes?" he said, calmly.

"Can you ask me to do for theirs, what I would not for my
own?"

"Yes — for mine," he said, with a meaning deliberateness.

Fleda was silent, with a face of white determination.

"It will be beyond _eluding_, as beyond recal, the second time.
I may seem selfish — I am selfish — but, dear Miss Ringgan,
you do not see all — you, who make me so, can make me anything
else with a touch of your hand — it is selfishness that would
be bound to your happiness, if you did but entrust it to me."

Fleda neither spoke nor looked at him, and rose up from her
chair.

"Is this _your_ generosity?" he said, pointedly, though gently.

"That is not the question now, Sir," said Fleda, who was
trembling painfully. "I cannot do evil that good may come."

"But _evil?_" said he, detaining her — "what evil do I ask of
you? to _remove_ evil, I do."

Fleda clasped her hands, but answered calmly —

"I cannot make any pretences, Sir; I cannot promise to give
what is not in my power."

"In whose power, then?" said he, quickly.

A feeling of indignation came to Fleda's aid, and she turned
away. But he stopped her still.

"Do you think I do not understand?" he said, with a covert
sneer, that had the keenness, and hardness, and the brightness
of steel.

"_I_ do not, Sir," said Fleda.

"Do you think I do not know whom you came here to meet?"

Fleda's glance of reproach was a most innocent one, but it did
not check him.

"Has that fellow renewed his old admiration of you?" he went
on, in the same tone.

"Do not make me desire his old protection," said Fleda, her
gentle face roused to a flush of displeasure.

"Protection!" said Charlton, coming in, "who wants protection?
here it is — protection from what? my old friend Lewis? what
the deuce does this lady want of protection, Mr. Thorn?"

It was plain enough that Fleda wanted it, from the way she was
drooping upon his arm.

"You may ask the lady herself," said Thorn, in the same tone
he had before used; — "I have not the honour to be her
spokesman."

"She don't need one," said Charlton; "I addressed myself to
you — speak for yourself, man."

"I am not sure that it would be her pleasure I should," said
Thorn. "Shall I tell this gentleman, Miss Ringgan, who needs
protection, and from what?"

Fleda raised her head, and, putting her hand on his arm,
looked a concentration of entreaty — lips were sealed.

"Will you give me," said he, gently taking the hand in his
own, "your sign-manual for Captain Rossitur's security? It is
not too late. Ask it of her, Sir."

"What does this mean?" said Charlton, looking from his cousin
to his friend.

"You shall have the pleasure of knowing, Sir, just so soon as
I find it convenient."

"I will have a few words with you on this subject, my fine
fellow," said Captain Rossitur, as the other was preparing to
leave the room.

"You had better speak to somebody else," said Thorn. "But I am
ready."

Charlton muttered an imprecation upon his absurdity, and
turned his attention to Fleda, who needed it, and yet desired
anything else. For a moment she had an excuse for not
answering his questions in her inability; and then,
opportunely, Mrs. Decatur came in to look after her; and she
was followed by her daughter. Fleda roused all her powers to
conceal and command her feelings; rallied herself; said she
had been a little weak and faint; drank water, and declared
herself able to go back into the drawing-room. To go home
would have been her utmost desire, but at the instant her
energies were all bent to the one point of putting back
thought, and keeping off suspicion. And in the first hurry and
bewilderment of distress, the dread of finding herself alone
with Charlton, till she had had time to collect her thoughts,
would of itself have been enough to prevent her accepting the
proposal.

She entered the drawing-room again on Mrs. Decatur's arm, and
had stood a few minutes talking or listening, with that same
concentration of all her faculties upon the effort to bear up
outwardly, when Charlton came up to ask if he should leave
her. Fleda made no objection, and he was out of her sight, far
enough to be beyond reach or recal, when it suddenly struck
her that she ought not to have let him go without speaking to
him — without entreating him to see her in the morning before
he saw Thorn. The sickness of this new apprehension was too
much for poor Fleda's power of keeping up. She quietly drew
her arm from Mrs. Decatur's, saying that she would sit down;
and sought out a place for herself, apart from the rest, by an
engraving-stand, where for a little while, not to seem
unoccupied, she turned over print after print, that she did
not see. Even that effort failed at last; and she sat gazing
at one of Sir Thomas Lawrence's bright-faced children, and
feeling as if in herself the tides of life were setting back
upon their fountain preparatory to being still for ever. She
became sensible that some one was standing beside the
engravings, and looked up at Mr. Carleton.

"Are. you ill?" he said, very gently and tenderly.

The answer was a quick motion of Fleda's hand to her head,
speaking sudden pain, and perhaps sudden difficulty of self-
command. She did not speak.

"Will you have anything?"

A whispered "No."

"Would you like to return to Mrs. Evelyn's? — I have a
carriage here."

With a look of relief that seemed to welcome him as her good
angel, Fleda instantly rose up, and took the arm he offered
her. She would have hastened from the room then, but he gently
checked her pace; and Fleda was immediately grateful for the
quiet and perfect shielding from observation that his manner
secured her. He went with her up the stairs, and to the very
door of the dressing-room. There Fleda hurried on her shoes
and mufflers in trembling fear that some one might come and
find her, gained Mr. Carleton's arm again, and was placed in
the carriage.

The drive was in perfect silence, and Fleda's agony deepened
and strengthened with every minute. She had freedom to think,
and thought did but carry a torch into chamber after chamber
of misery. There seemed nothing to be done. She could not get
hold of Charlton; and if she could? — Nothing could be less
amenable than his passions to her gentle restraints. Mr. Thorn
was still less approachable or manageable, except in one way —
that she did not even think of. His insinuations about Mr.
Carleton did not leave even a tinge of embarrassment upon her
mind; they were cast from her as insulting absurdities, which
she could not think of a second time without shame.

The carriage rolled on with them a long time without a word
being said. Mr. Carleton knew that she was not weeping nor
faint. But as the light of the lamps was now and then cast
within the carriage, he saw that her face looked ghastly; and
he saw too, that its expression was not of a quiet sinking
under sorrow, nor of an endeavour to bear up against it, but a
wild searching gaze into the darkness of _possibilities_. They
had near reached Mrs. Evelyn's.

"I cannot see you so," he said, gently touching the hand which
lay listlessly beside him. "You are ill!"

Again the same motion of the other hand to her face, the quick
token of great pain suddenly stirred.

"For the sake of old times, let me ask," said he — "can
nothing be done?"

Those very gentle and delicate tones of sympathy and kindness
were too much to bear. The hand was snatched away to be
pressed to her face. O that those old times were back again,
and she a child that could ask his protection! — no one to
give it now.

He was silent a moment. Fleda's head bowed beneath the mental
pressure.

"Has Dr. Gregory returned?"

The negative answer was followed by a half-uttered exclamation
of longing — checked midway, but sufficiently expressive of
her want.

"Do you trust me?" he said, after another second of pausing.

"Perfectly!" said Fleda, amidst her tears, too much excited to
know what she was saying, and in her simplicity half
forgetting that she was not a child still; — "more than any
one in the world!"

The few words he had spoken, and the manner of them, had
curiously borne her back years in a minute; she seemed to be
under his care more than for the drive home. He did not speak
again for a minute; when he did, his tone was very quiet, and
lower than before.

"Give me what a friend can have in charge to do for you, and
it shall be done."

Fleda raised her head, and looked out of the window, in a
silence of doubt. The carriage stopped at Mrs. Evelyn's.

"Not now," said Mr. Carleton, as the servant was about to open
the door — "drive round the square — till I speak to you."

Fleda was motionless and almost breathless with uncertainty.
If Charlton could be hindered from meeting Mr. Thorn — but how
could Mr. Carleton effect it? But there was that in him or in
his manner, which invariably created confidence in his
ability, or fear of it, even in strangers; and how much more
in her who had a childish but very clear recollection of
several points in his character which confirmed the feeling.
And might not something be done, through his means, to
facilitate her uncle's escape? of whom she seemed to herself
now the betrayer. But to tell him the story! — a person of his
high nice notions of character — what a distance it would put
even between his friendship and her — but that thought was
banished instantly, with one glance at Mr. Thorn's imputation
of ungenerousness. To sacrifice herself to _him_ would not have
been generosity — to lower herself in the esteem of a
different character, she felt, called for it. There was time
even then, too, for one swift thought of the needlessness and
bitter fruits of wrong-doing. But here they were — should she
make them known, and trouble Mr. Carleton, friend though he
were, with these miserable matters in which he had no concern?
She sat with a beating heart and a very troubled brow, but a
brow as easy to read as a child's. It was the trouble of
anxious questioning. Mr. Carleton watched it for a little
while — undecided as ever, and more pained.

"You said you trusted me," he said quietly, taking her hand
again.

"But — I don't know what you could do, Mr. Carleton," Fleda
said, with a trembling voice.

"Will you let me be the judge of that?"

"I cannot bear to trouble you with these miserable things —"

"You cannot," said he, with that same quiet tone, "but by
thinking and saying so. I can have no greater pleasure than to
take pains for you."

Fleda heard these words precisely, and with the same
simplicity as a child would have heard them, and answered with
a very frank burst of tears — soon, as soon as possible,
according to her custom, driven back, though even in the act
of quieting herself, they broke forth again as uncontrollably
as at first. But Mr. Carleton had not long to wait. She raised
her head again after a short struggle, with the wonted look of
patience sitting upon her brow, and wiping away her tears,
paused merely for breath and voice. He was perfectly silent.

"Mr. Carleton, I will tell you," she began; "I hardly know
whether I ought or ought not" — and her hand went to her
forehead for a moment — "but I cannot think to-night — and I
have not a friend to apply to" —

She hesitated; and then went on, with a voice that trembled
and quavered sadly.

"Mr. Thorn has a secret — of my uncle's — in his power — which
he promised — without conditions — to keep faithfully; and now
insists that he will not — but upon conditions" —

"And cannot the conditions be met?"

"No — and, oh, I may as well tell you at once!" said Fleda in
bitter sorrow; "it is a crime that he committed" —

"Mr. Thorn?"

"No — O no!" said Fleda, weeping bitterly, "not he" —

Her agitation was excessive for a moment; then she threw it
off, and spoke more collectedly, though with exceeding
depression of manner.

"It was long ago — when he was in trouble — he put Mr. Thorn's
name to a note, and never was able to take it up; and nothing
was ever heard about it till lately; and last week he was
going to leave the country, and Mr. Thorn promised that the
proceedings should be entirely given up; and that was why I
came to town, to find uncle Rolf, and bring him home; and I
did, and he is gone; and now Mr. Thorn says, it is all going
on again, and that he will not escape this time; and I have
done it!" —

Fleda writhed again in distress.

"Thorn promised without conditions?"

"Certainly — he promised freely — and now he insists upon
them; and you see uncle Rolf would have been safe out of the
country now, if it hadn't been for me" —

"I think I can undo this snarl," said Mr. Carleton, calmly.

"But that is not all," said Fleda, a little quieted; "Charlton
came in this evening when we were talking, and he was
surprised to find me so, and Mr. Thorn was in a very ill
humour, and some words passed between them, and Charlton
threatened to see him again; and oh, if he does!" said poor
Fleda — "that will finish our difficulties! — for Charlton is
very hot, and I know how it will end — how it must end" —

"Where is your cousin to be found?"

"I don't know where he lodges when he is in town."

"You did not leave him at Mrs. Decatur's. Do you know where he
is this evening?"

"Yes!" said Fleda, wondering that she should have heard and
remembered; "he said he was going to meet a party of his
brother officers at Mme. Fouché's — a sister-in-law of his
Colonel, I believe."

"I know her. This note — was it the name of the young Mr.
Thorn, or of his father that was used?"

"Of his father."

"Has _he_ appeared at all in this business?"

"No," said Fleda, feeling for the first time that there was
something notable about it.

"What sort of person do you take him to be?"

"Very kind — very pleasant, always, he has been to me, and I
should think to everybody — very unlike the son."

Mr. Carleton had ordered the coachman back to Mrs. Evelyn's.

"Do you know the amount of the note? It may be desirable that
I should not appear uninformed."

"It was for four thousand dollars," Fleda said, in the low
voice of shame.

"And when given?"

"I don't know exactly — but six years ago — some time in the
winter of '43, it must have been."

He said no more till the carriage stopped; and then, before
handing her out of it, lifted her hand to his lips. That
carried all the promise Fleda wanted, from him. How oddly —
how curiously, her hand kept the feeling of that kiss upon it
all night!


CHAPTER XVIII.


"Heat not a furnace for your friend so hot
That it may singe yourself."
SHAKESPEARE.


Mr. Carleton went to Madame Fouché's, who received most
graciously, as any lady would, his apology for introducing
himself unlooked-for, and begged that he would commit the same
fault often. As soon as practicable, he made his way to
Charlton, and invited him to breakfast with him the next
morning.

Mrs. Carleton always said it never was known that Guy was
refused anything he had a mind to ask. Charlton, though taken
by surprise, and certainly not too much prepossessed in his
favour, was won by an influence that, where its owner chose to
exert it, was generally found irresistible; and not only
accepted the invitation, but was conscious to himself of doing
it with a good deal of pleasure. Even when Mr. Carleton made
the further request that Captain Rossitur would, in the
meantime, see no one on business of any kind, intimating that
the reason would then be given, Charlton, though startling a
little at this restraint upon his freedom of motion, could do
no other than give the desired promise, and with the utmost
readiness. Guy then went to Mr. Thorn's. It was, by this time,
not early.

"Mr. Lewis Thorn — is he at home?"

"He is, Sir," said the servant, admitting him rather
hesitatingly.

"I wish to see him a few moments on business."

"It is no hour for business," said the voice of Mr. Lewis from
over the balusters — "I can't see anybody to-night."

"I ask but a few minutes," said Mr. Carleton. "It is
important."

"It may be anything!" said Thorn. "I wont do business after
twelve o'clock."

Mr. Carleton desired the servant to carry his card, with the
same request, to Mr. Thorn the elder.

"What's that?" said Thorn, as the man came up stairs — "my
father? — Pshaw! _he_ can't attend to it. Well, walk up, Sir, if
you please! — may as well have it over and done with it."

Mr. Carleton mounted the stairs and followed the young
gentleman into an apartment, to which he rapidly led the way.

"You've no objection to this, I suppose?" Thorn remarked, as
he locked the door behind them.

"Certainly not," said Mr. Carleton, coolly, taking out the key
and putting it in his pocket — "my business is private — it
needs no witnesses."

"Especially as it so nearly concerns yourself," said Thorn,
sneeringly.

"Which part of it, Sir?" said Mr. Carleton, with admirable
breeding. It vexed, at the same time that it constrained
Thorn.

"I'll let you know, presently!" he said, hurriedly proceeding
to the lower end of the room, where some cabinets stood, and
unlocking door after door in mad haste.

The place had somewhat the air of a study — perhaps Thorn's
private room. A long table stood in the middle of the floor,
with materials for writing, and a good many books were about
the room, in cases and on the tables, with maps, and
engravings, and portfolio's, and a nameless collection of
articles — the miscellaneous gathering of a man of leisure and
some literary taste.

Their owner presently came back from the cabinets with tokens
of a very different kind about him.

"There, Sir!" he said, offering to his guest a brace of most
inhospitable-looking pistols — "take one, and take your stand,
as soon as you please — nothing like coming to the point at
once!"

He was heated and excited even more than his manner indicated.
Mr. Carleton glanced at him, and stood quietly examining the
pistol he had taken. It was already loaded.

"This is a business that comes upon me by surprise," he said,
calmly. "I don't know what I have to do with this, Mr. Thorn."

"Well, I do," said Thorn, "and that's enough. Take your place,
Sir! You escaped me once, but " — and he gave his words
dreadful emphasis — "you wont do it the second time!"

"You do not mean," said the other, "that your recollection of
such an offence has lived out so many years?"

"No, Sir! No Sir!" said Thorn — "it is not that. I despise it,
as I do the offender. You have touched me more nearly."

"Let me know ill what," said Mr. Carleton, turning his
pistol's mouth down upon the table, and leaning on it.

"You know already — what do you ask me for?" said Thorn, who
was foaming; "if you say you don't, you lie heartily. I'll
tell you nothing but out of _this_."

"I have not knowingly injured you, Sir — in a whit."

"Then a Carleton may be a liar," said Thorn, "and you are one
— I dare say not the first. Put yourself there, Sir, will
you?"

"Well," said Guy, carelessly, "if it is decreed that I am to
fight, of course there's no help for it; but as I have
business on hand that might not be so well done afterwards, I
must beg your attention to that in the first place."

"No, Sir," said Thorn, "I'll attend to nothing — I'll hear
nothing from you. I know you! I'll not hear a word. I'll see
to the business! Take your stand."

"I will not have anything to do with pistols," said Mr.
Carleton, coolly, laying his out of his hand; "they make too
much noise."

"Who cares for the noise?" said Thorn. "It wont hurt you; and
the door is locked."

"But people's ears are not," said Guy.

Neither tone, nor attitude, nor look, had changed in the least
its calm gracefulness. It began to act upon Thorn.

"Well, in the devil's name, have your own way," said he,
throwing down his pistol too, and going back to the cabinets
at the lower end of the room — "there are rapiers here, if you
like them better — _I_ don't — the shortest the best for me —
but here they are — take your choice."

Guy examined them carefully for a few minutes, and then laid
them both, with a firm hand upon them, on the table.

"I will choose neither, Mr. Thorn, till you have heard me. I
came here to see you on the part of others — I should be a
recreant to my charge if I allowed you or myself to draw me
into anything that might prevent my fulfilling it. That must
be done first."

Thorn looked with a lowering brow on the indications of his
opponent's eye and attitude; they left him plainly but one
course to take.

"Well, speak and have done," he said, as in spite of himself;
"but I know it already."

"I am here as a friend of Mr. Rossitur."

"Why don't you say a friend of somebody else, and come nearer
the truth?" said Thorn.

There was an intensity of expression in his sneer, but pain
was there as well as anger; and it was with even a feeling of
pity that Mr. Carleton answered —

"The truth will be best reached, Sir, if I am allowed to
choose my own words."

There was no haughtiness in the steady gravity of this speech,
whatever there was in the quiet silence he permitted to
follow. Thorn did not break it.

"I am informed of the particulars concerning this prosecution
of Mr. Rossitur — I am come here to know if no terms can be
obtained."

"No!" said Thorn — "no terms — I wont speak of terms. The
matter will be followed up now till the fellow is lodged in
jail, where he deserves to be."

"Are you aware, Sir, that this, if done, will be the cause of
very great distress to a family who have not deserved it?"

"That can't be helped," said Thorn. "Of course, it must cause
distress, but you can't act upon that. Of course, when a man
turns rogue, he ruins his family — that's part of his
punishment — and a just one."

"The law is just," said Mr. Carleton, "but a friend may be
merciful."

"I don't pretend to be a friend," said Thorn, viciously, "and
I have no cause to be merciful. I like to bring a man to
public shame when he has forfeited his title to anything else;
and I intend that Mr. Rossitur shall become intimately
acquainted with the interior of the State's prison."

"Did it ever occur to you that public shame _might_ fall upon
other than Mr. Rossitur, and without the State prison?"

Thorn fixed a somewhat startled look upon the steady powerful
eye of his opponent, and did not like its meaning.

"You must explain yourself, Sir," he said, haughtily.

"I am acquainted with _all_ the particulars of this proceeding,
Mr. Thorn. If it goes abroad, so surely will they."

"She told you, did she?" said Thorn, in a sudden flash of
fury.

Mr. Carleton was silent, with his air of imperturbable
reserve, telling and expressing nothing but a cool
independence that put the world at a distance.

"Ha!" said Thorn, "it is easy to see why our brave Englishman
comes here to solicit 'terms' for his honest friend Rossitur —
he would not like the scandal of franking letters to Sing
Sing. Come, Sir!" he said, snatching up the pistol, "our
business is ended — come, I say, or I wont wait for you."

But the pistol was struck from his hand.

"Not yet," said Mr. Carleton, calmly, "you shall have your
turn at these — mind, I promise you; but my business must be
done first — till then, let them alone."

"Well, what is it?" said Thorn, impatiently. "Rossitur will be
a convict, I tell you; so you'll have to give up all thoughts
of his niece, or pocket her shame along with her. What more
have you got to say? that's all your business, I take it."

"You are mistaken, Mr. Thorn," said Mr. Carleton, gravely.

"Am I? In what ?"

"In every position of your last speech."

"It don't affect your plans and views, I suppose, personally,
whether this prosecution is continued or not?"

"It does not in the least."

"It is indifferent to you, I suppose, what sort of a queen
consort you carry to your little throne of a provinciality
down yonder?"

"I will reply to you, Sir, when you come back to the subject,"
said Mr. Carleton, coldly.

"You mean to say that your pretensions have not been in the
way of mine?"

"I have made none, Sir."

"Doesn't she like you?"

"I have never asked her."

"Then, what possessed her to tell you all this to-night?"

"Simply because I was an old friend, and the only one at hand,
I presume."

"And you do not look for any reward of your services, of
course?"

"I wish for none, Sir, but her relief."

"Well, it don't signify," said Thorn, with a mixture of
expressions in his face — "if I believed you, which I don't —
it don't signify a hair what you do, when once this matter is
known. I should never think of advancing my pretensions into a
felon's family."

"You know that the lady in whose welfare you take so much
interest will in that case suffer aggravated distress as
having been the means of hindering Mr. Rossitur's escape."

"Can't help it," said Thorn, beating the table with a ruler;
"so she has; she must suffer for it. It isn't my fault."

"You are willing, then, to abide the consequences of a full
disclosure of all the circumstances? — for part will not come
out without the whole."

"There is happily nobody to tell them," said Thorn, with a
sneer.

"Pardon me — they will not only be told, but known thoroughly
in all the circles in this country that know Mr. Thorn's
name."

"_The lady_," said Thorn, in the same tone, "would hardly relish
such a publication of _her_ name — _her welfare_ would be scantily
advantaged by it."

"I will take the risk of that upon myself," said Mr. Carleton,
quietly; "and the charge of the other."

"You dare not !" said Thorn. "You shall not go alive out of
this room to do it! Let me have it, Sir! You said you would."

His passion was at a fearful height, for the family pride
which had been appealed to, felt a touch of fear, and his
other thoughts were confirmed again, besides the dim vision of
a possible thwarting of all his plans. Desire almost
concentred itself upon revenge against the object that
threatened them. He had thrown himself again towards the
weapons which lay beyond his reach, but was met, and forcibly
withheld from them.

"Stand back!" said Mr. Carleton. "I said I would, but I am not
ready — finish this business first."

"What is there to finish?" said Thorn, furiously — "you will
never live to do anything out of these doors again — you are
mocking yourself."

"My life is not in your hands, Sir, and I will settle this
matter before I put it in peril. If not with you, with Mr.
Thorn, your father, to whom it more properly belongs."

"You cannot leave the room to see him," said Thorn,
sneeringly.

"That is at my pleasure," said the other, "unless hindered by
means I do not think you will use."

Thorn was silent.

"Will you yield anything of justice, once more, in favour of
this distressed family?"

"That is, yield the whole, and let the guilty go free?"

"When the punishment of the offender would involve that of so
many unoffending, who, in this case, would feel it with
peculiar severity."

"He deserves it, if it was only for the money he has kept me
out of; he ought to be made to refund what he has stolen, if
it took the skin off his back!"

"That part of his obligation," said Mr. Carleton, "I am
authorised to discharge, on condition of having the note given
up. I have a cheque with me which I am commissioned to fill
up, from one of the best names here. I need only the date of
the note, which the giver of the cheque did not know."

Thorn hesitated, again tapping the table with the ruler in a
troubled manner. He knew, by the calm erect figure before him
and the steady eye he did not care to meet, that the threat of
disclosure would be kept. He was not prepared to brave it, in
case his revenge should fail; and if it did not —

"It is deuced folly," he said, at length, with a half laugh,
"for I shall have it back again in five minutes, if my eye
don't play me a trick; however, if you will have it so, I
don't care. There are chances in all things."

He went again to the cabinets, and presently brought the
endorsed note. Mr. Carleton gave it a cool and careful
examination, to satisfy himself of its being the true one, and
then delivered him the cheque — the blank duly filled up.

"There are chances in nothing, Sir," he said, as he proceeded
to burn the note effectually in the candle.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that there is a Supreme Disposer of all things, who,
among the rest, has our lives in his hand. And now, Sir, I
will give you that chance at my life for which you have been
so eagerly wishing."

"Well, take your place," said Thorn, seizing his pistol, "and
take your arms, put yourself at the end of the table, never
mind the noise!"

"I shall stand here," said Mr. Carleton, quietly folding his
arms; "you may take your place where you please."

"But you are not armed," said Thorn, impatiently: "why don't
you get ready? what are you waiting for?"

"I have nothing to do with arms," said Mr. Carleton, smiling;
"I have no wish to hurt you, Mr. Thorn; I bear you no ill-
will. But you may do what you please with me."

"But you promised!" said Thorn, in desperation.

"I abide by my promise, Sir."

Thorn's pistol hand fell — he looked _dreadfully_. There was a
silence of several minutes.

"Well?" said Mr. Carleton, looking up and smiling.

"I can do nothing, unless you will," said Thorn, hoarsely, and
looking hurriedly away.

"I am at your pleasure, Sir! But, on my own part, I have none
to gratify."

There was silence again, during which Thorn's face was
pitiable in its darkness. He did not stir.

"I did not come here in enmity, Mr. Thorn," said Guy, after a
little, approaching him — "I have none now. If you believe me,
you will throw away the remains of yours, and take my hand in
pledge of it."

Thorn was ashamed and confounded, in the midst of passions
that made him at the moment a mere wreck of himself. He
inwardly drew back exceedingly from the proposal. But the
grace with which the words were said wrought upon all the
gentlemanly character that belonged to him, and made it
impossible not to comply. The pistol was exchanged for Mr.
Carleton's hand.

"I need not assure you," said the latter, "that nothing of
what we have talked of to-night shall ever be known or
suspected, in any quarter, unless by your means."

Thorn's answer was merely a bow, and Mr. Carleton withdrew,
his quondam antagonist lighting him ceremoniously to the door.

It was easy for Mr. Carleton the next morning to deal with his
guest at the breakfast-table.

The appointments of the service were such as of themselves to
put Charlton in a good humour, if he had not come already
provided with that happy qualification; and the powers of
manner and conversation which his entertainer brought into
play, not only put them into the back-ground of Captain
Rossitur's perceptions, but even made him merge certain other
things in fascination, and lose all thought of what probably
had called him there. Once before, he had known Mr. Carleton
come out in a like manner, but this time he forgot to be
surprised.

The meal was two-thirds over before the business that had
drawn them together was alluded to.

"I made an odd request of you last night, Captain Rossitur,"
said his host; "you haven't asked for an explanation."

"I had forgotten all about it," said Rossitur, candidly. "I am
inconséquent enough myself not to think everything odd that
requires an explanation."

"Then I hope you will pardon me if mine seem to touch upon
what is not my concern. You had some cause to be displeased
with Mr. Thorn's behaviour last night?"

Who told you as much? — was in Rossitur's open eyes, and upon
his tongue; but few ever asked naughty questions of Mr.
Carleton. Charlton's eyes came back, not indeed to their
former dimensions, but to his plate, in silence.

"He was incomprehensible," he said, after a minute: "and
didn't act like himself; I don't know what was the matter. I
shall call him to account for it."

"Captain Rossitur, I am going to ask you a favour."

"I will grant it with the greatest pleasure," said Charlton —
"if it lie within my power."

"A wise man's addition," said Mr. Carleton; "but I trust you
will not think me extravagant. I will hold myself much obliged
to you, if you will let Mr. Thorn's folly, or impertinence, go
this time without notice."

Charlton absolutely laid down his knife in astonishment; while
at the same moment this slight let to the assertion of his
dignity roused it to uncommon pugnaciousness.

"Sir — Mr. Carleton" — he stammered — "I would be very happy
to grant anything in my power —but this, Sir — really goes
beyond it."

"Permit me to say," said Mr. Carleton, "that I have myself
seen Thorn upon the business that occasioned his discomposure,
and that it has been satisfactorily arranged; so that nothing
more is to be gained or desired from a second interview."

Who gave you authority to do any such thing? was again in
Charlton's eyes, and an odd twinge crossed his mind; but, as
before, his thoughts were silent.

"_My_ part of the business cannot have been arranged," he said,
"for it lies in a question or two that I must put to the
gentleman myself."

"What will that question or two probably end in?" said Mr.
Carleton, significantly.

"I can't tell!" said Rossitur; "depends on himself, it will
end according to his answers."

"Is his offence so great that it cannot be forgiven upon my
entreaty?"

"Mr. Carleton!" said Rossitur — "I would gladly pleasure you,
Sir; but, you see, this is a thing a man owes to himself."

"What thing, Sir?"

"Why, not to suffer impertinence to be offered him with
impunity."

"Even though the punishment extend to hearts at home that must
feel it far more heavily than the offender?"

"Would you suffer yourself to be insulted, Mr. Carleton?" said
Rossitur, by way of a mouth-stopper.

"Not if I could help it," said Mr. Carleton, smiling; "but, if
such a misfortune happened, I don't know how it would be
repaired by being made a matter of life and death."

"But honour might," said Rossitur.

"Honour is not reached, Captain Rossitur. Honour dwells in a
strong citadel, and a squib against the walls does in no wise
affect their security."

"But, also, it is not consistent with honour to sit still and
suffer it."

"Question. The firing of a cracker, I think, hardly warrants a
sally."

"It calls for chastisement, though," said Rossitur, a little
shortly.

"I don't know that," said Mr. Carleton, gravely. "We have it
on the highest authority that it is the glory of man to _pass
by_ a transgression."

"But you can't go by that," said Charlton, a little fidgeted;
"the world wouldn't get along so; men must take care of
themselves."

"Certainly. But what part of themselves is cared for in this
resenting of injuries?"

"Why, their good name!"

"As how affected? — pardon me."

"By the world's opinion," said Rossitur; "which stamps every
man with something worse than infamy who cannot protect his
own standing."

"That is to say," said Mr. Carleton, seriously, "that Captain
Rossitur will punish a fool's words with death, or visit the
last extremity of distress upon those who are dearest to him,
rather than leave the world in any doubt of his prowess."

"Mr. Carleton!" said Rossitur, colouring — "what do you mean
by speaking so, Sir?"

"Not to displease you, Captain Rossitur."

"Then you count the world's opinion for nothing?"

"For less than nothing — compared with the regards I have
named."

"You would brave it without scruple?"

"I do not call him a brave man who would not, Sir."

"I remember," said Charlton, half laughing — "you did it
yourself once; and I must confess I believe nobody thought you
lost anything by it."

"But forgive me for asking," said Mr. Carleton — "is this
terrible world a party to _this_ matter? In the request which I
made — and which I have not given up, Sir — do I presume upon
any more than the sacrifice of a little private feeling?"

"Why, yes," said Charlton, looking somewhat puzzled, "for I
promised the fellow I would see to it, and I must keep my
word."

"And you know how that will of necessity issue."

"I can't consider that, Sir; that is a secondary matter. I
must do what I told him I would."

"At all hazards?" said Mr. Carleton.

"What hazards?"

"Not hazard, but certainty — of incurring a reckoning far less
easy to deal with."

"What, do you mean with yourself?" said Rossitur.

"No, Sir, said Mr. Carleton, a shade of even sorrowful
expression crossing his face; "I mean with one whose
displeasure is a more weighty matter; one who has declared
very distinctly, 'Thou shalt not kill.' "

"I am sorry for it," said Rossitur, after a disturbed pause of
some minutes — "I wish you had asked me anything else; but we
can't take this thing in the light you do, Sir. I wish Thorn
had been in any spot of the world but at Mrs. Decatur's, last
night, or that Fleda hadn't taken me there; but since he was,
there is no help for it — I must make him account for his
behaviour, to her as well as to me. I really don't know how to
help it, Sir."

"Let me beg you to reconsider that," Mr. Carleton said, with a
smile which disarmed offence — "for, if you will not help it,
I must."

Charlton looked in doubt for a moment, and then asked how he
would help it.

"In that case, I shall think it my duty to have you bound over
to keep the peace."

He spoke gravely now, and with that quiet tone which always
carries conviction. Charlton stared unmistakably, and in
silence.

"You are not in earnest?" he then said.

"I trust you will permit me to leave you for ever in doubt on
that point," said Mr. Carleton, with again a slight giving way
of the muscles of his face.

"I cannot, indeed," said Rossitur. "Do you mean what you said
just now?"

"Entirely."

"But, Mr. Carleton," said Rossitur, flushing, and not knowing
exactly how to take him up — "is this the manner of one
gentleman towards another?"

He had not chosen right, for he received no answer but an
absolute quietness which needed no interpretation. Charlton
was vexed and confused, but, somehow, it did not come into his
head to pick a quarrel with his host, in spite of his
irritation. That was, perhaps, because he felt it to be
impossible.

"I beg your pardon," he said, most unconsciously verifying
Fleda's words in his own person — "but, Mr. Carleton, do me
the favour to say that I have misunderstood your words. They
are incomprehensible to me, Sir."

"I must abide by them nevertheless, Captain Rossitur," Mr.
Carleton answered, with a smile. "I will not permit this thing
to be done, while, as I believe, I have the power to prevent
it. You see," he said, smiling again, "I put in practice my
own theory."

Charlton looked exceedingly disturbed, and maintained a vexed
and irresolute silence for several minutes, realizing the
extreme disagreeableness of having more than his match to deal
with.

"Come, Captain Rossitur," said the other, turning suddenly
round upon him — "say that you forgive me what you know was
meant in no disrespect to you."

"I certainly should not," said Rossitur, yielding, however,
with a half laugh, "if it were not for the truth of the
proverb, that it takes two to make a quarrel."

"Give me your hand upon that. And now that the question of
honour is taken out of your hands, grant, not to me, but to
those for whom I ask it, your promise to forgive this man."

Charlton hesitated, but it was difficult to resist the
request, backed as it was with weight of character and grace
of manner, along with its intrinsic reasonableness; and he saw
no other way so expedient of getting out of his dilemma.

"I ought to be angry with somebody," he said, half laughing,
and a little ashamed; — "if you will point out any substitute
for Thorn, I will let him go, since I cannot help myself, with
pleasure."

"I will bear it," said Mr. Carleton, lightly. "Give me your
promise for Thorn, and hold me your debtor in what amount you
please."

"Very well — I forgive him," said Rossitur; — "and now, Mr.
Carleton I shall have a reckoning with you some day for this."

"I will meet it. When you are next in England, you shall come
down to — shire, and I will give you any satisfaction you
please."

They parted in high good-humour; but Charlton looked grave as
he went down the staircase; and, very oddly, all the way down
to Whitehall his head was running upon the various
excellencies and perfections of his cousin Fleda.


CHAPTER XIX.


"There is a fortune coming
Towards you, dainty, that will take thee thus,
And set thee aloft."
BEN JONSON.


That day was spent by Fleda in the never-failing headache
which was sure to visit her after any extraordinary nervous
agitation, or too great mental or bodily trial. It was severe
this time, not only from the anxiety of the preceding night,
but from the uncertainty that weighed upon her all day long.
The person who could have removed the uncertainty came,
indeed, to the house, but she was too ill to see anybody.

The extremity of pain wore itself off with the day, and at
evening she was able to leave her room and come down stairs.
But she was ill yet, and could do nothing but sit in the
corner of the sofa, with her hair unbound, and Florence gently
bathing her head with cologne. Anxiety as well as pain had, in
some measure, given place to exhaustion, and she looked a
white embodiment of endurance, which gave a shock to her
friends' sympathy. Visitors were denied, and Constance and
Edith devoted their eyes and tongues at least to her service,
if they could do no more.

It happened that Joe Manton was out of the way, holding an
important conference with a brother usher next door, — a
conference that he had no notion would be so important when he
began it, when a ring on his own premises summoned one of the
maid-servants to the door. She knew nothing about "not at
home," and unceremoniously desired the gentleman to "walk up,"
— "the ladies were in the drawing-room."

The door had been set wide open for the heat, and Fleda was
close in the corner behind it, gratefully permitting
Florence's efforts with the _cologne_, which yet she knew could
avail nothing but the kind feelings of the operator; for
herself — patiently waiting her enemy's time. Constance was
sitting on the floor looking at her.

"I can't conceive how you can bear so much," she said, at
length.

Fleda thought how little she knew what was borne!

"Why, you could bear it, I suppose, if you had to," said
Edith, philosophically.

"She knows she looks most beautiful," said Florence, softly
passing her cologned hands down over the smooth hair — "she
knows


' Il faut souffrir pour être belle.' "


"La migraine ne se guérit avec les douceurs," said Mr.
Carleton, entering — "try something sharp, Miss Evelyn."

"Where are we to get it?" said Constance, springing up, and
adding, in a most lack-a-daisical aside to her mother —
"Mamma! — the fowling-piece! — Our last vinegar hardly comes
under the appellation; and you don't expect to find anything
volatile in this house, Mr. Carleton?"

He smiled.

"Have you none for grave occasions, Miss Constance?"

"I wont retort the question about 'something sharp,' " said
Constance, arching her eyebrows, "because it is against my
principles to make people uncomfortable; but you have
certainly brought in some medicine with you, for Miss
Ringgan's cheeks, a little while ago, were as pure as her mind
— from a tinge of any sort — and now, you see —"

"My dear Constance," said her mother, "Miss Ringgan's cheeks
will stand a much better chance if you come away and leave her
in peace. How can she get well with such a chatter in her
ears?"

"Mr. Carleton and I, Mamma, are conferring upon measures of
relief, and Miss Ringgan gives token of improvement already."

"For which I am very little to be thanked," said Mr. Carleton.
"But I am not a bringer of bad news, that she should look pale
at the sight of me."

"Are you a bringer of any news?" said Constance, "Oh, do let
us have them, Mr. Carleton! — I am dying for news — I haven't
heard a bit to-day."

"What is the news, Mr. Carleton?" said her mother's voice,
from the more distant region of the fire.

"I believe there are no general news, Mrs. Evelyn."

"Are there any particular news?" said Constance. "I like
particular news infinitely the best."

"I am sorry, Miss Constance, I have none for you. But, will
this headache yield to nothing?"

"Fleda prophesied that it would to time," said Florence; "she
would not let us try much beside."

"And I must confess there has been no volatile agency employed
at all," said Constance; "I never knew time have less of it,
and Fleda seemed to prefer him for her physician."

"He hasn't been a good one to-day," said Edith, nestling
affectionately to her side. "Isn't it better, Fleda?" for she
had covered her eyes with her hand.

"Not just now," said Fleda, softly.

"It is fair to change physicians if the first fails," said Mr.
Carleton. "I have had a slight experience in headache-curing;
if you will permit me, Miss Constance, I will supersede time
and try a different prescription."

He went out to seek it, and Fleda leaned her head in her hand,
and tried to quiet the throbbing heart, every pulsation of
which was felt so keenly at the seat of pain. She knew, from
Mr. Carleton's voice and manner — she _thought_ she knew — that
he had exceeding good tidings for her; once assured of that,
she would soon be better; but she was worse now.

"Where is Mr. Carleton gone?" said Mrs. Evelyn.

"I haven't the least idea, Mamma — he has ventured upon an
extraordinary undertaking, and has gone off to qualify
himself, I suppose. I can't conceive why he didn't ask Miss
Ringgan's permission to change her physician instead of mine."

"I suppose he knew there was no doubt about that," said Edith,
hitting the precise answer of Fleda's thoughts.

"And what should make him think there was any doubt about
mine?" said Constance, tartly.

"Oh, you know," said her sister, "you are so odd, nobody can
tell what you will take a fancy to."

"You are extremely liberal in your expressions, at least, Miss
Evelyn, I must say," said Constance, with a glance of no
doubtful meaning. "Joe — did you let Mr. Carleton in?"

"No, Ma'am."

"Well, let him in next time, and don't let in anybody else."

Whereafter the party relapsed into silent expectation.

It was not many minutes before Mr. Carleton returned.

"Tell your friend, Miss Constance," he said, putting an
exquisite little vinaigrette into her hand, "that I have
nothing worse for her than that."

"Worse than this!" said Constance, examining it. "Mr.
Carleton, I doubt exceedingly whether smelling this will
afford Miss Ringgan any benefit."

"Why, Miss Constance?"

"Because it has made me sick only to look at it!"

"There will be no danger for her," he said, smiling.

"Wont there? Well, Fleda, my dear, here, take it," said the
young lady; "I hope you are differently constituted from me,
for I feel a sudden pain since I saw it; but as you keep your
eyes shut, and so escape the sight of this lovely gold
chasing, perhaps it will do you no mischief."

"It will do her all the more good for that," said Mrs. Evelyn.

The only ears that took the benefit of this speech were
Edith's and Mr. Carleton's; Fleda's were deafened by the rush
of feeling. She very little knew what she was holding. Mr.
Carleton stood with rather significant gravity, watching the
effect of his prescription, while Edith beset her mother to
know why the outside of the vinaigrette, being of gold, should
make it do Fleda any more good; the disposing of which
question effectually occupied Mrs. Evelyn's attention for some
time.

"And, pray, how long is it since you took up the trade of a
physician, Mr. Carleton?" said Constance.

"It is just about nine years, Miss Constance," he answered,
gravely.

But that little reminder, slight as it was, overcame the small
remnant of Fleda's self-command — the vinaigrette fell from
her hands, and her face was hid in them; whatever became of
pain, tears must flow.

"Forgive me," said Mr. Carleton, gently, bending down towards
her, "for speaking when I should have been silent — Miss
Evelyn, and Miss Constance, will you permit me to order that
my patient be left in quiet."

And he took them away to Mrs. Evelyn's quarter, and kept them
all three engaged in conversation, too busily to trouble Fleda
with any attention, till she had had ample time to try the
effect of the quiet and of the vinegar both. Then he went
himself to look after her.

"Are you better?" said he, bending down, and speaking low.

Fleda opened her eyes and gave him, what a look! — of grateful
feeling. She did not know the half that was in it; but he did.
That she was better, was a very small item.

"Ready for the coffee?" said he, smiling.

"Oh, no," whispered Fleda — "It don't matter about that —
never mind the coffee!"

But he went back with his usual calmness to Mrs. Evelyn, and
begged that she would have the goodness to order a cup of
rather strong coffee to be made.

"But, Mr. Carleton, Sir," said that lady, "I am not at all
sure that it would be the best thing for Miss Ringgan — if she
is better — I think it would do her far more good to go to
rest, and let sleep finish her cure, before taking something
that will make sleep impossible."

"Did you ever hear of a physician, Mrs. Evelyn," he said,
smiling, "'that allowed his prescriptions to be interfered
with? I must beg you will do me this favour."

"I doubt very much whether it will be a favour to Miss
Ringgan," said Mrs. Evelyn — "however —"

And she rang the bell, and gave the desired order, with a
somewhat disconcerted face. But Mr. Carleton again left Fleda
to herself, and devoted his attention to the other ladies,
with so much success, though with his usual absence of effort
that good humour was served long before the coffee.

Then, indeed, he played the physician's part again — made the
coffee himself, and saw it taken, according to his own
pleasure — skilfully, however, seeming all the while, except
to Fleda, to be occupied with everything else. The group
gathered round her anew; she was well enough to bear their
talk by this time — by the time the coffee was drunk, quite
well.

"Is it quite gone?" asked Edith.

"The headache? — yes."

"You will owe your physician a great many thanks, my dear
Fleda," said Mrs. Evelyn.

Fleda's only answer to this, however, was by a very slight
smile; and she presently left the room, to go up stairs and
arrange her yet disarranged hair.

"That is a very fine girl," remarked Mrs. Evelyn, preparing
half a cup of coffee for herself in a kind of amused
abstraction. "My friend Mr. Thorn will have an excellent wife
of her."

"Provided she marries him," said Constance, somewhat shortly.

"I am sure I hope she wont," said Edith; "and I don't believe
she will."

"What do you think of his chances of success, Mr. Carleton?"

"Your manner of speech would seem to imply that they are very
good, Mrs. Evelyn," he answered, coolly.

"Well, don't you think so?" said Mrs. Evelyn, coming back to
her seat with her coffee-cup, and apparently dividing her
attention between it and her subject. "It's a great chance for
her — most girls in her circumstances would not refuse it — _I_
think he's pretty sure of his ground."

"So I think," said Florence.

"It don't prove anything, if he is," said Constance, drily. "I
hate people who are always sure of their ground."

"What do you think, Mr. Carleton?" said Mrs. Evelyn, taking
little satisfied sips of her coffee.

"May I ask, first, what is meant by the 'chance,' and what by
the 'circumstances.' "

"Why, Mr. Thorn has a fine fortune, you know, and he is of an
excellent family — there is not a better family in the city —
and very few young men of such pretensions would think of a
girl that has no name nor standing."

"Unless she had qualities that would command them," said Mr.
Carleton.

"But, Mr. Carleton, Sir," said the lady, "Do you think that
can be? do you think a woman can fill, gracefully, a high
place in society, if she has had disadvantages in early life
to contend with, that were calculated to unfit her for it?"

"But, mamma," said Constance, "Fleda don't show any such
thing."

"No, she don't show it," said Mrs. Evelyn, "but I am not
talking of Fleda — I am talking of the effect of early
disadvantages. What do you think, Mr. Carleton?"

"Disadvantages of what kind, Mrs. Evelyn?"

"Why, for instance — the strange habits of intercourse, on
familiar terms, with rough and uncultivated people — such
intercourse, for years — in all sorts of ways — in the field
and in the house — mingling with them as one of them — it
seems to me, it must leave its traces on the mind, and on the
habits of acting and thinking."

"There is no doubt it does," he answered, with an extremely
unconcerned face.

"And then, there's the actual want of cultivation," said Mrs.
Evelyn, warming — "time taken up with other things, you know —
usefully and properly, but still taken up — so as to make much
intellectual acquirement and accomplishments impossible; it
can't be otherwise, you know — neither opportunity nor
instructors; and I don't think anything can supply the want in
after life. It isn't the mere things themselves which may be
acquired — the mind should grow up in the atmosphere of them —
don't you think so, Mr. Carleton?"

He bowed.

"Music, for instance, and languages, and converse with
society, and a great many things, are put completely beyond
reach — Edith, my dear, you are not to touch the coffee — nor
Constance either — no, I will not let you — And there could
not be even much reading, for want of books, if for nothing
else. Perhaps I am wrong, but I confess I don't see how it is
possible in such a case" —

She checked herself suddenly, for Fleda, with the slow,
noiseless step that weakness imposed, had come in again, and
stood by the centre-table.

"We are discussing a knotty question, Miss Ringgan," said Mr.
Carleton, with a smile, as he brought a _bergère_ for her; "I
should like to have your voice on it."

There was no seconding of his motion. He waited till she had
seated herself, and then went on.

"What, in your opinion, is the best preparation for wearing
prosperity well?"

A glance at Mrs. Evelyn's face, which was opposite her, and at
one or two others, which had, undeniably, the air of being
_arrested_, was enough for Fleda's quick apprehension. She knew
they had been talking of her. Her eye stopped short of Mr.
Carleton's, and she coloured, and hesitated. No one spoke.

"By prosperity, you mean —"

"Rank and fortune," said Florence, without looking up.

"Marrying a rich man, for instance," said Edith, "and having
one's hands full."

This peculiar statement of the case occasioned a laugh all
round, but the silence which followed seemed still to wait
upon Fleda's reply.

"Am I expected to give a serious answer to that question?" she
said, a little doubtfully.

"Expectations are not stringent things," said her first
questioner, smiling. "That waits upon your choice."

"They are horridly stringent, _I_ think," said Constance.

"We shall all be disappointed, if you don't, Fleda, my dear."

"By wearing it 'well,' you mean making a good use of it?"

"And gracefully," said Mrs. Evelyn.

"I think I should say, then," said Fleda, after some little.
Hesitation, and speaking with evident difficulty — "such an a
experience as might teach one both the worth and the
worthlessness of money."

Mr. Carleton's smile was a sufficiently satisfied one; but
Mrs. Evelyn retorted —

"The _worth_ and the _worthlessness!_ — Fleda, my dear, I don't
understand —"

"And what experience teaches one the worth, and what the
worthlessness of money?" said Constance; "mamma is morbidly
persuaded that I do not understand the first — of the second I
have an indefinite idea, from never being able to do more than
half that I want with it."

Fleda smiled and hesitated again, in a way that showed she
would willingly be excused, but the silence left her no choice
but to speak.

"I think,'' she said, modestly, "that a person can hardly
understand the true worth of money — the ends it can best
subserve — that has not been taught it by his own experience
of the want; and" —

"What follows?" said Mr. Carleton.

"I was going to say, Sir, that there is danger, especially
when people have not been accustomed to it, that they will
greatly overvalue and misplace the real worth of prosperity;
unless the mind has been steadied by another kind of
experience, and has learnt to measure things by a higher
scale."

"And how when they _have_ been accustomed to it?" said Florence.

"The same danger, without the 'especially,' " said Fleda, with
a look that disclaimed any assuming.

"One thing is certain," said Constance, "you hardly ever see
_les nouveaux riches_ make a graceful use of anything. Fleda, my
dear, I am seconding all of your last speech that I
understand. Mamma, I perceive, is at work upon the rest."

"I think we ought all to be at work upon it," said Mrs.
Evelyn, "for Miss Ringgan has made it out that there is hardly
anybody here that is qualified to wear prosperity well."

"I was just thinking so," said Florence.

Fleda said nothing, and perhaps her colour rose a little.

"I will take lessons of her," said Constance, with eyebrows
just raised enough to neutralize the composed gravity of the
other features, "as soon as I have an amount of prosperity
that will make it worth while."

"But I don't think," said Florence, "that a graceful use of
things is consistent with such a careful valuation and
considering of the exact worth of everything — it's not my
idea of grace."

"Yet _propriety_ is an essential element of gracefulness, Miss
Evelyn."

"Well," said Florence, "certainly; but what then?"

"Is it attainable, in the use of means, without a nice
knowledge of their true value?"

"But, Mr. Carleton, I am sure I have seen improper things —
things improper in a way — gracefully done?"

"No doubt; but, Miss Evelyn," said he, smiling, "the
impropriety did not in those cases, I presume, attach itself
to the other quality. The graceful _manner_ was strictly proper
to its ends, was it not, however the ends might be false?"

"I don't know," said Florence, "you have gone too deep for me.
But do you think that close calculation, and all that sort of
thing, is likely to make people use money, or anything else,
gracefully? I never thought it did."

"Not close calculation alone," said Mr. Carleton.

"But do you think it is _consistent_ with gracefulness?"

"The largest and grandest views of material things that man
has ever taken, Miss Evelyn, stand upon a basis of the closest
calculation."

Florence worked at her worsted, and looked very dissatisfied.

"Oh, Mr. Carleton," said Constance, as he was going, "don't
leave your vinaigrette — there it is — on the table."

He made no motion to take it up.

"Don't you know, Miss Constance, that physicians seldom like
to have anything to do with their own prescriptions."

"It's very suspicious of them," said Constance; "but you must
take it Mr. Carleton, if you please, for I shouldn't like the
responsibility of its being left here; and I am afraid it
would be dangerous to our peace of mind, besides."

"I shall risk that," he said, laughing. "Its work is not
done."

"And then, Mr. Carleton," said Mrs. Evelyn, and Fleda knew
with what a look, "you know physicians are accustomed to be
paid when their prescriptions are taken."

But the answer to this was only a bow, so expressive in its
air of haughty coldness, that any further efforts of Mrs.
Evelyn's wit were chilled for some minutes after he had gone.

Fleda had not seen this. She had taken up the vinaigrette, and
was thinking with acute pleasure that Mr. Carleton's manner
last night and to-night had returned to all the familiar
kindness of old times. Not as it had been during the rest of
her stay in the city. She could be quite contented now to have
him go back to England, with this pleasant remembrance left
her. She sat turning over the vinaigrette, which to her fancy
was covered with hieroglyphics that no one else could read; of
her uncle's affair, of Charlton's danger, of her own distress,
and the kindness which had wrought its relief, more
penetrating and pleasant than even the fine aromatic scent
which fairly typified it. Constance's voice broke in upon her
musings.

"Isn't it awkward?" she said, as she saw Fleda handling and
looking at the pretty toy — "Isn't it awkward? I sha'n't have
a bit of rest now for fear something will happen to that. I
hate to have people do such things."

"Fleda, my dear," said Mrs. Evelyn, "I wouldn't handle it, my
love; you may depend there is some charm in it — some
mischievous, hidden influence — and if you have much to do
with it, I am afraid you will find a gradual coldness stealing
over you, and a strange forgetfulness of Queechy, and you will
perhaps lose your desire ever to go back there any more."

The vinaigrette dropped from Fleda's fingers, but beyond a
heightened colour and a little tremulous gravity about the
lip, she gave no other sign of emotion.

"Mamma," said Florence, laughing, "you are too bad !"

"Mamma," said Constance, "I wonder how any tender sentiment
for you can continue to exist in Fleda's breast! By the way,
Fleda, my dear, do you know that we have heard of two escorts
for you? but I only tell you because I know you'll not be fit
to travel this age."

"I should not be able to travel to-morrow," said Fleda.

"They are not going to-morrow," said Mrs. Evelyn, quietly.

"Who are they ?"

"Excellent ones," said Mrs. Evelyn. "One of them is your old
friend, Mr. Olmney."

"Mr. Olmney!" said Fleda. "What has brought him to New York?"

"Really," said Mrs. Evelyn, laughing, "I do not know. What
should keep him away? I was very glad to see him, for my part.
Maybe he has come to take you home."

"Who is the other?" said Fleda.

"That's another old friend of yours — Mrs. Renney."

"Mrs. Renney? who is she?" said Fleda.

"Why, don't you know? Mrs. Renney — she used to live with your
aunt Lucy, in some capacity — years ago, when she was in New
York — housekeeper, I think; don't you remember her?"

"Perfectly now," said Fleda. "Mrs. Renney!" —

"She has been housekeeper for Mrs. Schenck these several
years, and she is going somewhere out West to some relation,
her brother, I believe, to take care of his family; and her
road leads her your way."

"When do they go, Mrs. Evelyn?"

"Both the same day, and both the day after to-morrow. Mr.
Olmney takes the morning train, he says, unless you would
prefer some other. I told him you were very anxious to go; and
Mrs. Renney goes in the afternoon. So there's a choice for
you."

"Mamma," said Constance, "Fleda is not fit to go at all,
either time."

"I don't think she is," said Mrs. Evelyn. "But she knows best
what she likes to do."

Thoughts and resolutions come swiftly one after another into
Fleda's mind, and were decided upon in as quick succession.
First, that she must go the day after to-morrow at all events;
second, that it should not be with Mr. Olmney; third, that to
prevent that, she must not see him in the meantime — and,
therefore — yes, no help for it — must refuse to see any one
that called the next day; there was to be a party in the
evening, so then she would be safe. No doubt Mr. Carleton
would come, to give her a more particular account of what he
had done, and she wished unspeakably to hear it; but it was
not possible that she should make an exception in his favour
and admit him alone. That could not be. If friends would only
be simple, and straightforward, and kind, one could afford to
be straightforward too; but as it was, she must not do what
she longed to do, and they would be sure to misunderstand.
There was, indeed, the morning of the day following left her,
if Mr. Olmney did not take it into his head to stay. And it
might issue in her not seeing Mr. Carleton at all, to bid
good-bye and thank him? He would not think her ungrateful, he
knew better than that, but still — Well! so much for kindness!
—

"What _are_ you looking so grave about? said Constance.

"Considering ways and means," Fleda said, with a slight smile.

"Ways and means of what?"

"Going."

"You don't mean to go the day after to-morrow?"

"Yes."

"It's too absurd for anything! You sha'n't do it."

"I must, indeed."

"Mamma," said Constance, "if you permit such a thing, I shall
hope that memory will be a fingerboard of remorse to you,"
pointing to Miss Ringgan's pale cheeks.

"I shall charge it entirely upon Miss Ringgan's own
fingerboard," said Mrs. Evelyn, with her complacently amused
face. "Fleda, my dear, shall I request Mr. Olmney to delay his
journey for a day or two, my love, till you are stronger?"

"Not at all, Mrs. Evelyn! I shall go then; — if I am not ready
in the morning, I will take Mrs. Renney in the afternoon — I
would quite as lief go with her."

"Then I will make Mr. Olmney keep to his first purpose," said
Mrs. Evelyn.

Poor Fleda, though with a very sorrowful heart, kept her
resolutions, and for very forlornness and weariness, slept
away a great part of the next day. Neither would she appear in
the evening, for fear of more people than one. It was
impossible to tell whether Mrs. Evelyn's love of mischief
would not bring Mr. Olmney there, and the Thorns, she knew,
were invited. Mr. Lewis would probably absent himself, but
Fleda could not endure even the chance of seeing his mother.
She wanted to know, but dared not ask, whether Mr. Carleton
had been to see her. What if to-morrow morning should pass
without her seeing him? Fleda pondered this uncertainty a
little, and then jumped out of bed, and wrote him the
heartiest little note of thanks and remembrance that tears
would let her write; sealed it, and carried it herself to the
nearest branch of the despatch post the first thing next
morning.

She took a long look that same morning at the little
vinaigrette, which still lay on the centre-table, wishing very
much to take it up stairs and pack it away among her things.
It was meant for her, she knew, and she wanted it as a very
pleasant relic from the kind hands that had given it; and
besides, he might think it odd, if she should slight his
intention. But how odd it would seem to him if he knew that
the Evelyns had half appropriated it. And appropriate it anew,
in another direction, she could not. She could not, without
their knowledge, and they would put their own absurd
construction on what was a simple matter of kindness; she
could not brave it.

The morning — a long one it was — had passed away; Fleda had
just finished packing her trunk, and was sitting with a faint-
hearted feeling of body and mind, trying to rest before being
called to her early dinner, when Florence came to tell her it
was ready.

"Mr. Carleton was here a while ago," she said, "and he asked
for you; but mamma said you were busy; she knew you had enough
to tire you without coming down stairs to see him. He asked
when you thought of going."

"What did you tell him?"

"I told him, 'Oh, you were not gone yet!' — it's such a plague
to be bidding people good-bye — _I_ always want to get rid of
it. Was I right?"

Fleda said nothing, but in her heart she wondered what
possible concern it could be of her friends if Mr. Carleton
wanted to see her before she went away. She felt it was unkind
— they did not know how unkind, for they did not understand
that he was a very particular friend, and an old friend — they
could not tell what reason there was for her wishing to bid
him good-bye. She thought she should have liked to do it, very
much.


CHAPTER XX.


"Methought I was — there is no man can tell what. Methought I
was, and methought I had — But man is but a patched fool, if
he will offer to say what methought I had."
MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.


Mrs. Evelyn drove down to the boat with Fleda, and did not
leave her till she was safely put in charge of Mrs. Renney.
Fleda immediately retreated to the. innermost depths of the
ladies' cabin, hoping to find some rest for the body at least,
if not forgetfulness for the mind.

The latter was not to be. Mrs. Renney was exceeding glad to
see her, and bent upon knowing what had become of her since
those days when they used to know each other.

"You're just the same, Miss Fleda, that you used to be —
you're very little altered — I can see that — though you're
looking a good-deal more thin and pale; you had very pretty
roses in your cheeks in those times. Yes, I know, I understood
Mrs. Evelyn to say you had not been well; but, allowing for
that, I can see you are just yourself still — I'm glad of it.
Do you recollect, Miss Fleda, what a little thing you was
then?"

"I recollect, very well," said Fleda.

"I'm sure of another thing — you're just as good as you used
to be," said the housekeeper, looking at her complacently. "Do
you remember how you used to come into my room to see me make
jelly? I see it as well as if it was yesterday; and you used
to beg me to let you squeeze the lemons; and I never could
refuse you, because you never did anything I didn't want you
to. And do you mind how I used to tie you up in a big towel,
for fear you would stain your dress with the acid, and I'd
stand and watch to see you putting all your strength to
squeeze 'em clean, and be afraid that Mrs. Rossitur would be
angry with me for letting you spoil your hands; but you used
to look up and smile at me so, I couldn't help myself, but let
you do just whatever you had a mind? You don't look quite so
light and bright as you did in those times; — but, to be sure,
you aint feeling well! See here — just let me pull some of
these things onto this settee, and you put yourself down there
and rest — pillows — let's have another pillow — there, how's
that?"

Oh, if Fleda might have silenced her! She thought it was
rather hard that she should have two talkative companions on
this journey of all others. The housekeeper paused no longer
than to arrange her couch and see her comfortably laid down.

"And then Mr. Hugh would come in to find you and carry you
away — he never could bear to be long from you. How is Mr.
Hugh, Miss Fleda? he used to be always a very delicate-looking
child. I remember you and him used to be always together — he
was a very sweet boy! I have often said I never saw such
another pair of children. How does Mr. Hugh have his health,
Miss Fleda?"

"Not very well, just now," said Fleda, gently, and shutting
her eyes that they might reveal less.

There was need; for the housekeeper went on to ask
particularly after every member of the family, and where they
had been living, and as much as she conveniently could about
how they had been living. She was very kind through it all, or
she tried to be; but Fleda felt there was a difference since
the time when her aunt kept house in State Street, and Mrs.
Renney made jellies for her. When her neighbours' affairs were
exhausted, Mrs. Renney fell back upon her own, and gave Fleda
a very circumstantial account of the occurrences that were
drawing her westward; how so many years ago her brother had
married and removed thither; how lately his wife had died;
what, in general, was the character of his wife, and what, in
particular, the story of her decease; how many children were
left without care, and the state of her brother's business,
which demanded a great deal; and how, finally, she, Mrs.
Renney, had received and accepted an invitation to go on to
Belle Rivière, and be housekeeper de son chef. And as Fleda's
pale worn face had for some time given her no sign of
attention, the housekeeper then hoped she was asleep, an
placed herself so as to screen her, and have herself a good
view of everything that was going on in the cabin.

But poor Fleda was not asleep, much as she rejoiced in being
thought so. Mind and body could get no repose, sadly as the
condition of both called for it. Too worn to sleep, perhaps; —
too down-hearted to rest. She blamed herself for it, and told
over to herself the causes, the recent causes, she had of joy
and gratitude; but it would not do. Grateful she could be and
was; but tears that were not the distillation of joy came with
her gratitude; came from under the closed eyelid in spite of
her; the pillow was wet with them. She excused herself, or
tried to, with thinking that she was weak and not very well,
and that her nerves had gone through so much for a few days
past, it was no wonder if a reaction left her without her
usual strength of mind. And she could not help thinking, there
had been a want of kindness in the Evelyns to let her come
away to-day to make such a journey, at such a season, under
such guardianship. But it was not all that; she knew it was
not. The journey was a small matter; only a little piece of
disagreeableness that was well in keeping with her other
meditations. She was going home, and home had lost all its
fair-seeming; its honours were withered. It would be pleasant
indeed to be there again to nurse Hugh; but nurse him for
what? — life or death? — she did not like to think; and beyond
that she could fix upon nothing at all that looked bright in
the prospect; she almost thought herself wicked, but she could
not. If she might hope that her uncle would take hold of his
farm like a man, and redeem his character and his family's
happiness on the old place — that would have been something;
but he had declared a different purpose, and Fleda knew him
too well to hope that he would be better than his word. Then
they must leave the old homestead, where at least the
associations of happiness clung, and go to a strange land. It
looked desolate to Fleda, wherever it might be. Leave Queechy!
— that she loved unspeakably beyond any other place in the
world; where the very hills had been the friends of her
childhood, and where she had seen the maples grow green and
grow red, through as many coloured changes of her own
fortunes; the woods where the shade of her grandfather walked
with her, and where the presence even of her father could be
brought back by memory; where the air was sweeter and the
sunlight brighter; by far, than in any other place — for both
had some strange kindred with the sunny days of long ago. Poor
Fleda turned her face from Mrs. Renney, and leaving doubtful
prospects and withering comforts for a while, as it were, out
of sight, she wept the fair outlines and the red maples of
Queechy, as if they had been all she had to regret. They had
never disappointed her. Their countenance had comforted her
many a time, under many a sorrow. After all, it was only fancy
choosing at which shrine the whole offering of sorrow should
be made. She knew that many of the tears that fell were due to
some other. It was in vain to tell herself they were selfish;
mind and body were in no condition to struggle with anything.

It had fallen dark some time, and she had wept and sorrowed
herself into a half-dozing state, when a few words spoken near
aroused her.

"It is snowing," was said by several voices.

"Going very slow, aint we?" said Fleda's friend, in a
suppressed voice.

"Yes, 'cause it's so dark, you see; the Captain durstn't let
her run."

Some poor witticism followed from a third party about the
"Butterfly's" having run herself off her legs the first time
she ever ran at all; and then Mrs. Renney went on.

"Is the storm so bad, Hannah?"

"Pretty thick — can't see far ahead — I hope we'll make out to
find our way in — that's all I care for."

"How far are we?"

"Not half way yet — I don't know — depends on what headway we
make, you know; — there aint much wind yet, that's a good
thing."

"There aint any danger, is there?"

This, of course, the chambermaid denied, and a whispered
colloquy followed, which Fleda did not try to catch. A new
feeling came upon her weary heart — a feeling of fear. There
was a sad twinge of a wish that she were out of the boat, and
safe back again with the Evelyns; and a fresh sense of the
unkindness of letting her come away that afternoon so
attended. And then, with that sickness of heart, the forlorn
feeling of being alone, of wanting some one at hand to depend
upon, to look to. It is true, that, in case of real danger,
none such could be a real protection; and yet lot so neither,
for strength and decision can live and make live, where a
moment's faltering will kill; and weakness must often falter
of necessity. "All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth"
to his people; she thought of that, and yet she feared — for
his ways are often what we do not like. A few moments of sick-
heartedness and trembling — and then Fleda mentally folded her
arms about a few other words of the Bible, and laid her head
down in quiet again. — "_The Lord is my refuge and my fortress:
my God: in him will I trust_."

And then what comes after —

"_He shall cover thee with his feathers; and under his wings
shalt thou trust; his truth shall be thy shield and buckler_."

Fleda lay quiet till she was called to tea.

"Bless me, how pale you are?" said the housekeeper, as Fleda
raised herself up at this summons; "do you feel very bad, Miss
Fleda?"

Fleda said "No."

"Are you frighted?" said the housekeeper — "there's no need of
that — Hannah says there's no need — we'll be in by and by."

"No, Mrs. Renney," said Fleda, smiling. "I believe I am not
very strong yet."

The housekeeper and Hannah both looked at her with strangely
touched faces, and again begged her to try the refreshment of
tea. But Fleda would not go down, so they served her up there,
with great zeal and tenderness. And then she waited patiently
and watched the people in the cabin, as they sat gossiping in
groups, or stupefying in solitude; and thought how miserable a
thing is existence where religion and refinement have not
taught the mind to live in somewhat beyond and above its
every-day concerns.

Late at night the boat arrived safe at Bridgeport. Mrs. Renney
and Fleda had resolved to stay on board till morning, when the
former promised to take her to the house of a sister she had
living in the town; as the cars would not leave the place till
near eleven o'clock. Rest was not to be hoped for meantime in
the boat, on the miserable couch which was the best the cabin
could furnish; but Fleda was so thankful to have finished the
voyage in safety, that she took thankfully everything else,
even lying awake. It was a wild night. The wind rose soon
after they reached Bridgeport, and swept furiously over the
boat, rattling the tiller chains, and making Fleda so
nervously alive to possibilities that she got up two or three
times to see if the boat were fast to her moorings. It was
very dark, and only by a fortunately-placed lantern, she could
see a bit of the dark wharf and one of the posts belonging to
it, from which the lantern never budged; so, at last quieted,
or tired-out, nature had her rights, and she slept.

It was not refreshing rest after all, and Fleda was very glad
that Mrs. Renney's impatience for something comfortable made
her willing to be astir as early as there was any chance of
finding people up in the town. Few were abroad when they left
the boat, they two. Not a foot had printed the deep layer of
snow that covered the wharf. It had fallen thick during the
night. Just then it was not snowing; the clouds seemed to have
taken a recess, for they hung threatening yet; one uniform
leaden canopy was over the whole horizon.

"The snow aint done yet," said Mrs. Renney.

"No, but the worst of our journey is over," said Fleda. "I am
glad to be on the land."

"I hope we'll get something to eat here," said Mrs. Renney, as
they stepped along over the wharf. "They ought to be ashamed
to give people such a mess, when it's just as easy to have
things decent. My! how it has snowed! I declare, if I'd ha'
known, I'd ha' waited till somebody had tracked a path for us.
But I guess it's just as well we didn't; you look as like a
ghost as you can, Miss Fleda. You'll be better when you get
some breakfast. You'd better catch on to my arm — I'll waken
up the seven sleepers but what I'll have something to put life
into you directly."

Fleda thanked her, but declined the proffered accommodation,
and followed her companion in the narrow beaten path a few
travellers had made in the street, feeling enough like a
ghost, if want of flesh and blood reality were enough. It
seemed a dream that she was walking through the grey light,
and the empty streets of the little town; everything looked
and felt so wild and strange.

If it was a dream, she was soon waked out of it. In the house,
where they were presently received and established in
sufficient comfort, there was such a little specimen of
masculine humanity as never showed his face in dream-land yet
— a little bit of reality, enough to bring any dreamer to his
senses. He seemed to have been brought up on stove heat, for
he was all glowing yet from a very warm bed he had just
tumbled out of somewhere, and he looked at the pale thin
stranger by his mother's fire-place, as if she were an anomaly
in the comfortable world. If he could have contented himself
with looking! — but he planted himself firmly on the rug, just
two feet from Fleda, and, with a laudable and most persistent
desire to examine into the causes of what he could not
understand, he commenced inquiring —

"Are you cold? — say! Are you cold? — say!" in a tone most
provokingly made up of wonder and dulness. In vain Fleda
answered him, that she was not very cold, and would soon not
be cold at all by that good fire — the question came again,
apparently in all its freshness, from the interrogator's mind
—

"Are you cold? — say !" —

And silence and words, looking grave and laughing, were alike
thrown away. Fleda shut her eyes at length, and used the small
remnant of her patience to keep herself quiet till she was
called to breakfast. After breakfast she accepted the offer of
her hostess to go up stairs and lie down till the cars were
ready; and there got some real and much needed refreshment of
sleep and rest.

It lasted longer than she had counted upon. For the cars were
not ready at eleven o'clock — the snow last night had
occasioned some perplexing delays. It was not till near three
o'clock, that the often-despatched messenger to the depôt
brought back word that they might go as soon as they pleased.
It pleased Mrs. Renney to be in a great hurry, for her baggage
was in the cars, she said, and it would be dreadful if she and
it went different ways; so Fleda and her companion hastened
down to the station-house and chose their places some time
before anybody else thought of coming. They had a long, very
tiresome waiting to go through, and room for some uneasy
speculations about being belated and a night-journey. But
Fleda was stronger now, and bore it all with her usual patient
submission At length, by degrees, the people dropped in and
filled the cars, and they set off.

"How early do you suppose we shall reach Greenfield?" said
Fleda.

"Why, we ought to get there between nine and ten o'clock, I
should think," said her companion. "I hope the snow will hold
up till we get there."

Fleda thought it a hope very unlikely to be fulfilled. There
were as yet no snow-flakes to be seen near by, but, at a
little distance, the low clouds seemed already to enshroud
every clump of trees, and put a mist about every hill. They
surely would descend more palpably soon.

It was pleasant to be moving swiftly on again towards the end
of their journey, if Fleda could have rid herself of some
qualms about the possible storm and the certain darkness; they
might not reach Greenfield by ten o'clock; and she disliked
travelling in the night at any time. But she could do nothing,
and she resigned herself anew to the comfort and trust she had
built upon last night. She had the seat next the window, and
with a very sober kind of pleasure watched the pretty
landscape they were flitting by — misty as her own prospects —
darkening as they? — no, she would not allow that thought. "
'Surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God;'
and I can trust Him." And she found a strange sweetness in
that naked trust and clinging of faith, that faith never tried
never knows. But the breath of daylight was already gone,
though the universal spread of snow gave the eye a fair range
yet, white, white, as far as the view could reach, with that
light misty drapery round everything in the distance, and
merging into the soft grey sky; and every now and then, as the
wind served, a thick wreath of white vapour came by from the
engine and hid all, eddying past the windows, and then
skimming off away over the snowy ground from which it would
not lift; a more palpable veil for a moment of the distant
things — and then broken, scattered, fragmentary, lovely in
its frailty, and evanishing. It was a pretty afternoon, but a
sober; and the bare, black, solitary trees near hand which the
cars flew by, looked to Fleda constantly like finger-posts of
the past; and back, at their bidding, her thoughts and her
spirits went, back and forward, comparing, in her own mental
view what had once been so gay and genial with its present
bleak and chill condition. And from this, in sudden contrast,
came a strangely fair and bright image of heaven — its
exchange of peace for all this turmoil — of rest for all this
weary bearing up of mind and body against the ills that beset
both — of its quiet home for this unstable strange world,
where nothing is at a standstill — of perfect and pure society
for the unsatisfactory and wearying friendships that the most
are here. The thought came to Fleda like one of those
unearthly clear north-western skies from which a storm-cloud
has rolled away, that seem almost to mock earth with their
distance from its defilement and agitations. "Truly I know
that it shall be well with them that fear God!" She could
remember Hugh — she could not think of the words without him —
and yet say them with the full bounding assurance. And in that
weary and uneasy afternoon, her mind rested and delighted
itself with two lines of George Herbert, that only a Christian
can well understand —


"Thy power and love, my love and trust,
Make one place everywhere."


But the night fell, and Fleda at last could see nothing but
the dim rail-fences they were flying by, and the reflection
from some stationary lantern on the engine, or one of the
forward cars, that always threw a bright spot of light on the
snow. Still she kept her eyes fastened out of the window;
anything but the view _inboard_. They were going slowly now, and
frequently stopping; for they were out of time, and some other
trains were to be looked-out for. Nervous work; and whenever
they stopped, the voices which at other times were happily
drowned in the rolling of the car-wheels, rose and jarred in
discords far less endurable. Fleda shut her ears to the words,
but it was easy enough without words to understand the
indications of coarse and disagreeable natures in whose
neighbourhood she disliked to find herself — of whose
neighbourhood she exceedingly disliked to be reminded. The
muttered oath, the more than muttered jest, the various laughs
that tell so much of head or heart emptiness — the shadowy but
sure tokens of that in human nature which one would not
realize, and which one strives to forget; Fleda shrank within
herself, and would gladly have stopped her ears; did sometimes
covertly. Oh, if home could be but reached, and she out of
this atmosphere! how well she resolved that never another
time, by any motive of delicacy, or otherwise, she would be
tempted to trust herself in the like again without more than
womanly protection. The hours rolled wearily on; they heard
nothing of Greenfield yet.

They came at length to a more obstinate stop than usual. Fleda
took her hands from her ears to ask what was the matter.

"I don't know," said Mrs. Renney. "I hope they won't keep us a
great while waiting here."

The door swung open, and the red comforter and tarpaulin hat
of one of the breakmen showed itself a moment. Presently
after, "Can't get on," was repeated by several voices in the
various tones of assertion, interrogation, and impatience. The
women folks, having nobody to ask questions of, had nothing
for it but to be quiet and use their ears.

"Can't get on!" said another man, coming in — "there's nothing
but snow out o' doors — track's all foul."

A number of people instantly rushed out to see.

"Can't get on any further to-night?" asked a quiet old
gentleman of the news-bringer.

"Not another inch, Sir; worse off than old Dobbs was in the
mill-pond — we've got half way, but we can't turn and go
back."

"And what are we going to do?" said an unhappy wight, not
quick in drawing conclusions.

"I s'pose we'll all be stiff by the morning," answered the
other, gravely — "unless the wood holds out, which aint
likely."

How much there is in even a cheery tone of voice. Fleda was
sorry when this man took his away with him. There was a most
uncheering confusion of tongues for a few minutes among the
people he had left, and then the car was near deserted;
everybody went out to bring his own wits to bear upon the
obstacles in the way of their progress. Mrs. Renney observed
that she might as well warm her feet while she could, and went
to the stove for the purpose.

Poor Fleda felt as if she had no heart left. She sat still in
her place, and leaned her head upon the back of the deserted
chair before her, in utter inability to keep it up. The night
journey was bad enough, but _this_ was more than she had counted
upon. Danger, to be sure, there might be none in standing
still there all night, unless, perhaps, the danger of death
from the cold. She had heard of such things; but to sit there
till morning among all those people, and obliged to hear their
unloosed tongues, Fleda felt almost that she could not bear it
— a most forlorn feeling, with which came anew a keen
reflection upon the Evelyns, for having permitted her to run
even the hazard of such trouble. And in the morning, if well
it came, who would take care of them in all the subsequent
annoyance and difficulty of getting out of the snow?

It must have taken very little time for these thoughts to run
through her head, for half a minute had not flown, when the
vacant seat beside her was occupied, and a band softly touched
one of hers which lay in her lap. Fleda started up in terror,
to have the hand taken and her eye met by Mr. Carleton.

"Mr. Carleton! — O Sir, how glad I am to see you!" was said by
eye and cheek, as unmistakably as by word.

"Have you come from the clouds?"

"I might rather ask that question of you," said he, smiling.
"You have been invisible ever since the night when I had the
honour of playing the part of your physician."

"I could not help it, Sir — I was sure you would believe it. I
wanted exceedingly to see you, and to thank you as well as I
could, but I was obliged to leave it."

She could hardly say so much. Her swimming eye gave him more
thanks than he wanted. But she scolded herself vigorously, and
after a few minutes, was able to look and speak again.

"I hoped you would not think me ungrateful, Sir, but in case
you might, I wrote to let you know that you were mistaken."

"You wrote to me?" said he.

"Yes, Sir, yesterday morning — at least it put in the post
yesterday morning."

"It was more unnecessary than you are aware of," he said, with
a smile, and turning one of his deep looks away from her.

"Are we fast here for all night, Mr. Carleton!" she said,
presently.

"I am afraid so — I believe so — I have been out to examine,
and the storm is very thick."

"You need not look so about it for me," said Fleda — "I don't
care for it all now."

And a long-drawn breath half told how much she had cared for
it, and what a burden was gone.

"You look very little like breasting hardships," said Mr.
Carleton, bending on her so exactly the look of affectionate
care that she had often had from him when she was a child,
that Fleda was very near overcome again.

"Oh, you know," she said, speaking by dint of great force upon
herself — "you know the will is everything, and mine is very
good."

But he looked extremely unconvinced and unsatisfied.

"I am so comforted to see you sitting there, Sir," Fleda went
on gratefully, "that I am sure I can bear patiently all the
rest."

His eye turned away, and she did not know what to make of his
gravity. But a moment after, he looked again, and spoke with
his usual manner.

"That business you entrusted to me," he said, in a lower tone,
— "I believe you will have no more trouble with it."

"So I thought! — so I gathered, the other night," said Fleda,
her heart and her face suddenly full of many things.

"The note was given up — I saw it burned."

Fleda's two hands clasped each other mutely.

"And will he be silent?"

"I think he will choose to be so, for his own sake."

The only sake that would avail in that quarter, Fleda knew.
How had Mr. Carleton ever managed it?

"And Charlton?" she said, after a few minutes' cheerful
musing.

"I had the pleasure of Captain Rossitur's company to breakfast
the next morning, and I am happy to report that there is no
danger of any trouble arising there."

"How shall I ever thank you, Sir!" said Fleda, with trembling
lips.

His smile was so peculiar, she almost thought he was going to
tell her. But just then, Mrs. Renney having accomplished the
desirable temperature of her feet, came back to warm her ears,
and placed herself on the next seat — happily not the one
behind, but the one before them, where her eyes were thrown
away; and the lines of Mr. Carleton's mouth came back to their
usual quiet expression.

"You were in particular haste to reach home?" he asked.

Fleda said no, not in the abstract; it made no difference
whether to-day or to-morrow.

"You had heard no ill news of your cousin?"

"Not at all, but it is difficult to find an opportunity of
making the journey, and I thought I ought to come yesterday."

He was silent again; and the baffled seekers after ways and
means, who had gone out to try arguments upon the storm, began
to come pouring back into the car. And bringing with them not
only their loud and coarse voices, with every shade of
disagreeableness, aggravated by ill-humour, but also an
average amount of snow upon their hats and shoulders, the
place was soon full of a reeking atmosphere of great-coats.
Fleda was trying to put up her window, but Mr. Carleton gently
stopped her, and began bargaining with a neighbouring fellow-
traveller for the opening of his.

"Well, Sir, I'll open it if you wish it," said the man,
civilly, "but they say we sha'n't have nothing to make fires
with more than an hour or two longer; so maybe you'll think we
can't afford to let any too much cold in."

The gentleman however, persisting in his wish, and the wish
being moreover backed with those arguments to which every
grade of human reason is accessible, the window was opened. At
first the rush of fresh air was a great relief; but it was not
very long before the raw snowy atmosphere, which made its way
in, was felt to be more dangerous, if it was more endurable,
than the close pent-up one it displaced. Mr. Carleton ordered
the window closed again; and Fleda's glance of meek grateful
patience was enough to pay any reasonable man for his share of
the suffering. _Her_ share of it was another matter. Perhaps Mr.
Carleton thought so, for he immediately bent himself to reward
her and to avert the evil, and for that purpose brought into
play every talent of manner and conversation that could
beguile the time, and make her forget what she was among. If
success were his reward he had it. He withdrew her attention
completely from all that was around her, and without tasking
it; she could not have borne that. He did not seem to task
himself; but without making any exertion, he held her eye and
ear, and guarded both from communication with things
disagreeable. He knew it. There was not a change in her eye's
happy interest, till, in the course of the conversation, Fleda
happened to mention Hugh, and he noticed the saddening of the
eye immediately afterwards.

"Is he ill?" said Mr. Carleton.

"I don't know," said Fleda, faltering a little — "he was not —
very — but a few weeks ago."

Her eye explained the broken sentences which there, in the
neighbourhood of other ears, she dared not finish.

"He will be better after he has seen you," said Mr. Carleton,
gently.

"Yes."

A very sorrowful and uncertain "yes," with an "if" in the
speaker's mind, which she did not bring out.

"Can you sing your old song yet?" said Mr. Carleton, softly —


"Yet one thing secures us,
Whatever betide?"


But Fleda burst into tears.

"Forgive me," he whispered, earnestly, "for reminding you of
that — you did not need it, and I have only troubled you."

"No, Sir, you have not," said Fleda — "it did not trouble me,
and Hugh knows it better than I do. I cannot bear anything to-
night I believe" —

"So you have remembered that, Mr. Carleton?" she said, a
minute after.

"Do you remember that?" said he, putting her old little Bible
into her hand.

Fleda seized it, but she could hardly bear the throng of
images that started up around it. The smooth worn cover
brought so back the childish happy days when it had been her
constant companion — the shadows of the Queechy of old, and
Cynthia and her grandfather, and the very atmosphere of those
times when she had led a light-hearted strange wild life all
alone with them, reading the Encyclopaedia, and hunting out
the wood-springs. She opened the book and slowly turned over
the leaves where her father's hand had drawn those lines of
remark and affection round many a passage — the very look of
them she knew; but she could not see it now, for her eyes were
dim, and tears were dropping fast into her lap — she hoped Mr.
Carleton did not see them, but she could not help it; she
could only keep the book out of the way of being blotted. And
there were other and later associations she had with it too —
how dear! — how tender! — how grateful!

Mr. Carleton was quite silent for a good while — till the
tears had ceased; then he bent towards her so as to be heard
no further off.

"It has been for many years my best friend and companion," he
said, in a low tone.

Fleda could make no answer, even by look.

"At first," he went on, softly, "I had a strong association of
you with it; but the time came when I lost that entirely, and
itself quite swallowed up the thought of the giver."

A quick glance and smile told how well Fleda understood, how
heartily she was pleased with that. But she instantly looked
away again.

"And now," said Mr. Carleton, after a pause — "for some time
past, I have got the association again; and I do not choose to
have it so. I have come to the resolution to put the book back
into your hands, and not receive it again, unless the giver go
with the gift."

Fleda looked up, a startled look of wonder, into his face, but
the dark eye left no doubt of the meaning of his words; and in
unbounded confusion she turned her own and her attention,
ostensibly, to the book in her hand, though sight and sense
were almost equally out of her power. For a few minutes poor
Fleda felt as if all sensation had retreated to her finger-
ends. She turned the leaves over and over, as if willing to
cheat herself or her companion into the belief that she had
something to think of there, while associations and images of
the past were gone with a vengeance, swallowed up in a
tremendous reality of the present; and the book, which a
minute ago was her father's Bible, was now, — what was it? —
something of Mr. Carleton's, which she must give back to him.
But still she held it and looked at it — conscious of no one
distinct idea but that, and a faint one besides, that he might
like to be repossessed of his property in some reasonable time
— time like everything else was in a whirl? the only steady
thing in creation seemed to be that perfectly still and
moveless figure by her side — till her trembling fingers
admonished her they would not be able to hold anything much
longer; and gently and slowly, without looking, her hand put
the book back towards Mr. Carleton. That both were detained
together she knew, but hardly felt; — the thing was that she
had given it! —

There was no other answer; and there was no further need that
Mr. Carleton should make any efforts for diverting her from
the scene and the circumstances where they were. Probably he
knew that, for he made none. He was perfectly silent for a
long time, and Fleda was deaf to any other voice that could be
raised, near or far. She could not even think.

Mrs. Renney was happily snoring, and most of the other people
had descended into their coat collars, or, figuratively
speaking, had lowered their blinds by tilting over their hats
in some uncomfortable position that signified sleep; and
comparative quiet had blessed the place for some time; as
little noticed, indeed, by Fleda, as noise would have been.
The sole thing that she clearly recognized in connexion with
the exterior world, was that clasp in which one of her hands
lay. She did not know that the car had grown quiet, and that
only an occasional grunt of ill-humour or waking-up colloquy
testified that it was the unwonted domicile of a number of
human beings, who were harbouring there in a disturbed state
of mind. But this state of things could not last. The time
came that had been threatened, when their last supply of
extrinsic warmth was at an end. Despite shut windows, the
darkening of the stove was presently followed by a very
sensible and fast-increasing change of temperature; and this
addition to their causes of discomfort roused every one of the
company from his temporary lethargy. The growl of dissatisfied
voices awoke again, more gruff than before; the spirit of
jesting had long languished, and now died outright, and in its
stead came some low, and deep, and bitter-spoken curses. Poor
Mrs. Renney shook off her somnolency and shook her shoulders,
a little business shake, admonitory to herself to keep cool;
and Fleda came to the consciousness that some very
disagreeable chills were making their way over her.

"Are you warm enough?" said Mr. Carleton, suddenly, turning to
her.

"Not quite," said Fleda, hesitating; "I feel the cold a
little. Please don't, Mr. Carleton!" she added, earnestly, as
she saw him preparing to throw off his cloak, the identical
black fox which Constance had described, with so much
vivacity; "pray do not. I am not very cold — I can bear a
little — I am not so tender as you think me; I do not need it,
and you would feel the want very much after wearing it. I
won't put it on."

But he smilingly bade her "stand up," stooping down and taking
one of her hands to enforce his words, and giving her, at the
same time, the benefit of one of those looks of good-humoured
wilfulness to which his mother always yielded, and to which
Fleda yielded instantly, though with a colour considerably
heightened at the slight touch of peremptoriness in his tone.

"You are not offended with me, Elfie?" he said, in another
manner, when she had sat down again, and he was arranging the
heavy folds of the cloak.

Offended! — a glance answered.

"You shall have everything your own way," he whispered,
gently, as he stooped down to bring the cloak under her feet,
"_except yourself_."

What good care should be taken of that exception was said in
the dark eye at which Fleda hardly ventured half a glance. She
had much ado to command herself.

She was shielded again from all the sights and sounds within
reach. She was in a maze. The comfort of the fur-cloak was
curiously mixed with the feeling of something else, of which
that was an emblem — a surrounding of care and strength which
would effectually be exerted for her protection — somewhat
that Fleda had not known for many a long day — the making up
of the old want. Fleda had it in her heart to cry like a baby.
Such a dash of sunlight had fallen at her feet that she hardly
dared look at it for fear of being dazzled; but she could not
look anywhere that she did not see the reflection.

In the mean time the carful of people settled again into
sullen quietude. The cold was not found propitious to
quarrelling. Those who could subsided again into lethargy;
those who could not, gathered in their outposts to make the
best defence they might of the citadel. Most happily it was
not an extreme night; cold enough to be very disagreeable, and
even (without a fur-cloak) dangerous; but not enough to put
even noses and ears in immediate jeopardy. Mr. Carleton had
contrived to procure a comfortable wrapper for Mrs. Renney,
from a Yankee, who, for the sake of being a "warm man" as to
his pockets, was willing to be cold otherwise for a time. The
rest of the great-coats and cloaks, which were so alert and
erect a little while ago, were doubled up on every side in all
sorts of despondent attitudes. A dull quiet brooded over the
assembly, and Mr. Carleton walked up and down the vacant
space. Once he caught an anxious glance from Fleda, and came
immediately to her side.

"You need not be troubled about me," he said, with a most
genial smile; "I am not suffering — never was farther from it
in my life."

Fleda could neither answer nor look.

"There are not many hours of the night to wear out," he said.
"Can't you follow your neighbour's example?"

She shook her head.

"This watching is too hard for you. You will have another
headache to-morrow."

"No, perhaps not," she said, with a grateful look up.

"You do not feel the cold now, Elfie?"

"Not at all — not in the least — I am perfectly comfortable —
I am doing very well."

He stood still, and the changing lights and shades on Fleda's
cheek grew deeper.

"Do you know where we are, Mr. Carleton?"

"Somewhere between a town the name of which I have forgotten,
and a place called Quarrenton, I think; and Quarrenton, they
tell me, is but a few miles from Greenfield. Our difficulties
will vanish, I hope, with the darkness."

He walked again, and Fleda mused, and wondered at herself in
the black fox. She did not venture another look, though her
eye took in nothing very distinctly but the outlines of that
figure passing up and down through the car. He walked
perseveringly; and weariness at last prevailed over everything
else with Fleda; she lost herself, with her head leaning
against the bit of wood between the windows.

The rousing of the great-coats, and the growing gray light,
roused her before her uneasy sleep had lasted an hour. The
lamps were out, the car was again spotted with two long rows
of window-panes, through which the light as yet came but
dimly. The morning had dawned at last, and seemed to have
brought with it a fresh accession of cold, for everybody was
on the stir. Fleda put up her window to get a breath of fresh
air, and see how the day looked.

A change of weather had come with the dawn. It was not fine
yet. The snowing had ceased, but the clouds hung overhead
still, though not with the leaden uniformity of yesterday;
they were higher, and broken into many a soft, gray fold, that
promised to roll away from the sky by and by. The snow was
deep on the ground; every visible thing lapped in a thick
white covering; a still, very grave, very pretty winter
landscape, but somewhat dreary in its aspect, to a trainful of
people fixed in the midst of it, out of sight of human
habitation. Fleda felt that; but only in the abstract — to her
it did not seem dreary; she enjoyed the wild, solitary beauty
of the scene very much, with many a grateful thought of what
might have been. As it was, she left difficulties entirely to
others.

As soon as it was light, the various inmates of the strange
dormitory gathered themselves up, and set out on foot for
Quarrenton. By one of them Mr. Carleton sent an order for a
sleigh, which in as short a time as possible arrived, and
transported him and Fleda, and Mrs. Renney, and one other ill-
bestead woman, safely to the little town of Quarrenton.


CHAPTER XXI.


"Welcome the sour cup of prosperity! Affliction may one day
smile again, and till then, sit thee down, sorrow!"
LOVE'S LABOUR LOST.


It had been a wild night, and the morning looked scared.
Perhaps it was only the particular locality, for if ever a
place showed bleak and winter-stricken, the little town of
Quarrenton was in that condition that morning. The snow
overlaid and enveloped everything, except where the wind had
been at work; and the wind and the gray clouds seemed the only
agencies abroad. Not a ray of sunlight to relieve the uniform
sober tints, the universal gray and white, only varied where a
black house-roof, partially cleared, or a blacker bare-
branched tree, gave it a sharp interruption. There was not a
solitary thing that bore an indication of comfortable life,
unless the curls of smoke that went up from the chimneys; and
Fleda was in no condition to study their physiognomy.

A little square hotel, perched alone on a rising ground,
looked the especial bleak and unpromising spot of the place.
It bore, however, the imposing title of the Pocahontas; and
there the sleigh set them down.

They were ushered upstairs into a little parlour, furnished in
the usual style, with one or two articles a great deal too
showy for the place, and a general dearth as to the rest. A
lumbering mahogany sofa, that showed as much wood and as
little promise as possible, a marble-topped centre-table,
chairs in the minority, and curtains minus, and the hearth-rug
providently turned bottom upwards. On the centre-table lay a
pile of Penny Magazines, a volume of' selections of poetry
from various good authors, and a sufficient complement of
newspapers. The room was rather cold, but of that the waiter
gave a reasonable explanation in the fact that the fire had
not been burning long.

Furs, however, might be dispensed with, or Fleda thought so;
and taking off her bonnet, she endeavoured to rest her weary
head against the sharp-cut top of the sofa-back, which seemed
contrived expressly to punish and forbid all attempts at ease-
seeking. The mere change of position was still comparative
ease. But the black fox had not done duty yet. Its ample folds
were laid over the sofa, cushion, back, and all, so as at once
to serve for pillow and mattress; and Fleda being gently
placed upon it, laid her face down again upon the soft fur,
which gave a very kindly welcome not more to the body than to
the mind. Fleda almost smiled as she felt that. The furs were
something more than a pillow for her cheek — they were the
soft image of somewhat for her mind to rest on. But entirely
exhausted, too much for smiles or tears, though both were
near, she resigned herself as helplessly as an infant to the
feeling of rest; and, in five minutes, was in a state of
dreamy unconsciousness.

Mrs. Renney, who had slept a great part of the night, courted
sleep anew in the rocking-chair, till breakfast should be
ready; the other woman had found quarters in the lower part of
the house; and Mr. Carleton stood still, with folded arms, to
read at his leisure the fair face that rested so confidingly
upon the black fur of his cloak, looking so very fair in the
contrast. It was the same face he had known in time past — the
same, with only an alteration that had added new graces, but
had taken away none of the old. Not one of the soft outlines
had grown hard under Time's discipline: not a curve had lost
its grace, or its sweet mobility; and yet the hand of Time had
been there; for on brow and lip, and cheek and eyelid, there
was that nameless, grave composure, which said touchingly,
that hope had long ago clasped hands with submission. And,
perhaps, that if hope's anchor had not been well placed, ay,
even where it could not be moved, the storms of life might
have beaten even hope from her ground, and made a clean sweep
of desolation over all she had left. Not the storms of the
last few weeks. Mr. Carleton saw and understood their work in
the perfectly colourless and thin cheek. But these other finer
drawn characters had taken longer to write. He did not know
the instrument, but he read the handwriting, and came to his
own resolutions therefrom.

Yet if not untroubled, she had remained unspotted by the
world; that was as clear as the other. The slight eyebrow sat
with its wonted calm purity of outline just where it used; the
eyelid fell as quietly; the forehead above it was as
unruffled; and if the mouth had a subdued gravity that it had
taken years to teach, it had neither lost any of the
sweetness, nor any of the simplicity of childhood. It was a
strange picture that Mr. Carleton was looking at — strange for
its rareness. In this very matter of simplicity, that the
world will never leave those who belong to it. Half sitting
and half reclining, she had given herself to rest with the
abandonment and self-forgetfulness of a child; her attitude
had the very grace of a child's unconsciousness; and her face
showed that, even in placing herself there, she had lost all
thought of any other presence or any other eyes than her own;
even of what her hand and cheek lay upon, and what it
betokened. It meant something to Mr. Carleton, too; and if
Fleda could have opened her eyes, she would have seen in those
that were fixed upon her a happy promise for her future life.
She was beyond making any such observations; and Mrs. Renney
gave no interruption to his till the breakfast bell rang.

Mr. Carleton had desired the meal to be served in a private
room. But he was met with a speech in which such a confusion
of arguments endeavoured to persuade him to be of another
mind, that he had at last given way. It was asserted that the
ladies would have their breakfast a great deal quicker, and a
great deal hotter, with the rest of the company; and in the
same breath that it would be a very great favour to the house
if the gentleman would not put them to the inconvenience of
setting a separate table; the reasons of which inconvenience
were set forth in detail, or would have been if the gentleman
would have heard them; and desirous especially of haste, on
Fleda's account, Mr. Carleton signified his willingness to let
the house accommodate itself. Following the bell, a waiter now
came to announce and conduct them to their breakfast.

Down the stairs, through sundry narrow turning passages, they
went to a long low room at one corner of the house; where a
table was spread for a very nondescript company, as it soon
proved, many of their last night's companions having found
their way thither. The two ladies, however, were given the
chief posts at the head, as near as possible to a fiery hot
stove, and served with tea and coffee from a neighbouring
table, by a young lady in long ringlets, who was there
probably for their express honour. But, alas for the
breakfast! They might as good have had the comfort of a
private room, for there was none other to be had. Of the tea
and coffee it might be said, as once it was said of two bad
roads — "whichever one you take, you will wish you had taken
the other;" the beefsteak was a problem of impracticability;
and the chickens — Fleda could not help thinking, that a well-
to-do rooster which she saw flapping his wings in the yard,
must, in all probability, be at that very moment endeavouring
to account for a sudden breach in his social circle; and if
the oysters had been some very fine ladies, they could hardly
have retained less recollection of their original
circumstances. It was in vain to try to eat or to drink; and
Fleda returned to her sofa with even an increased appetite for
rest, the more that her head began to take its revenge for the
trials to which it had been put the past day and night.

She had closed her eyes again in her old position. Mrs. Renney
was tying her bonnet-strings. Mr. Carleton was pacing up and
down.

"Aren't you going to get ready, Miss Ringgan?" said the
former.

"How soon will the cars be here?" exclaimed Fleda, starting
up.

"Presently," said Mr. Carleton; "but," said he, coming up to
her and taking her hands — "I am going to prescribe for you
again — will you let me?"

Fleda's face gave small promise of opposition.

"You are not fit to travel now. You need some hours of quiet
rest before we go any further."

"But when shall we get home?" said Fleda.

"In good time — not by the railroad — there is a nearer way
that will take us to Queechy without going through Greenfield.
I have ordered a room to be made ready for you — will you try
if it be habitable?"

Fleda submitted; and, indeed, there was in his manner a sort
of gentle determination to which few women would have opposed
themselves; besides that, her head threatened to make a
journey a miserable business.

"You are ill now," said Mr. Carleton. "Cannot you induce your
companion to stay and attend you?"

"I don't want her," said Fleda.

Mr. Carleton, however, mooted the question himself with Mrs.
Renney, but she represented to him, though with much
deference, that the care of her property must oblige her to go
where and when it went. He rang, and ordered the housekeeper
to be sent.

Presently after, a young lady in ringlets entered the room,
and first taking a somewhat leisurely survey of the company,
walked to the window, and stood there looking out. A dim
recollection of her figure and air made Fleda query whether
she were not the person sent for; but it was several minutes
before it came into Mr. Carleton's head to ask if she belonged
to the house.

"I do, Sir," was the dignified answer.

"Will you show this lady the room prepared for her. And take
care that she wants nothing."

The owner of the ringlets answered not, but turning the front
view of them full upon Fleda, seemed to intimate that she was
ready to act as her guide. She hinted, however, that the rooms
were very _airy_ in winter, and that Fleda would stand a better
chance of comfort where she was. But this Fleda would not
listen to, and followed her adviser to the half-warmed, and
certainly very airy apartment which had been got ready for
her. It was probably more owing to something in her own
appearance, than to Mr. Carleton's word of admonition on the
subject, that her attendant was really assiduous and kind.

"Be you of this country?" she said, abruptly, after her good
offices, as Fleda thought, were ended, and she had just closed
her eyes.

She opened them again, and said "Yes."

"Well, that aint in the parlour, is he?"

"What?" said Fleda.

"One of our folks?"

"An American, you mean? — No."

"I thought he wa'n't — What is he?"

"He is English."

"Is he your brother?"

"No."

The young lady gave her a good look out of her large dark
eyes, and remarking that "she thought they didn't look much
like," left the room.

The day was spent by poor Fleda between pain and stupor, each
of which acted in some measure to check the other — too much
exhausted for nervous pain, to reach the height it sometimes
did, while yet that was sufficient to prevent stupor from
sinking into sleep. Beyond any power of thought, or even
fancy, with only a dreamy succession of images flitting across
her mind, the hours passed, she knew not how; that they did
pass, she knew from her handmaid in the long curls, who was
every now and then coming in to look at her, and give her
fresh water; it needed no ice. Her handmaid told her that the
cars were gone by — that it was near noon — then, that it was
past noon. There was no help for it; she could only lie still
and wait; it was long past noon before she was able to move;
and she was looking ill enough yet, when she at last opened
the door of the parlour and slowly presented herself.

Mr. Carleton was there alone, Mrs. Renney having long since
accompanied her baggage. He came forward instantly, and led
Fleda to the sofa, with such gentle, grave kindness, that she
could hardly bear it; her nerves had been in an unsteady state
all day. A table was set, and partially spread with evidently
much more care than the one of the morning, and Fleda sat
looking at it, afraid to trust herself to look anywhere else.
For years she had been taking care of others, and now there
was something so strange in this feeling of being cared for,
that her heart was full. Whatever Mr. Carleton saw or
suspected of this, it did not appear. On the contrary, his
manner and his talk on different matters was as cool, as
quiet, as graceful, as if neither he nor Fleda had anything
particular to think of; avoiding even an allusion to whatever
might in the least distress her. Fleda thought she had a great
many reasons to be grateful to him, but she never thanked him
for anything more than at that moment she thanked him for the
delicacy which so regarded her delicacy, and put her in a few
minutes completely at her ease as she could be.

The refreshments were presently brought, and Fleda was served
with them in a way that went, as far as possible, towards
making them satisfactory; but, though a great improvement upon
the morning, they furnished still but the substitute for a
meal. There was a little pause then, after the horses were
ordered.

"I am afraid you have wanted my former prescription to-day,"
said Mr. Carleton, after considering the little-improved
colour of Fleda's face.

"I have, indeed."

"Where is it?"

Fleda hesitated, and then, in a little confusion, said, she
supposed it was lying on Mrs. Evelyn's centre-table.

"How happens that?" said he, smiling.

"Because I could not help it, Mr. Carleton," said Fleda, with
no little difficulty; "I was foolish, I could not bring it
away."

He understood and was silent.

"Are you fit to bear a long ride in the cold?" he said,
compassionately, a few minutes after.

"Oh, yes; it will do me good."

"You have had a miserable day, have you not?"

"My head has been pretty bad," said Fleda, a little evasively.

"Well, what would you have?" said he, lightly; "doesn't that
make a miserable day of it?"

Fleda hesitated and coloured, and then, conscious that her
cheeks were answering for her, coloured so exceedingly, that
she was fain to put both her hands up to hide what they only
served the more plainly to show. No advantage was taken. Mr.
Carleton said nothing; she could not see what answer might be
in his face. It was only by a peculiar quietness in his tone
whenever he spoke to her afterwards that Fleda knew she had
been thoroughly understood. She dared not lift her eyes.

They had soon employment enough around her. A sleigh and
horses, better than anything else Quarrenton had been known to
furnish, were carrying her rapidly towards home, the weather
had perfectly cleared off, and in full brightness and fairness
the sun was shining upon a brilliant world. It was cold
indeed, though the only wind was that made by their progress;
but Fleda had been again unresistingly wrapped in the furs,
and was, for the time, beyond the reach of that or any other
annoyance. She sat silently and quietly enjoying; so quietly
that a stranger might have questioned there being any
enjoyment in the case. It was a very picturesque, broken
country, fresh covered with snow; and at that hour, late in
the day, the lights and shadows were a constantly varying
charm to the eye. Clumps of evergreens stood out in full
disclosure against the white ground; the bare branches of
neighbouring trees in all their barrenness, had a wild
prospective or retrospective beauty peculiar to themselves. On
the wavy white surface of the meadow land, or the steep hill-
sides, lay every variety of shadow in blue and neutral tint;
where they lay not, the snow was too brilliant to be borne.
And afar off, through a heaven, bright and cold enough to hold
the canopy over winter's head, the ruler of the day was gently
preparing to say good-bye to the world. Fleda's eye seemed to
be new set for all forms of beauty, and roved from one to the
other as grave and bright as nature itself.

For a little way, Mr. Carleton left her to her musings, and
was as silent as she. But then he gently drew her into a
conversation that broke up the settled gravity of her face,
and obliged her to divide her attention between nature and
him, and his part of it he knew how to manage. But though eye
and smile constantly answered him, he could win neither to a
straightforward bearing.

They were about a mile from Queechy, when Fleda suddenly
exclaimed —

"Oh, Mr. Carleton, please stop the sleigh!"

The horses were stopped.

"It is only Earl Douglass, our farmer," Fleda said, in
explanation: "I want to ask how they are at home?"

In answer to her nod of recognition, Mr. Douglass came to the
side of the vehicle; but till he was there, close, gave her no
other answer by word or sign; when there, broke forth his
accustomed guttural — "How d'ye do?"

"How d'ye do, Mr. Douglass," said Fleda. "How are they all at
home?"

"Well, there aint nothin' new among 'em, as I've heerd on,"
said Earl, diligently though stealthily, at the same time
qualifying himself to make a report of Mr. Carleton. "I guess
they'll be glad to see you. _I_ be."

"Thank you, Mr. Douglass. How is Hugh?"

"He aint nothin' different from what he's been for a spell
back — at least I ain't heerd that he was. Maybe he is, but if
he is, I ha'n't heerd speak of it, and if he was, I think I
should ha' heerd speak of it. He was pretty bad a spell ago —
about when you went away — but he's been better sen. So they
say. I ha'n't seen him. Well Flidda," he added, with somewhat
of a sly gleam in his eye, "do you think you're going to make
up your mind to stay to hum this time?"

"I have no immediate intention of running away, Mr. Douglass,"
said Fleda, her pale cheeks turning rose as she saw him
looking curiously up and down the edges of the black fox. His
eye came back to hers with a good- humoured intelligence that
she could hardly stand.

"It's time you was back," said he. "Your uncle's to hum, but
he don't do me much good, whatever he does to other folks, or
himself nother, as far as the farm goes; there's that corn —"

"Very well, Mr. Douglass," said Fleda, "I shall be at home
now, and I'll see about it."

"_Very_ good!" said Earl, as he stepped back, "Queechy can't get
along without you, that's no mistake."

They drove on a few minutes in silence.

"Aren't you thinking, Mr. Carleton," said Fleda, "that my
countrymen are a strange mixture?"

"I was not thinking of them at all at this moment. I believe
such a notion has crossed my mind."

"It has crossed mine very often," said Fleda.

"How do you read them? What is the basis of it?"

"I think, the strong self-respect which springs from the
security and importance that republican institutions give
every man. But," she added, colouring, "I have seen very
little of the world, and ought not to judge."

"I have no doubt you are quite right," said Mr. Carleton,
smiling. "But don't you think an equal degree of self-respect
may consist with giving honour where honour is due?"

"Yes," said Fleda, a little doubtfully, "where religion and
not republicanism is the spring of it."

"Humility and not pride," said he. "Yes, you are right."

"My countrymen do yield honour where they think it is due,"
said Fleda, "especially where it is not claimed. They must
give it to reality, not to pretension. And, I confess, I would
rather see them a little rude in their independence, than
cringing before mere advantages of external position — even
for my own personal pleasure."

"I agree with you, Elfie, putting, perhaps, the last clause
out of the question."

"Now, that man," said Fleda, smiling at his look — "I suppose
his address must have struck you as very strange; and yet
there was no want of respect under it. I am sure he has a true
thorough respect, and even regard for me, and would prove it
on any occasion."

"I have no doubt of that."

"But it does not satisfy you?"

"Not quite. I confess I should require more from any one under
my control."

"Oh, nobody is under control here," said Fleda. "That is, I
mean, individual control, unless so far as self-interest comes
in. I suppose that is all-powerful here as elsewhere."

"And the reason it gives less power to individuals is, that
the greater freedom of resources makes no man's interest
depend so absolutely on one other man. That is a reason you
cannot regret. No, your countrymen have the best of it, Elfie.
But, do you suppose that this is a fair sample of the whole
country?"

"I dare not say that," said Fleda. "I am afraid there is not
so much intelligence and cultivation everywhere. But I am sure
there are many parts of the land that will bear a fair
comparison with it."

"It is more than I would dare say for my own land."

"I should think" — Fleda suddenly stopped.

"What?" — said Mr. Carleton, gently.

"I beg your pardon, Sir — I was going to say something very
presumptuous."

"You cannot," he said in the same tone.

"I was going to say," said Fleda, blushing, "that I should
think there might be a great deal of pleasure in raising the
tone of mind and character among the people, as one could who
had influence over a large neighbourhood."

His smile was very bright in answer.

"I have been trying that, Elfie, for the last eight years."

Fleda's eye looked now eagerly in pleasure and in curiosity
for more. But he was silent.

"I was thinking a little while ago," he said, "of the time,
once before, when I rode here with you — when you were
beginning to lead me to the problem I have been trying to work
out ever since. When I left you in Paris, I went to resolve
with myself the question, What I had to do in the world? Your
little Bible was my invaluable help. I had read very little of
it when I threw aside all other books; and my problem was soon
solved. I saw that the life has no honour nor value which is
not spent to the glory of God. I saw the end I was made for —
the happiness I was fitted for — the dignity to which even a
fallen creature may rise, through his dear Redeemer and
Surety."

Fleda's eyes were down now. Mr. Carleton was silent a moment,
watching one or two bright witnesses that fell from them.

"The next conclusion was easy — that my work was at home — I
have wanted my good fairy," Mr. Carleton went on, smiling.
"But I hope she will be contented to carry the standard of
Christianity, without that of republicanism."

"But Christianity tends directly to republicanism, Mr.
Carleton," said Fleda, trying to laugh.

"I know that," said he, smiling — "and I am willing to know
it. But the leaven of truth is one thing, and the powder train
of the innovator is another."

Fleda sat thinking that she had very little in common with the
layers of powder trains. She did not know the sleigh was
passing Deepwater lake, till Mr. Carleton said —

"I am glad, my dear Elfie, for your sake, that we are almost
at the end of your journey."

"I should think you might be glad for your own sake, Mr.
Carleton."

"No — my journey is not ended —"

"Not?"

"No — it will not be ended till I get back to New York, or
rather till I find myself here again — I shall make very
little delay there —"

"But you will not go any further to-night?" said Fleda, her
eye this time meeting his fully.

"Yes — I must take the first train to New York. I have some
reason to expect my mother by this steamer."

"Back to New York!" said Fleda. "Then taking care of me has
just hindered you in your business."

But even as she spoke, she read the truth in his eye, and her
own fell in confusion.

"My business?" said he, smiling; — "you know it now, Elfie. I
arrived at Mrs. Evelyn's just after you had quitted it,
intending to ask you to take the long-talked-of drive; and
learned, to my astonishment, that you had left the city, and,
as Edith kindly informed me, under no better guardianship than
that in which I found you. I was just in time to reach the
boat."

"And you ere in the boat night before last?"

"Certainly."

"I should have felt a great deal easier if I had known that,"
said Fleda.

"So should I," said he; "but you were invisible, till I
discerned you in the midst of a crowd of people before me in
the car."

Fleda was silent, till the sleigh stopped, and Mr. Carleton
had handed her out.

"What's going to be done with this here trunk?" said heir
driver, trying a tug at one handle.

"I will send somebody down to help you with it," said Fleda.
"It is too heavy for one alone."

"Well, I reckon it is," said he. "I guess you didn't know I
was a cousin, did you?"

"No," said Fleda.

"I believe I be."

"Who are you?"

"I am Pierson Barnes. I live to Quarrenton for a year back.
Squire Joshua Springer's your uncle, aint he?"

"Yes, my father's uncle."

"Well, he's mine too. His sister's my mother."

"I'll send somebody to help you, Mr. Barnes."

She took Mr. Carleton's arm, and walked half the way up to the
house without daring to look at him.

"Another specimen of your countrymen," he said, smiling.

There was nothing but quiet amusement in the tone, and there
was not the shadow of anything else in his face. Fleda looked,
and thanked him mentally, and drew breath easier. At the
house-door he made a pause.

"You are coming in, Mr. Carleton?"

"Not now."

"It is a long drive to Greenfield, Mr. Carleton; — you must
not turn away from a country-house till we have shown
ourselves unworthy to live in it. You will come in and let us
give you something more substantial than those Quarrenton
oysters. Do not say no," she said, earnestly, as she saw a
refusal in his eye — "I know what you are thinking of, but
they do not know that you have been told anything — it makes
no difference."

She laid her gentle detaining hand, as irresistible in its way
as most things, upon his arm, and he followed her in.

Only Hugh was in the sitting-room, and n a great easy-chair by
the fire. It struck to Fleda's heart; but there was no time
but for a flash of thought. He had turned his face and saw
her. Fleda meant to have controlled herself and presented Mr.
Carleton properly, but Hugh started up; he saw nothing but
herself, and one view of the ethereal delicacy of his face
made Fleda for a moment forget everything but him. They were
in each other's arms, and then still as death. Hugh was
unconscious that a stranger was there, and though Fleda was
very conscious that one was there who was no stranger — there
was so much in both hearts, so much of sorrow and joy, and
gratitude and tenderness, on the one part and on the other, so
much that even if they had been alone lips could only have
said silently — that for a little while they kissed each other
and wept in a passionate attempt to speak what their hearts
were too full of.

Fleda at last whispered to Hugh that somebody else was there,
and turned to make, as well as she might, the introduction.
But Mr. Carleton did not need it, and made his own with that
singular talent which in all circumstances, wherever he chose
to exert it, had absolute power. Fleda saw Hugh's countenance
change, with a kind of pleased surprise, and herself stood
still under the charm for a minute; then she recollected she
might be dispensed with. She took up her little spaniel, who
was in an agony of gratulation at her feet, and went out into
the kitchen.

"Well, do you mean to say you are here at last?" said Barby,
her gray eyes flashing pleasure as she came forward to take
the half hand which, owing to King's monopoly, was all Fleda
had to give her. "Have you come home to stay, Fleda?"

"I am tired enough to be quiet," said Fleda. "But, dear Barby,
what have you got in the house? — I want supper as quickly as
it can be had."

"Well, you do look dreadful bad," said Barby eyeing her. "Why,
there aint much particular, Fleda; nobody's had any heart to
eat lately; I thought I might a'most as well save myself the
fuss of getting victuals. Hugh lives like a bird, and Mis'
Rossitur aint much better, and I think all of 'em have been
keeping their appetites till you came back; 'cept Philetus and
me; we keep it up pretty well. Why, you're come home hungry,
aint you?"

"No, not I," said Fleda; "but there's a gentleman here that
came with me that must have something before he goes away
again. What have you, Barby?"

"Who is he?" said Barby.

"A friend that took care of me on the way — I'll tell you
about it; but, in the meantime, supper, Barby."

"Is he a New Yorker, that one must be curious for?"

"As curious as you like," said Fleda, "but he is not a New
Yorker."

"Where _is_ he from, then?" said Barby, who was busily putting
on the tea-kettle.

"England."

"England!" said Barby, facing about. "Oh, if he's an
Englishman, I don't care for him, Fleda."

"But you care for me," said Fleda, laughing; "and for my sake
don't let our hospitality fail to somebody who has been very
kind to me, if he is an Englishman; and he is in haste to be
off."

"Well, I don't know what we're a-going to give him," said
Barby, looking at her. "There aint much in the pantry besides
cold pork and beans, that Philetus and me made our dinner on —
they wouldn't have it in there, and eat nothing but some
pickerel the doctor sent down — and cold fish aint good for
much."

"None of them left uncooked?"

"Yes, there's a couple — he sent a great lot — I guess he
thought there was more in the family — but two aint enough to
go round; they're little ones."

"No, but put them down, and I'll make an omelette. Just get
the things ready for me, Barby, will you, while I run up to
see aunt Lucy. The hens have begun to lay?"

"La, yes — Philetus fetches in lots of eggs — he loves 'em, I
reckon — but you aint fit this minute to do a thing but rest,
Fleda."

"I'll rest afterwards. Just get the things ready for me,
Barby, and an apron; and the table — I'll be down in a minute.
And, Barby, grind some coffee, will you?"

But, as she turned to run upstairs, her uncle stood in her
way, and the supper vanished from Fleda's head. His arms were
open, and she was silently clasped in them, with so much
feeling on both sides, that thought, and well nigh strength,
for anything else on her part was gone. His smothered words of
deep blessing overcame her. Fleda could do nothing but sob, in
distress, till she recollected Barby. Putting her arms round
his neck, then she whispered to him that Mr. Carleton was in
the other room, and shortly explained how he came to be there,
and begged her uncle would go in and see him till supper
should be ready. Enforcing this request with a parting kiss on
his cheek, she ran off up stairs. Mr. Rossitur looked
extremely moody and cloudy for a few minutes, and then went in
and joined his guest. Mrs. Rossitur and her daughter could not
be induced to show themselves.

Little Rolf, however, had no scruples of any kind. He
presently edged himself into the room to see the stranger,
whom he no sooner saw than, with a joyous exclamation, he
bounded forward to claim an old friend.

"Why, Mr. Carleton," exclaimed Mr. Rossitur, in surprise, "I
was not aware that this young gentleman had the honour of your
acquaintance."

"But I have," said Rolf.

"In London, Sir, I had that pleasure," said Mr. Carleton.

"I think it was _I_ had the pleasure," said Rolf, pounding one
hand upon Mr. Carleton's knee.

"Where is your mother?"

"She wouldn't come down," said Rolf; "but I guess she will
when she knows who is here" —

And he was darting away to tell her, when Mr. Carleton, within
whose arms he stood, quietly restrained him, and told him he
was going away presently, but would come again and see his
mother another time.

"Are you going back to England, Sir?"

"By and by."

"But you will come here again first?"

"Yes, if Mr. Rossitur will let me."

"Mr. Carleton knows he commands his own welcome," said that
gentleman, somewhat stately. "Go and tell your aunt Fleda that
tea is ready, Rolf."

"She knows," said Rolf. "She was making an omelette — I guess
it was for this gentleman."

Whose name he was not clear of yet. Mr. Rossitur looked vexed,
but Hugh laughed, and asked if his aunt gave him leave to tell
that. Rolf entered forthwith into discussion on this subject,
while Mr. Carleton, who had not seemed to hear it, engaged Mr.
Rossitur busily in another, till the omelette and Fleda came
in. Rolf's mind, however, was ill at ease.

"Aunt Fleda," said he, as soon as she had fairly taken her
place at the head of the table, "would you mind my telling
that you made the omelette for this gentleman?"

Fleda cast a confused glance, first at the person in question
and then round the table; but Mr. Carleton, without looking at
her, answered instantly —

"Don't you understand, Rolf, that the same kindness which will
do a favour for a friend, will keep him in ignorance of it?"

Rolf pondered a moment, and then burst forth —

"Why, Sir, wouldn't you like it as well for knowing she made
it?"

It was hardly in human gravity to stand this. Fleda herself
laughed, but Mr. Carleton, as unmoved as possible, answered
him, "Certainly not," and Rolf was nonplussed.

The supper was over. Hugh had left the room, and Mr. Rossitur
had before that gone out to give directions about Mr.
Carleton's horses. He and Fleda were left alone.

"I have something against you, fairy," said he, lightly,
taking her hand, and putting it to his lips. "You shall not
again do me such honour as you have done me to-day — I did not
deserve it, Elfie."

The last words were spoken half reproachfully. Fleda stood a
moment motionless, and then by some curious revulsion of
feeling, put both her hands to her face and burst into tears.

She struggled against them, and spoke almost immediately —

"You will think me very foolish, Mr. Carleton — I am ashamed
of myself — but I have lived here so long in this way — my
spirits have grown so quieted by different things, that it
seems, sometimes, as if I could not bear anything — I am
afraid" —

"Of what, my dear Elfie?"

But she did not answer, and her tears came again.

"You are weary and spent," he said, gently, repossessing
himself of one of her hands. "I will ask you another time what
you are afraid of, and rebuke all your fears."

"I deserve nothing but rebuke now," said Fleda.

But her hand knew, by the gentle and quiet clasp in which it
lay, that there was no disposition to give it.

"Do not speak to me for a minute," she said, hastily, as she
heard some one coming.

She went to the window, and stood there looking out, till Mr.
Carleton came to bid her good-bye.

"Will you permit me to say to Mrs. Evelyn," he said, in a low
tone, "that you left a piece of your property in her house,
and have commissioned me to bring it you?"

"Yes," said Fleda, hesitating, and looking a little confused;
"but — will you let me write a note instead, Mr. Carleton?"

"Certainly! — but what are you thinking of, Elfie? what grave
doubt is lying under your brow?"

All Fleda's shadows rolled away before that clear, bright eye.

"I have found by experience," she said, smiling a little, but
looking down, "that whenever I tell my secret thoughts to
anybody, I have some reason afterwards to be sorry for it."

"You shall make me an exception to your rule, however, Elfie."

Fleda looked up, one of her looks, half questioning, half
fearing, and then answered, a little hesitating —

"I was afraid, Sir, that if you went to Mrs. Evelyn's on that
errand — I was afraid you would show them you were
displeased."

"And what then?" said he, quietly.

"Only — that I wanted to spare them what always gives me a
cold chill."

"Gives you!" said Mr. Carleton.

"No, Sir — only by sympathy — I thought my agency would be the
gentlest."

"I see I was right," she said, looking up, as he did not
answer; "but they don't deserve it — not half so much as you
think. They talk — they don't know what. I am sure they never
meant half they said — never meant to annoy me with it, I mean
— and I am sure they have a true love for me — they have shown
it in a great many ways. Constance, especially, never showed
me anything else. They have been very kind to me; and as to
letting me come away as they did, I suppose they thought I was
in a greater hurry to get home than I really was; and they
would very likely not have minded travelling so themselves; I
am so different from them, that they might in many things
judge me by themselves, and yet judge far wrong."

Fleda was going on, but she suddenly became aware that the eye
to which she was speaking had ceased to look at the Evelyns,
even in imagination, and she stopped short.

"Will you trust me, after this, to see Mrs. Evelyn without the
note?" said he, smiling.

But Fleda gave him her hand, very demurely, without raising
her eyes again, and he went.

Barby, who had come in to clear away the table, took her stand
at the window to watch Mr. Carleton drive off. Fleda had
retreated to the fire. Barby looked in silence till the sleigh
was out of sight.

"Is he going back to England now?" she said, coming back to
the table.

"No."

Barby gathered a pile of plates together, and then inquired —

"Is he going to settle in America?"

"Why, no, Barby! What makes you ask such a thing?"

"I thought he looked as if he had dressed himself for a cold
climate," said Barby, drily.

Fleda sat down by Hugh's easy-chair, and laid her head on his
breast.

"I like your Mr. Carleton very much," Hugh whispered, after a
while.

"Do you?" said Fleda, a little wondering at Hugh's choice of
that particular pronominal adjective.

"Very much indeed. But he has changed, Fleda."

"Yes —in some things — some great things."

"He says he is coming again," said Hugh.

Fleda's heart beat. She was silent.

"I am very glad," repeated Hugh, "I like him very much. But
you won't leave me, Fleda, will you?"

"Leave you?" said Fleda, looking at him.

"Yes," said Hugh, smiling, and drawing her head down again: "I
always thought what he came over here for. But you will stay
with me while I want you, Fleda?"

"While you want me!" said Fleda, again.

"Yes — it won't be long."

"What won't be long?"

"I," said Hugh, quietly. "Not long. I am very glad I shall not
leave you alone, dear Fleda — very glad! — promise me you will
not leave me any more."

"Don't talk so, dear Hugh!"

"But it is true, Fleda," said Hugh, gently. "I know it. I
sha'n't be here, but a little while. I am so glad you are come
home, dear Fleda! You will not let anybody take you away till
I am gone first?"

Fleda drew her arm close around Hugh's neck, and was still —
still even to his ear — for a good while. A hard battle must
be fought, and she must not be weak, for his sake, and for
everybody's sake. Others of the family had come, or were
coming into the room. Hugh waited till a short breath, but
freer drawn, told him he might speak.

"Fleda," he whispered.

"What?"

"I am very happy. I only want your promise about that."

"I can't talk to you, Hugh."

"No; but promise me."

"What?"

"That you will not let anybody take you away while I want
you."

"I am sure he would not ask it," said Fleda, hiding her cheeks
and eyes at once in his breast.


CHAPTER XXII.


"Do you think I shall not love a sad Pamela as well as a
joyful!"
SIDNEY.


Mr. Carleton came back without his mother; she had chosen to
put off her voyage till spring. He took up his quarters at
Montepoole, which, far though it was, was yet the nearest
point where his notions of ease could have freedom enough.

One would have thought that saw him — those most nearly
concerned almost did think — that in his daily coming to
Queechy, Mr. Carleton sought everybody's pleasure rather than
his own. He was Fleda's most gentle and kind assistant in
taking care of Hugh, soon dearly valued by the sick one, who
watched for and welcomed his coming as a bright spot in the
day; and loved particularly to have Mr. Carleton's hand do
anything for him, rather than almost any other. His mother's
was too feeling; Fleda's, Hugh often feared, was weary; and
his father's, though gentle to him as to an infant, yet lacked
the mind's training. And though Marion was his sister in
blood, Guy was his brother in better bonds. The deep blue eye
that little Fleda had admired, Hugh learned to love and rest
on singularly.

To the rest of the family, Mr. Carleton's influence was more
soothing and cheering than any cause beside. To all but the
head of it. Even Mrs. Rossitur, after she had once made up her
mind to see him, could not bear to be absent when he was in
the house. The dreaded contrast with old times gave no pain,
either to her or Marion. Mr. Carleton forgot so completely
that there was any difference, that they were charmed into
forgetting it too. But Mr. Rossitur's pride lay deeper, or had
been less humbled by sorrow; the recollections that his family
let slip never failed to gall him, when Mr. Carleton was
present; and if now and then, for a moment, these were
banished by his guest's graces of mind and manner, the next
breath was a sigh for the circles and the pleasures they
served to recall, now seeming for ever lost to him. Mr.
Carleton perceived that his company gave pain and not pleasure
to his host, and for that reason was the less in the house,
and made his visits to Hugh at times when Mr. Rossitur was not
in the way. Fleda he took out of the house and away with him,
for her good and his own.

To Fleda, the old childish feeling came back, that she was in
somebody's hands who had a marvellous happy way of managing
things about her, and even of managing herself. A kind of
genial atmosphere, that was always doing her good, yet so
quietly and so skilfully, that she could only now and then get
a chance even to look her thanks. Quietly and efficiently he
was exerting himself to raise the tone of her mind, to
brighten her spirits, to reach those sober lines that years of
patience had drawn round her eye, and mouth, and charm them
away. So gently, so indirectly, by efforts so wisely and
gracefully aimed, he set about it, that Fleda did not know
what he was doing; but _he_ knew. He knew when he saw her brow
unbend, and her eye catch its old light sparkle, that his
conversation and the thoughts and interests with which he was
rousing her mind or fancy, were working and would work all he
pleased. And though the next day he might find the old look of
patient gravity again, he hardly wished it not there, for the
pleasure of doing it away. Hugh's anxious question to Fleda
had been very uncalled for, and Fleda's assurance was well
grounded; that subject was never touched upon.

Fleda's manner with Mr. Carleton was peculiar and
characteristic. In the house, before others, she was as demure
and reserved as though he had been a stranger; she never
placed herself near him, nor entered into conversation with
him, unless when he obliged her; but when they were alone
there was a frank confidence and simplicity in her manner that
most happily answered the high-bred delicacy that had called
it out.

One afternoon of a pleasant day in March, Fleda and Hugh were
sitting alone together in the sick-room. Hugh was weaker than
usual but not confined to his bed; he was in his great easy-
chair, which had been moved up stairs for him again. Fleda had
been repeating hymns.

"You are tired," Hugh said.

"No."

"There's something about you that isn't strong," said Hugh,
fondly. "I wonder where is Mr. Carleton to-day. It is very
pleasant, isn't it?"

"Very pleasant and warm; it is like April; the snow all went
off yesterday, and the ground is dry except in spots."

"I wish he would come and give you a good walk. I have noticed
how you always come back looking so much brighter after one of
your walks or rides with him."

"What makes you think so, dear Hugh?" said Fleda, a little
troubled.

"Only my eyes," said Hugh, smiling. "It does me as much good
as you, Fleda."

"I _never_ want to go and leave you, Hugh."

"I am very glad there is somebody to take you. I wish he would
come. You want it this minute."

"I don't think I shall let him take me if he comes."

"Whither? and whom?" said another voice.

"I didn't know you were there, Sir," said Fleda, suddenly
rising.

"I am but just here — Rolf admitted me as he passed out."

Coming in between them, and still holding the hand of one, Mr.
Carleton bent down towards the other.

"How is Hugh to-day?"

It was pleasant to see that meeting of eyes — the grave
kindliness on the one side, the confident affection on the
other. But the wasted features said as plainly as the tone of
Hugh's gentle reply, that he was passing away — fast.

"What shall I do for you?"

"Take Fleda out and give her a good walk. She wants it."

"I will, presently. You are weary — what shall I do to rest
you?"

"Nothing," said Hugh, closing his eyes with a very placid
look; "unless you will put me in mind of something about
heaven, Mr. Carleton."

"Shall I read to you? — Baxter — or something else?"

"No — just give me something to think of while you're gone —
as you have done before, Mr. Carleton."

"I will give you two or three of the Bible bits on that
subject; they are but hints and indications, you know — rather
rays of light that stream out from the place than any
description of it; but you have only to follow one of these
indications and see whither it will lead you. The first I
recollect is that one spoken to Abraham, 'Fear not — I am thy
shield, and thy exceeding great reward.' "

"Don't go any further, Mr. Carleton," said Hugh, with a smile.
"Fleda — do you remember?"

They sat all silent, quite silent, all three, for nobody knew
how long.

"You were going to walk," said Hugh, without looking at them.

Fleda, however, did not move till a word or two from Mr.
Carleton had backed Hugh's request; then she went.

"Is she gone?" said Hugh. "Mr. Carleton, will you hand me that
little desk?"

It was his own. Mr. Carleton brought it. Hugh opened it, and
took out a folded paper, which he gave to Mr. Carleton, saying
that he thought he ought to have it.

"Do you know the handwriting, Sir?"

"No."

"Ah! she has scratched it so. It is Fleda's."

Hugh shut his eyes again, and Mr. Carleton seeing that he had
settled himself to sleep, went to the window with the paper.
It hardly told him anything he did not know before, though set
in a fresh light.


"Cold blew the east wind,
And thick fell the rain —
I look'd for the tops
Of the mountains in vain;
Twilight was gathering,
And dark grew the west,
And the wood-fire's crackling
Toned well with the rest.


"Speak fire, and tell me —
Thy flickering flame
Fell on me in years past —
Say, am I the same?
Has my face the same brightness
In those days it wore ?
My foot the same lightness,
As it crosses the floor?


"Methinks there are changes —
I am weary to-night —
I once was as tireless
As the bird on her flight:
My bark, in full measure,
Threw foam from the prow —
Not even for pleasure
Would I care to move now.


" 'Tis not the foot only
That lieth thus still —
I am weary in spirit —
I am listless in will.
My eye vainly peereth
Through the darkness, to find
Some object that cheereth —
Some light for the mind.


"What shadows come o'er me —
What things of the past —
Bright things of my childhood
That fled all too fast;
The scenes where light roaming,
My foot wandered free,
Come back through the gloamin' —
Come all back to me.


"The cool autumn evening,
The fair summer morn —
The dress and the aspect
Some dear ones have worn —
The sunshiny places —
The shady hill side —
The words and the faces
That might not abide.


"Die out, little fire —
Ay, blacken and pine! —
So have paled many lights
That were brighter than thine.
I can quicker thy embers
Again with a breath,
But the others lie cold
In the ashes of death."


Mr. Carleton had read near through the paper before Fleda came
in.

"I have kept you a long time, Mr. Carleton," she said, coming
up to the window; "I found aunt Lucy wanted me."

But she saw with a little surprise the deepening eye which met
her, and which showed, she knew, the working of strong
feeling. Her own eye went to the paper in search of
explanation.

"What have you there? — Oh, Mr. Carleton," she said, putting
her hand over it — "please to give it to me!"

Fleda's face was very much in earnest. He took the hand, but
did not give her the paper, and looked his refusal.

"I am ashamed you should see that! Who gave it to you?"

"You shall wreak your displeasure on no one but me," he said,
smiling.

"But have you read it?"

"Yes."

"I am very sorry!"

"I am very glad, my dear Elfie."

"You will think — you will think what wasn't true — it was
just a mood I used to get into once in a while — I used to be
angry with myself for it, but I could not help it — one of
those listless fits would take me now and then —"

"I understand it, Elfie."

"I am very sorry you should know I ever felt or wrote so."

"Why?"

"It is very foolish and wrong —"

"Is that a reason for my not knowing it?"

"No — not a good one. — But you have read it now — wont you
let me have it?"

"No — I shall ask for all the rest of the portfolio, Elfie,"
he said, as he put it in a place of security.

"Pray, do not!" said Fleda, most unaffectedly.

"Why?"

"Because I remember Mrs. Carleton says you always have what
you ask for."

"Give me permission to put on your bonnet, then?" said he,
laughingly, taking it from her hand.

The air was very sweet, he footing pleasant. The first few
steps of the walk were made by Fleda in silence, with eager
breath, and a foot that grew lighter as it trod.

"I don't think it was a right mood of mind I had when I wrote
that," she said. "It was morbid. But I couldn't help it. Yet
if one could keep possession of those words you quoted just
now, I suppose one never would have morbid feelings, Mr.
Carleton?"

"Perhaps not; but human nature has a weak hold of anything,
and many things may make it weaker."

"Mine is weak," said Fleda. "But it is possible to keep firm
hold of those words, Mr. Carleton?"

"Yes — by strength that is not human nature's — and, after
all, the firm hold is rather that in which we are held, or
ours would soon fail. The very hand that makes the promise its
own must be nerved to grasp it. And so it is best, for it
keeps us looking off always to the Author and Finisher of our
faith."

"I love those words," said Fleda. "But, Mr. Carleton, how
shall one be sure that one has a right to those other words —
those, I mean, that you told to Hugh? One cannot take the
comfort of them unless one is _sure_."

Her voice trembled.

"My dear Elfie, the promises have many of them their double —
stamped with the very same signet — and if that sealed
counterpart is your own, it is the sure earnest and title to
the whole value of the promise."

"Well — in this case?" said Fleda, eagerly.

"In this case, God says, 'I am thy shield, and thy exceeding
great reward.' Now, see if your own heart can give the
countersign — '_Thou art my portion, O Lord!_' "

Fleda's head sank instantly, and almost lay upon his arm.

"If you have the one, my dear Elfie, the other is yours — it
is the note of hand of the maker of the promise — sure to be
honoured. And if you want proof, here it is — and a threefold
cord is not soon broken — 'Because he hath set his love upon
me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high,
because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I
will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver
him, and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him, and
show him my salvation.' "

There was a pause of some length. Fleda had lifted up her
head, but walked along very quietly, not seeming to care to
speak.

"Have you the countersign, Elfie?"

Fleda flashed a look at him, and only restrained herself from
weeping again.

"Yes. But so I had then, Mr. Carleton — only sometimes I got
those fits of feeling — I forgot it, I suppose."

"When were these verses written?"

"Last fall — uncle Rolf was away, and aunt Lucy unhappy — and,
I believe, I was tired. I suppose it was that."

For a matter of several rods, each was busy with his own
musings. But Mr. Carleton bethought himself.

"Where are you, Elfie?"

"Where am I?"

"Yes — Not at Queechy?"

"No, indeed" said Fleda, laughing. "Far enough away."

"Where?"

"At Paris — at the Marché des Innocens."

"How did you get to Paris?"

"I don't know — by a bridge of associations, I suppose,
resting one end on last year, and the other on the time when I
was eleven years old."

"Very intelligible," said Mr. Carleton, smiling.

"Do you remember that morning, Mr. Carleton, when you took
Hugh and me to the Marché des Innocens?"

"Perfectly."

"I have thanked you a great many times since for getting up so
early that morning."

"I think I was well paid at the time. I remember I thought I
had seen one of the prettiest sights I had ever seen in
Paris."

"So I thought!" said Fleda. "It has been a pleasant picture in
my imagination ever since."

There was a curious curl in the corners of Mr. Carleton's
mouth, which made Fleda look an inquiry — a look so innocently
wistful, that his gravity gave way.

"My dear Elfie!" said he, "you are the very child you were
then."

"Am I?" said Fleda. "I dare say I am, for I feel so. I have
the very same feeling I used to have then, that I am a child,
and you taking the care of me into your own hands."

"One half of that is true, and the other half nearly so."

"How good you always were to me!" Fleda said, with a sigh.

"Not necessary to balance the debtor and creditor items on
both sides," he said, with a smile, "as the account bids fair
to run a good while."

A silence again, during which Fleda is clearly not enjoying
the landscape nor the fine weather.

"Elfie — what are you meditating?"

She came back from her meditations with a very frank look.

"I was thinking — Mr. Carleton — of your notions about female
education."

"Well?"

They had paused upon a rising ground. Fleda hesitated, and
then looked up in his face.

"I am afraid you will find me wanting, and when you do, will
you put me in the way of being all you wish me to be?"

Her look was ingenuous and tender, equally. He gave her no
answer, except by the eye of grave intentness that fixed hers
till she could meet it no longer, and her own fell. Mr.
Carleton recollected himself.

"My dear Elfie," said he, and whatever the look had meant,
Elfie was at no loss for the tone now — "what do you consider
yourself deficient in?"

Fleda spoke with a little difficulty.

"I am afraid, in a good many things — in general reading — and
in what are called accomplishments —"

"You shall read as much as you please, by and by," said he,
"provided you will let me read with you; and, as for the other
want, Elfie, it is rather a source of gratification to me."

Elfie very naturally asked "Why?"

"Because, as soon as I have the power, I shall immediately
constitute myself your master in the arts of riding and
drawing, and in any other art or acquisition you may take a
fancy to, and give you lessons diligently."

"And will there be gratification in that?" said Fleda.

His answer was by a smile. But he somewhat mischievously asked
her, "Will there not?" — and Fleda was quiet.


CHAPTER XXIII.


"Friends, I sorrow not to leave ye;
If this life an exile be,
We who leave it do but journey
Homeward to our family."
SPANISH BALLAD.



The first of April came.

Mr. Rossitur had made up his mind not to abide at Queechy,
which only held him now by the frail thread of Hugh's life.
Mr. Carleton knew this, and had even taken some steps towards
securing for him a situation in the West Indies. But it was
unknown to Fleda; she had not heard her uncle say anything on
the subject since she came home; and though aware that their
stay was a doubtful matter, she still thought it might be as
well to have the garden in order. Philetus could not be
trusted to do everything wisely of his own head, and even some
delicate jobs of hand could not be safely left to his skill;
if the garden was to make any head-way, Fleda's head and hand
must both be there, she knew. So, as the spring opened, she
used to steal away from the house every morning for an hour or
two, hardly letting her friends know what she was about, to
make sure that peas, and potatoes, and radishes, and lettuce,
were in the right places at the right times, and to see that
the later and more delicate vegetables were preparing for. She
took care to have this business well over before the time that
Mr. Carleton ever arrived from the Pool.

One morning she was busy in dressing the strawberry beds,
forking up the ground between the plants, and filling the
vacancies that the severe winter or some irregularities of
fall dressing had made. Mr. Skillcorn was rendering a somewhat
inefficient help, or, perhaps, amusing himself with seeing how
she worked. The little old silver-grey hood was bending down
over the strawberries, and the fork was going at a very
energetic rate.

"Philetus —"

"Marm!"

"Will you bring me that bunch of strawberry plants that lies
at the corner of the beds, in the walk? — and my trowel?"

"I will!" said Mr. Skillcorn.

It was, another hand, however, that brought them and laid them
beside her; but Fleda, very intent upon her work, and hidden
under her close hood, did not find it out. She went on busily
putting in the plants as she found room for them, and just
conscious, as she thought, that Philetus was still standing at
her side, she called upon him from time to time, or merely
stretched out her hand, for a fresh plant as she had occasion
for it.

"Philetus," she said at length, raising her voice a little
that it might win to him round the edge of her hood, without
turning her face — "I wish you would get the ground ready for
that other planting of potatoes — you needn't stay to help me
any longer."

" 'Tain't me, I guess," said the voice of Philetus, on the
other side of her.

Fleda looked in astonishment to make sure that it really was
Mr. Skillcorn proceeding along the garden path in that
quarter, and turning, jumped up and dropped her trowel and
fork, to have her hands otherwise occupied. Mr. Skillcorn
walked off leisurely towards the potato ground, singing to
himself in a kind of consolatory aside —


"I cock'd up my beaver, and who but I!
The lace in my hat was so gallant and so gay,
That I flourished like a king in his own countray."


"There is one of your countrymen that is an odd variety,
certainly," said Mr. Carleton, looking after him with a very
comic expression of eye.

"Is he not?" said Fleda. "And hardly a common one. There never
was a line more mathematically straight than the course of
Philetus's ideas; they never diverge, I think, to the right
hand or the left, a jot from his own self-interest."

"You will be an invaluable help to me, Elfie, if you can read
my English friends as closely."

"I am afraid you will not let me come as close to them," said
Fleda, laughing.

"Perhaps not. I shouldn't like to pay too high a premium for
the knowledge. How is Hugh, to-day?"

Fleda answered, with a quick change of look and voice, that he
was much as usual.

"My mother has written me that she will be here by the
'Europa,' which is due to-morrow. I must set off for New York
this afternoon; therefore I came so early to Queechy."

Fleda was instinctively pulling off her gardening gloves, as
they walked towards the house.

"Aunt Miriam wants to see you, Mr. Carleton — she begged I
would ask you to come there some time —"

"With great pleasure. Shall we go there now, Elfie?"

"I will be ready in five minutes."

Mrs. Rossitur was alone in the breakfast-room when they went
in. Hugh, she reported, was asleep, and would be just ready to
see Mr. Carleton by the time they got back. They stood a few
minutes talking, and then Fleda went to get ready.

Both pair of eyes followed her as she left the room, and then
met with perfect understanding.

"Will you give your child to me, Mrs. Rossitur?" said the
gentleman.

"With all my heart!" exclaimed Mrs. Rossitur, bursting into
tears — "even if I were left alone entirely —"

Her agitation was uncontrolled for a minute; and then she
said, with feeling seemingly too strong to be kept in —

"If I were only sure of meeting her in heaven, I could be
content to be without her till then!"

"What is in the way, my dear Madam?" said Mr. Carleton, with a
gentle sympathy that touched the very spring he meant it
should. Mrs. Rossitur waited a minute, but it was only till
tears would let her speak, and then said like a child —

"Oh, it is all darkness!"

"Except this," said he, gently and clearly, "that Jesus Christ
is a sun and a shield; and those that put themselves at His
feet are safe from all fear, and they who go to Him for light
shall complain of darkness no more."

"But I do not know how —"

"Ask Him, and He will tell you."

"But I am unworthy even to look up towards Him," said Mrs.
Rossitur, struggling, it seemed, between doubts and wishes.

"He knows that, and yet He has bid you come to Him. He knows
that; and, knowing it, He has taken your responsibility, and
paid your debt, and offers you now a clean discharge, if you
will take it at His hand; and for the other part of this
unworthiness, that blood cannot do away, blood has brought the
remedy —

Shall we, who are evil, give good things to our children; and
shall not our Father, which is in heaven, give His Holy Spirit
to them that ask Him?"

"But must I do nothing?" said Mrs. Rossitur, when she had
remained quiet, with her face in her hands, for a minute or
two after he had done speaking.

"Nothing but be willing — be willing to have Christ in all His
offices, as your Teacher, your King, and your Redeemer; give
yourself to Him, dear Mrs. Rossitur, and He will take care of
the rest."

"I am willing!" she exclaimed. Fresh tears came, and came
freely. Mr. Carleton said no more, till; hearing some noise of
opening and shutting doors above stairs, Mrs. Rossitur
hurriedly left the room, and Fleda came in by the other
entrance.

"May I take you a little out of the way, Mr. Carleton?" she
said, when they had passed through the Deepwater settlement.
"I have a message to carry to Mrs. Elster — a poor woman out
here beyond the Lake. It is not a disagreeable place."

"And what if it were?"

"I should not, perhaps, have asked you to go with me," said
Fleda, a little doubtfully.

"You may take me where you will, Elfie," he said, gently. "I
hope to do as much by you some day."

Fleda looked up at the piece of elegance beside her, and
thought what a change must have come over him if _he_ would
visit poor places. He was silent and grave, however, and so
was she, till they arrived at the house they were going to.

Certainly it was not a disagreeable place. Barb's much less
strong-minded sister had at least a good share of her
practical nicety. The little board path to the door was clean
and white still, with possibly a trifle less brilliant effect.
The room and its old inhabitants were very comfortable and
tidy — the patchwork counterpane as gay as ever. Mrs. Elster
was alone, keeping company with a snug little wood fire, which
was near as much needed in that early spring weather as it had
been during the winter.

Mr. Carleton had come back from his abstraction, and stood,
taking half unconscious note of these things, while Fleda was
delivering her message to the old woman. Mrs. Elster listened
to her implicitly, with, every now and then, an acquiescing
nod or ejaculation; but so soon as Fleda had said her say, she
burst out, with a voice that had never known the mufflings of
delicacy, and was now pitched entirely beyond its owner's ken.
Looking hard at Mr. Carleton —

"Fleda! Is _this_ the gentleman that's to be your — _husband?_"

The last word elevated and brought out with emphatic
distinctness of utterance.

If the demand had been, whether the gentleman in question was
a follower of Mohammed, it would hardly have been more
impossible for Fleda to give an affirmative answer; but Mr.
Carleton laughed, and, bringing his face a little nearer the
old crone, answered —

"So she has promised, Ma'am ."

It was curious to see the lines of the old woman's face relax
as she looked at him.

"He's worthy of you, as far as looks goes," she said, in the
same key as before, apostrophising Fleda, who had drawn back,
but not stirring her eyes from Mr. Carleton all the time. And
then she added to him, with a little, satisfied nod, and in a
very decided tone of information —

"She will make you a good wife."

"Because she has made a good friend?" said Mr. Carleton,
quietly. "Will you let me be a friend, too?"

He had turned the old lady's thoughts into a golden channel,
whence, as she was an American, they had no immediate issue in
words; and Fleda and Mr. Carleton left the house without
anything more.

Fleda felt nervous. But Mr. Carleton's first words were as
coolly and as gravely spoken as if they had just come out from
a philosophical lecture; and with an immediate spring of
relief, she enjoyed every step of the way, and every word of
the conversation, which was kept up with great life till they
reached Mrs. Plumfield's door.

No one was in the sitting-room. Fleda left Mr. Carleton there,
and passed gently into the inner apartment, the door of which
was standing ajar.

But her heart absolutely leaped into her mouth, for Dr.
Quackenboss and Mr. Olmney were there on either side of her
aunt's bed. Fleda came forward and shook hands.

"This is quite a meeting of friends," said the doctor,
blandly, yet with a perceptible shading of the whilome broad
sunshine of his face. "Your — a — aunt, my dear Miss Ringgan,
is in a most extraordinary state of mind!"

Fleda was glad to hide her face against her aunt's, and asked
her how she did.

"Dr. Quackenboss thinks it extraordinary, Fleda," said the old
lady, with her usual cheerful sedateness, "that one who has
trusted God, and had constant experience of His goodness and
faithfulness for forty years, should not doubt Him at the end
of it."

"You have no doubt — of any kind, Mrs. Plumfield?" said the
clergyman.

"Not the shadow of a doubt!" was the hearty, steady reply.

"You mistake, my dear Madam," said Dr. Quackenboss, "pardon me
— it is not that: I would be understood to say, merely, that I
do not comprehend how such — a — such security — can be
attained respecting what seems so — a — elevated — and
difficult to know."

"Only by believing," said Mrs. Plumfield, with a very calm
smile. " 'He that believeth on Him shall not be ashamed;' —
'shall _not        _ be ashamed!' " she repeated, slowly.

Dr. Quackenboss looked at Fleda, who kept her eyes fixed upon
her aunt.

"But it seems to me — I beg pardon; perhaps I am arrogant" —
he said, with a little bow; "but it appears to me almost — in
a manner — almost presumptuous, not to be a little doubtful in
such a matter until the time comes. Am I — do you disapprove
of me, Mr. Olmney?"

Mr. Olmney silently referred him for his answer to the person
he had first addressed, who had closed her eyes while he was
speaking.

"Sir," she said, opening them, "it can't be presumption to
obey God, and He tells me to rejoice. And I do — I do! — 'Let
all those that love thee rejoice in thee, and be glad in
thee!' But mind!" she added, energetically, fixing her strong
grey eve upon him, "He does not tell you to rejoice — do not
think it — not while you stand aloof from His terms of peace.
Take God at His word, and be happy; but if not, you have
nothing to do with the song that I sing!"

The doctor stared at her till she had done speaking, and then
slunk out of her range of vision behind the curtains of the
bed-post. Not silenced, however.

"But — a — Mr. Olmney," said he, hesitating, "don't you think
that there is in general — a — a becoming modesty, in — a — in
people that have done wrong, as we all have — putting off
being sure until they are so? It seems so to me!"

"Come here, Dr. Quackenboss," said aunt Miriam.

She waited till he came to her side, and then taking his hand,
and looking at him very kindly, she said —

"Sir, forty years ago I found in the Bible, as you say, that I
was a sinner, and that drove me to look for something else. I
found then God's promise, that if I would give my dependence
entirely to the Substitute he had provided for me, and yield
my heart to his service, he would, for Christ's sake, hold me
quit of all my debts, and be my father, and make me his child.
And, Sir, I did it. I abhor every other dependence — the
things you count good in me I reckon but filthy rags. At the
same time, I know that ever since that day, forty years ago, I
have lived in his service, and tried to live to his glory. And
now, Sir, shall I disbelieve his promise? do you think he
would be pleased if I did?"

The doctor's mouth was stopped, for once, He drew back as soon
as he could, and said not another word.

Before anybody had broken the silence, Seth came in; and after
shaking hands with Fleda, startled her by asking, whether that
was not Mr. Carleton in the other room.

"Yes," Fleda said — "he came to see aunt Miriam."

"Aint you well enough to see him, mother?"

"Quite — and very happy," she said.

Seth immediately went back and invited him in. Fleda dared not
look up while the introductions were passing — of "the Rev.
Mr. Olmney," and of "Dr. Quackenboss," the former of whom Mr.
Carleton took cordially by the hand, while Dr. Quackenboss,
conceiving that his hand must be as acceptable, made his
salutations with an indescribable air, at once of attempted
gracefulness and ingratiation. Fleda saw the whole in the
advancing line of the doctor's person, a vision of which
crossed her downcast eye. She drew back then, for Mr. Carleton
came where she was standing, to take her aunt's hand; Seth had
absolutely stayed his way before to make the said
introductions.

Mrs. Plumfield was little changed by years or disease since he
had seen her. There was somewhat more of a look of bodily
weakness than there used to be; but the dignified, strong-
minded expression of the face was even heightened; eye and
brow were more pure and unclouded in their steadfastness. She
looked very earnestly at her visitor, and then with evident
pleasure from the manner of his look and greeting. Fleda
watched her eye softening with a gratified expression, and
fixed upon him, as he was gently talking to her.

Mr. Olmney presently came round to take leave, promising to
see her another time; and passing Fleda, with a frank grave
pressure of the hand, which gave her some pain. He and Seth
left the room. Fleda was hardly conscious that Dr. Quackenboss
was still standing at the foot of the bed, making the utmost
use of his powers of observation. He could use little else,
for Mr. Carleton and Mrs. Plumfield, after a few words on each
side, had, as it were, by common consent, come to a pause. The
doctor, when a sufficient time had made him fully sensible of
this, walked up to Fleda, who wished heartily at the moment
that she could have presented the reverse end of the magnet to
him. Perhaps, however, it was that very thing which, by a
perverse sort of attraction, drew him towards her.

"I suppose — a — we may conclude," said he, with a some. what
saturnine expression of mischief — "that Miss Ringgan
contemplates forsaking the agricultural line before a great
while?"

"I have not given up my old habits, Sir," said Fleda, a good
deal vexed.

"No — I suppose not — but Queechy air is not so well suited
for them — other skies will prove more genial," he said, she
could not help thinking, pleased at her displeasure.

"What is the fault of Queechy air, Sir?" said Mr. Carleton,
approaching them.

"Sir!" said the doctor, exceedingly taken aback, though the
words had been spoken in the quietest manner possible — "it —
a — it has no fault, Sir — that I am particularly aware of —
it is perfectly salubrious. Mrs. Plumfield, I will bid you
good-day; — I — a — I hope you will get well again."

"I hope not, Sir!" said aunt Miriam, in the same clear hearty
tones which had answered him before.

The doctor took his departure, and made capital of his
interview with Mr. Carleton; who, he affirmed, he could tell
by what he had seen of him, was a very deciduous character,
and not always conciliating in his manners.

Fleda waited with a little anxiety for what was to follow the
doctor's leave-taking.

It was with a very softened eye that aunt Miriam looked at the
two who were left, clasping Fleda's hand again; and it was
with a very softened voice that she next spoke.

"Do you remember our last meeting, Sir?"

"I remember it well," he said.

"Fleda tells me you are a changed man since that time?"

He answered only by a slight and grave bow.

"Mr. Carleton," said the old lady — "I am a dying woman — and
this child is the dearest thing in the world to me after my
own — and hardly after him. Will you pardon me — will you bear
with me, if, that I may die in peace, I say, Sir, what else it
would not become me to say? — and it is for her sake."

"Speak to me freely as you would to her," he said, with a look
that gave her full permission.

Fleda had drawn close and hid her face in her aunt's neck.
Aunt Miriam's hand moved fondly over her cheek and brow for a
minute or two in silence; her eye resting there too.

"Mr. Carleton, this child is to belong to you — how will you
guide her?"

"By the gentlest paths," he said, with a smile.

A whispered remonstrance from Fleda to her aunt had no effect.

"Will her best interests be safe in your hands?"

"How shall I resolve you of that, Mrs. Plumfield?" he said,
gravely.

"Will you help her to mind her mother's prayer, and keep
herself unspotted from the world?"

"As I trust she will help me."

A rogue may answer questions, but an eye that has never known
the shadow of double-dealing makes no doubtful discoveries of
itself. Mrs. Plumfield read it, and gave it her very thorough
respect.

"Mr. Carleton — pardon me, Sir — I do not doubt you — but I
remember hearing long ago that you were rich and great in the
world — it is dangerous for a Christian to be so — can she
keep in your grandeur the simplicity of heart and life she has
had at Queechy?"

"May I remind you of your own words, my dear madam? By the
blessing of God all things are possible. These things you
speak of are not in themselves evil; if the mind be set on
somewhat else, they are little beside a larger storehouse of
material to work with — an increased stewardship to account
for."

"She has been taking care of others all her life," said aunt
Miriam, tenderly; "it is time she was taken care of: and these
feet are very unfit for rough paths; but I would rather she
should go on struggling, as she has done, with difficulties,
and live and die in poverty, than that the lustre of her
heavenly inheritance should be tarnished even a little. I
would, my darling."

"But the alternative is not so," said Mr. Carleton, with
gentle grace, touching Fleda's hand, who he saw was a good
deal disturbed. "Do not make her afraid of me, Mrs.
Plumfield."

"I do not believe I need," said aunt Miriam, "and I am sure I
could not — but, Sir, you will forgive me?"

"No, Madam — that is not possible."

"One cannot stand where I do," said the old lady, "without
learning a little the comparative value of things; and I seek
my child's good — that is my excuse. I could not be satisfied
to take her testimony."

"Take mine, Madam," said Mr. Carleton. "I have learned the
comparative value of things too; and I will guard her highest
interests as carefully as I will every other — as earnestly as
you can desire."

"I thank you, Sir," said the old lady, gratefully. "I am sure
of it. I shall leave her in good hands. I wanted this
assurance. And if ever there was a tender plant that was not
fitted to grow on the rough side of the world — I think this
is one," said she, kissing earnestly the face that yet Fleda
did not dare to lift up.

Mr. Carleton did not say what he thought. He presently took
kind leave of the old lady, and went into the next room, where
Fleda soon rejoined him, and they set off homewards.

Fleda was quietly crying all the way down the hill. At the
foot of the hill, Mr. Carleton resolutely slackened his pace.

"I have one consolation," he said, "my dear Elfie — you will
have the less to leave for me."

She put her hand with a quick motion upon his, and roused
herself.

"She is a beautiful rebuke to unbelief. But she is hardly to
be mourned for, Elfie."

"Oh, I was not crying for aunt Miriam," said Fleda.

"For what then?" he said, gently.

"Myself."

"That needs explanation," he said, in the same tone. "Let me
have it, Elfie."

"Oh — I was thinking of several things," said Fleda, not
exactly wishing to give the explanation.

"Too vague," said Mr. Carleton, smiling. "Trust me with a
little more of your mind, Elfie."

Fleda glanced up at him, half smiling, and yet with filling
eyes, and then, as usual, yielded to the winning power of the
look that met her.

"I was thinking," she said, keeping her head carefully down,
"of some of the things you and aunt Miriam were saying just
now — and — how good for nothing I am."

"In what respect?" said Mr. Carleton, with praiseworthy
gravity.

Fleda hesitated, and he pressed the matter no further; but,
more unwilling to displease him than herself, she presently
went on, with some difficulty; wording what she had to say
with as much care as she could.

"I was thinking, how gratitude — or not gratitude alone — but
how one can be full of the desire to please another — a
fellow-creature — and find it constantly easy to do or bear
anything for that purpose; and how slowly and coldly duty has
to move alone in the direction where it should be the swiftest
and warmest."

She knew he would take her words as simply as she said them;
she was not disappointed. He was silent a minute, and then
said gravely, —

"Is this a late discovery, Elfie?"

"No — only I was realizing it strongly just now."

"It is a complaint we may all make. The remedy is, not to love
less what we know, but to know better that of which we are in
ignorance. We will be helps, and not hindrances to each other,
Elfie."

"You have said that before," said Fleda, still keeping her
head down.

"What?"

"About my being a help to you!"

"It will not be the first time," said he, smiling; "nor the
second. Your little hand first held up a glass to gather the
scattered rays of truth that could not warm me, into a centre
where they must burn."

"Very innocently," said Fleda, with a little unsteady feeling
of voice.

"Very innocently!" said Mr. Carleton, smiling. "A veritable
lens could hardly have been more unconscious of its work, or
more pure of design."

"I do not think that was quite so, either, Mr. Carleton," said
Fleda.

"It was so, my dear Elfie, and your present speech is nothing
against it. This power of example is always unconsciously
wielded; the medium ceases to be clear so soon as it is made
anything but as medium. The bits of truth you aimed at me
wittingly would have been nothing, if they had not come
through that medium."

"Then apparently one's prime efforts ought to be directed to
one's self."

"One's first efforts, certainly Your silent example was the
first thing that moved me."

"Silent example!" said Fleda, catching her breath a little.
"Mine ought to be very good, for I can never do good in any
other way."

"You used to talk pretty freely to me."

"It wasn't my fault, I am certain," said Fleda, half laughing.
"Besides, I was sure of my ground. But, in general, I never
can speak to people about what will do them any good."

"Yet, whatever be the power of silent example, there are often
times when a word is of incalculable importance."

"I know it," said Fleda, earnestly; "I have felt it very
often, and grieved that I could not say it, even at the very
moment when I knew it was wanting."

"Is that right, Elfie?"

"No," said Fleda, with quick watering eyes; "it is not right
at all; but it is constitutional with me. I never can talk to
other people of what concerns my own thoughts and feelings."

"But this concerns other people's thoughts and feelings."

"Yes; but there is an implied revelation of my own."

"Do you expect to include me in the denomination of 'other
people?' "

"I don't know," said Fleda, laughing.

"Do you wish it?"

Fleda looked down and up, and coloured, and said she didn't
know.

"I will teach you," said he, smiling.

The rest of the day, by both, was given to Hugh.


CHAPTER XXIV.


"O what is life but a sum of love,
And death but to lose it all?
Weeds be for those that are left behind,
And not for those that fall!"
MILNES.


"Here's something come, Fleda," said Barby, walking into the
sick-room one morning, a few days afterwards; "a great bag of
something — more than you can eat up in a fortnight; it's for
Hugh."

"It's extraordinary that anybody should send me a great bag of
anything eatable," said Hugh.

"Where did it come from?" said Fleda.

"Philetus fetched it — he found it down to Mr. Sampion's, when
he went with the sheep-skins."

"How do you know it's for me?" said Hugh.

" 'Cause it's written on, as plain as a pikestaff. I guess
it's a mistake, though."

"Why?" said Fleda; "and what is it?"

"Oh, I don't much think 'twas meant for him," said Barby.
"It's oysters."

"Oysters!"

"Yes — come out and look at 'em — you never see such fine
fellows. I've heerd say," said Barby, abstractedly, as Fleda
followed her out, and she displayed to view some magnificent
Ostraceans — "I've heerd say that an English shilling was
worth two American ones; but I never understood it rightly,
till now."

To all intents and purposes those were English oysters, and
worth twice as much as any others, Fleda secretly confessed.

That evening, up in the sick room — it was quite evening, and
all the others of the family were taking rest, or keeping Mr.
Rossitur company down stairs — Fleda was carefully roasting
some of the same oysters for Hugh's supper. She had spread out
a glowing bed of coals on the hearth, and there lay four or
five of the big bivalves, snapping and sputtering in
approbation of their quarters, in a most comfortable manner;
and Fleda, standing before the fire, tended them with a double
kind of pleasure. From one friend, and for another, those were
most odorous oysters. Hugh sat watching them and her, the same
in happy simplicity that he had been at eleven years old.

"How pleasant those oysters smell!" said he. "Fleda, they
remind me so of the time when you and I used to roast oysters
in Mrs. Renney's room for lunch — do you recollect? — and
sometimes in the evening, when everybody was gone out, you
know; and what an airing we used to have to give the dining-
room afterwards. How we used to enjoy them, Fleda —you and I,
all alone."

"Yes," said Fleda, in a tone of doubtful enjoyment. She was
shielding her face with a paper, and making self-sacrificing
efforts to persuade a large oyster-shell to stand so on the
coals as to keep the juice.

"Don't," said Hugh; "I would rather the oysters should burn
than you. Mr. Carleton wouldn't thank me for letting you do
so."

"Never mind," said Fleda, arranging the oysters to her
satisfaction; "he isn't here to see. Now, Hugh, my dear, these
are ready as soon as I am."

"I am ready," said Hugh. "How long it is since we had a roast
oyster, Fleda!"

"They look good, don't they?"

A little stand was brought up between them, with the bread-
and-butter and the cups; and Fleda opened oysters and prepared
tea for Hugh, with her nicest, gentlest, busiest of hands
making every bit to be twice as sweet, for her sympathizing
eyes and loving smile and pleasant word commenting. She shared
the meal with him, but her own part was as slender as his, and
much less thought of. His enjoyment was what she enjoyed,
though it was with a sad twinge of alloy, which changed her
face whenever it was where he could not see it: when turned
upon him, it was only bright and affectionate, and sometimes a
little too tender; but Fleda was too good a nurse to let that
often appear.

"Mr. Carleton did not bargain for your opening his oysters,
Fleda. How kind it was of him to send them!"

"Yes."

"How long will he be gone, Fleda?"

"I don't know — he didn't say. I don't believe many days."

Hugh was silent a little, while she was putting away the stand
and the oyster-shells. Then she came and sat down by him.

"You have burnt yourself over those things," said he,
sorrowfully; "you shouldn't have done it. It is not right."

"Dear Hugh," said Fleda, lightly laying her head on his
shoulder. "I like to burn myself for you."

"That's just the way you have been doing all your life."

"Hush!" she said, softly.

"It is true — for me and for everybody else. It is time you
were taken better care of, dear Fleda."

"Don't, dear Hugh!"

"I am right, though," said he. "You are pale and worn now with
waiting upon me, and thinking of me. It is time you were gone.
But I think it is well I am going too, for what should I do in
the world without you, Fleda?"

Fleda was crying now, intensely, though quietly; but Hugh went
on with feeling, as calm as it was deep.

"What should I have done all these years — or any of us? How
you have tired yourself for everybody — in the garden and in
the kitchen, and with Earl Douglass — how we could let you, I
don't know, but I believe we could not help it."

Fleda put her hand upon his mouth. But he took it away and
went on —

"How often I have seen you sleeping all the evening on the
sofa with a pale face, tired out, dear Fleda," said he,
kissing her cheek; "I am glad there's to be an end put to it.
And all the day you went about with such a bright face, that
it made mother and me happy to look at you; and I knew then,
many a time, it was for our sakes —"

"Why do you cry so, Fleda? I like to think of it, and to talk
of it, now that I know you won't do so any more. I know the
whole truth, and it went to the bottom of my heart; but I
could do nothing but love you — I did that! — Don't cry so,
Fleda! — you ought not. You have been the sunshine of the
house. My spirit never was so strong as yours; I should have
been borne to the ground, I know, in all these years, if it
had not been for you; and mother — you have been her life."

"You have been tired too," Fleda whispered.

"Yes, at the saw-mill. And then you would come up there
through the sun to look at me, and your smile would make me
forget everything sorrowful for the rest of the day — except
that I couldn't help you."

"Oh, you did — you did — you helped me always, Hugh!"

"Not much. I couldn't help you when you were sewing for me and
father till your fingers and eyes were aching, and you never
would own that you were anything but 'a little' tired — it
made my heart ache. Oh, I knew it all, dear Fleda. I am very,
very glad that you will have somebody to take care of you now,
that will not let you burn four fingers for him or anybody
else. It makes me happy!"

"You make me very unhappy, dear Hugh."

"I don't mean it," said Hugh, tenderly. "But I don't believe
there is anybody else in the world that I could be so
satisfied to leave you with."

Fleda made no answer to that. She sat up and tried to recover
herself.

"I hope he will come back in time," said Hugh, settling
himself back in the easy-chair with a weary look, and closing
his eyes.

"In time for what!"

"To see me again."

"My dear Hugh! — he will, to be sure, I hope."

"He must make haste," said Hugh. "But I want to see him again
very much, Fleda."

"For anything in particular?"

"No — only because I love him. I want to see him once more."

Hugh slumbered; and Fleda, by his side, wept tears of mixed
feeling till she was tired.

Hugh was right. But nobody else knew it, and his brother was
not sent for.

It was about a week after this, when one night a horse and
waggon came up to the back of the house from the road, the
gentleman who had been driving leading the horse. It was late,
long past Mr. Skillcorn's usual hour of retiring, but some
errand of business had kept him abroad, and he stood there
looking on. The stars gave light enough.

"Can you fasten my horse where he may stand a little while,
Sir, without taking him out?"

"I guess I can," replied Philetus, with reasonable confidence,
"if there's a rope's end some place."

And forthwith he went back into the house to seek it; the
gentleman patiently holding his horse meanwhile till he came
out.

"How is Mr. Hugh to-night?"

"Well — he aint just so smart, they say," responded Philetus,
insinuating the rope's end as awkwardly as possible among the
horse's head-gear. "I believe he's dying."

Instead of going round now to the front of the house, Mr.
Carleton knocked gently at the kitchen door, and asked the
question anew of Barby.

"He's — come in, Sir, if you please," she said, opening wide
the door for him to enter. "I'll tell 'em you're here."

"Do not disturb any one for me," said he.

"I won't disturb 'em!" said Barby, in a tone a little, though
unconsciously, significant.

Mr. Carleton neglected the chair she had placed for him, and
remained standing by the mantel-piece, thinking of the scenes
of his early introduction to that kitchen. It wore the same
look it had done then; under Barby's rule it was precisely the
same thing it had been under Cynthia's. The passing years
seemed a dream, and the passing generations of men a vanity,
before the old house, more abiding than they. He stood
thinking of the people he had seen gathered by that fire-
place, and the little household fairy whose childish
ministrations had give such a beauty to the scene — when a
very light step crossed the painted floor, and she was there
again before him. She did not speak a word; she stood still a
moment trying for words, and then put her hand upon Mr.
Carleton's arm, and gently drew him out of the room with her.

The family were all gathered in the room to which she brought
him. Mr. Rossitur, as soon as he saw Mr. Carleton come in,
shrunk back where he could be a little shielded by the bed-
post. Marion's face was hid on the foot of the bed. Mrs.
Rossitur did not move. Leaving Mr. Carleton on the near side
of the bed, Fleda went round to the place she seemed to have
occupied before at Hugh's right hand; and they were all still,
for he was in a little doze, lying with his eyes closed, and
the face as gently and placidly sweet as it had been in his
boyhood. Perhaps Mr. Rossitur looked at it: but no other did
just then, except Mr. Carleton. His eye rested nowhere else.
The breathing of an infant could not be more gentle; the face
of an angel not more peacefully at rest. "So He giveth His
beloved sleep," thought he gentleman, as he gazed on the brow
from which all care, if care there had ever been, seemed to
have taken flight.

Not yet — not quite yet; for Hugh suddenly opened his eyes,
and without seeing anybody else, said —

"Father."

Mr. Rossitur left the bed-post, and came close to where Fleda
was standing, and leaning forward, touched his son's head, but
did not speak.

"Father," said Hugh, in a voice so gentle that it seemed as if
strength must be failing, "what will you do when you come to
lie here?"

Mr. Rossitur put his hands to his face.

"Father — I must speak now if I never did before — once I must
speak to you — what will you do when you come to lie where I
do? — what will you trust to?"

The person addressed was as motionless as a statue. Hugh did
not move his eyes from him.

"Father, I will be a living warning and example to you, for
know that I shall live in your memory — you shall remember
what I say to you — that Jesus Christ is a dear friend to
those that trust in him, and if he is not yours it will be
because you will not let him. You shall remember my testimony,
that he can make death sweeter than life — in his presence is
fulness of joy — at his right hand there are pleasures for
evermore. He is better, he is more to me, even than you all,
and he will be to you a better friend than the poor child you
are losing, though you do not know it now. It is he that has
made my life in this world happy — only he — and I have
nothing to look to but him in the world I am going to. But
what will you do in the hour of death, as I am, if he isn't
your friend, father?"

Mr. Rossitur's frame swayed like a tree that one sees shaken
by a distant wind, but he said nothing.

"Will you remember me happily, father, if you come to die
without having done as I begged you? Will you think of me in
heaven, and not try to come there too? Father, will you be a
Christian? — will you not? — for my sake — for _little Hugh's_
sake, as you used to call him? — Father."

Mr. Rossitur knelt down and hid his face in the coverings, but
he did not utter a word.

Hugh's eye dwelt on him for a moment with unspeakable
expression, and his lip trembled. He said no more — he closed
his eyes, and, for a little time, there was nothing to be
heard but the sobs, which could not be restrained, from all
but the two gentlemen. It probably oppressed Hugh, for, after
a while, he said, with a weary sigh, and without opening his
eyes —

"I wish somebody would sing."

Nobody answered at first.

"Sing what, dear Hugh?" said Fleda, putting aside her tears,
and leaning her face towards him.

"Something that speaks of my want," said Hugh.

"What do you want, dear Hugh?"

"Only Jesus Christ," he said, with a half smile.

But they were silent as death. Fleda's face was in her hands,
and her utmost efforts after self-control wrought nothing but
tears. The stillness had lasted a little while, when, very
softly and sweetly, the notes of a hymn floated to their ears,
and though they floated on and filled the room, the voice was
so nicely modulated, that its waves of sweetness broke gently
upon the nearest ear.


"Jesus, the sinner's friend, to Thee,
Lost and undone, for aid I flee;
Weary of earth, myself, and sin,
Open thine arms and take me in.


"Pity and save my sin-sick soul —
'Tis thou alone canst make me whole;
Dark, till in me thine image shine,
And lost I am, till thou art mine.


"At length I own it cannot be,
That I should fit myself for thee,
Here now to thee I all resign —
Thine is the work, and only thine.


"What shall I say thy grace to move?
Lord, I am sin, but thou art love!
I give up every plea beside —
Lord, I am lost — but thou hast died!"


They were still again after the voice had ceased — almost
perfectly still — though tears might be pouring, as indeed
they were, from every eye, there was no break to the silence,
other than a half-caught sob, now and then, from a kneeling
figure, whose head was in Marion's lap.

"Who was that?" said Hugh, when the singer had been silent a
minute.

Nobody answered immediately, and then Mr. Carleton, bending
over him, said —

"Don't you know me, dear Hugh?"

"Is it Mr. Carleton?"

Hugh looked pleased, and clasped both of his hands upon Guy's,
which he laid upon his breast. For a second he closed his eyes
and was silent.

"Was it you sang?"

"Yes."

"You never sang for me before," he remarked.

He was silent again.

"Are you going to take Fleda away?"

"By and by," said Mr. Carleton, gently.

"Will you take good care of her?"

Mr. Carleton hesitated, and then said, so low that it could
reach but one other person's ear —

"What hand and life can."

"I know it," said Hugh. "I am very glad you will have her. You
will not let her tire herself any more."

Whatever became of Fleda's tears, she had driven them away,
and leaning forward, she touched her cheek to his, saying,
with a clearness and sweetness of voice that only intensity of
feeling could have given her at the moment —

"I am not tired, dear Hugh."

Hugh clasped one arm round her neck and kissed her — again and
again, seeming unable to say anything to her in any other way;
still keeping his hold of Mr. Carleton's hand.

"I give all my part of her to you," he said, at length. "Mr.
Carleton, I shall see both of you in heaven?"

"I hope so," was the answer, in those very calm and clear
tones that have a singular effect in quieting emotion, while
they indicate anything but the want of it.

"I am the best off of you all," Hugh said.

He lay still for awhile with shut eyes. Fleda had withdrawn
herself from his arms and stood at his side, with a bowed
head, but perfectly quiet. He still held Mr. Carleton's hand,
as something he did not want to part with.

"Fleda," said he, "who is that crying? — Mother — come here."

Mr. Carleton gave place to her. Hugh pulled her down to him
till her face lay upon his, and folded both his arms around
her.

"Mother," he said, softly, "will you meet me in heaven? — say
yes."

"How can I, dear Hugh?"

"You can, dear mother," said he, kissing her with exceeding
tenderness of expression — "my Saviour will be yours and take
you there. Say you will give yourself to Christ — dear mother!
— sweet mother! — promise me I shall see you again!"

Mrs. Rossitur's weeping it was difficult to hear. But Hugh,
hardly shedding a tear, still kissed her, repeating, "Promise
me, dear mother — promise me that you will;" — till Mrs.
Rossitur, in an agony, sobbed out the word he wanted, and Hugh
hid his face then in her neck.

Mr. Carleton left the room and went down stairs. He found the
sitting-room desolate, untenanted and cold for hours; and he
went again into the kitchen. Barby was there for some time,
and then she left him alone.

He had passed a long while in thinking, and walking up and
down, and he was standing musing by the fire, when Fleda again
came in. She came in silently to his side, and putting her arm
within his, laid her face upon it with a simplicity of trust
and reliance that went to his heart; and she wept there for a
long hour They hardly changed their position in all that time;
and her tears flowed silently, though incessantly, the only
tokens of his part being such a gentle caressing, smoothing of
her hair, or putting it from her brow as he had used when she
was a child. The bearing of her hand and head upon his arm, in
time showed her increasingly weary. Nothing showed him so.

"Elfie — my dear Elfie," he said at last, very tenderly, in
the same way that he would have spoken nine years before —
"Hugh gave his part of you to me — I must take care of it."

Fleda tried to rouse herself immediately.

"This is poor entertainment for you, Mr. Carleton," she said,
raising her head, and wiping away the tears from her face.

"You are mistaken," he said, gently. "You never gave me such
pleasure but twice before, Elfie?"

Fleda's head went down again instantly, and this time there
was something almost caressing in the motion.

"Next to the happiness of having friends on earth," he said
soothingly, "is the happiness of having friends in heaven.
Don't weep any more to-night, my dear Elfie."

"He told me to thank you," said Fleda. But stopping short and
clasping with convulsive energy the arm she held, she shed
more violent tears than she had done that night before. The
most gentle soothing, the most tender reproof, availed at last
to quiet her; and she stood clinging to his arm still, and
looking down into the fire.

"I did not think it would be so soon," she said.

"It was not soon to him, Elfie."

"He told me to thank you for singing. How little while it
seems since we were children together — how little while since
before that — when I was a little child here — how different!"

"No, the very same," said he, touching his lips to her
forehead — "you are the very same child you were then; but it
is time you were my child, for I see you would make yourself
ill. No," said he, softly, taking the hand Fleda raised to her
face — "no more to-night — tell me how early I may see you in
the morning — for, Elfie, I must leave you after breakfast."

Fleda looked up inquiringly.

"My mother has brought news that determines me to return to
England immediately."

"To England!"

"I have been too long from home — I am wanted there."

Fleda looked down again, and did her best not to show what she
felt.

"I do not know how to leave you — and now — but I must. There
are disturbances among the people, and my own are infected. I
_must_ be there without delay."

"Political disturbances?" said Fleda.

"Somewhat of that nature — but partly local. How early may I
come to you?"

"But you are not going away to-night? It is very late."

"That is nothing — my horse is here."

Fleda would have begged in vain, if Barby had not come in and
added her word, to the effect that it would be a mess of work
to look for lodgings at that time of night, and that she had
made the west room ready for Mr. Carleton. She rejected with
great sincerity any claim to the thanks with which Fleda as
well as Mr. Carleton repaid her; "there wa'n't no trouble
about it," she said. Mr. Carleton, however, found his room
prepared for him with all the care that Barby's utmost ideas
of refinement and exactness could suggest.

It was still very early the next morning when he left it and
came into the sitting-room, but he was not the first there.
The firelight glimmered on the silver and china of the
breakfast table, all set; everything was in absolute order,
from the fire to the two cups and saucers which were alone on
the board. A still silent figure was standing by one of the
windows looking out. Not crying; but that Mr. Carleton knew
from the unmistakeable lines of the face was only because
tears were waiting another time; quiet now, it would not be by
and by. He came and stood at the window with her.

"Do you know," he said, after a little, "that Mr. Rossitur
purposes to leave Queechy?"

"Does he?" said Fleda, rather starting, but she added not
another word, simply because she felt she could not safely.

"He has accepted, I believe, a consulship at Jamaica."

"Jamaica!" said Fleda. "I have heard him speak of the West
Indies — I am not surprised — I knew it was likely he would
not stay here."

How tightly her fingers that were free grasped the edge of the
window-frame. Mr. Carleton saw it and softly removed them into
his own keeping.

"He may go before I can be here again. But I shall leave my
mother to take care of you, Elfie."

"Thank you," said Fleda, faintly. "You are very kind —"

"Kind to myself," he said, smiling. "I am only taking care of
my own. I need not say that you will see me again as early as
my duty can make it possible; — but I may be detained, and
your friends may be gone — Elfie — give me the right to send
if I cannot come for you. Let me leave my wife in my mother's
care."

Fleda looked down, and coloured, and hesitated; but the
expression in her face was not that of doubt.

"Am I asking too much?" he said, gently.

"No, Sir," said Fleda — "and — but —"

"What is in the way?"

But it seemed impossible for Fleda to tell him.

"May I not know?" he said, gently putting away the hair from
Fleda's face, which looked distressed. "Is it only your
feeling?"

"No, Sir," said Fleda — "at least — not the feeling you think
it is — but — I could not do it without giving great pain."

Mr. Carleton was silent.

"Not to anybody you know, Mr. Carleton," said Fleda, suddenly
fearing a wrong interpretation to her words — "I don't mean
that — I mean somebody else — the person — the only person you
could apply to" — she said, covering her face in utter
confusion.

"Do I understand you?" said he, smiling. "Has this gentleman
any reason to dislike the sight of me?"

"No, Sir," said Fleda — "but he thinks he has."

"That only I meant," said he. "You are quite right, my dear
Elfie — I, of all men, ought to understand that."

The subject was dropped; and in a few minutes his gentle skill
had wellnigh made Fleda forget what they had been talking
about. Himself and his wishes seemed to be put quite out of
his own view, and out of hers as far as possible, except that
the very fact made Fleda recognise, with unspeakable gratitude
and admiration, the kindness and grace that were always
exerted for her pleasure. If her goodwill could have been put
into the cups of coffee she poured out for him, he might have
gone, in the strength of them, all the way to England. There
was strength of another kind to be gained from her face of
quiet sorrow and quiet self-command, which were her very
childhood's own.

"You will see me at the earliest possible moment," he said,
when at last taking leave. "I hope to be free in a short time:
but it may not be. Elfie, if I should be detained longer than
I hope — if I should not be able to return in a reasonable
time — will you let my mother bring you out? — if I cannot
come to you, will you come to me?"

Fleda coloured a good deal, and said, scarce intelligibly,
that she hoped he would be able to come. He did not press the
matter. He parted from her, and was leaving the room. Fleda
suddenly sprang after him, before he had reached the door, and
laid her hand on his arm.

"I did not answer your question, Mr. Carleton," she said, with
cheeks that were dyed now — "I will do whatever you please —
whatever you think best."

His thanks were most gratefully, though silently, spoken, and
he went away.


CHAPTER XXV.


"Daughter, they seem to say,
Peace to thy heart!
We too, yes, daughter,
Have been as thou art.
Hope-lifted, doubt-depress'd,
Seeing in part —
Tried, troubled, tempted —
Sustain'd — as thou art."
UNKNOWN.


Mr. Rossitur was disposed for no further delay now in leaving
Queechy. The office at Jamaica, which Mr. Carleton and Dr.
Gregory had secured for him, was immediately accepted, and
every arrangement pressed to hasten his going. On every
account, he was impatient to be out of America, and especially
since his son's death. Marion was of his mind. Mrs. Rossitur
had more of a home feeling, even for the place where home had
not been to her as happy as it might.

They were sad weeks of bustle and weariness that followed
Hugh's death — less sad, perhaps, for the weariness and the
bustle. There was little time for musing — no time for
lingering regrets. If thought and feeling played their Aeolian
measures on Fleda's harpstrings, they were listened to only by
snatches, and she rarely sat down and cried to them.

A very kind note had been received from Mrs. Carleton.

April gave place to May. One afternoon, Fleda had taken an
hour or two to go and look at some of the old places on the
farm that she loved, and that were not too far to reach. A
last look she guessed it might be, for it was weeks since she
had had a spare afternoon, and another she might not be able
to find. It was a doubtful pleasure she sought too, but she
must have it.

She visited the long meadow and the height that stretched
along it, and even went so far as the extremity of the valley,
at the foot of the twenty-acre lot, and then stood still to
gather up the ends of memory. There she had gone chestnutting
with Mr. Ringgan — thither she had guided Mr. Carleton and her
cousin Rossitur that day when they were going after woodcock —
there she had directed and overseen Earl Douglass's huge crop
of corn. How many pieces of her life were connected with it!
She stood for a little while looking at the old chestnut
trees, looking and thinking, and turned away soberly with the
recollection, "The world passeth away, but the word of our God
shall stand for ever." And though there was one thought that
was a continual well of happiness in the depth of Fleda's
heart, her mind passed it now, and echoed with great joy the
countersign of Abraham's privilege, — "Thou art my portion, O
Lord!" — And in that assurance every past and every hoped-for
good was sweet with added sweetness. She walked home without
thinking much of the long meadow.

It was a chill spring afternoon, and Fleda was in her old trim
— the black cloak, the white shawl over it, and the hood of
grey silk. And in that trim she walked into the sitting-room.

A lady was there, in a travelling dress, a stranger. Fleda's
eye took in her outline and feature one moment with a kind of
bewilderment, the next with perfect intelligence. If the lady
had been in any doubt, Fleda's cheeks alone would have
announced her identity. But she came forward without
hesitation after the first moment, pulling off her hood, and
stood before her visitor, blushing, in a way that perhaps Mrs.
Carleton looked at as a novelty in her world. Fleda did not
know how she looked at it, but she had, nevertheless, an
instinctive feeling, even at the moment, that the lady
wondered how her son should have fancied particularly anything
that went about under such a hood.

Whatever Mrs. Carleton thought, her son's fancies, she knew,
were unmanageable; and she had far too much good breeding to
let her thoughts be known — unless to one of those curious
spirit thermometers that can tell a variation of temperature
through every sort of medium. There might have been the
slightest want of forwardness to do it, but she embraced Fleda
with great cordiality.

"This is for the old time — not for the new, dear Fleda," she
said. "Do you remember me?"

"Perfectly! — very well," said Fleda, giving Mrs. Carleton for
a moment a glimpse of her eyes. — "I do not easily forget."

"Your look promises me an advantage from that, which I do not
deserve, but which I may as well use as another. I want all I
can have, Fleda."

There was a half look at the speaker that seemed to deny the
truth of that, but Fleda did not otherwise answer. She begged
her visitor to sit down, and throwing off the white shawl and
black cloak, took tongs in hand, and began to mend the fire.
Mrs. Carleton sat considering a moment the figure of the fire-
maker, not much regardful of the skill she was bringing to
bear upon the sticks of wood.

Fleda turned from the fire to remove her visitor's bonnet and
wrappings, but the former was all Mrs. Carleton would give
her. She threw off shawl and tippet on the nearest chair.

It was the same Mrs. Carleton of old — Fleda saw while this
was doing — unaltered almost entirely. The fine figure and
bearing were the same; time had made no difference; even the
face had paid little tribute to the years that had passed by
it; and the hair held its own without a change. Bodily and
mentally she was the same. Apparently she was thinking the
like of Fleda.

"I remember you very well," she said, with kindly accent, when
Fleda sat down by her. "I have never forgotten you. A dear
little creature you were. I always knew that."

Fleda hoped privately the lady would see no occasion to change
her mind; but for the present she was bankrupt in words.

"I was in the same room this morning at Montepoole where we
used to dine, and it brought back the whole thing to me — the
time when you were sick there with us. I could think of
nothing else. But I don't think I was your favourite, Fleda."

Such a rush of blood again answered her as moved Mrs.
Carleton, in common kindness, to speak of common things. She
entered into a long story of her journey — of her passage from
England — of the steamer that brought her — of her stay in New
York — all which Fleda heard very indifferently well. She was
more distinctly conscious of the handsome travelling dress,
which seemed all the while to look as its wearer had done,
with some want of affinity upon the little grey hood which lay
on the chair in the corner. Still she listened and responded
as became her, though, for the most part, with eyes that did
not venture from home. The little hood itself could never have
kept its place with less presumption, nor with less flutter of
self-distrust.

Mrs. Carleton came at last to a general account of the
circumstances that had determined Guy to return home so
suddenly, where she was more interesting. She hoped he would
not be detained, but it was impossible to tell. It was just as
it might happen.

"Are you acquainted with the commission I have been charged
with?" she said, when her narrations had at last lapsed into
silence, and Fleda's eyes had returned to the ground.

"I suppose so, Ma'am, " said Fleda, with a little smile.

"It is a very pleasant charge" said Mrs. Carleton, softly
kissing her cheek. Something in the face itself must have
called forth that kiss, for this time there were no
requisitions of politeness.

"Do you recognise my commission, Fleda?"

Fleda did not answer. Mrs. Carleton sat a few minutes
thoughtfully drawing back the curls from her forehead, Mr.
Carleton's very gesture, but not by any means with his
fingers; and musing, perhaps, on the possibility of a hood's
having very little to do with what it covered.

"Do you know," she said, "I have felt as if I were nearer to
Guy since I have seen you."

The quick smile and colour that answered this, both very
bright, wrought in Mrs. Carleton an instant recollection that
her son was very apt to be right in his judgments, and that
probably the present case might prove him so. The hand which
had played with Fleda's hair was put round her waist, very
affectionately, and Mrs. Carleton drew near her.

"I am sure we shall love each other, Fleda," she said.

It was said like Fleda, not like Mrs. Carleton, and answered
as simply. Fleda had gained her place. Her head was in Mrs.
Carleton's neck, and welcomed there.

"At least I am sure I shall love you," said the lady, kissing
her; "and I don't despair on my own account for somebody
else's sake."

"No," said Fleda, but she was not fluent to-day. She sat up
and repeated, "I have not forgotten old times either, Mrs.
Carleton."

"I don't want to think of the old time — I want to think of
the new," — she seemed to have a great fancy for stroking back
those curls of hair; "I want to tell you how happy I am, dear
Fleda."

Fleda did not say whether she was happy or unhappy, and her
look might have been taken for dubious. She kept her eyes on
the ground, while Mrs. Carleton drew the hair off from her
flushing cheeks, and considered the face laid bare to her
view; and thought it was a fair face — a very presentable face
— delicate and lovely — a face that she would have no reason
to be ashamed of, even by her son's side. Her speech was not
precisely to that effect.

"You know now why I have come upon you at such a time. I need
not ask pardon. I felt that I should be hardly discharging my
commission if I did not see you till you arrived in New York.
My wishes I could have made to wait, but not my trust. So I
came."

"I am very glad you did."

She could fain have persuaded the lady to disregard
circumstances, and stay with her, at least till the next day,
but Mrs. Carleton was unpersuadable. She would return
immediately to Montepoole.

"And how long shall you be here now?" she said.

"A few days — it will not be more than a week."

"Do you know how soon Mr. Rossitur intends to sail for
Jamaica?"

"As soon as possible — he will make his stay in New York very
short — not more than a fortnight, perhaps; — as short as he
can."

"And then, my dear Fleda, I am to have the charge of you — for
a little while — am I not?"

Fleda hesitated, and began to say, "Thank you," but it was
finished with a burst of very hearty tears.

Mrs. Carleton knew immediately the tender spot she had
touched. She put her arms about Fleda, and caressed her as
gently as her own mother might have done.

"Forgive me, dear Fleda! — I forgot that so much that is sad
to you must come before what is so much pleasure to me. Look
up and tell me that you forgive me."

Fleda soon looked up, but she looked very sorrowful, and said
nothing. Mrs. Carleton watched her face for a little while,
really pained.

"Have you heard from Guy since he went away?" she whispered.

"No, Ma'am."

"I have."

And therewith she put into Fleda's hand a letter — not Mrs.
Carleton's letter, as Fleda's first thought was. It had her
own name and the seal was unbroken. But it moved Mrs.
Carleton's wonder to see Fleda cry again, and longer than
before. She did not understand it. She tried soothing, but she
ventured no attempt at consoling, for she did not know what
was the matter.

"You will let me go now, I know," she said, smilingly, when
Fleda was again recovered, and standing before the fire with a
face not so sorrowful, Mrs. Carleton saw. "But I must say
something — I shall not hurt you again."

"O no, you did not hurt me at all — it was not what you said."

"You will come to me, dear Fleda? I feel that I want you very
much."

"Thank you — but there is my uncle Orrin, Mrs. Carleton — Dr.
Gregory."

"Dr. Gregory? He is just on the eve of sailing for Europe; I
thought you knew it."

"On the eve? so soon?"

"Very soon, he told me. Dear Fleda, shall I remind you of my
commission, and who gave it to me?"

Fleda hesitated still; at least, she stood looking into the
fire, and did not answer.

"You do not own his authority yet," Mrs. Carleton went on;
"but I am sure his wishes do not weigh for nothing with you,
and I can plead them."

Probably it was a source of some gratification to Mrs.
Carleton to see those deep spots on Fleda's cheeks. They were
a silent tribute to an invisible presence that flattered the
lady's affection — or her pride.

"What do you say, dear Fleda — to him and to me?" she said,
smiling and kissing her.

"I will come, Mrs. Carleton."

The lady was quite satisfied, and departed on the instant,
having got, she said, all she wanted; and Fleda — cried till
her eyes were sore.

The days were few that remained to them in their old home; not
more than a week, as Fleda had said. It was the first week in
May.

The evening before they were to leave Queechy, Fleda and Mrs.
Rossitur went together to pay their farewell visit to Hugh's
grave. It was some distance off. They walked there arm in arm
without a word by the way.

The little country grave-yard lay alone on a hill-side, a good
way from any house, and out of sight even of any but a very
distant one. A sober and quiet place, no tokens of busy life
immediately near, the fields around it being used for
pasturing sheep, except an instance or two of winter grain now
nearing its maturity. A by-road not much travelled led to the
grave-yard, and led off from it over the broken country,
following the ups and down of the ground to a long distance
away, without a moving thing upon it in sight near or far. No
sound of stirring and active humanity. Nothing to touch the
perfect repose. But every lesson of the place could be heard
more distinctly amid that silence of all other voices. Except,
indeed, Nature's voice; that was not silent: and neither did
it jar with the other. The very light of the evening fell more
tenderly upon the old grey stones and the thick grass in that
place.

Fleda and Mrs. Rossitur went softly to one spot where the
grass was not grown, and where the bright white marble caught
the eye and spoke of grief, fresh too. O that that were grey
and moss-grown like the others! The mother placed herself
where the staring black letters of Hugh's name could not
remind her so harshly that it no more belonged to the living;
and, sitting down on the ground, hid her face, to struggle
through the parting agony once more, with added bitterness.

Fleda stood a while sharing it, for with her too it was the
last time in all likelihood. If she had been alone, her grief
might have witnessed itself bitterly and uncontrolled: but the
selfish relief was foregone, for the sake of another, that it
might be in her power by and by to minister to a heart yet
sorer and weaker than hers. The tears that fell so quietly and
so fast upon the foot of Hugh's grave were all the deeper
drawn and richer fraught.

A while she stood there; and then passed round to a group a
little way off, that had as dear and strong claims upon her
love and memory. These were not fresh, not very; oblivion had
not come there yet — only Time's softening hand. Was it
softening? — for Fleda's head was bent down further here, and
tears rained faster. It was hard to leave these! The cherished
names that from early years had lived in her child's heart —
from this their last earthly abiding-place she was to part
company. Her mother's and her father's graves were there, side
by side; and never had Fleda's heart so clung to the old grey
stones, never had the faded lettering seemed so dear — of the
dear names and of the words of faith and hope that were their
dying or living testimony. And next to them was her
grandfather's resting-place; and with that sunshiny green
mound came a throng of strangely tender and sweet
associations, more even than with the other two. His gentle,
venerable, dignified figure rose before her, and her heart
yearned towards it. In imagination Fleda pressed again to her
breast the withered hand that had led her childhood so kindly;
and overcome here for a little, she kneeled down upon the sod,
and bent her head till the long grass almost touched it, in an
agony of human sorrow. Could she leave them? — and for ever in
this world? and be content to see on more these dear memorials
till others like them should be raised for herself, far away?
But then stole in consolations not human, nor of man's
devising — the words that were written upon her mother's
tombstone —


"_Them that sleep in Jesus will God bring with him_."


— It was like the march of angels' feet over the turf. And her
mother had been a meek child of faith, and her father and
grandfather, though strong men, had bowed like little children
to the same rule. Fleda's head bent lower yet, and she wept,
even aloud, but it was one-half in pure thankfulness and a joy
that the world knows nothing of. Doubtless they and she were
one; doubtless, though the grass now covered their graves, the
heavenly bond in which they were held would bring them
together again in light, to a new and more beautiful life that
should know no severing. Asleep in Jesus; and even as he had
risen so should they — they and others that she loved — all
whom she loved best. She could leave their graves; and with an
unspeakable look of thanks to Him who had brought life and
immortality to light, she did; but not till she had there once
again remembered her mother's prayer, and her aunt Miriam's
words, and prayed that rather anything might happen to her
than that prosperity and the world's favour should draw her
from the simplicity and humility of a life above the world.
Rather than not meet them in joy at the last, oh, let her want
what she most wished for in this world!

If riches have their poisonous snares, Fleda carried away from
this place a strong antidote. With a spirit strangely simple,
pure, and calm, she went back to her aunt.

Poor Mrs. Rossitur was not quieted, but at Fleda's touch and
voice, gentle and loving as the spirit of love and gentleness
could make them, she tried to rouse herself; lifted up her
weary head, and clasped her arms about her niece. The manner
of it went to Fleda's heart, for there was in it both a
looking to her for support and a clinging to her as another
dear thing she was about to lose. Fleda could not speak for
the heart-ache.

"It is harder to leave this place than all the rest," Mrs.
Rossitur murmured, after some little time had passed on.

"He is not here," said Fleda's soothing voice. It set her aunt
to crying again.

"No — I know it," she said.

"We shall see him again. Think of that."

"_You_ will," said Mrs. Rossitur, very sadly.

"And so will you, dear aunt Lucy — _dear_ aunt Lucy — you
promised him?"

"Yes" — sobbed Mrs. Rossitur — "I promised him — but I am such
a poor creature."

"So poor that Jesus cannot save you? — or will not? No, dear
aunt Lucy — you do not think that; — only trust him — you do
trust him now, do you not?"

A fresh gush of tears came with the answer, but it was in the
affirmative; and, after a few minutes, Mrs. Rossitur grew more
quiet.

"I wish something were done to this," she said, looking at the
fresh earth beside her; "if we could have planted something —"

"I have thought of it a thousand times," said Fleda, sighing;
— "I would have done it long ago if I could have got here; —
but it doesn't matter, aunt Lucy. — I wish I could have done
it."

"You?" said Mrs. Rossitur; — "my poor child! you have been
wearing yourself out working for me. I never was worth
anything!" she said, hiding her face again.

"When you have been the dearest and best mother to me? Now
that is not right, aunt Lucy — look up and kiss me."

The pleading sweet tone of voice was not to be resisted. Mrs.
Rossitur looked up and kissed her earnestly enough, but with
unabated self-reproach.

"I don't deserve to kiss you, for I have let you try yourself
beyond your strength. How you look! Oh, how you look!"

"Never mind how I look," said Fleda, bringing her face so
close that her aunt could not see it. "You helped me all you
could, aunt Lucy — don't talk so — and I shall look well
enough by and by, I am not so very tired."

"You always were so!" exclaimed Mrs. Rossitur, clasping her in
her arms again: "and now I am going to lose you, too. My dear
Fleda! that gives me more pleasure than anything else in the
world!"

But it was a pleasure well cried over.

"We shall all meet again, I hope — I will hope," said Mrs.
Rossitur, meekly, when Fleda had risen from her arms.

"Dear aunty! but before that — in England — you will come to
see me. Uncle Rolf will bring you."

Even then, Fleda could not say even that without the blood
mounting to her face. Mrs. Rossitur shook her head, and
sighed; but smiled a little, too, as if that delightful chink
of possibility let some light in.

"I shouldn't like to see Mr. Carleton now," she said, "for I
could not look him in the face; and I am afraid he wouldn't
want to look in mine, he would be so angry with me."

The sun was sinking low on that fair May afternoon, and they
had two miles to walk to get home. Slowly and lingeringly they
moved away.

The talk with her aunt had shaken Fleda's calmness, and she
could have cried now with all her heart; but she constrained
herself. They stopped a moment at the fence, to look the last
before turning their backs upon the place. They lingered, and
still Mrs. Rossitur did not move, and Fleda could not take
away her eyes.

It was that prettiest time of nature, which, while it shows
indeed the shade side of everything, makes it the occasion of
a fair contrast. The grave-stones cast long shadows over the
ground, foretokens of night where another night was resting
already; the longest stretched away from the head of Hugh's
grave. But the rays of the setting sun, softly touching the
grass and the face of the white tombstone, seemed to say —
"Thy brother shall rise again!" Light upon the grave! The
promise kissing the record of death! — It was impossible to
look in calmness. Fleda bowed her head upon the paling, and
cried with a straitened heart, for grief and gratitude
together.

Mrs. Rossitur had not moved when Fleda looked up again. The
sun was yet lower — the sunbeams, more slant, touched not only
that bright white stone — they passed on beyond, and carried
the promise to those other grey ones, a little further off;
that she had left — yes, for the last time; and Fleda's
thoughts went forward swiftly to the time of the promise —
"_Then_ shall be brought to pass the saying which is written,
Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting?
O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and
the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which
giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ." And
then, as she looked, the sunbeams might have been a choir of
angels in light, singing, ever so softly, "Glory to God in the
highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men."

With a full heart Fleda clasped her aunt's arm, and they went
gently down the lane without saying one word to each other,
till they had left the grave-yard far behind them and were in
the high road again.

Fleda internally thanked Mr. Carleton for what he had said to
her on a former occasion, for the thought of his words had
given her courage, or strength, to go beyond her usual reserve
in speaking to her aunt; and she thought her words had done
good.


CHAPTER XXVI.


"Use your pleasure: if your love do not persuade you to come,
let not my letter."
MERCHANT OF VENICE.


On the way home, Mrs. Rossitur and Fleda went a trifle out of
their road to say good-bye to Mrs. Douglass's family. Fleda
had seen her aunt Miriam in the morning, and bid her a
conditional farewell; for, as after Mrs. Rossitur's sailing
she would be with Mrs. Carleton, she judged it little likely
that she should see Queechy again.

They had time for but a minute at Mrs. Douglass's. Mrs.
Rossitur had shaken hands, and was leaving the house when Mrs.
Douglass pulled Fleda back.

"Be you going to the West Indies, too, Fleda?"

"No, Mrs. Douglass."

"Then why don't you stay here?"

"I want to be with my aunt while I can," said Fleda.

"And then do you calculate to stop in New York?"

"For a while," said Fleda, colouring.

"Oh, go 'long!" said Mrs. Douglass; "I know all about it. Now,
do you s'pose you're agoing to be any happier among all those
great folks than you would be if you staid among little
folks?" she added, tartly; while Catherine looked with a kind
of incredulous admiration at the future lady of Carleton.

"I don't suppose that greatness has anything to do with
happiness, Mrs. Douglass," said Fleda, gently.

So gently, and so calmly sweet the face was that said it, that
Mrs. Douglass's mood was overcome.

"Well, you aint agoing to forget Queechy?" she said, shaking
Fleda's hand with a hearty grasp.

"Never — never!"

"I'll tell you what I think," said Mrs. Douglass, the tears in
her eyes answering those in Fleda's; "it 'll be a happy house
that gets you into it, wherever 't is! I only wish it wa'n't
out o' Queechy."

Fleda thought on the whole, as she walked home, that she did
not wish any such thing. Queechy seemed dismantled, and she
thought she would rather go to a new place now that she had
taken such a leave of everything here.

Two things remained, however, to be taken leave of — the house
and Barby. Happily Fleda had little time for the former. It
was a busy evening, and the morning would be more busy; she
contrived that all the family should go to rest before her,
meaning then to have one quiet look at the old rooms by
herself — a leave-taking that no other eyes should interfere
with. She sat down before the kitchen fire-place, but she had
hardly realized that she was alone when one of the many doors
opened, and Barby's tall figure walked in.

"Here you be," she half whispered. "I knowed there wouldn't be
a minute's peace to-morrow; so I thought I'd bid you good-bye
to-night."

Fleda gave her a smile and a hand, but did not speak. Barby
drew up a chair beside her, and they sat silent for some time,
while quiet tears from the eyes of each said a great many
things.

"Well, I hope you'll be as happy as you deserve to be," — were
Barby's first words, in a voice very altered from its
accustomed firm and spirited accent.

"Make some better wish for me than that, dear Barby."

"I wouldn't want any better for myself," said Barby,
determinately.

"I would for you," said Fleda.

She thought of Mr. Carleton's words again, and went on in
spite of herself.

"It is a mistake, Barby. The best of us do not deserve
anything good; and if we have the sight of a friend's face, or
the very sweet air we breathe, it is because Christ has bought
it for us. Don't let us forget that, and forget him."

"I do, always," said Barby, crying, "forget everything. Fleda,
I wish you'd pray for me when you are far away, for I aint as
good as you be."

"Dear Barby," said Fleda, touching her shoulder
affectionately, "I haven't waited to be far away to do that."

Barby sobbed for a few minutes, with the strength of a strong
nature that rarely gave way in that manner; and then dashed
her tears right and left, not at all as if she were ashamed of
them, but with a resolution not to be overcome.

"There won't be nothing good left in Queechy, when you're
gone, you and Mis' Plumfield — without I go and look at the
place where Hugh lies —"

"Dear Barby," said Fleda, with softening eyes, "won't you be
something good yourself?"

Barby put up her hand to shield her face. Fleda was silent,
for she saw that strong feeling was at work.

"I wish't I could," Barby broke forth at last, "if it was only
for your sake."

"Dear Barby," said Fleda, "you can do this for me — you can go
to church, and hear what Mr. Olmney says. I should go away
happier if I thought you would, and if I thought you would
follow what he says; for, dear Barby, there is a time coming
when you will wish you were a Christian more then you do now,
and not for my sake."

"I believe there is, Fleda."

"Then, will you? Won't you give me so much pleasure?"

"I'd do a'most anything to do you a pleasure."

"Then do it, Barby."

"Well, I'll go," said Barby. "But now just think of that,
Fleda — how you might have stayed in Queechy all your days,
and done what you liked with everybody. I'm glad you aint,
though; I guess you'll be better off."

Fleda was silent upon that.

"I'd like amazingly to see how you'll be fixed," said Barby,
after a trifle of ruminating. "If 't wa'n't for my old mother,
I'd be 'most a mind to pull up sticks, and go after you."

"I wish you could, Barby; only I am afraid you would not like
it so well there as here."

"Maybe I wouldn't. I s'pect them English folks has ways of
their own, from what I've heerd tell; they set up dreadful,
don't they?"

"Not all of them," said Fleda.

"No, I don't believe but what I could get along with Mr.
Carleton well enough; I never see any one that knowed how to
behave himself better."

Fleda gave her a smiling acknowledgment of this compliment.

"He's plenty of money, ha'n't he?"

"I believe so."

"You'll be sot up like a princess, and never have nothing to
do no more."

"Oh, no!" said Fleda, laughing; "I expect to have a great deal
to do; if I don't find it, I shall make it."

"I guess it 'll be pleasant work," said Barby. "Well, I don't
care; you've done work enough since you've lived here that
wa'n't pleasant, to play for the rest of your days; and I'm
glad on't. I guess he don't hurt himself. You wouldn't stand
it much longer to do as you have been doing lately."

"That couldn't be helped," said Fleda; "but that I may stand
it to-morrow, I am afraid we must go to bed, Barby."

Barby bade her good-night, and left her; but Fleda's musing
mood was gone. She had no longer the desire to call back the
reminiscences of the old walls. All that page of her life, she
felt, was turned over; and, after a few minutes' quiet survey
of the familiar things, without the power of moralizing over
them as she could have done half an hour before, she left
them, for the next day had no eyes but for business.

It was a trying week or two before Mr. Rossitur and his family
were fairly on shipboard. Fleda, as usual, and more than usual
— with the eagerness of affection that felt its opportunities
numbered, and would gladly have concentrated the services of
years into days — wrought, watched, and toiled, at what
expense to her own flesh and blood Mrs. Rossitur never knew,
and the others were too busy to guess; but Mrs. Carleton saw
the signs of it, and was heartily rejoiced when they were
fairly gone and Fleda was committed to her hands.

For days, almost for weeks, after her aunt was gone, Fleda
could do little but rest and sleep — so great was the
weariness of mind and body, and the exhaustion of the animal
spirits, which had been kept upon a strain to hide her
feelings and support those of others. To the very last moment
affection's sweet work had been done; the eye, the voice, the
smile, to say nothing of the hands, had been tasked and kept
in play to put away recollections, to cheer hopes, to soften
the present, to lighten the future; and, hardest of all, to do
the whole by her own living example. As soon as the last look
and wave of the hand were exchanged, and there was no longer
anybody to lean upon her for strength and support, Fleda
showed how weak she was, and sank into a state of prostration
as gentle and deep almost as an infant's.

As sweet and lovely as a child, too, Mrs. Carleton declared
her to be — sweet and lovely as she was when a child; and
there was no going beyond that. As neither this lady nor Fleda
had changed essentially since the days of their former
acquaintanceship, it followed that there was still as little
in common between them, except, indeed, now the strong ground
of affection. Whatever concerned her son concerned Mrs.
Carleton in almost equal degree; anything that he valued she
valued; and to have a thorough appreciation of him was a sure
title to her esteem. The consequence of all this was, that
Fleda was now the most precious thing in the world to her
after himself; especially since her eyes, sharpened as well as
opened by affection, could find in her nothing that she
thought unworthy of him. In her, personally; country and
blood, Mrs. Carleton might have wished changed; but her desire
that her son should marry — the strongest wish she had known
for years — had grown so despairing, that her only feeling now
on the subject was joy; she was not in the least inclined to
quarrel with his choice. Fleda had from her the tenderest care
as well as the utmost delicacy that affection and good-
breeding could teach. And Fleda needed both, for she was slow
in going back to her old health and strength; and, stripped on
a sudden of all her old friends, on this turning-point of her
life, her spirits were in that quiet mood that would have felt
any jarring most keenly.

The weeks of her first languor and weariness were over, and
she was beginning again to feel and look like herself. The
weather was hot and the city disagreeable now, for it was the
end of June; but they had pleasant rooms upon the Battery, and
Fleda's windows looked out upon the waving tops of green trees
and the bright waters of the bay. She used to lie gazing out
at the coming and going vessels with a curious fantastic
interest in them; they seemed oddly to belong to that piece of
her life, and to be weaving the threads of her future fate as
they flitted about in all directions before her. In a very
quiet, placid mood, not as if she wished to touch one of the
threads, she lay watching the bright sails that seemed to
carry the shuttle of life to and fro, letting Mrs. Carleton
arrange and dispose of everything and of her as she pleased.

She was on her couch as usual, looking out one fair morning,
when Mrs. Carleton came in to kiss her and ask how she did.
Fleda said, "Better."

"Better! you always say 'better'," said Mrs. Carleton; "but I
don't see that you get better very fast. And sober — this
cheek is too sober," she added, passing her hand fondly over
it; "I don't like to see it so."

"That is just the way I have been feeling, Ma'am — unable to
rouse myself. I should be ashamed of it if I could help it."

"Mrs. Evelyn has been here begging that we would join her in a
party to the Springs — Saratoga. How would you like that?"

"I should like anything that you would like, Ma'am," said
Fleda, with a thought how she would like to read Montepoole
for Saratoga.

"The city is very hot and dusty just now."

"Very, and I am sorry to keep you in it, Mrs. Carleton."

"Keep me, love?" said Mrs. Carleton, bending down her face to
her again; "it's a pleasure to be kept anywhere by you."

Fleda shut her eyes, for she could hardly bear a little word
now.

"I don't like to keep _you_ here; it is not myself I am thinking
of. I fancy a change would do you good."

"You are very kind, Ma'am."

"Very interested kindness," said Mrs. Carleton. "I want to see
you looking a little better before Guy comes; I am afraid he
will look grave at both of us." But as she paused and stroked
Fleda's cheek, it came into her mind to doubt the truth of the
last assertion, and she ended off with, "I wish he would
come!"

So Fleda wished truly; for now, cut off as she was from her
old associations, she longed for the presence of the one
friend that was to take place of them all.

"I hope we shall hear soon that there is some prospect of his
getting free," Mrs. Carleton went on. "He has been gone now —
how many weeks? I am looking for a letter to-day. And there it
is!"

The maid at this moment entered with the steamer despatches.
Mrs. Carleton pounced upon the one she knew, and broke it
open.

"Here it is! and there is yours, Fleda."

With kind politeness, she went off to read her own, and left
Fleda to study hers at her leisure. An hour after she came in
again. Fleda's face was turned from her.

"Well, what does he say?" she asked in a lively tone.

"I suppose, the same he has said to you, Ma'am," said Fleda.

"I don't suppose it, indeed," said Mrs. Carleton, laughing.
"He has given me sundry charges, which, if he has given you,
it is morally certain we shall never come to an
understanding."

"I have received no charges," said Fleda.

"I am directed to be very careful to find out your exact wish
in the matter, and to let you follow no other. So what is it,
my sweet Fleda?"

"I promised," said Fleda, colouring and turning her letter
over. But there she stopped.

"Whom, and what?" said Mrs. Carleton, after she had waited a
reasonable time.

"Mr. Carleton."

"What did you promise, my dear Fleda?"

"That I would do as he said."

"But he wishes you to do as you please."

Fleda brought her eyes quick out of Mrs. Carleton's view, and
was silent.

"What do you say, dear Fleda?" said the lady, taking her hand
and bending over her.

"I am sure we shall be expected," said Fleda. "I will go."

"You are a darling girl!" said Mrs. Carleton, kissing her
again and again. "I will love you for ever for that. And I am
sure it will be the best thing for you — the sea will do you
good — and _ne vous en déplaise_, our own home is pleasanter
just now than this dusty town. I will write by this steamer
and tell Guy we will be there by the next. He will have
everything in readiness, I know, at all events; and in half an
hour after you get there, my dear Fleda, you will be
established in all your rights — as well as if it had been
done six months before. Guy will know how to thank you. But,
after all, Fleda, you might do him this grace — considering
how long he has been waiting upon you."

Something in Fleda's eyes induced Mrs. Carleton to say,
laughing —

"What's the matter?"

"He never waited for me," said Fleda, simply.

"Didn't he? But, my dear Fleda!" said Mrs. Carleton, in amused
extremity — "how long is it since you knew what he came out
here for?"

"I don't know now, Ma'am," said Fleda. But she became
angelically rosy the next minute.

"He never told you?"

"No."

"And you never asked him?"

"Why, no, Ma'am!"

"He will be well suited in a wife," said Mrs. Carleton,
laughing. "But he can have no objection to your knowing now, I
suppose. He never told me but at the latest. You must know,
Fleda, that it has been my wish for a great many years that
Guy would marry — and I almost despaired, he was so difficult
to please — his taste in everything is so fastidious; but I am
glad of it now," she added, kissing Fleda's cheek. "Last
spring — not this last, but a year ago — one evening at home I
was talking to him on this subject; but he met everything I
said lightly — you know his way — and I saw my words took no
hold. I asked him at last in a kind of desperation, if he
supposed there was a woman in the world that could please him;
and he laughed, and said, if there was, he was afraid she was
not in that hemisphere. And a day or two after he told me he
was going to America."

"Did he say for what?"

"No; but I guessed, as soon as I found he was prolonging his
stay, and I was sure when he wrote me to come out to him. But
I never knew till I landed, Fleda, my dear, any more than
that. The first question I asked him was who he was going to
introduce to me."

The interval was short to the next steamer, but also the
preparations were few. A day or two after the foregoing
conversation, Constance Evelyn coming into Fleda's room, found
her busy with some light packing.

"My dear little creature!" she exclaimed ecstatically, "are
you going with us?"

"No," said Fleda.

"Where are you going, then?"

"To England."

"England? — Has — I mean, is there any addition to my list of
acquaintances in the city?"

"Not that I know of," said Fleda, going on with her work.

"And you are going to England! Greenhouses will be a
desolation to me! —"

"I hope not," said Fleda, smiling; "you will recover yourself,
and your sense of sweetness, in time."

"It will have nothing to act upon! And you are going to
England! I think it is very mean of you not to ask me to go
too, and be your bridesmaid."

"I don't expect to have such a thing," said Fleda.

"Not? — Horrid! I wouldn't be married so, Fleda. You don't
know the world, little Queechy; the art _de vous faire valoir_,
I am afraid, is unknown to you."

"So it may remain with my good will," said Fleda.

"Why?" said Constance.

"I have never felt the want of it," said Fleda, simply.

"When are you going?" said Constance, after a minute's pause.

"By the 'Europa.' "

"But this is a very sudden move?"

"Yes; very sudden."

"I should think you would want a little time to make
preparations."

"That is all happily taken off my hands," said Fleda. "Mrs.
Carleton has written to her sister in England to take care of
it for me."

"I didn't know that Mrs. Carleton had a sister. What's her
name?"

"Lady Peterborough."

Constance was silent again.

"What are you going to do about mourning, Fleda? wear white, I
suppose. As nobody there knows anything about you, you won't
care."

"I do not care in the least," said Fleda, calmly; "my feeling
would quite as soon choose white as black. Mourning so often
goes alone, that I should think grief might be excused for
shunning its company."

"And as you have not put it on yet," said Constance, "you
won't feel the change. And then, in reality, after all, he was
only a cousin."

Fleda's quiet mood, sober and tender as it was, could go to a
certain length of endurance, but this asked too much. Dropping
the things from her hands, she turned from the trunk beside
which she was kneeling, and hiding her face on a chair, wept
such tears as cousins never shed for each other. Constance was
startled and distressed; and Fleda's quick sympathy knew that
she must be, before she could see it.

"You needn't mind it at all, dear Constance," she said, as
soon as she could speak — "it's no matter — I am in such a
mood sometimes that I cannot bear anything. Don't think of
it," she said, kissing her.

Constance, however, could not for the remainder of her visit
get back her wonted light mood, which indeed had been
singularly wanting to her during the whole interview.

Mrs. Carleton counted the days to the steamer, and her spirits
rose with each one. Fleda's spirits were quiet to the last
degree, and passive — too passive, Mrs. Carleton thought. She
did not know the course of the years that had gone, and could
not understand how strangely Fleda seemed to herself now to
stand alone, broken off from her old friends and her former
life, on a little piece of time that was like an isthmus
joining two continents. Fleda felt it all exceedingly; felt
that she was changing from one sphere of life to another;
never forgot the graves she had left at Queechy, and as little
the thoughts and prayers that had sprung up beside them. She
felt, with all Mrs. Carleton's kindness, that she was
completely alone, with no one on her side the ocean to look
to; and glad to be relieved from taking active part in
anything, she made her little Bible her companion for the
greater part of the time.

"Are you going to carry that sober face all the way to
Carleton?" said Mrs. Carleton one day pleasantly.

"I don't know, Ma'am."

"What do you suppose Guy will think of it?"

But the thought of what he would think of it, and what he
would say to it, and how fast he would brighten it, made Fleda
burst into tears. Mrs. Carleton resolved to talk to her no
more, but to get her home as fast as possible.

"I have one consolation," said Charlton Rossitur, as he shook
hands with her on board the steamer; "I have received
permission, from head-quarters, to come and see you in
England; and to that I shall look forward constantly from this
time."


CHAPTER XXVII.


"The full sum of me
Is sum of something; which to term in gross,
Is an unlesson'd girl, unschool'd, unpractis'd:
Happy in this, she is not yet so old
But she may learn; and happier than this,
She is not bred so dull but she can learn;
Happiest of all, is that her gentle spirit
Commits itself to yours to be directed,
As from her lord, her governor, her king."
MERCHANT OF VENICE.


They had a very speedy passage to the other side, and partly
in consequence of that Mr. Carleton was _not_ found waiting for
them in Liverpool. Mrs. Carleton would not tarry there, but
hastened down at once to the country, thinking to be at home
before the news of their arrival.

It was early morning of one fair day in July when they were at
last drawing near the end of their journey. They would have
reached it the evening before but for a storm which had
constrained them to stop and wait over the night at a small
town about eight miles off. For fear, then, of passing Guy on
the road, his mother sent a servant before, and, making an
extraordinary exertion, was actually herself in the carriage
by seven o'clock.

Nothing could be fairer than that early drive, if Fleda might
have enjoyed it in peace. The sweet morning air was exceeding
sweet, and the summer light fell upon a perfect luxuriance of
green things. Out of the carriage Fleda's spirits were at
home, but not within it; and it was sadly irksome to be
obliged to hear and respond to Mrs. Carleton's talk, which was
kept up, she knew, in the charitable intent to divert her. She
was just in a state to listen to nature's talk; to the other
she attended and replied with a patient longing to be left
free that she might steady and quiet herself. Perhaps Mrs.
Carleton's tact discovered this in the matter-of-course and
uninterested manner of her rejoinders; for, as they entered
the park-gates, she became silent, and the long drive from
them to the house was made without a word on either side.

For a length of way the road was through a forest of trees of
noble growth, which in some places closed their arms overhead,
and in all sentinelled the path in stately array. The eye had
no scope beyond the ranks of this magnificent body; Carleton
park was celebrated for its trees; but magnificent though they
were, and dearly as Fleda loved every form of forest beauty
she felt oppressed. The eye forbidden to range, so was the
mind, shut in to itself; and she only felt under the gloom and
shadow of those great trees the shadow of the responsibilities
and of the change that were coming upon her. But after a while
the ranks began to be thinned and the ground to be broken; the
little touches of beauty with which the sun had enlivened the
woodland began to grow broader and cheerfuller; and then as
the forest scattered away to the right and left, gay streams
of light came through the glades and touched the surface of
the rolling ground, where, in the hollows, on the heights, on
the sloping sides of the dingles, knots of trees of yet more
luxuriant and picturesque growth, planted or left by the
cultivator's hand long ago, and trained by no hand but
nature's, stood so as to distract a painter's eye; and just
now, in the fresh gilding of the morning, and with all the
witchery of the long shadows upon the uneven ground, certainly
charmed Fleda's eye and mind both. Fancy was dancing again,
albeit with one hand upon gravity's shoulder, and the dancing
was a little nervous too. But she looked and caught her breath
as she looked, while the road led along the very edge of a
dingle, and then was lost in a kind of enchanted open woodland
— it seemed so — and then passing through a thicket came out
upon a broad sweep of green turf that wiled the eye by its
smooth facility to the distant screen of oaks and beeches and
firs on its far border. It was all new. Fleda's memory had
retained only an indistinct vision of beauty, like the face of
an angel in a cloud as painters have drawn it; now came out
the beautiful features one after another, as if she had never
seen them.

So far nature had seemed to stand alone. But now another hand
appeared; not interfering with nature, but adding to her. The
road came upon a belt of the shrubbery where the old tenants
of the soil were mingled with lighter and gayer companionship,
and in some instances gave it place, though in general the
mingling was very graceful. There was never any crowding of
effects; it seemed all nature still, only as if several climes
had joined together to grace one. Then that was past; and over
smooth undulating ground, bearing a lighter growth of foreign
wood, with here and there a stately elm or ash that disdained
their rivalry, the carriage came under the brown walls and
turrets of the house. Fleda's mood had changed again, and, as
the grave outlines rose above her, half remembered, and all
the more for that imposing, she trembled at the thought of
what she had come there to do and to be. She felt very nervous
and strange and out of place, and longed for the familiar face
and voice that would bid her be at home. Mrs. Carleton, now,
was not enough of a stand-by. With all that, Fleda descended
from the carriage with her usual quiet demureness; no one that
did not know her well would have seen in her any other token
of emotion than a somewhat undue and wavering colour.

They were welcomed, at least one of them was, with every
appearance of sincerity by the most respectable-looking
personage who opened to them, and whom Fleda remembered
instantly. The array of servants in the hall would almost have
startled her if she had not recollected the same thing on her
first coming to Carleton. She stepped in with a curious sense
of that first time, when she had come there a little child.

"Where is your master?" was Mrs. Carleton's immediate demand.

"Mr. Carleton set off this morning for Liverpool."

Mrs. Carleton gave a quick glance at Fleda, who kept her eyes
at home.

"We did not meet him — we have not passed him — how long ago?"
were her next rapid words.

"My master left Carleton as early as five o'clock; he gave
orders to drive as fast as possible."

"Then he had gone through Hollonby an hour before we left it,"
said Mrs. Carleton, looking again to her companion; "but he
will hear of us at Carstairs — we stopped there yesterday
afternoon — he will be back again in a few hours, I am sure.
Then we have been expected?"

"Yes Ma'am — my master gave orders that you should be
expected."

"Is all well, Popham?"

"All is well, Madam."

"Is Lady Peterborough here?"

"His Lordship and Lady Peterborough arrived the day before
yesterday," was the succinct reply.

Drawing Fleda's arm within hers, and giving kind recognition
to the rest who stood around, Mrs. Carleton led her to the
stairs and mounted them, repeating in a whisper, "He will be
here presently again." They went to Mrs. Carleton's dressing-
room, Fleda wondering in an internal fever, whether "orders
had been given" to expect her also? — from the old butler's
benign look at her, as he said, "All is well!" she could not
help thinking it. If she maintained her outward quiet, it was
the merest external crust of seeming; there was nothing like
quiet beneath it; and Mrs. Carleton's kiss and fond words of
welcome were hardly composing.

Mrs. Carleton made her sit down, and with very gentle hands
was busy arranging her hair, when the housekeeper came in to
pay her more particular respects, and to offer her services.
Fleda hardly ventured a glance to see whether _she_ looked
benign. She was a dignified elderly person, as stately and
near as handsome as Mrs. Carleton herself.

"My dear Fleda," said the latter, when she had finished the
hair, "I am going to see my sister; will you let Mrs.
Fothergill help you in anything you want, and take you then to
the library — you will find no one, and I will come to you
there. Mrs. Fothergill, I recommend you to the particular care
of this lady."

The recommendation was not needed, Fleda thought, or was very
effectual; the housekeeper served her with most assiduous
care, and in absolute silence. Fleda hurried the finishing of
her toilet.

"Are the people quiet in the country?" she forced herself to
say.

"Perfectly quiet, Ma'am. It needed only that my master should
be at home to make them so."

"How is that?"

"He has their love and their ear, Ma'am, and so it is that he
can just do his pleasure with them."

"How is it in the neighbouring country?"

"They're quiet, Ma'am, I believe — mostly — there's been some
little disturbance in one place and another, and more fear of
it, as well as I can make out, but it's well got over, as it
appears. The noblemen and gentlemen in the country around were
very glad, all of them, I am told, of Mr. Carleton's return.
Is there nothing more I can do for you, Ma'am?"

The last question was put with an indefinable touch of
kindliness which had not softened the respect of her first
words. Fleda begged her to show the way to the library, which
Mrs. Fothergill immediately did, remarking, as she ushered her
in, that "those were Mr. Carleton's favourite rooms."

Fleda did not need to be told that; she put the remark and the
benignity together, and drew a nervous inference. But Mrs.
Fothergill was gone, and she was alone. Nobody was there, as
Mrs. Carleton had said.

Fleda stood still in the middle of the floor, looking around
her, in a bewildered effort to realize the past and the
present; with all the mind in the world to cry, but there was
too great a pressure of excitement, and too much strangeness
of feeling at work. Nothing before her, in the dimly familiar
place, served at all to lessen this feeling, and, recovering
from her maze, she went to one of the glazed doors, which
stood open, and turned her back upon the room with its
oppressive recollections. Her eye lighted upon nothing that
was not quiet now. A secluded piece of smooth green, partially
bordered with evergreens, and set with light shrubbery of rare
kinds, exquisitely kept; over against her a sweetbriar that
seemed to have run wild, indicating, Fleda was sure, the
entrance of the path to the rose garden, that her memory alone
would hardly have helped her to find. All this in the bright
early summer morning, and the sweet aromatic smell of firs and
flowers coming with every breath. There were draughts of
refreshment in the air. It composed her, and drinking it in
delightedly, Fleda stood with folded arms in the doorway, half
forgetting herself and her position, and going in fancy from
the firs and the roses, over a very wide field of meditation
indeed. So lost that she started fearfully on suddenly
becoming aware that a figure had come just beside her.

It was an elderly and most gentlemanly-looking man, as a
glance made her know. Fleda was reassured and ashamed in a
breath. The gentleman did not notice her confusion, however,
otherwise than by a very pleasant and well-bred smile, and
immediately entered into some light remarks on the morning,
the place, and the improvements Mr. Carleton had made in the
latter. Though he said the place was one of those which could
bear very well to want improvement; but Carleton was always
finding something to do which excited his admiration.

"Landscape gardening is one of the pleasantest of amusements,"
said Fleda.

"I have just knowledge enough in the matter to admire; to
originate any ideas is beyond me; I have to depend for them
upon my gardener and my wife, and so I lose a pleasure, I
suppose; but every man has his own particular hobby. Carleton,
however, has more than his share — he has half a dozen, I
think."

"Half a dozen hobbies!" said Fleda.

"Perhaps I should not call them hobbies, for he manages to
ride them all skilfully; and a hobby-horse, I believe, always
runs away with a man."

Fleda could hardly return his smile. She thought people were
possessed with an unhappy choice of subjects in talking to her
that morning. But fancying that she had very ill kept up her
part in the conversation, and must have looked like a
simpleton, she forced herself to break the silence which
followed the last remark, and asked the same question she had
asked Mrs. Fothergill — if the country was quiet?

"Outwardly quiet," he said; "O yes — there is no more
difficulty — that is, none which cannot easily be handled.
There was some danger a few months ago, but it is blown over;
all was quiet on Carleton's estates so soon as he was at home,
and that, of course, had great influence on the neighbourhood.
No, there is nothing to be apprehended. He has the hearts of
his people completely, and one who has their hearts can do
what he pleases with their heads, you know. Well, he deserves
it — he has done a great deal for them."

Fleda was afraid to ask in what way; but perhaps he read the
question in her eyes.

"That's one of his hobbies — ameliorating the condition of the
poorer classes on his estates. He has given himself to it for
some years back; he has accomplished a great deal for them — a
vast deal indeed! He has changed the face of things, mentally
and morally, in several places, with his adult schools, and
agricultural systems, and I know not what; but the most
powerful means, I think, after all, has been the weight of his
personal influence, by which he can introduce and carry
through any measure; neither ignorance, nor prejudice, nor
obstinacy, seem to make head against him. It requires a
peculiar combination of qualities, I think — very peculiar and
rare — to deal successfully with the mind of the masses."

"I should think so, indeed," said Fleda.

"He has it — I don't comprehend it — and I have not studied
his machinery enough to understand that; but I have seen the
effects. Never should have thought he was the kind of man
either — but there it is — I don't comprehend him. There is
only one fault to be found with him, though."

"What is that?" said Fleda, smiling.

"He has built a fine Dissenting chapel down here towards
Hollonby," he said, gravely, looking her in the face — "and,
what is yet worse, his uncle tells me, he goes there half the
time himself."

Fleda could not help laughing, nor colouring, at his manner.

"I thought it was always considered a meritorious action to
build a church," she said.

"Indubitably. — But you see, this was a chapel."

The laugh and the colour both grew more unequivocal — Fleda
could not help it.

"I beg your pardon, Sir — I have not learned such nice
distinctions. Perhaps a chapel was wanted just in that place."

"That is presumable. But _he_ might be wanted somewhere else.
However," said the gentleman, with a good-humoured smile —
"his uncle forgives him; and if his mother cannot influence
him, I am afraid nobody else will. There is no help for it.
And I should be very sorry to stand ill with him. I have given
you the dark side of his character."

"What is the other side in the contrast?" said Fleda,
wondering at herself for her daring.

"It is not for me to say," he answered, with a slight shrug of
the shoulders and an amused glance at her; "I suppose it
depends upon people's vision — but if you will permit me, I
will instance a bright spot that was shown to me the other
day, that I confess, when I look at it, dazzles my eyes a
little."

Fleda only bowed; she dared not speak again.

"There was a poor fellow — the son of one of Mr. Carleton's
old tenants down here at Enchapel — who was under sentence of
death, lying in prison at Carstairs. The father, I am told, is
an excellent man, and a good tenant; the son had been a
miserable scapegrace, and now for some crime — I forget what —
had at last been brought to justice. The evidence against him
was perfect, and the offence was not trifling; there was not
the most remote chance of a pardon, but it seemed the poor
wretch had been building up his dependence upon that hope, and
was resting on it; and, consequently, was altogether
indisposed and unfit to give his attention to the subjects
that his situation rendered proper for him.

"The gentleman who gave me this story was requested by a
brother clergyman to go with him to visit the prisoner. They
found him quite stupid — unmovable by all that could be urged,
or rather, perhaps, the style of the address, as it was
described to me, was fitted to confound find bewilder the man
rather than enlighten him. In the midst of all this, Mr.
Carleton came in — he was just then on the wing for America,
and he had heard of the poor creature's condition in a visit
to his father. He came — my informant said — like a being of a
different planet. He took the man's hand — he was chained foot
and wrist — 'My poor friend,' he said, 'I have been thinking
of you here, shut out from the light of the sun, and I thought
you might like to see the face of a friend;' — with that
singular charm of manner which he knows how to adapt to
everybody and every occasion. The man was melted at once — at
his feet, as it were — he could do anything with him. Carleton
began then, quietly, to set before him the links in the chain
of evidence which had condemned him — one by one — in such a
way as to prove to him, by degrees, but irresistibly, that he
had no hope in this world. The man was perfectly subdued — sat
listening and looking into those powerful eyes that perhaps
you know — taking in all his words, and completely in his
hand. And then Carleton went on to bring before him the
considerations that he thought should affect him in such a
case, in a way that this gentleman said was indescribably
effective and winning; till that hardened creature was broken
down — sobbing like a child — actually sobbing!"

Fleda did her best, but she was obliged to hide her face in
her hands, let what would be thought of her.

"It was the finest exhibition of eloquence, this gentleman
said, he had ever listened to. For me it was an exhibition of
another kind. I would have believed such an account of few
men, but of all the men I know I would least have believed it
of Guy Carleton a few years ago; even now I can hardly believe
it. But it is a thing that would do honour to any man."

Fleda felt that the tears were making their way between her
fingers, but she could not help it; and she presently knew
that her companion had gone, and she was left alone again. Who
was this gentleman? and how much did he know about her? More
than that she was a stranger, Fleda was sure; and dreading his
return, or that somebody else might come and find her with the
tokens of tears upon her face, she stepped out upon the
greensward, and made for the flaunting sweet-briar that seemed
to beckon her to visit its relations.

The entrance of a green path was there, or a grassy glade,
more or less wide, leading through a beautiful growth of firs
and larches. No roses, nor any other ornamental shrubs — only
the soft well-kept footway through the woodland. Fleda went
gently on and on, admiring where the trees sometimes swept
back, leaving an opening, and at other places stretched their
graceful branches over her head. The perfect condition of
everything to the eye — the rich coloured vegetation — of
varying colour above and below — the absolute retirement, and
the strong pleasant smell of the evergreens, had a kind of
charmed effect upon senses and mind too. It was a fairyland
sort of place. The presence of its master seemed everywhere —
it was like him, and Fleda pressed on to see yet livelier
marks of his character and fancy beyond. By degrees the wood
began to thin on one side — then at once the glade opened into
a bright little lawn, rich with roses in full bloom. Fleda was
stopped short at the sudden vision of loveliness. There was
the least possible appearance of design — no dry beds were to
be seen — the luxuriant clumps of Provence and white roses,
with the varieties of the latter seemed to have chosen their
own places, only to have chosen them very happily. One hardly
imagined that they had submitted to dictation, if it were not
that Queen Flora never was known to make so effective a
disposition of her forces without help. The screen of trees
was very thin on the border of this opening — so thin that the
light from beyond came through. On a slight rocky elevation,
which formed the further side of it, sat an exquisite little
Gothic chapel, about which, and the face of the rock below,
some noisette and multiflora climbers were vying with each
other, and just at the entrance of the further path a white
dog-rose had thrown itself over the way, covering the lower
branches of the trees with its blossoms.

Fleda stood spell-bound a good while, with a breath oppressed
with pleasure. But what she had seen excited her to see more,
and a dim recollection of the sea-view from somewhere in the
walk drew her on. Roses met her now frequently. Now and then a
climber, all alone, seemed to have sought protection in a tree
by the path-side, and to have displayed itself thence in the
very wantonness of security, hanging out its flowery wreaths,
fearless of hand or knife. Clusters of noisettes, or of French
or damask roses, where the ground was open enough, stood
without a rival, and needing no foil other than the beautiful
surrounding of dark evergreen foliage. But the distance was
not long before she came out upon a wider opening, and found
what she was seeking — the sight of the sea. The glade here
was upon the brow of high ground, and the wood disappearing
entirely for a space, left the eye free to go over the lower
tree-tops, and the country beyond to the distant shore and
sea-line. Roses were here too — the air was full of the
sweetness of damask and Bourbon varieties — and a few
beautiful banksias, happily placed, contrasted without
interfering with them. It was very still — it was very perfect
— the distant country was fresh-coloured with the yet early
light which streamed between the trees, and laid lines of
enchantment upon the green turf; and the air came up from the
sea-board, and bore the breath of the roses to Fleda every now
and then with a gentle puff of sweetness. Such light — she had
seen none such light since she was a child. Was it the burst
of mental sunshine that had made it so bright? — or was she
going to be really a happy child again? No — no — not that,
and yet something very like it — so like it, that she almost
startled at herself. She went no further. She could not have
borne, just then, to see any more; and feeling her heart too
full, she stood even there, with hands crossed upon her bosom,
looking away from the roses to the distant sea-line.

That said something very different. That was very sobering; if
she had needed sobering, which she did not. But it helped her
to arrange the scattered thoughts which had been pressing
confusedly upon her brain. "Look away from the roses," indeed,
she could not, for the same range of vision took in the sea
and them — and the same range of thought. These might stand
for an emblem of the present; that, of the future — grave,
far-off, impenetrable; and passing, as it were, the roses of
time, Fleda fixed upon that image of eternity; and weighing
the one against the other, felt, never in her life more
keenly, how wild it would be to forget in smelling the roses
her preparations for that distant voyage that must be made
from the shores where they grow. With one eye upon this
brightest bit of earth before her, the other mentally was upon
Hugh's grave. The roses could not be sweeter to any one; but,
in view of the launching away in to that distant sea-line, in
view of the issues on the other shore, in view of the welcome
that might be had there — the roses might fade and wither, but
her happiness could not go with their breath. They were
something to be loved, to be used, to be thankful for — but
not to live upon; something too that whispered of an increased
burden of responsibility, and never more deeply than at that
moment did Fleda remember her mother's prayer — never more
simply recognised that happiness could not be made of these
things. She might be as happy at Queechy as here. It depended
on the sun-light of undying hopes, which indeed would give
wonderful colour to the flowers that might be in her way; on
the possession of resources the spring of which would never
dry; on the peace which secures the continual feast of a merry
heart, Fleda could take her new honours and advantages very
meekly, and very soberly, with all her appreciation of them.
The same work of life was to be done here as at Queechy. To
fulfil the trust committed to her, larger here — to keep her
hope for the future — undeceived by the sunshine of earth, to
plant her roses where they would bloom everlastingly.

The weight of these things bowed Fleda to the ground and made
her bury her face in her hands. But there was one item of
happiness from which her thoughts never even in imagination
dissevered themselves, and round it they gathered now in their
weakness. A strong mind and heart to uphold hers — a strong
hand for hers to rest in — that was a blessing; and Fleda
would have cried heartily, but that her feelings were too
high-wrought. They made her deaf to the light sound of
footsteps coming over the grass, till two hands gently touched
hers and lifted her up, and then Fleda was at home. But,
surprised and startled, she could hardly lift up her face. Mr.
Carleton's greeting was as grave and gentle as if she had been
a stray child.

"Do not fancy I am going to thank you for the grace you have
shown me," said he, lightly. "I know you would never have done
it if circumstances had not been hard pleaders in my cause. I
will thank you presently when you have answered one or two
questions for me."

"Questions?" said Fleda, looking up. But she blushed the next
instant at her own simplicity.

He was leading her back on the path she had come. No further,
however, than to the first opening where the climbing dog-rose
hung over the way. There he turned aside, crossing the little
plot of greensward, and they ascended some steps cut in the
rock to the chapel Fleda had looked at from a distance.

It stood high enough to command the same sea-view. On that
side it was entirely open, and of very light construction on
the others.

Several people were there; Fleda could hardly tell how many;
and when Lord Peterborough was presented to her, she did not
find out that he was her morning's acquaintance. Her eye only
took in besides that there were one or two ladies, and a
clergyman in the dress of the Church of England; she could not
distinguish. Yet she stood beside Mr. Carleton with all her
usual quiet dignity, though her eye did not leave the ground,
and her words were in no higher key than was necessary, and
though she could hardly bear the unchanged easy tone of his.
The birds were in a perfect ecstasy all about them; the soft
breeze came through the trees, gently waving the branches and
stirring the spray wreaths of the roses, the very fluttering
of summer's drapery; some roses looked in at the lattice, and
those which could not be there sent in their congratulations
on the breath of the wind, while the words were spoken that
bound them together.

Mr. Carleton then dismissing his guests to the house, went
with Fleda again the other way. He had felt the extreme
trembling of the hand which he took, and would not go in till
it was quieted. He led her back to the very rose-bush where he
had found her, and in his own way presently brought her spirit
home from its trembling and made it rest; and then suffered
her to stand a few minutes quite silent, looking out again
over the fair rich spread of country that lay between them and
the sea.

"Now tell me, Elfie," said he, softly, drawing back, with the
same old caressing and tranquillizing touch, the hair that
hung over her brow, "what you were thinking about when I found
you here — in the very luxury of seclusion — behind a rose-
bush."

Fleda looked a quick look, smiled, and hesitated, and then
said it was rather a confusion of thoughts.

"It will be a confusion no longer when you have disentangled
them for me."

"I don't know" — said Fleda. And she was silent, but so was
he, quietly waiting for her to go on.

"Perhaps you will wonder at me, Mr. Carleton," she said,
hesitating and colouring.

"Perhaps," he said, smiling; — "but if I do, I will not keep
you in ignorance, Elfie."

"I was almost bewildered, in the first place, with beauty —
and then —"

"Do you like the rose garden?"

"Like it! — I cannot speak of it!"

"I don't want you to speak of it," said he, smiling at her.
"What followed upon liking it, Elfie?"

"I was thinking," said Fleda, looking resolutely away from
him, "in the midst of all this — that it is not these things
which make people happy."

"There is no question of that," he replied. "I have realized
it thoroughly for a few months past."

"No, but seriously, I mean," said Fleda, pleadingly.

"And, seriously, you are quite right, dear Elfie. What then?"

"I was thinking," said Fleda, speaking with some difficulty —
"of Hugh's grave — and of the comparative value of things;
and, afraid, I believe — especially — here —"

"Of making a wrong estimate?"

"Yes; and of not doing and being just what I ought."

Mr. Carleton was silent for a minute, considering the brow
from which his fingers drew off the light screen.

"Will you trust me to watch over and tell you?"

Fleda did not trust her voice to tell him, but her eyes did
it.

"As to the estimate — the remedy is to 'keep ourselves in the
love of God;' and then these things are the gifts of our
Father's hand, and will never be put in competition with him.
And they are never so sweet as when taken so."

"Oh, I know that!"

"This is a danger I share with you. We will watch over each
other."

Fleda was silent with filling eyes.

"We do not seek our happiness in these things," he said,
tenderly. "I never found it in them. For years, whatever
others may have judged, I have felt myself a poor man; because
I had not in the world a friend in whom I could have entire
sympathy. And if I am rich now, it is not in any treasure that
I look to enjoy in this world alone."

"Oh, do not, Mr. Carleton!" exclaimed Fleda, bowing her head
in distress, and giving his hand an earnest entreaty.

"What shall I not do?" said he, half laughing and half gently,
bringing her face near enough for his lips to try another kind
of eloquence. "You shall not do this, Elfie, for any so light
occasion. Was this the whole burden of those grave thoughts?"

"Not quite — entirely" — she said, stammering. "But grave
thoughts are not always unhappy."

"Not always. I want to know what gave yours a tinge of that
colour this morning."

"It was hardly that. You know what Foster says about 'power to
its very last particle being duty.' — I believe it frightened
me a little."

"If you feel that as strongly as I do, Elfie, it will act as a
strong corrective to the danger of false estimates."

"I do feel it," said Fleda. "One of my fears was that I should
not feel it enough."

"One of my cares will be that you do not act upon it too
fiercely," said he, smiling. "The power being limited, so is
the duty. But you shall have power enough, Elfie, and work
enough. I have precisely what I have needed — my good sprite
back again."

"With a slight difference."

"What difference?"

"She is to act under direction now."

"Not at all — only under safe control," he said, laughing.

"I am very glad of the difference, Mr. Carleton," said Fleda,
with a grave and grateful remembrance of it.

"If you think the sprite's old office is gone, you are
mistaken," said he. "What were your other fears? — one was
that you should not feel enough your responsibility, and the
other that you might forget it."

"I don't know that there were any other particular fears,"
said Fleda; — "I had been thinking of all these things —"

"And what else?"

Her colour and her silence begged him not to ask. He said no
more, and let her stand still again, looking off through the
roses, while her mind more quietly and lightly went over the
same train of thoughts that had moved it before; gradually
calmed; came back from being a stranger to being at home, at
least in one presence; and ended, her action even before her
look told him where, as her other hand unconsciously was
joined to the one already on his arm. A mute expression of
feeling, the full import of which he read, even before her
eye, coming back from its musings, was raised to him, perhaps
unconsciously, too, with all the mind in it; its timidity was
not more apparent than its simplicity of clinging affection
and dependence. Mr. Carleton's answer was in three words, but
in the tone and manner that accompanied them there was a
response to every part of her appeal — so perfect that Fleda
was confused at her own frankness.

They began to move towards the house, but Fleda was in a maze
again and could hardly realize anything. "His wife!" — was she
that? — had so marvellous a change really been wrought in her?
— the little asparagus-cutter of Queechy transformed into the
mistress of all this domain, and of the stately mansion of
which they caught glimpses now and then, as they drew near it
by another approach into which Mr. Carleton had diverged. And
his wife! — that was the hardest to realise of all.

She was as far from realising it when she got into the house.
They entered now at once into the breakfast-room, where the
same party were gathered whom she had met once before that
morning. Mr. Carleton the elder, and Lord Peterborough and
Lady Peterborough, she had met without seeing. But Fleda could
look at them now; and if her colour came and went as frankly
as when she was a child, she could speak to them and meet
their advances with the same free and sweet self-possession as
then — the rare dignity a little wood-flower, that is moved by
a breath, but recovers as easily and instantly its quiet
standing. There were one or two who looked a little curiously
at first to see whether this new member of the family were
worthy of her place and would fill it to satisfy them. Not Mr.
Carleton; he never sought to ascertain the value of anything
that belonged to him by a popular vote; and his own judgment
always stood carelessly alone. But Mrs. Carleton was less sure
of her own ground, or of others. For five minutes she noted
Fleda's motions and words, her blushes and smiles, as she
stood talking to one and another — for five minutes, and then,
with a little smile at her sister, Mrs. Carleton moved off to
the breakfast-table, well pleased that Lady Peterborough was
too engaged to answer her. Fleda had won them all. Mr.
Carleton's intervening shield of grace and kindness was only
needed here against the too much attention or attraction that
might distress her. He was again, now they were in presence of
others, exactly what he had been to her when she was a child —
the same cool and efficient friend and protector. Nobody in
the room showed less thought of her, _except_ in action; a great
many little things done for her pleasure or comfort, so
quietly that nobody knew it but one person, and she hardly
noticed it at the time. All could not have the same tact.

There was an uninterrupted easy flow of talk at the table,
which Fleda heard just enough to join in where it was
necessary; the rest of the time she sat in a kind of
abstraction, dipping enormous strawberries one by one into
white sugar, with a curious want of recognition between them
and the ends of her fingers; it never occurred to her that
they had picked baskets full.

"I have done something for which you will hardly thank me, Mr.
Carleton," said Lord Peterborough. "I have driven this lady to
tears within the first hour of her being in the house."

"If she will forgive you, I will, my lord," Mr. Carleton
answered, carelessly.

"I will confess myself, though," continued his lordship,
looking at the face that was so intent over the strawberries,
"I was under the impression, when I first saw a figure in the
window, that it was Lady Peterborough. I own, as soon as I
found it was a stranger, I had my suspicions, which did not
lack confirmation in the course of the interview. I trust I am
forgiven the means I used."

"It seems you had your curiosity, too, my lord," said Mr.
Carleton, the uncle.

"Which ought, in all justice, to have lacked gratification,"
said Lady Peterborough. "I hope Fleda will not be too ready to
forgive you."

"I expect forgiveness, nevertheless," said he, looking at
Fleda. "Must I wait for it?"

"I am much obliged to you, Sir."

And then she gave him a very frank smile and blush, as she
added, "I beg pardon — you know my tongue is American."

"I don't like that," said his lordship, gravely.

"Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh," said
the elder Carleton. "The heart being English, we may hope the
tongue will become so too."

"I will not assure you of that, Sir," Fleda said, laughing,
though her cheeks showed the conversation was not carried on
without effort. Oddly enough, nobody saw it with any
dissatisfaction.

"Of what, Madam?" said Lord Peterborough.

"That I will not always keep a rag of the stars and stripes
flying somewhere."

But that little speech had almost been too much for her
equanimity.

"Like Queen Elizabeth, who retained the crucifix when she gave
up the profession of Popery."

"Very unlike indeed!" said Fleda, endeavouring to understand
what Mr. Carleton was saying to her about wood strawberries
and _hautbois_.

"Will you allow that, Carleton?"

"What, my lord?"

"A rival banner to float alongside of St. George's?"

"The flags are friendly, my lord."

"Hum — just now — they may seem so. Has your little standard-
bearer anything of a rebellious disposition."

"Not against any lawful authority, I hope," said Fleda.

"Then there is hope for you, Mr. Carleton, that you will be
able to prevent the introduction of mischievous doctrines."

"For shame, Lord Peterborough!' said his wife — "what
atrocious suppositions you are making! I am blushing, I am
sure, for your want of discernment."

"Why — yes" — said his lordship, looking at another face whose
blushes were more unequivocal — "it may seem so — there is no
appearance of anything untoward, but she is a woman after all.
I will try her. Mrs. Carleton, don't you think with my Lady
Peterborough that in the present nineteenth century women
ought to stand more on that independent footing from which
lordly monopoly has excluded them?"

The first name Fleda thought belonged to another person, and
her downcast eyelids prevented her seeing to whom it was
addressed. It was no matter, for any answer was anticipated.

"The boast of independence is not engrossed by the boldest
footing, my lord."

"She has never considered the subject," said Lady
Peterborough.

"It is no matter," said his lordship. "I must respectfully beg
an answer to my question."

The silence made Fleda look up.

"Don't you think that the rights of the weak ought to be on a
perfect equality with those of the strong?"

"The rights of the weak _as such_ — yes, my lord."

The gentlemen smiled; the ladies looked rather puzzled.

"I have no more to say, Mr. Carleton," said his lordship, "but
that we must make an Englishwoman of her!"

"I am afraid she will never be a perfect cure," said Mr.
Carleton, smiling.

"I conceive it might require peculiar qualities in the
physician — but I do not despair. I was telling her of some of
your doings this morning, and happy to see that they met with
her entire disapproval."

Mr. Carleton did not even glance towards Fleda, and made no
answer, but carelessly gave the conversation another turn; for
which she thanked him unspeakably.

There was no other interruption of any consequence to the
well-bred flow of talk and kindliness of manner on the part of
all the company, that put Fleda as much as possible at her
ease. Still she did not realise anything, and yet she did
realise it so strongly, that her woman's heart could not rest
till it had eased itself in tears. The superbly appointed
table at which she sat — her own, though Mrs. Carleton this
morning presided — the like of which she had not seen since
she was at Carleton before; the beautiful room with its
arrangements, bringing back a troop of recollections of that
old time; all the magnificence about her, instead of
elevating, sobered her spirits to the last degree. It pressed
home upon her that feeling of responsibility, of the change
that come over her; and though beneath it all very happy,
Fleda hardly knew it, she longed so to be alone, and to cry.
One person's eyes, however little seemingly observant of her,
read sufficiently well the unusual shaded air of her brow and
her smile. But a sudden errand of business called him abroad
immediately after breakfast.

The ladies seized the opportunity to carry Fleda up and
introduce her to her dressing-room, and take account of Lady
Peterborough's commission, and ladies and ladies' maids soon
formed a busy committee of dress and decorations. It did not
enliven Fleda — it wearied her, though she forgave them the
annoyance in gratitude for the pleasure they took in looking
at her. Even the delight her eye had from the first minute she
saw it, in the beautiful room, and her quick sense of the
carefulness with which it had been arranged for her, added to
the feeling with which she was oppressed; she was very passive
in the hands of her friends.

In the midst of all this the housekeeper was called in and
formally presented, and received by Fleda with a mixture of
frankness and bashfulness that caused Mrs. Fothergill
afterwards to pronounce her "a lady of a very sweet dignity
indeed."

"She is just such a lady as you might know my master would
have fancied," said Mr. Spenser.

"And what kind of a lady is that?" said Mrs. Fothergill.

But Mr. Spenser was too wise to enter into any particulars,
and merely informed Mrs. Fothergill that she would know in a
few days.

"The first words Mrs. Carleton said when Mr. Carleton got
home," said the old butler — "she put both her hands on his
arms and cried out, 'Guy, I am delighted with her!' "

"And what did _he_ say?" said Mrs. Fothergill.

"He!" echoed Mr. Spenser, in a tone of indignant intelligence
— "what should _he_ say! He didn't say anything; only asked
where she was, I believe."

In the midst of silks, muslins, and jewels, Mr. Carleton found
Fleda still, on his return; looking pale, and even sad, though
nobody but himself, through her gentle and grateful bearing,
would have discerned it. He took her out of the hands of the
committee, and carried her down to the little library,
adjoining the great one, but never thrown open — his room, as
it was called — where more particularly art and taste had
accumulated their wealth of attractions.

"I remember this very well," said Fleda. "This beautiful
room!"

"It is as free to you as to me, Elfie; and I never gave the
freedom of it to any one else."

"I will not abuse it," said Fleda.

"I hope not, my dear Elfie," said he smiling, "for the room
will want something to me now when you are not in it; and a
gift is abused that is not made free use of."

A large and deep bay-window in the room looked upon the same
green lawn and fir wood, with the windows of the library. Like
these, this casement stood open, and Mr. Carleton, leading
Fleda there, remained quietly beside her for a moment,
watching her face, which his last words had a little moved
from its outward composure. Then, gently and gravely, as if
she had been a child, putting his arm round her shoulders, and
drawing her to him, he whispered —

"My dear Elfie — you need not fear being misunderstood —"

Fleda started, and looked up to see what he meant. But his
face said it so plainly, in its perfect intelligence and
sympathy with her, that her barrier of self-command and
reserve was all broken down; and hiding her head in her hands
upon his breast, she let the pent-up burden upon her heart
come forth in a flood of unrestrained tears. She could not
help herself. And when she would fain have checked them after
the first burst, and bidden them, according to her habit, to
wait another time, it was out of her power; for the same
kindness and tenderness that had set them a-flowing, perhaps
witting of her intent, effectually hindered its execution. He
did not say a single word, but now and then a soft touch of
his hand, or of his lips upon her brow, in its expressive
tenderness, would unnerve all her resolution, and oblige her
to have no reserve that time, at least in letting her secret
thoughts and feelings be known, as far as tears could tell
them. She wept, at first in spite of herself, and afterwards
in the very luxury of indulged feeling; till she was as quiet
as a child, and the weight of oppression was all gone. Mr.
Carleton did not move, nor speak, till she did.

"I never knew before how good you were, Mr. Carleton," said
Fleda, raising her head, at length, as soon as she dared, but
still held fast by that kind arm.

"What new light have you got on the subject?" said he,
smiling.

"Why," said Fleda, trying as hard as ever did sunshine to
scatter the remnants of a cloud — it was a bright cloud too,
by this time — "I have always heard that men cannot endure the
sight of a woman's tears."

"You shall give me a reward, then, Elfie."

"What reward?" said Elfie.

"Promise me that you will shed them nowhere else."

"Nowhere else?"

"But here — in my arms."

"I don't feel like crying any more now," said Fleda,
evasively; "at least," — for drops were falling rather fast
again — "not sorrowfully."

"Promise me, Elfie," said Mr. Carleton, after a pause.

But Fleda hesitated still, and looked dubious.

"Come!" he said, smiling — "you know you promised a little
while ago that you would have a particular regard to my
wishes."

Fleda's cheeks answered that appeal with sufficient
brightness, but she looked down, and said, demurely —

"I am sure one of your wishes is, that I should not say
anything rashly."

"Well?"

"One cannot answer for such wilful things as tears."

"And for such wilful things as men?" said he, smiling.

But Fleda was silent.

"Then I will alter the form of my demand. Promise me that no
shadow of anything shall come over your spirit that you do not
let me either share or remove."

There was no trifling in the tone, full of gentleness as it
was; there could be no evading its requisition. But the
promise demanded was a grave one. Fleda was half afraid to
make it. She looked up, in the very way he had seen her do
when a child, to find a warrant for her words before she
uttered them. But the full, clear, steadfast eye into which
she looked for two seconds, authorised as well as required the
promise; and hiding her face again on his breast, Fleda gave
it, amid a gush of tears, every one of which was illumined
with heart-sunshine.


THE END.



PRINTING OFFICE OF THE PUBLISHER.



Typographical errors :


Chapter 1 : =biding her tears= silently corrected as =hiding her
tears=


Chapter 1 : =fox within.= silently corrected as =fox within."=


Chapter 5 : =Conque de Venus= silently corrected as =Conque de
Vénus=


Chapter 7 : =said Fleda; "to give= silently corrected as =said
Fleda, "to give=


Chapter 7 : =drily; stroking= silently corrected as =drily,
stroking=


Chapter 7 : =sure so do I,= silently corrected as =sure so do I,"=


Chapter 7 : =throwing stones.= silently corrected as =throwing
stones."=


Chapter 10 : =at Mrs. Evelyn's.'= silently corrected as =at
Mrs.Evelyn's."=


Chapter 10 : =breakfast, to morrow= silently corrected as
=breakfast, to-morrow=


Chapter 12 : =at the hills; They= silently corrected as =at the
hills? They=


Chapter 12 : ="trembling even= silently corrected as =trembling
even=


Chapter 12 : =following her= silently corrected as =following
her.=


Chapter 15 : =Fleda. Don't you= silently corrected as =Fleda.
"Don't you=


Chapter 19 : =prescription.= silently corrected as
=prescription."=


Chapter 19 : =doubt about that= silently corrected as =doubt
about that,=


Chapter 19 : =anybody else.= silently corrected as =anybody
else."=


Chapter 20 : =How far are we!= silently corrected as =How far are
we?=


Chapter 23 : =latter and more= silently corrected as =later and
more=


Chapter 25 : =Daughhter, they seem= silently corrected as
="Daughter, they seem=





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