Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

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

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Queechy" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



[Illustration: She stopped a moment when she came upon the bridge.]



Queechy.

by

Elizabeth Wetherell.



Illustrated

By Frederic Dielman.



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

The Guardian



Contents.



      I.  Curtain Rises at Queechy
     II.  Things Loom Out Dimly Through the Smoke
    III.  You Amuse Me and I'll Amuse You
     IV.  Aunt Miriam
      V.  As to Whether a Flower Can Grow in the Woods
     VI.  Queechy at Dinner
    VII.  The Curtain Falls Upon the Scene
   VIII.  The Fairy Leaves the House
     IX.  How Mr. Carleton Happened To Be Not at Home
      X.  The Fairy and the Englishman
     XI.  A Little Candle
    XII.  Spars Below
   XIII.  The Fairy Peeps into an English House, but Does Not Stay There
    XIV.  Two Bibles in Paris
     XV.  Very Literary
    XVI.  Dissolving View--Ending with a Saw-Mill in the Distance
   XVII.  Rain and Water--Cresses for Breakfast
  XVIII.  Mr. Rossitur's Wits Sharpened upon a Ploughshare
    XIX.  Fleda Goes After Help and Finds Dr. Quackenboss
     XX.  Society in Queechy
    XXI.  "The Sweetness of a Man's Friend by a Hearty Counsel"
   XXII.  Wherein a Great Many People Pay Their Respects in Form and
          Substance
  XXIII.  The Captain Out-Generalled by the Fairy
   XXIV.  A Breath of the World at Queechy
    XXV.  "As Good a Boy as You Need to Have"
   XXVI.  Pine Knots
  XXVII.  Sweet--In Its Consequences
 XXVIII.  The Brook's Old Song--And the New
   XXIX.  Flighty and Unsatisfactory
    XXX.  Disclosures--By Mr. Skillcorn
   XXXI.  Mr. Olmney's Cause Argued
  XXXII.  Sometimes Inconvenient "From the Loophole of Retreat to Peep at
          Such a World"
 XXXIII.  Fleda's White Muslin
  XXXIV.  How the Fairy Engaged the Two Englishmen
   XXXV.  Fleda Forgets Herself
  XXXVI.  The Roses and the Gentlemen
 XXXVII.  "An Unseen Enemy Round the Corner"
XXXVIII.  The Fairy at Her Work Again
  XXXIX.  A Night of Uncertain Length
     XL.  A Thorn Enters
    XLI.  Dealings with the Press
   XLII.  Ends with Sweet Music
  XLIII.  How Fleda Was Watched by Blue Eyes
   XLIV.  What Pleasant People One Meets in Society
    XLV.  How Much Trouble One May Have about a Note
   XLVI.  Aromatic Vinegar
  XLVII.  The Fur Cloak on a Journey
 XLVIII.  Quarrenton to Queechy
   XLIX.  Montepoole Becomes a Point of Interest
      L.  The House on "The Hill" Once More
     LI.  The First One That Left Queechy
    LII.  The Last Sunset There
   LIII.  Fleda Alone on an Isthmus
    LIV.  The Moorish Temple before Breakfast



List of Illustrations.


She stopped a moment when she came upon the bridge. (_Frontispiece_)
She made a long job of her bunch of holly.
"I wasn't thinking of myself in particular."
"Who's got it now, Cynthy?"
Fleda coloured and looked at her grandfather.
Fleda was sitting, her face bowed in her hands.
She stood back and watched.
Then he seated himself beside her.
The children were always together.
"He is not a pug."
"They will expect me at home."
"Well, sir, you know the road by Deacon Patterson's?"
"O uncle Rolf, don't have anything to do with him."
"Look at these roses, and don't ask me for papers!"
She knelt down before him.
"How lovely it is, Hugh!"
Philetus was left to "shuck" and bring home a load of the fruit.
"And there goes Mr. Carleton!" said Constance.
Fleda saw with a start that it was Mr. Carleton.
"I am sure Mr. Thorn will excuse me."
"My dear child," he said, holding her face in both his hands.
Mrs. Rossitur sat there alone.
Barby's energies and fainting remedies were again put in use.
Then he stood and watched her.
"Well, take your place," said Thorn.
"I told him, 'O you were not gone yet!'"
"How are they all at home?"
"Is this the gentleman that's to be your husband?"
Slowly and lingeringly they moved away.
The roses could not be sweeter to any one.



Queechy.



Chapter I.



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

  Byron.


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

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

"O I'll get that."

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

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

"O yes--for the post-office. It's a beautiful day, grandpa. Cynthy!--won't
you come and help grandpa on with his great-coat?--And I'll go out and
keep watch of the old mare till you're ready."

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Well."--

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

"I did."

"It's all over slosh."

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

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

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

"Just there!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"O grandpa," she exclaimed suddenly, "won't you stop a minute and let me
get out. I want to get some of that beautiful bittersweet."

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

"O yes I can--please, grandpa! I want some of it _very_ much--just
one minute!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

"It won't do that," said Fleda. "But I am very glad I have got this
bittersweet--this is just what I wanted. Now if I can only find
some holly--"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"No, deary," said he in his usual kind tone; "you sit still. Holloa
there!--Good-day, Mr. Sampion--have you got any thing for me?" The man
disappeared and came out again.

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

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

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

"Where are we going now, grandpa?"

"To Queechy Run."

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

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

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

"He is, sir."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"He's a hard customer I guess, ain't he?"

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

"What does he say?"

"Says he must have it."

"Did you tell him what I told you?"

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

"Well?"

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

"What did he say?"

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

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

"I expect you have."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Why you've got enough to dress up the front room chimney," said he.
"That'll be the best thing you can do with 'em, won't it?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Illustration: She made a long job of her bunch of holly.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Ha!--did he catch the fellow?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So they set forth homewards again.

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

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



Chapter II.



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

  Ben Jonson.


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

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

She hurried up stairs to take off her wrappings and then came down to the
kitchen, where standing on the broad hearth and warming herself at the
blaze, with all the old associations of comfort settling upon her heart,
it occurred to her that foundations so established _could not_ be shaken.
The blazing fire seemed to welcome her home and bid her dismiss fear; the
kettle singing on its accustomed hook looked as if quietly ridiculing the
idea that they could be parted company; her grandfather was in his
cushioned chair at the corner of the hearth, reading the newspaper, as she
had seen him a thousand times; just in the same position, with that
collected air of grave enjoyment, one leg crossed over the other, settled
back in his chair but upright, and scanning the columns with an intent but
most un-careful face. A face it was that always had a rare union of
fineness and placidness. The table stood spread in the usual place, warmth
and comfort filled every corner of the room, and Pleda began to feel as if
she had been in an uncomfortable dream, which was very absurd, but from
which she was very glad she had awoke.

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

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

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

"Where'll you do 'em?"

"In grandpa's room--if you'll just clean off the top of the stove for
me--now do, Cynthy! I'll do 'em beautifully and you won't have a bit of
trouble.--Come!"

"It'll make an awful smoke, Flidda; you'll fill your grandpa's room with
the smoke, and he won't like that, I guess."

"O he won't mind it," said Fleda. "Will you, grandpa?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"My friend Mr. Carleton."

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

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

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

"No sir--we hatch out of that shell lieutenants."

"Hum.--And do you intend to remain in the army?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"He must have been a gallant little fellow."

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

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

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

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

"Let the muffins burn! Call her."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"O I forgot to open the windows!" exclaimed Fleda ingenuously. "Cynthy,
won't you please go and do it? And take this with you," said she, holding
out the spatula.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What do you suppose she will think?"

"I don't know."

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I am very glad you did," said Mr. Ringgan. "I hope your way will bring
you here often. Won't you stay and try some of these same muffins
before you go?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Hum!"--said Mr. Ringgan. "Well--that ain't the wisest thing I should like
to hear of her doing."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What, grandpa?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And he will, grandpa," whispered Fleda.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fleda smiled her thanks for this compliment.

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

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

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

"Grandpa, was my father like my uncle Rossitur in any thing?"

The diversion was effected.

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

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

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

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

"You remember your father, Fleda?"

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

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

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

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

"Did _he_ go to West Point, grandpa?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Was she like aunt Lucy?"

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

Fleda laughed, nowise displeased.

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

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

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

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

[Illustration: "I wasn't thinking of myself in particular."]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Ain't it most time for you to go to bed?" whispered Mr. Ringgan when he
thought the purpose was effected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Chapter III.



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

  Milton.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Beautiful!" Mr. Carleton said at length.

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

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

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

"Who has?" said Rossitur.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Nothing but to protect myself."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Then it is a pleasure to come yet?"

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

"Live in the woods and not get any nuts! that won't do, Fairy. Here are
some fine chestnuts we are coming to--what would hinder our reaping a good
harvest from them?"

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

"Who is Mr. Didenhover?"

"He is grandpa's man."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Oh it won't tire me!" said Fleda overjoyed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"But you are not always cracking nuts."

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

Fleda was tramping over the ground at a furious rate.

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

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

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

"A broomstick!" said Fleda.

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

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

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

"Yes indeed," said Fleda,--"a good large one--I am going to run down to
the house for it as soon as we get to the turning-off place, if you'll be
so good as to sit down and wait for me, sir,--I won't be long after it."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Why not, pray."

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

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

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

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

"Make our own fortunes, eh?" said Mr. Carleton smiling. "Well people do
say those are the sweetest nuts, I don't know how it may be. Ha! that is
fine. What an atmosphere!"

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

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

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

"That's a squirrel!" said Fleda, looking at the place very attentively.

"There has been nobody else here. He has put them together, ready to be
carried off to his nest."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"No, thank you," said he.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Do you know where all the springs are?"

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

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

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

"Don't you go to school?"

"O no!" said Fleda smiling.

"Then your grandfather teaches you at home?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And how long ago is that?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"All the rest?"

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

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

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

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

"Why, sir?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"My wand?" said Fleda.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"A mullein leaf! that is too rough; one of these golden leaves--what are
they?--will do better, won't it?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Mr. Carleton--" said she.

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

"Won't you please not say anything to grandpa about my going away?"

"Why not, Fairy?" said he kindly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Where is your mother?"

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

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

It might be several days, Mr. Carleton said.

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

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

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

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

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



Chapter IV.



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

  Wordsworth.


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

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

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

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

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

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

"I s'pose I'll have to," said Miss Gall dryly, after a short interval of
sipping tea and helping herself to sweetmeats.

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

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

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

"How came he to go with you?"

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

"Where did your cousin go?"

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

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

"In what way, grandpa?"

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

"Mr. Carleton."

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

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

"How do you know that?"

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

"But why. Fairy?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"An officer," said Fleda.

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

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

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

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

[Illustration: "Who's got it now, Cynthy?"]

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

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

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

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

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

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

"O aunt Miriam," said Fleda eagerly, "we are going to have company to tea
to-morrow--won't you come and help us?"

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

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

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

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

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

"Any of those small hams left?"

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

"Have you cooked that roaster I sent down?"

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

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

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

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

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

Fleda and Cynthy both opened at once.

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

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

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

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

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



Chapter V.



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

  Chatterton.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Did you find the right ground, Rossitur?"

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

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

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

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

"Really, sir, I didn't count. I can only answer for a bag full."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Is she, Mr. Carleton?"

"What, ma'am?"

"Uncommon?"

"Very."

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

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

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

"Oh Carleton, Carleton!" said Mrs. Evelyn, but in a tone of very gentle
and laughing reproof,--"for shame! What a picture! and of your cousin!"

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

"No ma'am--something more than that."

"How old?"

"About ten or eleven."

"That's an ugly age."

"She will never be at an ugly age."

"What style of beauty?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What does it indicate?" said his mother.

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

"Hear him!" cried Thorn again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"May I ask how you understand it?"

"As you do, sir."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Carleton pared his apple with an engrossed air.

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

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

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

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

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

"Very extraordinary!" said Mrs. Thorn.

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

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

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

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

"Really, Carleton!"--Rossitur began.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Better!" cried Mrs. Carleton.

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

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

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

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

"Uneducated!" exclaimed Mrs. Carleton.

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

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

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

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

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

"Well--the other face?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And you with him."

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

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

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

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

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

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



Chapter VI.



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

  Milnes.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Is it not yours?"

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

He was silent for a moment and then went on,--

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

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

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

"In the army, was he?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

"How was that, Fairy?"

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

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

"How did you manage that, sir?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I don't know what one might see in Devonshire," he remarked presently,
"but I know _this_ country can't shew the like of him!"

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

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

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

"Do, grandpa," said Fleda softly.

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

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

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

"Did you see actual service yourself?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Politics?" said Mr. Ringgan.

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

"But there is society?" said Rossitur.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Oh grandpa!"--

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

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

"But Mr. Carleton did," said Fleda.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Illustration: Fleda coloured and looked at her grandfather.]

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

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

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

Fleda coloured and looked at her grandfather.

"What do you say, deary?" he inquired fondly; "will you go?--I believe,
sir, your proposal will prove a very acceptable one. You will go, won't
you, Fleda?"

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

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

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

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

"Wouldn't another time answer as well?"

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

"Very well, sir," said the old gentleman;--"You have said all that is
necessary."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Chapter VII.



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

  Wordsworth.


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

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

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

"Yes."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He smiled.

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

Fleda ran gayly into the kitchen. Only Cynthia was there.

"Where is grandpa, Cynthy?"

"He went off into his room a half an hour ago. I believe he's laying down.
He ain't right well, I s'pect. What's made you so late?"

"O they kept me," said Fleda. Her gayety suddenly sobered, she took off
her bonnet and coat and throwing them down in the kitchen stole softly
along the passage to her grandfather's room. She stopped a minute at the
door and held her breath to see if she could hear any movement which might
tell her he was not asleep. It was all still, and pulling the iron latch
with her gentlest hand Fleda went on tiptoe into the room. He was lying on
the bed, but awake, for she had made no noise and the blue eyes opened and
looked upon her as she came near.

"Are you not well, dear grandpa?" said the little girl.

Nothing made of flesh and blood ever spoke words of more spirit-like
sweetness,--not the beauty of a fine organ, but such as the sweetness of
angel-speech might be; a whisper of love and tenderness that was hushed by
its own intensity. He did not answer, or did not notice her first
question; she repeated it.

"Don't you feel well?"

"Not exactly, dear!" he replied.

There was the shadow of somewhat in his tone, that fell upon his little
granddaughter's heart and brow at once. Her voice next time, though not
suffered to be anything but clear and cheerful still, had in part the
clearness of apprehension.

"What is the matter?"

"Oh--I don't know, dear!"

She felt the shadow again, and he seemed to say that time would shew her
the meaning of it. She put her little hand in one of his which lay outside
the coverlets, and stood looking at him; and presently said, but in a very
different key from the same speech to Mr. Carleton,

"I have had a very nice time, dear grandpa."

Her grandfather made her no answer. He brought the dear little hand to
his lips and kissed it twice, so earnestly that it was almost
passionately; then laid it on the side of the bed again, with his own
upon it, and patted it slowly and fondly and with an inexpressible kind
of sadness in the manner. Fleda's lip trembled and her heart was
fluttering, but she stood so that he could not see her face in the dusk,
and kept still till the rebel features were calm again and she had
schooled the heart to be silent.

Mr. Ringgan had closed his eyes, and perhaps was asleep, and his little
granddaughter sat quietly down on a chair by the bedside to watch by him,
in that gentle sorrowful patience which women often know but which hardly
belongs to childhood. Her eye and thoughts, as she sat there in the dusky
twilight, fell upon the hand of her grandfather which still fondly held
one of her own; and fancy travelled fast and far, from what it was to what
it had been. Rough, discoloured, stiff, as it lay there now, she thought
how it had once had the hue and the freshness and the grace of youth, when
it had been the instrument of uncommon strength and wielded an authority
that none could stand against. Her fancy wandered over the scenes it had
known; when it had felled trees in the wild forest, and those fingers,
then supple and slight, had played the fife to the struggling men of the
Revolution; how its activity had outdone the activity of all other hands
in clearing and cultivating those very fields where her feet loved to run;
how in its pride of strength it had handled the scythe and the sickle and
the flail, with a grace and efficiency that no other could attain; and how
in happy manhood that strong hand had fondled and sheltered and led the
little children that now had grown up and were gone!--Strength and
activity, ay, and the fruits of them, were passed away;--his children were
dead;--his race was run;--the shock of corn was in full season, ready to
be gathered. Poor little Fleda! her thought had travelled but a very
little way before the sense of these things entirely overcame her; her
head bowed on her knees, and she wept tears that all the fine springs of
her nature were moving to feed--many, many,--but poured forth as quietly
as bitterly; she smothered every sound. That beautiful shadowy world with
which she had been so busy a little while ago,--alas! she had left the
fair outlines and the dreamy light and had been tracking one solitary path
through the wilderness, and she saw how the traveller foot-sore and
weather-beaten comes to the end of his way. And after all, he comes to
_the end_.--"Yes, and I must travel through life and come to the end,
too," thought little Fleda,--"life is but a passing through the world; my
hand must wither and grow old too, if I live long enough, and whether or
no, I must come to _the end_.--Oh, there is only one thing that ought to
be very much minded in this world!"

That thought, sober though it was, brought sweet consolation. Fleda's
tears, if they fell as fast, grew brighter, as she remembered with
singular tender joy that her mother and her father had been ready to see
the end of their journey, and were not afraid of it, that her grandfather
and her aunt Miriam were happy in the same quiet confidence and she
believed she herself was a lamb of the Good Shepherd's flock. "And he
will let none of his lambs be lost," she thought. "How happy I am! How
happy we all are!"

Her grandfather still lay quiet as if asleep, and gently drawing her hand
from under his, Fleda went and got a candle and sat down by him again to
read, carefully shading the light so that it might not awake him.

He presently spoke to her, and more cheerfully.

"Are you reading, dear?"

"Yes, grandpa!" said the little girl looking up brightly. "Does the candle
disturb you?"

"No, dear!--What have you got there?"

"I just took up this volume of Newton that has the hymns in it."

"Read out."

Fleda read Mr. Newton's long beautiful hymn, "The Lord will provide;" but
with her late thoughts fresh in her mind it was hard to get through the
last verses;--

 "No strength of our own,
    Or goodness we claim;
  But since we have known
    The Saviour's great name,
  In this, our strong tower,
    For safety we hide:
  The Lord is our power,
    The Lord will provide.

 "When life sinks apace,
    And death is in view,
  This word of his grace
    Shall comfort us through.
  No fearing nor doubting,--
    With Christ on our side,
  We hope to die shouting,
    The Lord will provide."

The little reader's voice changed, almost broke, but she struggled
through, and then was quietly crying behind her hand.

"Read it again," said the old gentleman after a pause.

There is no 'cannot' in the vocabulary of affection. Fleda waited a
minute or two to rally her forces, and then went through it again, more
steadily than the first time.

"Yes--" said Mr. Ringgan calmly, folding his hands,--"that will do! That
trust won't fail, for it is founded upon a rock. 'He is a rock; and he
knoweth them that put their trust in him!' I have been a fool to doubt
ever that he would make all things work well--The Lord will provide!"

"Grandpa," said Fleda, but in an unsteady voice, and shading her face with
her hand still,--"I can remember reading this hymn to my mother once when
I was so little that 'suggestions' was a hard word to me."

"Ay, ay,--I dare say," said the old gentleman,--"your mother knew that
Rock and rested her hope upon it,--where mine stands now. If ever there
was a creature that might have trusted to her own doings, I believe she
was one, for I never saw her do anything wrong,--as I know. But she knew
Christ was all. Will you follow him as she did, dear?"

Fleda tried in vain to give an answer.

"Do you know what her last prayer for you was, Fleda?"

"No, grandpa."

"It was that you might be kept 'unspotted from the world.' I heard her
make that prayer myself." And stretching out his hand the old gentleman
laid it tenderly upon Fleda's bowed head, saying with strong earnestness
and affection, even _his_ voice somewhat shaken, "God grant that
prayer!--whatever else he do with her, keep my child from the evil!--and
bring her to join her father and mother in heaven!--and me!"

He said no more;--but Fleda's sobs said a great deal. And when the sobs
were hushed, she still sat shedding quiet tears, sorrowed and disturbed by
her grandfather's manner. She had never known it so grave, so solemn; but
there was that shadow of something else in it besides, and she would have
feared if she had known what to fear. He told her at last that she had
better go to bed, and to say to Cynthy that he wanted to see her. She was
going, and had near reached the door, when he said,

"Elfleda!"

She hastened back to the bedside.

"Kiss me."

He let her do so twice, without moving, and then holding her to his
breast he pressed one long earnest passionate kiss upon her lips, and
released her,

Fleda told Cynthy that her grandfather wished her to come to him, and then
mounted the stairs to her little bedroom. She went to the window and
opening it looked out at the soft moonlit sky; the weather was mild again
and a little hazy, and the landscape was beautiful. But little Fleda was
tasting realities, and she could not go off upon dream-journeys to seek
the light food of fancy through the air. She did not think to-night about
the people the moon was shining on; she only thought of one little sad
anxious heart,--and of another down stairs, more sad and anxious still,
she feared;--what could it be about? Now that Mr. Jolly had settled all
that troublesome business with McGowan?--

As she stood there at the window, gazing out aimlessly into the still
night,--it was very quiet,--she heard Cynthy at the back of the house
calling out, but as if she were afraid of making too much noise,
"Watkins!--Watkins!"

The sound had business, if not anxiety, in it. Fleda instinctively held
her breath to listen. Presently she heard Watkins reply; but they were
round the corner, she could not easily make out what they said. It was
only by straining her ears that she caught the words,

"Watkins, Mr. Ringgan wants you to go right up on the hill to Mis'
Plumfield's and tell her he wants her to come right down--he thinks"--the
voice of the speaker fell, and Fleda could only make out the last
words,--"Dr. James." More was said, but so thick and low that she could
understand nothing.

She had heard enough. She shut the window, trembling, and fastened again
the parts of her dress she had loosened; and softly and hastily went down
the stairs into the kitchen.

"Cynthy!--what is the matter with grandpa?"

"Why ain't you in bed, Flidda?" said Cynthy with some sharpness. "That's
what you had ought to be. I am sure your grandpa wants you to be abed."

"But tell me," said Fleda anxiously.

"I don't know as there's anything the matter with him," said Cynthy.
"Nothing much, I suppose. What makes you think anything is the matter?"

"Because I heard you telling Watkins to go for aunt Miriam." Fleda could
not say,--"and the doctor."

"Well your grandpa thought he'd like to have her come down, and he don't
feet right well,--so I sent Watkins up; but you'd better go to bed,
Flidda; you'll catch cold if you sit up o'night."

Fleda was unsatisfied, the more because Cynthy would not meet the keen
searching look with which the little girl tried to read her face. She was
not to be sent to bed, and all Cynthy's endeavours to make her change her
mind were of no avail. Fleda saw in them but fresh reason for staying, and
saw besides, what Cynthy could not hide, a somewhat of wandering and
uneasiness in her manner which strengthened her resolution. She sat down
in the chimney corner, resolved to wait till her aunt Miriam came; there
would be satisfaction in her, for aunt Miriam always told the truth, the
whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

It was a miserable three-quarters of an hour. The kitchen seemed to wear a
strange desolate look, though seen in its wonted bright light of fire and
candles, and in itself nice and cheerful as usual. Fleda looked at it also
through that vague fear which casts its own lurid colour upon everything.
The very flickering of the candle blaze seemed of ill omen, and her
grandfather's empty chair stood a signal of pain to little Fleda whenever
she looked at it. She sat still, in submissive patience, her cheek pale
with the working of a heart too big for that little body. Cynthia was
going in and out of her grandfather's room, but Fleda would not ask her
any more questions, to be disappointed with word-answers; she waited, but
the minutes seemed very long,--and very sad.

The characteristic outward calm which Fleda had kept, and which belonged
to a nature uncommonly moulded to patience and fortitude, had yet perhaps
heightened the pressure of excited fear within. When at last she saw the
cloak and hood of aunt Miriam coming through the moonlight to the kitchen
door, she rushed to open it, and quite overcome for the moment threw her
arms around her and was speechless. Aunt Miriam's tender and quiet voice
comforted her.

"You up yet, Fleda! Hadn't you better go to bed? 'Tisn't good for you."

"That's what I've been a telling her," said Cynthy, "but she wa'n't a mind
to listen to me."

But the two little arms embraced aunt Miriam's cloak and wrappers and the
little face was hid there still, and Fleda's answer was a half smothered
ejaculation.

"I am _so_ glad you are come, dear aunt Miriam!"

Aunt Miriam kissed her again, and again repeated her request.

"O no--I can't go to bed," said Fleda crying;--"I can't till I know--I am
_sure_ something is the matter, or Cynthy wouldn't look so. _Do_ tell me,
aunt Miriam!"

"I can't tell you anything, dear, except that grandpa is not well--that
is all I know--I am going in to see him. I will tell you in the morning
how he is."

"No," said Fleda, "I will wait here till you come out. I couldn't sleep."

Mrs. Plumfield made no more efforts to persuade her, but rid herself of
cloak and hood and went into Mr. Ringgan's room. Fleda placed herself
again in her chimney corner. Burying her face in her hands, she sat
waiting more quietly; and Cynthy, having finished all her business, took a
chair on the hearth opposite to her. Both were silent and motionless,
except when Cynthy once in a while got up to readjust the sticks of wood
on the fire. They sat there waiting so long that Fleda's anxiety began to
quicken again.

"Don't you think the doctor is a long time coming, Cynthy?" said she
raising her head at last. Her question, breaking that forced silence,
sounded fearful.

"It seems kind o' long," said Cynthy. "I guess Watkins ha'n't found
him to hum."

Watkins indeed presently came in and reported as much, and that the wind
was changing and it was coming off cold; and then his heavy boots were
heard going up the stairs to his room overhead; but Fleda listened in vain
for the sound of the latch of her grandfather's door, or aunt Miriam's
quiet foot-fall in the passage; listened and longed, till the minutes
seemed like the links of a heavy chain which she was obliged to pass over
from hand to hand, and the last link could not be found. The noise of
Watkins' feet ceased overhead, and nothing stirred or moved but the
crackling flames and Cynthia's elbows, which took turns each in resting
upon the opposite arm, and now and then a tell-tale gust of wind in the
trees. If Mr. Ringgan was asleep, why did not aunt Miriam come out and see
them,--if he was better, why not come and tell them so. He had been asleep
when she first went into his room, and she had come back for a minute then
to try again to get Fleda to bed; why could she not come out for a minute
once more. Two hours of watching and trouble had quite changed little
Fleda; the dark ring of anxiety had come under each eye in her little pale
face; she looked herself almost ill.

Aunt Miriam's grave step was heard coming out of the room at last,--it did
not sound cheerfully in Fleda's ears. She came in, and stopping to give
some direction to Cynthy, walked up to Fleda. Her face encouraged no
questions. She took the child's head tenderly in both her hands, and told
her gently, but it was in vain that she tried to make her voice quite as
usual, that she had better go to bed--that she would be sick.

Fleda looked up anxiously in her face.

"How is he?"

But her next word was the wailing cry of sorrow,--"Oh grandpa!--"

The old lady took the little child in her arms and they both sat there by
the fire until the morning dawned.



Chapter VIII.



               Patience and sorrow strove
  Who should express her goodliest.

  King Lear.


When Mr. Carleton knocked at the front door the next day about two o'clock
it was opened to him by Cynthy. He asked for his late host.

"Mr. Ringgan is dead."

"Dead!" exclaimed the young man much shocked;--"when? how?"

"Won't you come in, sir?" said Cynthy;--"maybe you'll see Mis' Plumfield."

"No, certainly," replied the visitor. "Only tell me about Mr. Ringgan."

"He died last night."

"What was the matter with him?"

"I don't know," said Cynthy in a business-like tone of voice,--"I
s'pose the doctor knows, but he didn't say nothing about it. He died
very sudden."

"Was he alone?"

"No--his sister was with him; he had been complaining all the evening
that he didn't feel right, but I didn't think nothing of it and I didn't
know as he did; and towards evening he went and laid down, and Flidda was
with him a spell, talking to him; and at last he sent her to bed and
called me in and said he felt mighty strange and he didn't know what it
was going to be, and that he had as lieve I should send up and ask Mis'
Plumfield to come down, and perhaps I might as well send for the doctor
too. And I sent right off, but the doctor wa'n't to hum, and didn't get
here till long after. Mis' Plumfield, she come; and Mr. Ringgan was
asleep then, and I didn't know as it was going to be anything more after
all than just a turn, such as anybody might take; and Mis' Plumfield went
in and sot by him; and there wa'n't no one else in the room; and after a
while he come to, and talked to her, she said, a spell; but he seemed to
think it was something more than common ailed him; and all of a sudden he
just riz up half way in bed and then fell back and died,--with no more
warning than that."

"And how is the little girl?"

"Why," said Cynthy, looking off at right angles from her visitor, "she's
middling now, I s'pose, but she won't be before long, or else she must be
harder to make sick than other folks.--We can't get her out of the room,"
she added, bringing her eyes to bear, for an instant, upon the young
gentleman,--"she stays in there the hull time since morning--I've tried,
and Mis' Plumfield's tried, and everybody has tried, and there can't none
of us manage it; she will stay in there and it's an awful cold room when
there ain't no fire."

Cynthy and her visitor were both taking the benefit of the chill blast
which rushed in at the open door.

"_The room_?" said Mr. Carleton. "The room where the body lies?"

"Yes--it's dreadful chill in there when the stove ain't heated, and she
sits there the hull time. And she ha'n't 'got much to boast of now: she
looks as if a feather would blow her away."

The door at the further end of the hall opened about two inches and a
voice called out through the crack,

"Cynthy!--Mis' Plumfield wants to know if that is Mr. Carleton?"

"Yes."

"Well she'd like to see him. Ask him to walk into the front room,
she says."

Cynthy upon this shewed the way, and Mr. Carleton walked into the same
room where a very few days before he had been so kindly welcomed by his
fine old host. Cold indeed it was now, as was the welcome he would have
given. There was no fire in the chimney, and even all the signs of the
fire of the other day had been carefully cleared away; the clean empty
fireplace looked a mournful assurance that its cheerfulness would not soon
come back again. It was a raw disagreeable day, the paper window shades
fluttered uncomfortably in the wind, which had its way now; and the very
chairs and tables seemed as if they had taken leave of life and society
for ever. Mr. Carleton walked slowly up and down, his thoughts running
perhaps somewhat in the train where poor little Fleda's had been so busy
last night, and wrapped up in broadcloth as he was to the chin, he
shivered when he heard the chill wind moaning round the house and rustling
the paper hangings and thought of little Fleda's delicate frame, exposed
as Cynthia had described it. He made up his mind it must not be.

Mrs. Plumfield presently came in, and met him with the calm dignity of
that sorrow which needs no parade and that truth and meekness of character
which can make none. Yet there was nothing like stoicism, no affected or
proud repression of feeling; her manner was simply the dictate of good
sense borne out by a firm and quiet spirit. Mr. Carleton was struck with
it, it was a display of character different from any he had ever before
met with; it was something he could not quite understand. For he wanted
the key. But all the high respect he had felt for this lady from the first
was confirmed and strengthened.

After quietly receiving Mr. Carleton's silent grasp of the hand, aunt
Miriam said,

"I troubled you to stop, sir, that I might ask you how much longer you
expect to stop at Montepoole."

Not more than two or three days, he said.

"I understood," said aunt Miriam after a minute's pause, "that Mrs.
Carleton was so kind as to say she would take care of Elfleda to France
and put her in the hands of her aunt."

"She would have great pleasure in doing it," said Mr. Carleton. "I can
promise for your little niece that she shall have a mother's care so long
as my mother can render it."

Aunt Miriam was silent, and he saw her eyes fill.

"You should not have had the pain of seeing me to-day," said he gently,
"if I could have known it would give you any; but since I am here, may I
ask, whether it is your determination that Fleda shall go with us?"

"It was my brother's," said aunt Miriam, sighing;--"he told me--last
night--that he wished her to go with Mrs. Carleton--if she would still be
so good as to take her."

"I have just heard about her, from the housekeeper," said Mr, Carleton,
"what has disturbed me a good deal. Will you forgive me, if I venture to
propose that she should come to us at once. Of course we will not leave
the place for several days--till you are ready to part with her."

Aunt Miriam hesitated, and again the tears flushed to her eyes.

"I believe it would be best," she said,--"since it must be--I cannot get
the child away from her grandfather--I am afraid I want firmness to do
it--and she ought not to be there--she is a tender little creature--"

For once self-command failed her--she was obliged to cover her face.

"A stranger's hands cannot be more tender of her than ours will be," said
Mr. Carleton, his warm pressure of aunt Miriam's hand repeating the
promise. "My mother will bring a carriage for her this afternoon, if you
will permit."

"If you please, sir,--since it must be, it does not matter a day sooner or
later," repeated aunt Miriam,--"if she can be got away.--I don't know
whether it will be possible."

Mr. Carleton had his own private opinion on that point. He merely promised
to be there again in a few hours and took his leave.

He came, with his mother, about five o'clock in the afternoon. They were
shewn this time into the kitchen, where they found two or three neighbours
and friends with aunt Miriam and Cynthy. The former received them with the
same calm simplicity that Mr. Carleton had admired in the morning, but
said she was afraid their coming would be in vain; she had talked with
Fleda about the proposed plan and could not get her to listen to it. She
doubted whether it would be possible to persuade her. And yet--

Aunt Miriam's self-possession seemed to be shaken when she thought of
Fleda; she could not speak of her without watering eyes.

"She's fixing to be sick as fast as ever she can," remarked Cynthia dryly,
in a kind of aside meant for the audience;--"there wa'n't a grain of
colour in her face when I went in to try to get her out a little while
ago; and Mis' Plumfield ha'n't the heart to do anything with her, nor
nobody else."

"Mother, will you see what you can do?" said Mr. Carleton.

Mrs. Carleton went, with an expression of face that her son, nobody else,
knew meant that she thought it a particularly disagreeable piece of
business. She came back after the lapse of a few minutes, in tears.

"I can do nothing with her," she said hurriedly;--"I don't know what to
say to her; and she looks like death. Go yourself, Guy; you can manage her
if any one can."

Mr. Carleton went immediately.

The room into which a short passage admitted him was cheerless indeed. On
a fair afternoon the sun's rays came in there pleasantly, but this was a
true November day; a grey sky and a chill raw wind that found its way in
between the loose window-sashes and frames. One corner of the room was
sadly tenanted by the bed which held the remains of its late master and
owner. At a little table between the windows, with her back turned towards
the bed, Fleda was sitting, her face bowed in her hands, upon the old
quarto bible that lay there open; a shawl round her shoulders.

Mr. Carleton went up to the side of the table and softly spoke her name.
Fleda looked up at him for an instant, and then buried her face in her
hands on the book as before. That look might have staggered him, but that
Mr. Carleton rarely was staggered in any purpose when he had once made up
his mind. It did move him,--so much that he was obliged to wait a minute
or two before he could muster firmness to speak to her again. Such a
look,--so pitiful in its sorrow, so appealing in its helplessness, so
imposing in its purity,--he had never seen, and it absolutely awed him.
Many a child's face is lovely to look upon for its innocent purity, but
more commonly it is not like this; it is the purity of snow, unsullied,
but not unsullyable; there is another kind more ethereal, like that of
light, which you feel is from another sphere and will not know soil. But
there were other signs in the face that would have nerved Mr. Carleton's
resolution if he had needed it. Twenty-four hours had wrought a sad
change. The child looked as if she had been ill for weeks. Her cheeks were
colourless; the delicate brow would have seemed pencilled on marble but
for the dark lines which weeping and watching, and still more sorrow, had
drawn underneath; and the beautiful moulding of the features shewed under
the transparent skin like the work of the sculptor. She was not crying
then, but the open pages of the great bible had been wet with very many
tears since her head had rested there.

[Illustration: Fleda was sitting, her face bowed in her hands.]

"Fleda," said Mr. Carleton after a moment,--"you must come with me."

The words were gently and tenderly spoken, yet they had that tone which
young and old instinctively know it is vain to dispute. Fleda glanced up
again, a touching imploring look it was very difficult to bear, and her
"Oh no--I cannot,"--went to his heart. It was not resistance but entreaty,
and all the arguments she would have urged seemed to lie in the mere tone
of her voice. She had no power of urging them in any other way, for even
as she spoke her head went down again on the bible with a burst of sorrow.
Mr. Carleton was moved, but not shaken in his purpose. He was silent a
moment, drawing back the hair that fell over Fleda's forehead with a
gentle caressing touch; and then he said, still lower and more tenderly
than before, but without flinching, "You must come with me, Fleda."

"Mayn't I stay," said Fleda, sobbing, while he could see in the tension of
the muscles a violent effort at self-control which he did not like to
see,--"mayn't I stay till--till--the day after to-morrow?"

"No, dear Fleda," said he, still stroking her head kindly,--"I will bring
you back, but you must go with me now, Your aunt wishes it and we all
think it is best. I will bring you back."--

She sobbed bitterly for a few minutes. Then she begged in smothered words
that he would leave her alone a little while. He went immediately.

She checked her sobs when she heard the door close upon him, or as soon as
she could, and rising went and knelt down by the side of the bed. It was
not to cry, though what she did could not be done without many tears,--it
was to repeat with equal earnestness and solemnity her mother's prayer,
that she might be kept pure from the world's contact. There beside the
remains of her last dear earthly friend, as it were before going out of
his sight forever, little Fleda knelt down to set the seal of faith and
hope to his wishes, and to lay the constraining hand of Memory upon her
conscience. It was soon done,--and then there was but one thing more to
do. But oh, the tears that fell as she stood there before she could go on;
how the little hands were pressed to the bowed face, as if _they_ would
have borne up the load they could not reach; the convulsive struggle,
before the last look could be taken, the last good-by said! But the sobs
were forced back, the hands wiped off the tears, the quivering features
were bidden into some degree of calmness; and she leaned forward, over the
loved face that in death had kept all its wonted look of mildness and
placid dignity. It was in vain to try to look through Fleda's blinded
eyes; the hot tears dropped fast, while her trembling lips kissed--and
kissed,--those cold and silent that could make no return; and then feeling
that it was the last, that the parting was over, she stood again by the
side of the bed as she had done a few minutes before, in a convulsion of
grief, her face bowed down and her little frame racked with feeling too
strong for it; shaken visibly, as if too frail to bear the trial to which
it was put.

Mr. Carleton had waited and waited, as he thought long enough, and now at
last came in again, guessing how it was with her. He put his arm round the
child and gently drew her away, and sitting down took her on his knee; and
endeavoured rather with actions than with words to soothe and comfort her;
for he did not know what to say. But his gentle delicate way, the soft
touch with which he again stroked back her hair or took her hand, speaking
kindness and sympathy, the loving pressure of his lips once or twice to
her brow, the low tones in which he told her that she was making herself
sick,--that she must not do so,--that she must let him take care of
her,--were powerful to soothe or quiet a sensitive mind, and Fleda felt
them. It was a very difficult task, and if undertaken by any one else
would have been more likely to disgust and distress her. But his spirit
had taken the measure of hers, and he knew precisely how to temper every
word and tone so as just to meet the nice sensibilities of her nature. He
had said hardly anything, but she had understood all he meant to say, and
when he told her at last, softly, that it was getting late and she must
let him take her away, she made no more difficulty; rose up and let him
lead her out of the room without once turning her head to look back.

Mrs. Carleton looked relieved that there was a prospect of getting away,
and rose up with a happy adjusting of her shawl round her shoulders. Aunt
Miriam came forward to say good-by, but it was very quietly said. Fleda
clasped her round the neck convulsively for an instant, kissed her as if a
kiss could speak a whole heartful, and then turned submissively to Mr.
Carleton and let him lead her to the carriage.

There was no fault to be found with Mrs. Carleton's kindness when they
were on the way. She held the forlorn little child tenderly in her arm,
and told her how glad she was to have her with them, how glad she should
be if she were going to keep her always; but her saying so only made Fleda
cry, and she soon thought it best to say nothing. All the rest of the way
Fleda was a picture of resignation; transparently pale, meek and pure, and
fragile seemingly, as the delicatest wood-flower that grows. Mr. Carleton
looked grieved, and leaning forward he took one of her hands in his own
and held it affectionately till they got to the end of their journey. It
marked Fleda's feeling towards him that she let it lie there without
making a motion to draw it away. She was so still for the last few miles
that her friends thought she had fallen asleep; but when the carriage
stopped and the light of the lantern was flung inside, they saw the grave
hazel eyes broad open and gazing intently out of the window.

"You will order tea for us in your dressing-room, mother?" said Mr.
Carleton.

"_Us_--who is _us?_"

"Fleda and me,--unless you will please to make one of the party."

"Certainly I will, but perhaps Fleda might like it better down stairs.
Wouldn't you, dear?"

"If you please, ma'am," said Fleda. "Wherever you please."

"But which would you rather, Fleda?" said Mr. Carleton.

"I would _rather_ have it up-stairs," said Fleda gently, "but it's
no matter."

"We will have it up-stairs," said Mrs. Carleton. "We will be a nice little
party up there by ourselves. You shall not come down till you like."

"You are hardly able to walk up," said Mr. Carleton tenderly. "Shall I
carry you?"

The tears rushed to Fleda's eyes, but she said no, and managed to mount
the stairs, though it was evidently an exertion. Mrs. Carleton's
dressing-room, as her son had called it, looked very pleasant when they
got there. It was well lighted and warmed and something answering to
curtains had been summoned from its obscurity in store-room or garret and
hung up at the windows,--"them air fussy English folks had made such a
pint of it," the landlord said. Truth was, that Mr. Carleton as well as
his mother wanted this room as a retreat for the quiet and privacy which
travelling in company as they did they could have nowhere else. Everything
the hotel could furnish in the shape of comfort had been drawn together to
give this room as little the look of a public house as possible. Easy
chairs, as Mrs. Carleton remarked with a disgusted face, one could not
expect to find in a country inn; there were instead as many as half a
dozen of "those miserable substitutes" as she called rocking-chairs, and
sundry fashions of couches and sofas, in various degrees of elegance and
convenience. The best of these, a great chintz-covered thing, full of
pillows, stood invitingly near the bright fire. There Mr. Carleton placed
little Fleda, took off her bonnet and things, and piled the cushions about
her just in the way that would make her most easy and comfortable. He said
little, and she nothing, but her eyes watered again at the kind tenderness
of his manner. And then he left her in peace till the tea came.

The tea was made in that room for those three alone. Fleda knew that Mr.
and Mrs. Carleton staid up there only for her sake, and it troubled her,
but she could not help it. Neither could she be very sorry so far as one
of them was concerned. Mr. Carleton was too good to be wished away. All
that evening his care of her never ceased. At tea, which the poor child
would hardly have shared but for him, and after tea, when in the absence
of bustle she had leisure to feel more fully her strange circumstances and
position, he hardly permitted her to feel either, doing everything for
her ease and pleasure and quietly managing at the same time to keep back
his mother's more forward and less happily adapted tokens of kind feeling.
Though she knew he was constantly occupied with her Fleda could not feel
oppressed; his kindness was as pervading and as unobtrusive as the summer
air itself; she felt as if she was in somebody's hands that knew her wants
before she did, and quietly supplied or prevented them, in a way she could
not tell how. It was very rarely that she even got a chance to utter the
quiet and touching "thank you," which invariably answered every token of
kindness or thoughtfulness that permitted an answer. How greatly that
harsh and sad day was softened to little Fleda'a heart by the good feeling
and fine breeding of one person. She thought when she went to bed that
night, thought seriously and gratefully, that since she must go over the
ocean and take that long journey to her aunt, how glad she was, how
thankful she ought to be, that she had so very kind and pleasant people to
go with. Kind and pleasant she counted them both; but what more she
thought of Mr. Carleton it would be hard to say. Her admiration of him was
very high, appreciating as she did to the full all that charm of manner
which she could neither analyze nor describe.

Her last words to him that night, spoken with a most wistful anxious
glance into his face, were,

"You will take me back again, Mr. Carleton?"

He knew what she meant.

"Certainly I will. I promised you, Fleda."

"Whatever Guy promises you may be very sure he will do," said his mother
with a smile.

Fleda believed it. But the next morning it was very plain that this
promise he would not be called upon to perform; Fleda would not be well
enough to go to the funeral. She was able indeed to get up, but she lay
all day upon the sofa in the dressing-room. Mr. Carleton had bargained for
no company last night; to-day female curiosity could stand it no longer;
and Mrs. Thorn and Mrs. Evelyn came up to look and gossip openly and to
admire and comment privately, when they had a chance. Fleda lay perfectly
quiet and still, seeming not much to notice or care for their presence;
they thought she was tolerably easy in body and mind, perhaps tired and
sleepy, and like to do well enough after a few days. How little they knew!
How little they could imagine the assembly of Thought which was holding in
that child's mind; how little they deemed of the deep, sad, serious look
into life which that little spirit was taking. How far they were from
fancying while they were discussing all manner of trifles before her,
sometimes when they thought her sleeping, that in the intervals between
sadder and weighter things her nice instincts were taking the gauge of
all their characters; unconsciously, but surely; how they might have been
ashamed if they had known that while they were busy with all affairs in
the universe but those which most nearly concerned them, the little child
at their side whom they had almost forgotten was secretly looking up to
her Father in heaven, and asking to be kept pure from the world! "Not unto
the wise and prudent;"--how strange it may seem in one view of the
subject,--in another, how natural, how beautiful, how reasonable!

Fleda did not ask again to be taken to Queechy. But as the afternoon drew
on she turned her face away from the company and shielded it from view
among the cushions, and lay in that utterly motionless state of body which
betrays a concentrated movement of the spirits in some hidden direction.
To her companions it betrayed nothing. They only lowered their tones a
little lest they should disturb her.

It had grown dark, and she was sitting up again, leaning against the
pillows and in her usual quietude, when Mr. Carleton came in. They had not
seen him since before dinner. He came to her side and taking her hand made
some gentle inquiry how she was.

"She has had a fine rest," said Mrs. Evelyn.

"She has been sleeping all the afternoon," said Mrs. Carleton,--"she
lay as quiet as a mouse, without stirring;--you were sleeping, weren't
you, dear?"

Fleda's lips hardly formed the word "no," and her features were quivering
sadly. Mr. Carleton's were impenetrable.

"Dear Fleda," said he, stooping down and speaking with equal gravity and
kindliness of manner,--"you were not able to go."

Fleda's shake of the head gave a meek acquiescence. But her face was
covered, and the gay talkers around her were silenced and sobered by the
heaving of her little frame with sobs that she could not keep back. Mr.
Carleton secured the permanence of their silence for that evening. He
dismissed them the room again and would have nobody there but himself and
his mother.

Instead of being better the next day Fleda was not able to get up; she was
somewhat feverish and exceedingly weak. She lay like a baby, Mrs. Carleton
said, and gave as little trouble. Gentle and patient always, she made no
complaint, and even uttered no wish, and whatever they did made no
objection. Though many a tear that day and the following paid its faithful
tribute to the memory of what she had lost, no one knew it; she was never
seen to weep; and the very grave composure of her face and her passive
unconcern as to what was done or doing around her alone gave her friends
reason to suspect that the mind was not as quiet as the body. Mr. Carleton
was the only one who saw deeper; the only one that guessed why the little
hand often covered the eyes so carefully, and read the very, very grave
lines of the mouth that it could not hide.

As soon as she could bear it he had her brought out to the
dressing-room again, and laid on the sofa; and it was several days
before she could be got any further. But there he could be more with
her and devote himself more to her pleasure; and it was not long before
he had made himself necessary to the poor child's comfort in a way
beyond what he was aware of.

He was not the only one who shewed her kindness. Unwearied care and most
affectionate attention were lavished upon her by his mother and both her
friends; they all thought they could not do enough to mark their feeling
and regard for her. Mrs. Carleton and Mrs. Evelyn nursed her by night and
by day. Mrs. Evelyn read to her. Mrs. Thorn would come often to look and
smile at her and say a few words of heart-felt pity and sympathy. Yet
Fleda could not feel quite at home with any one of them. They did not see
it. Her manner was affectionate and grateful, to the utmost of their wish;
her simple natural politeness, her nice sense of propriety, were at every
call; she seemed after a few days to be as cheerful and to enter as much
into what was going on about her as they had any reason to expect she
could; and they were satisfied. But while moving thus smoothly among her
new companions, in secret her spirit stood aloof; there was not one of
them that could touch her, that could understand her, that could meet the
want of her nature. Mrs. Carleton was incapacitated for it by education;
Mrs. Evelyn by character; Mrs. Thorn by natural constitution. Of them all,
though by far the least winning and agreeable in personal qualifications,
Fleda would soonest have relied on Mrs. Thorn, could soonest have loved
her. Her homely sympathy and kindness made their way to the child's heart;
Fleda felt them and trusted them. But there were too few points of
contact. Fleda thanked her, and did not wish to see her again. With Mrs.
Carleton Fleda had almost nothing at all in common. And that
notwithstanding all this lady's politeness, intelligence, cultivation, and
real kindness towards herself. Fleda would readily have given her credit
for them all; and yet, the nautilus may as soon compare notes with the
navigator, the canary might as well study Maelzel's Metronome, as a child
of nature and a woman of the world comprehend and suit each other. The
nature of the one must change or the two must remain the world wide apart.
Fleda felt it, she did not know why. Mrs. Carleton was very kind, and
perfectly polite; but Fleda had no pleasure in her kindness, no trust in
her politeness; or if that be saying too much, at least she felt that for
some inexplicable reason both were unsatisfactory. Even the tact which
each possessed in an exquisite degree was not the same in each; in one it
was the self-graduating power of a clever machine,--in the other, the
delicateness of the sensitive plant. Mrs. Carleton herself was not without
some sense of this distinction; she confessed, secretly, that there was
something in Fleda out of the reach of her discernment, and consequently
beyond the walk of her skill; and felt, rather uneasily, that more
delicate hands were needed to guide so delicate a nature. Mrs. Evelyn came
nearer the point. She was very pleasant, and she knew how to do things in
a charming way; and there were times, frequently, when Fleda thought she
was everything lovely. But yet, now and then a mere word, or look, would
contradict this fair promise, a something of _hardness_ which Fleda could
not reconcile with the soft gentleness of other times; and on the whole
Mrs. Evelyn was unsure ground to her; she could not adventure her
confidence there.

With Mr. Carleton alone Fleda felt at home. He only, she knew, completely
understood and appreciated her. Yet she saw also that with others he was
not the same as with her. Whether grave or gay there was about him an air
of cool indifference, very often reserved and not seldom haughty; and the
eye which could melt and glow when turned upon her, was sometimes as
bright and cold as a winter sky. Fleda felt sure however that she might
trust him entirely so far as she herself was concerned; of the rest she
stood in doubt. She was quite right in both cases. Whatever else there
might be in that blue eye, there was truth in it when it met hers; she
gave that truth her full confidence and was willing to honour every
draught made upon her charity for the other parts of his character.

He never seemed to lose sight of her. He was always doing something for
which Fleda loved him, but so quietly and happily that she could neither
help his taking the trouble nor thank him for it. It might have been
matter of surprise that a gay young man of fashion should concern himself
like a brother about the wants of a little child; the young gentlemen down
stairs who were not of the society in the dressing-room did make
themselves very merry upon the subject, and rallied Mr. Carleton with the
common amount of wit and wisdom about his little sweetheart; a raillery
which met the most flinty indifference. But none of those who saw Fleda
ever thought strange of anything that was done for her; and Mrs. Carleton
was rejoiced to have her son take up the task she was fain to lay down. So
he really, more than any one else, had the management of her; and Fleda
invariably greeted his entrance into the room with a faint smile, which
even the ladies who saw agreed was well worth working for.



Chapter IX.



  If large possessions, pompous titles, honourable charges, and
  profitable commissions, could have made this proud man happy, there
  would have been nothing wanting.--L'Estrange.


Several days had passed. Fleda'a cheeks had gained no colour, but she had
grown a little stronger, and it was thought the party might proceed on
their way without any more tarrying; trusting that change and the motion
of travelling would do better things for Fleda than could be hoped from
any further stay at Montepoole. The matter was talked over in an evening
consultation in the dressing-room, and it was decided that they would set
off on the second day thereafter.

Fleda was lying quietly on her sofa, with her eyes closed, having had
nothing to say during the discussion. They thought she had perhaps not
heard it. Mr. Carleton's sharper eyes, however, saw that one or two tears
were glimmering just under the eyelash. He bent down over her and
whispered,

"I know what you are thinking of Fleda, do I not?"

"I was thinking of aunt Miriam," Fleda said in an answering whisper,
without opening her eyes.

"I will take care of that."

Fleda looked up and smiled most expressively her thanks, and in five
minutes was asleep. Mr. Carleton stood watching her, querying how long
those clear eyes would have nothing to hide,--how long that bright purity
could resist the corrosion of the world's breath; and half thinking that
it would be better for the spirit to pass away, with its lustre upon it,
than stay till self-interest should sharpen the eye, and the lines of
diplomacy write themselves on that fair brow. "Better so; better so."

"What are you thinking of so gloomily, Guy?" said his Mother.

"That is a tender little creature to struggle with a rough world."

"She won't have to struggle with it," said Mrs. Carleton.

"She will do very well," said Mrs. Evelyn.

"I don't think she'd find it a rough world, where _you_ were, Mr.
Carleton," said Mrs. Thorn.

"Thank you ma'am," he said smiling. "But unhappily my power reaches very
little way."

"Perhaps," said Mrs. Evelyn with a sly smile,--"that might be arranged
differently--Mrs. Rossitur--I have no doubt--would desire nothing better
than a smooth world for her little niece--and Mr. Carleton's power might
be unlimited in its extent."

There was no answer, and the absolute repose of all the lines of the
young gentleman's face bordered too nearly on contempt to encourage the
lady to pursue her jest any further.

The next day Fleda was well enough to bear moving. Mr. Carleton had her
carefully bundled up, and then carried her down stairs and placed her in
the little light wagon which had once before brought her to the Pool.
Luckily it was a mild day, for no close carriage was to be had for love or
money. The stage coach in which Fleda had been fetched from her
grandfather's was in use, away somewhere. Mr. Carleton drove her down to
aunt Miriam's, and leaving her there he went off again; and whatever he
did with himself it was a good two hours before he came back. All too
little yet they were for the tears and the sympathy which went to so many
things both in the past and in the future. Aunt Miriam had not said half
she wished to say, when the wagon was at the gate again, and Mr. Carleton
came to take his little charge away.

He found her sitting happily in aunt Miriam's lap. Fleda was very grateful
to him for leaving her such a nice long time, and welcomed him with even a
brighter smile than usual. But her head rested wistfully on her aunt's
bosom after that; and when he asked her if she was almost ready to go, she
hid her face there and put her arms about her neck. The old lady held her
close for a few minutes, in silence.

"Elfleda," said aunt Miriam gravely and tenderly,--"do you know what was
your mother's prayer for you?"

"Yes,"--she whispered.

"What was it?"

"That I--might be kept--"

"Unspotted from the world!" repeated aunt Miriam, in a tone of tender and
deep feeling;--"My sweet blossom!--how wilt thou keep so? Will you
remember always your mother's prayer?"

"I will try."

"How will you try, Fleda?

"I will pray."

Aunt Miriam kissed her again and again, fondly repeating, "The Lord hear
thee!--The Lord bless thee!--The Lord keep thee!--as a lily among thorns,
my precious little babe;--though in the world, not of it.--"

"Do you think that is possible?" said Mr. Carleton significantly, when a
few moments after they had risen and were about to separate. Aunt Miriam
looked at him in surprise and asked,

"What, sir?"

"To live in the world and not be like the world?"

She cast her eyes upon Fleda, fondly smoothing down her soft hair with
both hands for a minute or two before she answered,

"By the help of one thing sir, yes!"

"And what is that?" said he quickly.

"The blessing of God, with whom all things are possible."

His eyes fell, and there was a kind of incredulous sadness in his half
smile which aunt Miriam understood better than he did. She sighed as she
folded Fleda again to her breast and whisperingly bade her "Remember!" But
Fleda knew nothing of it; and when she had finally parted from aunt Miriam
and was seated in the little wagon on her way home, to her fancy the best
friend she had in the world was sitting beside her.

Neither was her judgment wrong, so far as it went. She saw true where she
saw at all. But there was a great deal she could not see.

Mr. Carleton was an unbeliever. Not maliciously,--not wilfully,--not
stupidly;--rather the fool of circumstance. His skepticism might be traced
to the joint workings of a very fine nature and a very bad education. That
is, education in the broad sense of the term; of course none of the means
and appliances of mental culture had been wanting to him.

He was an uncommonly fine example of what nature alone can do for a man. A
character of nature's building is at best a very ragged affair, without
religion's finishing hand; at the utmost a fine ruin--no more. And if that
be the _utmost_, of nature's handiwork, what is at the other end of the
scale?--alas! the rubble stones of the ruin; what of good and fair nature
had reared there was not strong enough to stand alone. But religion cannot
work alike on every foundation; and the varieties are as many as the
individuals. Sometimes she must build the whole, from the very ground; and
there are cases where nature's work stands so strong and fair that
religion's strength may be expended in perfecting and enriching and
carrying it to an uncommon height of grace and beauty, and dedicating the
fair temple to a new use.

Of religion Mr. Carleton had nothing at all, and a true Christian
character had never crossed his path near enough for him to become
acquainted with it. His mother was a woman of the world; his father had
been a man of the world; and what is more, so deep-dyed a politician that
to all intents and purposes, except as to bare natural affection, he was
nothing to his son and his son was nothing to him. Both mother and father
thought the son a piece of perfection, and mothers and fathers have very
often indeed thought so on less grounds. Mr. Carleton saw, whenever he
took time to look at him, that Guy had no lack either of quick wit or
manly bearing; that he had pride enough to keep him from low company and
make him abhor low pursuits; if anything more than pride and better than
pride mingled with it, the father's discernment could not reach so far. He
had a love for knowledge too, that from a child made him eager in seeking
it, in ways both regular and desultory; and tastes which his mother
laughingly said would give him all the elegance of a woman, joined to the
strong manly character which no one ever doubted he possessed. _She_
looked mostly at the outside, willing if that pleased her to take
everything else upon trust; and the grace of manner which a warm heart and
fine sensibilities and a mind entirely frank and above board had given
him, from his earliest years had more than met all her wishes. No one
suspected the stubbornness and energy of will which was in fact the
back-bone of his character. Nothing tried it. His father's death early
left little Guy to his mother's guardianship. Contradicting him was the
last thing she thought of, and of course it was attempted by no one else.

If she would ever have allowed that he had a fault, which she never would,
it was one that grew out of his greatest virtue, an unmanageable truth of
character; and if she ever unwillingly recognised its companion virtue,
firmness of will, it was when she endeavoured to combat certain
troublesome demonstrations of the other. In spite of all the grace and
charm of manner in which he was allowed to be a model, and which was as
natural to him as it was universal, if ever the interests of truth came in
conflict with the dictates of society he flung minor considerations behind
his back and came out with some startling piece of bluntness at which his
mother was utterly confounded. These occasions were very rare; he never
sought them. Always where it was possible he chose either to speak or be
silent in an unexceptionable manner. But sometimes the barrier of
conventionalities, or his mother's unwise policy, pressed too hard upon
his integrity or his indignation; and he would then free the barrier and
present the shut-out truth in its full size and proportions before his
mother's shocked eyes. It was in vain to try to coax or blind him; a
marble statue is not more unruffled by the soft air of summer; and Mrs.
Carleton was fain to console herself with the reflection that Guy's very
next act after one of these breaks would be one of such happy fascination
that the former would be forgotten; and that in this world of
discordancies it was impossible on the whole for any one to come nearer
perfection. And if there was inconvenience there were also great comforts
about this character of truthfulness.

So nearly up to the time of his leaving the University the young heir
lived a life of as free and uncontrolled enjoyment as the deer on his
grounds, happily led by his own fine instincts to seek that enjoyment in
pure and natural sources. His tutor was proud of his success; his
dependants loved his frank and high bearing; his mother rejoiced in his
personal accomplishments, and was secretly well pleased that his tastes
led him another way from the more common and less safe indulgences of
other young men. He had not escaped the temptations of opportunity and
example. But gambling was not intellectual enough, jockeying was too
undignified, and drinking too coarse a pleasure for him. Even hunting and
coursing charmed him but for a few times; when he found he could out-ride
and out leap all his companions, he hunted no more; telling his mother,
when she attacked him on the subject, that he thought the hare the
worthier animal of the two upon a chase; and that the fox deserved an
easier death. His friends twitted him with his want of spirit and want of
manliness; but such light shafts bounded back from the buff suit of cool
indifference in which their object was cased; and his companions very soon
gave over the attempt either to persuade or annoy him, with the conclusion
that "nothing could be done with Carleton."

The same wants that had displeased him in the sports soon led him to
decline the company of those who indulged in them. From the low-minded,
from the uncultivated, from the unrefined in mind and manner, and such
there are in the highest class of society as well as in the less-favoured,
he shrank away in secret disgust or weariness. There was no affinity. To
his books, to his grounds, which he took endless delight in overseeing, to
the fine arts in general, for which he had a great love and for one or two
of them a great talent,--he went with restless energy and no want of
companionship; and at one or the other, always pushing eagerly forward
after some point of excellence or some new attainment not yet reached, and
which sprang up after one another as fast as ever "Alps on Alps," he was
happily and constantly busy. Too solitary, his mother thought,--caring
less for society than she wished to see him; but that she trusted would
mend itself. He would be through the University and come of age and go
into the world as a matter of necessity.

But years brought a change--not the change his mother looked for. That
restless active energy which had made the years of his youth so happy,
became, in connection with one or two other qualities, a troublesome
companion when he had reached the age of manhood and obeying manhood's
law had "put away childish things." On what should it spend itself? It
had lost none of its strength; while his fastidious notions of excellence
and a far-reaching clear-sightedness which belonged to his truth of
nature, greatly narrowed the sphere of its possible action. He could not
delude himself into the belief that the oversight of his plantations and
the perfecting his park scenery could be a worthy end of existence; or
that painting and music were meant to be the stamina of life; or even
that books were their own final cause. These things had refined and
enriched him;--they might go on doing so to the end of his days;--but
_for what_? For what?

It is said that everybody has his niche, failing to find which nobody
fills his place or acts his part in society. Mr. Carleton could not find
his niche, and he consequently grew dissatisfied everywhere. His mother's
hopes from the University and the World, were sadly disappointed.

At the University he had not lost his time. The pride of character which
joined with less estimable pride of birth was a marked feature in his
composition, made him look with scorn upon the ephemeral pursuits of one
set of young men; while his strong intellectual tastes drew him in the
other direction; and the energetic activity which drove him to do
everything well that he once took in hand, carried him to high
distinction. Being there he would have disdained to be anywhere but at the
top of the tree. But out of the University and in possession of his
estates, what should he do with himself and them?

A question easy to settle by most young men! very easy to settle by Guy,
if he had had the clue of Christian truth to guide him through the
labyrinth. But the clue was wanting, and the world seemed to him a world
of confusion.

A certain clearness of judgment is apt to be the blessed handmaid of
uncommon truth of character; the mind that knows not what it is to play
tricks upon its neighbours is rewarded by a comparative freedom from
self-deception. Guy could not sit down upon his estates and lead an insect
life like that recommended by Rossitur. His energies wanted room to expend
themselves. But the world offered no sphere that would satisfy him; even
had his circumstances and position laid all equally open. It was a busy
world, but to him people seemed to be busy upon trifles, or working in a
circle, or working mischief; and his nice notions of what _ought to be_
were shocked by what he saw _was_, in every direction around him. He was
disgusted with what he called the drivelling of some unhappy specimens of
the Church which had come in his way; he disbelieved the truth of what
such men professed. If there had been truth in it, he thought, they would
deserve to be drummed out of the profession. He detested the crooked
involvments and double-dealing of the law. He despised the butterfly life
of a soldier; and as to the other side of a soldier's life, again he
thought, what is it for?--to humour the arrogance of the proud,--to pamper
the appetite of the full,--to tighten the grip of the iron hand of
power;--and though it be sometimes for better ends, yet the soldier cannot
choose what letters of the alphabet of obedience he will learn. Politics
was the very shaking of the government sieve, where if there were any
solid result it was accompanied with a very great flying about of chaff
indeed. Society was nothing but whip syllabub,--a mere conglomeration of
bubbles,--as hollow and as unsatisfying. And in lower departments of human
life, as far as he knew, he saw evils yet more deplorable. The Church
played at shuttlecock with men's credulousness, the law with their
purses, the medical profession with their lives, the military with their
liberties and hopes. He acknowledged that in all these lines of action
there was much talent, much good intention, much admirable diligence and
acuteness brought out--but to what great general end? He saw in short that
the machinery of the human mind, both at large and in particular, was out
of order. He did not know what was the broken wheel the want of which set
all the rest to running wrong.

This was a strange train of thought for a very young man, but Guy had
lived much alone, and in solitude one is like a person who has climbed a
high mountain; the air is purer about him, his vision is freer; the eye
goes straight and clear to the distant view which below on the plain a
thousand things would come between to intercept. But there was some
morbidness about it too. Disappointment in two or three instances where he
had given his full confidence and been obliged to take it back had
quickened him to generalize unfavourably upon human character, both in the
mass and in individuals. And a restless dissatisfaction with himself and
the world did not tend to a healthy view of things. Yet truth was at the
bottom; truth rarely arrived at without the help of revelation. He
discerned a want he did not know how to supply. His fine perceptions felt
the jar of the machinery which other men are too busy or too deaf to hear.
It seemed to him hopelessly disordered.

This habit of thinking wrought a change very unlike what his mother had
looked for. He mingled more in society, but Mrs. Carleton saw that the eye
with which he looked upon it was yet colder than it wont to be. A cloud
came over the light gay spirited manner he had used to wear. The charm of
his address was as great as ever where he pleased to shew it, but much
more generally now he contented himself with a cool reserve, as impossible
to disturb as to find fault with. His temper suffered the same eclipse. It
was naturally excellent. His passions were not hastily moved. He had never
been easy to offend; his careless good-humour and an unbounded proud
self-respect made him look rather with contempt than anger upon the things
that fire most men; though when once moved to displeasure it was stern and
abiding in proportion to the depth of his character. The same good-humour
and cool self-respect forbade him even then to be eager in shewing
resentment; the offender fell off from his esteem and apparently from the
sphere of his notice as easily as a drop of water from a duck's wing, and
could with as much ease regain his lost lodgment, but unless there were
wrong to be righted or truth to be vindicated he was in general safe from
any further tokens of displeasure. In those cases Mr. Carleton was an
adversary to be dreaded. As cool, as unwavering, as persevering there as
in other things, he there as in other things no more failed of his end.
And at bottom these characteristics remained the same; it was rather his
humour than his temper that suffered a change. That grew more gloomy and
less gentle. He was more easily irritated and would shew it more freely
than in the old happy times had ever been.

Mrs. Carleton would have been glad to have those times back again. It
could not be. Guy could not be content any longer in the Happy Valley of
Amhara. Life had something for him to do beyond his park palings. He had
carried manly exercises and personal accomplishments to an uncommon point
of perfection; he knew his library well and his grounds thoroughly, and
had made excellent improvement of both; it was in vain to try to persuade
him that seed-time and harvest were the same thing, and that he had
nothing to do but to rest in what he had done; shew his bright colours
and flutter like a moth in the sunshine, or sit down like a degenerate
bee in the summer time and eat his own honey. The power of action which
he knew in himself could not rest without something to act upon. It
longed to be doing.

But what?

Conscience is often morbidly far-sighted. Mr. Carleton had a very large
tenantry around him and depending upon him, in bettering whose condition,
if he had but known it, all those energies might have found full play. It
never entered into his head. He abhorred _business_,--the detail of
business; and his fastidious taste especially shrank from having anything
to do among those whose business was literally their life. The eye
sensitively fond of elegance, the extreme of elegance, in everything, and
permitting no other around or about him, could not bear the tokens of
mental and bodily wretchedness among the ignorant poor; he escaped from
them as soon as possible; thought that poverty was one of the
irregularities of this wrong-working machine of a world, and something
utterly beyond his power to do away or alleviate; and left to his steward
all the responsibility that of right rested on his own shoulders.

And at last unable to content himself in the old routine of things he
quitted home and England, even before he was of age, and roved from place
to place, trying, and trying in vain, to soothe the vague restlessness
that called for a very different remedy.

  "On change de ciel,--l'on ne change point du sol."



Chapter X.



  Faire Christabelle, that ladye bright,
  Was had forth of the towre:
  But ever she droopeth in her minde,
  As, nipt by an ungentle winde,
  Doth some faire lillye flowre.

  Syr Cauline


That evening, the last of their stay at Montepoole, Fleda was thought well
enough to take her tea in company. So Mr. Carleton carried her down,
though she could have walked, and placed her on the sofa in the parlour.

Whatever disposition the young officers might have felt to renew their
pleasantry on the occasion, it was shamed into silence. There was a pure
dignity about that little pale face which protected itself. They were
quite struck, and Fleda had no reason to complain of want of attention
from any of the party. Mr. Evelyn kissed her. Mr. Thorn brought a little
table to the side of the sofa for her cup of tea to stand on, and handed
her the toast most dutifully; and her cousin Rossitur went back and forth
between her and the tea-urn. All of the ladies seemed to take immense
satisfaction in looking at her, they did it so much; standing about the
hearth-rug with their cups in their hands, sipping their tea. Fleda was
quite touched with everybody's kindness, but somebody at the back of the
sofa whom she did not see was the greatest comfort of all.

"You must let me carry you up-stairs when you go, Fleda," said her cousin.
"I shall grow quite jealous of your friend Mr. Carleton."

"No," said Fleda smiling a little,--"I shall not let any one but him carry
me up,--if he will."

"We shall all grow jealous of Mr. Carleton," said Thorn "He means to
monopolize you, keeping you shut up there up-stairs."

"He didn't keep me shut up," said Fleda.

Mr. Carleton was welcome to monopolize her, if it depended on her vote.

"Not fair play, Carleton," continued the young officer, wisely shaking his
head,--"all start alike, or there's no fun in the race. You've fairly
distanced us--left us nowhere."

He might have talked Chinese and been as intelligible to Fleda, and as
interesting to Guy, for all that appeared.

"How are we going to proceed to-morrow, Mr. Evelyn?" said Mrs. Carleton.
"Has the missing stage-coach returned yet? or Will it be forthcoming in
the morning?"

"Promised, Mrs. Carleton. The landlord's faith stands pledged for it."

"Then it won't disappoint us, of course. What a dismal way of travelling!"

"This young country hasn't grown up to post-coaches yet," said Mrs.
Evelyn.

"How many will it hold?" inquired Mrs. Carleton.

"Hum!--Nine inside, I suppose."

"And we number ten, with the servants.

"Just take us," said Mr. Evelyn. "There's room on the box for one."

"It will not take me," said Mr. Carleton.

"How will you go? ride?" said his mother "I should think you would, since
you have found a horse you like so well."

"By George! I wish there was another that _I_ liked," said Rossitur, "and
I'd go on horseback too. Such weather. The landlord says it's the
beginning of Indian summer."

"It's too early for that," said Thorn.

"Well, eight inside will do very well for one day," said Mrs. Carleton.
"That will give little Fleda a little more space to lie at her ease."

"You may put Fleda out of your calculations too, mother," said Mr.
Carleton. "I will take care of her."

"How in the world," exclaimed his mother,--"if you are on horseback?"

And Fleda twisted herself round so as to give a look of bright inquiry at
his face. She got no answer beyond a smile, which however completely
satisfied her. As to the rest he told his mother that he had arranged it
and they should see in the morning. Mrs. Carleton was far from being at
ease on the subject of his arrangements, but she let the matter drop.

Fleda was secretly very much pleased. She thought she would a great deal
rather go with Mr. Carleton in the little wagon than in the stage-coach
with the rest of the people. Privately she did not at all admire Mr. Thorn
or her cousin Rossitur. They amused her though; and feeling very much
better and stronger in body, and at least quiet in mind, she sat in
tolerable comfort on her sofa, looking and listening to the people who
were gayly talking around her.

In the gaps of talk she sometimes thought she heard a distressed sound in
the hall. The buzz of tongues covered it up,--then again she heard
it,--and she was sure at last that it was the voice of a dog. Never came
an appeal in vain from any four-footed creature to Fleda's heart. All the
rest being busy with their own affairs, she quietly got up and opened the
door and looked out, and finding that she was right went softly into the
hall. In one corner lay her cousin Rossitur's beautiful black pointer,
which she well remembered and had greatly admired several times. The poor
creature was every now and then uttering short cries, in a manner as if he
would not, but they were forced from him.

"What is the matter with him?" asked Fleda, stepping fearfully towards
the dog, and speaking to Mr. Carleton who had come out to look after
her. As she spoke the dog rose and came crouching and wagging his tail
to meet them.

"O Mr. Carleton!" Fleda almost screamed,--"look at him! O what is the
matter with him! he's all over bloody! Poor creature!"--

"You must ask your cousin, Fleda," said Mr. Carleton, with as much cold
disgust in his countenance as it often expressed; and that is saying a
good deal.

Fleda could speak in the cause of a dog, where she would have been silent
in her own. She went back to the parlour and begged her cousin with a
face of distress to come out into the hall,--she did not say for what.
Both he and Thorn followed her. Rossitur's face darkened as Fleda
repeated her inquiry, her heart so full by this time as hardly to allow
her to make any.

"Why the dog didn't do his duty and has been punished," he said gloomily.

"Punished?" said Fleda.

"Shot," said Mr. Carleton coolly.

"Shot!" exclaimed Fleda, bursting into heart-wrung tears,--"Shot!--O how
_could_ any one do it! Oh how could you, how could you, cousin Charlton?"

It was a picture. The child was crying bitterly, her fingers stroking the
poor dog's head with a touch in which lay, O what tender healing, if the
will had but had magnetic power. Carleton's eye glanced significantly from
her to the young officers. Rossitur looked at Thorn.

"It was not Charlton--it was I, Miss Fleda," said the latter. "Charlton
lent him to me to-day, and he disobeyed me, and so I was angry with him
and punished him a little severely; but he'll soon get over it."

But all Fleda's answer was, "I am very sorry!--I am very sorry!--poor
dog!!"--and to weep such tears as made the young gentlemen for once
ashamed of themselves. It almost did the child a mischief. She did not get
over it all the evening. And she never got over it as far as Mr. Thorn was
concerned.

Mrs. Carleton hoped, faintly, that Guy would come to reason by the next
morning and let Fleda go in the stage-coach with the rest of the people.
But he was as unreasonable as ever, and stuck to his purpose. She had
supposed however, with Fleda, that the difference would be only an open
vehicle and his company instead of a covered one and her own. Both of
them were sadly discomfited when on coming to the hall door to take their
carriages it was found that Mr. Carleton's meaning was no less than to
take Fleda before him on horseback. He was busy even then in arranging a
cushion on the pommel of the saddle for her to sit upon. Mrs. Carleton
burst into indignant remonstrances; Fleda silently trembled.

But Mr. Carleton had his own notions on the subject, and they were not
moved by anything his mother could say. He quietly went on with his
preparations; taking very slight notice of the raillery of the young
officers, answering Mrs. Evelyn with polite words, and silencing his
mother as he came up with one of those looks out of his dark eyes to
which she always forgave the wilfulness for the sake of the beauty and
the winning power. She was completely conquered, and stepped back with
even a smile.

"But, Carleton!" cried Rossitur impatiently,--"you can't ride so! you'll
find it deucedly inconvenient."

"Possibly," said Mr. Carleton.

"Fleda would be a great deal better off in the stage-coach."

"Have you studied medicine, Mr. Rossitur?" said the young man. "Because I
am persuaded of the contrary."

"I don't believe your horse will like it," said Thorn.

"My horse is always of my mind, sir; or if he be not I generally succeed
in convincing him."

"But there is somebody else that deserves to be consulted," said Mrs.
Thorn. "I wonder how little Fleda will like it."

"I will ask her when we get to our first stopping-place," said Mr.
Carleton smiling. "Come, Fleda!"

Fleda would hardly have said a word if his purpose had been to put her
under the horse's feet instead of on his back. But she came forward with
great unwillingness and a very tremulous little heart. He must have
understood the want of alacrity in her face and manner, though he took no
notice of it otherwise than by the gentle kindness with which he led her
to the horse-block and placed her upon it. Then mounting, and riding the
horse up close to the block, he took Fleda in both hands and bidding her
spring, in a moment she was safely seated before him.

At first it seemed dreadful to Fleda to have that great horse's head so
near her, and she was afraid that her feet touching him would excite his
most serious disapprobation. However a minute or so went by and she could
not see that his tranquillity seemed to be at all ruffled, or even that he
was sensible of her being upon his shoulders. They waited to see the
stage-coach off, and then gently set forward. Fleda feared very much again
when she felt the horse moving under her, easy as his gait was, and
looking after the stagecoach in the distance, now beyond call, she felt a
little as if she was a great way from help and dry land, cast away on a
horse's back. But Mr. Carleton's arm was gently passed round her, and she
knew it held her safely and would not let her fall, and he bent down his
face to her and asked her so kindly and tenderly, and with such a look
too, that seemed to laugh at her fears, whether she felt afraid?--and with
such a kind little pressure of his arm that promised to take care of
her,--that Fleda's courage mounted twenty degrees at once. And it rose
higher every minute; the horse went very easily, and Mr. Carleton held her
so that she could not be tired, and made her lean against him; and before
they had gone a mile Fleda began to be delighted. Such a charming way of
travelling! Such a free view of the country!--and in this pleasant weather
too, neither hot nor cold, and when all nature's features were softened by
the light veil of haze that hung over them and kept off the sun's glare.
Mr. Carleton was right. In the stage-coach Fleda would have sat quiet in a
corner and moped the time sadly away, now she was roused, excited,
interested, even cheerful; forgetting herself, which was the very thing of
all others to be desired for her. She lost her fears; she was willing to
have the horse trot or canter as fast as his rider pleased; but the
trotting was too rough for her, so they cantered or paced along most of
the time, when the hills did not oblige them to walk quietly up and down,
which happened pretty often. For several miles the country was not very
familiar to Fleda. It was however extremely picturesque; and she sat
silently and gravely looking at it, her head lying upon Mr. Carleton's
breast, her little mind very full of thoughts and musings, curious, deep,
sometimes sorrowful, but not unhappy.

"I am afraid I tire you, Mr. Carleton!" said she in a sudden fit of
recollection, starting up.

His look answered her, and his arm drew her back to her place again.

"Are _you_ not tired, Elfie?"

"Oh no!----You have got a new name for me, Mr. Carleton,' said she a
moment after, looking up and smiling.

"Do you like it?"

"Yes."

"You are my good genius," said he,--"so I must have a peculiar title for
you, different from what other people know you by."

"What is a genius, sir?" said Fleda.

"Well a sprite then," said he smiling.

"A sprite!" said Fleda.

"I have read a story of a lady, Elfie, who had a great many little
unearthly creatures, a kind of sprites, to attend upon her. Some sat in
the ringlets of her hair and took charge of them; some hid in the folds of
her dress and made them lie gracefully; another lodged in a dimple in her
cheek, and another perched on her eyebrows, and so on."

"To take care of her eyebrows?" said Fleda laughing.

"Yes--to smooth out all the ill-humoured wrinkles and frowns, I suppose."

"But am I such a sprite?" said Fleda.

"Something like it."

"Why what do I do?" said Fleda, rousing herself in a mixture of
gratification and amusement that was pleasant to behold.

"What office would you choose, Elfie? what good would you like to do me?"

It was a curious wistful look with which Fleda answered his question, an
innocent look, in which Mr. Carleton read perfectly that she felt
something was wanting in him, and did not know exactly what. His smile
almost made her think she had been mistaken.

"You are just the sprite you would wish to be, Elfie," he said.

Fleda's head took its former position, and she sat for some time musing
over his question and answer, till a familiar waymark put all such
thoughts to flight. They were passing Deepwater Lake, and would presently
be at aunt Miriam's. Fleda looked now with a beating heart. Every foot of
ground was known to her. She was seeing it perhaps for the last time. It
was with even an intensity of eagerness that she watched every point and
turn of the landscape, endeavouring to lose nothing in her farewell view,
to give her farewell look at every favourite clump of trees and old rock,
and at the very mill-wheels, which for years whether working or at rest
had had such interest for her. If tears came to bid their good-by too,
they were hastily thrown off, or suffered to roll quietly down; _they_
might bide their time; but eyes must look now or never. How pleasant, how
pleasant, the quiet old country seemed to Fleda as they went long!--in
that most quiet light and colouring; the brightness of the autumn glory
gone, and the sober warm hue which the hills still wore seen under that
hazy veil. All the home-like peace of the place was spread out to make it
hard going away. Would she ever see any other so pleasant again? Those
dear old hills and fields, among which she had been so happy,--they were
not to be her home any more; would she ever have the same sweet happiness
anywhere else?--"The Lord will provide!" thought little Fleda with
swimming eyes.

It was hard to go by aunt Miriam's. Fleda eagerly looked, as well as she
could, but no one was to be seen about the house. It was just as well. A
sad gush of tears must come then, but she got rid of them as soon as
possible, that she might not lose the rest of the way, promising them
another time. The little settlement on "the hill" was passed,--the
factories and mills and mill-ponds, one after the other; they made Fleda
feel very badly, for here she remembered going with her grandfather to see
the work, and there she had stopped with him at the turner's shop to get
a wooden bowl turned, and there she had been with Cynthy when she went to
visit an acquaintance; and there never was a happier little girl than
Fleda had been in those old times. All gone!--It was no use trying to help
it; Fleda put her two hands to her face and cried at last a silent but not
the less bitter leave-taking of the shadows of the past.

She forced herself into quiet again, resolved to look to the last. As they
were going down the hill past the saw-mill Mr. Carleton noticed that her
head was stretched out to look back at it, with an expression of face he
could not withstand. He wheeled about immediately and went back and stood
opposite to it. The mill was not working to-day. The saw was standing
still, though there were plenty of huge trunks of trees lying about in all
directions waiting to be cut up. There was a desolate look of the place.
No one was there; the little brook, most of its waters cut oft', did not
go roaring and laughing down the hill, but trickled softly and plaintively
over the stones. It seemed exceeding sad to Fleda.

"Thank you, Mr. Carleton," she said after a little earnest fond looking at
her old haunt;--"you needn't stay any longer."

But as soon as they had crossed the little rude bridge at the foot of the
hill they could see the poplar trees which skirted the courtyard fence
before her grandfather's house. Poor Fleda's eyes could hardly serve her.
She managed to keep them open till the horse had made a few steps more
and she had caught the well-known face of the old house looking at her
through the poplars. Her fortitude failed, and bowing her little head she
wept so exceedingly that Mr. Carleton was fain to draw bridle and try to
comfort her.

"My dear Elfie!--do not weep so," he said tenderly. "Is there anything you
would like?--Can I do anything for you?"

He had to wait a little. He repeated his first query.

"O--it's no matter," said Fleda, striving to conquer her tears, which
found their way again,--"if I only could have gone into the house once
more!--but it's no matter--you needn't wait, Mr. Carleton--"

The horse however remained motionless.

"Do you think you would feel better, Elfie, if you had seen it again?"

"Oh yes!--But never mind, Mr. Carleton,--you may go on."

Mr. Carleton ordered his servant to open the gate, and rode up to the back
of the house.

"I am afraid there is nobody here, Elfie," he said; "the house seems
all shut up."

"I know how I can get in," said Fleda,--"there's a window down stairs--I
don't believe it is fastened,--if you wouldn't mind waiting, Mr.
Carleton,--I won't keep you long?"

The child had dried her tears, and there was the eagerness of something
like hope in her face. Mr. Carleton dismounted and took her off.

"I must find a way to get in too, Elfie,--I cannot let you go alone."

"O I can open the door when I get in," said Fleda.

"But you have not the key."

"There's no key--it's only hoi ted on the inside, that door. I can open
it."

She found the window unfastened, as she had expected; Mr. Carleton held it
open while she crawled in and then she undid the door for him. He more
than half questioned the wisdom of his proceeding. The house had a dismal
look; cold, empty, deserted,--it was a dreary reminder of Fleda's loss,
and he feared the effect of it would be anything but good. He followed and
watched her, as with an eager business step she went through the hall and
up the stairs, putting her head into every room and giving an earnest
wistful look all round it. Here and there she went in and stood a moment,
where associations were more thick and strong; sometimes taking a look out
of a particular window, and even opening a cupboard door, to give that
same kind and sorrowful glance of recognition at the old often resorted to
hiding place of her own or her grandfather's treasures and trumpery. Those
old corners seemed to touch Fleda more than all the rest; and she turned
away from one of them with a face of such extreme sorrow that Mr. Carleton
very much regretted he had brought her into the house. For her sake,--for
his own, it was a curious show of character. Though tears were sometimes
streaming, she made no delay and gave him no trouble; with the calm
steadiness of a woman she went regularly through the house, leaving no
place unvisited, but never obliging him to hasten her away. She said not
a word during the whole time; her very crying; was still; the light tread
of her little feet was the only sound in the silent empty rooms; and the
noise of their footsteps in the halls and of the opening and shutting
doors echoed mournfully through the house.

She had left her grandfather's room for the last. Mr. Carleton did not
follow her in there, guessing that she would rather be alone. But she did
not come back, and he was forced to go to fetch her.

The chill desolateness of that room had been too much for poor little
Fleda. The empty bedstead, the cold stove, the table bare of books, only
one or two lay upon the old bible,--the forlorn order of the place that
bespoke the master far away, the very sunbeams that stole in at the
little windows and met now no answering look of gladness or gratitude,--it
had struck the child's heart too heavily, and she was standing crying by
the window. A second time in that room Mr. Carleton sat down and drew his
little charge to his breast and spoke words of soothing and sympathy.

"I am very sorry I brought you here, dear Elfie," he said kindly. "It was
too hard for you."

"O no!"--even through her tears Fleda said,--"she was very glad."

"Hadn't we better try to overtake our friends?" he whispered after
another pause.

She immediately, almost immediately, put away her tears, and with a quiet
obedience that touched him went with him from the room; fastened the door
and got out again at the little window.

"O Mr. Carleton!" she said with great earnestness when they had almost
reached the horses, "won't you wait for me _one_ minute more?--I just
want a piece of the burning bush "--

[Illustration: She stood back and watched.]

Drawing her hand from him she rushed round to the front of the house. A
little more slowly Mr. Carleton followed, and found her under the burning
bush, tugging furiously at a branch beyond her strength to break off.

"That's too much for you, Elfie," said he, gently taking her hand from
the tree,--"let my hand try."

She stood back and watched, tears running down her face, while he got a
knife from his pocket and cut off the piece she had been trying for,
nicely, and gave it to her. The first movement of Fleda's head was down,
bent over the pretty spray of red berries; but by the time she stood at
the horse's side she looked up at Mr. Carleton and thanked him with a face
of more than thankfulness.

She was crying however, constantly till they had gone several miles on
their way again, and Mr. Carleton doubted he had done wrong. It passed
away, and she had been sitting quite peacefully for some time, when he
told her they were near the place where they were to stop and join their
friends. She looked up most gratefully in his face.

"I am very much obliged to you, Mr. Carleton, for what you did!"

"I was afraid I had made a mistake, Elfie."

"Oh, no, you didn't."

"Do you think you feel any easier after it, Elfie?"

"Oh yes!--indeed I do," said she looking up again,--"thank you, Mr.
Carleton."

A gentle kind pressure of his arm answered her thanks.

"I ought to be a good sprite to you, Mr. Carleton," Fleda said after
musing a little while,--"you are so very good to me!"

Perhaps Mr. Carleton felt too much pleasure at this speech to make any
answer, for he made none.

"It is only selfishness, Elfie," said he presently, looking down to the
quiet sweet little face which seemed to him, and was, more pure than
anything of earth's mould he had ever seen.--"You know I must take care of
you for my own sake."

Fleda laughed a little.

"But what will you do when we get to Paris?"

"I don't know. I should like to have you always, Elfie."

"You'll have to get aunt Lucy to give me to you," said Fleda.

"Mr. Carleton," said she a few minutes after, "is that story in a book?"

"What story?"

"About the lady and the little sprites that waited on her."

"Yes, it is in a book; you shall see it, Elfie.--Here we are!"

And here it was proposed to stay till the next day, lest Fleda might not
be able to bear so much travelling at first. But the country inn was not
found inviting; the dinner was bad and the rooms were worse;
uninhabitable, the ladies said; and about the middle of the afternoon they
began to cast about for the means of reaching Albany that night. None very
comfortable could be had; however it was thought better to push on at any
rate than wear out the night in such a place. The weather was very mild;
the moon at the full.

"How is Fleda to go this afternoon?" said Mrs. Evelyn.

"She shall decide herself," said Mrs. Carleton. "How will you go, my
sweet Fleda?"

Fleda was lying upon a sort of rude couch which had been spread for her,
where she had been sleeping incessantly ever since she arrived, the hour
of dinner alone excepted. Mrs. Carleton repeated her question.

"I am afraid Mr. Carleton must be tired," said Fleda, without
opening her eyes.

"That means that you are, don't it?" said Rossitur.

"No," said Fleda gently.

Mr. Carleton smiled and went out to press forward the arrangements. In
spite of good words and good money there was some delay. It was rather
late before the cavalcade left the inn; and a journey of several hours was
before them. Mr. Carleton rode rather slowly too, for Fleda's sake, so the
evening had fallen while they were yet a mile or two from the city.

His little charge had borne the fatigue well, thanks partly to his
admirable care, and partly to her quiet pleasure in being with him. She
had been so perfectly still for some distance that he thought she had
dropped asleep. Looking down closer however to make sure about it he saw
her thoughtful clear eyes most unsleepily fixed upon the sky.

"What are you gazing at, Elfie?"

The look of thought changed to a look of affection as the eyes were
brought to bear upon him, and she answered with a smile,

"Nothing,--I was looking at the stars."

"What are you dreaming about?"

"I wasn't dreaming," said Fleda,--"I was thinking."

"Thinking of what?"

"O of pleasant things."

"Mayn't I know them?--I like to hear of pleasant things."

"I was thinking,--" said Fleda, looking up again at the stars, which shone
with no purer ray than those grave eyes sent back to them,--"I was
thinking--of being ready to die."

The words, and the calm thoughtful manner in which they were said,
thrilled upon Mr. Carleton with a disagreeable shock.

"How came you to think of such a thing?" said he lightly.

"I don't know,"--said Fleda, still looking at the stars,--"I suppose--I
was thinking--"

"What?" said Mr. Carleton, inexpressibly curious to get at the workings of
the child's mind, which was not easy, for Fleda was never very forward to
talk of herself;--"what were you thinking? I want to know how you could
get such a thing into your head."

"It wasn't very strange," said Fleda. "The stars made me think of heaven,
and grandpa's being there, and then I thought how he was ready to go there
and that made him ready to die--"

"I wouldn't think of such things, Elfie," said Mr. Carleton after a
few minutes.

"Why not, sir?" said Fleda quickly.

"I don't think they are good for you."

"But Mr. Carleton," said Fleda gently,--"if I don't think about it, how
shall _I_ ever be ready to die?"

"It is not fit for you," said he, evading the question,--"it is not
necessary now,--there's time enough. You are a little body and should have
none but gay thoughts."

"But Mr. Carleton," said Fleda with timid earnestness,--"don't you think
one could have gay thoughts better if one knew one was ready to die?"

"What makes a person ready to die, Elfie?" said her friend, disliking to
ask the question, but yet more unable to answer hers, and curious to hear
what she would say.

"O--to be a Christian," said Fleda.

"But I have seen Christians," said Mr. Carleton, "who were no more ready
to die than other people."

"Then they were make-believe Christians," said Fleda decidedly.

"What makes you think so?" said her friend, carefully guarding his
countenance from anything like a smile.

"Because," said Fleda, "grandpa was ready, and my father was ready, and my
mother too; and I know it was because they were Christians."

"Perhaps your kind of Christians are different from my kind," said Mr.
Carleton, carrying on the conversation half in spite of himself. "What do
you mean by a Christian, Elfie?"

"Why, what the Bible means," said Fleda, looking at him with innocent
earnestness.

Mr. Carleton was ashamed to tell her he did not know what that was, or he
was unwilling to say what he felt would trouble the happy confidence she
had in him. He was silent; but as they rode on, a bitter wish crossed his
mind that he could have the simple purity of the little child in his arms;
and he thought he would give his broad acres supposing it possible that
religion could be true,--in exchange for that free happy spirit that looks
up to all its possessions in heaven.



Chapter XI.



  Starres are poore books and oftentimes do misse;
  This book of starres lights to eternall blisse.

  George Herber.


The voyage across the Atlantic was not, in itself, at all notable. The
first half of the passage was extremely unquiet, and most of the
passengers uncomfortable to match. Then the weather cleared; and the rest
of the way, though lengthened out a good deal by the tricks of the wind,
was very fair and pleasant.

Fifteen days of tossing and sea-sickness had brought little Fleda to look
like the ghost of herself. So soon as the weather changed and sky and sea
were looking gentle again, Mr. Carleton had a mattress and cushions laid
in a sheltered corner of the deck for her, and carried her up. She had
hardly any more strength than a baby.

"What are you looking at me so for, Mr. Carleton?" said she, a little
while after he had carried her up, with a sweet serious smile that seemed
to know the answer to her question.

He stooped down and clasped her little thin hand, as reverentially as if
she really had not belonged to the earth.

"You are more like a sprite than I like to see you just now," said he,
unconsciously fastening the child's heart to himself with the magnetism of
those deep eyes.--"I must get some of the sailors' salt beef and sea
biscuit for you--they say that is the best thing to make people well."

"O I feel better already," said Fleda, and settling her little face upon
the cushion and closing her eyes, she added,--"thank you, Mr. Carleton!"

The fresh air began to restore her immediately; she was no more sick, her
appetite came back; and from that time, without the help of beef and
sea-biscuit, she mended rapidly. Mr. Carleton proved himself as good a
nurse on the sea as on land. She seemed to be never far from his
thoughts. He was constantly finding out something that would do her good
or please her; and Fleda could not discover that he took any trouble
about it; she could not feel that she was a burden to him; the things
seemed to come as a matter of course. Mrs. Carleton was not wanting in
any shew of kindness or care, and yet, when Fleda looked back upon the
day, it somehow was Guy that had done everything for her; she thought
little of thanking anybody but him.

There were other passengers that petted her a great deal, or would have
done so, if Fleda's very timid retiring nature had not stood in the way.
She was never bashful, nor awkward; but yet it was only a very peculiar,
sympathetic, style of address that could get within the wall of reserve
which in general hid her from other people. Hid, what it could; for
through that reserve a singular modesty, sweetness, and gracefulness of
spirit would shew themselves. But there was much more behind. There were
no eyes however on board that did not look kindly on little Fleda,
excepting only two pair. The Captain shewed her a great deal of flattering
attention, and said she was a pattern of a passenger; even the sailors
noticed and spoke of her and let slip no occasion of shewing the respect
and interest she had raised. But there were two pair of eyes, and one of
them Fleda thought most remarkably ugly, that were an exception to the
rest; these belonged to her cousin Rossitur and Lieut. Thorn. Rossitur had
never forgiven her remarks upon his character as a gentleman and declared
preference of Mr. Carleton in that capacity; and Thorn was mortified at
the invincible childish reserve which she opposed to all his advances; and
both, absurd as it seems, were jealous of the young Englishman's advantage
over them. Both not the less, because their sole reason for making her a
person of consequence was that he had thought fit to do so. Fleda would
permit neither of them to do anything for her that she could help.

They took their revenge in raillery, which was not always good-natured.
Mr. Carleton never answered it in any other way than by his look of cold
disdain,--not always by that; little Fleda could not be quite so unmoved.
Many a time her nice sense of delicacy confessed itself hurt, by the deep
and abiding colour her cheeks would wear after one of their ill mannered
flings at her. She bore them with a grave dignity peculiar to herself, but
the same nice delicacy forbade her to mention the subject to any one; and
the young gentlemen contrived to give the little child in the course of
the voyage a good deal of pain. She shunned them at last as she would the
plague. As to the rest Fleda liked her life on board ship amazingly. In
her quiet way she took all the good that offered and seemed not to
recognise the ill.

Mr. Carleton had bought for her a copy of The Rape of the Lock, and
Bryant's poems. With these, sitting or lying among her cushions, Fleda
amused herself a great deal; and it was an especial pleasure when he would
sit down by her and read and talk about them. Still a greater was to watch
the sea, in its changes of colour and varieties of agitation, and to get
from Mr. Carleton, bit by bit, all the pieces of knowledge concerning it
that he had ever made his own. Even when Fleda feared it she was
fascinated; and while the fear went off the fascination grew deeper.
Daintily nestling among her cushions she watched with charmed eyes the
long rollers that came up in detachments of three to attack the good ship,
that like a slandered character rode patiently over them; or the crested
green billows, or sometimes the little rippling waves that shewed old
Ocean's placidest face; while with ears as charmed as if he had been
delivering a fairy tale she listened to all Mr. Carleton could tell her of
the green water where the whales feed, or the blue water where Neptune
sits in his own solitude, the furtherest from land, and the pavement under
his feet outdoes the very canopy overhead in its deep colouring; of the
transparent seas where the curious mysterious marine plants and animals
may be clearly seen many feet down, and in the North where hundreds of
feet of depth do not hide the bottom; of the icebergs; and whirling great
fields of ice, between which if a ship gets she had as good be an almond
in a pair of strong nut crackers. How the water grows colder and murkier
as it is nearer the shore; how the mountain waves are piled together; and
how old Ocean, like a wise man, however roughened and tumbled outwardly by
the currents of Life, is always calm at heart. Of the signs of the
weather; the out-riders of the winds, and the use the seaman makes of the
tidings they bring; and before Mr. Carleton knew where he was he found
himself deep in the science of navigation, and making a star-gazer of
little Fleda. Sometimes kneeling beside him as he sat on her mattress,
with her hand leaning on his shoulder, Fleda asked, listened, and looked;
as engaged, as rapt, as interested, as another child would be in Robinson
Crusoe, gravely drinking in knowledge with a fresh healthy taste for it
that never had enough. Mr. Carleton was about as amused and as interested
as she. There is a second taste of knowledge that some minds get in
imparting it, almost as sweet as the first relish. At any rate Fleda never
felt that she had any reason to fear tiring him; and his mother
complaining of his want of sociableness said she believed Guy did not like
to talk to anybody but that little pet of his and one or two of the old
sailors. If left to her own resources Fleda was never at a loss; she
amused herself with her books, or watching the sailors, or watching the
sea, or with some fanciful manufacture she had learned from one of the
ladies on board, or with what the company about her were saying and doing.

One evening she had been some time alone, looking out upon the restless
little waves that were tossing and tumbling in every direction. She had
been afraid of them at first and they were still rather fearful to her
imagination. This evening as her musing eye watched them rise and fall her
childish fancy likened them to the up-springing chances of
life,--uncertain, unstable, alike too much for her skill and her strength
to manage. She was not more helpless before the attacks of the one than of
the other. But then--that calm blue Heaven that hung over the sea. It was
like the heaven of power and love above her destinies; only this was far
higher and more pure and abiding. "He knoweth them that trust in him."
"There shall not a hair of your head perish."

Not these words perhaps, but something like the sense of them was in
little Fleda's head. Mr. Carleton coming up saw her gazing out upon the
water with an eye that seemed to see nothing.

"Elfie!--Are you looking into futurity?"

"No,--yes,--not exactly," said Fleda smiling.

"No, yes, and not exactly!" said he throwing himself down beside her.--"
What does all that mean?"

"I wasn't exactly looking into futurity," said Fleda.

"What then?--Don't tell me you were 'thinking;' I know that dready. What?"

Fleda was always rather shy of opening her cabinet of thoughts. She
glanced at him, and hesitated, and then yielded to a fascination of eye
and smile that rarely failed of its end. Looking off to the sea again, as
if she had left her thoughts there, she said,

"I was only thinking of that beautiful hymn of Mr. Newton's."

"What hymn?"

"That long one, 'The Lord will provide.'"

"Do you know it?--Tell it to me, Elfie--let us see whether I shall think
it beautiful."

Fleda knew the whole and repeated it.

  "Though troubles assail,
  And dangers affright,
  Though friends should all fall,
  And foes all unite;
  Yet one thing secures us
  Whatever betide,
  The Scripture assures us
  'The Lord will provide.'

  "The birds without barn
  Or storehouse are fed;
  From them let us learn
  To trust for our bread.
  His saints what is fitting
  Shall ne'er be denied,
  So long as 'tis written,
  'The Lord will provide.'

  "His call we obey,
  Like Abraham of old,
  Not knowing our way,
  But faith makes us bold.
  And though we are strangers,
  We have a good guide,
  And trust in all dangers
  'The Lord will provide.'

  "We may like the ships
  In tempests be tossed
  On perilous deeps,
  But cannot be lost.
  Though Satan enrages
  The wind and the tide,
  The promise engages
  'The Lord will provide.'

  "When Satan appears
  To stop up our path,
  And fills us with fears,
  We triumph by faith.
  He cannot take from us,
  Though oft he has tried,
  This heart-cheering promise,
  'The Lord will provide.'

  "He tells us we're weak,
  Our hope is in vain,
  The good that we seek
  We ne'er shall obtain;
  But when such suggestions
  Our spirits have tried,
  This answers all questions.
  'The Lord will provide.'

  "No strength of our own,
  Or goodness we claim;
  But since we have known
  The Saviour's great name
  In this, our strong tower,
  For safety we hide;
  The Lord is our power!
  'The Lord will provide.'

  "When life sinks apace,
  And death is in view,
  This word of his grace
  Shall comfort us through.
  No fearing nor doubting,
  With Christ on our side,
  We hope to die shouting,
  'The Lord will provide.'"

Guy listened very attentively to the whole. He was very far from
understanding the meaning of several of the verses, but the bounding
expression of confidence and hope he did understand, and did feel.

"Happy to be so deluded!" he thought.--"I almost wish I could share the
delusion!"

He was gloomily silent when she had done, and little Fleda's eyes were so
full that it was a little while before she could look towards him and ask
in her gentle way, "Do you like it, Mr. Carleton?"

She was gratified by his grave, "Yes!"

"But, Elfie," said he smiling again, "you have not told me your
thoughts yet. What had these verses to do with the sea you were looking
at so hard?"

"Nothing--I was thinking," said Fleda slowly,--"that the sea seemed
something like the world,--I don't mean it was like, but it made me think
of it; and I thought how pleasant it is to know that God takes care of
his people."

"Don't he take care of everybody?"

"Yes--in one sort of way," said Fleda; "but then it is only his children
that he has promised to keep from everything that will hurt them."

"I don't see how that promise is kept, Elfie. I think those who call
themselves so meet with as many troubles as the rest of the world, and
perhaps more."

"Yes," said Fleda quickly, "they have troubles, but then God won't let the
troubles do them any harm."

A subtle evasion, thought Mr. Carleton.--"Where did you learn that,
Elfie?"

"The Bible says so," said Fleda.

"Well, how do you know it from that?" aid Mr. Carleton, impelled, he
hardly knew whether by his bad or his good angel, to carry on the
conversation.

"Why," said Fleda, looking as if it were a very simple question and Mr.
Carleton were catechising her,--"you know, Mr. Carleton, the Bible was
written by men who were taught by God exactly what to say, so there could
be nothing in it that is not true."

"How do you know those men were so taught?"

"The Bible says so."

A child's answer!--but with a child's wisdom in it, not learnt of the
schools. "He that is of God heareth God's words." To little Fleda, as to
every simple and humble intelligence, the Bible proved itself; she had no
need to go further.

Mr. Carleton did not smile, for nothing would have tempted him to hurt
her feelings; but he said, though conscience did not let him do it
without a twinge,

"But don't you know, Elfie, there are some people who do not believe
the Bible?"

"Ah but those are bad people," replied Fleda quickly;--"all good people
believe it."

A child's reason again, but hitting the mark this time. Unconsciously,
little Fleda had brought forward a strong argument for her cause. Mr.
Carleton felt it, and rising up that he might not be obliged to say
anything more, he began to pace slowly up and down the deck, turning the
matter over.

Was it so? that there were hardly any good men (he thought there might be
a few) who did not believe in the Bible and uphold its authority? and
that all the worst portion of society was comprehended in the other
class?--and if so, how had he overlooked it? He had reasoned most
unphilosophically from a few solitary instances that had come under his
own eye; but applying the broad principle of induction it could not be
doubted that the Bible was on the side of all that is sound, healthful,
and hopeful, in this disordered world. And whatever might be the character
of a few exceptions, it was not supposable that a wide system of hypocrisy
should tell universally for the best interests of mankind. Summoning
history to produce her witnesses, as he went on with his walk up and down,
he saw with increasing interest, what he had never seen before, that the
Bible had come like the breath of spring upon the moral waste of mind;
that the ice-bound intellect and cold heart of the world had waked into
life under its kindly influence and that all the rich growth of the one
and the other had come forth at its bidding. And except in that
sun-lightened tract, the world was and had been a waste indeed. Doubtless
in that waste, intellect had at different times put forth sundry barren
shoots, such as a vigorous plant can make in the absence of the sun, but
also like them immature, unsound, and groping vainly after the light in
which alone they could expand and perfect themselves; ripening no seed for
a future and richer growth. And flowers the wilderness had none. The
affections were stunted and overgrown.

All this was so,--how had he overlooked it? His unbelief had come from a
thoughtless, ignorant, one-sided view of life and human things. The
disorder and ruin which he saw, where he did not also see the adjusting
hand at work, had led him to refuse his credit to the Supreme Fabricator.
He thought the waste would never be reclaimed, and did not know how much
it already owed to the sun of revelation; but what was the waste where
that light had not been!--Mr. Carleton was staggered. He did not know what
to think. He began to think he had been a fool.

Poor little Fleda was meditating less agreeably the while. With the sure
tact of truth she had discerned that there was more than jest in the
questions that had been put to her. She almost feared that Mr. Carleton
shared himself the doubts he had so lightly spoken of, and the thought
gave her great distress. However, when he came to take her down to tea,
with all his usual manner, Fleda's earnest look at him ended in the
conviction that there was nothing very wrong under that face.

For several days Mr. Carleton pondered the matter of this evening's
conversation, characteristically restless till he had made up his mind. He
wished very much to draw Fleda to speak further upon the subject, but it
was not easy; she never led to it. He sought in vain an opportunity to
bring it in easily, and at last resolved to make one.

"Elfie," said he one morning when all the rest of the passengers were
happily engaged at a distance with the letter-bags,--"I wish you would let
me hear that favourite hymn of yours again,--I like it very much."

Fleda was much gratified, and immediately with great satisfaction
repeated the hymn. Its peculiar beauty struck him yet more the second
time than the first.

"Do you understand those two last verses?" said he when she had done.

Fleda said "Yes!" rather surprised.

"I do not," he said gravely.

Fleda paused a minute or two, and then finding that it depended on her to
enlighten him, said in her modest way,

"Why it means that we have no goodness of our own, and only expect to be
forgiven and taken to heaven for the Saviour's sake."

Mr. Carleton asked, "How_for his sake_?"

"Why you know, Mr. Carleton, we don't deserve to go there, and if we are
forgiven at all it must be for what he has done."

"And what is that, Elfie?"

"He died for us," said Fleda, with a look of some anxiety into Mr.
Carleton's face.

"Died for us!--And what end was that to serve, Elfie?" said he, partly
willing to hear the full statement of the matter, and partly willing to
see how far her intelligence could give it.

"Because we are sinners," said Fleda, "and God has said that sinners
shall die."

"Then how can he keep his word and forgive at all?"

"Because Christ has died _for us_," said Fleda eagerly;--"instead of us."

"Do you understand the justice of letting one take the place of others?"

"He was willing, Mr. Carleton," said Fleda, with a singular wistful
expression that touched him.

"Still, Elfie," said he after a minute's silence,--"how could the ends of
justice be answered by the death of one man in the place of millions?"

"No, Mr. Carleton, but he was God as well as man," Fleda said, with a
sparkle in her eye which perhaps delayed her companion's rejoinder.

"What should induce him, Elfie," he said gently, "to do such a thing for
people who had displeased him?"

"Because he loved us, Mr. Carleton."

She answered with so evident a strong and clear appreciation of what she
was saying that it half made its way into Mr. Carleton's mind by the force
of sheer sympathy. Her words came almost as something new.

Certainly Mr. Carleton had heard these things before, though perhaps
never in a way that appealed so directly to his intelligence and his
candour. He was again silent an instant, pondering, and so was Fleda.

"Do you know, Elfie," said Mr. Carleton, "there are some people who do not
believe that the Saviour was anything more than a man?"

"Yes I know it," said Fleda;--"it is very strange!"

"Why is it strange?"

"Because the Bible says it so plainly."

"But those people hold I believe that the Bible does not say it?"

"I don't see how they could have read the Bible," said Fleda. "Why he said
so himself."

"Who said so?"

"Jesus Christ. Don't _you_ believe it, Mr. Carleton?"

She saw he did not, and the shade that had come over her face was
reflected in his before he said "No."

"But perhaps I shall believe it yet, Elfie," he said kindly. "Can you shew
me the place in your Bible where Jesus says this of himself?"

Fleda looked in despair. She hastily turned over the leaves of her Bible
to find the passages he had asked for, and Mr. Carleton was cut to the
heart to see that she twice was obliged to turn her face from him and
brush her hand over her eyes, before she could find them. She turned to
Matt. xxvi. 63, 64, 65, and without speaking gave him the book, pointing
to the passage. He read it with great care, and several times over.

"You are right, Elfie," he said. "I do not see how those who honour the
authority of the Bible and the character of Jesus Christ can deny the
truth of his own declaration. If that is false so must those be."

Fleda took the Bible and hurriedly sought out another passage.

"Grandpa shewed me these places," she said, "once when we were talking
about Mr. Didenhover--_he_ didn't believe that. There are a great many
other places, grandpa said; but one is enough;"--

She gave him the latter part of the twentieth chapter of John.--

"You see, Mr. Carleton, he let Thomas fall down and worship him and call
him God; and if he had _not_ been, you know----God is more displeased
with that than with any thing.'

"With what, Elfie?"

"With men's worshipping any other than himself. He says he 'will not give
his glory to another.'"

"Where is that?"

"I am afraid I can't find it," said Fleda,--"it is somewhere in
Isaiah, I know"--

She tried in vain; and failing, then looked up in Mr. Carleton's face to
see what impression had been made.

"You see Thomas believed when he _saw_" said he, answering her;--"I will
believe too when I see."

"Ah if you wait for that--" said Fleda.

Her voice suddenly checked, she bent her face down again to her little
Bible, and there was a moment's struggle with herself.

"Are you looking for something more to shew me?" said Mr. Carleton kindly,
stooping his face down to hers.

"Not much," said Fleda hurriedly; and then making a great effort she
raised her head and gave him the book again.

"Look here, Mr. Carleton,--Jesus said, 'Blessed are they that have _not_
seen and yet have believed.'"

Mr. Carleton was profoundly struck, and the thought recurred to him
afterwards and was dwelt upon.--"Blessed are they that have _not_ seen,
and yet have believed." It was strange at first, and then he wondered that
it should ever have been so. His was a mind peculiarly open to conviction,
peculiarly accessible to truth; and his attention being called to it he
saw faintly now what he had never seen before, the beauty of the principle
of _faith_;--how natural, how reasonable, how _necessary_, how honourable
to the Supreme Being, how happy even for man, that the grounds of his
trust in God being established, his acceptance of many other things should
rest on that trust alone.

Mr. Carleton now became more reserved and unsociable than ever. He wearied
himself with thinking. If be could have got at the books, he would have
spent his days and nights in studying the evidences of Christianity, but
the ship was bare of any such books, and he never thought of turning to
the most obvious of all, the Bible itself. His unbelief was shaken; it was
within an ace of falling in pieces to the very foundation; or rather he
began to suspect how foundationless it had been. It came at last to one
point with him;--If there were a God, he would not have left the world
without a revelation,--no more would he have suffered that revelation to
defeat its own end by becoming corrupted or alloyed, if there was such a
revelation it could be no other than the Bible;--and his acceptance of
the whole scheme of Christianity now hung upon the turn of a hair. Yet he
could not resolve himself. He balanced the counter-doubts and arguments,
on one side and on the other, and strained his mind to the task;--he could
not weigh them nicely enough. He was in a maze; and seeking to clear and
calm his judgment that he might see the way out, it was in vain that he
tried to shake his dizzied head from the effect of the turns it had made.
By dint of anxiety to find the right path reason had lost herself in the
wilderness.

Fleda was not, as Mr. Carleton had feared she would be, at all alienated
from him by the discovery that had given her so much pain. It wrought in
another way, rather to add a touch of tender and anxious interest to the
affection she had for him. It gave her however much more pain than he
thought. If he had seen the secret tears that fell on his account he would
have been grieved; and if he had known of the many petitions that little
heart made for him--he could hardly have loved her more than he did.

One evening Mr. Carleton had been a long while pacing up and down the deck
in front of little Fleda's nest, thinking and thinking, without coming to
any end. It was a most fair evening, near sunset, the sky without a cloud
except two or three little dainty strips which set off its blue. The ocean
was very quiet, only broken into cheerful mites of waves that seemed to
have nothing to do but sparkle. The sun's rays were almost level now, and
a long path of glory across the sea led off towards his sinking disk.
Fleda sat watching and enjoying it all in her happy fashion, which always
made the most of everything good, and was especially quick in catching any
form of natural beauty.

Mr. Carleton's thoughts were elsewhere; too busy to take note of things
around him. Fleda looked now and then as he passed at his gloomy brow,
wondering what he was thinking of, and wishing that he could have the same
reason to be happy that she had. In one of his turns his eye met her
gentle glance; and vexed and bewildered as he was with study there was
something in that calm bright face that impelled him irresistibly to ask
the little child to set the proud scholar right. Placing himself beside
her, he said,

"Elfie, how do you know there is a God?--what reason have you for thinking
so, out of the Bible?"

It was a strange look little Fleda gave him. He felt it at the time, and
he never forgot it. Such a look of reproach, sorrow, and _pity_, he
afterwards thought, as an angel's face might have worn. The _question_ did
not seem to occupy her a moment. After this answering look she suddenly
pointed to the sinking sun and said,

"Who made that, Mr. Carleton?"

Mr. Carleton's eyes, following the direction of hers, met the long bright
rays whose still witness-bearing was almost too powerful to be borne. The
sun was just dipping majestically into the sea, and its calm
self-assertion seemed to him at that instant hardly stronger than its
vindication of its Author.

A slight arrow may find the joint in the armour before which many
weightier shafts have fallen powerless. Mr. Carleton was an unbeliever no
more from that time.



Chapter XII



  He borrowed a box of the ear of the Englishman, and swore he would pay
  him again when he was able.--Merchant of Venice.


One other incident alone in the course of the voyage deserves to be
mentioned; both because it served to bring out the characters of several
people, and because it was not,--what is?--without its lingering
consequences.

Thorn and Rossitur had kept up indefatigably the game of teasing Fleda
about her "English admirer," as they sometimes styled him. Poor Fleda
grew more and more sore on the subject. She thought it was very strange
that two grown men could not find enough to do to amuse themselves
without making sport of the comfort of a little child. She wondered they
could take pleasure in what gave her so much pain; but so it was; and
they had it up so often that at last others caught it from them; and
though not in malevolence yet in thoughtless folly many a light remark
was made and question asked of her that set little Fleda's sensitive
nerves a quivering. She was only too happy that they were never said
before Mr. Carleton; that would have been a thousand times worse. As it
was, her gentle nature was constantly suffering from the pain or the fear
of these attacks.

"Where's Mr. Carleton?" said her cousin coming up one day.

"I don't know," said Fleda,--"I don't know but he is gone up into one of
the tops."

"Your humble servant leaves you to yourself a great while this morning, it
seems to me. He is growing very inattentive."

"I wouldn't permit it, Miss Fleda, if I were you," said Thorn maliciously.
"You let him have his own way too much."

"I wish you wouldn't talk so, cousin Charlton!" said Fleda.

"But seriously," said Charlton, "I think you had better call him to
account. He is very suspicious lately. I have observed him walking by
himself and looking very glum indeed. I am afraid he has taken some fancy
into his head that would not suit you. I advise you to enquire into it."

"I wouldn't give myself any concern about it!" said Thorn lightly,
enjoying the child's confusion and his own fanciful style of
backbiting,--"I'd let him go if he has a mind to, Miss Fleda. He's no such
great catch. He's neither lord nor knight--nothing in the world but a
private gentleman, with plenty of money I dare say, but you don't care for
that;--and there's as good fish in the sea as ever came out of it. I don't
think much of him!"

He is wonderfully better than _you_, thought Fleda as she looked in the
young gentleman's face for a second, but she said nothing.

"Why, Fleda," said Charlton laughing, "it wouldn't be a killing affair,
would it? How has this English admirer of yours got so far in your
fancy?--praising your pretty eyes, eh?--Eh?" he repeated, as Fleda kept a
dignified silence.

"No," said Fleda in displeasure,--"he never says such things."

"No?" said Charlton. "What then? What does he say? I wouldn't let him make
a fool of me if I were you. Fleda!--did he ever ask you for a kiss?"

"No!" exclaimed Fleda half beside herself and bursting into tears;--"I
wish you wouldn't talk so! How can you?"

They had carried the game pretty far that time, and thought best to leave
it. Fleda stopped crying as soon as she could, lest somebody should see
her; and was sitting quietly again, alone as before, when one of the
sailors whom she had never spoken to came by, and leaning over towards her
with a leer as he passed, said,

"Is this the young English gentleman's little sweetheart?"

Poor Fleda! She had got more than she could bear. She jumped up and ran
down into the cabin; and in her berth Mrs. Carleton found her some time
afterwards, quietly crying, and most sorry to be discovered. She was
exceeding unwilling to tell what had troubled her. Mrs. Carleton, really
distressed, tried coaxing, soothing, reasoning, promising, in a way the
most gentle and kind that she could use.

"Oh it's nothing--it's nothing," Fleda said at last eagerly,--"it's
because I am foolish--it's only something they said to me."

"Who, love?"

Again was Fleda most unwilling to answer, and it was after repeated urging
that she at last said,

"Cousin Charlton and Mr. Thorn."

"Charlton and Mr. Thorn!--What did they say? What did they say,
darling Fleda?"

"O it's only that they tease me," said Fleda, trying hard to put an end to
the tears which caused all this questioning, and to speak as if they were
about a trifle. But Mrs. Carleton persisted.

"What do they say to tease you, love? what is it about?--Guy, come in
here and help me to find out what is the matter with Fleda."

Fleda hid her face in Mrs. Carleton's neck, resolved to keep her lips
sealed. Mr. Carleton came in, but to her great relief his question was
directed not to her but his mother.

"Fleda has been annoyed by something those young men, her cousin and Mr.
Thorn, have said to her;--they tease her, she says, and she will not tell
me what it is."

Mr. Carleton did not ask, and he presently left the state-room.

"O I am afraid he will speak to them!" exclaimed Fleda as soon as he was
gone.--"O I oughtn't to have said that!"--

Mrs. Carleton tried to soothe her and asked what she was afraid of. But
Fleda would not say any more. Her anxious fear that she had done mischief
helped to dry her tears, and she sorrowfully resolved she would keep her
griefs to herself next time.

Rossitur and Thorn were in company with a brother officer and friend of
the latter when Mr. Carleton approached them.

"Mr. Rossitur and Mr. Thorn," said he, "you have indulged yourselves in a
style of conversation extremely displeasing to the little girl under my
mother's care. You will oblige me by abandoning it for the future."

There was certainly in Mr. Carleton's manner a sufficient degree of the
cold haughtiness with which he usually expressed displeasure; though his
words gave no other cause of offence. Thorn retorted rather insolently,

"I shall oblige myself in the matter, and do as I think proper."

"I have a right to speak as I please to my own cousin," said Rossitur
sulkily,--"without asking anybody's leave. I don't see what you have to
do with it."

"Simply that she is under my protection and that I will not permit her to
be annoyed."

"I don't see how she is under your protection," said Rossitur.

"And I do not see how the potency of it will avail in this case,' said his
companion.

"Neither position is to be made out in words," said Mr. Carleton calmly.
"You see that I desire there be no repetition of the offence. The rest I
will endeavour to make clear if I am compelled to it."

"Stop, sir!" said Thorn, as the young Englishman was turning away, adding
with an oath,--"I won't bear this! You shall answer this to me, sir!"

"Easily," said the other.

"And me too," said Rossitur. "You have an account to settle with me,
Carleton."

"I will answer what you please," said Carleton carelessly,--"and as soon
as we get to land--provided you do not in the mean time induce me to
refuse you the honour."

However incensed, the young men endeavoured to carry it off with the same
coolness that their adversary shewed. No more words passed. But Mrs.
Carleton, possibly quickened by Fleda's fears, was not satisfied with the
carriage of all parties, and resolved to sound her son, happy in knowing
that nothing but truth was to be had from him. She found an opportunity
that very afternoon when he was sitting alone on the deck. The
neighbourhood of little Fleda she hardly noticed. Fleda was curled up
among her cushions, luxuriously bending over a little old black Bible
which was very often in her hand at times when she was quiet and had no
observation to fear.

"Reading!--always reading?" said Mrs. Carleton, as she came up and took a
place by her son.

"By no means!" he said, closing his book with a smile;--"not enough to
tire any one's eyes on this voyage, mother."

"I wish you liked intercourse with living society," said Mrs. Carleton,
leaning her arm on his shoulder and looking at him rather wistfully.

"You need not wish that,--when it suits me," he answered.

"But none suits you. Is there any on board?"

"A small proportion," he said, with the slight play of feature which
always effected a diversion of his mother's thoughts, no matter in what
channel they had been flowing.

"But those young men," she said, returning to the charge,--"you hold
yourself very much aloof from them?"

He did not answer, even by a look, but to his mother the perfectly quiet
composure of his face was sufficiently expressive.

"I know what you think, but Guy, you always had the same opinion of them?"

"I have never shewn any other."

"Guy," she said speaking low and rather anxiously,--"have you got into
trouble with those young men?"

"_I_ am in no trouble, mother," he answered somewhat haughtily; "I cannot
speak for them."

Mrs. Carleton waited a moment.

"You have done something to displease them, have you not?"

"They have displeased me, which is somewhat more to the purpose.

"But their folly is nothing to you?"

"No,--not their folly."

"Guy," said his mother, again pausing a minute, and pressing her hand more
heavily upon his shoulder, "you will not suffer this to alter the friendly
terms you have been on?--whatever it be,--let it pass."

"Certainly--if they choose to apologize and behave themselves."

"What, about Fleda?"

"Yes."

"I have no idea they meant to trouble her--I suppose they did not at all
know what they were doing,--thoughtless nonsense,--and they could have had
no design to offend you. Promise me that you will not take any further
notice of this!"

He shook off her beseeching hand as he rose up, and answered haughtily,
and not without something like an oath, that he _would_.

Mrs. Carleton knew him better than to press the matter any further; and
her fondness easily forgave the offence against herself, especially as her
son almost immediately resumed his ordinary manner.

It had well nigh passed from the minds of both parties, when in the
middle of the next day Mr. Carleton asked what had become of Fleda?--he
had not seen her except at the breakfast table. Mrs. Carleton said she
was not well.

"What's the matter?"

"She complained of some headache--I think she made herself sick
yesterday--she was crying all the afternoon, and I could not get her to
tell me what for. I tried every means I could think of, but she would not
give me the least clue--she said 'no' to everything I guessed--I can't
bear to see her do so--it makes it all the worse she does it so
quietly--it was only by a mere chance I found she was crying at all, but I
think she cried herself ill before she stopped. She could not eat a
mouthful of breakfast."

Mr. Carleton said nothing and with a changed countenance went directly
down to the cabin. The stewardess, whom he sent in to see how she was,
brought back word that Fleda was not asleep but was too ill to speak to
her. Mr. Carleton went immediately into the little crib of a state-room.
There he found his little charge, sitting bolt upright, her feet on the
rung of a chair and her hands grasping the top to support herself. Her
eyes were closed, her face without a particle of colour, except the dark
shade round the eyes which bespoke illness and pain. She made no attempt
to answer his shocked questions and words of tender concern, not even by
the raising of an eyelid, and he saw that the intensity of pain at the
moment was such as to render breathing itself difficult. He sent off the
stewardess with all despatch after iced water and vinegar and brandy, and
himself went on an earnest quest of restoratives among the lady passengers
in the cabin, which resulted in sundry supplies of salts and cologne; and
also offers of service, in greater plenty still, which he all refused.
Most tenderly and judiciously he himself applied various remedies to the
suffering child, who could not direct him otherwise than by gently putting
away the things which she felt would not avail her. Several were in vain.
But there was one bottle of strong aromatic vinegar which was destined to
immortalize its owner in Fleda's remembrance. Before she had taken three
whiffs of it her colour changed. Mr. Carleton watched the effect of a few
whiffs more, and then bade the stewardess take away all the other things
and bring him a cup of fresh strong coffee. By the time it came Fleda was
ready for it, and by the time Mr. Carleton had administered the coffee he
saw it would do to throw his mother's shawl round her and carry her up on
deck, which he did without asking any questions. All this while Fleda had
not spoken a word, except once when he asked her if she felt better. But
she had given him, on finishing the coffee, a full look and half smile of
such pure affectionate gratitude that the young gentleman's tongue was
tied for some time after.

With happy skill, when he had safely bestowed Fleda among her cushions on
deck, Mr. Carleton managed to keep off the crowd of busy inquirers after
her well-doing, and even presently to turn his mother's attention another
way, leaving Fleda to enjoy all the comfort of quiet and fresh air at
once. He himself, seeming occupied with other things, did no more but keep
watch over her, till he saw that she was able to bear conversation again.
Then he seated himself beside her and said softly,

[Illustration: Then he seated himself beside her.]

"Elfie,--what were you crying about all yesterday afternoon?"

Fleda changed colour, for soft and gentle as the tone was she heard in
it a determination to have the answer; and looking up beseechingly into
his face she saw in the steady full blue eye that it was a determination
she could not escape from. Her answer was an imploring request that he
would not ask her. But taking one of her little hands and carrying it to
his lips, he in the same tone repeated his question. Fleda snatched away
her hand and burst into very frank tears; Mr. Carleton was silent, but
she knew through silence that he was only quietly waiting for her to
answer him.

"I wish you wouldn't ask me, sir," said poor Fleda, who still could not
turn her face to meet his eye;--"It was only something that happened
yesterday."

"What was it, Elfie?--You need not be afraid to tell me."

"It was only--what you said to Mrs. Carleton yesterday,--when she was
talking--"

"About my difficulty with those gentlemen?"

"Yes," said Fleda, with a new gush of tears, as if her grief stirred
afresh at the thought.

Mr. Carleton was silent a moment; and when he spoke there was no
displeasure and more tenderness than usual in his voice.

"What troubled you in that, Elfie? tell me the whole."

"I was sorry, because,--it wasn't right," said Fleda, with a grave
truthfulness which yet lacked none of her universal gentleness and
modesty.

"What wasn't right?"

"To speak--I am afraid you won't like me to say it, Mr. Carleton."

"I will, Elfie,--for I ask you."

"To speak to Mrs. Carleton so, and besides,--you know what you said, Mr.
Carleton--"

"It was _not_ right," said he after a minute,--"and I very seldom
use such an expression, but you know one cannot always be on one's
guard, Elfie?"

"But," said Fleda with gentle persistence, "one can always do what
is right."

The deuce one can!--thought Mr, Carleton to himself. "Elfie,--was that
all that troubled you?--that I had said what was not right?"

"It wasn't quite that only," said Fleda hesitating,--"What else?"

She stooped her face from his sight and he could but just understand
her words.

"I was disappointed--"

"What, in me!"

Her tears gave the answer; she could add to them nothing but an assenting
nod of her head.

They would have flowed in double measure if she had guessed the pain she
had given. Her questioner heard her with a keen pang which did not leave
him for days. There was some hurt pride in it, though other and more
generous feelings had a far larger share. He, who had been admired,
lauded, followed, cited, and envied, by all ranks of his countrymen and
countrywomen;--in whom nobody found a fault that could be dwelt upon amid
the lustre of his perfections and advantages;--one of the first young men
in England, thought so by himself as well as by others;--this little pure
being had been _disappointed_ in him. He could not get over it. He
reckoned the one judgment worth all the others. Those whose direct or
indirect flatteries had been poured at his feet were the proud, the
worldly, the ambitious, the interested, the corrupted;--their praise was
given to what they esteemed, and that, his candour said, was the least
estimable part of him. Beneath all that, this truth-loving,
truth-discerning little spirit had found enough to weep for. She was right
and they were wrong. The sense of this was so keen upon him that it was
tea or fifteen minutes before he could recover himself to speak to his
little reprover. He paced up and down the deck, while Fleda wept more and
more from the fear of having offended or grieved him. But she was soon
reassured on the former point. She was just wiping away her tears, with
the quiet expression of patience her face often wore, when Mr. Carleton
sat down beside her and took one of her hands.

"Elfie," said he,--"I promise you I will never say such a thing again."

He might well call her his good angel, for it was an angelic look the
child gave him. So purely humble, grateful, glad,--so rosy with joyful
hope,--the eyes were absolutely sparkling through tears. But when she saw
that his were not dry, her own overflowed. She clasped her other hand to
his hand and bending down her face affectionately upon it, she wept,--if
ever angels weep,--such tears as they.

"Elfie," said Mr. Carleton, as soon as he could,--"I want you to go down
stairs with me; so dry those eyes, or my mother will be asking all sorts
of difficult questions."

Happiness is a quick restorative. Elfie was soon ready to go where he
would.

They found Mrs. Carleton fortunately wrapped up in a new novel, some
distance apart from the other persons in the cabin. The novel was
immediately laid aside to take Fleda on her lap and praise Guy's nursing.

"But she looks more like a wax figure yet than anything else, don't
she, Guy?"

"Not like any that ever I saw," said Mr. Carleton gravely. "Hardly
substantial enough. Mother, I have come to tell you I am ashamed of myself
for having given you such cause of offence yesterday."

Mrs. Carleton's quick look, as she laid her hand on her son's arm, said
sufficiently well that she would have excused him from making any apology
rather than have him humble himself in the presence of a third person.

"Fleda heard me yesterday," said he; "it was right she should hear
me to-day."

"Then my dear Guy," said his mother with a secret eagerness which she did
not allow to appear,--"if I may make a condition for my forgiveness, which
you had before you asked for it,--will you grant me one favour?"

"Certainly, mother,--if I can."

"You promise me?"

"As well in one word as in two."

"Promise me that you will never, by any circumstances, allow yourself to
be drawn into--what is called _an affair of honour_."

Mr. Carleton's brow changed, and without making any reply, perhaps to
avoid his mother's questioning gaze, he rose up and walked two or three
times the length of the cabin. His mother and Fleda watched him
doubtfully.

"Do you see how you have got me into trouble, Elfie?" said he, stopping
before them.

Fleda looked wonderingly, and Mrs. Carleton exclaimed, "What trouble?"

"Elfie," said he, without immediately answering his mother, "what would
your conscience do with two promises both of which cannot be kept?"

"What such promises have you made?" said Mrs Carleton eagerly.

"Let me hear first what Fleda says to my question."

"Why," said Fleda, looking a little bewildered,--"I would keep the
right one."

"Not the one first made?" said he smiling.

"No," said Fleda,--"not unless it was the right one."

"But don't you think one ought to keep one's word, in any event?"

"I don't think anything can make it right to do wrong," Fleda said
gravely, and not without a secret trembling consciousness to what point
she was speaking.

He left them and again took several turns up and down the cabin before
he sat down.

"You have not given me your promise yet, Guy," said his mother, whose eye
had not once quitted him. "You said you would."

"I said, if I could."

"Well?--you can?"

"I have two honourable meetings of the proscribed kind now on hand, to
which I stand pledged."

Fleda hid her face in an agony. Mrs. Carleton's agony was in every line of
hers as she grasped her son's wrist exclaiming, "Guy, promise me!" She had
words for nothing else. He hesitated still a moment, and then meeting his
mother's look he said gravely and steadily,

"I promise you, mother, I never will."

His mother threw herself upon his breast and hid her face there, too much
excited to have any thought of her customary regard to appearances;
sobbing out thanks and blessings even audibly. Fleda's gentle head was
bowed in almost equal agitation; and Mr. Carleton at that moment had no
doubt that he had chosen well which promise to keep.

There remained however a less agreeable part of the business to manage.
After seeing his mother and Fleda quite happy again, though without
satisfying in any degree the curiosity of the former, Guy went in search
of the two young West Point officers. They were together, but without
Thorn's friend, Capt. Beebee. Him Carleton next sought and brought to the
forward deck where the others were enjoying their cigars; or rather
Charlton Rossitur was enjoying his, with the happy self satisfaction of a
pair of epaulettes off duty. Thorn had too busy a brain to be much of a
smoker. Now, however, when it was plain that Mr. Carleton had something to
say to them, Charlton's cigar gave way to his attention; it was displaced
from his mouth and held in abeyance; while Thorn puffed away more intently
than ever.

"Gentlemen," Carleton began,--"I gave you yesterday reason to expect that
so soon as circumstances permitted, you should have the opportunity which
offended honour desires of trying sounder arguments than those of reason
upon the offender. I have to tell you to-day that I will not give it you.
I have thought further of it."

"Is it a new insult that you mean by this, sir?" exclaimed Rossitur in
astonishment. Thorn's cigar did not stir.

"Neither new nor old. I mean simply that I have changed my mind."

"But this is very extraordinary!" said Rossitur. "What reason do
you give?"

"I give none, sir."

"In that case," said Capt. Beebee, "perhaps Mr. Carleton will not object
to explain or unsay the things which gave offence yesterday."

"I apprehend there is nothing to explain, sir,--I think I must have been
understood; and I never take back my words, for I am in the habit of
speaking the truth."

"Then we are to consider this as a further, unprovoked, unmitigated insult
for which you will give neither reason nor satisfaction!" cried Rossitur.

"I have already disclaimed that, Mr. Rossitur."

"Are we, on mature deliberation, considered unworthy of tha _honour_ you
so condescendingly awarded to us yesterday?"

"My reasons have nothing to do with you, sir, nor with your friend; they
are entirely personal to myself."

"Mr. Carleton must be aware," said Capt. Beebee, "that his conduct, if
unexplained, will bear a very strange construction."

Mr. Carleton was coldly silent.

"It never was heard of," the Captain went on,--"that a gentleman declined
both to explain and to give satisfaction for any part of his conduct which
had called for it."

"It never was heard that a _gentleman_ did," said Thorn, removing his
cigar a moment for the purpose of supplying the emphasis which his friend
had carefully omitted to make.

"Will you say, Mr. Carleton," said Rossitur, "that you did not mean to
offend us yesterday in what you said?"

"No, Mr. Rossitur."

"You will not!" cried the Captain.

"No, sir; for your friends had given me, as I conceived, just cause
of displeasure; and I was, and am, careless of offending those who
have done so."

"You consider yourself aggrieved, then, in the first place?" said Beebee.

"I have said so, sir."

"Then," said the Captain, after a puzzled look out to sea, "supposing that
my friends disclaim all intention to offend you in that case--"

"In that case I should be glad, Capt. Beebee, that they had changed their
line of tactics--there is nothing to change in my own."

"Then what are we to understand by this strange refusal of a meeting, Mr.
Carleton? what does it mean?"

"It means one thing in my own mind, sir, and probably another in yours;
but the outward expression I choose to give it is that I will not reward
uncalled-for rudeness with an opportunity of self-vindication."

"You are," said Thorn sneeringly, "probably careless as to the figure your
own name will cut in connection with this story?"

"Entirely so," said Mr. Carleton, eying him steadily.

"You are aware that your character is at our mercy?"

A slight bow seemed to leave at their disposal the very small portion of
his character he conceived to lie in that predicament.

"You will expect to hear yourself spoken of in terms that befit a man who
has cowed out of an engagement he dared not fulfil?"

"Of course," said Carleton haughtily, "by my present refusal I give you
leave to say all that, and as much more as your ingenuity can furnish in
the same style; but not in my hearing, sir."

"You can't help yourself," said Thorn, with the same sneer. "You have rid
yourself of a gentleman's means of protection,--what others will you use?

"I will leave that to the suggestion of the moment. I do not doubt it will
be found fruitful."

Nobody doubted it who looked just then on his steady sparkling eye.

"I consider the championship of yesterday given up of course," Thorn went
on in a kind of aside, not looking at anybody, and striking his cigar
against the guards to clear it of ashes;--"the champion has quitted the
field; and the little princess but lately so walled in with defences must
now listen to whatever knight and squire may please to address to her.
Nothing remains to be seen of her defender but his spurs."

"They may serve for the heels of whoever is disposed to annoy her," said
Mr. Carleton. "He will need them."

He left the group with the same air of imperturbable self-possession which
he had maintained during the conference. But presently Rossitur, who had
his private reasons for wishing to keep friends with an acquaintance who
might be of service in more ways than one, followed him and declared
himself to have been, in all his nonsense to Fleda, most undesirous of
giving displeasure to her temporary guardian, and sorry that it had fallen
out so. He spoke frankly, and Mr. Carleton, with the same cool
gracefulness with which he had carried on the quarrel, waived his
displeasure, and admitted the young gentleman apparently to stand as
before in his favour. Their reconciliation was not an hour old when Capt.
Beebee joined them.

"I am sorry I must trouble you with a word more on this disagreeable
subject, Mr. Carleton," he began, after a ceremonious salutation,--"My
friend, Lieut. Thorn, considers himself greatly outraged by your
determination not to meet him. He begs to ask, by me, whether it is your
purpose to abide by it at all hazards?"

"Yes, sir."

"There is some misunderstanding here, which I greatly regret.--I hope you
will see and excuse the disagreeable necessity I am under of delivering
the rest of my friend's message."

"Say on, sir."

"Mr. Thorn declares that if you deny him the common courtesy which no
gentleman refuses to another, he will proclaim your name with the most
opprobrious adjuncts to all the world, and in place of his former regard
he will hold you in the most unlimited contempt, which he will have no
scruple about shewing on all occasions."

Mr. Carleton coloured a little, but replied coolly,

"I have not lived in Mr. Thorn's favour. As to the rest, I forgive
him!--except indeed he provoke me to measures for which I never will
forgive him."

"Measures!" said the Captain.

"I hope not! for my own self-respect would be more grievously hurt than
his. But there is an unruly spring somewhere about my composition that
when it gets wound up is once in a while too much for me."

"But," said Rossitur, "pardon me,--have you no regard to the effect of his
misrepresentations?"

"You are mistaken, Mr. Rossitur," said Carleton slightly;--this is but
the blast of a bellows,--not the Simoom."

"Then what answer shall I have the honour of carrying back to my friend?"
said Capt. Beebee, after a sort of astounded pause of a few minutes.

"None, of my sending, sir."

Capt. Beebee touched his cap, and went back to Mr. Thorn, to whom he
reported that the young Englishman was thoroughly impracticable, and that
there was nothing to be gained by dealing with him; and the vexed
conclusion of Thorn's own mind, in the end, was in favour of the wisdom of
letting him alone.

In a very different mood, saddened and disgusted, Mr. Carleton shook
himself free of Rossitur and went and stood alone by the guards looking
out upon the sea. He did not at all regret his promise to his mother, nor
wish to take other ground than that he had taken. Both the theory and the
practice of duelling he heartily despised, and he was not weak enough to
fancy that he had brought any discredit upon either his sense or his
honour by refusing to comply with an unwarrantable and barbarous custom.
And he valued mankind too little to be at all concerned about their
judgment in the matter. His own opinion was at all times enough for him.
But the miserable folly and puerility of such an altercation as that in
which he had just been engaged, the poor display of human character, the
little low passions which bad been called up, even in himself, alike
destitute of worthy cause and aim, and which had perhaps but just missed
ending in the death of some and the living death of others,--it all
wrought to bring him back to his old wearying of human nature and
despondent eying of the everywhere jarrings, confusions, and discordances
in the moral world. The fresh sea-breeze that swept by the ship,
roughening the play of the waves, and brushing his own cheek with its
health-bearing wing, brought with it a sad feeling of contrast. Free, and
pure, and steadily directed, it sped on its way, to do its work. And like
it all the rest of the natural world, faithful to the law of its Maker,
was stamped with the same signet of perfection. Only man, in all the
universe, seemed to be at cross purposes with the end of his being. Only
man, of all animate or inanimate things, lived an aimless, fruitless,
broken life,--or fruitful only in evil. How was this? and whence? and when
would be the end? and would this confused mass of warring elements ever be
at peace? would this disordered machinery ever work smoothly, without let
or stop any more, and work out the beautiful something for which sure it
was designed? And could any hand but its first Maker mend the broken wheel
or supply the spring that was wanting?

Has not the Desire of all nations been often sought of eyes that were
never taught where to look for him.

Mr. Carleton was standing still by the guards, looking thoughtfully out to
windward to meet the fresh breeze, as if the Spirit of the Wilderness were
in it and could teach him the truth that the Spirit of the World knew not
and had not to give, when he became sensible of something close beside
him; and looking down met little Fleda's upturned face, with such a look
of purity, freshness, and peace, it said as plainly as ever the dial-plate
of a clock that _that_ little piece of machinery was working right. There
was a sunlight upon it, too, of happy confidence and affection. Mr.
Carleton's mind experienced a sudden revulsion. Fleda might see the
reflection of her own light in his face as he helped her up to a stand
where she could be more on a level with him; putting his arm round her to
guard against any sudden roll of the ship.

"What makes you wear such a happy face?" said he, with an expression half
envious, half regretful.

"I don't know!" said Fleda innocently. "You, I suppose."

He looked as bright as she did, for a minute.

"Were you ever angry, Elfie?"

"I don't know--" said Fleda. "I don't know but I have."

He smiled to see that although evidently her memory could not bring the
charge, her modesty would not deny it.

"Were you not angry yesterday with your cousin and that unmannerly
friend of his?"

"No," said Fleda, a shade crossing her face,--"I was not _angry_ "--

And as she spoke her hand was softly put upon Mr. Carleton's; as if partly
in the fear of what might have grown out of _his_ anger, and partly in
thankfulness to him that he had rendered it unnecessary. There was a
singular delicate timidity and tenderness in the action.

"I wish I had your secret, Elfie," said Mr. Carleton, looking wistfully
into the clear eyes that met his.

"What secret?" said Fleda smiling.

"You say one can always do right--is that the reason you are
happy?--because you follow that out?"

"No," said Fleda seriously. "But I think it is a great deal pleasanter."

"I have no doubt at all of that, neither, I dare say, have the rest of the
world; only somehow when it comes to the point they find it is easier to
do wrong. What's your secret, Elfie?"

"I haven't any secret," said Fleda. But presently, seeming to bethink
herself, she added gently and gravely,

"Aunt Miriam says--"

"What?"

"She says that when we love Jesus Christ it is easy to please him."

"And do you love him, Elfie?" Mr Carleton asked after a minute.

Her answer was a very quiet and sober "Yes."

He doubted still whether she were not unconsciously using a form of speech
the spirit of which she did not quite realize. That one might "not see and
yet believe," he could understand; but for _affection_ to go forth towards
an unseen object was another matter. His question was grave and acute.

"By what do you judge that you do, Elfie?"

"Why, Mr. Carleton," said Fleda, with an instant look of appeal, "who else
_should_ I love?"

"If not him "--her eye and her voice made sufficiently plain. Mr. Carleton
was obliged to confess to himself that she spoke intelligently, with
deeper intelligence than he could follow. He asked no more questions. Yet
truth shines by its own light, like the sun. He had not perfectly
comprehended her answers, but they struck him as something that deserved
to be understood, and he resolved to make the truth of them his own.

The rest of the voyage was perfectly quiet. Following the earnest advice
of his friend Capt. Beebee, Thorn had given up trying to push Mr. Carleton
to extremity; who on his part did not seem conscious of Thorn's existence.



Chapter XIII.



  There the most daintie paradise on ground
  Itselfe doth offer to his sober eye,--
  -----The painted flowres, the trees upshooting hye,
  The dales for shade, the hills for breathing space,
  The trembling groves, the christall running by;
  And that, which all faire works doth most aggrace,
  The art which all that wrought appeared in no place.

  Færy Queene.


They had taken ship for London, as Mr. and Mrs. Carleton wished to visit
home for a day or two before going on to Paris. So leaving Charlton to
carry news of them to the French capital, so soon as he could persuade
himself to leave the English one, they with little Fleda in company posted
down to Carleton, in ----shire.

It was a time of great delight to Fleda, that is, as soon as Mr. Carleton
had made her feel at home in England; and somehow he had contrived to do
that and to scatter some clouds of remembrance that seemed to gather about
her, before they had reached the end of their first day's journey. To be
out of the ship was itself a comfort, and to be alone with kind friends
was much more. With great joy Fleda put her cousin Charlton and Mr. Thorn
at once out of sight and out of mind; and gave herself with even more than
her usual happy readiness to everything the way and the end of the way had
for her. Those days were to be painted days in Fleda's memory.

She thought Carleton was a very odd place. That is, the house, not the
village which went by the same name. If the manner of her two companions
had not been such as to put her entirely at her ease she would have felt
strange and shy. As it was she felt half afraid of losing herself in the
house, to Fleda's unaccustomed eyes it was a labyrinth of halls and
staircases, set with the most unaccountable number and variety of rooms;
old and new, quaint and comfortable, gloomy and magnificent; some with
stern old-fashioned massiveness of style and garniture; others absolutely
bewitching (to Fleda's eyes and understanding) in the rich beauty and
luxuriousness of their arrangements. Mr. Carleton's own particular haunts
were of these; his private room, the little library as it was called, the
library, and the music-room, which was indeed rather a gallery of fine
arts, so many treasures of art were gathered there. To an older and
nice-judging person these rooms would have given no slight indications of
their owner's mind--it had been at work on every corner of them. No
particular fashion had been followed in anything, nor any model consulted
but that which fancy had built to the mind's order. The wealth of years
had drawn together an enormous assemblage of matters, great and small,
every one of which was fitted either to excite fancy, or suggest thought,
or to satisfy the eye by its nice adaptation. And if pride had had the
ordering of them, all these might have been but a costly museum, a
literary alphabet that its possessor could not put together, an ungainly
confession of ignorance on the part of the intellect that could do nothing
with this rich heap of material. But pride was not the genius of the
place. A most refined taste and curious fastidiousness had arranged and
harmonized all the heterogeneous items; the mental hieroglyphics had been
ordered by one to whom the reading of them was no mystery. Nothing struck
a stranger at first entering, except the very rich effect and faultless
air of the whole, and perhaps the delicious facilities for every kind of
intellectual cultivation which appeared on every hand; facilities which it
must be allowed do seem in general _not_ to facilitate the work they are
meant to speed. In this case however it was different. The mind that
wanted them bad brought them together to satisfy its own craving.

These rooms were Guy's peculiar domain. In other parts of the house,
where his mother reigned conjointly with him, their joint tastes had
struck out another style of adornment which might be called a style of
superb elegance. Not superb alone, for taste had not permitted so heavy a
characteristic to be predominant; not merely elegant, for the fineness of
all the details would warrant an ampler word. A larger part of the house
than both these together had been left as generations past had left it, in
various stages of, refinement, comfort and comeliness. It was a day or two
before Fleda found out that it was all one; she thought at first that it
was a collection of several houses that had somehow inexplicably sat down
there with their backs to each other; it was so straggling and irregular a
pile of building, covering so much ground, and looking so very unlike the
different parts to each other. One portion was quite old; the other parts
ranged variously between the present and the far past. After she once
understood this it was a piece of delicious wonderment and musing and
great admiration to Fleda; she never grew weary of wandering round it and
thinking about it, for from a child fanciful meditation was one of her
delights. Within doors she best liked Mr. Carleton's favourite rooms.
Their rich colouring and moderated light and endless stores of beauty and
curiosity made them a place of fascination.

Out of doors she found still more to delight her. Morning, noon, and night
she might be seen near the house gazing, taking in pictures of natural
beauty which were for ever after to hang in Fleda's memory as standards of
excellence in that sort. Nature's hand had been very kind to the place,
moulding the ground in beautiful style. Art had made happy use of the
advantage thus given her; and now what appeared was neither art nor
nature, but a perfection that can only spring from the hands of both.
Fleda's eyes were bewitched. She stood watching the rolling slopes of
green turf, _so_ soft and lovely, and the magnificent trees, that had kept
their ground for ages and seen generations rise and fall before their
growing strength and grandeur. They were scattered here and there on the
lawn, and further back stood on the heights and stretched along the ridges
of the undulating ground, the outposts of a wood of the same growth still
beyond them.

"How do you like it, Elfie?" Mr. Carleton asked her the evening of the
first day, as he saw her for a length of time looking out gravely and
intently from before the hall door.

"I think it is beautiful!" said Fleda. "The ground is a great deal
smoother here than it was at home."

"I'll take you to ride to-morrow," said he smiling, "and shew you rough
ground enough."

"As you did when we came from Montepoole?" raid Fleda rather eagerly.

"Would you like that?"

"Yes, very much,--if _you_ would like it, Mr. Carleton."

"Very well," said he. "So it shall be."

And not a day passed during their short stay that he did not give her one
of those rides. He shewed her rough ground, according to his promise, but
Fleda still thought it did not look much like the mountains "at home." And
indeed unsightly roughnesses had been skilfully covered or removed; and
though a large part of the park, which was a very extensive one, was
wildly broken and had apparently been left as nature left it, the hand of
taste had been there; and many an unsuspected touch instead of hindering
had heightened both the wild and the beautiful character. Landscape
gardening had long been a great hobby of its owner.

"How far does your ground come, Mr Carleton?" inquired Fleda on one of
these rides, when they had travelled a good distance from home.

"Further than you can see, Elfie."

"Further than I can see!--It must be a very large farm!"

"This is not a farm where we are now," said he;--"did you mean
that?--this is the park; we are almost at the edge of it on this side."

"What is the difference between a farm and a park?" said Fleda.

"The grounds of a farm are tilled for profit; a park is an uncultivated
enclosure kept merely for men and women and deer to take pleasure in."

"_I_ have taken a good deal of pleasure in it," said Fleda. "And have you
a farm besides, Mr. Carleton?"

"A good many, Elfie."

Fleda looked surprised, and then remarked that it must be very nice to
have such a beautiful piece of ground just for pleasure.

She enjoyed it to the full during the few days she was there. And one
thing more, the grand piano in the music-room. The first evening of their
arrival she was drawn by the far-off sounds, and Mrs. Carleton seeing it
went immediately to the music-room with her. The room had no light, except
from the moonbeams that stole in through two glass doors which opened upon
a particularly private and cherished part of the grounds, in summer-time
full of flowers; for in the very refinement of luxury delights had been
crowded about this favourite apartment. Mr. Carleton was at the
instrument, playing. Fleda sat down quietly in one corner and
listened,--in a rapture of pleasure she had hardly ever known from any
like source. She did not think it could be greater, till after a time, in
a pause of the music, Mrs. Carleton asked her son to sing a particular
ballad, and that one was followed by two or three more. Fleda left her
corner, she could not contain herself, and favoured by the darkness came
forward and stood quite near; and if the performer bad bad light to see
by, he would have been gratified with the tribute paid to his power by the
unfeigned tears that ran down her cheeks. This pleasure was also repeated
from evening to evening.

"Do you know we set off for Paris to-morrow?" said Mrs. Carleton the last
evening of their stay, as Fleda came up to the door after a prolonged
ramble in the park, leaving Mr. Carleton with one or two gardeners at a
little distance.

"Yes!" said Fleda, with a sigh that was more than half audible.

"Are you sorry?" said Mrs. Carleton smiling.

"I cannot be glad," said Fleda, giving a sober look over the lawn.

"Then you like Carleton?"

"Very much!--It is a prettier place than Queechy."

"But we shall have you here again, dear Fleda," said Mrs. Carleton
restraining her smile at this, to her, very moderate complement.

"Perhaps not," said Fleda quietly.--"Mr. Carleton said," she added a
minute after with more animation, "that a park was a place for men and
women and deer to take pleasure in. I am sure it is for children too!"

"Did you have a pleasant ride this morning?"

"O very!--I always do. There isn't anything I like so well."

"What, as to ride on horseback with Guy?" said Mrs. Carleton looking
exceedingly benignant.

"Yes,--unless--"

"Unless what, my dear Fleda?"

"Unless, perhaps,--I don't know,--I was going to say, unless perhaps to
hear him sing."

Mrs. Carleton's delight was unequivocally expressed; and she promised
Fleda that she should have both rides and songs there in plenty another
time; a promise upon which Fleda built no trust at all.

The short journey to Pans was soon made. The next morning Mrs. Carleton
making an excuse of her fatigue left Guy to end the care he had rather
taken upon himself by delivering his little charge into the hands of her
friends. So they drove to the Hotel------, Rue------, where Mr. Rossitur
had apartments in very handsome style. The found him alone in the saloon.

"Ha! Carleton--come back again. Just in time--very glad to see you. And
who is this?--Ah, another little daughter for aunt Lucy."

Mr. Rossitur, who gave them this greeting very cordially, was rather a
fine looking man, decidedly agreeable both in person and manner. Fleda was
pleasantly disappointed after what her grandfather had led her to expect.
There might be something of sternness in his expression; people gave him
credit for a peremptory, not to say imperious temper; but if truly, it
could not often meet with opposition. The sense and gentlemanly character
which marked his face and bearing had an air of smooth politeness which
seemed habitual. There was no want of kindness nor even of tenderness in
the way he drew Fleda within his arm and held her there, while he went on
talking to Mr. Carleton; now and then stooping his face to look in at her
bonnet and kiss her, which was his only welcome. He said nothing to her
after his first question.

He was too busy talking to Guy. He seemed to have a great deal to tell
him. There was this for him to see, and that for him to hear, and charming
new things which had been done or doing since Mr. Carleton left Paris. The
impression upon Fleda's mind after listening awhile was that the French
capital was a great Gallery of the Fine Arts, with a magnified likeness of
Mr. Carleton's music room at one end of it. She thought her uncle must be
most extraordinarily fond of pictures and works of art in general, and
must have a great love for seeing company and hearing people sing. This
latter taste Fleda was disposed to allow might be a very reasonable one.
Mr. Carleton, she observed, seemed much more cool on the whole subject.
But meanwhile where was aunt Lucy?--and had Mr. Rossitur forgotten the
little armful that he held so fast and so perseveringly? No, for here was
another kiss, and another look into her face, so kind that Fleda gave him
a piece of her heart from that time.

"Hugh!" said Mr. Rossitur suddenly to somebody she had not seen
before,--"Hugh!--here is your little cousin. Take her off to your mother."

A child came forward at this bidding hardly larger than herself. He was a
slender graceful little figure, with nothing of the boy in his face or
manner; delicate as a girl, and with something almost melancholy in the
gentle sweetness of his countenance. Fleda's confidence was given to it on
the instant, which had not been the case with anything in her uncle, and
she yielded without reluctance the hand he took to obey his father's
command. Before two steps had been taken however, she suddenly broke away
from him and springing to Mr. Carleton's side silently laid her hand in
his. She made no answer whatever to a ligit word or two of kindness that
he spoke just for her ear. She listened with downcast eyes and a lip that
he saw was too unsteady to be trusted, and then after a moment more,
without looking, pulled away her hand and followed her cousin. Hugh did
not once get a sight of her face on the way to his mother's room, but
owing to her exceeding efforts and quiet generalship he never guessed the
cause. There was nothing in her face to raise suspicion when he reached
the door and opening it announced her with,

"Mother, here's cousin Fleda come."

Fleda had seen her aunt before, though several years back, and not long
enough to get acquainted with her. But no matter;--it was her mother's
sister sitting there, whose face gave her so lovely a welcome at that
speech of Hugh's, whose arms were stretched out so eagerly towards her;
and springing to them as to a very haven of rest Fleda wept on her
bosom those delicious tears that are only shed where the heart is at
home. And even before they were dried the ties were knit that bound her
to her new sphere.

"Who came with you, dear Fleda?" said Mrs. Rossitur then. "Is Mrs.
Carleton here? I must go and thank her for bringing you to me."

"_Mr_. Carleton is here," said Hugh.

"I must go and thank him then. Jump down, dear Fleda--I'll be back in
a minute."

Fleda got off her lap, and stood looking in a kind of enchanted maze,
while her aunt hastily arranged her hair at the glass. Looking, while
fancy and memory were making strong the net in which her heart was caught.
She was trying to see something of her mother in one who had shared her
blood and her affection so nearly. A miniature of that mother was left to
Fleda, and she had studied it till she could hardly persuade herself that
she had not some recollection of the original; and now she thought she
caught a precious shadow of something like it in her aunt Lucy. Not in
those pretty bright eyes which had looked through kind tears so lovingly
upon her; but in the graceful ringlets about the temples, the delicate
contour of the face, and a something, Fleda could only have said it was "a
something," about the mouth _when at rest_, the shadow of her mother's
image rejoiced her heart. Rather that faint shadow of the loved lost one
for little Fleda, than any other form or combination of beauty on earth.
As she stood fascinated, watching the movements of her aunt's light
figure, Fleda drew a long breath with which went off the whole burden of
doubt and anxiety that had lain upon her mind ever since the journey
began. She had not known it was there, but she felt it go. Yet even when
that sigh of relief was breathed, and while fancy and feeling were weaving
their rich embroidery into the very tissue of Fleda's happiness, most
persons would have seen merely that the child looked very sober, and have
thought probably that she felt very tired and strange. Perhaps Mrs.
Rossitur thought so, for again tenderly kissing her before she left the
room she told Hugh to take off her things and make her feel at home.

Hugh upon this made Fleda sit down and proceeded to untie her tippet
strings and take off her coat with an air of delicate tenderness which
shewed he had great pleasure in his task, and which made Fleda take a good
deal of pleasure in it too.

"Are you tired, cousin Fleda?" said he gently.

"No," said Fleda. "O no."

"Charlton said you were tired on board ship."

"I wasn't tired," said Fleda, in not a little surprise; "I liked it
very much."

"Then maybe I mistook. I know Charlton said _he_ was tired, and I thought
he said you were too. You know my brother Charlton, don't you?"

"Yes."

"Are you glad to come to Paris?"

"I am glad now," said Fleda. "I wasn't glad before."

"I am very glad," said Hugh. "I think you will like it. We didn't know you
were coming till two or three days ago when Charlton got here. Do you like
to take walks?"

"Yes, very much."

"Father and mother will take us delightful walks in the Tuileries, the
gardens you know, and the Champs Elysées, and Versailles, and the
Boulevards, and ever so many places; and it will be a great deal
pleasanter now you are here. Do you know French?"

"No."

"Then you'll have to learn. I'll help you if you will let me. It is very
easy. Did you get my last letter?"

"I don't know," said Fleda,--"the last one I had came with one of aunt
Lucy's, telling me about Mrs. Carleton--I got it just before "--

Alas! before what? Fleda suddenly remembered, and was stopped short. From
all the strange scenes and interests which lately had whirled her along,
her spirit leaped back with strong yearning recollection to her old home
and her old ties; and such a rain of tears witnessed the dearness of what
she had lost and the tenderness of the memory that had let them slip for a
moment, that Hugh was as much distressed as startled. With great
tenderness and touching delicacy he tried to soothe her and at the same
time, though guessing to find out what was the matter, lest he should make
a mistake.

"Just before what?" said he, laying his hand caressingly on his little
cousin's shoulder;--"Don't grieve so, dear Fleda!"

"It was only just before grandpa died," said Fleda.

Hugh had known of that before, though like her he had forgotten it for a
moment. A little while his feeling was too strong to permit any further
attempt at condolence; but as he saw Fleda grow quiet he took courage to
speak again.

"Was he a good man?" he asked softly.

"Oh yes!"

"Then," said Hugh, "you know he is happy now, Fleda. If he loved Jesus
Christ he is gone to be with him. That ought to make you glad as well
as sorry."

Fleda looked up, though tears were streaming yet, to give that full happy
answer of the eye that no words could do. This was consolation and
sympathy. The two children had a perfect understanding of each other from
that time forward; a fellowship that never knew a break nor a weakening.

Mrs. Rossitur found on her return that Hugh had obeyed her charge to the
letter. He had made Fleda feel at home. They were sitting close together,
Hugh's hand affectionately clasping hers, and he was holding forth on some
subject with a gracious politeness that many of his elders might have
copied; while Fleda listened and assented with entire satisfaction. The
rest of the morning she passed in her aunt's arms; drinking draughts of
pleasure from those dear bright eyes; taking in the balm of gentlest words
of love, and soft kisses, every one of which was felt at the bottom of
Fleda's heart, and the pleasure of talking over her young sorrows with one
who could feel them all and answer with tears as well as words of
sympathy. And Hugh stood by the while looking at his little orphan cousin
as if she might have dropped from the clouds into his mother's lap, a rare
jewel or delicate flower, but much more delicate and precious than they or
any other possible gift.

Hugh and Fleda dined alone. For as he informed her his father never would
have children at the dinner-table when he had company; and Mr. and Mrs.
Carleton and other people were to be there to-day, Fleda made no remark
on the subject, by word or look, but she thought none the less. She
thought it was a very mean fashion. _She_ not come to the table when
strangers were there! And who would enjoy them more? When Mr. Rossitur
and Mr Carleton had dined with her grandfather, had she not taken as much
pleasure in their society, and in the whole thing, as any other one of
the party? And at Carleton, had she not several times dined with a
tableful, and been unspeakably amused to watch the different manners and
characteristics of people who were strange to her? However, Mr. Rossitur
had other notions. So she and Hugh had their dinner in aunt Lucy's
dressing-room, by themselves; and a very nice dinner it was, Fleda
thought; and Rosaline, Mrs. Rossitur's French maid, was well affected and
took admirable care of them. Indeed before the close of the day Rosaline
privately informed her mistress, "qu'elle serait entêtée sûrement de cet
enfant dans trois jours;" and "que son regard vraiment lui serrait le
coeur." And Hugh was excellent company, failing all other, and did the
honours of the table with the utmost thoughtfulness, and amused Fleda the
whole time with accounts of Paris and what they would do and what she
should see; and how his sister Marion was at school at a convent, and
what kind of a place a convent was; and how he himself always staid at
home and learned of his mother and his father; "or by himself," he said,
"just as it happened;" and he hoped they would keep Fleda at home too. So
Fleda hoped exceedingly, but this stern rule about the dining had made
her feel a little shy of her uncle; she thought perhaps he was not kind
and indulgent to children like her aunt Lucy; and if he said she must go
to a convent she would not dare to ask him to let her stay. The next time
she saw him however, she was obliged to change her opinion again, in
part; for he was very kind and indulgent, both to her and Hugh; and more
than that he was very amusing. He shewed her pictures, and told her new
and interesting things; and finding that she listened eagerly he seemed
pleased to prolong her pleasure, even at the expense of a good deal of
his own time.

Mr. Rossitur was a man of cultivated mind and very refined and fastidious
taste. He lived for the pleasures of Art and Literature and the society
where these are valued. For this, and not without some secret love of
display, he lived in Paris; not extravagant in his pleasures, nor silly in
his ostentation, but leading, like a gentleman, as worthy and rational a
life as a man can lead who lives only to himself, with no further thought
than to enjoy the passing hours. Mr. Rossitur enjoyed them elegantly, and
for a man of the world, moderately, bestowing however few of those
precious hours upon his children. It was his maxim that they should be
kept out of the way whenever their presence might by any chance interfere
with the amusements of their elders; and this maxim, a good one certainly
in some hands, was in his reading of it a very broad one. Still when he
did take time to give his family he was a delightful companion to those of
them who could understand him. If they shewed no taste for sensible
pleasure he had no patience with them nor desire of their company. Report
had done him no wrong in giving him a stern temper; but this almost never
came out in actual exercise; Fleda knew it only from an occasional hint
now and then, and by her childish intuitive reading of the lines it had
drawn round the mouth and brow. It had no disagreeable bearing on his
everyday life and manner; and the quiet fact probably served but to
heighten the love and reverence in which his family held him very high.

Mr. Rossitur did once moot the question whether Fleda should not join
Marion at her convent. But his wife looked very grave and said that she
was too tender and delicate a little thing to be trusted to the hands of
strangers; Hugh pleaded, and argued that she might share all his lessons;
and Fleda's own face pleaded more powerfully. There was something
appealing in its extreme delicacy and purity which seemed to call for
shelter and protection from every rough breath of the world; and Mr.
Rossitur was easily persuaded to let her remain in the stronghold of home.
Hugh had never quitted it. Neither father nor mother ever thought of such
a thing. He was the cherished idol of the whole family. Always a delicate
child, always blameless in life and behaviour, his loveliness of mind and
person, his affectionateness, the winning sweetness that was about him
like a halo, and the slight tenure by which they seemed to hold him, had
wrought to bind the hearts of father and mother to this child, as it were,
with the very life-strings of both. Not his mother was more gentle with
Hugh than his much sterner father. And now little Fleda, sharing somewhat
of Hugh's peculiar claims upon their tenderness and adding another of her
own, was admitted, not to the same place in their hearts,--that could not
be,--but to their honour be it spoken, to the same place in all outward
shew of thought and feeling. Hugh had nothing that Fleda did not have,
even to the time, care, and caresses of his parents. And not Hugh rendered
them a more faithful return of devoted affection.

[Illustration: The children were always together.]

Once made easy on the question of school, which was never seriously
stirred again, Fleda's life became very happy. It was easy to make her
happy; affection and sympathy would have done it almost anywhere; but in
Paris she had much more; and after time had softened the sorrow she
brought with her, no bird ever found existence less of a burden, nor sang
more light-heartedly along its life. In her aunt she had all but the name
of a mother; in her uncle, with kindness and affection, she had amusement,
interest, and improvement; in Hugh everything;--love, confidence,
sympathy, society, help; their tastes, opinions, pursuits, went hand in
hand. The two children were always together. Fleda's spirits were brighter
than Hugh's, and her intellectual tastes stronger and more universal. That
might be as much from difference of physical as of mental constitution.
Hugh's temperament led him somewhat to melancholy, and to those studies
and pleasures which best side with subdued feeling and delicate nerves.
Fleda's nervous system was of the finest too, but, in short, she was as
like a bird as possible. Perfect health, which yet a slight thing was
enough to shake to the foundation;--joyous spirits, which a look could
quell;--happy energies, which a harsh hand might easily crush for ever.
Well for little Fleda that so tender a plant was permitted to unfold in so
nicely tempered an atmosphere. A cold wind would soon have killed it.
Besides all this there were charming studies to be gone through every day
with Hugh; some for aunt Lucy to hear, some for masters and mistresses.
There were amusing walks in the Boulevards, and delicious pleasure taking
in the gardens of Paris, and a new world of people and manners and things
and histories for the little American. And despite her early rustic
experience Fleda had from nature an indefeasible taste for the elegancies
of life; it suited her well to see all about her, in dress, in furniture,
in various appliances, as commodious and tasteful as wealth and refinement
could contrive it; and she very soon knew what was right in each kind.
There were now and then most gleeful excursions in the environs of Paris,
when she and Hugh found in earth and air a world of delights more than
they could tell anybody but each other. And at home, what peaceful times
they two had,--what endless conversations, discussions, schemes,
air-journeys of memory and fancy, backward and forward; what sociable
dinners alone, and delightful evenings with Mr. and Mrs. Rossitur in the
saloon when nobody or only a very few people were there; how pleasantly in
those evenings the foundations were laid of a strong and enduring love for
the works of art, painted, sculptured, or engraven, what a multitude of
curious and excellent bits of knowledge Fleda's ears picked up from the
talk of different people. They were capital ears; what they caught they
never let fall. In the course of the year her gleanings amounted to more
than many another person's harvest.



Chapter XIV.



  Heav'n bless thee;
  Thou hast the sweetest face I ever look'd on.

  Shakspeare.


One of the greatest of Fleda's pleasures was when Mr. Carleton came to
take her out with him. He did that often. Fleda only wished he would have
taken Hugh too, but somehow he never did. Nothing but that was wanting to
make the pleasure of those times perfect. Knowing that she saw the _common
things_ in other company, Guy was at the pains to vary the amusement when
she went with him. Instead of going to Versailles or St. Cloud, he would
take her long delightful drives into the country and shew her some old or
interesting place that nobody else went to see. Often there was a history
belonging to the spot, which Fleda listened to with the delight of eye and
fancy at once. In the city, where they more frequently walked, still he
shewed her what she would perhaps have seen under no other guidance. He
made it his business to give her pleasure; and understanding the
inquisitive active little spirit he had to do with he went where his own
tastes would hardly have led him. The Quai aux Fleurs was often visited,
but also the Halle aux Blés, the great Halle aux Vins, the Jardin des
Plantes, and the Marché des Innocens. Guy even took the trouble, more for
her sake than his own, to go to the latter place once very early in the
morning, when the market-bell had not two hours sounded, while the
interest and prettiness of the scene were yet in their full life. Hugh was
in company this time, and the delight of both children was beyond words,
as it would have been beyond anybody's patience that had not a strong
motive to back it. They never discovered that Mr. Carleton was in a hurry,
as indeed he was not. They bargained for fruit with any number of people,
upon all sorts of inducements, and to an extent of which they had no
competent notion, but Hugh had his mother's purse, and Fleda was skilfully
commissioned to purchase what she pleased for Mrs. Carleton. Verily the
two children that morning bought pleasure, not peaches. Fancy and
Benevolence held the purse strings, and Economy did not even look on. They
revelled too, Fleda especially, amidst the bright pictures of the odd, the
new, and the picturesque, and the varieties of character and incident,
that were displayed around them; even till the country people began to go
away and the scene to lose its charm. It never lost it in memory; and many
a time in after life Hugh and Fleda recurred to something that was seen
or done "that morning when we bought fruit at the Innocens."

Besides these scenes of everyday life, which interested and amused Fleda
to the last degree, Mr. Carleton shewed her many an obscure part of Paris
where deeds of daring and of blood had been, and thrilled the little
listener's ear with histories of the Past. He judged her rightly. She
would rather at any time have gone to walk with him, than with anybody
else to see any show that could be devised. His object in all this was in
the first place to give her pleasure, and in the second place to draw out
her mind into free communion with his own, which he knew could only be
done by talking sense to her. He succeeded as he wished. Lost in the
interest of the scenes he presented to her eye and mind, she forgot
everything else and shewed him herself; precisely what he wanted to see.

It was strange that a young man, an admired man of fashion, a flattered
favourite of the gay and great world, and furthermore a reserved and proud
repeller of almost all who sought his intimacy, should seek and delight in
the society of a little child. His mother would have wondered if she had
known it. Mrs. Rossitur did marvel that even Fleda should have so won upon
the cold and haughty young Englishman; and her husband said he probably
chose to have Fleda with him because he could make up his mind to like
nobody else. A remark which perhaps arose from the utter failure of every
attempt to draw him and Charlton nearer together. But Mr. Rossitur was
only half right. The reason lay deeper.

Mr. Carleton had admitted the truth of Christianity, upon what he
considered sufficient grounds, and would now have steadily fought for it,
as he would for anything else that he believed to be truth. But there he
stopped. He had not discovered nor tried to discover whether the truth of
Christianity imposed any obligation upon him. He had cast off his
unbelief, and looked upon it now as a singular folly. But his belief was
almost as vague and as fruitless as his infidelity had been. Perhaps, a
little, his bitter dissatisfaction with the world and human things, or
rather his despondent view of them, was mitigated. If there was, as he now
held, a Supreme Orderer of events, it might be, and it was rational to
suppose there would be, in the issues of time, an entire change wrought in
the disordered and dishonoured state of his handiwork. There might be a
remedial system somewhere,--nay, it might be in the Bible; he meant to
look some day. But that _he_ had anything to do with that change--that the
working of the remedial system called for hands--that _his_ had any charge
in the matter had never entered into his imagination or stirred his
conscience. He was living his old life at Paris, with his old
dissatisfaction, perhaps a trifle less bitter. He was seeking pleasure in
whatever art, learning, literature, refinement, and luxury can do for a
man who has them all at command; but there was something within him that
spurned this ignoble existence and called for higher aims and worthier
exertion. He was not vicious, he never had been vicious, or, as somebody
else said, his vices were all refined vices; but a life of mere
self-indulgence although pursued without self-satisfaction, is constantly
lowering the standard and weakening the forces of virtue,--lessening the
whole man. He felt it so; and to leave his ordinary scenes and occupations
and lose a morning with little Fleda was a freshening of his better
nature; it was like breathing pure air after the fever heat of a sick
room; it was like hearing the birds sing after the meaningless jabber of
Bedlam. Mr. Carleton indeed did not put the matter quite so strongly to
himself. He called Fleda his good angel. He did not exactly know that the
office this good angel performed was simply to hold a candle to his
conscience. For conscience was not by any means dead in him; it only
wanted light to see by. When he turned from the gay and corrupt world in
which he lived, where the changes were rung incessantly upon
self-interest, falsehood, pride, and the various more or less refined
forms of sensuality, and when he looked upon that pure bright little face,
so free from selfishness, those clear eyes so innocent of evil, the
peaceful brow under which a thought of double-dealing had never hid, Mr.
Carleton felt himself in a healthier region. Here as elsewhere, he
honoured and loved the image of truth; in the broad sense of truth;--that
which suits the perfect standard of right. But his pleasure in this case
was invariably mixed with a slight feeling of self-reproach; and it was
this hardly recognised stir of his better nature, this clearing of his
mental eye-sight under the light of a bright example, that made him call
the little torch-bearer his good angel. If this were truth, this purity,
uprightness, and singleness of mind, as conscience said it was, where was
he? how far wandering from his beloved Idol!

One other feeling saddened the pleasure he had in her society--a belief
that the ground of it could not last. "If she could grow up so!"--he said
to himself. "But it is impossible. A very few years, and all that clear
sunshine of the mind will be overcast;--there is not a cloud now!"--

Under the working of these thoughts Mr. Carleton sometimes forgot to
talk to his little charge, and would walk for a length of way by her
side wrapped up in sombre musings. Fleda never disturbed him then, but
waited contentedly and patiently for him to come out of them, with her
old feeling wondering what he could be thinking of and wishing he were
as happy as she. But he never left her very long; he was sure to waive
his own humour and give her all the graceful kind attention which nobody
else could bestow so well. Nobody understood and appreciated it better
than Fleda.

One day, some months after they had been in Paris, they were sitting in
the Place de la Concorde, Mr. Carleton was in one of these thinking fits.
He had been giving Fleda a long detail of the scenes that had taken place
in that spot--a history of it from the time when it had lain an unsightly
waste;--such a graphic lively account as he knew well how to give. The
absorbed interest with which she had lost everything else in what he was
saying had given him at once reward and motive enough as he went on.
Standing by his side, with one little hand confidingly resting on his
knee, she gazed alternately into his face and towards the broad
highly-adorned square by the side of which they had placed themselves, and
where it was hard to realize that the ground had once been soaked in blood
while madness and death filled the air; and her changing face like a
mirror gave him back the reflection of the times he held up to her view.
And still standing there in the same attitude after he had done she had
been looking out towards the square in a fit of deep meditation. Mr.
Carleton had forgotten her for awhile in his own thoughts, and then the
sight of the little gloved hand upon his knee brought him back again.

"What are you musing about, Elfie, dear?" he said cheerfully, taking the
hand in one of his.

Fleda gave a swift glance into his face, as if to see whether it would be
safe for her to answer his question; a kind of exploring look, in which
her eyes often acted as scouts for her tongue. Those she met pledged their
faith for her security; yet Fleda's look went back to the square and then
again to his face in silence.

"How do you like living in Paris?" said he. "You should know by
this time."

"I like it very much indeed," said Fleda.

"I thought you would."

"I like Queechy better though," she went on gravely, her eyes turning
again to the square.

"Like Queechy better! Were you thinking of Queechy just now when I
spoke to you?"

"Oh no!"--with a smile.

"Were you going over all those horrors I have been distressing you with?"

"No," said Fleda;--"I _was_ thinking of them, awhile ago."

"What then?" said he pleasantly. "You were looking so sober I should like
to know how near your thoughts were to mine."

"I was thinking," said Fleda, gravely, and a little unwillingly, but Guy's
manner was not to be withstood,--"I was wishing I could be like the
disciple whom Jesus loved."

Mr. Carleton let her see none of the surprise he felt at this answer.

"Was there one more loved than the rest?"

"Yes--the Bible calls him 'the disciple whom Jesus loved.' That was John."

"Why was he preferred above the others?"

"I don't know. I suppose he was more gentle and good than the others, and
loved Jesus more. I think aunt Miriam said so when I asked her once."

Mr. Carleton thought Fleda had not far to seek for the fulfilment
of her wish.

"But how in the world, Elfie, did you work round to this gentle and good
disciple from those scenes of blood you set out with?"

"Why," said Elfie,--"I was thinking how unhappy and bad people are,
especially people here, I think; and how much must be done before they
will all be brought right;--and then I was thinking of the work Jesus gave
his disciples to do; and so I wished I could be like _that_
disciple.--Hugh and I were talking about it this morning."

"What is the work he gave them to do?" said Mr. Carleton, more and more
interested.

"Why," said Fleda, lifting her gentle wistful eyes to his and then looking
away,--"to bring everybody to be good and happy."

"And how in the world are they to do that?" said Mr. Carleton, astonished
to see his own problem quietly handled by this child.

"By telling them about Jesus Christ, and getting them to believe and love
him," said Fleda, glancing at him again,--"and living so beautifully that
people cannot help believing them."

"That last is an important clause," said Mr. Carleton thoughtfully. "But
suppose people will not hear when they are spoken to, Elfie?"

"Some will, at any rate," said Fleda,--"and by and by everybody will."

"How do you know?"

"Because the Bible says so."

"Are you sure of that, Elfie?"

"Why yes, Mr. Carleton--God has promised that the world shall be full of
good people, and then they will be all happy. I wish it was now."

"But if that be so, Elfie, God can make them all good without our help?"

"Yes, but I suppose he chooses to do it with our help, Mr. Carleton," said
Fleda with equal naïveté and gravity.

"But is not this you speak of," said he, half smiling,--"rather the
business of clergymen? you have nothing to do with it?"

"No," said Fleda,--"everybody has something to do with it, the Bible says
so; ministers must do it in their way and other people in other ways;
everybody has his own work. Don't you remember the parable of the ten
talents, Mr. Carleton?"

Mr. Carleton was silent for a minute.

"I do not know the Bible quite as well as you do, Elfie," he said
then,--"nor as I ought to do."

Elfie's only answer was by a look somewhat like that he well remembered on
shipboard he had thought was angel-like,--a look of gentle sorrowful
wistfulness which she did not venture to put into words. It had not for
that the less power. But he did not choose to prolong the conversation.
They rose up and began to walk homeward, Elfie thinking with all the
warmth of her little heart that she wished very much Mr. Carleton knew the
Bible better; divided between him and "that disciple" whom she and Hugh
had been talking about.

"I suppose you are very busy now, Elfie," observed her companion, when
they had walked the length of several squares in silence.

"O yes!" said Fleda. "Hugh and I are as busy as we can be. We are busy
every minute."

"Except when you are on some chase after pleasure?"

"Well," said Fleda laughing,--"that is a kind of business; and all the
business is pleasure too. I didn't mean that we were always busy about
_work_. O Mr. Carleton we had such a nice time the day before
yesterday!"--And she went on to give him the history of a very successful
chase after pleasure which they had made to St. Cloud.

"And yet you like Queechy better?"

"Yes," said Fleda, with a gentle steadiness peculiar to herself,--if I had
aunt Lucy and Hugh and uncle Rolf there and everybody that I care for, I
should like it a great deal better."

"Unspotted" yet, he thought.

"Mr. Carleton," said Fleda presently,--"do you play and sing every day
here in Paris?"

"Yes," said he smiling,--"about every day. Why?"

"I was thinking how pleasant it was at your house, in England."

"Has Carleton the honour of rivalling Queechy in your liking?"

"I haven't lived there so long, you know," said Fleda. "I dare say it
would if I had. I think it is quite as pretty a place."

Mr. Carleton smiled with a very pleased expression. Truth and politeness
had joined hands in her answer with a child's grace.

He brought Fleda to her own door and there was leaving her.

"Stop!--O Mr. Carleton," cried Fleda, "come in just for one minute--I want
to shew you something."

He made no resistance to that. She led him to the saloon, where it
happened that nobody was, and repeating "One minute!"--rushed out of the
room. In less than that time she came running back with a beautiful
half-blown bud of a monthly rose in her hand, and in her face such a bloom
of pleasure and eagerness as more than rivalled it. The rose was fairly
eclipsed. She put the bud quietly but with a most satisfied air of
affection into Mr. Carleton's hand. It had come from a little tree which
he had given her on one of their first visits to the Quai aux Fleurs. She
had had the choice of what she liked best, and had characteristically
taken a flourishing little rose-bush that as yet shewed nothing but leaves
and green buds; partly because she would have the pleasure of seeing its
beauties come forward, and partly because she thought having no flowers it
would not cost much. The former reason however was all that she had given
to Mr. Carleton's remonstrances.

"What is all this, Elfie?" said he. "Have you been robbing your
rose tree?"

"No," said Elfie;--"there are plenty more buds! Isn't it lovely? This is
the first one. They've been a great while coming out."

His eye went from the rose to her; he thought the one was a mere emblem of
the other. Fleda was usually very quiet in her demonstrations; it was as
if a little green bud had suddenly burst into a flush of loveliness; and
he saw, it was as plain as possible, that good-will to him had been the
moving power. He was so much struck and moved that his thanks, though as
usual perfect in their kind, were far shorter and graver than he would
have given if he had felt less. He turned away from the house, his mind
full of the bright unsullied purity and single-hearted good-will that had
looked out of that beaming little face; he seemed to see them again in the
flower held in his hand, and he saw nothing else as he went.

Mr. Carleton preached to himself all the way home, and his text was a
rose.

Laugh who will. To many it may seem ridiculous, and to most minds it would
have been impossible, but to a nature very finely wrought and highly
trained, many a voice that grosser senses cannot hear comes with an
utterance as clear as it is sweet-spoken; many a touch that coarser nerves
cannot heed reaches the springs of the deeper life; many a truth that
duller eyes have no skill to see shews its fair features, hid away among
the petals of a rose, or peering out between the wings of a butterfly, or
reflected in a bright drop of dew. The material is but a veil for the
spiritual; but then eyes must be quickened, or the veil becomes an
impassable cloud.

That particular rose was to Mr. Carleton's eye a most perfect emblem and
representative of its little giver. He traced out the points of
resemblance as he went along. The delicacy and character of refinement for
which that kind of rose is remarkable above many of its more superb
kindred; a refinement essential and unalterable by decay or otherwise, as
true a characteristic of the child as of the flower; a delicacy that
called for gentle handling and tender cherishing;--the sweetness, rare
indeed, but asserting itself as it were timidly, at least with equally
rare modesty,--the very style of the beauty, that with all its loveliness
would not startle nor even catch the eye among its more showy neighbours;
and the breath of purity that seemed to own no kindred with earth, nor
liability to infection.

As he went on with his musing, and drawing out this fair character from
the type before him, the feeling of _contrast_, that he had known before,
pressed upon Mr. Carleton's mind, the feeling of self-reproach, and the
bitter wish that he could be again what he once had been, something like
this. How changed now he seemed to himself--not a point of likeness left.
How much less honourable, how much less worth, how much less dignified,
than that fair innocent child. How much better a part she was acting in
life--what an influence she was exerting,--as pure, as sweet-breathed, and
as unobtrusive, as the very rose in his hand. And he--doing no good to an
earthly creature and losing himself by inches.

He reached his room, put the flower in a glass on the table, and walked up
and down before it. It had come to a struggle between the sense of what
was and the passionate wish for what might have been.

"It is late, sir," said his servant opening the door,--"and you were--"

"I am not going out."

"This evening, sir?"

"No--not at all to-day. Spenser!--I don't wish to see any body--let no one
come near me."

The servant retired and Guy went on with his walk and his meditations,
looking back over his life and reviewing, with a wiser ken now, the steps
by which he had come. He compared the selfish disgust with which he had
cast off the world with the very different spirit of little Fleda's look
upon it that morning, the useless, self-pleasing, vain life he was
leading, with her wish to be like the beloved disciple and do something to
heal the troubles of those less happy than herself. He did not very well
comprehend the grounds of her feeling or reasoning, but he began to see,
mistily, that his own had been mistaken and wild.

His steps grew slower, his eye more intent, his brow quiet.

"She is right and I am wrong," he thought. "She is by far the nobler
creature--worth, many such as I. _Like her_ I cannot be--I cannot regain
what I have lost,--I cannot undo what years have done. But I can be
something other than I am! If there be a system of remedy, as there well
may, it may as well take effect on myself first. She says everybody has
his work, I believe her. It must in the nature of things be so. I will
make it my business to find out what mine is, and when I have made that
sure I will give myself to the doing of it. An Allwise Governor must look
for service of me. He shall have it. Whatever my life be, it shall be to
some end. If not what I would, what I can. If not the purity of the rose,
that of tempered steel!"

Mr. Carleton walked his room for three hours; then rung for his servant
and ordered him to prepare everything for leaving Paris the second day
thereafter.

The next morning over their coffee he told his mother of his purpose.

"Leave Paris!--To-morrow!--My dear Guy, that is rather a sudden notice."

"No mother--for I am going alone."

His mother immediately bent an anxious and somewhat terrified look
upon him. The frank smile she met put half her suspicions out of her
head at once.

"What is the matter?"

"Nothing at all--if by 'matter' you mean mischief."

"You are not in difficulty with those young men again?"

"No mother," said he coolly. "I am in difficulty with no one but myself."

"With yourself! But why will you not let me go with you?"

"My business will go on better if I am quite alone."

"What business?"

"Only to settle this question with myself," said he smiling.

"But Guy! you are enigmatical this morning. Is it the question that of all
others I wish to see settled?"

"No mother," said he laughing and colouring a little,--"I don't want
another half to take care of till I have this one under management."

"I don't understand you," said Mrs. Carleton "There is no hidden reason
under all this that you are keeping from me?"

"I won't say that. But there is none that need give you the least
uneasiness. There are one or two matters I want to study out--I cannot do
it here, so I am going where I shall be free."

"Where?"

"I think I shall pass the summer between Switzerland and Germany."

"And when and where shall I meet you again?"

"I think at home;--I cannot say when."

"At home!" said his mother with a brightening face. "Then you are
beginning to be tired of wandering at last?"

"Not precisely, mother,--rather out of humour."

"I shall be glad of anything," said his mother, gazing at him admiringly,
"that brings you home again, Guy."

"Bring me home a better man, I hope, mother," said he kissing her as he
left the room. "I will see you again by and by."

"'A better man!'" thought Mrs. Carleton, as she sat with full eyes, the
image of her son filling the place where his presence had been;--"I would
be willing never to see him better and be sure of his never being worse!"

Mr. Carleton's farewell visit found Mr. and Mrs. Rossitur not at home.
They had driven out early into the country to fetch Marion from her
convent for some holiday. Fleda came alone into the saloon to receive him.

"I have your rose in safe keeping, Elfie," he said. "It has done me more
good than ever a rose did before."

Fleda smiled an innocently pleased smile. But her look changed when he
added,

"I have come to tell you so and to bid you good-bye."

"Are you going away, Mr. Carleton?"

"Yes."

"But you will be back soon?"

"No, Elfie,--I do not know that I shall ever come back."

He spoke gravely, more gravely than he was used; and Fleda's acuteness saw
that there was some solid reason for this sudden determination. Her face
changed sadly, but she was silent, her eyes never wavering from those that
read hers with such gentle intelligence.

"You will be satisfied to have me go, Elfie, when I tell you that I am
going on business which I believe to be duty. Nothing else takes me away.
I am going to try to do right," said he smiling.

Elfie could not answer the smile. She wanted to ask whether she should
never see him again, and there was another thought upon her tongue too;
but her lip trembled and she said nothing.

"I shall miss my good fairy," Mr. Carleton went on lightly;--"I don't know
how I shall do without her. If your wand was long enough to reach so far I
would ask you to touch me now and then, Elfie."

Poor Elfie could not stand it. Her head sank. She knew she had a wand that
could touch him, and well and gratefully she resolved that its light
blessing should "now and then" rest on his head; but he did not understand
that; he was talking, whether lightly or seriously, and Elfie knew it was
a little of both,--he was talking of wanting her help, and was ignorant of
the help that alone could avail him. "Oh that he knew but that!"--What
with this feeling and sorrow together the child's distress was exceeding
great; and the tokens of grief in one so accustomed to hide them were the
more painful to see. Mr. Carleton drew the sorrowing little creature
within his arm and endeavoured with a mixture of kindness and lightness in
his tone to cheer her.

"I shall often remember you, dear Elfie," he said;--"I shall keep your
rose always and take it with me wherever I go.--You must not make it too
hard for me to quit Paris--you are glad to have me go on such an errand,
are you not?"

She presently commanded herself, bade her tears wait till another time as
usual, and trying to get rid of those that covered her face, asked him,
"What errand?"

He hesitated.

"I have been thinking of what we were talking of yesterday, Elfie,"
he said at length. "I am going to try to discover my duty, and then
to do it."

But Fleda at that clasped his hand, and squeezing it in both hers bent
down her little head over it to hide her face and the tears that streamed
again. He hardly knew how to understand or what to say to her. He half
suspected that there were depths in that childish mind beyond his
fathoming. He was not however left to wait long. Fleda, though she might
now and then be surprised into shewing it, never allowed her sorrow of any
kind to press upon the notice or the time of others. She again checked
herself and dried her face.

"There is nobody else in Paris that will be so sorry for my leaving it,"
said Mr. Carleton, half tenderly and half pleasantly.

"There is nobody else that has so much cause," said Elfie, near bursting
out again, but she restrained herself.

"And you will not come here again, Mr. Carleton?" she said after a
few minutes.

"I do not say that--it is possible--if I do, it will be to see you,
Elfie."

A shadow of a smile passed over her face at that. It was gone instantly.

"My mother will not leave Paris yet," he went on,--"you will see
her often."

But he saw that Fleda was thinking of something else; she scarce seemed to
hear him. She was thinking of something that troubled her.

"Mr. Carleton--" she began, and her colour changed.

"Speak, Elfie."

Her colour changed again. "Mr. Carleton--will you be displeased if I say
something?"

"Don't you know me better than to ask me that, Elfie?" he said gently.

"I want to ask you something,--if you won't mind my saying it."

"What is it?" said he, reading in her face that a request was behind. "I
will do it."

Her eyes sparkled, but she seemed to have some difficulty in going on.

"I will do it, whatever it is," he said watching her.

"Will you wait for one moment, Mr. Carleton?"

"Half an hour."

She sprang away, her face absolutely flashing pleasure through her tears.
It was much soberer, and again doubtful and changing colour, when a few
minutes afterwards she came back with a book in her hand. With a striking
mixture of timidity, modesty, and eagerness in her countenance she came
forward, and putting the little volume, which was her own Bible, into Mr.
Carleton's hands said under her breath, "Please read it." She did not
venture to look up.

He saw what the book was; and then taking the gentle hand which had given
it, he kissed it two or three times. If it had been a princess's he could
not with more respect.

"You have my promise, Elfie," he said. "I need not repeat it?"

She raised her eyes and gave him a look so grateful, so loving, so happy,
that it dwelt for ever in his remembrance. A moment after it had faded,
and she stood still where he had left her, listening to his footsteps as
they went down the stairs. She heard the last of them, and then sank upon
her knees by a chair and burst into a passion of tears. Their time was
now and she let them come. It was not only the losing a loved and
pleasant friend, it was not only the stirring of sudden and disagreeable
excitement;--poor Elfie was crying for her Bible. It had been her
father's own--it was filled with his marks--it was precious to her above
price--and Elfie cried with all her heart for the loss of it. She had
done what she had on the spur of the emergency--she was satisfied she had
done right; she would not take it back if she could; but not the less her
Bible was gone, and the pages that loved eyes had looked upon were for
hers to look upon no more. Her very heart was wrung that she should have
parted with it,--and yet,--what could she do?--It was as bad as the
parting with Mr. Carleton.

That agony was over, and even that was shortened, for "Hugh would find
out that she had been crying." Hours had passed, and the tears were
dried, and the little face was bending over the wonted tasks with a
shadow upon its wonted cheerfulness,--when Rosaline came to tell her that
Victor said there was somebody in the passage who wanted to see her and
would not come in.

It was Mr. Carleton himself. He gave her a parcel, smiled at her without
saying a word, kissed her hand earnestly, and was gone again. Fleda ran to
her own room, and took the wrappers off such a beauty of a Bible as she
had never seen; bound in blue velvet, with clasps of gold and her initials
in letters of gold upon the cover. Fleda hardly knew whether to be most
pleased or sorry; for to have its place so supplied seemed to put her lost
treasure further away than ever. The result was another flood of very
tender tears; in the very shedding of which however the new little Bible
was bound to her heart with cords of association as bright and as
incorruptible as its gold mountings.



Chapter XV.



    Her sports were such as carried riches of knowledge upon the stream of
    light.--Sidney.


Fleda had not been a year in Paris when her uncle suddenly made up his
mind to quit it and go home. Some trouble in money affairs, felt or
feared, brought him to this step, which a month before he had no definite
purpose of ever taking. There was cloudy weather in the financial world of
New York and he wisely judged it best that his own eyes should be on the
spot to see to his own interests. Nobody was sorry for this determination.
Mrs. Rossitur always liked what her husband liked, but she had at the same
time a decided predilection for home. Marion was glad to leave her convent
for the gay world, which her parents promised she should immediately
enter. And Hugh and Fleda had too lively a spring of happiness within
themselves to care where its outgoings should be.

So home they came, in good mood, bringing with them all manner of Parisian
delights that Paris could part with. Furniture, that at home at least they
might forget where they were; dresses, that at home or abroad nobody might
forget where they had been; pictures and statuary and engravings and
books, to satisfy a taste really strong and well cultivated. And indeed
the other items were quite as much for this purpose as for any other. A
French cook for Mr. Rossitur, and even Rosaline for his wife, who declared
she was worth all the rest of Paris. Hugh cared little for any of these
things; he brought home a treasure of books and a flute, to which he was
devoted. Fleda cared for them all, even Monsieur Emile and Rosaline, for
her uncle's and aunt's sake; but her special joy was a beautiful little
King Charles which had been sent her by Mr. Carleton a few weeks before.
It came with the kindest of letters, saying that some matters had made it
inexpedient for him to pass through Paris on his way home, but that he
hoped nevertheless to see her soon. That intimation was the only thing
that made Fleda sorry to leave Paris. The little dog was a beauty,
allowed to be so not only by his mistress but by every one else; of the
true black and tan colours; and Fleda's dearly loved and constant
companion.

The life she and Hugh led was little changed by the change of place. They
went out and came in as they had done in Paris, and took the same quiet
but intense happiness in the same quiet occupations and pleasures; only
the Tuileries and Champs Elysées had a miserable substitute in the
Battery, and no substitute at all anywhere else. And the pleasant drives
in the environs of Paris were missed too and had nothing in New York to
supply their place. Mrs. Rossitur always said it was impossible to get out
of New York by land, and not worth the trouble to do it by water. But then
in the house Fleda thought there was a great gain. The dirty Parisian
Hotel was well exchanged for the bright, clean, well-appointed house in
State street. And if Broadway was disagreeable, and the Park a weariness
to the eyes, after the dressed gardens of the French capital, Hugh and
Fleda made it up in the delights of the luxuriously furnished library and
the dear at-home feeling of having the whole house their own.

They were left, those two children, quite as much to themselves as ever.
Marion was going into company, and she and her mother were swallowed up in
the consequent necessary calls upon their time. Marion never had been
anything to Fleda. She was a fine handsome girl, outwardly, but seemed to
have more of her father than her mother in her composition, though
colder-natured and more wrapped up in self than Mr. Rossitur would be
called by anybody that knew him. She had never done anything to draw Fleda
towards her, and even Hugh had very little of her attention. They did not
miss it. They were everything to each other.

Everything,--for now morning and night there was a sort of whirlwind in
the house which carried the mother and daughter round and round and
permitted no rest; and Mr. Rossitur himself was drawn in. It was worse
than it had been in Paris. There, with Marion in her convent, there were
often evenings when they did not go abroad nor receive company and spent
the time quietly and happily in each other's society. No such evenings
now; if by chance there were an unoccupied one Mrs. Rossitur and her
daughter were sure to be tired and Mr. Rossitur busy.

Hugh and Fleda in those bustling times retreated to the library; Mr.
Rossitur would rarely have that invaded; and while the net was so eagerly
cast for pleasure among the gay company below, pleasure had often slipped
away and hid herself among the things on the library table, and was
dancing on every page of Hugh's book and minding each stroke of Fleda's
pencil and cocking the spaniel's ears whenever his mistress looked at him.
King, the spaniel, lay on a silk cushion on the library table, his nose
just touching Fleda's fingers. Fleda's drawing was mere amusement; she
and Hugh were not so burthened with studies that they had not always their
evenings free, and to tell truth, much more than their evenings. Masters
indeed they had; but the heads of the house were busy with the interests
of their grown-up child, and perhaps with other interests; and took it for
granted that all was going right with the young ones.

"Haven't we a great deal better time than they have down stairs, Fleda?"
said Hugh one of these evenings.

"Hum--yes--" answered Fleda abstractedly, stroking into order some old man
in her drawing with great intentness.--"King!--you rascal--keep back and
be quiet, sir!--"

Nothing could be conceived more gentle and loving than Fleda's tone of
fault-finding, and her repulse only fell short of a caress.

"What's he doing?"

"Wants to get into my lap."

"Why don't you let him?"

"Because I don't choose to--a silk cushion is good enough for his majesty.
King!--" (laying her soft cheek against the little dog's soft head and
forsaking her drawing for the purpose.)

"How you do love that dog!" said Hugh.

"Very well--why shouldn't I?--provided he steals no love from anybody
else," said Fleda, still caressing him.

"What a noise somebody is making down stairs!" said Hugh. "I don't think I
should ever want to go to large parties, Fleda, do you?"

"I don't know," said Fleda, whose natural taste for society was strongly
developed;--"it would depend upon what kind of parties they were."

"I shouldn't like them, I know, of whatever kind," said Hugh. "What are
you smiling at?"

"Only Mr. Pickwick's face, that I am drawing here."

Hugh came round to look and laugh, and then began again.

"I can't think of anything pleasanter than this room as we are now."

"You should have seen Mr. Carleton's library," said Fleda in a musing
tone, going on with her drawing.

"Was it so much better than this?"

Fleda's eyes gave a slight glance at the room and then looked down again
with a little shake of her head sufficiently expressive.

"Well," said Hugh, "you and I do not want any better than this, do
we, Fleda?"

Fleda's smile, a most satisfactory one, was divided between him and King.

"I don't believe," said Hugh, "you would have loved that dog near so well
if anybody else had given him to you."

"I don't believe I should!--not a quarter," said Fleda with sufficient
distinctness.

"I never liked that Mr. Carleton as well as you did."

"That is because you did not know him," said Fleda quietly.

"Do you think he was a good man, Fleda?"

"He was very good to me," said Fleda, "always. What rides I did have on
that great black horse of his!"--

"A black horse?"

"Yes, a great black horse, strong, but so gentle, and he went so
delightfully. His name was Harold. Oh I should like to see that
horse!--When I wasn't with him, Mr. Carleton used to ride another, the
greatest beauty of a horse, Hugh; a brown Arabian--so slender and
delicate--her name was Zephyr, ind she used to go like the wind, to be
sure. Mr. Carleton said he wouldn't trust me on such a fly-away thing."

"But you didn't use to ride alone?" said Hugh.

"Oh no!--and _I_ wouldn't have been afraid if he had chosen to take me
on any one."

"But do you think, Fleda, he was a _good_ man? as I mean?"

"I am sure he was better than a great many others," answered Fleda
evasively;--"the worst of him was infinitely better than the best of half
the people down stairs,--Mr. Sweden included."

"Sweden"--you don't call his name right."

"The worse it is called the better, in my opinion," said Fleda.

"Well, I don't like him; but what makes you dislike him so much?"

"I don't know--partly because uncle Rolf and Marion like him so much, I
believe--I don't think there is any moral expression in his face."

"I wonder why they like him," said Hugh.

It was a somewhat irregular and desultory education that the two children
gathered under this system of things. The masters they had were rather for
accomplishments and languages than for anything solid; the rest they
worked out for themselves. Fortunately they both loved books, and rational
books; and hours and hours, when Mrs. Rossitur and her daughter were
paying or receiving visits, they, always together, were stowed away behind
the book-cases or in the library window poring patiently over pages of
various complexion; the soft turning of the leaves or Fleda's frequent
attentions to King the only sound in the room. They walked together,
talking of what they had read, though indeed they ranged beyond that into
nameless and numberless fields of speculation, where if they sometimes
found fruit they as often lost their way. However the habit of ranging was
something. Then when they joined the rest of the family at the
dinner-table, especially if others were present, and most especially if a
certain German gentleman happened to be there who the second winter after
their return Fleda thought came very often, she and Hugh would be sure to
find the strange talk of the world that was going on unsuited and
wearisome to them, and they would make their escape up stairs again to
handle the pencil and to play the flute and to read, and to draw plans for
the future, while King crept upon the skirts of his mistress's gown and
laid his little head on her feet. Nobody ever thought of sending them to
school. Hugh was a child of frail health, and though not often very ill
was often near it; and as for Fleda, she and Hugh were inseparable; and
besides by this time her uncle and aunt would almost as soon have thought
of taking the mats off their delicate shrubs in winter as of exposing her
to any atmosphere less genial than that of home.

For Fleda this doubtful course of mental training wrought singularly well.
An uncommonly quick eye and strong memory and clear head, which she had
even in childhood, passed over no field of truth or fancy without making
their quiet gleanings; and the stores thus gathered, though somewhat
miscellaneous and unarranged, were both rich and uncommon, and more than
any one or she herself knew. Perhaps such a mind thus left to itself knew
a more free and luxuriant growth than could ever have flourished within
the confinement of rules. Perhaps a plant at once so strong and so
delicate was safest without the hand of the dresser. At all events it was
permitted to spring and to put forth all its native gracefulness alike
unhindered and unknown. Cherished as little Fleda dearly was, her mind
kept company with no one but herself,--and Hugh. As to externals,--music
was uncommonly loved by both the children, and by both cultivated with
great success. So much came under Mrs. Rossitur's knowledge. Also every
foreign Signor and Madame that came into the house to teach them spoke
with enthusiasm of the apt minds and flexile tongues that honoured their
instructions. In private and in public the gentle, docile, and
affectionate children answered every wish both of taste and judgment. And
perhaps, in a world where education is _not_ understood, their guardians
might be pardoned for taking it for granted that all was right where
nothing appeared that was wrong; certainly they took no pains to make sure
of the fact. In this case, one of a thousand, their neglect was not
punished with disappointment. They never found out that Hugh's mind wanted
the strengthening that early skilful training might have given it. His
intellectual tastes were not so strong as Fleda's; his reading was more
superficial; his gleanings not so sound and in far fewer fields, and they
went rather to nourish sentiment and fancy than to stimulate thought or
lay up food for it. But his parents saw nothing of this.

The third winter had not passed, when Fleda's discernment saw that Mr.
Sweden, as she called him, the German gentleman, would not cease coming to
the house till he had carried off Marion with him. Her opinion on the
subject was delivered to no one but Hugh.

That winter introduced them to a better acquaintance. One evening Dr.
Gregory, an uncle of Mrs. Rossitur's, had been dining with her and was in
the drawing-room. Mr. Schweden had been there too, and he and Marion and
one or two other young people had gone out to some popular entertainment.
The children knew little of Dr. Gregory but that he was a very
respectable-looking elderly gentleman, a little rough in his manners; the
doctor had not long been returned from a stay of some years in Europe
where he had been collecting rare books for a fine public library, the
charge of which was now entrusted to him. After talking some time with
Mr. and Mrs. Rossitur the doctor pushed round his chair to take a look at
the children.

"So that's Amy's child," said he. "Come here, Amy."

"That is not my name," said the little girl coming forward.

"Isn't it? It ought to be. What is then?"

"Elfleda."

"Elfleda!--Where in the name of all that is auricular did you get such an
outlandish name?"

"My father gave it to me, sir," said Fleda, with a dignified sobriety
which amused the old gentleman.

"Your father!--Hum--I understand. And couldn't your father find a cap that
fitted you without going back to the old-fashioned days of King Alfred?"

"Yes sir; it was my grandmother's cap."

"I am afraid your grandmother's cap isn't all of her that's come down to
you," said he, tapping his snuff-box and looking at her with a curious
twinkle in his eyes. "What do you call yourself? Haven't you some
variations of this tongue-twisting appellative to serve for every day and
save trouble?"

"They call me Fleda," said the little girl, who could not help laughing.

"Nothing better than that?"

Fleda remembered two prettier nick-names which had been hers; but one had
been given by dear lips long ago, and she was not going to have it
profaned by common use; and "Elfie" belonged to Mr. Carleton. She would
own to nothing but Fleda.

"Well, Miss Fleda," said the doctor, "are you going to school?"

"No sir."

"You intend to live without such a vulgar thing as learning?"

"No sir--Hugh and I have our lessons at home."

"Teaching each other, I suppose?"

"O no, sir," said Fleda laughing;--"Mme. Lascelles and Mr.
Schweppenhesser and Signor Barytone come to teach us, besides our
music masters."

"Do you ever talk German with this Mr. What's-his-name who has just gone
out with your cousin Marion?"

"I never talk to him at all, sir."

"Don't you? why not? Don't you like him?"

Fleda said "not particularly," and seemed to wish to let the subject pass,
but the doctor was amused and pressed it.

"Why, why don't you like him?" said he; "I am sure he's a fine looking
dashing gentleman,--dresses as well as anybody, and talks as much as most
people,--why don't you like him? Isn't he a handsome fellow, eh?"

"I dare say he is, to many people," said Fleda.

"She said she didn't think there was any moral expression in his face,"
said Hugh, by way of settling the matter.

"Moral expression!" cried the doctor,--"moral expression!--and what if
there isn't, you Elf!--what if there isn't?"

"I shouldn't care what other kind of expression it had," said Fleda,
colouring a little.

Mr. Rossitur 'pished' rather impatiently. The doctor glanced at his niece,
and changed the subject.

"Well who teaches you English, Miss Fleda? you haven't told me that yet."

"O that we teach ourselves," said Fleda, smiling as if it was a very
innocent question.

"Hum! you do! Pray how do you teach yourselves?"

"By reading, sir."

"Reading! And what do you read? what have you read in the last twelve
months, now?"

"I don't think I could remember all exactly," said Fleda.

"But you have got a list of them all," said Hugh, who chanced to have been
looking over said list of a day or two before and felt quite proud of it.

"Let's have it--let's have it," said the doctor. And Mrs. Rossitur
laughing said "Let's have it;" and even her husband commanded Hugh to go
and fetch it; so poor Fleda, though not a little unwilling, was obliged to
let the list be forthcoming. Hugh brought it, in a neat little book
covered with pink blotting paper.

"Now for it," said the doctor;--"let us see what this English amounts to.
Can you stand fire, Elfleda?"

'Jan. 1. Robinson Crusoe.' [Footnote: A true list made by a child of
that age.]

"Hum--that sounds reasonable, at all events."

"I had it for a New Year present," remarked Fleda, who stood by with
down-cast eyes, like a person undergoing an examination.

'Jan. 2. Histoire de France.'

"What history of France is this?"

Fleda hesitated and then said it was by Lacretelle.

"Lacretelle?--what, of the Revolution?"

"No sir, it is before that; it is in five or six large volumes."

"What, Louis XV's time!" said the doctor muttering to himself.

'Jan. 27. 2. ditto, ditto.'

"'Two' means the second volume I suppose?"

"Yes sir."

"Hum--if you were a mouse you would gnaw through the wall in time at that
rate. This is in the original?"

"Yes sir."

'Feb. 3. Paris. L. E. K.'

"What do these hieroglyphics mean?"

"That stands for the 'Library of Entertaining Knowledge,'" said Fleda.

"But how is this?--do you go hop, skip, and jump through these books, or
read a little and then throw them away? Here it is only seven days since
you began the second volume of Lacretelle--not time enough to get
through it."

"O no, sir," said Fleda smiling,--"I like to have several books that I am
reading in at once,--I mean--at the same time, you know; and then if I am
not in the mood of one I take up another."

"She reads them all through," said Hugh,--"always, though she reads them
very quick."

"Hum--I understand," said the old doctor with a humorous expression, going
on with the list.

'March 3. 3 Hist. de France.'

"But you finish one of these volumes, I suppose, before you begin another;
or do you dip into different parts of the same work at once?"

"O no, sir;--of course not!"

'Mar. 5. Modern Egyptians. L. E. K. Ap. 13.'

"What are these dates on the right as well as on the left?"

"Those on the right shew when I finished the volume."

"Well I wonder what you were cut out for?" said the doctor. "A
Quaker!--you aren't a Quaker, are you?"

"No sir," said Fleda laughing.

"You look like it," said he.

'Feb. 24. Five Penny Magazines, finished Mar. 4,'

"They are in paper numbers, you know, sir."

'April 4. 4 Hist. de F.'

"Let us see--the third volume was finished March 29--I declare you keep
it up pretty well."

'Ap. 19. Incidents of Travel'

"Whose is that?"

"It is by Mr. Stephens."

"How did you like it?"

"O very much indeed."

"Ay, I see you did; you finished it by the first of May. 'Tour to the
Hebrides'--what? Johnson's?"

"Yes sir."

"Read it all fairly through?"

"Yes sir, certainly."

He smiled and went on.

'May 12. Peter Simple!'

There was quite a shout at the heterogeneous character of Fleda's reading,
which she, not knowing exactly what to make of it, heard rather abashed.

"' Peter Simple'!" said the doctor, settling himself to go on with his
list;--"well, let us see.--' World without Souls.' Why you Elf! read in
two days."

"It is very short, you know, sir."

"What did you think of it?"

"I liked parts of it very much."

He went on, still smiling.

'June 15. Goldsmith's Animated Nature.'

'June 18. 1 Life of Washington.'

"What Life of Washington?"

"Marshall's."

"Hum.--'July 9. 2 Goldsmith's An. Na.' As I live, begun the very day the
first volume was finished, did you read the whole of that?"

"O yes, sir. I liked that book very much."

'4 July 12. 5 Hist, de France.'

"Two histories on hand at once! Out of all rule, Miss Fleda! We must look
after you."

"Yes sir; sometimes I wanted to read one, and sometimes I wanted to read
the other."

"And you always do what you want to do, I suppose?"

"I think the reading does me more good in that way."

'July 15. Paley's Natural Theology!'

There was another shout. Poor Fleda's eyes filled with tears.

"What in the world put that book into your head, or before your eyes?"
said the doctor.

"I don't know, sir,--I thought I should like to read it," said Fleda,
drooping her eyelids that the bright drops under them might not be seen.

"And finished in eleven days, as I live!" said the doctor wagging his
head. 'July 19. 3 Goldsmith's A. N.' 'Aug. 6. 4 Do. Do.'"

"That is one of Fleda's favourite books," put in Hugh.

"So it seems. '6 Hist. de France.'--What does this little cross mean?"

"That shews when the book is finished," said Fleda, looking on the
page,--"the last volume, I mean."

"'Retrospect of Western Travel'--'Goldsmith's A. N., last vol.'--'Memoirs
de Sully'--in the French?"

"Yes sir."

"'Life of Newton'--What's this?--'Sep. 8. 1 Fairy Queen!'--not
Spenser's?"

"Yes sir, I believe so--the Fairy Queen, in five volumes."

The doctor looked up comically at his niece and her husband, who were both
sitting or standing close by.

"'Sep. 10. Paolo e Virginia.'--In what language?"

"Italian, sir; I was just beginning, and I haven't finished it yet."

"'Sep. 16. Milner's Church History'!--What the deuce!--'Vol. 2. Fairy
Queen.'--Why this must have been a favourite book too."

"That's one of the books Fleda loves best," said Hugh;--"she went through
that very fast."

"_Over_ it, you mean, I reckon; how much did you skip, Fleda?"

"I didn't skip at all," said Fleda; "I read every word of it."

"'Sep. 20. 2 Mem. de Sully.'--Well, you're an industrious mouse, I'll say
that for you.--What's this--'Don Quixotte!'--'Life of Howard.'--'Nov. 17.
3 Fairy Queen.'--'Nov. 29. 4 Fairy Queen.'--'Dec. 8. 1 Goldsmith's
England.'--Well if this list of books is a fair exhibit of your taste and
capacity, you have a most happily proportioned set of intellectuals. Let
us see--History, fun, facts, nature, theology, poetry and divinity!--upon
my soul!--and poetry and history the leading features!--a little fun,--as
much as you could lay your hand on I'll warrant, by that pinch in the
corner of your eye. And here, the eleventh of December, you finished the
Fairy Queen;--and ever since, I suppose, you have been imagining yourself
the 'faire Una,' with Hugh standing for Prince Arthur or the Red-cross
knight,--haven't you?"

"No sir. I didn't imagine anything about it."

"Don't tell me! What did you read it for?"

"Only because I liked it, sir. I liked it better than any other book I
read last year."

"You did! Well, the year ends, I see, with another volume of Sully. I
won't enter upon this year's list. Pray how much of all these volumes do
you suppose you remember? I'll try and find out, next time I come to see
you. I can give a guess, if you study with that little pug in your lap."

"He is not a pug!" said Fleda, in whose arms King was lying
luxuriously,--"and he never gets into my lap besides."

[Illustration: "He is not a pug."]

"Don't he! Why not?"

"Because I don't like it, sir. I don't like to see dogs in laps."

"But all the ladies in the land do it, you little Saxon! it is universally
considered a mark of distinction."

"I can't help what all the ladies in the land do," said Fleda. "That won't
alter my liking, and I don't think a lady's lap is a place for a dog."

"I wish you were _my_ daughter!" said the old doctor, shaking his head
at her with a comic fierce expression of countenance, which Fleda
perfectly understood and laughed at accordingly. Then as the two
children with the dog went off into the other room, he said, turning to
his niece and Mr. Rossitur,

"If that girl ever takes a wrong turn with the bit in her teeth, you'll be
puzzled to hold her. What stuff will you make the reins of?"

"I don't think she ever will take a wrong turn," said Mr. Rossitur.

"A look is enough to manage her, if she did," said his wife. "Hugh is not
more gentle."

"I should be inclined rather to fear her not having stability of character
enough," said Mr. Rossitur. "She is so very meek and yielding, I almost
doubt whether anything would give her courage to take ground of her own
and keep it."

"Hum------well, well!" said the old doctor, walking off after the
children. "Prince Arthur, will you bring this damsel up to my den some of
these days?--the 'faire Una' is safe from the wild beasts, you know;--and
I'll shew her books enough to build herself a house with, if she likes."

The acceptance of this invitation led to some of the pleasantest hours of
Fleda's city life. The visits to the great library became very frequent.
Dr. Gregory and the children were little while in growing fond of each
other; he loved to see them and taught them to come at such times as the
library was free of visitors and his hands of engagements. Then he
delighted himself with giving them pleasure, especially Fleda, whose quick
curiosity and intelligence were a constant amusement to him. He would
establish the children in some corner of the large apartments, out of the
way behind a screen of books and tables; and there shut out from the world
they would enjoy a kind of fairyland pleasure over some volume or set of
engravings that they could not see at home. Hours and hours were spent so.
Fleda would stand clasping her hands before Audubon, or rapt over a finely
illustrated book of travels, or going through and through with Hugh the
works of the best masters of the pencil and the graver. The doctor found
he could trust them, and then all the treasures of the library were at
their disposal. Very often he put chosen pieces of reading into their
hands; and it was pleasantest of all when he was not busy and came and sat
down with them; for with all his odd manner he was extremely kind and
could and did put them in the way to profit greatly by their
opportunities. The doctor and the children had nice times there together.

They lasted for many months, and grew more and more worth. Mr. Schweden
carried off Marion, as Fleda had foreseen he would, before the end of
spring; and after she was gone something like the old pleasant Paris life
was taken up again. They had no more company now than was agreeable, and
it was picked not to suit Marion's taste but her father's,--a very
different matter. Fleda and Hugh were not forbidden the dinner-table, and
so had the good of hearing much useful conversation from which the former,
according to custom, made her steady precious gleanings. The pleasant
evenings in the family were still better enjoyed than they used to he;
Fleda was older; and the snug handsome American house had a home-feeling
to her that the wide Parisian saloons never knew. She had become bound to
her uncle and aunt by all but the ties of blood; nobody in the house ever
remembered that she was not born their daughter; except indeed Fleda
herself, who remembered everything, and with whom the forming of any new
affections or relations somehow never blotted out or even faded the
register of the old. It lived in all its brightness; the writing of past
loves and friendships was as plain as ever in her heart; and often, often,
the eye and the kiss of memory fell upon it. In the secret of her heart's
core; for still, as at the first, no one had a suspicion of the movings of
thought that were beneath that childish brow. No one guessed how clear a
judgment weighed and decided upon many things. No one dreamed, amid their
busy, hustling, thoughtless life, how often, in the street, in her bed, in
company and alone, her mother's last prayer was in Fleda's heart; well
cherished; never forgotten.

Her education and Hugh's meanwhile went on after the old fashion. If Mr.
Rossitur had more time he seemed to have no more thought for the matter;
and Mrs. Rossitur, fine-natured as she was, had never been trained to
self-exertion, and of course was entirely out of the way of training
others. Her children were pieces of perfection, and needed no oversight;
her house was a piece of perfection too. If either had not been, Mrs.
Rossitur would have been utterly at a loss how to mend matters,--except in
the latter instance by getting a new housekeeper; and as Mrs. Renney, the
good woman who held that station, was in everybody's opinion another
treasure, Mrs. Rossitur's mind was uncrossed by the shadow of such a
dilemma. With Mrs. Renney as with every one else Fleda was held in highest
regard; always welcome to her premises and to those mysteries of her trade
which were sacred from other intrusion.

Fleda's natural inquisitiveness carried her often to the housekeeper's
room, and made her there the same curious and careful observer that she
had been in the library or at the Louvre.

"Come," said Hugh one day when he had sought and found her in Mrs.
Renney's precincts,--"come away, Fleda! What do you want to stand here and
see Mrs. Renney roll butter and sugar for?"

"My dear Mr. Rossitur!" said Fleda,--"you don't understand quelquechoses.
How do you know but I may have to get my living by making them, some day."

"By making what?" said Hugh.

"Quelquechoses,--anglicé, kickshaws,--alias, sweet trifles denominated
merrings."

"Pshaw, Fleda!"

"Miss Fleda is more likely to get her living by eating them, Mr. Hugh,
isn't she?" said the housekeeper.

"I hope to decline both lines of life," said Fleda laughingly as she
followed Hugh out of the room. But her chance remark had grazed the truth
sufficiently near.

Those years in New York were a happy time for little Fleda, a time when
mind and body flourished under the sun of prosperity. Luxury did not spoil
her; and any one that saw her in the soft furs of her winter wrappings
would have said that delicate cheek and frame were never made to know the
unkindliness of harsher things.



Chapter XVI.



  Whereunto is money good?
  Who has it not wants hardihood,
  Who has it has much trouble and care,
  Who once has had it has despair.

  Longfellow. _From the German_.


It was the middle of winter. One day Hugh and Fleda had come home from
their walk. They dashed into the parlour, complaining that it was bitterly
cold, and began unrobing before the glowing grate, which was a mass of
living fire from end to end. Mrs. Rossitur was there in an easy chair,
alone and doing nothing. That was not a thing absolutely unheard of, but
Fleda had not pulled off her second glove before she bent down towards her
and in a changed tone tenderly asked if she did not feel well?

Mrs. Rossitur looked up in her face a minute, and then drawing her down
kissed the blooming cheeks one and the other several times. But as she
looked off to the fire again Fleda saw that it was through watering eyes.
She dropped on her knees by the side of the easy chair that she might have
a better sight of that face, and tried to read it as she asked again what
was the matter; and Hugh coming to the other side repeated her question.
His mother passed an arm round each, looking wistfully from one to the
other and kissing them earnestly, but she said only, with a very
heart-felt emphasis, "Poor children!"

Fleda was now afraid to speak, but Hugh pressed his inquiry.

"Why 'poor' mamma? what makes you say so?"

"Because you are poor really, dear Hugh. We have lost everything we have
in the world."

"Mamma! What do you mean?"

"Your father has failed."

"Failed!--But, mamma, I thought he wasn't in business?"

"So I thought," said Mrs. Rossitur;--"I didn't know people could fail
that were not in business; but it seems they can. He was a partner in
some concern or other, and it's all broken to pieces, and your father
with it, he says."

Mrs. Rossitur's face was distressful. They were all silent for a little;
Hugh kissing his mother's wet cheeks. Fleda had softly nestled her head in
her bosom. But Mrs. Rossitur soon recovered herself.

"How bad is it, mother?" said Hugh.

"As bad as can possibly be."

"Is _everything_ gone?"

"Everything."

"You don't mean the house, mamma?"

"The house, and all that is in it."

The children's hearts were struck, and they were silent again, only
a trembling touch of Fleda's lips spoke sympathy and patience if
ever a kiss did.

"But mamma," said Hugh, after he had gathered breath for it,--"do you
mean to say that _everything_, literally _everything_, is gone? is there
nothing left?"

"Nothing in the world--not a sou."

"Then what are we going to do?"

Mrs. Rossitur shook her head, and had no words.

Fleda _looked_ across to Hugh to ask no more, and putting her arms
round her aunt's neck and laying cheek to cheek, she spoke what comfort
she could.

"Don't, dear aunt Lucy!--there will be some way--things always turn out
better than at first--I dare say we shall find out it isn't so bad by and
by. Don't you mind it, and then we won't. We can be happy anywhere
together."

If there was not much in the reasoning there was something in the tone of
the words to bid Mrs. Rossitur bear herself well. Its tremulous sweetness,
its anxious love, was without a taint of self-recollection; its sorrow was
for _her_. Mrs. Rossitur felt that she must not shew herself overcome. She
again kissed and blessed and pressed closer in her arms her little
comforter, while her other hand was given to Hugh.

"I have only heard about it this morning. Your uncle was here telling me
just now,--a little while before you came. Don't say anything about it
before him."

Why not? The words struck Fleda disagreeably.

"What will be done with the house, mamma?" said Hugh.

"Sold--sold, and everything in it."

"Papa's books, mamma! and all the things in the library!" exclaimed Hugh,
looking terrified.

Mrs. Rossitur's face gave the answer; do it in words she could not.

The children were a long time silent, trying hard to swallow this bitter
pill; and still Hugh's hand was in his mother's and Fleda's head lay on
her bosom. Thought was busy, going up and down, and breaking the
companionship they had so long held with the pleasant drawing-room and the
tasteful arrangements among which Fleda was so much at home;--the easy
chairs in whose comfortable arms she had had so many an hour of nice
reading; the soft rug where in the very wantonness of frolic she had
stretched herself to play with King; that very luxurious, bright grateful
of fire, which had given her so often the same warm welcome home, an apt
introduction to the other stores of comfort which awaited her above and
below stairs; the rich-coloured curtains and carpet, the beauty of which
had been such a constant gratification to Fleda's eye; and the exquisite
French table and lamps they had brought out with them, in which her uncle
and aunt had so much pride and which could nowhere be matched for
elegance;--they must all be said 'good-bye' to; and as yet fancy had
nothing to furnish the future with; it looked very bare.

King had come in and wagged himself up close to his mistress, but even he
could obtain nothing but the touch of most abstracted finger ends. Yet,
though keenly recognized, these thoughts were only passing compared with
the anxious and sorrowful ones that went to her aunt and uncle; for Hugh
and her, she judged, it was less matter. And Mrs. Rossitur's care was most
for her husband; and Hugh's was for them all. His associations were less
quick and his tastes less keen than Fleda's and less a part of himself.
Hugh lived in his affections; with a salvo to them, he could bear to lose
anything and go anywhere.

"Mamma," said he after a long time,--"will anything be done with
Fleda's books?"

A question that had been in Fleda's mind before, but which she had
patiently forborne just then to ask.

"No indeed!" said Mrs. Rossitur, pressing Fleda more closely and kissing
in a kind of rapture the sweet thoughtful face;--"not yours, my darling;
they can't touch anything that belongs to you--I wish it was more--and I
don't suppose they will take anything of mine either."

"Ah, well!" said Fleda raising her head, "you have got quite a parcel of
books, aunt Lucy, and I have a good many--how well it is I have had so
many given me since I have been here!--That will make quite a nice little
library, both together, and Hugh has some; I thought perhaps we shouldn't
have one at all left, and that would have been rather bad."

'Rather bad'! Mrs. Rossitur looked at her, and was dumb.

"Only don't you wear a sad face for anything!" Fleda went on
earnestly;--"we shall be perfectly happy if you and uncle Rolf only will
be."

"My dear children!" said Mrs. Rossitur wiping her eyes,--"it is for you I
am unhappy--you and your uncle;--I do not think of myself."

"And we do not think of ourselves, mamma," said Hugh.

"I know it--but having good children don't make one care less about them,"
said Mrs. Rossitur, the tears fairly raining over her fingers.

Hugh pulled the fingers down and again tried the efficacy of his lips.

"And you know papa thinks most of you, mamma."

"Ah, your father!"--said Mrs. Rossitur shaking her head,--"I am afraid it
will go hard with him!--But I will be happy as long as I have you two, or
else I should be a very wicked woman. It only grieves me to think of your
education and prospects--"

"Fleda's piano, mamma!" said Hugh with sudden dismay.

Mrs. Rossitur shook her head again and covered her eyes, while Fleda
stretching across to Hugh gave him by look and touch an earnest admonition
to let that subject alone. And then with a sweetness and gentleness like
nothing but the breath of the south wind, she wooed her aunt to hope and
resignation. Hugh held back, feeling, or thinking, that Fleda could do it
better than he, and watching her progress, as Mrs. Rossitur took her hand
from her face, and smiled, at first mournfully and then really mirthfully
in Fleda's face, at some sally that nobody but a nice observer would have
seen was got up for the occasion. And it was hardly that, so completely
had the child forgotten her own sorrow in ministering to that of another.
"Blessed are the peacemakers"! It is always so.

"You are a witch or a fairy," said Mrs. Rossitur, catching her again in
her arms,--"nothing else! You must try your powers of charming upon
your uncle."

Fleda laughed, without any effort; but as to trying her slight wand upon
Mr. Rossitur she had serious doubts. And the doubts became certainty when
they met at dinner; he looked so grave that she dared not attack him. It
was a gloomy meal, for the face that should have lighted the whole table
cast a shadow there.

Without at all comprehending the whole of her husband's character the sure
magnetism of affection had enabled Mrs. Rossitur to divine his thoughts.
Pride was his ruling passion; not such pride as Mr. Carleton's, which was
rather like exaggerated self-respect, but wider and more indiscriminate in
its choice of objects. It was pride in his family name; pride in his own
talents, which were considerable; pride in his family, wife and children
and all of which he thought did him honour,--if they had not his love for
them assuredly would have known some diminishing; pride in his wealth and
in the attractions with which it surrounded him; and lastly, pride in the
skill, taste and connoisseurship which enabled him to bring those
attractions together. Furthermore, his love for both literature and art
was true and strong; and for many years he had accustomed himself to lead
a life of great luxuriousness; catering for body and mind in every taste
that could be elegantly enjoyed; and again proud of the elegance of every
enjoyment. The change of circumstances which touched his pride wounded him
at every point where he was vulnerable at all.

Fleda had never felt so afraid of him. She was glad to see Dr. Gregory
come in to tea. Mr. Rossitur was not there. The doctor did not touch upon
affairs, if he had heard of their misfortune; he went on as usual in a
rambling cheerful way all tea-time, talking mostly to Fleda and Hugh. But
after tea he talked no more but sat still and waited till the master of
the house came in.

Fleda thought Mr. Rossitur did not look glad to see him. But how could he
look glad about anything? He did not sit down, and for a few minutes there
was a kind of meaning silence. Fleda sat in the corner with the heartache,
to see her uncle's gloomy tramp up and down the rich apartment, and her
aunt Lucy gaze at him.

"Humph!--well--So!" said the doctor at last,--"You've all gone overboard
with a smash, I understand?"

The walker gave him no regard.

"True, is it?" said the doctor.

Mr. Rossitur made no answer, unless a smothered grunt might be
taken for one.

"How came it about?"

"Folly and Devilry."

"Humph!--bad capital to work upon. I hope the principal is gone with the
interest. What's the amount of your loss?"

"Ruin."

"Humph.--French ruin, or American ruin? because there's a difference. What
do you mean?"

"I am not so happy as to understand you sir, but we shall not pay seventy
cents on the dollar."

The old gentleman got up and stood before the fire with his back to Mr.
Rossitur, saying "that was rather bad."

"What are you going to do?"

Mr. Rossitur hesitated a few moments for an answer and then said,

"Pay the seventy cents and begin the world anew with nothing."

"Of course!" said the doctor. "I understand that; but where and how? What
end of the world will you take up first?"

Mr. Rossitur writhed in impatience or disgust, and after again hesitating
answered dryly that he had not determined.

"Have you thought of anything in particular?"

"Zounds! no sir, except my misfortune. That's enough for one day."

"And too much," said the old doctor, "unless you can mix some other
thought with it. That's what I came for. Will you go into business?"

Fleda was startled by the vehemence with which her uncle said, "No,
never!"--and he presently added, "I'll do nothing here."

"Well,--well," said the doctor to himself;--"Will you go into the
country?"

"Yes!--anywhere!--the further the better."

Mrs. Rossitur startled, but her husband's face did not encourage her to
open her lips.

"Ay but on a farm, I mean?"

"On anything, that will give me a standing."

"I thought that too," said Dr. Gregory, now whirling about. "I have a fine
piece of land that wants a tenant. You may take it at an easy rate, and
pay me when the crops come in. I shouldn't expect so young a farmer, you
know, to keep any closer terms."

"How far is it?"

"Far enough--up in Wyandot County."

"How large?"

"A matter of two or three hundred acres or so. It is very fine, they say.
It came into a fellow's hands that owed me what I thought was a bad debt,
so for fear he would never pay me I thought best to take it and pay him;
whether the place will ever fill my pockets again remains to be seen;
doubtful, I think."

"I'll take it, Dr. Gregory, and see if I cannot bring that about."

"Pooh, pooh! fill your own. I am not careful about it; the less money one
has the more it jingles, unless it gets _too_ low indeed."

"I will take it, Dr. Gregory, and feel myself under obligation to you."

"No, I told you, not till the crops come in. No obligation is binding till
the term is up. Well, I'll see you further about it."

"But Rolf!" said Mrs. Rossitur,--"stop a minute, uncle, don't go
yet,--Rolf don't know anything in the world about the management of a
farm, neither do I."

"The 'faire Una' can enlighten you," said the doctor, waving his hand
towards his little favourite in the corner,--"but I forgot!--Well, if you
don't know, the crops won't come in--that's all the difference."

But Mrs. Rossitur looked anxiously at her husband. "Do you know exactly
what you are undertaking, Rolf?" she said.

"If I do not, I presume I shall discover in time."

"But it may be too late," said Mrs Rossitur, in the tone of sad
remonstrance that had gone all the length it dared.

"It _can not_ be too late!" said her husband impatiently. "If I do not
know what I am taking up, I know very well what I am laying down; and it
does not signify a straw what comes after--if it was a snail-shell, that
would cover my head!"

"Hum--" said the old doctor,--"the snail is very well in his way, but I
have no idea that he was ever cut out for a farmer."

"Do you think you will find it a business you would like, Mr. Rossitur?"
said his wife timidly.

"I tell you," said he facing about, "it is not a question of liking. I
will like anything that will bury me out of the world!"

Poor Mrs. Rossitur. She had not yet come to wishing herself buried alive,
and she had small faith in the permanence of her husband's taste for it.
She looked desponding.

"You don't suppose," said Mr. Rossitur stopping again in the middle of the
floor after another turn and a half,--"you do not suppose that I am going
to take the labouring of the farm upon myself? I shall employ some one of
course, who understands the matter, to take all that off my hands."

The doctor thought of the old proverb and the alternative the plough
presents to those who would thrive by it; Fleda thought of Mr. Didenhover;
Mrs. Rossitur would fain have suggested that such an important person must
be well paid; but neither of them spoke.

"Of course," said Mr. Rossitur haughtily as he went on with his walk, "I
do not expect any more than you to live in the back-woods the life we have
been leading here. That is at an end."

"Is it a very wild country?" asked Mrs. Rossitur of the doctor.

"No wild beasts, my dear, if that is your meaning,--and I do not suppose
there are even many snakes left by this time."

"No, but dear uncle, I mean, is it in an unsettled state?"

"No my dear, not at all,--perfectly quiet."

"Ah but do not play with me," exclaimed poor Mrs. Rossitur between
laughing and crying;--"I mean is it far from any town and not among
neighbours?"

"Far enough to be out of the way of morning calls," said the doctor;--"and
when your neighbours come to see you they will expect tea by four o'clock.
There are not a great many near by, but they don't mind coming from five
or six miles off."

Mrs. Rossitur looked chilled and horrified. To her he had described a very
wild country indeed. Fleda would have laughed if it had not been for her
aunt's face; but that settled down into a doubtful anxious look that
pained her. It pained the old doctor too.

"Come," said he touching her pretty chin with his forefinger,--"what are
you thinking of? folks may be good folks and yet have tea at four o'clock,
mayn't they?"

"When do they have dinner!" said Mrs. Rossitur.

"I really don't know. When you get settled up there I'll come and see."

"Hardly," said Mrs. Rossitur. "I don't believe it would be possible for
Emile to get dinner before the tea-time; and I am sure I shouldn't like to
propose such a thing to Mrs. Renney."

The doctor fidgeted about a little on the hearth-rug and looked comical,
perfectly understood by one acute observer in the corner.

"Are you wise enough to imagine, Lucy," said Mr. Rossitur sternly, "that
you can carry your whole establishment with you? What do you suppose Emile
and Mrs. Renney would do in a farmhouse?"

"I can do without whatever you can," said Mrs. Rossitur meekly. "I did not
know that you would be willing to part with Emile, and I do not think Mrs.
Renney would like to leave us."

"I told you before, it is no more a question of liking," answered he.

"And if it were," said the doctor, "I have no idea that Monsieur Emile and
Madame Renney would be satisfied with the style of a country kitchen, or
think the interior of Yankee land a hopeful sphere for their energies."

"What sort of a house is it?" said Mrs. Rossitur.

"A wooden frame house, I believe."

"No but, dear uncle, do tell me."

"What sort of a house?--Humph--Large enough, I am told. It will
accommodate you, in one way."

"Comfortable?"

"I don't know," said the doctor shaking his head;--"depends on who's in
it. No house is that per se. But I reckon there isn't much plate glass. I
suppose you'll find the doors all painted blue, and every fireplace with a
crane in it."

"A crane!" said Mrs. Rossitur, to whose imagination the word suggested
nothing but a large water-bird with a long neck.

"Ay!" said the doctor. "But it's just as well. You won't want hanging
lamps there,--and candelabra would hardly be in place either, to hold
tallow candles."

"Tallow candles!" exclaimed Mrs. Rossitur. Her husband winced, but
said nothing.

"Ay," said the doctor again,--"and make them yourself if you are a good
housewife. Come, Lucy," said he taking her hand, "do you know how the
wild fowl do on the Chesapeake?--duck and swim under water till they
can shew their heads with safety? O spoil your eyes to see by a
tallow candle."

Mrs. Rossitur half smiled, but looked anxiously towards her husband.

"Pooh, pooh! Rolf won't care what the light burns that lights him to
independence,--and when you get there you may illuminate with a whole
whale if you like. By the way, Rolf, there is a fine water power up
yonder, and a saw-mill in good order, they tell me, but a short way from
the house. Hugh might learn to manage it, and it would be fine
employment for him."

"Hugh!" said his mother disconsolately. Mr. Rossitur neither spoke nor
looked an answer. Fleda sprang forward.

"A saw-mill!--Uncle Orrin!--where is it?"

"Just a little way from the house, they say. _You_ can't manage it, fair
Saxon!--though you look as if you would undertake all the mills in
creation, for a trifle."

"No but the place, uncle Orrin;--where is the place?"

"The place? Hum--why it's up in Wyandot County--some five or six miles
from the Montepoole Spring--what's this they call it?--Queechy!--By the
way!" said he, reading Fleda's countenance, "it is the very place where
your father was born!--it is! I didn't think of that before."

Fleda's hands were clasped.

"O I am very glad!" she said. "It's my old home. It is the most lovely
place, aunt Lucy!--most lovely--and we shall have some good neighbours
there too. O I am very glad!--The dear old saw-mill!--"

"Dear old saw-mill!" said the doctor looking at her. "Rolf, I'll tell you
what, you shall give me this girl. I want her. I can take better care of
her, perhaps, now than you can. Let her come to me when you leave the
city--it will be better for her than to help work the saw-mill; and I
have as good a right to her as anybody, for Amy before her was like my
own child."

The doctor spoke not with his usual light jesting manner but very
seriously. Hugh's lips parted,--Mrs. Rossitur looked with a sad thoughtful
look at Fleda,--Mr. Rossitur walked up and down looking at nobody. Fleda
watched him.

"What does Fleda herself say?" said he stopping short suddenly. His face
softened and his eye changed as it fell upon her, for the first time that
day. Fleda saw her opening; she came to him, within his arms, and laid her
head upon his breast.

"What does Fleda say?" said he, softly kissing her.

Fleda's tears said a good deal, that needed no interpreter. She felt her
uncle's hand passed more and more tenderly over her head, so tenderly that
it made it all the more difficult for her to govern herself and stop her
tears. But she did stop them, and looked up at him then with such a
face--so glowing through smiles and tears--it was like a very rainbow of
hope upon the cloud of their prospects. Mr. Rossitur felt the power of the
sunbeam wand, it reached his heart; it was even with a smile that he said
as he looked at her,

"Will you go to your uncle Orrin, Fleda?"

"Not if uncle Rolf will keep me."

"Keep you!" said Mr. Rossitur;--"I should like to see who wouldn't keep
you!--There, Dr. Gregory, you have your answer."

"Hum!--I might have known," said the doctor, "that the 'faire Una' would
abjure cities.--Come here, you Elf!"--and he wrapped her in his arms so
tight she could not stir,--"I have a spite against you for this. What
amends will you make me for such an affront?"

"Let me take breath," said Fleda laughing, "and I'll tell you. You don't
want any amends, uncle Orrin."

"Well," said he, gazing with more feeling than he cared to shew into that
sweet face, so innocent of apology-making,--"you shall promise me that you
will not forget uncle Orrin and the old house in Bleecker street."

Fleda's eyes grew more wistful.

"And will you promise me that if ever you want anything you will come or
send straight there?"

"If ever I want anything I can't get nor do without," said Fleda.

"Pshaw!" said the doctor letting her go, but laughing at the same time.
"Mind my words, Mr. and Mrs. Rossitur;--if ever that girl takes the wrong
bit in her mouth--Well, well! I'll go home."

Home he went. The rest drew together particularly near, round the fire;
Hugh at his father's shoulder, and Fleda kneeling on the rug between her
uncle and aunt with a hand on each; and there was not one of them whose
gloom was not lightened by her bright face and cheerful words of hope that
in the new scenes they were going to, "they would all be so happy."

The days that followed were gloomy; but Fleda's ministry was unceasing.
Hugh seconded her well, though more passively. Feeling less pain himself,
he perhaps for that very reason was less acutely alive to it in others;
not so quick to foresee and ward off, not so skilful to allay it. Fleda
seemed to have intuition for the one and a charm for the other. To her
there was pain in every parting; her sympathies clung to whatever wore
the livery of habit. There was hardly any piece of furniture, there was
no book or marble or picture, that she could take leave of without a
pang. But it was kept to herself; her sorrowful good-byes were said in
secret; before others, in all those weeks she was a very Euphrosyne;
light, bright, cheerful, of eye and foot and hand; a shield between her
aunt and every annoyance that _she_ could take instead; a good little
fairy, that sent her sunbeam wand, quick as a flash, where any eye rested
gloomily. People did not always find out where the light came from, but
it was her witchery.

The creditors would touch none of Mrs. Rossitur's things, her husband's
honourable behaviour had been so thorough. They even presented him with
one or two pictures which he sold for a considerable sum; and to Mrs.
Rossitur they gave up all the plate in daily use; a matter of great
rejoicing to Fleda who knew well how sorely it would have been missed. She
and her aunt had quite a little library too, of their own private store; a
little one it was indeed, but the worth of every volume was now trebled in
her eyes. Their furniture was all left behind; and in its stead went some
of neat light painted wood which looked to Fleda deliciously countryfied.
A promising cook and housemaid were engaged to go with them to the wilds;
and about the first of April they turned their backs upon the city.



Chapter XVII



  The thresher's weary flingin-tree
  The lee-lang day had tired me:
  And whan the day bad closed his e'e,
  Far i' the west,
  Ben i' the spence, right pensivelie,
  I 'gaed to rest.

  Burns.


Queechy was reached at night. Fleda had promised herself to be off almost
with the dawn of light the next morning to see aunt Miriam, but a heavy
rain kept her fast at home the whole day. It was very well; she was
wanted there.

Despite the rain and her disappointment it was impossible for Fleda to lie
abed from the time the first grey light began to break in at her
windows,--those old windows that had rattled their welcome to her all
night. She was up and dressed and had had a long consultation with herself
over matters and prospects, before anybody else had thought of leaving the
indubitable comfort of a feather bed for the doubtful contingency of
happiness that awaited them down stairs. Fleda took in the whole length
and breadth of it, half wittingly and half through some finer sense than
that of the understanding.

The first view of things could not strike them pleasantly; it was not to
be looked for. The doors did not happen to be painted blue; they were a
deep chocolate colour; doors and wainscot. The fireplaces were not all
furnished with cranes, but they were all uncouthly wide and deep. Nobody
would have thought them so indeed in the winter, when piled up with
blazing hickory logs, but in summer they yawned uncomfortably upon the
eye. The ceilings were low; the walls rough papered or rougher
white-washed; the sashes not hung; the rooms, otherwise well enough
proportioned, stuck with little cupboards, in recesses and corners and out
of the way places, in a style impertinently suggestive of housekeeping,
and fitted to shock any symmetrical set of nerves. The old house had
undergone a thorough putting in order, it is true; the chocolate paint was
just dry, and the paper hangings freshly put up; and the bulk of the new
furniture had been sent on before and unpacked, though not a single
article of it was in its right place. The house was clean and tight, that
is, as tight as it ever was. But the colour had been unfortunately
chosen--perhaps there was no help for that;--the paper was _very_ coarse
and countryfied; the big windows were startling, they looked so bare,
without any manner of drapery; and the long reaches of wall were unbroken
by mirror or picture-frame. And this to eyes trained to eschew
ungracefulness and that abhorred a vacuum as much as nature is said to do!
Even Fleda felt there was something disagreeable in the change, though it
reached her more through the channel of other people's sensitiveness than
her own. To her it was the dear old house still, though her eyes had seen
better things since they loved it. No corner or recess had a pleasanter
filling, to her fancy, than the old brown cupboard or shelves which had
always been there. But what _would_ her uncle say to them! and to that
dismal paper! and what would aunt Lucy think of those rattling window
sashes! this cool raw day too, for the first!--

Think as she might Fleda did not stand still to think. She had gone softly
all over the house, taking a strange look at the old places and the images
with which memory filled them, thinking of the last time, and many a time
before that;--and she had at last come back to the sitting-room, long
before anybody else was down stairs; the two tired servants were just
rubbing their eyes open in the kitchen and speculating themselves awake.
Leaving them, at their peril, to get ready a decent breakfast, (by the way
she grudged them the old kitchen) Fleda set about trying what her wand
could do towards brightening the face of affairs in the other part of the
house. It was quite cold enough for a fire, luckily. She ordered one made,
and meanwhile busied herself with the various stray packages and articles
of wearing apparel that lay scattered about giving the whole place a look
of discomfort. Fleda gathered them up and bestowed them in one or two of
the impertinent cupboards, and then undertook the labour of carrying out
all the wrong furniture that had got into the breakfast-room and bringing
in that which really belonged there from the hall and the parlour beyond;
moving like a mouse that she might not disturb the people up stairs. A
quarter of an hour was spent in arranging to the best advantage these
various pieces of furniture in the room; it was the very same in which Mr.
Carleton and Charlton Rossitur had been received the memorable day of the
roast pig dinner, but that was not the uppermost association in Fleda's
mind. Satisfied at last that a happier effect could not be produced with
the given materials, and well pleased too with her success, Fleda turned
to the fire. It was made, but not by any means doing its part to encourage
the other portions of the room to look their best. Fleda knew something of
wood fires from old times; she laid hold of the tongs, and touched and
loosened and coaxed a stick here and there, with a delicate hand, till,
seeing the very opening it had wanted,--without which neither fire nor
hope can keep its activity,--the blaze sprang up energetically, crackling
through all the piled oak and hickory and driving the smoke clean out of
sight. Fleda had done her work. It would have been a misanthropical person
indeed that could have come into the room then and not felt his face
brighten. One other thing remained,--setting the breakfast table; and
Fleda would let no hands but hers do it this morning; she was curious
about the setting of tables. How she remembered or divined where
everything had been stowed; how quietly and efficiently her little fingers
unfastened hampers and pried into baskets, without making any noise; till
all the breakfast paraphernalia of silver, china, and table-linen was
found, gathered from various receptacles, and laid in most exquisite order
on the table. State street never saw better. Fleda stood and looked at it
then, in immense satisfaction, seeing that her uncle's eye would miss
nothing of its accustomed gratification. To her the old room, shining with
firelight and new furniture, was perfectly charming. If those great
windows were staringly bright, health and cheerfulness seemed to look in
at them. And what other images of association, with "nods and becks and
wreathed smiles," looked at her out of the curling flames in the old wide
fireplace! And one other angel stood there unseen,--the one whose errand
it is to see fulfilled the promise, "Give and it shall be given to you;
full measure, and pressed down, and heaped up, and running over."

A little while Fleda sat contentedly eying her work; then a new idea
struck her and she sprang up. In the next meadow, only one fence between,
a little spring of purest water ran through from the woodland; water
cresses used to grow there. Uncle Rolf was very fond of them. It was
pouring with rain, but no matter. Her heart beating between haste and
delight, Fleda slipped her feet into galoches and put an old cloak of
Hugh's over her head, and ran out through the kitchen, the old accustomed
way. The servants exclaimed and entreated, but Fleda only flashed a bright
look at them from under her cloak as she opened the door, and ran off,
over the wet grass, under the fence, and over half the meadow, till she
came to the stream. She was getting a delicious taste of old times, and
though the spring water was very cold and with it and the rain one-half of
each sleeve was soon thoroughly wetted, she gathered her cresses and
scampered back with a pair of eyes and cheeks that might have struck any
city belle chill with envy.

"Then but that's a sweet girl!" said Mary the cook to Jane the housemaid.

"A lovely countenance she has," answered Jane, who was refined in
her speech.

"Take her away and you've taken the best of the house, I'm a thinking."

"Mrs. Rossitur is a lady," said Jane in a low voice.

"Ay, and a very proper-behaved one she is, and him the same, that is, for
a gentleman I maan; but Jane! I say, I'm thinking he'll have eat too much
sour bread lately! I wish I knowed how they'd have their eggs boiled, till
I'd have 'em ready."

"Sure it's on the table itself they'll do 'em," said Jane. "They've an
elegant little fixture in there for the purpose."

"Is that it!"

Nobody found out how busy Fleda's wand had been in the old breakfast room.
But she was not disappointed; she had not worked for praise. Her cresses
were appreciated; that was enough. She enjoyed her breakfast, the only one
of the party that did. Mr. Rossitur looked moody; his wife looked anxious;
and Hugh's face was the reflection of theirs. If Fleda's face reflected
anything it was the sunlight of heaven.

"How sweet the air is after New York!" said she.

They looked at her. There was a fresh sweetness of another kind about that
breakfast-table. They all felt it, and breathed more freely.

"Delicious cresses!" said Mrs. Rossitur.

"Yes, I wonder where they came from," said her husband. "Who got them?"

"I guess Fleda knows," said Hugh.

"They grow in a little stream of spring water over here in the meadow,"
said Fleda demurely.

"Yes, but you don't answer my question," said her uncle, putting his hand
under her chin and smiling at the blushing face he brought round to
view;--"Who got them?"

"I did."

"You have been out in the rain?"

"O Queechy rain don't hurt me, uncle Rolf."

"And don't it wet you either?"

"Yes sir--a little."

"How much?"

"My sleeves,--O I dried them long ago."

"Don't you repeat that experiment, Fleda," said he seriously, but with a
look that was a good reward to her nevertheless.

"It is a raw day!" said Mrs. Rossitur, drawing her shoulders together as
an ill-disposed window sash gave one of its admonitory shakes.

"What little panes of glass for such big windows!" said Hugh.

"But what a pleasant prospect through them," said Fleda,--"look,
Hugh!--worth all the Batteries and Parks in the world."

"In the world!--in New York you mean," said her uncle. "Not better than
the Champs Elysées?"

"Better to me," said Fleda.

"For to-day I must attend to the prospect in-doors," said Mrs. Rossitur.

"Now aunt Lucy," said Fleda, "you are just going to put yourself down in
the corner, in the rocking-chair there, with your book, and make yourself
comfortable; and Hugh and I will see to all these things. Hugh and I and
Mary and Jane,--that makes quite an army of us, and we can do everything
without you, and you must just keep quiet. I'll build you up a fine fire,
and then when I don't know what to do I will come to you for orders.
Uncle Rolf, would you be so good as just to open that box of books in the
hall? because I am afraid Hugh isn't strong enough. I'll take care of
you, aunt Lucy."

Fleda's plans were not entirely carried out, but she contrived pretty well
to take the brunt of the business on her own shoulders. She was as busy as
a bee the whole day. To her all the ins and outs of the house, its
advantages and disadvantages, were much better known than to anybody else;
nothing could be done but by her advice; and more than that, she contrived
by some sweet management to baffle Mrs. Rossitur's desire to spare her,
and to bear the larger half of every burden that should have come upon her
aunt. What she had done in the breakfast room she did or helped to do in
the other parts of the house; she unpacked boxes and put away clothes and
linen, in which Hugh was her excellent helper; she arranged her uncle's
dressing-table with a scrupulosity that left nothing uncared-for;--and the
last thing before tea she and Hugh dived into the book-box to get out some
favourite volumes to lay upon the table in the evening, that the room
might not look to her uncle quite so dismally bare. He had been abroad
notwithstanding the rain near the whole day.

It was a weary party that gathered round the supper-table that night,
weary it seemed as much in mind as in body; and the meal exerted its
cheering influence over only two of them; Mr. and Mrs. Rossitur sipped
their cups of tea abstractedly.

"I don't believe that fellow Donohan knows much about his business,"
remarked the former at length.

"Why don't you get somebody else, then?" said his wife.

"I happen to have engaged him, unfortunately."

A pause.--

"What doesn't he know?"

Mr. Rossitur laughed, not a pleasant laugh.

"It would take too long to enumerate. If you had asked me what part of
his business he _does_ understand, I could have told you shortly that I
don't know."

"But you do not understand it very well yourself. Are you sure?"

"Am I sure of what?"

"That this man does not know his business?"

"No further sure than I can have confidence in my own common sense."

"What will you do?" said Mrs. Rossitur after a moment

A question men are not fond of answering, especially when they have
not made up their minds. Mr. Rossitur was silent, and his wife too,
after that.

"If I could get some long-headed Yankee to go along with him"--he remarked
again, balancing his spoon on the edge of his cup in curious illustration
of his own mental position at the moment; Donohan being the only fixed
point and all the rest wavering in uncertainty. There were a few silent
minutes before anybody answered.

"If you want one and don't know of one, uncle Rolf," said Fleda, "I dare
say cousin Seth might."

That gentle modest speech brought his attention round upon her. His
face softened.

"Cousin Seth? who is cousin Seth?"

"He is aunt Miriam's son," said Fleda. "Seth Plumfield. He's a very good
farmer, I know; grandpa used to say he was; and he knows everybody."

"Mrs. Plumfield," said Mrs. Rossitur, as her husband's eyes went
inquiringly to her,--"Mrs. Plumfield was Mr. Ringgan's sister, you
remember. This is her son."

"Cousin Seth, eh?" said Mr. Rossitur dubiously. "Well--Why Fleda, your
sweet air don't seem to agree with you, as far as I see; I have not known
you look so--so _triste_--since we left Paris. What have you been doing,
my child?"

"She has been doing everything, father," said Hugh.

"O! it's nothing," said Fleda, answering Mr. Rossitur's look and tone of
affection with a bright smile. "I'm a little tired, that's all."

'A little tired!' She went to sleep on the sofa directly after supper and
slept like a baby all the evening; but her power did not sleep with her;
for that quiet, sweet, tired face, tired in their service, seemed to bear
witness against the indulgence of anything harsh or unlovely in the same
atmosphere. A gentle witness-bearing, but strong in its gentleness. They
sat close together round the fire, talked softly, and from time to time
cast loving glances at the quiet little sleeper by their side. They did
not know that she was a fairy, and that though her wand had fallen out of
her hand it was still resting upon them.



Chapter XVIII.



  _Gon_. Here is everything advantageous to lift.

  _Ant_. True; save means to live.

  Tempest.


Fleda's fatigue did not prevent her being up before sunrise the next day.
Fatigue was forgotten, for the light of a fair spring morning was shining
in at her windows and she meant to see aunt Miriam before breakfast. She
ran out to find Hugh, and her merry shout reached him before she did, and
brought him to meet her.

"Come, Hugh!--I'm going off up to aunt Miriam's, and I want you. Come!
Isn't this delicious?"

"Hush!--" said Hugh. "Father's just here in the barn. I can't go, Fleda."

Fleda's countenance clouded.

"Can't go! what's the matter?--can't you go, Hugh?"

He shook his head and went off into the barn.

A chill came upon Fleda. She turned away with a very sober step. What if
her uncle was in the barn, why should she hush? He never had been a check
upon her merriment, never; what was coming now? Hugh too looked disturbed.
It was a spring morning no longer. Fleda forgot the glittering wet grass
that had set her own eyes a sparkling but a minute ago; she walked along,
cogitating, swinging her bonnet by the strings in thoughtful
vibration,--till by the help of sunlight and sweet air, and the loved
scenes, her spirits again made head and swept over the sudden hindrance
they had met. There were the blessed old sugar maples, seven in number,
that fringed the side of the road,--how well Fleda knew them. Only
skeletons now, but she remembered how beautiful they looked after the
October frosts; and presently they would be putting out their new green
leaves and be beautiful in another way. How different in their free-born
luxuriance from the dusty and city-prisoned elms and willows she had
left. She came to the bridge then, and stopped with a thrill of pleasure
and pain to look and listen, Unchanged!--all but herself. The mill was not
going; the little brook went by quietly chattering to itself, just as it
had done the last time she saw it, when she rode past on Mr. Carleton's
horse. Four and a half years ago!--And now how strange that she had come
to live there again.

Drawing a long breath, and swinging her bonnet again, Fleda softly went on
up the hill; past the saw-mill, the ponds, the factories, the houses of
the settlement. The same, and not the same!--Bright with the morning sun,
and yet somehow a little browner and homelier than of old they used to be.
Fleda did not care for that; she would hardly acknowledge it to herself;
her affection never made any discount for infirmity. Leaving the little
settlement behind her thoughts as behind her back, she ran on now towards
aunt Miriam's, breathlessly, till field after field was passed and her eye
caught a bit of the smooth lake and the old farmhouse in its old place.
Very brown it looked, but Fleda dashed on, through the garden and in at
the front door.

Nobody at all was in the entrance room, the common sitting-room of the
family. With trembling delight Fleda opened the well-known door and stole
noiselessly through the little passage-way to the kitchen. The door of
that was only on the latch and a gentle movement of it gave to Fleda's eye
the tall figure of aunt Miriam, just before her, stooping down to look in
at the open mouth of the oven which she was at that moment engaged in
supplying with more work to do. It was a huge one, and beyond her aunt's
head Fleda could see in the far end the great loaves of bread, half baked,
and more near a perfect squad of pies and pans of gingerbread just going
in to take the benefit of the oven's milder mood. Fleda saw all this as it
were without seeing it; she stood still as a mouse and breathless till her
aunt turned; and then, a spring and a half shout of joy, and she had
clasped her in her arms and was crying with her whole heart. Aunt Miriam
was taken all aback; she could do nothing but sit down and cry too and
forget her oven door.

"Ain't breakfast ready yet, mother?" said a manly voice coming in. "I must
be off to see after them ploughs. Hollo!--why mother!--"

The first exclamation was uttered as the speaker put the door to the
oven's mouth; the second as he turned in quest of the hand that should
have done it. He stood wondering, while his mother and Fleda between
laughing and crying tried to rouse themselves and look up.

"What is all this?"

"Don't you see, Seth?"

"I see somebody that had like to have spoiled your whole baking--I don't
know who it is, yet."

"Don't you now, cousin Seth?" said Fleda shaking away her tears and
getting up.

"I ha'n't quite lost my recollection. Cousin, you must give me a
kiss.--How do you do? You ha'n't forgot how to colour, I see, for all
you've been so long among the pale city-folks."

"I haven't forgotten any thing, cousin Seth," said Fleda, blushing indeed
but laughing and shaking his hand with as hearty good-will.

"I don't believe you have,--anything that is good," said he. "Where have
you been all this while?"

"O part of the time in New York, and part of the time in Paris, and some
other places."

"Well you ha'n't seen anything better than Queechy, or Queechy bread and
butter, have you?"

"No indeed!"

"Come, you shall give me another kiss for that," said he, suiting the
action to the word;--"and now sit down and eat as much bread and butter as
you can. It's just as good as it used to be. Come mother!--I guess
breakfast is ready by the looks of that coffee-pot."

"Breakfast ready!" said Fleda.

"Ay indeed; it's a good half hour since it ought to ha' been ready. If it
ain't I can't stop for it. Them boys will be running their furrows like
sarpents 'f I ain't there to start them."

"Which like serpents," said Fleda,--"the furrows or the men?"

"Well, I was thinking of the furrows," said he glancing at her;--"I guess
there ain't cunning enough in the others to trouble them. Come sit down,
and let me see whether you have forgotten a Queechy appetite."

"I don't know," said Fleda doubtfully,--"they will expect me at home."

"I don't care who expects you--sit down! you ain't going to eat any
bread and butter this morning but my mother's--you haven't got any like
it at your house. Mother, give her a cup of coffee, will you, and set
her to work."

Fleda was too willing to comply with the invitation, were it only for the
charm of old times. She had not seen such a table for years, and little as
the conventionalities of delicate taste were known there, it was not
without a comeliness of its own in its air of wholesome abundance and the
extreme purity of all its arrangements. If but a piece of cold pork were
on aunt Miriam's table, it was served with a nicety that would not have
offended the most fastidious; and amid irregularities that the fastidious
would scorn, there was a sound excellence of material and preparation
that they very often fail to know. Fleda made up her mind she would be
wanted at home; all the rather perhaps for Hugh's mysterious "hush"; and
there was something in the hearty kindness and truth of these friends that
she felt particularly genial. And if there was a lack of silver at the
board its place was more than filled with the pure gold of association.
They sat down to table, but aunt Miriam's eyes devoured Fleda. Mr. Plum
field set about his more material breakfast with all despatch.

[Illustration: "They will expect me at home."]

"So Mr. Rossitur has left the city for good," said aunt Miriam. "How does
he like it?"

"He hasn't been here but a day, you know, aunt Miriam," said Fleda
evasively.

"Is he anything of a farmer?" asked her cousin.

"Not much," said Fleda.

"Is he going to work the farm himself?"

"How do you mean?"

"I mean, is he going to work the farm himself, or hire it out, or let
somebody else work it on shares?"

"I don't know," said Fleda;--"I think he is going to have a farmer and
oversee things himself."

"He'll get sick o' that," said Seth; "unless he's the luck to get hold of
just the right hand."

"Has he hired anybody yet?" said aunt Miriam, after a little interval of
supplying Fleda with 'bread and butter.'

"Yes ma'am, I believe so."

"What's his name?"

"Donohan,--an Irishman, I believe; uncle Rolf hired him in New York."

"For his head man?" said Seth, with a sufficiently intelligible look.

"Yes," said Fleda. "Why?"

But he did not immediately answer her.

"The land's in poor heart now," said he, "a good deal of it; it has been
wasted; it wants first-rate management to bring it in order and make much
of it for two or three years to come. I never see an Irishman's head yet
that was worth more than a joke. Their hands are all of 'em that's good
for anything."

"I believe uncle Rolf wants to have an American to go with this man,"
said Fleda.

Seth said nothing, but Fleda understood the shake of his head as he
reached over after a pickle.

"Are you going to keep a dairy, Fleda?" said her aunt.

"I don't know, ma'am;--I haven't heard anything about it."

"Does Mrs. Rossitur know anything about country affairs?"

"No--nothing," Fleda said, her heart sinking perceptibly with every
new question.

"She hasn't any cows yet?"

_She_!--any cows!--But Fleda only said they had not come; she believed
they were coming.

"What help has she got?"

"Two women--Irishwomen," said Fleda.

"Mother you'll have to take hold and learn her," said Mr. Plumfield.

"Teach _her_?" cried Fleda, repelling the idea;--"aunt Lucy? she cannot do
anything--she isn't strong enough;--not anything of that kind."

"What did she come here for?" said Seth.

"You know," said his mother, "that Mr. Rossitur's circumstances obliged
him to quit New York."

"Ay, but that ain't my question. A man had better keep his fingers off
anything he can't live by. A farm's one thing or t'other, just as it's
worked. The land won't grow specie--it must be fetched out of it. Is Mr.
Rossitur a smart man?"

"Very," Fleda said, "about everything but farming."

"Well if he'll put himself to school maybe, he'll learn," Seth concluded
as he finished his breakfast and went off. Fleda rose too, and was
standing thoughtfully by the fire, when aunt Miriam came up and put her
arms round her. Fleda's eyes sparkled again.

"You're not changed--you're the same little Fleda," she said.

"Not quite so little," said Fleda smiling.

"Not quite so little, but my own darling. The world hasn't spoiled
thee yet."

"I hope not, aunt Miriam."

"You have remembered your mother's prayer, Fleda?"

"Always!"--

How tenderly aunt Miriam's hand was passed over the bowed head,--how
fondly she pressed her. And Fleda's answer was as fond.

"I wanted to bring Hugh up to see you, aunt Miriam, with me, but he
couldn't come. You will like Hugh. He is so good!"

"I will come down and see him," said aunt Miriam; and then she went to
look after her oven's doings. Fleda stood by, amused to see the quantities
of nice things that were rummaged out of it. They did not look like Mrs.
Renney's work, but she knew from old experience that they were good.

"How early you must have been up, to put these things in," said Fleda.

"Put them in! yes, and make them. These were all made this morning,
Fleda."

"This morning!--before breakfast! Why the sun was only just rising when I
set out to come up the hill; and I wasn't long coming, aunt Miriam."

"To be sure; that's the way to get things done. Before breakfast!--What
time do you breakfast, Fleda?"

"Not till eight or nine o'clock."

"Eight or nine!--_Here?_"

"There hasn't been any change made yet, and I don't suppose there will be.
Uncle Rolf is always up early, but he can't bear to have breakfast early."

Aunt Miriam's face showed what she thought; and Fleda went away with all
its gravity and doubt settled like lead upon her heart. Though she had one
of the identical apple pies in her hands, which aunt Miriam had quietly
said was "for her and Hugh," and though a pleasant savour of old times was
about it, Fleda could not get up again the bright feeling with which she
had come up the hill. There was a miserable misgiving at heart. It would
work off in time.

It had begun to work off, when at the foot of the hill she met her uncle.
He was coming after her to ask Mr. Plumfield about the desideratum of a
Yankee. Fleda put her pie in safety behind a rock, and turned back with
him, and aunt Miriam told them the way to Seth's ploughing ground.

A pleasant word or two had get Fleda's spirits a bounding again, and the
walk was delightful. Truly the leaves were not on the trees, but it was
April, and they soon would be; there was promise in the light, and hope in
the air, and everything smelt of the country and spring-time. The soft
tread of the sod, that her foot had not felt for so long,--the fresh look
of the newly-turned earth,--here and there the brilliance of a field of
winter grain,--and that nameless beauty of the budding trees, that the
full luxuriance of summer can never equal,--Fleda's heart was springing
for sympathy. And to her, with whom association was everywhere so strong,
there was in it all a shadowy presence of her grandfather, with whom she
had so often seen the spring-time bless those same hills and fields long
ago. She walked on in silence, as her manner commonly was when deeply
pleased; there were hardly two persons to whom she would speak her mind
freely then. Mr. Kossitur had his own thoughts.

"Can anything equal the spring-time!" she burst forth at length.

Her uncle looked at her and smiled. "Perhaps not; but it is one thing,"
said he sighing, "for taste to enjoy and another thing for calculation
to improve."

"But one can do both, can't one?" said Fleda brightly.

"I don't know," said he sighing again. "Hardly."

Fleda knew he was mistaken and thought the sighs out of place. But they
reached her; and she had hardly condemned them before they set her off
upon a long train of excuses for him, and she had wrought herself into
quite a fit of tenderness by the time they reached her cousin.

They found him on a gentle side-hill, with two other men and teams, both
of whom were stepping away in different parts of the field. Mr. Plumfield
was just about setting off to work his way to the other side of the lot
when they came up with him.

Fleda was not ashamed of her aunt Miriam's son, even before such critical
eyes as those of her uncle. Farmer-like as were his dress and air, they
shewed him nevertheless a well-built, fine-looking man, with the
independent bearing of one who has never recognised any but mental or
moral superiority. His face might have been called handsome; there was at
least manliness in every line of it; and his excellent dark eye shewed an
equal mingling of kindness and acute common sense. Let Mr. Plumfield wear
what clothes he would one felt obliged to follow Burns' notable example
and pay respect to the _man_ that was in them.

"A fine day, sir," he remarked to Mr. Rossitur after they had
shaken hands.

"Yes, and I will not interrupt you but a minute. Mr. Plumfield, I am in
want of hands,--hands for this very business you are about,
ploughing,--and Fleda says you know everybody; so I have come to ask if
you can direct me."

"Heads or hands, do you want?" said Seth, clearing his boot-sole from some
superfluous soil upon the share of his plough.

"Why both, to tell you the truth. I want hands, and teams, for that
matter, for I have only two, and I suppose there is no time to be lost.
And I want very much to get a person thoroughly acquainted with the
business to go along with my man. He is an Irishman, and I am afraid not
very well accustomed to the ways of doing things here."

"Like enough," said Seth;--"and the worst of 'em is you can't learn 'em."

"Well!--can you help me?"

"Mr. Douglass!"--said Seth, raising his voice to speak to one of his
assistants who was approaching them,--"Mr. Douglass!--you're holding that
'ere plough a little too obleekly for my grounds."

"Very good, Mr. Plumfield!" said the person called upon, with a quick
accent that intimated, "If you don't know what is best it is not my
affair!"--the voice very peculiar, seeming to come from no lower than the
top of his throat, with a guttural roll of the words.

"Is that Earl Douglass?" said Fleda.

"You remember him?" said her cousin smiling. "He's just where he was, and
his wife too.--Well Mr. Rossitur, 'tain't very easy to find what you want
just at this season, when most folks have their hands full and help is all
taken up. I'll see if I can't come down and give you a lift myself with
the ploughing, for a day or two, as I'm pretty beforehand with the spring,
but you'll want more than that. I ain't sure--I haven't more hands than
I'll want myself, but I think it is possible Squire Springer may spare you
one of his'n. He ain't taking in any new land this year, and he's got
things pretty snug; I guess he don't care to do any more than
common--anyhow you might try. You know where uncle Joshua lives, Fleda?
Well Philetus--what now?"

They had been slowly walking along the fence towards the furthest of Mr.
Plumfield's coadjutors, upon whom his eye had been curiously fixed as he
was speaking; a young man who was an excellent sample of what is called
"the raw material." He had just come to a sudden stop in the midst of the
furrow when his employer called to him; and he answered somewhat
lack-a-daisically,

"Why I've broke this here clevis--I ha'n't touched anything nor nothing,
and it broke right in teu!"

"What do you s'pose'll be done now?" said Mr. Plumfield gravely going up
to examine the fracture.

"Well 'twa'n't none of my doings," said the young man. "I ha'n't touched
anything nor nothing--and the mean thing broke right in teu. 'Tain't so
handy as the old kind o' plough, by a long jump."

"You go 'long down to the house and ask my mother for a new clevis; and
talk about ploughs when you know how to hold 'em," said Mr. Plumfield.

"It don't look so difficult a matter," said Mr. Rossitur,--"but I am a
novice myself. What is the principal thing to be attended to in ploughing,
Mr. Plumfield?"

There was a twinkle in Seth's eye, as he looked down upon a piece of straw
he was breaking to bits, which Fleda, who could see, interpreted
thoroughly.

"Well," said he, looking up,--"the breadth of the stitches and the width
and depth of the farrow must be regulated according to the nature of the
soil and the lay of the ground, and what you're ploughing for;--there's
stubble ploughing, and breaking up old lays, and ploughing for fallow
crops, and ribbing, where the land has been some years in grass,--and so
on; and the plough must be geared accordingly, and so as not to take too
much land nor go out of the land; and after that the best part of the work
is to guide the plough right and run the furrows straight and even."

He spoke with the most impenetrable gravity, while Mr. Rossitur looked
blank and puzzled. Fleda could hardly keep her countenance.

"That row of poles," said Mr. Rossitur presently,--"are they to guide you
in running the furrow straight?"

"Yes sir--they are to mark out the crown of the stitch. I keep 'em right
between the horses and plough 'em down one after another. It's a kind of
way country folks play at ninepins," said Seth, with a glance half
inquisitive, half sly, at his questioner.

Mr. Rossitur asked no more. Fleda felt a little uneasy again. It was
rather a longish walk to uncle Joshua's, and hardly a word spoken on
either side.

The old gentleman was "to hum;" and while Fleda went back into some remote
part of the house to see "aunt Syra," Mr. Rossitur set forth his errand.

"Well,--and so you're looking for help, eh?" said uncle Joshua when he had
heard him through.

"Yes sir,--I want help."

"And a team too?"

"So I have said, sir," Mr. Rossitur answered rather shortly. "Can you
supply me?"

"Well,--I don't know as I can," said the old man, rubbing his hands slowly
over his knees.--"You ha'n't got much done yet, I s'pose?"

"Nothing. I came the day before yesterday."

"Land's in rather poor condition in some parts, ain't it?"

"I really am not able to say, sir,--till I have seen it."

"It ought to be," said the old gentleman shaking his head,--the fellow
that was there last didn't do right by it--he worked the land too hard,
and didn't put on it anywhere near what he had ought to--I guess you'll
find it pretty poor in some places. He was trying to get all he could
out of it, I s'pose. There's a good deal of fencing to be done too,
ain't there?"

"All that there was, sir,--I have done none since I came."

"Seth Plumfield got through ploughing yet?"

"We found him at it."

"Ay, he's a smart man. What are you going to do, Mr. Rossitur, with that
piece of marsh land that lies off to the south-east of the barn, beyond
the meadow, between the hills? I had just sich another, and I"--

"Before I do anything with the wet land, Mr. ---- I am so unhappy as to
have forgotten your name?--"

"Springer, sir," said the old gentleman,--"Springer--Joshua Springer. That
is my name, sir."

"Mr. Springer, before I do anything with the wet land I should like to
have something growing on the dry; and as that is the present matter in
hand will you be so good as to let me know whether I can have your
assistance."

"Well I don't know,--" said the old gentleman; "there ain't anybody to
send but my boy Lucas, and I don't know whether he would make up his mind
to go or not."

"Well sir!"--said Mr. Rossitur rising,--"in that case I will bid you good
morning. I am sorry to have given you the trouble."

"Stop," said the old man,--"stop a bit. Just sit down--I'll go in and see
about it."

Mr. Rossitur sat down, and uncle Joshua left him to go into the kitchen
and consult his wife, without whose counsel, of late years especially, he
rarely did anything. They never varied in opinion, but aunt Syra's wits
supplied the steel edge to his heavy metal.

"I don't know but Lucas would as leave go as not," the old gentleman
remarked on coming back from this sharpening process,--"and I can make out
to spare him, I guess. You calculate to keep him, I s'pose?"

"Until this press is over; and perhaps longer, if I find he can do
what I want."

"You'll find him pretty handy at a' most anything; but I mean,--I s'pose
he'll get his victuals with you."

"I have made no arrangements of the kind," said Mr. Rossitur controlling
with some effort his rebelling muscles. "Donohan is boarded somewhere
else, and for the present it will be best for all in my employ to follow
the same plan."

"Very good," said uncle Joshua, "it makes no difference,--only of
course in that case it is worth more, when a man has to find himself
and his team."

"Whatever it is worth I am quite ready to pay, sir."

"Very good! You and Lucas can agree about that. He'll be along in
the morning."

So they parted; and Fleda understood the impatient quick step with which
her uncle got over the ground.

"Is that man a brother of your grandfather?"

"No sir--Oh no! only his brother-in-law. My grandmother was his sister,
but they weren't in the least like each other."

"I should think they could not," said Mr. Rossitur.

"Oh they were not!" Fleda repeated. "I have always heard that."

After paying her respects to aunt Syra in the kitchen she had come back
time enough to hear the end of the discourse in the parlour, and had felt
its full teaching. Doubts returned, and her spirits were sobered again.
Not another word was spoken till they reached home; when Fleda seized upon
Hugh and went off to the rock after her forsaken pie.

"Have you succeeded!' asked Mrs. Rossitur while they were gone.

"Yes--that is, a cousin has kindly consented to come and help me."

"A cousin!" said Mrs. Rossitur.

"Ay,--we're in a nest of cousins."

"In a _what_, Mr. Rossitur?"

"In a nest of cousins; and I had rather be in a nest of rooks. I wonder if
I shall be expected to ask my ploughmen to dinner! Every second man is a
cousin, and the rest are uncles."



Chapter XIX.



  Whilst skies are blue and bright.
    Whilst flowers are gay,
  Whilst eyes that change ere night
    Make glad the day;
  Whilst yet the calm hours creep,
  Dream thou--and from thy sleep
    Then wake to weep.

  Shelley.


The days of summer flew by, for the most part lightly, over the heads of
Hugh and Fleda. The farm was little to them but a place of pretty and
picturesque doings and the scene of nameless delights by wood and stream,
in all which, all that summer, Fleda rejoiced; pulling Hugh along with her
even when sometimes he would rather have been poring over his books at
home. She laughingly said it was good for him; and one half at least of
every fine day their feet were abroad. They knew nothing practically of
the dairy but that it was an inexhaustible source of the sweetest milk and
butter, and indirectly of the richest custards and syllabubs. The flock of
sheep that now and then came in sight running over the hill-side, were to
them only an image of pastoral beauty and a soft link with the beauty of
the past. The two children took the very cream of country life. The books
they had left were read with greater eagerness than ever. When the weather
was "too lovely to stay in the house," Shakspeare or Massillon or Sully or
the "Curiosities of Literature" or "Corinne" or Milner's Church History,
for Fleda's reading was as miscellaneous as ever, was enjoyed under the
flutter of leaves and along with the rippling of the mountain spring;
whilst King curled himself up on the skirt of his mistress's gown and
slept for company; hardly more thoughtless and fearless of harm than his
two companions. Now and then Fleda opened her eyes to see that her uncle
was moody and not like himself, and that her aunt's gentle face was
clouded in consequence; and she could not sometimes help the suspicion
that he was not making a farmer of himself; but the next summer wind would
blow these thoughts away, or the next look of her flowers would put them
out of her head. The whole courtyard in front of the house had been given
up to her peculiar use as a flower-garden, and there she and Hugh made
themselves very busy.

But the summer-time came to an end.

It was a November morning, and Fleda had been doing some of the last jobs
in her flower-beds. She was coming in with spirits as bright as her
cheeks, when her aunt's attitude and look, more than usually spiritless,
suddenly checked them. Fleda gave her a hopeful kiss and asked for the
explanation.

"How bright you look, darling!" said her aunt, stroking her cheek.

"Yes, but you don't, aunt Lucy. What has happened?"

"Mary and Jane are going away."

"Going away!--What for?"

"They are tired of the place--don't like it, I suppose."

"Very foolish of them! Well, aunt Lucy, what matter? we can get plenty
more in their room."

"Not from the city--not possible; they would not come at this time of
year."

"Sure?--Well, then here we can at any rate."

"Here! But what sort of persons shall we get here? And your
uncle--just think!"--

"O but I think we can manage," said Fleda. "When do Mary and Jane
want to go?"

"Immediately!--to-morrow--they are not willing to wait till we can get
somebody. Think of it!"

"Well let them go," said Fleda,--"the sooner the better."

"Yes, and I am sure I don't want to keep them; but--" and Mrs. Rossitur
wrung her hands--"I haven't money enough to pay them quite,--and they
won't go without it."

Fleda felt shocked--so much that she could not help looking it.

"But can't uncle Rolf give it you?"

Mrs. Rossitur shook her head. "I have asked him."

"How much is wanting?"

"Twenty-five. Think of his not being able to give me that!"--Mrs.
Rossitur burst into tears.

"Now don't, aunt Lucy!"--said Fleda, guarding well her own
composure;--"you know he has had a great deal to spend upon the farm and
paying men, and all, and it is no wonder that he should be a little short
just now,--now cheer up!--we can get along with this anyhow."

"I asked him," said Mrs. Rossitur through her tears, "when he would be
able to give it to me; and he told me he didn't know!--"

Fleda ventured no reply but some of the tenderest caresses that lips and
arms could give; and then sprang away and in three minutes was at her
aunt's side again.

"Look here, aunt Lucy," said she gently,--"here is twenty dollars, if you
can manage the five."

"Where did you get this?" Mrs. Rossitur exclaimed.

"I got it honestly. It is mine, aunt Lucy," said Fleda smiling. "Uncle
Orrin gave me some money just before we came away, to do what I liked
with; and I haven't wanted to do anything with it till now."

But this seemed to hurt Mrs. Rossitur more than all the rest. Leaning her
head forward upon Fleda's breast and clasping her arms about her she cried
worse tears than Fleda had seen her shed. If it had not been for the
emergency Fleda would have broken down utterly too.

"That it should have come to this!--I can't take it, dear Fleda!"--

"Yes you must, aunt Lucy," said Fleda soothingly. "I couldn't do anything
else with it that would give me so much pleasure. I don't want it--it
would lie in my drawer till I don't know when. We'll let these people be
off as soon as they please. Don't take it so--uncle Rolf will have money
again--only just now he is out, I suppose--and we'll get somebody else in
the kitchen that will do nicely--you see if we don't."

Mrs. Rossitur's embrace said what words were powerless to say.

"But I don't know how we're to find any one here in the country--I don't
know who'll go to look--I am sure your uncle won't want to,--and Hugh
wouldn't know--"

"I'll go," said Fleda cheerfully;--"Hugh and I. We can do famously--if
you'll trust me. I won't promise to bring home a French cook."

"No indeed--we must take what we can get. But you can get no one to-day,
and they will be off by the morning's coach--what shall we do
to-morrow,--for dinner? Your uncle--"

"I'll get dinner," said Fleda caressing her;--"I'll take all that on
myself. It sha'n't be a bad dinner either. Uncle Rolf will like what I do
for him I dare say. Now cheer up, aunt Lucy!--do--that's all I ask of you.
Won't you?--for me?"

She longed to speak a word of that quiet hope with which in every trouble
she secretly comforted herself--she wanted to whisper the words that were
that moment in her own mind, "Truly I know that it shall be well with them
that fear God;"--but her natural reserve and timidity kept her lips shut;
to her grief.

The women were paid off and dismissed and departed in the next day's coach
from Montepoole. Fleda stood at the front door to see them go, with a
curious sense that there was an empty house at her back, and indeed upon
her back. And in spite of all the cheeriness of her tone to her aunt, she
was not without some shadowy feeling that soberer times might be coming
upon them.

"What is to be done now?" said Hugh close beside her.

"O we are going to get somebody else," said Fleda.

"Where?"

"I don't know!--You and I are going to find out."

"You and I!--"

"Yes. We are going out after dinner, Hugh dear," said she turning her
bright merry face towards him,--"to pick up somebody."

Linking her arm within his she went back to the deserted kitchen premises
to see how her promise about taking Mary's place was to be fulfilled.

"Do you know where to look?" said Hugh.

"I've a notion;--but the first thing is dinner, that uncle Rolf mayn't
think the world is turning topsy turvy. There is nothing at all here,
Hugh!--nothing in the world but bread--it's a blessing there is that.
Uncle Rolf will have to be satisfied with a coffee dinner to-day, and I'll
make him the most superb omelette--that my skill is equal to! Hugh dear,
you shall set the table.--You don't know how?--then you shall make the
toast, and I will set it the first thing of all. You perceive it is well
to know how to do everything, Mr. Hugh Rossitur."

"Where did you learn to make omelettes?" said Hugh with laughing
admiration, as Fleda bared two pretty arms and ran about the very
impersonation of good-humoured activity. The table was set; the coffee was
making; and she had him established at the fire with two great plates, a
pile of slices of bread, and a toasting-iron.

"Where? Oh don't you remember the days of Mrs. Renney? I have seen Emile
make them. And by dint of trying to teach Mary this summer I have taught
myself. There is no knowing, you see, what a person may come to."

"I wonder what father would say if he knew you had made all the coffee
this summer!"

"That is an unnecessary speculation, my dear Hugh, as I have no intention
of telling him. But see!--that is the way with speculators! 'While they go
on refining'--the toast burns!"

The coffee and the omelette and the toast and Mr. Rossitur's favourite
French salad, were served with beautiful accuracy; and he was quite
satisfied. But aunt Lucy looked sadly at Fleda's flushed face and saw that
her appetite seemed to have gone off in the steam of her preparations.
Fleda had a kind of heart-feast however which answered as well.

Hugh harnessed the little wagon, for no one was at hand to do it, and he
and Fleda set off as early as possible after dinner. Fleda's thoughts had
turned to her old acquaintance Cynthia Gall, who she knew was out of
employment and staying at home somewhere near Montepoole. They got the
exact direction from aunt Miriam who approved of her plan.

It was a pleasant peaceful drive they had. They never were alone together,
they two, but vexations seemed to lose their power or be forgotten; and an
atmosphere of quietness gather about them, the natural element of both
hearts. It might refuse its presence to one, but the attraction of both
together was too strong to be resisted.

Miss Cynthia's present abode was in an out of the way place, and a good
distance off; they were some time in reaching it. The barest-looking and
dingiest of houses, set plump in a green field, without one softening or
home-like touch from any home-feeling within; not a flower, not a shrub,
not an out-house, not a tree near. One would have thought it a deserted
house, but that a thin wreath of smoke lazily stole up from one of the
brown chimneys; and graceful as that was it took nothing from the hard
stern barrenness below which told of a worse poverty than that of paint
and glazing.

"Can this be the place?" said Hugh.

"It must be. You stay here with the horse, and I'll go in and seek my
fortune.--Don't promise much," said Fleda shaking her head.

The house stood back from the road. Fleda picked her way to it along a
little footpath which seemed to be the equal property of the geese. Her
knock brought an invitation to "come in."

An elderly woman was sitting there whose appearance did not mend the
general impression. She had the same dull and unhopeful look that her
house had.

"Does Mrs. Gall live here?"

"I do," said this person.

"Is Cynthia at home?"

The woman upon this raised her voice and directed it at an inner door.

"Lucindy!" said she in a diversity of tones,--"Lucindy!--tell Cynthy
here's somebody wants to see her."--But no one answered, and throwing the
work from her lap the woman muttered she would go and see, and left Fleda
with a cold invitation to sit down.

Dismal work! Fleda wished herself out of it. The house did not look
poverty-stricken within, but poverty must have struck to the very heart,
Fleda thought, where there was no apparent cherishing of anything. There
was no absolute distress visible, neither was there a sign of real comfort
or of a happy home. She could not fancy it was one.

She waited so long that she was sure Cynthia did not hold herself in
readiness to see company. And when the lady at last came in it was with
very evident marks of "smarting up" about her.

"Why it's Flidda Ringgan!" said Miss Gall after a dubious look or two at
her visitor. "How _do_ you do? I didn't 'spect to see _you_. How much you
have growed!"

She looked really pleased and gave Fleda's hand a very strong grasp as
she shook it.

"There ain't no fire here to-day," pursued Cynthy, paying her attentions
to the fireplace,--"we let it go down on account of our being all busy out
at the back of the house. I guess you're cold, ain't you?"

Fleda said no, and remembered that the woman she had first seen was
certainly not busy at the back of the house nor anywhere else but in that
very room, where she had found her deep in a pile of patchwork.

"I heerd you had come to the old place. Were you glad to be back again?"
Cynthy asked with a smile that might be taken to express some doubt upon
the subject.

"I was very glad to see it again."

"I hain't seen it in a great while. I've been staying to hum this year
or two. I got tired o' going out," Cynthy remarked, with again a smile
very peculiar and Fleda thought a little sardonical. She did not know
how to answer.

"Well, how do you come along down yonder?" Cynthy went on, making a great
fuss with the shovel and tongs to very little purpose. "Ha' you come all
the way from Queechy?"

"Yes. I came on purpose to see you, Cynthy."

Without staying to ask what for, Miss Gall now went out to "the back of
the house" and came running in again with a live brand pinched in the
tongs, and a long tail of smoke running after it. Fleda would have
compounded for no fire and no choking. The choking was only useful to give
her time to think. She was uncertain how to bring in her errand.

"And how is Mis' Plumfield?" said Cynthy, in an interval of blowing
the brand.

"She is quite well; but Cynthy, you need not have taken all that trouble
for me. I cannot stay but a few minutes."

"There is wood enough!" Cynthia remarked with one of her grim smiles; an
assertion Fleda could not help doubting. Indeed she thought Miss Gall
had grown altogether more disagreeable than she used to be in old times.
Why, she could not divine, unless the souring effect had gone on with
the years.

"And what's become of Earl Douglass and Mis' Douglass? I hain't heerd
nothin' of 'em this great while. I always told your grandpa he'd ha' saved
himself a great deal o' trouble if he'd ha' let Earl Douglass take hold of
things. You ha'n't got Mr. Didenhover into the works again I guess, have
you? He was there a good spell after your grandpa died."

"I haven't seen Mrs. Douglass," said Fleda. "But Cynthy, what do you think
I have come here for?"

"I don't know," said Cynthy, with another of her peculiar looks directed
at the fire. "I s'pose you want someh'n nother of me."

"I have come to see if you wouldn't come and live with my aunt, Mrs.
Rossitur. We are left alone and want somebody very much; and I thought I
would find you out and see if we couldn't have you, first of all,--before
I looked for anybody else."

Cynthy was absolutely silent. She sat before the fire, her feet stretched
out towards it as far as they would go and her arms crossed, and not
moving her steady gaze at the smoking wood, or the chimney-back, whichever
it might be; but there was in the corners of her mouth the threatening of
a smile that Fleda did not at all like.

"What do you say to it, Cynthy?"

"I reckon you'd best get somebody else," said Miss Gall with a kind of
condescending dryness, and the smile shewing a little more.

"Why?" said Fleda, "I would a great deal rather have an old friend than a
stranger."

"Be you the housekeeper?" said Cynthy a little abruptly.

"O I am a little of everything," said Fleda;--"cook and housekeeper and
whatever comes first. I want you to come and be housekeeper, Cynthy."

"I reckon Mis' Rossitur don't have much to do with her help, does she?"
said Cynthy after a pause, during which the corners of her mouth never
changed. The tone of piqued independence let some light into Fleda's mind.

"She is not strong enough to do much herself, and she wants some one
that will take all the trouble from her. You'd have the field all to
yourself, Cynthy."

"Your aunt sets two tables I calculate, don't she?"

"Yes--my uncle doesn't like to have any but his own family around him."

"I guess I shouldn't suit!" said Miss Gall, after another little pause,
and stooping very diligently to pick up some scattered shreds from the
floor. But Fleda could see the flushed face and the smile which pride and
a touch of spiteful pleasure in the revenge she was taking made
particularly hateful. She needed no more convincing that Miss Gall
"wouldn't suit;" but she was sorry at the same time for the perverseness
that had so needlessly disappointed her; and went rather pensively back
again down the little foot-path to the waiting wagon.

"This is hardly the romance of life, dear Hugh," she said as she
seated herself.

"Haven't you succeeded?"

Fleda shook her head.

"What's the matter?"

"O--pride,--injured pride of station! The wrong of not coming to our table
and putting her knife into our butter."

"And living in such a place!" said Hugh.

"You don't know what a place. They are miserably poor, I am sure; and
yet--I suppose that the less people have to be proud of the more they make
of what is left. Poor people!--"

"Poor Fleda!" said Hugh looking at her. "What will you do now?"

"O we'll do somehow," said she cheerfully. "Perhaps it is just as well
after all, for Cynthy isn't the smartest woman in the world. I remember
grandpa used to say he didn't believe she could get a bean into the middle
of her bread."

"A bean into the middle of her bread!" said Hugh.

But Fleda's sobriety was quite banished by his mystified look, and her
laugh rang along over the fields before she answered him.

That laugh had blown away all the vapours, for the present at least, and
they jogged on again very sociably.

"Do you know," said Fleda, after a while of silent enjoyment in the
changes of scene and the mild autumn weather,--"I am not sure that it
wasn't very well for me that we came away from New York."

"I dare say it was," said Hugh,--"since we came; but what makes you say
so?"

"I don't mean that it was for anybody else, but for me. I think I was a
little proud of our nice things there."

"_You,_ Fleda!" said Hugh with a look of appreciating affection.

"Yes I was, a little. It didn't make the greatest part of my love for
them, I am sure; but I think I had a little, undefined, sort of pleasure
in the feeling that they were better and prettier than other people had."

"You are sure you are not proud of your little King Charles now?"
said Hugh.

"I don't know but I am," said Fleda laughing. "But how much pleasanter it
is here on almost every account. Look at the beautiful sweep of the ground
off among those hills--isn't it? What an exquisite horizon line, Hugh!"

"And what a sky over it!"

"Yes--I love these fall skies. Oh I would a great deal rather be here than
in any city that ever was built!"

"So would I," said Hugh. "But the thing is--"

Fleda knew quite well what the thing was, and did not answer.

"But my dear Hugh," she said presently,--"I don't remember that sweep of
hills when we were coming?"

"You were going the other way," said Hugh.

"Yes but, Hugh,--I am sure we did not pass these grain fields. We must
have got into the wrong road."

Hugh drew the reins, and looked, and doubted.

"There is a house yonder," said Fleda,--"we had better drive on and ask."

"There is no house--"

"Yes there is--behind that piece of wood. Look over it--don't you see a
light curl of blue smoke against the sky?--We never passed that house and
wood, I am certain. We ought to make haste, for the afternoons are short
now, and you will please to recollect there is nobody at home to get tea."

"I hope Lucas will get upon one of his everlasting talks with father,"
said Hugh.

"And that it will hold till we get home," said Fleda. "It will be the
happiest use Lucas has made of his tongue in a good while."

Just as they stopped before a substantial-looking farm-house a man came
from the other way and stopped there too, with his hand upon the gate.

"How far are we from Queechy, sir?" said Hugh.

"You're not from it at all, sir," said the man politely. "You're in
Queechy, sir, at present."

"Is this the right road from Montepoole to Queechy village?"

"It is not, sir. It is a very tortuous direction indeed. Have I not the
pleasure of speaking to Mr. Rossitur's young gentleman?"

Mr. Rossitur's young gentleman acknowledged his relationship and begged
the favour of being set in the right way home.

"With much pleasure! You have been shewing Miss Rossitur the picturesque
country about Montepoole?"

"My cousin and I have been there on business, and lost our way
coming back."

"Ah I dare say. Very easy. First time you have been there?"

"Yes sir, and we are in a hurry to get home."

"Well sir,--you know the road by Deacon Patterson's?--comes out just above
the lake?"

Hugh did not remember.

"Well--you keep this road straight on,--I'm sorry you are in a hurry,--you
keep on till--do you know when you strike Mr. Harris's ground?"

No, Hugh knew nothing about it, nor Fleda.

"Well I'll tell you now how it is," said the stranger, "if you'll permit
me. You and your--a--cousin--come in and do us the pleasure of taking some
refreshment--I know my sister'll have her table set out by this time--and
I'll do myself the honour of introducing you to--a--these strange roads
afterwards."

"Thank you, sir, but that trouble is unnecessary--cannot you direct us?"

"No trouble--indeed sir, I assure you, I should esteem it a favour--very
highly. I--I am Dr. Quackenboss, sir; you may have heard--"

"Thank you, Dr. Quackenboss, but we have no time this afternoon--we are
very anxious to reach home as soon as possible; if you would be be so good
as to put us in the way."

[Illustration: "Well, sir, you know the road by Deacon Patterson's?"]

"I--really sir, I am afraid--to a person ignorant of the various
localities--You will lose no time--I will just hitch your horse here, and
I'll have mine ready by the time this young lady has rested.
Miss--a--won't you join with me? I assure you I will not put you to the
expense of a minute--Thank you!--Mr. Harden!--Just clap the saddle on to
Lollypop and have him up here in three seconds.--Thank you!--My dear
Miss--a--won't you take my arm? I am gratified, I assure you."

Yielding to the apparent impossibility of getting anything out of Dr.
Quackenboss, except civility, and to the real difficulty of disappointing
such very earnest good will, Fleda and Hugh did what older persons would
not have done,--alighted and walked up to the house.

"This is quite a fortuitous occurrence," the doctor went on:--"I have
often had the pleasure of seeing Mr Rossitur's family in church--in the
little church at Queechy Run--and that enabled me to recognise your cousin
as soon as I saw him in the wagon. Perhaps Miss--a--you may have possibly
heard of my name?--Quackenboss--I don't know that you understood--"

"I have heard it, sir."

"My Irishmen, Miss--a--my Irish labourers, can't get hold of but one end
of it; they call me Boss--ha, ha, ha!"

Fleda hoped his patients did not get hold of the other end of it, and
trembled, visibly.

"Hard to pull a man's name to pieces before his face,--ha, ha! but I
am--a--not one thing myself,--a kind of heterogynous--I am a piece of a
physician and a little in the agricultural line also; so it's all fair."

"The Irish treat my name as hardly, Dr. Quackenboss--they call me nothing
but Miss Ring-again."

And then Fleda could laugh, and laugh she did, so heartily that the doctor
was delighted.

"Ring-again! ha, ha!--Very good!--Well, Miss--a--I shouldn't think that
anybody in your service would ever--a--ever let you put your name in
practice."

But Fleda's delight at the excessive gallantry and awkwardness of this
speech was almost too much; or, as the doctor pleasantly remarked, her
nerves were too many for her; and every one of them was dancing by the
time they reached the hall-door. The doctor's flourishes lost not a bit of
their angularity from his tall ungainly figure and a lantern-jawed face,
the lower member of which had now and then a somewhat lateral play when he
was speaking, which curiously aided the quaint effect of his words. He
ushered his guests into the house, seeming in a flow of self-gratulation.

The supper-table was spread, sure enough, and hovering about it was the
doctor's sister; a lady in whom Fleda only saw a Dutch face, with eyes
that made no impression, disagreeable fair hair, and a string of gilt
beads round her neck. A painted yellow floor under foot, a room that
looked excessively _wooden_ and smelt of cheese, bare walls and a
well-filled table, was all that she took in besides.

"I have the honour of presenting you to my sister," said the doctor with
suavity. "Flora, the Irish domestics of this young lady call her name Miss
Ring-again--if she will let us know how it ought to be called we shall be
happy to be informed."

Dr. Quackenboss was made happy.

"Miss _Ringgan_--and this young gentleman is young Mr. Rossitur--the
gentleman that has taken Squire Ringgan's old place. We were so
fortunate as to have them lose their way this afternoon, coming from
the Pool, and they have just stepped in to see if you can't find 'em a
mouthful of something they can eat, while Lollypop is a getting ready to
see them home."

Poor Miss Flora immediately disappeared into the kitchen, to order a bit
of superior cheese and to have some slices of ham put on the gridiron,
and then coming back to the common room went rummaging about from
cupboard to cupboard, in search of cake and sweetmeats. Fleda protested
and begged in vain.

"She was so sorry she hadn't knowed," Miss Flora said,--"she'd ha' had
some cakes made that maybe they could have eaten, but the bread was dry;
and the cheese wa'n't as good somehow as the last one they cut, maybe Miss
Ringgan would prefer a piece of newer-made, if she liked it; and she
hadn't had good luck with her preserves last summer--the most of 'em had
fomented--she thought it was the damp weather, but there was some stewed
pears that maybe she would be so good as to approve--and there was some
ham! whatever else it was it was hot!--"

It was impossible, it was impossible, to do dishonour to all this
hospitality and kindness and pride that was brought out for them. Early or
late, they must eat, in mere gratitude. The difficulty was to avoid eating
everything. Hugh and Fleda managed to compound the matter with each other,
one taking the cake and pears, and the other the ham and cheese. In the
midst of all this over flow of good will Fleda bethought her to ask if
Miss Flora knew of any girl or woman that would go out to service. Miss
Flora took the matter into grave consideration as soon as her anxiety on
the subject of their cups of tea had subsided. She did not commit herself,
but thought it possible that one of the Finns might be willing to go out.

"Where do they live?"

"It's--a--not far from Queechy Run," said the doctor, whose now and then
hesitation in the midst of his speech was never for want of a thought but
simply and merely for the best words to clothe it in.

"Is it in our way to-night?"

He could make it so, the doctor said, with pleasure, for it would give him
permission to gallant them a little further.

They had several miles yet to go, and the sun went down as they were
passing through Queechy Run. Under that still cool clear autumn sky Fleda
would have enjoyed the ride very much, but that her unfulfilled errand was
weighing upon her, and she feared her aunt and uncle might want her
services before she could be at home. Still, late as it was, she
determined to stop for a minute at Mrs. Finn's and go home with a clear
conscience. At her door, and not till there, the doctor was prevailed upon
to part company, the rest of the way being perfectly plain.

"Not I!--at least I think not. But, Hugh, don't say anything about all
this to aunt Lucy. She would be troubled."

Fleda had certainly when she came away no notion of improving her
acquaintance with Miss Anastasia; but the supper, and the breakfast and
the dinner of the next day, with all the nameless and almost numberless
duties of housework that filled up the time between, wrought her to a
very strong sense of the necessity of having some kind of "help" soon.
Mrs. Rossitur wearied herself excessively with doing very little, and
then looked so sad to see Fleda working on, that it was more
disheartening and harder to bear than the fatigue. Hugh was a most
faithful and invaluable coadjutor, and his lack of strength was like her
own made up by energy of will; but neither of them could bear the strain
long; and when the final clearing away of the dinner-dishes gave her a
breathing-time she resolved to dress herself and put her thimble in her
pocket and go over to Miss Finn's quilting. Miss Lucy might not be like
Miss Anastasia; and if she were, anything that had hands and feet to move
instead of her own would be welcome.

Hugh went with her to the door and was to come for her at sunset.



Chapter XX.



  With superfluity of breeding
  First makes you sick, and then with feeding.

  Jenyns.


Miss Anastasia was a little surprised and a good deal gratified, Fleda
saw, by her coming, and played the hostess with great benignity. The
quilting-frame was stretched in an upper room, not in the long kitchen,
to Fleda's joy; most of the company were already seated at it, and she
had to go through a long string of introductions before she was permitted
to take her place. First of all Earl Douglass's wife, who rose up and
taking both Fleda's hands squeezed and shook them heartily, giving her
with eye and lip a most genial welcome. This lady had every look of being
a very _clever_ woman; "a manager" she was said to be; and indeed her
very nose had a little pinch which prepared one for nothing superfluous
about her. Even her dress could not have wanted another breadth from the
skirt and had no fulness to spare about the body. Neat as a pin though;
and a well-to-do look through it all. Miss Quackenboss Fleda recognised
as an old friend, gilt beads and all. Catherine Douglass had grown up to
a pretty girl during the five years since Fleda had left Queechy, and
gave her a greeting half smiling, half shy. There was a little more
affluence about the flow of her drapery, and the pink ribbon round her
neck was confined by a little dainty Jew's harp of a brooch; she had her
mother's pinch of the nose too. Then there were two other young
ladies;--Miss Letitia Ann Thornton, a tall grown girl in pantalettes,
evidently a would-be aristocrat from the air of her head and lip, with a
well-looking face and looking well knowing of the same, and sporting neat
little white cuffs at her wrists, the only one who bore such a
distinction. The third of these damsels, Jessie Healy, impressed Fleda
with having been brought up upon coarse meat and having grown heavy in
consequence; the other two were extremely fair and delicate, both in
complexion and feature. Her aunt Syra Fleda recognised without particular
pleasure and managed to seat herself at the quilt with the sewing-woman
and Miss Hannah between them. Miss Lucy Finn she found seated at her
right hand, but after all the civilities she had just gone through Fleda
had not courage just then to dash into business with her, and Miss Lucy
herself stitched away and was dumb.

So were the rest of the party--rather. The presence of the new-comer
seemed to have the effect of a spell. Fleda could not think they had been
as silent before her joining them as they were for some time afterwards.
The young ladies were absolutely mute, and conversation seemed to flag
even among the elder ones; and if Fleda ever raised her eyes from the
quilt to look at somebody she was sure to see somebody's eyes looking at
her, with a curiosity well enough defined and mixed with a more _or less_
amount of benevolence and pleasure. Fleda was growing very industrious and
feeling her cheeks grow warm, when the checked stream of conversation
began to take revenge by turning its tide upon her.

"Are you glad to be back to Queechy, Fleda?" said Mrs. Douglass from the
opposite far end of the quilt.

"Yes ma'am," said Fleda, smiling back her answer,--"on some accounts."

"Ain't she growed like her father, Mis' Douglass?" said the sewing woman.
"Do you recollect Walter Ringgan--what a handsome feller he was?"

The two opposite girls immediately found something to say to each other.

"She ain't a bit more like him than she is like her mother," said Mrs.
Douglass, biting off the end of her thread energetically. "Amy Ringgan was
a sweet good woman as ever was in this town."

Again her daughter's glance and smile went over to the speaker.

"You stay in Queechy and live like Queechy folks do," Mrs. Douglass added,
nodding encouragingly, "and you'll beat both on 'em."

But this speech jarred, and Fleda wished it had not been spoken.

"How does your uncle like farming?" said aunt Syra.

A home-thrust, which Fleda parried by saying he had hardly got accustomed
to it yet.

"What's been his business? what has he been doing all his life till now?"
said the sewing-woman.

Fleda replied that he had had no business; and after the minds of the
company had had time to entertain this statement she was startled by Miss
Lucy's voice at her elbow.

"It seems kind o' curious, don't it, that a man should live to be
forty or fifty years old and not know anything of the earth he gets
his bread from?"

"What makes you think he don't?" said Miss Thornton rather tartly.

"She wa'n't speaking o' nobody," said aunt Syra.

"I was--I was speaking of _man_--I was speaking abstractly," said Fleda's
right hand neighbour.

"What's abstractly?" said Miss Anastasia scornfully.

"Where do you get hold of such hard words, Lucy?" said Mrs. Douglass.

"I don't know, Mis' Douglass;--they come to me;--it's practice, I suppose.
I had no intention of being obscure."

"One kind o' word's as easy as another I suppose, when you're used to it,
ain't it?" said the sewing-woman.

"What's abstractly?" said the mistress of the house again.

"Look in the dictionary, if you want to know," said her sister.

"I don't want to know--I only want you to tell."

"When do you get time for it, Lucy? ha'n't you nothing else to practise?"
pursued Mrs. Douglass.

"Yes, Mis' Douglass; but then there are times for exertion, and other
times less disposable; and when I feel thoughtful, or low, I commonly
retire to my room and contemplate the stars or write a composition."

The sewing-woman greeted this speech with an unqualified ha! ha! and Fleda
involuntarily raised her head to look at the last speaker; but there was
nothing to be noticed about her, except that she was in rather nicer order
than the rest of the Finn family.

"Did you get home safe last night?" inquired Miss Quackenboss, bending
forward over the quilt to look down to Fleda.

Fleda thanked her, and replied that they had been overturned and had
several ribs broken.

"And where have you been, Fleda, all this while?" said Mrs. Douglass.

Fleda told, upon which all the quilting-party raised their heads
simultaneously to take another review of her.

"Your uncle's wife ain't a Frenchwoman, be she?" asked the sewing-woman.

Fleda said "oh no"--and Miss Quackenboss remarked that "she thought she
wa'n't;" whereby Fleda perceived it had been a subject of discussion.

"She lives like one, don't she?" said aunt Syra.

Which imputation Fleda also refuted to the best of her power.

"Well, don't she have dinner in the middle of the afternoon?" pursued
aunt Syra.

Fleda was obliged to admit that.

"And she can't eat without she has a fresh piece of roast meat on table
every day, can she?"

"It is not always roast," said Fleda, half vexed and half laughing.

"I'd rather have a good dish o' bread and 'lasses than the hull on't;"
observed old Mrs. Finn; from the corner where she sat manifestly turning
up her nose at the far-off joints on Mrs. Rossitur's dinner-table.

The girls on the other side of the quilt again held counsel together,
deep and low.

"Well didn't she pick up all them notions in that place yonder?--where you
say she has been?" aunt Syra went on.

"No," said Fleda; "everybody does so in New York."

"I want to know what kind of a place New York is, now," said old Mrs. Finn
drawlingly. "I s'pose it's pretty big, ain't it?"

Fleda replied that it was.

"I shouldn't wonder if it was a'most as far as from here to Queechy Run,
now, ain't it?"

The distance mentioned being somewhere about one-eighth of New York's
longest diameter, Fleda answered that it was quite as far.

"I s'pose there's plenty o' mighty rich folks there, ain't there?"

"Plenty, I believe," said Fleda.

"I should hate to live in it awfully!" was the old woman's conclusion.

"I should admire to travel in many countries," said Miss Lucy, for the
first time seeming to intend her words particularly for Fleda's ear. "I
think nothing makes people more genteel. I have observed it frequently."

Fleda said it was very pleasant; but though encouraged by this opening
could not muster enough courage to ask if Miss Lucy had a "notion" to come
and prove their gentility. Her next question was startling,--if Fleda had
ever studied mathematics?

"No," said Fleda. "Have you?"

"O my, yes! There was a lot of us concluded we would learn it; and we
commenced to study it a long time ago. I think it's a most elevating--"

The discussion was suddenly broken off, for the sewing-woman exclaimed,
as the other sister came in and took her seat,

"Why Hannah! you ha'n't been makin' bread with that crock on your hands!"

"Well Mis' Barnes!" said the girl,--"I've washed 'em, and I've made bread
with 'em, and even _that_ didn't take it off!"

"Do you look at the stars, too, Hannah?" said Mrs. Douglass.

Amidst a small hubbub of laugh and talk which now became general, poor
Fleda fell back upon one single thought--one wish; that Hugh would come to
fetch her home before tea-time. But it was a vain hope. Hugh was not to be
there till sundown, and supper was announced long before that. They all
filed down, and Fleda with them, to the great kitchen below stairs; and
she found herself placed in the seat of honour indeed, but an honour she
would gladly have escaped, at Miss Anastasia's right hand.

A temporary locked-jaw would have been felt a blessing. Fleda dared hardly
even look about her; but under the eye of her hostess the instinct of
good-breeding was found sufficient to swallow everything; literally and
figuratively. There was a good deal to swallow. The usual variety of
cakes, sweetmeats, beef, cheese, biscuits, and pies, was set out with some
peculiarity of arrangement which Fleda had never seen before, and which
left that of Miss Quackenboss elegant by comparison. Down each side of the
table ran an advanced guard of little sauces, in Indian file, but in
companies of three, the file leader of each being a saucer of custard, its
follower a ditto of preserves, and the third keeping a sharp look-out in
the shape of pickles; and to Fleda's unspeakable horror she discovered
that the guests were expected to help themselves at will from these
several stores with their own spoons, transferring what they took either
to their own plates or at once to its final destination, which last mode
several of the company preferred. The advantage of this plan was the
necessary great display of the new silver tea-spoons which Mrs. Douglass
slyly hinted to aunt Syra were the moving cause of the tea-party. But aunt
Syra swallowed sweetmeats and would not give heed.

There was no relief for poor Fleda. Aunt Syra was her next neighbour, and
opposite to her, at Miss Anastasia's left hand, was the disagreeable
countenance and peering eyes of the old crone her mother. Fleda kept her
own eyes fixed upon her plate and endeavoured to see nothing but that.

"Why here's Fleda ain't eating anything," said Mrs. Douglass. "Won't you
have some preserves? take some custard, do!--Anastasy, she ha'n't a
spoon--no wonder!"

Fleda had secretly conveyed hers under cover.

"There _was_ one," said Miss Anastasia, looking about where one should
have been,--"I'll get another as soon as I give Mis' Springer her tea."

"Ha'n't you got enough to go round?" said the old woman plucking at her
daughter's sleeve,--"Anastasy!--ha'n't you got enough to go round?"

This speech which was spoken with a most spiteful simplicity Miss
Anastasia answered with superb silence, and presently produced spoons
enough to satisfy herself and the company. But Fleda! No earthly
persuasion could prevail upon her to touch pickles, sweetmeats, or
custard, that evening; and even in the bread and cakes she had a vision of
hands before her that took away her appetite. She endeavoured to make a
shew with hung beef and cups of tea, which indeed was not Pouchong; but
her supper came suddenly to an end upon a remark of her hostess, addressed
to the whole table, that they needn't be surprised if they found any bite
of pudding in the gingerbread, for it was made from the molasses the
children left the other day. Who "the children" were Fleda did not know,
neither was it material.

It was sundown, but Hugh had not come when they went to the upper rooms
again. Two were open now, for they were small and the company promised not
to be such. Fathers and brothers and husbands began to come, and loud
talking and laughing and joking took place of the quilting chit-chat.
Fleda would fain have absorbed herself in the work again, but though the
frame still stood there the minds of the company were plainly turned aside
from their duty, or perhaps they thought that Miss Anastasia had had
admiration enough to dispense with service. Nobody shewed a thimble but
one or two old ladies; and as numbers and spirits gathered strength, a
kind of romping game was set on foot in which a vast deal of kissing
seemed to be the grand wit of the matter. Fleda shrank away out of sight
behind the open door of communication between the two rooms, pleading with
great truth that she was tired and would like to keep perfectly quiet; and
she had soon the satisfaction of being apparently forgotten.

In the other room some of the older people were enjoying themselves more
soberly. Fleda's ear was too near the crack of the door not to have the
benefit of more of their conversation than she cared for. It soon put
quiet of mind out of the question.

"He'll twist himself up pretty short; that's my sense of it; and he won't
take long to do it, nother," said Earl Douglass's voice.

Fleda would have known it anywhere from its extreme peculiarity. It never
either rose or fell much from a certain pitch; and at that level the words
gurgled forth, seemingly from an ever-brimming fountain; he never wanted
one; and the stream had neither let nor stay till his modicum of sense had
fairly run out. People thought he had not a greater stock of that than
some of his neighbours; but he issued an amount of word-currency
sufficient for the use of the county.

"He'll run himself agin a post pretty quick," said uncle Joshua in a
confirmatory tone of voice.

Fleda had a confused idea that somebody was going to hang himself.

"He ain't a workin' things right," said Douglass,--"he ain't a workin'
things right; he's takin' hold o' everything by the tail end. He ain't
studied the business; he doesn't know when things is right, and he doesn't
know when things is wrong;--and if they're wrong he don't know how to set
'em right. He's got a feller there that ain't no more fit to be there than
I am to be Vice President of the United States; and I ain't a going to say
what I think I _am_ fit for, but I ha'n't studied for _that_ place and I
shouldn't like to stand an examination for't; and a man hadn't ought to be
a farmer no more if he ha'n't qualified himself. That's my idee. I like to
see a thing done well if it's to be done at all; and there ain't a stitch
o' land been laid right on the hull farm, nor a furrow driv' as it had
ought to be, since he come on to it; and I say, Squire Springer, a man
ain't going to get along in that way, and he hadn't ought to. I work hard
myself, and I calculate to work hard; and I make a livin by't; and I'm
content to work hard. When I see a man with his hands in his pockets, I
think he'll have nothin' else in 'em soon. I don't believe he's done a
hand's turn himself on the land the hull season!"

And upon this Mr. Douglass brought up.

"My son Lucas has been workin' with him, off and on, pretty much the hull
time since he come; and _he_ says he ha'n't begun to know how to spell
farmer yet."

"Ay, ay! My wife--she's a little harder on folks than I be--I think it
ain't worth while to say nothin' of a man without I can say some good of
him--that's my idee--and it don't do no harm, nother,--but my wife, she
says he's got to let down his notions a peg or two afore they'll hitch
just in the right place; and I won't say but what I think she ain't maybe
fur from right. If a man's above his business he stands a pretty fair
chance to be below it some day. I won't say myself, for I haven't any
acquaintance with him, and a man oughtn't to speak but of what he is
knowing to,--but I have heerd say, that he wa'n't as conversationable as
it would ha' been handsome in him to be, all things considerin'. There
seems to be a good many things said of him, somehow, and I always think
men don't talk of a man if he don't give 'em occasion; but anyhow I've
been past the farm pretty often myself this summer, workin' with Seth
Plumfield; and I've took notice of things myself; and I know he's been
makin' beds o' sparrowgrass when he had ought to ha' been makin' fences,
and he's been helpin' that little girl o' his'n set her flowers, when he
would ha' been better sot to work lookin' after his Irishman; but I don't
know as it made much matter nother, for if he went wrong Mr. Rossitur
wouldn't know how to set him right, and if he was a going right Mr.
Rossitur would ha' been just as likely to ha' set him wrong. Well I'm
sorry for him!"

"Mr. Rossitur is a most gentlemanlike man," said the voice of Dr.
Quackenboss.

"Ay,--I dare say he is," Earl responded in precisely the same tone. "I
was down to his house one day last summer to see him.--He wa'n't to
hum, though."

"It would be strange if harm come to a man with such a guardian angel in
the house as that man has in his'n," said Dr. Quackenboss.

"Well she's a pretty creetur'!" said Douglass, looking up with some
animation. "I wouldn't blame any man that sot a good deal by her. I will
say I think she's as handsome as my own darter; and a man can't go no
furder than that I suppose."

"She won't help his farming much, I guess," said uncle Joshua,--"nor his
wife, nother."

Fleda heard Dr. Quackenboss coming through the doorway and started
from her corner for fear he might find her out there and know what she
had heard.

He very soon found her out in the new place she had chosen and came up to
pay his compliments. Fleda was in a mood for anything but laughing, yet
the mixture of the ludicrous which the doctor administered set her nerves
a twitching. Bringing his chair down sideways at one angle and his person
at another, so as to meet at the moment of the chair's touching the floor,
and with a look and smile slanting to match, the doctor said,

"Well, Miss Ringgan, has--a--Mrs. Rossitur,--does she feel herself
reconciled yet?"

"Reconciled, sir?" said Fleda.

"Yes--a--to Queechy?"

"She never quarrelled with it, sir," said Fleda, quite unable to keep
from laughing.

"Yes,--I mean--a--she feels that she can sustain her spirits in different
situations?"

"She is very well, sir, thank you."

"It must have been a great change to her--and to you all--coming to
this place."

"Yes, sir; the country is very different from the city."

"In what part of New York was Mr. Rossitur's former residence?"

"In State street, sir."

"State street,--that is somewhere in the direction of the Park?"

"No, sir, not exactly."

"Was Mrs. Rossitur a native of the city?"

"Not of New York. O Hugh, my dear Hugh," exclaimed Fleda in another
tone,--"what have you been thinking of?"

"Father wanted me," said Hugh. "I could not help it, Fleda."

"You are not going to have the cruelty to take your--a--cousin away, Mr.
Rossitur?" said the doctor.

But Fleda was for once happy to be cruel; she would hear no remonstrances.
Though her desire for Miss Lucy's "help" had considerably lessened she
thought she could not in politeness avoid speaking on the subject, after
being invited there on purpose. But Miss Lucy said she "calculated to stay
at home this winter," unless she went to live with somebody at Kenton for
the purpose of attending a course of philosophy lectures that she heard
were to be given there. So that matter was settled; and clasping Hugh's
arm Fleda turned away from the house with a step and heart both lightened
by the joy of being out of it.

"I couldn't come sooner, Fleda," said Hugh.

"No matter--O I'm so glad to be away! Walk a little faster, dear
Hugh.--Have you missed me at home?"

"Do you want me to say no or yes?" said Hugh smiling. "We did very
well--mother and I--and I have left everything ready to have tea the
minute you get home. What sort of a time have you had?"

In answer to which Fleda gave him a long history; and then they walked on
awhile in silence. The evening was still and would have been dark but for
the extreme brilliancy of the stars through the keen clear atmosphere.
Fleda looked up at them and drew large draughts of bodily and mental
refreshment with the bracing air.

"Do you know to-morrow will be Thanksgiving day?"

"Ye--what made you think of it?"

"They were talking about it--they make a great fuss here
Thanksgiving day."

"I don't think we shall make much of a fuss," said Hugh.

"I don't think we shall. I wonder what I shall do--I am afraid uncle Rolf
will get tired of coffee and omelettes in the course of time; and my list
of receipts is very limited."

"It is a pity you didn't beg one of Mrs. Renney's books," said Hugh
laughing. "If you had only known--"

"'Tisn't too late!" said Fleda quickly,--"I'll send to New York for one. I
will! I'll ask uncle Orrin to get it for me. That's the best thought!--"

"But, Fleda! you're not going to turn cook in that fashion?"

"It would be no harm to have the book," said Fleda. "I can tell you we
mustn't expect to get anybody here that can make an omelette, or even
coffee, that uncle Rolf will drink. Oh Hugh!--"

"What?"

"I don't know where we are going to get anybody!--But don't say anything
to aunt Lucy about it."

"Well, we can keep Thanksgiving day, Fleda, without a dinner," said Hugh
cheerfully.

"Yes indeed; I am sure I can--after being among these people to-night. How
much I have that they want! Look at the Great Bear over there!--isn't that
better than New York?"

"The Great Bear hangs over New York too," Hugh said with a smile.

"Ah but it isn't the same thing. Heaven hasn't the same eyes for the city
and the country."

As Hugh and Fleda went quick up to the kitchen door they overtook a dark
figure, at whom looking narrowly as she passed, Fleda recognised Seth
Plumfield. He was joyfully let into the kitchen, and there proved to be
the bearer of a huge dish carefully covered with a napkin.

"Mother guessed you hadn't any Thanksgiving ready," he said,--"and she
wanted to send this down to you; so I thought I would come and fetch
it myself."

"O thank her! and thank you, cousin Seth;--how good you are?"

"Mother ha'n't lost her old trick at 'em," said he, "so I hope
_that's_ good."

"O I know it is," said Fleda. "I remember aunt Miriam's Thanksgiving
chicken-pies. Now, cousin Seth, you must come in and see aunt Lucy."

"No," said he quietly,--"I've got my farm-boots on--I guess I won't see
anybody but you."

But Fleda would not suffer that, and finding she could not move him she
brought her aunt out into the kitchen. Mrs. Rossitur's manner of speaking
and thanking him quite charmed Seth, and he went away with a kindly
feeling towards those gentle bright eyes which he never forgot.

"Now we've something for to-morrow, Hugh!" said Fleda;--"and such a
chicken-pie I can tell you as _you_ never saw. Hugh, isn't it odd how
different a thing is in different circumstances? You don't know how glad I
was when I put my hands upon that warm pie-dish and knew what it was; and
when did I ever care in New York about Emile's doings?"

"Except the almond gauffres," said Hugh smiling.

"I never thought to be so glad of a chicken-pie," said Fleda,
shaking her head.

Aunt Miriam's dish bore out Fleda's praise, in the opinion of all that
tasted it; for such fowls, such butter, and such cream, as went to its
composition could hardly be known but in an unsophisticated state of
society. But one pie could not last for ever; and as soon as the signs of
dinner were got rid of, Thanksgiving day though it was, poor Fleda was
fain to go up the hill to consult aunt Miriam about the possibility of
getting "help."

"I don't know, dear Fleda," said she;--"if you cannot get Lucy Finn--I
don't know who else there is you can get. Mrs. Toles wants both her
daughters at home I know this winter, because she is sick; and Marietta
Winchel is working at aunt Syra's;--I don't know--Do you remember Barby
Elster, that used to live with me?"

"O yes!"

"She _might_ go--she has been staying at home these two years, to take
care of her old mother, that's the reason she left me; but she has another
sister come home now,--Hetty, that married and went to Montepoole,--she's
lost her husband and come home to live; so perhaps Barby would go out
again. But I don't know,--how do you think your aunt Lucy would get along
with her?"

"Dear aunt Miriam! you know we must do as we can. We _must_ have
somebody."

"Barby is a little quick," said Mrs. Plumfield, "but I think she is
good-hearted, and she is thorough, and faithful as the day is long. If
your aunt and uncle can put up with her ways."

"I am sure we can, aunt Miriam. Aunt Lucy's the easiest person in the
world to please, and I'll try and keep her away from uncle Rolf. I think
we can get along. I know Barby used to like me."

"But then Barby knows nothing about French cooking, my child; she can
do nothing but the common country things. What will your uncle and aunt
say to that?"

"I don't know," said Fleda, "but anything is better than nothing. I
must try and do what she can't do. I'll come up and get you to teach
me, aunt Miriam."

Aunt Miriam hugged and kissed her before speaking.

"I'll teach you what I know, my darling;--and now we'll go right off and
see Barby--we shall catch her just in a good time."

It was a poor little unpainted house, standing back from the road, and
with a double row of boards laid down to serve as a path to it. But this
board-walk was scrubbed perfectly clean. They went in without knocking.
There was nobody there but an old woman seated before the fire shaking
all over with the St. Vitus's Dance. She gave them no salutation,
calling instead on "Barby!"--who presently made her appearance from the
inner door.

"Barby!--who's this?"

"That's Mis' Plumfield, mother," said the daughter, speaking loud as to a
deaf person.

The old lady immediately got up and dropped a very quick and what was
meant to be a very respect-shewing curtsey, saying at the same time
with much deference and with one of her involuntary twitches,--"I
''maun' to know!"--The sense of the ludicrous and the feeling of pity
together were painfully oppressive. Fleda turned away to the daughter
who came forward and shook hands with a frank look of pleasure at the
sight of her elder visitor.

"Barby," said Mrs. Plumfield, "this is little Fleda Ringgan--do you
remember her?"

"I 'mind to know!" said Barby, transferring her hand to Fleda's and giving
it a good squeeze.--"She's growed a fine gal, Mis' Plumfield. You ha'n't
lost none of your good looks--ha' you kept all your old goodness along
with 'em?"

Fleda laughed at this abrupt question, and said she didn't know.

"If you ha'n't, I wouldn't give much for your eyes," said Barby letting
go her hand.

Mrs. Plumfield laughed too at Barby's equivocal mode of complimenting.

"Who's that young gal, Barby?" inquired Mrs. Elster.

"That's Mis' Plumfield's niece, mother!"

"She's a handsome little creetur, ain't she?"

They all laughed at that, and Fleda's cheeks growing crimson, Mrs.
Plumfield stepped forward to ask after the old lady's health; and while
she talked and listened Fleda's eyes noted the spotless condition of the
room--the white table, the nice rag-carpet, the bright many-coloured
patch-work counterpane on the bed, the brilliant cleanliness of the floor
where the small carpet left the boards bare, the tidy look of the two
women; and she made up her mind that _she_ could get along with Miss
Barbara very well. Barby was rather tall, and in face decidedly a
fine-looking woman, though her figure had the usual scantling proportions
which nature or fashion assigns to the hard-working dwellers in the
country. A handsome quick grey eye and the mouth were sufficiently
expressive of character, and perhaps of temper, but there were no lines of
anything sinister or surly; you could imagine a flash, but not a cloud.

"Barby, you are not tied at home any longer, are you?" said Mrs.
Plumfield, coming back from the old lady and speaking rather low;--"now
that Hetty is here, can't your mother spare you?"

"Well I reckon she could, Mis' Plumfield,--if I could work it so that
she'd be more comfortable by my being away."

"Then you'd have no objection to go out again?"

"Where to?"

"Fleda's uncle, you know, has taken my brother's old place, and they have
no help. They want somebody to take the whole management--just you, Barby.
Mrs. Rossitur isn't strong."

"Nor don't want to be, does she? I've heerd tell of her. Mis' Plumfield,
I should despise to have as many legs and arms as other folks and not be
able to help myself!"

"But you wouldn't despise to help other folks, I hope," said Mrs.
Plumfield smiling.

"People that want you very much too," said Fleda; for she quite longed to
have that strong hand and healthy eye to rely upon at home. Barby looked
at her with a relaxed face, and after a little consideration said "she
guessed she'd try."

"Mis' Plumfield," cried the old lady as they were moving,--"Mis'
Plumfield, you said you'd send me a piece of pork."

"I haven't forgotten it, Mrs. Elster--you shall have it."

"Well you get it out for me yourself," said the old woman speaking very
energetically,--"don't you send no one else to the barrel for't; because I
know you'll give me the biggest piece."

Mrs. Plumfield laughed and promised.

"I'll come up and work it out some odd day," said the daughter nodding
intelligently as she followed them to the door.

"We'll talk about that," said Mrs. Plumfield.

"She was wonderful pleased with the pie," said Barby, "and so was Hetty;
she ha'n't seen anything so good, she says, since she quit Queechy."

"Well, Barby," said Mrs. Plumfield, as she turned and grasped her hand,
"did you remember your Thanksgiving over it?"

"Yes, Mis' Plumfield," and the fine grey eyes fell to the floor,--"but I
minded it only because it had come from you. I seemed to hear you saying
just that out of every bone I picked."

"You minded _my_ message," said the other gently.

"Well I don't mind the things I had ought to most," said Barby in a
subdued voice,--"never!--'cept mother--I ain't very apt to forget her."

Mrs. Plumfield saw a tell-tale glittering beneath the drooping eye-lid.
She added no more but a sympathetic strong squeeze of the hand she held,
and turned to follow Fleda who had gone on ahead.

"Mis' Plumfield!" said Barby, before they had reached the stile that led
into the road, where Fleda was standing,--"Will I be sure of having the
money regular down yonder? You know I hadn't ought to go otherways, on
account of mother."

"Yes, it will be sure," said Mrs. Plumfield,--"and regular;" adding
quietly, "I'll make it so."

There was a bond for the whole amount in aunt Miriam's eyes; and quite
satisfied, Barby went back to the house.

"Will she expect to come to our table, aunt Miriam?" said Fleda when they
had walked a little way.

"No--she will not expect that--but Barby will want a different kind of
managing from those Irish women of yours. She won't bear to be spoken
to in a way that don't suit her notions of what she thinks she deserves;
and perhaps your aunt and uncle will think her notions rather high--I
don't know."

"There is no difficulty with aunt Lucy," said Fleda;--"and I guess I can
manage uncle Rolf--I'll try. _I_ like her very much."

"Barby is very poor," said Mrs. Plumfield; "she has nothing but her own
earnings to support herself and her old mother, and now I suppose her
sister and her child; for Hetty is a poor thing--never did much, and now I
suppose does nothing."

"Are those Finns poor, aunt Miriam?"

"O no--not at all--they are very well off."

"So I thought--they seemed to have plenty of everything, and silver spoons
and all. But why then do they go out to work?"

"They are a little too fond of getting money I expect," said aunt Miriam.
"And they are a queer sort of people rather--the mother is queer and the
children are queer--they ain't like other folks exactly--never were."

"I am very glad we are to have Barby instead of that Lucy Finn," said
Fleda. "O aunt Miriam! you can't think how much easier my heart feels."

"Poor child!" said aunt Miriam looking at her. "But it isn't best, Fleda,
to have things work too smooth in this world."

"No, I suppose not," said Fleda sighing. "Isn't it very strange, aunt
Miriam, that it should make people worse instead of better to have
everything go pleasantly with them?"

"It is because they are apt then to be so full of the present that they
forget the care of the future."

"Yes, and forget there is anything better than the present, I suppose,"
said Fleda.

"So we mustn't fret at the ways our Father takes to keep us from hurting
ourselves?" said aunt Miriam cheerfully.

"O no!" said Fleda, looking up brightly in answer to the tender manner in
which these words were spoken;--"and I didn't mean that _this_ is much of
a trouble--only I am very glad to think that somebody is coming
to-morrow."

Aunt Miriam thought that gentle unfretful face could not stand in need of
much discipline.



Chapter XXI.



  Wise men alway
  Affyrme and say,
  That best is for a man
  Diligently,
  For to apply,
  The business that he can.

  More.


Fleda waited for Barby's coming the next day with a little anxiety. The
introduction and installation however were happily got over. Mrs.
Rossitur, as Fleda knew, was most easily pleased; and Barby Elster's quick
eye was satisfied with the unaffected and universal gentleness and
politeness of her new employer. She made herself at home in half an hour;
and Mrs. Rossitur and Fleda were comforted to perceive, by unmistakeable
signs, that their presence was not needed in the kitchen and they might
retire to their own premises and forget there was another part of the
house. Fleda had forgotten it utterly, and deliciously enjoying the rest
of mind and body she was stretched upon the sofa, luxuriating over some
volume from her remnant of a library; when the inner door was suddenly
pushed open far enough to admit the entrance of Miss Elster's head.

"Where's the soft soap?"

Fleda's book went down and her heart jumped to her mouth, for her uncle
was sitting over by the window. Mrs. Rossitur looked up in a maze and
waited for the question to be repeated.

"I say, where's the soft soap?"

"Soft soap!" said Mrs. Rossitur,--"I don't know whether there is
any.--Fleda, do you know?"

"I was trying to think, aunt Lucy. I don't believe there is any."

"_Where_ is it?" said Barby.

"There is none, I believe," said Mrs. Rossitur.

"Where _was_ it, then?"

"Nowhere--there has not been any in the house," said Fleda, raising
herself up to see over the back of her sofa.

"There ha'n't been none!" said Miss Elster, in a tone more significant
than her words, and shutting the door as abruptly as she had opened it.

"What upon earth does the woman mean?" exclaimed Mr. Rossitur, springing
up and advancing towards the kitchen door. Fleda threw herself before him.

"Nothing at all, uncle Rolf--she doesn't mean anything at all--she
doesn't know any better."

"I will improve her knowledge--get out the way, Fleda."

"But uncle Rolf, just hear me one moment--please don't!--she didn't mean
any harm--these people don't know any manners--just let me speak to her,
please uncle Rolf!--" said Fleda laying both hands upon her uncle's
arms,--"I'll manage her."

Mr. Rossitur's wrath was high, and he would have run over or knocked down
anything less gentle that had stood in his way; but even the harshness of
strength shuns to set itself in array against the meekness that does not
_oppose_; if the touch of those hands had been a whit less light, or the
glance of her eye less submissively appealing, it would have availed
nothing. As it was, he stopped and looked at her, at first scowling, but
then with a smile.

"_You_ manage her!" said he.

"Yes," said Fleda laughing, and now exerting her force she gently pushed
him back towards the seat he had quitted,--"yes, uncle Rolf--you've enough
else to manage--don't undertake our 'help.' Deliver over all your
displeasure upon me when anything goes wrong--I will be the conductor to
carry it off safely into the kitchen and discharge it just at that point
where I think it will do most execution. Now will you, uncle
Rolf?--Because we have got a new-fashioned piece of firearms in the other
room that I am afraid will go off unexpectedly if it is meddled with by an
unskilful hand;--and that would leave us without arms, you see, or with
only aunt Lucy's and mine, which are not reliable."

"You saucy girl!"--said her uncle, who was laughing partly at and partly
with her,--"I don't know what you deserve exactly.--Well--keep this
precious new operative of yours out of my way and I'll take care to keep
out of hers. But mind, you must manage not to have your piece snapping in
my face in this fashion, for I won't stand it."

And so, quieted, Mr. Rossitur sat down to his book again; and Fleda
leaving hers open went to attend upon Barby.

"There ain't much yallow soap neither," said this personage,--"if this is
all. There's one thing--if we ha'n't got it we can make it. I must get
Mis' Rossitur to have a leach-tub sot up right away. I'm a dreadful hand
for havin' plenty o' soap."

"What is a leach-tub?" said Fleda.

"Why, a leach-tub, for to leach ashes in. That's easy enough. I'll fix it,
afore we're any on us much older. If Mr. Rossitur'll keep me in good hard
wood I sha'n't cost him hardly anything for potash."

"I'll see about it," said Fleda, "and I will see about having the
leach-tub, or whatever it is, put up for you. And Barby, whenever you want
anything, will you just speak to me about it?--and if I am in the other
room ask me to come out here. Because my aunt is not strong, and does not
know where things are as well as I do; and when my uncle is in there he
sometimes does not like to be disturbed with hearing any such talk. If
you'll tell me I'll see and have everything done for you."

"Well--you get me a leach sot up--that's all I'll ask of you just now,"
said Barby good-humouredly; "and help me to find the soap-grease, if there
is any. As to the rest, I don't want to see nothin' o' him in the kitchen
so I'll relieve him if he don't want to see much o' me in the parlour.--I
shouldn't wonder if there wa'n't a speck of it in the house."

Not a speck was there to be found.

"Your uncle's pockets must ha' had a good hole in 'em by this time,"
remarked Barby as they came back from the cellar. "However, there never
was a crock so empty it couldn't be filled. You get me a leach-tub sot up,
and I'll find work for it."

From that time Fleda had no more trouble with her uncle and Barby. Each
seemed to have a wholesome appreciation of the other's combative qualities
and to shun them. With Mrs. Rossitur Barby was soon all-powerful. It was
enough that she wanted a thing, if Mrs Rossitur's own resources could
compass it. For Fleda, to say that Barby had presently a perfect
understanding with her and joined to that a most affectionate careful
regard, is not perhaps saying much; for it was true of every one without
exception with whom Fleda had much to do. Barby was to all of them a very
great comfort and stand-by.

It was well for them that they had her within doors to keep things, as she
called it, "right and tight;" for abroad the only system in vogue was one
of fluctuation and uncertainty. Mr. Rossitur's Irishman, Donohan, staid
his year out, doing as little good and as much at least negative harm as
he well could; and then went, leaving them a good deal poorer than he
found them. Dr. Gregory's generosity had added to Mr. Rossitur's own small
stock of ready money, giving him the means to make some needed outlays on
the farm. But the outlay, ill-applied, had been greater than the income; a
scarcity of money began to be more and more felt; and the comfort of the
family accordingly drew within more and more narrow bounds. The temper of
the head of the family suffered in at least equal degree.

From the first of Barby's coming poor Fleda had done her utmost to prevent
the want of Mons. Emile from being felt. Mr. Rossitur's table was always
set by her careful hand, and all the delicacies that came upon it were,
unknown to him, of her providing. Even the bread. One day at breakfast Mr.
Rossitur had expressed his impatient displeasure at that of Miss Elster's
manufacture. Fleda saw the distressed shade that came over her aunt's
face, and took her resolution. It was the last time. She had followed her
plan of sending for the receipts, and she studied them diligently, both at
home and under aunt Miriam. Natural quickness of eye and hand came in aid
of her affectionate zeal, and it was not long before she could trust
herself to undertake any operation in the whole range of her cookery book.
But meanwhile materials were growing scarce and hard to come by. The
delicate French rolls which were now always ready for her uncle's plate in
the morning had sometimes nothing to back them, unless the unfailing water
cress from the good little spring in the meadow. Fleda could not spare her
eggs, for perhaps they might have nothing else to depend upon for dinner.
It was no burden to her to do these things; she had a sufficient reward in
seeing that her aunt and Hugh eat the better and that her uncle's brow was
clear; but it _was_ a burden when her hands were tied by the lack of
means; for she knew the failure of the usual supply was bitterly felt, not
for the actual want, but for that other want which it implied and
prefigured.

On the first dismissal of Donohan Fleda hoped for a good turn of affairs.
But Mr. Rossitur, disgusted with his first experiment, resolved this
season to be his own head man; and appointed Lucas Springer the second in
command, with a posse of labourers to execute his decrees. It did not work
well. Mr. Rossitur found he had a very tough prime minister, who would
have every one of his plans to go through a kind of winnowing process by
being tossed about in an argument. The arguments were interminable, until
Mr. Rossitur not unfrequently quit the field with, "Well, do what you like
about it!"--not conquered, but wearied. The labourers, either from want of
ready money or of what they called "manners" in their employer, fell off
at the wrong times, just when they were most wanted. Hugh threw himself
then into the breach and wrought beyond his strength; and that tried Fleda
worst of all. She was glad to see haying and harvest pass over; but the
change of seasons seemed to bring only a change of disagreeableness, and
she could not find that hope had any better breathing-time in the short
days of winter than in the long days of summer. Her gentle face grew more
gentle than ever, for under the shade of sorrowful patience which was
always there now its meekness had no eclipse.

Mrs. Rossitur was struck with it one morning. She was coming down from her
room and saw Fleda standing on the landing-place gazing out of the window.
It was before breakfast one cold morning in winter. Mrs. Rossitur put her
arms round her softly and kissed her.

"What are you thinking about, dear Fleda?--you ought not to be
standing here."

"I was looking at Hugh," said Fleda, and her eye went back to the window.
Mrs. Rossitur's followed it. The window gave them a view of the ground
behind the house; and there was Hugh, just coming in with a large armful
of heavy wood which he had been sawing.

"He isn't strong enough to do that, aunt Lucy," said Fleda softly.

"I know it," said his mother in a subdued tone, and not moving her eye,
though Hugh had disappeared.

"It is too cold for him--he is too thinly clad to bear this exposure,"
said Fleda anxiously.

"I know it," said his mother again.

"Can't you tell uncle Rolf?--can't you get him to do it? I am afraid Hugh
will hurt himself, aunt Lucy."

"I did tell him the other day--I did speak to him about it," said Mrs.
Rossitur; "but he said there was no reason why Hugh should do it,--there
were plenty of other people--"

"But how can he say so when he knows we never can ask Lucas to do anything
of the kind, and that other man always contrives to be out of the way when
he is wanted?--Oh what is he thinking of?" said Fleda bitterly, as she saw
Hugh again at his work.

It was so rarely that Fleda was seen to shed tears that they always were a
signal of dismay to any of the household. There was even agony in Mrs.
Rossitur's voice as she implored her not to give way to them. But
notwithstanding that, Fleda's tears came this time from too deep a spring
to be stopped at once.

"It makes me feel as if all was lost, Fleda, when I see you do so,"--

Fleda put her arms about her neck and whispered that "she would not"--that
"she should not"--

Yet it was a little while before she could say any more.

"But, aunt Lucy, he doesn't know what he is doing!"

"No--and I can't make him know. I cannot say anything more, Fleda--it
would do no good. I don't know what is the matter--he is entirely changed
from what he used to be--"

"I know what is the matter," said Fleda, now turning comforter in her turn
as her aunt's tears fell more quietly, because more despairingly, than her
own,--"I know what it is--he is not happy;--that is all. He has not
succeeded well in these farm doings, and he wants money, and he is
worried--it is no wonder if he don't seem exactly as he used to."

"And oh, that troubles me most of all!" said Mrs. Rossitur. "The farm is
bringing in nothing, I know,--he don't know how to get along with it,--I
was afraid it would be so;--and we are paying nothing to uncle Orrin--and
it is just a dead weight on his hands;--and I can't bear to think of
it!--And what will it come to!--"

Mrs. Rossitur was now in her turn surprised into shewing the strength of
her sorrows and apprehensions. Fleda was fain to put her own out of sight
and bend her utmost powers to soothe and compose her aunt, till they could
both go down to the breakfast table. She had got ready a nice little dish
that her uncle was very fond of; but her pleasure in it was all gone; and
indeed it seemed to be thrown away upon the whole table. Half the meal was
over before anybody said a word.

"I am going to wash my hands of these miserable farm affairs," said
Mr. Rossitur.

"Are you?" said his wife.

"Yes,--of all personal concern in them, that is. I am wearied to death
with the perpetual annoyances and vexations, and petty calls upon my
time--life is not worth having at such a rate! I'll have done with it."

"You will give up the entire charge to Lucas?" said Mrs. Rossitur.

[Illustration: "O uncle Rolf, don't have anything to do with him."]

"Lucas!--No!--I wouldn't undergo that man's tongue for another year if
he would take out his wages in talking. I could not have more of it in
that case than I have had the last six months. After money, the thing
that man loves best is certainly the sound of his own voice; and a most
insufferable egotist! No,--I have been talking with a man who wants
to take the whole farm for two years upon shares--that will clear me of
all trouble."

There was sober silence for a few minutes, and then Mrs. Rossitur asked
who it was.

"His name is Didenhover."

"O uncle Rolf, don't have anything to do with him!" exclaimed Fleda.

"Why not?"

"Because he lived with grandpa a great while ago, and behaved very ill.
Grandpa had a great deal of trouble with him."

"How old were you then?"

"I was young, to be sure," said Fleda hanging her head, "but I remember
very well how it was."

"You may have occasion to remember it a second time," said Mr. Rossitur
dryly, "for the thing is done. I have engaged him."

Not another word was spoken.

Mr. Rossitur went out after breakfast, and Mrs. Rossitur busied herself
with the breakfast cups and a tub of hot water, a work she never would let
Fleda share with her and which lasted in consequence long enough, Barby
said, to cook and eat three breakfasts. Fleda and Hugh sat looking at the
floor and the fire respectively.

"I am going up the hill to get a sight of aunt Miriam," said Fleda,
bringing her eyes from the fire upon her aunt.

"Well, dear, do. You have been shut up long enough by the snow. Wrap
yourself up well, and put on my snow-boots."

"No indeed!" said Fleda. "I shall just draw on another pair of stockings
over my shoes, within my India-rubbers--I will take a pair of Hugh's
woollen ones."

"What has become of your own?" said Hugh.

"My own what? Stockings?"

"Snow-boots."

"Worn out, Mr. Rossitur! I have run them to death, poor things. Is that a
slight intimation that you are afraid of the same fate for your socks?"

"No," said Hugh, smiling in spite of himself at her manner,--"I will lend
you anything I have got, Fleda."

His tone put Fleda in mind of the very doubtful pretensions of the socks
in question to be comprehended under the term; she was silent a minute.

"Will you go with me, Hugh?"

"No dear, I can't;--I must get a little ahead with the wood while I can;
it looks as if it would snow again; and Barby isn't provided for more than
a day or two."

"And how for this fire?"

Hugh shook his head, and rose up to go forth into the kitchen. Fleda went
too, linking her arm in his and bearing affectionately upon it, a sort of
tacit saying that they would sink or swim together. Hugh understood it
perfectly.

"I am very sorry you have to do it, dear Hugh--Oh that wood-shed!--If it
had only been made!--"

"Never mind--can't help it now--we shall get through the winter by and
by."

"Can't you get uncle Rolf to help you a little?" whispered Fleda;--"It
would do him good."

But Hugh only shook his head.

"What are we going to do for dinner, Barby?" said Fleda, still holding
Hugh there before the fire.

"Ain't much choice," said Barby. "It would puzzle anybody to spell much
more out of it than pork and ham. There's plenty o' them. _I_ shan't
starve this some time."

"But we had ham yesterday and pork the day before yesterday and ham
Monday," said Fleda. "There is plenty of vegetables, thanks to you and me,
Hugh," she said with a little reminding squeeze of his arm. "I could make
soups nicely, if I had anything to make them of!"

"There's enough to be had for the catching," said Barby. "If I hadn't a
man-mountain of work upon me, I'd start out and shoot or steal something."

"_You_ shoot, Barby!" said Fleda laughing.

"I guess I can do most anything I set my hand to. If I couldn't I'd shoot
myself. It won't do to kill no more o' them chickens."

"O no,--now they are laying so finely. Well, I am going up the hill, and
when I come home I'll try and make up something, Barby."

"Earl Douglass'll go out in the woods now and then, of a day when he
ha'n't no work particular to do, and fetch hum as many pigeons and
woodchucks as you could shake a stick at."

"Hugh, my dear," said Fleda laughing, "it's a pity you aren't a hunter--I
would shake a stick at you with great pleasure. Well, Barby, we will see
when I come home."

"I was just a thinkin," said Barby;--"Mis' Douglass sent round to know if
Mis' Rossitur would like a piece of fresh meat--Earl's been killing a
sheep--there's a nice quarter, she says, if she'd like to have it."

"A quarter of mutton?"--said Fleda,--"I don't know--no, I think not,
Barby; I don't know when we should be able to pay it back again.--And
yet--Hugh, do you think uncle Rolf will kill another sheep this winter?"

"I am sure he will not," said Hugh;--"there have so many died."

"If he only knowed it, that is a reason for killing more," said Barby,--"
and have the good of them while he can."

"Tell Mrs. Douglass we are obliged to her, but we do not want the
mutton, Barby."

Hugh went to his chopping and Fleda set out upon her walk; the lines of
her face settling into a most fixed gravity so soon as she turned away
from the house. It was what might be called a fine winter's day; cold and
still, and the sky covered with one uniform grey cloud. The snow lay in
uncompromising whiteness thick over all the world; a kindly shelter for
the young grain and covering for the soil; but Fleda's spirits just then
in another mood saw in it only the cold refusal to hope and the barren
check to exertion. The wind had cleared the snow from the trees and
fences, and they stood in all their unsoftened blackness and nakedness,
bleak and stern. The high grey sky threatened a fresh fall of snow in a
few hours; it was just now a lull between two storms; and Fleda's spirits,
that sometimes would have laughed in the face of nature's soberness,
to-day sank to its own quiet. Her pace neither slackened nor quickened
till she reached aunt Miriam's house and entered the kitchen.

Aunt Miriam was in high tide of business over a pot of boiling lard, and
the enormous bread-tray by the side of the fire was half full of very
tempting light-brown cruller, which however were little more than a kind
of sweet bread for the workmen. In the bustle of putting in and taking out
aunt Miriam could give her visitor but a word and a look. Fleda pulled off
her hood and sitting down watched in unusual silence the old lady's
operations.

"And how are they all at your house to-day?" aunt Miriam asked as she was
carefully draining her cruller out of the kettle.

Fleda answered that they were as well as usual, but a slight hesitation
and the tell-tale tone of her voice made the old lady look at her more
narrowly. She came near and kissed that gentle brow and looking in her
eyes asked her what the matter was?

"I don't know,--" said Fleda, eyes and voice wavering alike,--"I am
foolish, I believe,--"

Aunt Miriam tenderly put aside the hair from her forehead and kissed it
again, but the cruller was burning and she went back to the kettle.

"I got down-hearted somehow this morning," Fleda went on, trying to steady
her voice and school herself.

"_You_ down-hearted, dear? About what?"

There was a world of sympathy in these words, in the warmth of which
Fleda's shut-up heart unfolded itself at once.

"It's nothing new, aunt Miriam,--only somehow I felt it particularly this
morning,--I have been kept in the house so long by this snow I have got
dumpish I suppose.--"

Aunt Miriam looked anxiously at the tears which seemed to come
involuntarily, but she said nothing.

"We are not getting along well at home."

"I supposed that," said Mrs. Plumfield quietly. "But anything new?"

"Yes--uncle Rolf has let the farm--only think of it!--he has let the farm
to that Didenhover."

"Didenhover!"

"For two years."

"Did you tell him what you knew about him?"

"Yes, but it was too late--the mischief was done."

Aunt Miriam went on skimming out her cruller with a very grave face.

"How came your uncle to do so without learning about him first?"

"O I don't know!--he was in a hurry to do anything that would take the
trouble of the farm off his hands,--he don't like it."

"On what terms has he let him have it?"

"On shares--and I know, I know, under that Didenhover it will bring us in
nothing, and it has brought us in nothing all the time we have been here;
and I don't know what we are going to live upon."--

"Has your uncle nor your aunt no property at all left?"

"Not a bit--except some waste lands in Michigan I believe, that were left
to aunt Lucy a year or two ago; but they are as good as nothing."

"Has he let Didenhover have the saw-mill too?"

"I don't know--he didn't say--if he has there will be nothing at all left
for us to live upon. I expect nothing from Didenhover,--his face is
enough. I should have thought it might have been for uncle Rolf. O if it
wasn't for aunt Lucy and Hugh I shouldn't care!--"

"What has your uncle been doing all this year past?"

"I don't know, aunt Miriam,--he can't bear the business and he has left
the most of it to Lucas; and I think Lucas is more of a talker than a
doer. Almost nothing has gone right. The crops have been ill managed--I do
not know a great deal about it, but I know enough for that; and uncle Rolf
did not know anything about it but what he got from books. And the sheep
are dying off--Barby says it is because they were in such poor condition
at the beginning of winter, and I dare say she is right."

"He ought to have had a thorough good man at the beginning, to get
along well."

"O yes!--but he hadn't, you see; and so we have just been growing poorer
every month. And now, aunt Miriam, I really don't know from day to day
what to do to get dinner. You know for a good while after we came we used
to have our marketing brought every few days from Albany; but we have run
up such a bill there already at the butcher's as I don't know when in the
world will get paid; and aunt Lucy and I will do anything before we will
send for any more; and if it wasn't for her and Hugh I wouldn't care, but
they haven't much appetite, and I know that all this takes what little
they have away--this, and seeing the effect it has upon uncle Rolf----"

"Does he think so much more of eating than of anything else?" said
aunt Miriam.

"Oh no, it is not that!" said Fleda earnestly,--"it is not that at all--he
is not a great eater--but he can't bear to have things different from what
they used to be and from what they ought to be--O no, don't think that! I
don't know whether I ought to have said what I have said, but I couldn't
help it--"

Fleda's voice was lost for a little while.

"He is changed from what he used to be--a little thing vexes him now, and
I know it is because he is not happy;--he used to be so kind and pleasant,
and he is still, sometimes; but aunt Lucy's face--Oh aunt Miriam!--"

"Why, dear?" said aunt Miriam, tenderly.

"It is so changed from what it used to be!"

Poor Fleda covered her own, and aunt Miriam came to her side to give
softer and gentler expression to sympathy than words could do; till the
bowed face was raised again and hid in her neck.

"I can't see thee do so my child--my dear child!--Hope for brighter days,
dear Fleda."

"I could bear it," said Fleda after a little interval, "if it wasn't for
aunt Lucy and Hugh--oh that is the worst!--"

"What about Hugh?" said aunt Miriam, soothingly.

"Oh he does what he ought not to do, aunt Miriam, and there is no help for
it,--and he did last summer--when we wanted men; and in the hot
haying-time, he used to work, I know, beyond his strength,--and aunt Lucy
and I did not know what to do with ourselves!--"

Fleda's head which had been raised sunk again and more heavily.

"Where was his father?" said Mrs. Plumfield.

"Oh he was in the house--he didn't know it--he didn't think about it."

"Didn't think about it!"

"No--O he didn't think Hugh was hurting himself, but he was--he shewed it
for weeks afterward.--I have said what I ought not now," said Fleda
looking up and seeming to check her tears and the spring of them at once.

"So much security any woman has in a man without religion!" said aunt
Miriam, going back to her work. Fleda would have said something if she
could; she was silent; she stood looking into the fire while the tears
seemed to come as it were by stealth and ran down her face unregarded.

"Is Hugh not well?"

"I don't know,--" said Fleda faintly,--"he is not ill--but he never was
very strong, and he exposes himself now I know in a way he ought not.--I
am sorry I have just come and troubled you with all this now, aunt
Miriam," she said after a little pause,--"I shall feel better by and by--I
don't very often get such a fit."

"My dear little Fleda!"--and there was unspeakable tenderness in the old
lady's voice, as she came up and drew Fleda's head again to rest upon
her;--"I would not let a rough wind touch thee if I had the holding of
it.--But we may be glad the arranging of things is not in my hand--I
should be a poor friend after all, for I do not know what is best. Canst
thou trust him who does know, my child?"

"I do, aunt Miriam,--O I do," said Fleda, burying her face in her
bosom;--"I don't often feel so as I did to-day."

"There comes not a cloud that its shadow is not wanted," said aunt
Miriam. "I cannot see why,--but it is that thou mayest bloom the
brighter, my dear one."

"I know it,--" Fleda's words were hardly audible,--"I will try--"

"Remember his own message to every one under a cloud--'cast all thy care
upon him, for he careth for thee;'--thou mayest keep none of it;--and then
the peace that passeth understanding shall keep thee. 'So he giveth his
beloved sleep.'"

Fleda wept for a minute on the old lady's neck, and then she looked up,
dried her tears, and sat down with a face greatly quieted and lightened of
its burden; while aunt Miriam once more went back to her work. The one
wrought and the other looked on in silence.

The cruller were all done at last; the great bread-trough was filled and
set away; the remnant of the fat was carefully disposed of, and aunt
Miriam's handmaid was called in to "take the watch." She herself and her
visitor adjourned to the sitting-room.

"Well," said Fleda, in a tone again steady and clear,--"I must go home to
see about getting up a dinner. I am the greatest hand at making something
out of nothing, aunt Miriam, that ever you saw. There is nothing like
practice. I only wish the man uncle Orrin talks about would come along
once in a while."

"Who was that?" said aunt Miriam.

"A man that used to go about from house to house," said Fleda laughing,
"when the cottages were making soup, with a ham-bone to give it a relish,
and he used to charge them so much for a dip, and so much for a wallop."

"Come, come, I can do as much for you as that," said aunt Miriam,
proceeding to her store-pantry,--"see here--wouldn't this be as good as a
ham-bone?" said she, bringing out of it a fat fowl;--"how would a wallop
of this do?"

"Admirably!--only--the ham-bone used to come out again,--and I am
confident this never would."

"Well I guess I'll stand that," said aunt Miriam smiling,--"you wouldn't
mind carrying this under your cloak, would you?"

"I have no doubt I shall go home lighter with it than without it,
ma'am,--thank you, dear aunty!--dear aunt Miriam!"

There was a change of tone, and of eye, as Fleda sealed each thank
with a kiss.

"But how is it?--does all the charge of the house come upon you, dear?"

"O, this kind of thing, because aunt Lucy doesn't understand it and can't
get along with it so well. She likes better to sew, and I had quite as
lief do this."

"And don't you sew too?"

"O--a little. She does as much as she can," said Fleda gravely.

"Where is your other cousin?" said Mrs. Plumfield abruptly.

"Marion?--she is in England I believe;--we don't hear from her very
often."

"No, no, I mean the one who is in the army?"

"Charlton!--O he is just ordered off to Mexico," said Fleda sadly, "and
that is another great trouble to aunt Lucy. This miserable war!--"

"Does he never come home?"

"Only once since we came from Paris--while we were in New York. He has
been stationed away off at the West."

"He has a captain's pay now, hasn't he?"

"Yes, but he doesn't know at all how things are at home--he hasn't an idea
of it,--and he will not have. Well good-bye, dear aunt Miriam--I must run
home to take care of my chicken."

She ran away; and if her eyes many a time on the way down the hill filled
and overflowed, they were not bitter nor dark tears; they were the
gushings of high and pure and generous affections, weeping for fulness,
not for want.

That chicken was not wasted in soup; it was converted into the nicest
possible little fricassee, because the toast would make so much more of
it; and to Fleda's own dinner little went beside the toast, that a greater
portion of the rest might be for her aunt and Hugh.

That same evening Seth Plumfield came into the kitchen while Fleda
was there.

"Here is something belongs to you, I believe," said he with a covert
smile, bringing out from under his cloak the mate to Fleda's
fowl;--"mother said somethin' had run away with t'other one and she
didn't know what to do with this one alone. Your uncle at home?"

The next news that Fleda heard was that Seth had taken a lease of the
saw-mill for two years.

Mr. Didenhover did not disappoint Fleda's expectations. Very little could
be got from him or the farm under him beyond the immediate supply wanted
for the use of the family; and that in kind, not in cash. Mrs. Rossitur
was comforted by knowing that some portion of rent had also gone to Dr.
Gregory--how large or how small a portion she could not find out. But
this left the family in increasing straits, which narrowed and narrowed
during the whole first summer and winter of Didenhover's administration.
Very straitened they would have been but for the means of relief adopted
by the two _children_, as they were always called. Hugh, as soon as the
spring opened, had a quiet hint, through Fleda, that if he had a mind to
take the working of the saw-mill he might, for a consideration merely
nominal. This offer was immediately and gratefully closed with; and
Hugh's earnings were thenceforward very important at home. Fleda had her
own ways and means. Mr. Rossitur, more low-spirited and gloomy than ever,
seemed to have no heart to anything. He would have worked perhaps if he
could have done it alone; but to join Didenhover and his men, or any
other gang of workmen, was too much for his magnanimity. He helped nobody
but Fleda. For her he would do anything, at any time; and in the garden
and among her flowers in the flowery courtyard he might often be seen at
work with her. But nowhere else.



Chapter XXII.



  Some bring a capon, some a rurall cake,
  Some nuts, some apples; some that thinke they make
  The better cheeses, bring 'hem; or else send
  By their ripe daughters, whom they would commend
  This way to husbands; and whose baskets beare
  An embleme of themselves, in plum or peare.

  Ben Jonson.


So the time walked away, for this family was not now of those "whom time
runneth withal,"--to the second summer of Mr. Didenhover's term.

One morning Mrs. Rossitur was seated in the breakfast-room at her usual
employment, mending and patching; no sinecure now. Fleda opened the
kitchen door and came in folding up a calico apron she had just taken off.

"You are tired, dear," said Mrs. Rossitur sorrowfully;--"you look pale."

"Do I?"--said Fleda, sitting down. "I am a little tired!"

"Why do you do so?"

"O it's nothing" said Fleda cheerfully;--"I haven't hurt myself. I shall
be rested again in a few minutes."

"What have you been doing?"

"O I tired myself a little before breakfast in the garden, I suppose. Aunt
Lucy, don't you think I had almost a bushel of peas?--and there was a
little over a half bushel last time, so I shall call it a bushel. Isn't
that fine?"

"You didn't pick them all yourself?"

"Hugh helped me a little while; but he had the horse to get ready, and I
was out before him this morning--poor fellow, he was tired from yesterday,
I dare say."

Mrs. Rossitur looked at her, a look between remonstrance and reproach, and
cast her eyes down without saying a word, swallowing a whole heartful of
thoughts and feelings. Fleda stooped forward till her own forehead softly
touched Mrs. Rossitur's, as gentle a chiding of despondency as a very
sunbeam could have given.

"Now aunt Lucy!--what do you mean? Don't you know it's good for me?--And
do you know, Mr. Sweet will give me four shillings a bushel; and aunt
Lucy, I sent three dozen heads of lettuce this morning besides. Isn't that
doing well? and I sent two dozen day before yesterday. It is time they
were gone, for they are running up to seed, this set; I have got another
fine set almost ready."

Mrs. Rossitur looked at her again, as if she had been a sort of
terrestrial angel.

"And how much will you get for them?"

"I don't know exactly--threepence, or sixpence perhaps,--I guess not so
much--they are so easily raised; though I don't believe there are so fine
as mine to be seen in this region.--If I only had somebody to water the
strawberries!--we should have a great many. Aunt Lucy, I am going to send
as many as I can without robbing uncle Rolf--he sha'n't miss them; but the
rest of us don't mind eating rather fewer than usual? I shall make a good
deal by them. And I think these morning rides do Hugh good; don't you
think so?"

"And what have you been busy about ever since breakfast, Fleda?"

"O--two or three things," said Fleda lightly.

"What?"

"I had bread to make--and then I thought while my hands were in I would
make a custard for uncle Rolf."

"You needn't have done that, dear! it was not necessary."

"Yes it was, because you know we have only fried pork for dinner to-day,
and while we have the milk and eggs it doesn't cost much--the sugar is
almost nothing. He will like it better, and so will Hugh. As for you,"
said Fleda, gently touching her forehead again, "you know it is of no
consequence!"

"I wish you would think yourself of some consequence," said Mrs. Rossitur.

"Don't I think myself of consequence!" naid Fleda affectionately. "I don't
know how you'd all get on without me. What do you think I have a mind to
do now, by way of resting myself?"

"Well?" said Mrs Rossitur, thinking of something else.

"It is the day for making presents to the minister, you know?"

"The minister?"--

"Yes, the new minister--they expect him to-day;--you have heard of
it;--the things are all to be carried to his house to-day. I have a great
notion to go and see the fun--if I only had anything in the world I could
possibly take with me--"

"Aren't you too tired, dear?"

"No--it would rest me--it is early yet--if I only had something to
take!--I couldn't go without taking something----"

"A basket of eggs?" said Mrs. Rossitur.

"Can't, aunt Lucy--I can't spare them; so many of the hens are setting
now.--A basket of strawberries!--that's the thing! I've got enough picked
for that and to-night too. That will do!"

Fleda's preparations were soon made, and with her basket on her arm she
was ready to set forth.

"If pride had not been a little put down in me," she said smiling, "I
suppose I should rather stay at home than go with such a petty offering.
And no doubt every one that sees it or hears of it will lay it to anything
but the right reason. So much the world knows about the people it
judges!--It is too bad to leave you all alone, aunt Lucy."

Mrs. Rossitur pulled her down for a kiss, a kiss in which how much was
said on both sides!--and Fleda set forth, choosing as she very commonly
did the old-time way through the kitchen.

"Off again?" said Barby, who was on her knees scrubbing the great
flag-stones of the hearth.

"Yes, I am going up to see the donation party."

"Has the minister come?"

"No, but he is coming to-day, I understand."

"He ha'n't preached for 'em yet, has he?"

"Not yet; I suppose he will next Sunday."

"They are in a mighty hurry to give him a donation party!" said Barby.
"I'd ha' waited till he was here first. I don't believe they'd be quite so
spry with their donations if they had paid the last man up as they ought.
I'd rather give a man what belongs to him, and make him presents
afterwards."

"Why, so I hope they will, Barby," said Fleda laughing. But Barby
said no more.

The parsonage-house was about a quarter of a mile, a little more, from the
saw-mill, in a line at right angles with the main road. Fleda took Hugh
from his work to see her safe there. The road ran north, keeping near the
level of the mid-hill where it branched off a little below the saw-mill;
and as the ground continued rising towards the east and was well clothed
with woods, the way at this hour was still pleasantly shady. To the left
the same slope of ground carried down to the foot of the hill gave them an
uninterrupted view over a wide plain or bottom, edged in the distance with
a circle of gently swelling hills. Close against the hills, in the far
corner of the plain, lay the little village of Queechy Run, hid from sight
by a slight intervening rise of ground; not a chimney shewed itself in the
whole spread of country. A sunny landscape just now; but rich in
picturesque associations of hay-cocks and winnows, spotting it near and
far; and close by below them was a field of mowers at work; they could
distinctly hear the measured rush of the scythes through the grass, and
then the soft clink of the rifles would seem to play some old delicious
tune of childish days. Fleda made Hugh stand still to listen. It was a
warm day, but "the sweet south that breathes upon a bank of violets,"
could hardly be more sweet than the air which coming to them over the
whole breadth of the valley had been charged by the new-made hay.

"How good it is, Hugh," said Fleda, "that one can get out of doors
and forget everything that ever happened or ever will happen within
four walls!"

"Do you?" said Hugh, rather soberly.

"Yes I do,--even in my flower-patch, right before the house-door; but
_here_--" said Fleda, turning away and swinging her basket of strawberries
as she went, "I have no idea I ever did such a thing as make bread!--and
how clothes get mended I do not comprehend in the least!"

"And have you forgotten the peas and the asparagus too?"

"I am afraid you haven't, dear Hugh," said Fleda, linking her arm within
his. "Hugh,--I must find some way to make money."

"More money?" said Hugh smiling.

"Yes--this garden business is all very well, but it doesn't come to any
very great things after all, if you are aware of it; and, Hugh, I want to
get aunt Lucy a new dress. I can't bear to see her in that old merino, and
it isn't good for her. Why, Hugh, she couldn't possibly see anybody, if
anybody should come to the house."

"Who is there to come?" said Hugh.

"Why nobody; but still, she ought not to be so."

"What more can you do, dear Fleda? You work a great deal too hard
already," said Hugh sighing. "You should have seen the way father and
mother looked at you last night when you were asleep on the sofa."

Fleda stifled her sigh, and went on.

"I am sure there are things that might be done--things for the
booksellers--translating, or copying, or something,--I don't know
exactly--I have heard of people's doing such things. I mean to write to
uncle Orrin and ask him. I am sure he can manage it for me."

"What were you writing the other night?" said Hugh suddenly.

"When?"

"The other night--when you were writing by the firelight? I saw your
pencil scribbling away at a furious rate over the paper, and you kept your
hand up carefully between me and your face, but I could see it was
something very interesting. Ha?--" said Hugh, laughingly trying to get
another view of Fleda's face which was again kept from him. "Send _that_
to uncle Orrin, Fleda;--or shew it to me first and then I will tell you."

Fleda made no answer; and at the parsonage door Hugh left her.

Two or three wagons were standing there, but nobody to be seen. Fleda went
up the steps and crossed the broad piazza, brown and unpainted, but
picturesque still, and guided by the sound of tongues turned to the right
where she found a large low room, the very centre of the stir. But the
stir had not by any means reached the height yet. Not more than a dozen
people were gathered. Here were aunt Syra and Mrs. Douglass, appointed a
committee to receive and dispose the offerings as they were brought in.

"Why there is not much to be seen yet," said Fleda. "I did not know I was
so early."

"Time enough," said Mrs. Douglass. "They'll come the thicker when
they do come. Good-morning, Dr. Quackenboss!--I hope you're a going
to give us something else besides a bow? and I won't take none of
your physic, neither."

"I humbly submit," said the doctor graciously, "that nothing ought to be
expected of gentlemen that--a--are so unhappy as to be alone; for they
really--a--have nothing to give,--but themselves."

There was a shout of merriment.

"And suppos'n that's a gift that nobody wants?" said Mrs, Douglass's sharp
eye and voice at once.

"In that case," said the doctor, "I really--Miss Ringgan, may I--a--may I
relieve your hand of this fair burden?"

"It is not a very fair burden, sir," said Fleda, laughing and
relinquishing her strawberries.

"Ah but, fair, you know, I mean,--we speak--in that sense----Mrs
Douglass, here is by far the most elegant offering that your hands will
have the honour of receiving this day."

"I hope so," said Mrs. Douglass, "or there won't be much to eat for the
minister. Did you never take notice how elegant things somehow made folks
grow poor?"

"I guess he'd as leave see something a little substantial," said
aunt Syra.

"Well now," said the doctor, "here is Miss Ringgan, who is
unquestionably--a--elegant!--and I am sure nobody will say that
she--looks poor!"

In one sense, surely not! There could not be two opinions. But with all
the fairness of health, and the flush which two or three feelings had
brought to her cheeks, there was a look as if the workings of the mind had
refined away a little of the strength of the physical frame, and as if
growing poor in Mrs. Douglass's sense, that is, thin, might easily be the
next step.

"What's your uncle going to give us, Fleda?" said aunt Syra.

But Fleda was saved replying; for Mrs. Douglass, who if she was sharp
could be good-natured too, and had watched to see how Fleda took the
double fire upon elegance and poverty, could beat no more trial of that
sweet gentle face. Without giving her time to answer she carried her off
to see the things already stored in the closet, bidding the doctor over
her shoulder "be off after his goods, whether he had got 'em or no."

There was certainly a promising beginning made for the future minister's
comfort. One shelf was already completely stocked with pies, and another
shewed a quantity of cake, and biscuits enough to last a good-sized family
for several meals.

"That is always the way," said Mrs. Douglass;--"it's the strangest thing
that folks has no sense! Now one-half o' them pies'll be dried up afore
they can eat the rest;--'tain't much loss, for Mis' Prin sent 'em down,
and if they are worth anything it's the first time anything ever come out
of her house that was. Now look at them biscuit!"--

"How many are coming to eat them?" said Fleda.

"How?"

"How large a family has the minister?"

"He ha'n't a bit of a family! He ain't married."

"Not!"

At the grave way in which Mrs. Douglass faced around upon her and
answered, and at the idea of a single mouth devoted to all that closetful,
Fleda's gravity gave place to most uncontrollable merriment.

"No," said Mrs. Douglass, with a curious twist of her mouth but
commanding herself,--"he ain't to be sure--not yet. He ha'n't any family
but himself and some sort of a housekeeper, I suppose; they'll divide the
house between 'em."

"And the biscuits, I hope," said Fleda. "But what will he do with all the
other things, Mrs. Douglass?"

"Sell 'em if he don't want 'em," said Mrs. Douglass quizzically. "Shut up,
Fleda, I forget who sent them biscuit--somebody that calculated to make a
shew for a little, I reckon.--My sakes! I believe it was Mis' Springer
herself!--she didn't hear me though," said Mrs. Douglass peeping out of
the half-open door. "It's a good thing the world ain't all alike;--there's
Mis' Plumfield--stop now, and I'll tell you all she sent;--that big jar of
lard, there's as good as eighteen or twenty pound,--and that basket of
eggs, I don't know how many there is,--and that cheese, a real fine one
I'll be bound, she wouldn't pick out the worst in her dairy,--and Seth
fetched down a hundred weight of corn meal and another of rye flour; now
that's what I call doing things something like; if everybody else would
keep up their end as well as they keep up their'n the world wouldn't be
quite so one-sided as it is. I never see the time yet when I couldn't tell
where to find Mis' Plumfield."

"No, nor anybody else," said Fleda looking happy.

"There's Mis' Silbert couldn't find nothing better to send than a kag of
soap," Mrs. Douglass went on, seeming very much amused;--"I _was_ beat
when I saw that walk in! I should think she'd feel streaked to come here
by and by and see it a standing between Mis' Plumfield's lard and Mis'
Clavering's pork--that's a handsome kag of pork, ain't it? What's that man
done with your strawberries?--I'll put 'em up here afore somebody takes a
notion to 'em.--I'll let the minister know who he's got to thank for 'em,"
said she, winking at Fleda. "Where's Dr. Quackenboss?"

"Coming, ma'am!" sounded from the hall, and forthwith at the open door
entered the doctor's head, simultaneously with a large cheese which he was
rolling before him, the rest of the doctor's person being thrown into the
background in consequence. A curious natural representation of a
wheelbarrow, the wheel being the only artificial part.

"Oh!--that's you, doctor, is it?" said Mrs. Douglass.

"This is me, ma'am," said the doctor, rolling up to the closet
door,--"this has the honour to be--a--myself,--bringing my service to the
feet of Miss Ringgan."

"'Tain't very elegant," said the sharp lady.

Fleda thought if his service was at her feet, her feet should be somewhere
else, and accordingly stepped quietly out of the way and went to one of
the windows, from whence she could have a view both of the comers and the
come; and by this time thoroughly in the spirit of the thing she used her
eyes upon both with great amusement. People were constantly arriving now,
in wagons and on foot; and stores of all kinds were most literally pouring
in. Bags and even barrels of meal, flour, pork, and potatoes; strings of
dried apples, _salt_, hams and beef; hops, pickles, vinegar, maple sugar
and molasses; rolls of fresh butter, cheese, and eggs; cake, bread, and
pies, without end. Mr. Penny, the storekeeper, sent a box of tea. Mr.
Winegar, the carpenter, a new ox-sled. Earl Douglass brought a handsome
axe-helve of his own fashioning; his wife a quantity of rolls of wool. Zan
Finn carted a load of wood into the wood-shed, and Squire Thornton
another. Home-made candles, custards, preserves, and smoked liver, came in
a batch from two or three miles off up on the mountain. Half a dozen
chairs from the factory man. Half a dozen brooms from the other
store-keeper at the Deepwater settlement. A carpet for the best room from
the ladies of the township, who had clubbed forces to furnish it; and a
home-made concern it was, from the shears to the loom.

The room was full now, for every one after depositing his gift turned
aside to see what others had brought and were bringing; and men and women,
the young and old, had their several circles of gossip in various parts of
the crowd. Apart from them all Fleda sat in her window, probably voted
"elegant" by others than the doctor, for they vouchsafed her no more than
a transitory attention and sheered off to find something more congenial.
She sat watching the people; smiling very often as some odd figure, or
look, or some peculiar turn of expression or tone of voice, caught her ear
or her eye.

Both ear and eye were fastened by a young countryman with a particularly
fresh face whom she saw approaching the house. He came up on foot,
carrying a single fowl slung at his back by a stick thrown across his
shoulder, and without stirring hat or stick he came into the room and made
his way through the crowd of people, looking to the one hand and the other
evidently in a maze of doubt to whom he should deliver himself and his
chicken, till brought up by Mrs. Douglass's sharp voice.

"Well, Philetus! what are you looking for?"

"Do, Mis' Douglass!"--it is impossible to express the abortive attempt at
a bow which accompanied this salutation,--"I want to know if the minister
'll be in town to-day?"

"What do you want of him?"

"I don't want nothin' of him. I want to know if he'll be in town to-day?"

"Yes--I expect he'll be along directly--why, what then?"

"Cause I've got ten chickens for him here, and mother said they hadn't
ought to be kept no longer, and if he wa'n't to hum I were to fetch 'em
back, straight."

"Well he'll be here, so let's have 'em," said Mrs. Douglass biting her
lips.

"What's become o' t'other one?" said Earl, as the young man's stick was
brought round to the table;--"I guess you've lost it, ha'n't you?"

"My gracious!" was all Philetus's powers were equal to. Mrs. Douglass went
off into fits which rendered her incapable of speaking and left the
unlucky chicken-bearer to tell his story his own way, but all he brought
forth was "Du tell!--I _am_ beat!--"

"Where's t'other one?" said Mrs. Douglass between paroxysms.

"Why I ha'n't done nothin' to it," said Philetus dismally,--there was
teu on 'em afore I started, and I took and tied 'em together and hitched
'em onto the stick, and that one must ha' loosened itself off some way.--I
believe the darned thing did it o' purpose."

"I guess your mother knowed that one wouldn't keep till it got here," said
Mrs. Douglass.

The room was now all one shout, in the midst of which poor Philetus took
himself off as speedily as possible. Before Fleda had dried her eyes her
attention was taken by a lady and gentleman who had just got out of a
vehicle of more than the ordinary pretension and were coming up to the
door. The gentleman was young, the lady was not, both had a particularly
amiable and pleasant appearance; but about the lady there was something
that moved Fleda singularly and somehow touched the spring of old
memories, which she felt stirring at the sight of her. As they neared the
house she lost them--then they entered the room and came through it
slowly, looking about them with an air of good-humoured amusement. Fleda's
eye was fixed but her mind puzzled itself in vain to recover what in her
experience had been connected with that fair and lady-like physiognomy and
the bland smile that was overlooked by those acute eyes. The eyes met
hers, and then seemed to reflect her doubt, for they remained as fixed as
her own while the lady quickening her steps came up to her.

"I am sure," she said, holding out her hand, and with a gentle
graciousness that was very agreeable,--"I am sure you are somebody I know.
What is your name?"

"Fleda Ringgan."

"I thought so!" said the lady, now shaking her hand warmly and kissing
her,--"I knew nobody could have been your mother but Amy Charlton! How
like her you look!--Don't you know me? don't you remember Mrs. Evelyn?"

"Mrs. Evelyn!" said Fleda, the whole coming back to her at once.

"You remember me now?--How well I recollect you! and all that old time at
Montepoole. Poor little creature that you were! and dear little creature,
as I am sure you have been ever since. And how is your dear aunt Lucy?"

Fleda answered that she was well.

"I used to love her very much--that was before I knew you--before she
went abroad. _We_ have just got home--this spring; and now we are staying
at Montepoole for a few days. I shall come and see her to-morrow--I knew
you were somewhere in this region, but I did not know exactly where to
find you; that was one reason why I came here to-day--I thought I might
hear something of you. And where are your aunt Lucy's children? and how
are they?"

"Hugh is at home," said Fleda, "and rather delicate--Charlton is in
the army.'

"In the army. In Mexico!"--

"In Mexico he has been"--

"Your poor aunt Lucy!"

--"In Mexico he has been, but he is just coming home now--he has been
wounded, and he is coming home to spend a long furlough."

"Coming home. That will make you all very happy. And Hugh is delicate--and
how are you, love? you hardly look like a country-girl. Mr. Olmney!--"
said Mrs. Evelyn looking round for her companion, who was standing quietly
a few steps off surveying the scene,--"Mr. Olmney!--I am going to do you a
favour, sir, in introducing you to Miss Ringgan--a very old friend of
mine. Mr. Olmney,--these are not exactly the apple-cheeks and _robustious_
demonstrations we are taught to look for in country-land?"

This was said with a kind of sly funny enjoyment which took away
everything disagreeable from the appeal; but Fleda conceived a favourable
opinion of the person to whom it was made from the fact that he paid her
no compliment and made no answer beyond a very pleasant smile.

"What is Mrs. Evelyn's definition of a _very old_ friend?" said he with
with another smile, as that lady moved off to take a more particular view
of what she had come to see. "To judge by the specimen before me I should
consider it very equivocal."

"Perhaps Mrs. Evelyn counts friendships by inheritance," said Fleda. "I
think they ought to be counted so."

"'Thine own friend and thy father's friend forsake not'?" said the
young man.

Fleda looked up and smiled a pleased answer.

"There is something very lovely in the faithfulness of tried
friendship--and very uncommon."

"I know that it is uncommon only by hearsay," said Fleda, "I have so many
good friends."

He was silent for an instant, possibly thinking there might be a reason
for that unknown only to Fleda herself.

"Perhaps one must be in peculiar circumstances to realize it," he said
sighing;--"circumstances that leave one of no importance to any one in the
world.--But it is a kind lesson I--one learns to depend more on the one
friendship that can never disappoint."

Fleda's eyes again gave an answer of sympathy, for she thought from the
shade that had come upon his face that these circumstances had probably
been known to himself.

"This is rather an amusing scene," he remarked presently in a low tone.

"Very," said Fleda. "I have never seen such a one before."

"Nor I," said he. "It is a pleasant scene too, it is pleasant to see
so many evidences of kindness and good feeling on the part of all
these people."

"There is all the more shew of it, I suppose, to-day," said Fleda,
"because we have a new minister coming;--they want to make a favourable
impression."

"Does the old proverb of the 'new broom' hold good here too?" said he,
smiling. "What's the name of your new minister?"

"I am not certain," said Fleda,--"there were two talked of--the last I
heard was that it was an old Mr. Carey; but from what I hear this
morning I suppose it must be the other--a Mr. Ollum, or some such queer
name, I believe."

Fleda thought her hearer looked very much amused, and followed his eye
into the room, where Mrs. Evelyn was going about in all quarters looking
at everything, and finding occasion to enter into conversation with at
least a quarter of the people who were present. Whatever she was saying it
seemed at that moment to have something to do with them, for sundry eyes
turned in their direction; and presently Dr. Quackenboss came up, with
even more than common suavity of manner.

"I trust Miss Ringgan will do me the favour of making me acquainted
with--a--with our future pastor!" said the doctor, looking however not at
all at Miss Ringgan but straight at the pastor in question. "I have great
pleasure in giving you the first welcome, sir,--or, I should say, rather
the second; since no doubt Miss Ringgan has been in advance of me. It is
not un--a--appropriate, sir, for I may say we--a--divide the town between
us. You are, I am sure, a worthy representative of Peter and Paul; and I
am--a--a pupil of Esculapus, sir! You are the intellectual physician, and
I am the external."

"I hope we shall both prove ourselves good workmen, sir," said the young
minister, shaking the doctor's hand heartily.

"This is Dr. Quackenboss, Mr. Olmney," said Fleda, making a tremendous
effort. But though she could see corresponding indications about her
companion's eyes and mouth, she admired the kindness and self-command
with which he listened to the doctor's civilities and answered them;
expressing his grateful sense of the favours received not only from him
but from others.

"O--a little to begin with," said the doctor, looking round upon the room,
which would certainly have furnished _that_ for fifty people;--"I hope we
ain't done yet by considerable--But here is Miss Ringgan, Mr.--a--Ummin,
that has brought you some of the fruits of her own garden, with her own
fair hands--a basket of fine strawberries--which I am sure--a--will make
you forget everything else!"

Mr. Olmney had the good-breeding not to look at Fleda, as he answered, "I
am sure the spirit of kindness was the same in all, Dr. Quackenboss, and I
trust not to forget that readily."

Others now came up; and Mr. Olmney was walked off to be "made acquainted"
with all or with all the chief of his parishioners then and there
assembled. Fleda watched him going about, shaking hands, talking and
smiling, in all directions, with about as much freedom of locomotion as a
fly in a spider's web; till at Mrs. Evelyn's approach the others fell off
a little, and taking him by the arm she rescued him.

"My dear Mr. Olmney!" she whispered, with an intensely amused face,--"I
shall have a vision of you every day for a month to come, sitting down to
dinner with a rueful face to a whortleberry pie; for there are so many of
them your conscience will not let you have anything else cooked--you
cannot manage more than one a day."

"Pies!" said the young gentleman, as Mrs. Evelyn left talking to indulge
her feelings in ecstatic quiet laughing,--"I have a horror of pies!"

"Yes, yes," said Mrs. Evelyn nodding her head delightedly as she drew him
towards the pantry,--"I know!--Come and see what is in store for you. You
are to do penance for a month to come with tin pans of blackberry jam
fringed with pie-crust--no, they can't be blackberries, they must be
raspberries--the blackberries are not ripe yet. And you may sup upon cake
and custards--unless you give the custards for the little pig out
there--he will want something."

"A pig!--" said Mr. Olmney in a maze; Mrs. Evelyn again giving out in
distress. "A pig?" said Mr. Olmney.

"Yes--a pig--a very little one," said Mrs. Evelyn convulsively. "I am sure
he is hungry now!--"

They had reached the pantry, and Mr. Olmney's face was all that was
wanting to Mrs. Evelyn's delight. How she smothered it, so that it should
go no further than to distress his self-command, is a mystery known only
to the initiated. Mrs. Douglass was forthwith called into council.

"Mrs. Douglass," said Mr. Olmney, "I feel very much inclined to play the
host, and beg my friends to share with me some of these good things they
have been so bountifully providing."

"He would enjoy them much more than he would alone, Mrs. Douglass," said
Mrs. Evelyn, who still had hold of Mr. Olmney's arm, looking round to the
lady with a most benign face.

"I reckon some of 'em would be past enjoying by the time he got to 'em,
wouldn't they?" said the lady. "Well, they'll have to take 'em in their
fingers, for our crockery ha'n't come yet--I shall have to jog Mr. Flatt's
elbow--but hungry folks ain't curious."

"In their fingers, or any way, provided you have only a knife to cut them
with," said Mr. Olmney, while Mrs. Evelyn squeezed his arm in secret
mischief;--"and pray if we can muster two knives let us cut one of these
cheeses, Mrs. Douglass."

And presently Fleda saw pieces of pie walking about in all directions
supported by pieces of cheese. And then Mrs. Evelyn and Mr. Olmney came
out from the pantry and came towards her, the latter bringing her with his
own hands a portion in a tin pan. The two ladies sat down in the window
together to eat and be amused.

"My dear Fleda, I hope you are hungry!" said Mrs. Evelyn, biting her pie
Fleda could not help thinking with an air of good-humoured condescension.

"I am, ma'am," she said laughing.

"You look just as you used to do," Mrs. Evelyn went on earnestly.

"Do I?" said Fleda, privately thinking that the lady must have good eyes
for features of resemblance.

"Except that you have more colour in your cheeks and more sparkles in your
eyes. Dear little creature that you were! I want to make you know my
children. Do you remember that Mr. and Mrs. Carleton that took such care
of you at Montepoole?"

"Certainly I do!--very well."

"We saw them last winter--we were down at their country-place in----
shire. They have a magnificent place there--everything you can think of to
make life pleasant. We spent a week with them. My dear Fleda!--I wish I
could shew you that place! you never saw anything like it."

Fleda eat her pie.

"We have nothing like it in this country--of course--cannot have. One of
those superb English country-seats is beyond even the imagination of an
American."

"Nature has been as kind to us, hasn't she?" said Fleda.

"O yes, but such fortunes you know. Mr. Olmney, what do you think of
those overgrown fortunes? I was speaking to Miss Ringgan just now of a
gentleman who has forty thousand pounds a year income--sterling,
sir;--forty thousand pounds a year sterling. Somebody says, you know, that
'he who has more than enough is a thief of the rights of his
brother,'--what do you think?"

But Mr. Olmney's attention was at the moment forcibly called off by the
"income" of a parishioner.

"I suppose," said Fleda, "his thievish character must depend entirely on
the use he makes of what he has."

"I don't know," said Mrs. Evelyn shaking her head,--"I think the
possession of great wealth is very hardening."

"To a fine nature?" said Fleda.

Mrs. Evelyn shook her head again, but did not seem to think it worth while
to reply; and Fleda was trying the question in her own mind whether wealth
or poverty might be the most hardening in its effects; when Mr. Olmney
having succeeded in getting free again came and took his station beside
them; and they had a particularly pleasant talk, which Fleda who had seen
nobody in a great while enjoyed very much. They had several such talks in
the course of the day; for though the distractions caused by Mr. Olmney's
other friends were many and engrossing, he generally contrived in time to
find his way back to their window. Meanwhile Mrs. Evelyn had a great deal
to say to Fleda and to hear from her; and left her at last under an
engagement to spend the next day at the Pool.

Upon Mr. Olmney's departure with Mrs. Evelyn the attraction which had held
the company together was broken, and they scattered fast. Fleda presently
finding herself in the minority was glad to set out with Miss Anastasia
Finn and her sister Lucy, who would leave her but very little way from her
own door. But she had more company than she bargained for. Dr. Quackenboss
was pleased to attach himself to their party, though his own shortest road
certainly lay in another direction; and Fleda wondered what he had done
with his wagon, which beyond a question must have brought the cheese in
the morning. She edged herself out of the conversation as much as
possible, and hoped it would prove so agreeable that he would not think of
attending her home. In vain. When they made a stand at the cross-roads the
doctor stood on her side.

"I hope, now you've made a commencement, you will come to see us again,
Fleda," said Miss Lucy.

"What's the use of asking?" said her sister abruptly. "If she has a mind
to she will, and if she ha'n't I am sure we don't want her."

They turned off.

"Those are excellent people," said the doctor when they were beyond
hearing;--"really respectable!"

"Are they?" said Fleda.

"But your goodness does not look, I am sure, to find--a--Parisian graces
in so remote a circle?"

"Certainly not!" said Fleda.

"We have had a genial day!" said the doctor, quitting the Finns.

"I don't know," said Fleda, permitting a little of her inward merriment to
work off,--"I think it has been rather too hot."

"Yes," said the doctor, "the sun has been ardent; but I referred rather to
the--a--to the warming of affections, and the pleasant exchange of
intercourse on all sides which has taken place. How do you like
our--a--the stranger?"

"Who, sir?"

"The new-comer,--this young Mr. Ummin?"

Fleda answered, but she hardly knew what, for she was musing whether the
doctor would go away or come in. They reached the door, and Fleda invited
him, with terrible effort after her voice; the doctor having just blandly
offered an opinion upon the decided polish of Mr. Olmney's manners!



Chapter XXIII.



  Labour is light, where lore (quoth I) doth pay;
  (Saith he) light burthens heavy, if far borne.

  Drayton.


Fleda pushed open the parlour door and preceded her convoy, in a kind of
tip-toe state of spirits. The first thing that met her eyes was her aunt
in one of the few handsome silks which were almost her sole relic of past
wardrobe prosperity, and with a face uncommonly happy and pretty; and the
next instant she saw the explanation of this appearance in her cousin
Charlton, a little palish, but looking better than she had ever seen him,
and another gentleman of whom her eye took in only the general outlines of
fashion and comfortable circumstances; now too strange to it to go
unnoted. In Fleda's usual mood her next movement would have been made with
a demureness that would have looked like bashfulness. But the amusement
and pleasure of the day just passed had for the moment set her spirits
free from the burden that generally bound them down; and they were as
elastic as her step as she came forward and presented to her aunt "Dr.
Quackenboss,--and then turned to shake her cousin's hand."

"Charlton!--Where did you come from? We didn't expect you so soon."

"You are not sorry to see me, I hope?"

"Not at all--very glad;"--and then as her eye glanced towards the other
new-comer Charlton presented to her "Mr. Thorn;" and Fleda's fancy made a
sudden quick leap on the instant to the old hall at Montepoole and the
shot dog. And then Dr. Quackenboss was presented, an introduction which
Capt. Rossitur received coldly, and Mr. Thorn with something more than
frigidity.

The doctor's elasticity however defied depression, especially in the
presence of a silk dress and a military coat. Fleda presently saw that he
was agonizing her uncle. Mrs. Rossitur had drawn close to her son. Fleda
was left to take care of the other visitor. The young men had both seemed
more struck at the vision presented to them than she had been on her part.
She thought neither of them was very ready to speak to her.

"I did not know," said Mr. Thorn softly, "what reason I had to thank
Rossitur for bringing me home with him to-night--he promised me a supper
and a welcome,--but I find he did not tell me the half of my
entertainment."

"That was wise in him," said Fleda;--"the half that is not expected is
always worth a great deal more than the other."

"In this case, most assuredly," said Thorn bowing, and Fleda was sure not
knowing what to make of her.

"Have you been in Mexico too, Mr. Thorn?"

"Not I!--that's an entertainment I beg to decline. I never felt inclined
to barter an arm for a shoulder-knot, or to abridge my usual means of
locomotion for the privilege of riding on parade--or selling oneself for a
name--Peter Schlemil's selling his shadow I can understand; but this is
really lessening oneself that one's shadow may grow the larger."

"But you were in the army?" said Fleda.

"Yes--It wasn't my doing. There is a time, you know, when one must please
the old folks--I grew old enough and wise enough to cut loose from the
army before I had gained or lost much by it."

He did not understand the displeased gravity of Fleda's face, and went on
insinuatingly;--

"Unless I have lost what Charlton has gained--something I did not know
hung upon the decision--Perhaps you think a man is taller for having iron
heels to his boots?"

"I do not measure a man by his inches," said Fleda.

"Then you have no particular predilection for shooting men?"

"I have no predilection for shooting anything, sir."

"Then I am safe!" said he, with an arrogant little air of satisfaction. "I
was born under an indolent star, but I confess to you, privately, of the
two I would rather gather my harvests with the sickle than the sword. How
does your uncle find it?"

"Find what, sir?"

"The worship of Ceres?--I remember he used to be devoted to Apollo and
the Muses."

"Are they rival deities?"

"Why--I have been rather of the opinion that they were too many for one
house to hold," said Thorn glancing at Mr. Rossitur. "But perhays the
Graces manage to reconcile them!"

"Did you ever hear of the Graces getting supper?" said Fleda. "Because
Ceres sometimes sets them at that work. Uncle Rolf," she added as she
passed him,--"Mr. Thorn is inquiring after Apollo--will you set him right,
while I do the same for the tablecloth?"

Her uncle looked from her sparkling eyes to the rather puzzled expression
of his guest's face.

"I was only asking your lovely niece," said Mr. Thorn coming down from his
stilts,--"how you liked this country life?"

Dr. Quackenboss bowed, probably in approbation of the epithet.

"Well sir--what information did she give you on the subject?"

"Left me in the dark, sir, with a vague hope that you would enlighten me."

"I trust Mr. Rossitur can give a favourable report?" said the
doctor benignly.

But Mr. Rossitur's frowning brow looked very little like it.

"What do you say to our country life, sir?"

"It's a confounded life, sir," said Mr. Rossitur, taking a pamphlet from
the table to fold and twist as he spoke,--"it is a confounded life; for
the head and the hands must either live separate, or the head must do no
other work but wait upon the hands. It is an alternative of loss and
waste, sir."

"The alternative seems to be of--a--limited application," said the doctor,
as Fleda, having found that Hugh and Barby had been beforehand with her,
now came back to the company. "I am sure this lady would not give such a
testimony."

"About what?" said Fleda, colouring under the fire of so many eyes.

"The blighting influence of Ceres' sceptre," said Mr. Thorn.

"This country life," said her uncle;--"do you like it, Fleda?"

"You know, uncle," said she cheerfully, "I was always of the old
Douglasses' mind--I like better to hear the lark sing than the
mouse squeak."

"Is that one of Earl Douglass's sayings?" said the doctor.

"Yes sir," said Fleda with quivering lips,--"but not the one you know--an
older man."

"Ah!" said the doctor intelligently. "Mr. Rossitur,--speaking of
hands,--I have employed the Irish very much of late years--they are as
good as one can have, if you do not want a head."

"That is to say,--if you have a head," said Thorn.

"Exactly" said the doctor, all abroad,--"and when there are not too many
of them together. I had enough of that, sir, some years ago when a
multitude of them were employed on the public works. The Irish were in a
state of mutilation, sir, all through the country."

"Ah!" said Thorn,--"had the military been at work upon them?"

"No sir, but I wish they had, I am sure; it would have been for the peace
of the town. There were hundreds of them. We were in want of an army."

"Of surgeons,--I should think," said Thorn.

Fleda saw the doctor's dubious air and her uncle's compressed lips; and
commanding herself, with even a look of something like displeasure she
quitted her seat by Mr. Thorn and called the doctor to the window to look
at a cluster of rose acacias just then in their glory. He admired, and she
expatiated, till she hoped everybody but herself had forgotten what they
had been talking about. But they had no sooner returned to their seats
than Thorn began again.

"The Irish in your town are not in the same mutilated state now, I
suppose, sir?"

"No sir, no," said the doctor;--"there are much fewer of them to break
each other's bones. It was all among themselves, sir."

"The country is full of foreigners," said Mr. Rossitur with
praiseworthy gravity.

"Yes sir," said Dr. Quackenboss thoughtfully;--"we shall have none of our
ancestors left in a short time, if they go on as they are doing."

Fleda was beaten from the field, and rushing into the breakfast-room
astonished Hugh by seizing hold of him and indulging in a most prolonged
and unbounded laugh. She did not shew herself again till the company came
in to supper; but then she was found as grave as Minerva. She devoted
herself particularly to the care and entertainment of Dr. Quackenboss till
he took leave; nor could Thorn get another chance to talk to her through
all the evening.

When he and Rossitur were at last in their rooms Fleda told her story.

"You don't know how pleasant it was, aunt Lucy--how much I enjoyed
it--seeing and talking to somebody again. Mrs. Evelyn was so very kind."

"I am very glad, my darling," said Mrs. Rossitur, stroking away the hair
from the forehead that was bent down towards her;--"I am glad you had it
to-day and I am glad you will have it again to-morrow."

"You will have it too, aunt Lucy. Mrs. Evelyn will be here in the
morning--she said so."

"I shall not see her."

"Why? Now aunt Lucy!--you will."

"I have nothing in the world to see her in--I cannot."

"You have this?"

"For the morning? A rich French silk?--It would be absurd. No, no,--it
would be better to wear my old merino than that."

"But you will have to dress in the morning for Mr. Thorn?--he will be here
to breakfast."

"I shall not come down to breakfast.--Don't look so, love!--I can't help
it."

"Why was that calico got for me and not for you?" said Fleda, bitterly.

"A sixpenny calico," said Mrs. Rossitur smiling,--"it would be hard if you
could not have so much as that, love."

"And you will not see Mrs. Evelyn and her daughters at all!--and I was
thinking that it would do you so much good!--"

Mrs. Rossitur drew her face a little nearer and kissed it, over and over.

"It will do you good, my darling--that is what I care for much more."

"It will not do me half as much," said Fleda sighing.

Her spirits were in their old place again; no more a tip-toe to-night. The
short light of pleasure was overcast. She went to bed feeling very quiet
indeed; and received Mrs. Evelyn and excused her aunt the next day, almost
wishing the lady had not been as good as her word. But though in the same
mood she set off with her to drive to Montepoole, it could not stand the
bright influences with which she found herself surrounded. She came home
again at night with dancing spirits.

It was some days before Capt. Rossitur began at all to comprehend the
change which had come upon his family. One morning Fleda and Hugh having
finished their morning's work were in the breakfast-room waiting for the
rest of the family, when Charlton made his appearance, with the cloud on
his brow which had been lately gathering.

"Where is the paper?" said he. "I haven't seen a paper since I have
been here."

"You mustn't expect to find Mexican luxuries in Queechy, Capt.
Rossitur," said Fleda pleasantly.--"Look at these roses, and don't ask
me for papers!"

He did look a minute at the dish of flowers she was arranging for the
breakfast table, and at the rival freshness and sweetness of the face that
hung over them.

"You don't mean to say you live without a paper?"

[Illustration: "Look at these roses, and don't ask me for papers!"]

"Well, it's astonishing how many things people can live without," said
Fleda rather dreamily, intent upon settling an uneasy rose that would
topple over.

"I wish you'd answer me really," said Charlton. "Don't you take a
paper here?"

"We would take one thankfully if it would be so good as to come; but
seriously, Charlton, we haven't any," she said changing her tone.

"And have you done without one all through the war?"

"No--we used to borrow one from a kind neighbour once in a while, to make
sure, as Mr. Thorn says, that you had not bartered an arm for a
shoulder-knot."

"You never looked to see whether I was killed in the meanwhile, I
suppose?"

"No--never," said Fleda gravely, as she took her place on a low seat in
the corner,--"I always knew you were safe before I touched the paper."

"What do you mean?"

"I am not an enemy, Charlton," said Fleda laughing. "I mean that I used to
make aunt Miriam look over the accounts before I did."

Charlton walked up and down the room for a little while in sullen silence;
and then brought up before Fleda.

"What are you doing?"

Fleda looked up,--a glance that as sweetly and brightly as possible half
asked half bade him be silent and ask no questions.

"What _are_ you doing?" he repeated.

"I am putting a patch on my shoe."

His look expressed more indignation than anything else.

"What do you mean?"

"Just what I say," said Fleda, going on with her work.

"What in the name of all the cobblers in the land do you do it for?"

"Because I prefer it to having a hole in my shoe; which would give me the
additional trouble of mending my stockings."

Charlton muttered an impatient sentence, of which Fleda only understood
that "the devil" was in it, and then desired to know if whole shoes would
not answer the purpose as well as either holes or patches?

"Quite--if I had them," said Fleda, giving him another glance which, with
all its gravity and sweetness, carried also a little gentle reproach.

"But do you know," said he after standing still a minute looking at her,
"that any cobbler in the country would do what you are doing much better
for sixpence?"

"I am quite aware of that," said Fleda, stitching away.

"Your hands are not strong enough for that work!"

Fleda again smiled at him, in the very dint of giving a hard push to her
needle; a smile that would have witched him into good humour if he had not
been determinately in a cloud and proof against everything. It only
admonished him that he could not safely remain in the region of sunbeams;
and he walked up and down the room furiously again. The sudden ceasing of
his footsteps presently made her look up.

"What have you got there?--Oh, Charlton, don't!--please put that down!--I
didn't know I had left them there.--They were a little wet and I laid them
on the chair to dry."

"What do you call this?" said he, not minding her request.

"They are only my gardening gloves--I thought I had put them away."

"Gloves!" said he, pulling at them disdainfully,--"why here are two--one
within the other--what's that for?"

"It's an old-fashioned way of mending matters,--two friends covering each
other's deficiencies. The inner pair are too thin alone, and the outer
ones have holes that are past cobbling."

"Are we going to have any breakfast to-day?" said he flinging the gloves
down. "You are very late!"

"No," said Fleda quietly,--"it is not time for aunt Lucy to be down yet."

"Don't you have breakfast before nine o'clock?"

"Yes--by half-past eight generally."

"Strange way of getting along on a farm!--Well I can't wait--I promised
Thorn I would meet him this morning--Barby!--I wish you would bring me
my boots!--"

Fleda made two springs,--one to touch Charlton's mouth, the other to close
the door of communication with the kitchen.

"Well!--what is the matter?--can't I have them?"

"Yes, yes, but ask me for what you want. You mustn't call upon Barby in
that fashion."

"Why not? is she too good to be spoken to? What is she in the
kitchen for?"

"She wouldn't be in the kitchen long if we were to speak to her in that
way," said Fleda. "I suppose she would as soon put your boots on for you
as fetch and carry them. I'll see about it."

"It seems to me Fleda rules the house," remarked Capt. Rossitur when she
had left the room.

"Well who should rule it?" said Hugh.

"Not she!"

"I don't think she does," said Hugh; "but if she did, I am sure it could
not be in better hands."

"It shouldn't be in her hands at all. But I have noticed since I have been
here that she takes the arrangement of almost everything. My mother seems
to have nothing to do in her own family."

"I wonder what the family or anybody in it would do without Fleda!" said
Hugh, his gentle eyes quite firing with indignation. "You had better know
more before you speak, Charlton."

"What is there for me to know?"

"Fleda does everything."

"So I say; and that is what I don't like."

"How little you know what you are talking about!" said Hugh. "I can tell
you she is the life of the house, almost literally; we should have had
little enough to live upon this summer if it had not been for her."

"What do you mean?"--impatiently enough.

"Fleda--if it had not been for her gardening and management. She has taken
care of the garden these two years and sold I can't tell you how much from
it. Mr. Sweet, the hotel-man at the Pool, takes all we can give him."

"How much does her 'taking care of the garden' amount to?"

"It amounts to all the planting and nearly all the other work, after the
first digging,--by far the greater part of it."

Charlton walked up and down a few turns in most unsatisfied silence.

"How does she get the things to Montepoole?"

"I take them."

"You!--When?"

"I ride with them there before breakfast. Fleda is up very early to
gather them."

"You have not been there this morning?"

"Yes."

"With what?"

"Peas and strawberries."

"And Fleda picked them?"

"Yes--with some help from Barby and me."

"That glove of hers was wringing wet."

"Yes, with the pea-vines, and strawberries too; you know they get so
loaded with dew. O Fleda gets more than her gloves wet. But she does not
mind anything she does for father and mother."

"Humph!--And does she get enough when all is done to pay for the trouble?"

"I don't know," said Hugh rather sadly. "_She_ thinks so. It is no
trifle."

"Which?--the pay or the trouble?"

"Both. But I meant the pay. Why she made ten dollars last year from the
asparagus beds alone, and I don't know how much more this year."

"Ten dollars!--The devil!"

"Why?"

"Have you come to counting your dollars by the tens?"

"We have counted our sixpences so a good while," said Hugh quietly.

Charlton strode about the room again in much perturbation. Then came in
Fleda, looking as bright as if dollars had been counted by the thousand,
and bearing his boots.

"What on earth did you do that for?" said he angrily. "I could have gone
for them myself."

"No harm done," said Fleda lightly,--"only I have got something else
instead of the thanks I expected."

"I can't conceive," said he, sitting down and sulkily drawing on his
foot-gear, "why this piece of punctiliousness should have made any more
difficulty about bringing me my boots than about blacking them."

A sly glance of intelligence, which Charlton was quick enough to detect,
passed between Fleda and Hugh. His eye carried its question from one to
the other. Fleda's gravity gave way.

"Don't look at me so, Charlton," said she laughing;--"I can't help it,
you are so excessively comical!--I recommend that you go out upon the
grass-plat before the door and turn round two or three times."

"Will you have the goodness to explain yourself? Who _did_ black
these boots?"

"Never pry into the secrets of families," said Fleda. "Hugh and I have a
couple of convenient little fairies in our service that do things
_unknownst_."

"I blacked them, Charlton," said Hugh.

Capt. Rossitur gave his slippers a fling that carried them clean into the
corner of the room.

"I will see," he said rising, "whether some other service cannot be had
more satisfactory than that of fairies!"

"Now Charlton," said Fleda with a sudden change of manner, coming to him
and laying her hand most gently on his arm,--"please don't speak about
these things before uncle Rolf or your mother--Please do
not!--Charlton!--It would only do a great deal of harm and do no good."

She looked up in his face, but he would not meet her pleading eye, and
shook off her hand.

"I don't need to be instructed how to speak to my father and mother; and I
am not one of the household that has submitted itself to your direction."

Fleda sat down on her bench and was quiet, but with a lip that trembled a
little and eyes that let fall one or two witnesses against him. Charlton
did not see them, and he knew better than to meet Hugh's look of reproach.
But for all that there was a certain consciousness that hung about the
neck of his purpose and kept it down in spite of him; and it was not till
breakfast was half over that his ill-humour could make head against this
gentle thwarting and cast it off. For so long the meal was excessively
dull. Hugh and Fleda had their own thoughts; Charlton was biting his
resolution into every slice of bread and butter that occupied him; and Mr.
Rossitur's face looked like anything but encouraging an inquiry into his
affairs. Since his son's arrival he had been most uncommonly gloomy; and
Mrs. Rossitur's face was never in sunshine when his was in shade.

"You'll have a warm day of it at the mill, Hugh," said Fleda, by way of
saying something to break the dismal monotony of knives and forks.

"Does that mill make much?" suddenly inquired Charlton.

"It has made a new bridge to the brook, literally," said Fleda gayly; "for
it has sawn out the boards; and you know you mustn't speak evil of what
carries you over the water."

"Does that mill pay for the working?" said Charlton, turning with the
dryest disregard from her interference and addressing himself
determinately to his father.

"What do you mean? It does not work gratuitously," answered Mr. Rossitur,
with at least equal dryness.

"But, I mean, are the profits of it enough to pay for the loss of
Hugh's time?"

"If Hugh judges they are not, he is at liberty to let it alone."

"My time is not lost," said Hugh; "I don't know what I should do with it."

"I don't know what we should do without the mill," said Mrs. Rossitur.

That gave Charlton an unlucky opening.

"Has the prospect of farming disappointed you, father?"

"What is the prospect of your company?" said Mr. Rossitur, swallowing half
an egg before he replied.

"A very limited prospect!" said Charlton,--"if you mean the one that went
with me. Not a fifth part of them left."

"What have you done with them?"

"Shewed them where the balls were flying, sir, and did my best to shew
them the thickest of it."

"Is it necessary to shew it to us too?" said Fleda.

"I believe there are not twenty living that followed me into Mexico," he
went on, as if he had not heard her.

"Was all that havoc made in one engagement?" said Mrs. Rossitur, whose
cheek had turned pale.

"Yes, mother--in the course of a few minutes."

"I wonder what would pay for _that_ loss!" said Fleda indignantly.

"Why, the point was gained! and it did not signify what the cost was so we
did that. My poor boys were a small part of it."

"What point do you mean?"

"I mean the point we had in view, which was taking the place."

"And what was the advantage of gaining the place."

"Pshaw!--The advantage of doing one's duty."

"But what made it duty?" said Hugh.

"Orders."

"I grant you," said Fleda,--"I understand that--but bear with me,
Charlton,--what was the advantage to the army or the country?"

"The advantage of great honour if we succeeded, and avoiding the shame
of failure."

"Is that all?" said Hugh.

"All!" said Charlton.

"Glory must be a precious thing when other men's lives are so cheap to
buy it," said Fleda.

"We did not risk theirs without our own," said Charlton colouring.

"No,--but still theirs were risked for you."

"Not at all;--why this is absurd! you are saying that the whole war was
for nothing."

"What better than nothing was the end of it? We paid Mexico for the
territory she yielded to us, didn't we, uncle Rolf?"

"Yes."

"How much?"

"Twenty millions, I believe."

"And what do you suppose the war has cost?"

"Hum--I don't know,--a hundred."

"A hundred million! besides--how much besides!--And don't you suppose,
uncle Rolf, that for half of that sum Mexico would have sold us peaceably
what she did in the end?"

"It is possible--I think it is very likely."

"What was the fruit of the war, Capt. Rossitur?"

"Why, a great deal of honour to the army and the nation at large."

"Honour again! But granting that the army gained it, which they certainly
did, for one I do not feel very proud of the nation's share."

"Why they are one" said Charlton impatiently.

"In an unjust war"

"It was _not_ an unjust war!"

"That's what you call a knock-downer," said Fleda laughing. "But I confess
myself so simple as to have agreed with Seth Plumfield, when I heard him
and Lucas disputing about it last winter, that it was a shame to a great
and strong nation like ours to display its might in crushing a weak one."

"But they drew it upon themselves. _They_ began hostilities."

"There is a diversity of opinion about that."

"Not in heads that have two grains of information."

"I beg your pardon. Mrs. Evelyn and Judge Sensible were talking over that
very question the other day at Montepoole; and he made it quite clear to
my mind that we were the aggressors."

"Judge Sensible is a fool!" said Mr. Rossitur.

"Very well!" said Fleda laughing;--"but as I do not wish to be
comprehended in the same class, will you shew me how he was wrong, uncle?"

This drew on a discussion of some length, to which Fleda listened with
profound attention, long after her aunt had ceased to listen at all, and
Hugh was thoughtful, and Charlton disgusted. At the end of it Mr. Rossitur
left the table and the room, and Fleda subsiding turned to her cold
coffee-cup.

"I didn't know you ever cared anything about politics before," said Hugh.

"Didn't you?" said Fleda smiling, "You do me injustice."

Their eyes met for a second, with a most appreciating smile on his part;
and then he too went off to his work. There was a few minutes' silent
pause after that.

"Mother," said Charlton looking up and bursting forth, "what is all this
about the mill and the farm?--Is not the farm doing well?"

"I am afraid not very well," said Mrs. Rossitur, gently.

"What is the difficulty?"

"Why, your father has let it to a man by the name of Didenhover, and I am
afraid he is not faithful; it does not seem to bring us in what it ought."

"What did he do that for?"

"He was wearied with the annoyances he had to endure before, and thought
it would be better and more profitable to have somebody else take the
whole charge and management. He did not know Didenhover's character at
the time."

"Engaged him without knowing him!"

Fleda was the only third party present, and Charlton unwittingly allowing
himself to meet her eye received a look of keen displeasure that he was
not prepared for.

"That is not like him," he said in a much moderated tone. "But you must be
changed too, mother, or you would not endure such anomalous service in
your kitchen."

"There are a great many changes, dear Charlton," said his mother, looking
at him with such a face of sorrowful sweetness and patience that his mouth
was stopped. Fleda left the room.

"And have you really nothing to depend upon but that child's strawberries
and Hugh's wood-saw?" he said in the tone he ought to have used from the
beginning.

"Little else."

Charlton stifled two or three sentences that rose to his lips, and began
to walk up and down the room again. His mother sat musing by the tea-board
still, softly clinking her spoon against the edge of her tea-cup.

"She has grown up very pretty," he remarked after a pause.

"Pretty!" said Mrs. Rossitur.

"Why?"

"No one that has seen much of Fleda would ever describe her by that name."

Charlton had the candour to think he had seen something of her that
morning.

"Poor child!" said Mrs. Rossitur sadly,--"I can't bear to think of her
spending her life as she is doing--wearing herself out, I know,
sometimes--and buried alive."

"Buried!" said Charlton in his turn.

"Yes--without any of the advantages and opportunities she ought to have. I
can't bear to think of it. And yet how should I ever live without
her!"--said Mrs. Rossitur, leaning her face upon her hands. "And if she
were known she would not be mine long. But it grieves me to have her go
without her music that she is so fond of, and the books she wants--she and
Hugh have gone from end to end of every volume there is in the house, I
believe, in every language, except Greek."

"Well, she looks pretty happy and contented, mother."

"I don't know!" said Mrs. Rossitur shaking her head.

"Isn't she happy?"

"I don't know," said Mrs. Rossitur again;--"she has a spirit that is happy
in doing her duty, or anything for those she loves; but I see her
sometimes wearing a look that pains me exceedingly. I am afraid the way
she lives and the changes in our affairs have worn upon her more than we
know of--she feels doubly everything that touches me, or Hugh, or your
father. She is a gentle spirit!--"

"She seems to me not to want character," said Charlton.

"Character! I don't know who has so much. She has at least fifty times as
much character as I have. And energy. She is admirable at managing
people--she knows how to influence them somehow so that everybody does
what she wants."

"And who influences her?" said Charlton.

"Who influences her? Everybody that she loves. Who has the most influence
over her, do you mean?--I am sure I don't know--Hugh, if anybody,--but
_she_ is rather the moving spirit of the household."

Capt. Rossitur resolved that he would be an exception to her rule.

He forgot, however, for some reason or other, to sound his father any
more on the subject of mismanagement. His thoughts indeed were more
pleasantly taken up.



Chapter XXIV.



                       My lord Sebastian,
  The truth you speak doth lack some gentleness
  And time to speak it in: you rub the sore.
  When you should bring the plaster.

  Tempest.


The Evelyns spent several weeks at the Pool; and both mother and daughters
conceiving a great affection for Fleda kept her in their company as much
as possible For those weeks Fleda had enough of gayety. She was constantly
spending the day with them at the Pool, or going on some party of
pleasure, or taking quiet sensible walks and rides with them along or with
only one or two more of the most rational and agreeable people that the
place could command. And even Mrs. Rossitur was persuaded, more times than
one, to put herself in her plainest remaining French silk and entertain
the whole party, with the addition of one or two of Charlton's friends, at
her Queechy farm-house.

Fleda enjoyed it all with the quick spring of a mind habitually bent to
the patient fulfilment of duty and habitually under the pressure of rather
sobering thoughts. It was a needed and very useful refreshment. Charlton's
being at home gave her the full good of the opportunity more than would
else have been possible. He was her constant attendant, driving her to and
from the Pool, and finding as much to call him there as she had; for
besides the Evelyns his friend Thorn abode there all this time. The only
drawback to Fleda's pleasure as she drove off from Queechy would be the
leaving Hugh plodding away at his saw-mill. She used to nod and wave to
him as they went by, and almost feel that she ought not to go on and enjoy
herself while he was tending that wearisome machinery all day long. Still
she went on and enjoyed herself; but the mere thought of his patient smile
as she passed would have kept her from too much elation of spirits, if
there had been any danger. There never was any.

"That's a lovely little cousin of yours," said Thorn one evening, when he
and Rossitur, on horseback, were leisurely making their way along the up
and down road between Montepoole and Queechy.

"She is not particularly little," said Rossitur with a dryness that
somehow lacked any savour of gratification.

"She is of a most fair stature," said Thorn;--"I did not mean anything
against that,--but there are characters to which one gives instinctively a
softening appellative."

"Are there?" said Charlton.

"Yes. She is a lovely little creature."

"She is not to compare to one of those girls we have left behind us at
Montepoole," said Charlton.

"Hum--well perhaps you are right; but which girl do you mean?--for I
profess I don't know."

"The second of Mrs. Evelyn's daughters--the auburn-haired one."

"Miss Constance, eh?" said Thorn. "In what isn't the other one to be
compared to her?"

"In anything! Nobody would ever think of looking at her in the same room?"

"Why not?" said Thorn coolly.

"I don't know why not," said Charlton, "except that she has not a tithe of
her beauty. That's a superb girl!"

For a matter of twenty yards Mr. Thorn went softly humming a tune to
himself and leisurely switching the flies off his horse.

"Well,"--said he,--"there's no accounting for tastes--

             'I ask no red and white
        To make up my delight,
        No odd becoming graces,
  Black eyes, or little know-not-what in faces.'"

"What _do_ you want then?" said Charlton, half laughing at him, though his
friend was perfectly grave.

"A cool eye, and a mind in it."

"A cool eye!" said Rossitur.

"Yes. Those we have left behind us are arrant will-o'the-wisps--dancing
fires--no more."

"I can tell you there is fire sometimes in the other eyes," said Charlton.

"Very likely," said his friend composedly,--"I could have guessed as much;
but that is a fire you may warm yourself at; no eternal
phosphorescence;--it is the leaping up of an internal fire, that only
shews itself upon occasion."

"I suppose you know what you are talking about," said Charlton, "but I
can't follow you into the region of volcanos. Constance Evelyn has superb
eyes. It is uncommon to see a light blue so brilliant."

"I would rather trust a sick head to the handling of the lovely lady than
the superb one, at a venture."

"I thought you never had a sick head," said Charlton.

"That is lucky for me, as the hands do not happen to be at my service. But
no imagination could put Miss Constance in Desdemona's place, when Othello
complained of his headache,--you remember, Charlton,--

  ''Faith, that's with watching--'twill away again--
  Let me but bind this handkerchief about it hard.'"

Thorn gave the intonation truly and admirably.

"Fleda never said anything so soft as that," said Charlton.

"No?"

"No."

"You speak--well, but _soft_!--do you know what you are talking
about there?"

"Not very well," said Charlton. "I only remember there was nothing soft
about Othello,--what you quoted of his wife just now seemed to me to smack
of that quality."

"I forgive your memory," said Thorn, "or else I certainly would not
forgive you. If there is a fair creation in all Shakespeare it is
Desdemona, and if there is a pretty combination on earth that nearly
matches it, I believe it is that one."

"What one?"

"Your pretty cousin."

Charlton was silent.

"It is generous in me to undertake her defence," Thorn went on, "for she
bestows as little of her fair countenance upon me as she can well help.
But try as she will, she cannot be so repellant as she is attractive."

Charlton pushed his horse into a brisker pace not favourable to
conversation; and they rode forward in silence, till in descending the
hill below Deepwater they came within view of Hugh's workplace, the saw
mill. Charlton suddenly drew bridle.

"There she is."

"And who is with her?" said Thorn. "As I live!--our friend--what's his
name?--who has lost all his ancestors.--And who is the other?"

"My brother," said Charlton.

"I don't mean your brother, Capt. Rossitur," said Thorn throwing himself
off his horse.

He joined the party, who were just leaving the mill to go down towards the
house. Very much at his leisure Charlton dismounted and came after him.

"I have brought Charlton safe home, Miss Ringgan," said Thorn, who leading
his horse had quietly secured a position at her side.

"What's the matter?" said Fleda laughing. "Couldn't he bring
himself home?"

"I don't know what's the matter, but he's been uncommonly dumpish--we've
been as near as possible to quarrelling for half a dozen miles back."

"We have been--a--more agreeably employed," said Dr. Quackenboss looking
round at him with a face that was a concentration of affability.

"I make no doubt of it, sir; I trust we shall bring no unharmonious
interruption.--If I may change somebody else's words," he added more low
to Fleda,--"disdain itself must convert to courtesy in your presence."

"I am sorry disdain should live to pay me a compliment," said Fleda. "Mr.
Thorn, may I introduce to you Mr. Olmney?"

Mr. Thorn honoured the introduction with perfect civility, but then fell
back to his former position and slightly lowered tone.

"Are you then a sworn foe to compliments?"

"I was never so fiercely attacked by them as to give me any occasion."

"I should be very sorry to furnish the occasion,--but what's the harm in
them, Miss Ringgan?"

"Chiefly a want of agreeableness."

"Of agreeableness!--Pardon me--I hope you will be so good as to give me
the rationale of that?"

"I am of Miss Edgeworth's opinion, sir," said Fleda blushing, "that a lady
may always judge of the estimation in which she is held by the
conversation which is addressed to her."

"And you judge compliments to be a doubtful indication of esteem?"

"I am sure you do not need information on that point, sir."

"As to your opinion, or the matter of fact?" said he somewhat keenly.

"As to the matter of fact," said Fleda, with a glance both simple and
acute in its expression.

"I will not venture to say a word," said Thorn smiling. "Protestations
would certainly fall flat at the gates where _les douces paroles_ cannot
enter. But do you know this is picking a man's pocket of all his silver
pennies and obliging him to produce his gold."

"That _would_ be a hard measure upon a good many people," said Fleda
laughing. "But they're not driven to that. There's plenty of small
change left."

"You certainly do not deal in the coin you condemn," said Thorn bowing.
"But you will remember that none call for gold but those who can exchange
it, and the number of them is few. In a world where cowrie passes current
a man may be excused for not throwing about his guineas."

"I wish you'd throw about a few for our entertainment," said Charlton, who
was close behind. "I haven't seen a yellow-boy in a good while."

"A proof that your eyes are not jaundiced," said his friend without
turning his head, "whatever may be the case with you otherwise. Is he out
of humour with the country life you like so well, Miss Ringgan, or has he
left his domestic tastes in Mexico? How do you think he likes Queechy?"

"You might as well ask myself," said Charlton.

"How do you think he likes Queechy, Miss Ringgan?"

"I am afraid something after the fashion of Touchstone," said Fleda
laughing;--"he thinks that 'in respect of itself it is a good life; but in
respect that it is a shepherd's life it is naught. In respect that it is
solitary, he likes it very well; but in respect that it is private, it is
a very vile life. Now in respect it is in the fields, it pleaseth him
well; but in respect it is not in the court, it is tedious.'"

"There's a guinea for you, Capt. Rossitur," said his friend. "Do you know
out of what mint?"

"It doesn't bear the head of Socrates," said Charlton.

"'Hast no philosophy in thee,' Charlton?" said Fleda laughing back at him.

"Has not Queechy--a--the honour of your approbation, Capt. Rossitur?" said
the doctor.

"Certainly sir--I have no doubt of its being a very fine country."

"Only he has imbibed some doubts whether happiness be an indigenous crop,"
said Thorn.

"Undoubtedly," said the doctor blandly,--"to one who has roamed over the
plains of Mexico, Queechy must seem rather--a--rather flat place."

"If he could lose sight of the hills," said Thorn.

"Undoubtedly, sir, undoubtedly," said the doctor; "they are a marked
feature in the landscape, and do much to relieve--a--the charge of
sameness."

"Luckily," said Mr. Olmney smiling, "happiness is not a thing of
circumstance; it depends on a man's self."

"I used to think so," said Thorn;--"that is what I have always subscribed
to; but I am afraid I could not live in this region and find it so long."

"What an evening!" said Fleda. "Queechy is doing its best to deserve our
regards under this light. Mr. Olmney, did you ever notice the beautiful
curve of the hills in that hollow where the sun sets?"

"I do notice it now" he said.

"It is exquisite!" said the doctor. "Capt. Rossitur, do you observe,
sir?--in that hollow where the sun sets?--"

Capt. Rossitur's eye made a very speedy transition from the hills to
Fleda, who had fallen back a little to take Hugh's arm and placing herself
between him and Mr. Olmney was giving her attention undividedly to the
latter. And to him she talked perseveringly, of the mountains, the
country, and the people, till they reached the courtyard gate. Mr. Olmney
then passed on. So did the doctor, though invited to tarry, averring that
the sun had gone down behind the firmament and he had something to attend
to at home.

"You will come in, Thorn," said Charlton.

"Why--I had intended returning,--but the sun has gone down indeed, and as
our friend says there is no chance of our seeing him again I may as well
go in and take what comfort is to be had in the circumstances. Gentle
Euphrosyne, doth it not become the Graces to laugh?"

"They always ask leave, sir," said Fleda hesitating.

"A most Grace-ful answer, though it does not smile upon me," said Thorn.

"I am sorry, sir," said Fleda, smiling now, "that you have so many silver
pennies to dispose of we shall never get at the gold."

"I will do my very best," said he.

So he did, and made himself agreeable that evening to every one of the
circle; though Fleda's sole reason for liking to see him come in had been
that she was glad of everything that served to keep Charlton's attention
from home subjects. She saw sometimes the threatening of a cloud that
troubled her.

But the Evelyns and Thorn and everybody else whom they knew left the Pool
at last, before Charlton, who was sufficiently well again, had near run
out his furlough; and then the cloud which had only shewed itself by turns
during all those weeks gathered and settled determinately upon his brow.

He had long ago supplied the want of a newspaper. One evening in September
the family were sitting in the room where they had had tea, for the
benefit of the fire, when Barby pushed open the kitchen door and came in.

"Fleda will you let me have one of the last papers? I've a notion to
look at it."

Fleda rose and went to rummaging in the cupboards.

"You can have it again in a little while," said Barby considerately.

The paper was found and Miss Elster went out with it.

"What an unendurable piece of ill-manners that woman is!" said Charlton.

"She has no idea of being ill-mannered, I assure you," said Fleda.

His voice was like a brewing storm--hers was so clear and soft that it
made a lull in spite of him. But he began again.

"There is no necessity for submitting to impertinence. I never
would do it."

"I have no doubt you never will," said his father. "Unless you can't help
yourself."

"Is there any good reason, sir, why you should not have proper servants in
the house?"

"A very good reason," said Mr. Rossitur. "Fleda would be in despair."

"Is there none beside that?" said Charlton dryly.

"None--except a trifling one," Mr. Rossitur answered in the same tone.

"We cannot afford it, dear Charlton," said his mother softly.

There was a silence, during which Fleda moralized on the ways people take
to make themselves uncomfortable.

"Does that man--to whom you let the farm--does he do his duty?"

"I am not the keeper of his conscience."

"I am afraid it would be a small charge to any one," said Fleda.

"But are you the keeper of the gains you ought to have from him? does he
deal fairly by you?"

"May I ask first what interest it is of yours?"

"It is my interest, sir, because I come home and find the family living
upon the exertions of Hugh and Fleda and find them growing thin and pale
under it."

"You, at least, are free from all pains of the kind, Capt. Rossitur."

"Don't listen to him, uncle Rolf!" said Fleda going round to her uncle,
and making as she passed a most warning impression upon Charlton's
arm,--"don't mind what he says--that young gentleman has been among the
Mexican ladies till he has lost an eye for a really proper complexion.
Look at me!--do I look pale and thin?--I was paid a most brilliant
compliment the other day upon my roses--Uncle, don't listen to him!--he
hasn't been in a decent humour since the Evelyns went away."

She knelt down before him and laid her hands upon his and looked up in his
face to bring all her plea; the plea of most winning sweetness of entreaty
in features yet flushed and trembling. His own did not unbend as he gazed
at her, but he gave her a silent answer in a pressure of the hands that
went straight from his heart to hers. Fleda's eye turned to Charlton
appealingly.

"Is it necessary," he repeated, "that that child and this boy should spend
their days in labour to keep the family alive?"

"If it were," replied Mr. Rossitur, "I am very willing that their
exertions should cease. For my own part I would quite as lief be out of
the world as in it."

"Charlton!--how can you!--" said Fleda, half beside herself,--you should
know of what you speak or be silent!--Uncle, don't mind him! he is talking
wildly--my work does me good."

"You do not understand yourself," said Charlton obstinately;--"it is
more than you ought to do, and I know my mother thinks so too."

[Illustration: She knelt down before him.]

"Well!" said Mr. Rossitur,--"it seems there is an agreement in my own
family to bring me to the bar--get up, Fleda,--let us hear all the charges
to be brought against me, at once, and then pass sentence. What have your
mother and you agreed upon, Charlton?--go on!"

Mrs. Rossitur, now beyond speech, left the room, weeping even aloud. Hugh
followed her. Fleda wrestled with her agitation for a minute or two, and
then got up and put both arms round her uncle's neck.

"Don't talk so, dear uncle Rolf!--you make us very unhappy--aunt Lucy did
not mean any such thing--it is only Charlton's nonsense. Do go and tell
her you don't think so,--you have broken her heart by what you said;--do
go, uncle Rolf!--do go and make her happy again! Forget it all!--Charlton
did not know what he was saying--won't you go, dear uncle Rolf?--"

The words were spoken between bursts of tears that utterly overcame her,
though they did not hinder the utmost caressingness of manner. It seemed
at first spent upon a rock. Mr. Rossitur stood like a man that did not
care what happened or what became of him; dumb and unrelenting; suffering
her sweet words and imploring tears, with no attempt to answer the one or
stay the other. But he could not hold out against her beseeching. He was
no match for it. He returned at last heartily the pressure of her arms,
and unable to give her any other answer kissed her two or three times,
such kisses as are charged with the heart's whole message; and disengaging
himself left the room.

For a minute after he was gone Fleda cried excessively; and Charlton, now
alone with her, felt as if he had not a particle of self-respect left to
stand upon. One such agony would do her more harm than whole weeks of
labour and weariness. He was too vexed and ashamed of himself to be able
to utter a word, but when she recovered a little and was leaving the room
he stood still by the door in an attitude that seemed to ask her to speak
a word to him.

"I am sure, Charlton," she said gently, "you will be sorry to-morrow for
what you have done."

"I am sorry now," he said. But she passed out without saying
anything more.

Capt. Rossitur passed the night in unmitigated vexation with himself. But
his repentance could not have been very genuine, since his most painful
thought was, what Fleda must think of him.

He was somewhat reassured at breakfast to find no traces of the evening's
storm; indeed the moral atmosphere seemed rather clearer and purer than
common. His own face was the only one which had an unusual shade upon it.
There was no difference in anybody's manner towards himself; and there was
even a particularly gentle and kind pleasantness about Fleda, intended, he
knew, to soothe and put to rest any movings of self-reproach he might
feel. It somehow missed of its aim and made him feel worse; and after on
his part a very silent meal he quitted the house and took himself and his
discontent to the woods.

Whatever effect they had upon him, it was the middle of the morning before
he came back again. He found Fleda alone in the breakfast-room, sewing;
and for the first time noticed the look his mother had spoken of; a look
not of sadness, but rather of settled patient gravity; the more painful to
see because it could only have been wrought by long-acting causes, and
might be as slow to do away as it must have been to bring. Charlton's
displeasure with the existing state of things had revived as his remorse
died away, and that quiet face did not have a quieting effect upon him.

"What on earth is going on!" he began rather abruptly as soon as he
entered the room. "What horrible cookery is on foot?"

"I venture to recommend that you do not inquire," said Fleda. "It was set
on foot in the kitchen and it has walked in here. If you open the window
it will walk out."

"But you will be cold?"

"Never mind--in that case I will walk out too, into the kitchen."

"Into the thick of it!--No--I will try some other way of relief. This is
unendurable!"

Fleda looked, but made no other remonstrance, and not heeding the look Mr.
Charlton walked out into the kitchen, shutting the door behind him.

"Barby," said he, "you have got something cooking here that is very
disagreeable in the other room."

"Is it?" said Barby. "I reckoned it would all fly up chimney I guess the
draught ain't so strong as I thought it was."

"But I tell you it fills the house!"

"Well, it'll have to a spell yet," said Barby, "'cause if it didn't, you
see, Capt. Rossitur, there'd be nothing to fill Fleda's chickens with."

"Chickens!--where's all the corn in the land?"

"It's some place besides in our barn," said Barby. "All last year's is
out, and Mr. Didenhover ha'n't fetched any of this year's home; so I
made a bargain with 'em they shouldn't starve as long as they'd eat
boiled pursley."

"What do you give them?"

"'Most everything--they ain't particler now-a days--chunks o' cabbage, and
scarcity, and pun'kin and that--all the sass that ain't wanted."

"And do they eat that?"

"Eat it!" said Barby. "They don't know how to thank me for't!"

"But it ought to be done out of doors," said Charlton, coming back from a
kind of maze in which he had been listening to her. "It is unendurable!"

"Then I guess you'll have to go some place where you won't know it," said
Barby;--"that's the most likely plan I can hit upon; for it'll have to
stay on till it's ready."

Charlton went back into the other room really down-hearted, and stood
watching the play of Fleda's fingers.

"Is it come to this!" he said at length. "Is it possible that you are
obliged to go without such a trifle as the miserable supply of food your
fowls want!"

"That's a small matter!" said Fleda, speaking lightly though she smothered
a sigh. "We have been obliged to do without more than that."

"What is the reason?"

"Why this man Didenhover is a rogue I suspect, and he manages to spirit
away all the profits that should come to uncle Rolf's hands--I don't know
how. We have lived almost entirely upon the mill for some time."

"And has my father been doing nothing all this while?"

"Nothing on the farm."

"And what of anything else?"

"I don't know," said Fleda, speaking with evident unwillingness. "But
surely, Charlton, he knows his own business best. It is not our affair."

"He is mad!" said Charlton, violently striding up and down the floor.

"No," said Fleda with equal gentleness and sadness--"he is only
unhappy;--I understand it all--he has had no spirit to take hold of
anything ever since we came here."

"Spirit!" said Charlton;--"he ought to have worked off his fingers to
their joints before he let you do as you have been doing!"

"Don't say so!" said Fleda, looking even pale in her eagerness--"don't
think so, Charlton! it isn't right. We cannot tell what he may have had to
trouble him--I know he has suffered and does suffer a great deal.--Do not
speak again about anything as you did last night!--Oh," said Fleda, now
shedding bitter tears,--"this is the worst of growing poor! the difficulty
of keeping up the old kindness and sympathy and care for each other!--"

"I am sure it does not work so upon you," said Charlton in an
altered voice.

"Promise me, dear Charlton," said Fleda looking up after a moment and
drying her eyes again, "promise me you will not say any more about these
things! I am sure it pains uncle Rolf more than you think. Say you will
not,--for your mother's sake!"

"I will not, Fleda--for your sake. I would not give _you_ any more trouble
to bear. Promise me; that you will be more careful of yourself in future."

"O there is no danger about me," said Fleda with a faint smile and taking
up her work again.

"Who are you making shirts for?" said Charlton after a pause.

"Hugh."

"You do everything for Hugh, don't you?"

"Little enough. Not half so much as he does for me."

"Is he up at the mill to-day?"

"He is always there," said Fleda sighing.

There was another silence.

"Charlton," said Fleda looking up with a face of the loveliest
insinuation.--"isn't there something _you_ might do to help us a little?"

"I will help you garden, Fleda, with pleasure."

"I would rather you should help somebody else," said she, still
looking at him.

"What, Hugh?--You would have me go and work at the mill for him, I
suppose!"

"Don't be angry with me, Charlton, for suggesting it," said Fleda looking
down again.

"Angry!"--said he. "But is that what you would have me do?"

"Not unless you like,--I didn't know but you might take his place once in
a while for a little, to give him a rest,--"

"And suppose some of the people from Montepoole that know me should come
by? What are you thinking of?" said he in a tone that certainly justified
Fleda's deprecation.

"Well!"--said Fleda in a kind of choked voice,--"there is a strange rule
of honour in vogue in the world!"

"Why should I help Hugh rather than anybody else?"

"He is killing himself!--" said Fleda, letting her work fall and hardly
speaking the words through thick tears. Her head was down and they came
fast. Charlton stood abashed for a minute.

"You sha'n't do so, Fleda," said he gently, endeavouring to raise
her,--"you have tired yourself with this miserable work!--Come to the
window--you have got low-spirited, but I am sure without reason about
Hugh,--but you shall set me about what you will--You are right, I dare
say, and I am wrong; but don't make me think myself a brute, and I will do
anything you please."

He had raised her up and made her lean upon him. Fleda wiped her eyes and
tried to smile.

"I will do anything that will please you, Fleda."

"It is not to please _me_,--" she answered meekly.

"I would not have spoken a word last night if I had known it would have
grieved you so."

"I am sorry you should have none but so poor a reason for doing right,"
said Fleda gently.

"Upon my word, I think you are about as good reason as anybody need have,"
said Charlton.

She put her hand upon his arm and looked up,--such a look of pure rebuke
as carried to his mind the full force of the words she did not
speak,--'Who art thou that carest for a worm which shall die, and
forgettest the Lord thy Maker!'--Charlton's eyes fell. Fleda turned gently
away and began to mend the fire. He stood watching her for a little.

"What do you think of me, Fleda?" he said at length.

"A little wrong-headed," answered Fleda, giving him a glance and a smile.
"I don't think you are very bad."

"If you will go with me, Fleda, you shall make what you please of me!"

He spoke half in jest, half in earnest, and did not himself know at the
moment which way he wished Fleda to take it. But she had no notion of any
depth in his words.

"A hopeless task!" she answered lightly, shaking her head, as she got down
on her knees to blow the fire;--"I am afraid it is too much for me. I
have been trying to mend you ever since you came, and I cannot see the
slightest change for the better!"

"Where is the bellows?" said Charlton in another tone.

"It has expired--its last breath," said Fleda. "In other words, it has
lost its nose."

"Well, look here," said he laughing and pulling her away,--"you will stand
a fair chance of losing your face if you put it in the fire. You sha'n't
do it. Come and shew me where to find the scattered parts of that old wind
instrument and I will see if it cannot be persuaded to play again."



Chapter XXV.



  I dinna ken what I should want
    If I could get but a man.

  Scotch Ballad.


Capt. Rossitur did no work at the saw-mill. But Fleda's words had not
fallen to the ground. He began to shew care for his fellow-creatures in
getting the bellows mended; his next step was to look to his gun; and
from that time so long as he staid the table was plentifully supplied
with all kinds of game the season and the country could furnish. Wild
ducks and partridges banished pork and bacon even from memory; and Fleda
joyfully declared she would not see another omelette again till she was
in distress.

While Charlton was still at home came a very urgent invitation from Mrs.
Evelyn that Fleda should pay them a long visit in New York, bidding her
care for no want of preparation but come and make it there. Fleda
demurred, however, on that very score. But before her answer was written,
another missive came from Dr. Gregory, not asking so much as demanding her
presence, and enclosing a fifty-dollar bill, for which he said he would
hold her responsible till she had paid him with,--not her own hands,--but
her own lips. There was no withstanding the manner of this entreaty. Fleda
packed up some of Mrs. Rossitur's laid-by silks, to be refreshed with an
air of fashion, and set off with Charlton at the end of his furlough.

To her simple spirit of enjoyment the weeks ran fast; and all manner of
novelties and kindnesses helped them on. It was a time of cloudless
pleasure. But those she had left thought it long. She wrote them how
delightfully she kept house for the old doctor, whose wife had long been
dead, and how joyously she and the Evelyns made time fly. And every
pleasure she felt awoke almost as strong a throb in the hearts at home.
But they missed her, as Barby said, "dreadfully;" and she was most dearly
welcomed when she came back. It was just before New Year.

For half an hour there was most gladsome use of eyes and tongues. Fleda
had a great deal to tell them.

"How well--how well you are looking, dear Fleda!" said her aunt for the
third or fourth time.

"That's more than lean say for you and Hugh, aunt Lucy. What have you been
doing to yourself?"

"Nothing new," they said, as her eye went from one to the other.

"I guess you have wanted me!" said Fleda, shaking her head as she kissed
them both again.

"I guess we have," said Hugh, "but don't fancy we have grown thin upon
the want."

"But where's uncle Rolf? you didn't tell me."

"He is gone to look after those lands in Michigan."

"In Michigan!--When did he go?"

"Very soon after you."

"And you didn't let me know!--O why didn't you? How lonely you must
have been."

"Let you know indeed!" said Mrs. Rossitur, wrapping her in her arms
again;--"Hugh and I counted every week that you staid with more and
pleasure each one."

"I understand!" said Fleda laughing under her aunt's kisses. "Well I am
glad I am at home again to take care of you. I see you can't get along
without me!"

"People have been very kind, Fleda," said Hugh.

"Have they?"

"Yes--thinking we were desolate I suppose. There has been no end to aunt
Miriam's goodness and pleasantness."

"O aunt Miriam, always!" said Fleda. "And Seth."

"Catherine Douglass has been up twice to ask if her mother could do
anything for us; and Mrs. Douglass sent us once a rabbit and once a
quantity of wild pigeons that Earl had shot. Mother and I lived upon
pigeons for I don't know how long. Barby wouldn't eat 'em--she said she
liked pork better; but I believe she did it on purpose."

"Like enough," said Fleda, smiling, from her aunt's arms where she
still lay.

"And Seth has sent you plenty of your favourite hickory nuts, very fine
ones; and I gathered butternuts enough for you near home."

"Everything is for me," said Fleda. "Well, the first thing I do shall be
to make some butternut candy for you. You won't despise that, Mr. Hugh?"--

Hugh smiled at her, and went on.

"And your friend Mr. Olmney has sent us a corn-basket full of the
superbest apples you ever saw. He has one tree of the finest in
Queechy, he says."

"_My_ friend!" said Fleda, colouring a little.

"Well I don't know whose he is if he isn't yours," said Hugh. "And even
the Finns sent us some fish that their brother had caught, because, they
said, they had more than they wanted. And Dr. Quackenboss sent us a goose
and a turkey. We didn't like to keep them, but we were afraid if we sent
them back it would not be understood."

"Send them back!" said Fleda. "That would never do! All Queechy would have
rung with it."

"Well, we didn't," said Hugh. "But so we sent one of them to Barby's old
mother for Christmas."

"Poor Dr. Quackenboss!" said Fleda. "That man has as near as possible
killed me two or three times. As for the others, they are certainly the
oddest of all the finny tribes. I must go out and see Barby for a minute."

It was a good many minutes, however, before she could get free to do any
such thing.

"You ha'n't lost no flesh," said Barby shaking hands with her anew. "What
did they think of Queechy keep, down in York?"

"I don't know--I didn't ask them," said Fleda. "How goes the world with
you, Barby?"

"I'm mighty glad you are come home, Fleda," said Barby lowering her voice.

"Why?" said Fleda in a like tone.

"I guess I ain't all that's glad of it," Miss Elster went on, with a
glance of her bright eye.

"I guess not," said Fleda reddening a little;--"but what is the matter?"

"There's two of our friends ha'n't made us but one visit a piece
since--oh, ever since some time in October!"

"Well never mind the people," said Fleda. "Tell me what you were
going to say."

"And Mr. Olmney," said Barby not minding her, "he's took and sent us a
great basket chock full of apples. Now wa'n't that smart of him, when he
knowed there wa'n't no one here that cared about 'em?"

"They are a particularly fine kind," said Fleda.

"Did you hear about the goose and turkey?"

"Yes," said Fleda laughing.

"The doctor thinks he has done the thing just about right this time, I
s'pect. He had ought to take out a patent right for his invention. He'd
feel spry if he knowed who eat one on 'em."

"Never mind the doctor, Barby. Was this what you wanted to see me for?"

"No," said Barby changing her tone. "I'd give something it was. I've been
all but at my wit's end; for you know Mis' Rossitur ain't no hand about
anything--I couldn't say a word to her--and ever since he went away we
have been just winding ourselves up. I thought I should clear out, when
Mis' Rossitur said maybe you wa'n't a coming till next week."

"But what is it Barby? what is wrong?"

"There ha'n't been anything right, to my notions, for a long spell," said
Barby, wringing out her dishcloth hard and flinging it down to give
herself uninterruptedly to talk;--"but now you see, Didenhover nor none of
the men never comes near the house to do a chore; and there ain't wood to
last three days; and Hugh ain't fit to cut it if it was piled up in the
yard; and there ain't the first stick of it out of the woods yet."

Fleda sat down and looked very thoughtfully into the fire.

"He had ought to ha' seen to it afore he went away, but he ha'n't done it,
and there it is."

"Why who takes care of the cows?" said Fleda.

"O never mind the cows," said Barby;--"they ain't suffering; I wish we was
as well off as they be;--but I guess when he went away he made a hole in
our pockets for to mend his'n. I don't say he hadn't ought to ha' done it,
but we've been pretty short ever sen, Fleda--we're in the last bushel of
flour, and there ain't but a handful of corn meal, and mighty little
sugar, white or brown.--I did say something to Mis' Rossitur, but all the
good it did was to spile her appetite, I s'pose; and if there's grain in
the floor there ain't nobody to carry it to mill,--nor to thresh it,--nor
a team to draw it, fur's I know."

"Hugh cannot cut wood!" said Fleda;--"nor drive to mill either, in
this weather."

"I could go to mill," said Barby, "now you're to hum, but that's only the
beginning; and it's no use to try to do everything--flesh and blood must
stop somewhere.--"

"No indeed!" said Fleda. "We must have somebody immediately."

"That's what I had fixed upon," said Barby. "If you could get hold o' some
young feller that wa'n't sot up with an idee that he was a grown man and
too big to be told, I'd just clap to and fix that little room up stairs
for him and give him his victuals here, and we'd have some good of him;
instead o' having him streakin' off just at the minute when he'd ought to
be along."

"Who is there we could get, Barby?"

"I don't know," said Barby; "but they say there is never a nick that there
ain't a jog some place; so I guess it can be made out. I asked Mis'
Plumfield, but she didn't know anybody that was out of work; nor Seth
Plumfield. I'll tell you who does,--that is, if there _is_ anybody,--Mis'
Douglass. She keeps hold of one end of 'most everybody's affairs, I tell
her. Anyhow she's a good hand to go to."

"I'll go there at once," said Fleda. "Do you know anything about making
maple sugar, Barby?"

"That's the very thing!" exclaimed Barby ecstatically. "There's lots o'
sugar maples on the farm and it's murder to let them go to loss; and they
ha'n't done us a speck o' good ever since I come here. And in your
grandfather's time they used to make barrels and barrels. You and me and
Hugh, and somebody else we'll have, we could clap to and make as much
sugar and molasses in a week as would last us till spring come round
again. There's no sense into it! All we'd want would be to borrow a team
some place. I had all that in my head long ago. If we could see the last
of that man Didenhover oncet, I'd take hold of the plough myself and see
if I couldn't make a living out of it! I don't believe the world would go
now, Fleda, if it wa'n't for women. I never see three men yet that didn't
try me more than they were worth."

"Patience, Barby!" said Fleda smiling. "Let us take things quietly."

"Well I declare I'm beat, to see how you take 'em," said Barby, looking at
her lovingly.

"Don't you know why, Barby?"

"I s'pose I do," said Barby her face softening still more,--"or I
can guess."

"Because I know that all these troublesome things will be managed in the
best way and by my best friend, and I know that he will let none of them
hurt me. I am sure of it--isn't that enough to keep me quiet?"

Fleda's eyes were filling and Barby looked away from them.

"Well it beats me," she said taking up her dishcloth again, "why _you_
should have anything to trouble you. I can understand wicked folks being
plagued, but I can't see the sense of the good ones."

"Troubles are to make good people better, Barby."

"Well," said Barby with a very odd mixture of real feeling and seeming
want of it,--"it's a wonder I never got religion, for I will say that all
the decent people I ever see were of that kind!--Mis' Rossitur ain't
though, is she?"

"No," said Fleda, a pang crossing her at the thought that all her aunt's
loveliness must tell directly and heavily in this case to lighten
religion's testimony. It was that thought and no other which saddened her
brow as she went back into the other room.

"Troubles already!" said Mrs. Rossitur. "You will be sorry you have come
back to them, dear."

"No indeed!" said Fleda brightly; "I am very glad I have come home. We
will try and manage the troubles, aunt Lucy."

There was no doing anything that day, but the very next afternoon Fleda
and Hugh walked down through the snow to Mrs. Douglass's. It was a long
walk and a cold one and the snow was heavy; but the pleasure of being
together made up for it all. It was a bright walk, too, in spite of
everything.

In a most thrifty-looking well-painted farm-house lived Mrs. Douglass.

"Why 'tain't you, is it?" she said when she opened the door,--"Catharine
said it was, and I said I guessed it wa'n't, for I reckoned you had made
up your mind not to come and see me at all.--How do you do?"

The last sentence in the tone of hearty and earnest hospitality. Fleda
made her excuses.

"Ay, ay,--I can understand all that just as well as if you said it. I know
how much it means too. Take off your hat."

Fleda said she could not stay, and explained her business.

"So you ha'n't come to see me after all. Well now take off your hat,
'cause I won't have anything to say to you till you do. I'll give you
supper right away."

"But I have left my aunt alone, Mrs. Douglass;--and the afternoons are so
short now it would be dark before we could get home."

"Serve her right for not coming along! and you sha'n't walk home in the
dark, for Earl will harness the team and carry you home like a streak--the
horses have nothing to do--Come, you sha'n't go."

And as Mrs. Douglass laid violent hands on her bonnet Fleda thought best
to submit. She was presently rewarded with the promise of the very person
she wanted--a boy, or young man, then in Earl Douglass's employ; but his
wife said "she guessed he'd give him up to her;" and what his wife said,
Fleda knew, Earl Douglass was in the habit of making good.

"There ain't enough to do to keep him busy," said Mrs. Douglass. "I told
Earl he made me more work than he saved; but he's hung on till now."

"What sort of a boy is he, Mrs. Douglass?"

"He ain't a steel trap. I tell you beforehand," said the lady, with one of
her sharp intelligent glances,--"he don't know which way to go till you
shew him; but he's a clever enough kind of a chap--he don't mean no harm.
I guess he'll do for what you want."

"Is he to be trusted?"

"Trust him with anything but a knife and fork," said she, with another
look and shake of the head. "He has no idea but what everything on the
supper-table is meant to be eaten straight off. I would keep two such men
as my husband as soon as I would Philetus."

"Philetus!" said Fleda,--"the person that brought the chicken and thought
he had brought two?"

"You've hit it," said Mrs. Douglass. "Now you know him. How do you like
our new minister?"

"We are all very much pleased with him."

"He's very good-looking, don't you think so?"

"A very pleasant face."

"I ha'n't seen him much yet except in church; but those that know say he
is very agreeable in the house."

"Truly, I dare say," answered Fleda, for Mrs. Douglass's face looked for
her testimony.

"But I think he looks as if he was beating his brains out there among
his books--I tell him he is getting the blues, living in that big house
by himself."

"Do you manage to do all your work without help, Mrs. Douglass?" said
Fleda, knowing that the question was "in order" and that the affirmative
answer was not counted a thing to be ashamed of.

"Well I guess I'll know good reason," said Mrs. Douglass complacently,
"before I'll have any help to spoil _my_ work. Come along, and I'll let
you see whether I want one."

Fleda went, very willingly, to be shewn all Mrs. Douglass's household
arrangements and clever contrivances, of her own or her husband's
devising, for lessening or facilitating labour. The lady was proud, and
had some reason to be, of the very superb order and neatness of each part
and detail. No corner or closet that might not be laid open fearlessly to
a visitor's inspection. Miss Catharine was then directed to open her piano
and amuse Fleda with it while her mother performed her promise of getting
an early supper; a command grateful to one or two of the party, for
Catharine had been carrying on all this while a most stately tête-à-tête
with Hugh which neither had any wish to prolong. So Fleda filled up the
time good-naturedly with thrumming over the two or three bits of her
childish music that she could recall, till Mr. Douglass came in and they
were summoned to sit down to supper; which Mrs. Douglass introduced by
telling her guests "they must take what they could get, for she had made
fresh bread and cake and pies for them two or three times, and she wa'n't
a going to do it again."

Her table was abundantly spread however, and with most exquisite neatness,
and everything was of excellent quality, saving only certain matters which
call for a free hand in the use of material. Fleda thought the pumpkin
pies must have been made from that vaunted stock which is said to want no
eggs nor sugar, and the cakes she told Mrs. Rossitur afterwards would have
been good if half the flour had been left out and the other ingredients
doubled. The deficiency in one kind however was made up by superabundance
in another; the table was stocked with such wealth of crockery that one
could not imagine any poverty in what was to go upon it. Fleda hardly knew
how to marshal the confusion of plates which grouped themselves around her
cup and saucer, and none of them might be dispensed with. There was one
set of little glass dishes for one kind of sweetmeat, another set of ditto
for another kind; an army of tiny plates to receive and shield the
tablecloth from the dislodged cups of tea, saucers being the conventional
drinking vessels; and there were the standard bread and butter plates,
which besides their proper charge of bread and butter and beef and cheese,
were expected, Fleda knew, to receive a portion of every kind of cake that
might happen to be on the table. It was a very different thing however
from Miss Anastasia's tea-table or that of Miss Flora Quackenboss. Fleda
enjoyed the whole time without difficulty.

Mr. Douglass readily agreed to the transfer of Philetus's services.

"He's a good boy!" said Earl,--"he's a good boy; he's as good a kind of a
boy as you need to have. He wants tellin'; most boys want tellin'; but
he'll do when he _is_ told, and he means to do right."

"How long do you expect your uncle will be gone?" said Mrs. Douglass.

"I do not know," said Fleda.

"Have you heard from him since he left?"

"Not since I came home," said Fleda. "Mr. Douglass, what is the first
thing to be done about the maple trees in the sugar season?"

"Why, you calculate to try makin' sugar in the spring?"

"Perhaps--at any rate I should like to know about it."

"Well I should think you would," said Earl, "and it's easy done--there
ain't nothin' easier, when you know the right way to set to work about it;
and there's a fine lot of sugar trees on the old farm--I recollect of them
sugar trees as long ago as when I was a boy--I've helped to work them
afore now, but there's a good many years since--has made me a leetle
older--but the first thing you want is a man and a team, to go about and
empty the buckets--the buckets must be emptied every day, and then carry
it down to the house."

"Yes, I know," said Fleda, "but what is the first thing to be done to
the trees?"

"Why la! 'tain't much to do to the trees--all you've got to do is to
take an axe and chip a bit out and stick a chip a leetle way into the
cut for to dreen the sap, and set a trough under, and then go on to the
next one, and so on;--you may make one or two cuts in the south side of
the tree, and one or two cuts in the north side, if the tree's big
enough, and if it ain't, only make one or two cuts in the south side of
the tree; and for the sap to run good it had ought to be that kind o'
weather when it freezes in the day and thaws by night;--I would
say!--when it friz in the night and thaws in the day; the sap runs more
bountifully in that kind o' weather."

It needed little from Fleda to keep Mr. Douglass at the maple trees till
supper was ended; and then as it was already sundown he went to harness
the sleigh.

It was a comfortable one, and the horses if not very handsome nor
bright-curried were well fed and had good heart to their work. A two mile
drive was before them, and with no troublesome tongues or eyes to claim
her attention Fleda enjoyed it fully. In the soft clear winter twilight
when heaven and earth mingle so gently, and the stars look forth brighter
and cheerfuller than ever at another time, they slid along over the fine
roads, too swiftly, towards home; and Fleda's thoughts as easily and
swiftly slipped away from Mr. Douglass and maple sugar and Philetus and an
unfilled wood-yard and an empty flour-barrel, and revelled in the pure
ether. A dark rising ground covered with wood sometimes rose between her
and the western horizon; and then a long stretch of snow, only less pure,
would leave free view of its unearthly white light, dimmed by no
exhalation, a gentle, mute, but not the less eloquent, witness to Earth of
what Heaven must be.

But the sleigh stopped at the gate, and Fleda's musings came home.

"Good night!" said Earl, in reply to their thanks and adieus;--"'tain't
anything to thank a body for--let me know when you're a goin' into the
sugar making and I'll come and help you."

"How sweet a pleasant message may make an unmusical tongue," said Fleda,
as she and Hugh made their way up to the house.

"We had a stupid enough afternoon," said Hugh.

"But the ride home was worth it all!"



Chapter XXVI.



 'Tis merry, 'tis merry, in good green wood,
    So blithe Lady Alice is singing;
  On the beech's pride, and the oak's brown side,
   Lord Richard's axe is ringing.

  Lady of the Lake.


Philetus came, and was inducted into office and the little room
immediately; and Fleda felt herself eased of a burden. Barby reported him
stout and willing, and he proved it by what seemed a perverted inclination
for bearing the most enormous logs of wood he could find into the kitchen.

"He will hurt himself!" said Fleda.

"I'll protect him!--against anything but buckwheat batter," said Barby
with a grave shake of her head. "Lazy folks takes the most pains, I tell
him. But it would be good to have some more ground, Fleda, for Philetus
says he don't care for no dinner when he has griddles to breakfast, and
there ain't anything much cheaper than that."

"Aunt Lucy, have you any change in the house?" said Fleda that same day.

"There isn't but three and sixpence," said Mrs. Rossitur with a pained
conscious look. "What is wanting, dear?"

"Only candles--Barby has suddenly found we are out, and she won't have any
more made before to-morrow. Never mind!"

"There is only that," repeated Mrs. Rossitur. "Hugh has a little money due
to him from last summer, but he hasn't been able to get it yet. You may
take that, dear."

"No," said Fleda,--"we mustn't. We might want it more."

"We can sit in the dark for once," said Hugh, "and try to make an uncommon
display of what Dr. Quackenboss calls 'sociality.'"

"No," said Fleda, who had stood busily thinking,--"I am going to send
Philetus down to the post-office for the paper, and when it comes I am not
to be balked of reading it--I've made up my mind! We'll go right off into
the woods and get some pine knots, Hugh--come! They make a lovely light.
You get us a couple of baskets and the hatchet--I wish we had two--and
I'll be ready in no time. That'll do!"

It is to be noticed that Charlton had provided against any future
deficiency of news in his family. Fleda skipped away and in five minutes
returned arrayed for the expedition, in her usual out-of-door working
trim, namely,--an old dark merino cloak, almost black, the effect of which
was continued by the edge of an old dark mousseline below, and rendered
decidedly striking by the contrast of a large whitish yarn shawl worn over
it; the whole crowned with a little close-fitting hood made of some old
silver-grey silk, shaped tight to the head, without any bow or furbelow to
break the outline. But such a face within side of it! She came almost
dancing into the room.

"This is Miss Ringgan!--as she appeared when she was going to see the pine
trees. Hugh, don't you wish you had a picture of me?"

"I have got a tolerable picture of you, somewhere," said Hugh.

"This is somebody very different from the Miss Ringgan that went to see
Mrs. Evelyn, I can tell you," Fleda went on gayly.

"Do you know, aunt Lucy, I have made up my mind that my visit to New York
was a dream, and the dream is nicely folded away with my silk dresses. Now
I must go tell that precious Philetus about the post-office--I am _so_
comforted, aunt Lucy, whenever I see that fellow staggering into the house
under a great log of wood! I have not heard anything in a long time so
pleasant as the ringing strokes of his axe in the yard. Isn't life made up
of little things!"

"Why don't you put a better pair of shoes on?"

"Can't afford it, Mrs. Rossitur! You are extravagant!"

"Go and put on my India-rubbers."

"No ma'am!--the rocks would cut them to pieces. I have brought my mind
down to--my shoes."

"It isn't safe, Fleda; you might see somebody."

"Well ma'am!--But I tell you I am not going to see anybody but the
chick-a-dees and the snow-birds, and there is great simplicity of manners
prevailing among them."

The shoes were changed, and Hugh and Fleda set forth, lingering awhile
however to give a new edge to their hatchet, Fleda turning the grindstone.
They mounted then the apple-orchard hill and went a little distance along
the edge of the table-land before striking off into the woods. They had
stood still a minute to look over the little white valley to the
snow-dressed woodland beyond.

"This is better than New York, Hugh," said Fleda.

"I am very glad to hear you say that," said another voice. Fleda turned
and started a little to see Mr. Olmney at her side, and congratulated
herself instantly on her shoes.

"Mrs. Rossitur told me where you had gone and gave me permission to follow
you, but I hardly hoped to overtake you so soon."

"We stopped to sharpen our tools," said Fleda. "We are out on a foraging
expedition."

"Will you let me help you?"

"Certainly!--if you understand the business. Do you know a pine knot when
you see it?"

He laughed and shook his head, but avowed a wish to learn.

"Well, it would be a charity to teach you anything wholesome," said Fleda,
"for I heard one of Mr. Olmney's friends lately saying that he looked like
a person who was in danger of committing suicide."

"Suicide!--One of my friends!"--he exclaimed in the utmost astonishment.

"Yes," said Fleda laughing;--"and there is nothing like the open air for
clearing away vapours."

"You cannot have known that by experience," said he looking at her.

Fleda shook her head and advising him to take nothing for granted, set off
into the woods.

They were in a beautiful state. A light snow but an inch or two deep had
fallen the night before; the air had been perfectly still during the day;
and though the sun was out, bright and mild, it had done little but
glitter on the earth's white capping. The light dry flakes of snow had not
stirred from their first resting-place. The long branches of the large
pines were just tipped with snow at the ends; on the smaller evergreens
every leaf and tuft had its separate crest. Stones and rocks were smoothly
rounded over, little shrubs and sprays that lay along the ground were all
doubled in white; and the hemlock branches, bending with their feathery
burthen, stooped to the foreheads of the party and gave them the freshest
of salutations as they brushed by. The whole wood-scene was particularly
fair and graceful. A light veil of purity, no more, thrown over the
wilderness of stones and stumps and bare ground,--like the blessing of
charity, covering all roughnesses and unsightlinesses--like the innocent
unsullied nature that places its light shield between the eye and whatever
is unequal, unkindly, and unlovely in the world.

"What do you think of this for a misanthropical man, Mr. Olmney? there's a
better tonic to be found in the woods than in any remedies of man's
devising."

"Better than books?" said he.

"Certainly!--No comparison."

"I have to learn that yet."

"So I suppose," said Fleda. "The very danger to be apprehended, as I hear,
sir, is from your running a tilt into some of those thick folios of yours,
head foremost.--There's no pitch there, Hugh--you may leave it alone. We
must go on--there are more yellow pines higher up."

"But who could give such a strange character of me to you?" said
Mr. Olmney.

"I am sure your wisdom would not advise me to tell you that, sir. You will
find nothing there, Mr. Olmney."

They went gayly on, careering about in all directions and bearing down
upon every promising stump or dead pine tree they saw in the distance.
Hugh and Mr. Olmney took turns in the labour of hewing out the fat pine
knots and splitting down the old stumps to get at the pitchy heart of the
wood; and the baskets began to grow heavy. The whole party were in
excellent spirits, and as happy as the birds that filled the woods and
whose cheery "chick-a-dee-dee-dee," was heard whenever they paused to rest
and let the hatchet be still.

"How one sees everything in the colour of one's own spectacles,"
said Fleda.

"May I ask what colour yours are to-day?" said Mr. Olmney.

"Rose, I think," said Hugh.

"No," said Fleda, "they are better than that--they are no worse colour
than the snow's own--they shew me everything just as it is. It could not
be lovelier."

"Then we may conclude, may we not," said Mr. Olmney, "that you are not
sorry to find yourself in Queechy again?"

"I am not sorry to find myself in the woods again. That is not pitch,
Mr. Olmney."

"It has the same colour,--and weight."

"No, it is only wet--see this and smell of it--do you see the difference?
Isn't it pleasant?"

"Everything is pleasant to-day," said he smiling.

"I shall report you a cure. Come, I want to go a little higher and shew
you a view. Leave that, Hugh, we have got enough--"

But Hugh chose to finish an obstinate stump, and his companions went on
without him. It was not very far up the mountain and they came to a fine
look-out point; the same where Fleda and Mr. Carleton had paused long
before on their quest after nuts. The wide spread of country was a white
waste now; the delicate beauties of the snow were lost in the far view;
and the distant Catskill shewed wintrily against the fair blue sky. The
air was gentle enough to invite them to stand still, after the exercise
they had taken, and as they both looked in silence Mr. Olmney observed
that his companion's face settled into a gravity rather at variance with
the expression it had worn.

"I should hardly think," said he softly, "that you were looking through
white spectacles, if you had not told us so."

"O--a shade may come over what one is looking at you know," said Fleda.
But seeing that he still watched her inquiringly she added,

"I do not think a very wide landscape is ever gay in its effect upon the
mind--do you?"

"Perhaps--I do not know," said he, his eyes turning to it again as if to
try what the effect was.

"My thoughts had gone back," said Fleda, "to a time a good while ago,
when I was a child and stood here in summer weather--and I was thinking
that the change in the landscape is something like that which years make
in the mind."

"But you have not, for a long time at least, known any very acute sorrow?"

"No--" said Fleda, "but that is not necessary. There is a gentle kind of
discipline which does its work I think more surely."

"Thank God for _gentle_ discipline!" said Mr. Olmney; "if you do not know
what those griefs are that break down mind and body together."

"I am not unthankful, I hope, for anything," said Fleda gently; "but I
have been apt to think that after a crushing sorrow the mind may rise up
again, but that a long-continued though much lesser pressure in time
breaks the spring."

He looked at her again with a mixture of incredulous and tender interest,
but her face did not belie her words, strange as they sounded from so
young and in general so bright-seeming a creature.

"'There shall no evil happen to the just,'" he said presently and with
great sympathy.

Fleda flashed a look of gratitude at him--it was no more, for she felt her
eyes watering and turned them away.

"You have not, I trust, heard any bad news?"

"No sir--not at all!"

"I beg pardon for asking, but Mrs. Rossitur seemed to be in less good
spirits than usual."

He had some reason to say so, having found her in a violent fit of
weeping.

"You do not need to be told," he went on, "of the need there is that a
cloud should now and then come over this lower scene--the danger that if
it did not our eyes would look nowhere else?"

There is something very touching in hearing a kind voice say what one has
often struggled to say to oneself.

"I know it, sir," said Fleda, her words a little choked,--"and one may not
wish the cloud away,--but it does not the less cast a shade upon the face.
I guess Hugh has worked his way into the middle of that stump by this
time, Mr. Olmney."

They rejoined him; and the baskets being now sufficiently heavy and arms
pretty well tired they left the further riches of the pine woods
unexplored and walked sagely homewards. At the brow of the table-land Mr.
Olmney left them to take a shorter cut to the high-road, having a visit to
make which the shortening day warned him not to defer.

"Put down your basket and rest a minute, Hugh," said Fleda. "I had a world
of things to talk to you about, and this blessed man has driven them all
out of my head."

"But you are not sorry he came along with us?"

"O no. We had a very good time. How lovely it is, Hugh! Look at the snow
down there--without a track; and the woods have been dressed by the
fairies. O look how the sun is glinting on the west side of that hillock!"

[Illustration: "How lovely it is, Hugh!"]

"It is twice as bright since you have come home," said Hugh.

"The snow is too beautiful to-day. O I was right! one may grow morbid over
books--but I defy anybody in the company of those chick-a-dees. I should
think it would be hard to keep quite sound in the city."

"You are glad to be here again, aren't you?" said Hugh.

"Very! O Hugh!--it is better to be poor and have one's feet on these
hills, than to be rich and shut up to brick walls!"

"It is best as it is," said Hugh quietly.

"Once," Fleda went on,--"one fair day when I was out driving in New York,
it did come over me with a kind of pang how pleasant it would be to have
plenty of money again and be at ease; and then, as I was looking off over
that pretty North river to the other shore, I bethought me, 'A little that
a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked.'"

Hugh did not answer, for the face she turned to him in its half tearful,
half bright submission took away his speech.

"Why you cannot have enjoyed yourself as much as we thought, Fleda, if you
dislike the city so much?"

"Yes I did. O I enjoyed a great many things. I enjoyed being with the
Evelyns. You don't know how much they made of me,--every one of
them,--father and mother and all the three daughters--and uncle Orrin. I
have been well petted, I can tell you, since I have been gone."

"I am glad they shewed so much discrimination," said Hugh; "they would be
puzzled to make too much of you."

"I must have been in a remarkably discriminating society," said Fleda,
"for everybody was very kind!"

"How do you like the Evelyns on a nearer view?"

"Very much indeed; and I believe they really love me. Nothing could
possibly be kinder, in all ways of shewing kindness. I shall never
forget it."

"Who were you driving with that day?" said Hugh.

"Mr. Thorn."

"Did you see much of him?"

"Quite as much as I wished. Hugh--I took your advice."

"About what?" said Hugh.

"I carried down some of my scribblings and sent them to a Magazine."

"Did you!" said Hugh looking delighted. "And will they publish them?"

"I don't know," said Fleda, "that's another matter. I sent them, or uncle
Orrin did, when I first went down; and I have heard nothing of them yet."

"You shewed them to uncle Orrin?"

"Couldn't help it, you know. I had to."

"And what did he say to them?"

"Come!--I'm not going to be cross-questioned," said Fleda laughing. "He
did not prevent my sending them."

"And if they take them, do you expect they will give anything for
them?--the Magazine people?"

"I am sure if they don't they shall have no more--that is my only
possible inducement to let them be printed. For my own pleasure, I would
far rather not."

"Did you sign with your own name?"

"My own name!--Yes, and desired it to be printed in large capitals. What
are you thinking of? No--I hope you'll forgive me, but I signed myself
what our friend the doctor calls 'Yugh.'"

"I'll forgive you if you'll do one thing for me."

"What?"

"Shew me all you have in your portfolio--Do, Fleda--to-night, by the light
of the pitch-pine knots. Why shouldn't you give me that pleasure? And
besides, you know Molière had an old woman?"

"Well," said Fleda with a face that to Hugh was extremely
satisfactory,--"we'll see--I suppose you might as well read my productions
in manuscript as in print. But they are in a terribly scratchy
condition--they go sometimes for weeks in my head before I find time to
put them down--you may guess polishing is pretty well out of the question.
Suppose we try to get home with these baskets."

Which they did.

"Has Philetus got home?" was Fleda's first question.

"No," said Mrs. Rossitur, "but Dr. Quackenboss has been here and brought
the paper--he was at the post-office this morning, he says. Did you see
Mr. Olmney?"

"Yes ma'am, and I feel he has saved me from a lame arm--those pine knots
are so heavy."

"He is a lovely young man!" said Mrs. Rossitur with uncommon emphasis.

"I should have been blind to the fact, aunt Lucy, if you had not made me
change my shoes. At present, no disparagement to him, I feel as if a cup
of tea would be rather more lovely than anything else."

"He sat with me some time," said Mrs. Rossitur; "I was afraid he would not
overtake you."

Tea was ready, and only waiting for Mrs. Rossitur to come down stairs,
when Fleda, whose eye was carelessly running along the columns of the
paper, uttered a sudden shout and covered her face with it. Hugh looked up
in astonishment, but Fleda was beyond anything but exclamations, laughing
and flushing to the very roots of her hair.

"What _is_ the matter, Fleda?"

"Why," said Fleda,--"how comical!--I was just looking over the list of
articles in the January number of the 'Excelsior'"--

"The 'Excelsior'?" said Hugh.

"Yes--the Magazine I sent my things to--I was running over their
advertisement here, where they give a special puff of the publication in
general and of several things in particular, and I saw--here they speak
of 'A tale of thrilling interest by Mrs. Eliza Lothbury, unsurpassed,' and
so forth and so forth; 'another valuable communication from Mr.
Charleston, whose first acute and discriminating paper all our readers
will remember; the beginning of a new tale from the infallibly graceful
pen of Miss Delia Lawriston, we are sure it will be so and so; '"_The
wind's voices," by our new correspondent "Hugh," has a delicate sweetness
that would do no discredit to some of our most honoured names!_'--What do
you think of that?"

What Hugh thought he did not say, but he looked delighted; and came to
read the grateful words for himself.

"I did not know but they had declined it utterly," said Fleda,--"it was
so long since I had sent it and they had taken no notice of it; but it
seems they kept it for the beginning of a new volume."

"'Would do no discredit to some of our most honoured names'!" said Hugh.
"Dear Fleda, I am very glad! But it is no more than I expected."

"Expected!" said Fleda. "When you had not seen a line! Hush--My dear
Hugh, aren't you hungry?"

The tea, with this spice to their appetites, was wonderfully relished; and
Hugh and Fleda kept making despatches of secret pleasure and sympathy to
each other's eyes; though Fleda's face after the first flush had faded was
perhaps rather quieter than usual. Hugh's was illuminated.

"Mr. Skillcorn is a smart man!" said Barby coming in with a package,--"he
has made out to go two miles in two hours and get back again safe!"

"More from the post-office!" exclaimed Fleda pouncing upon it,--"oh yes,
there has been another mail. A letter for you, aunt Lucy! from uncle
Rolf!--We'll forgive him, Barby--And here's a letter for me, from uncle
Orrin, and--yes--the 'Excelsior.' Hugh, uncle Orrin said he would send it.
Now for those blessed pine knots! Aunt Lucy, you shall be honoured with
the one whole candle the house contains."

The table soon cleared away, the basket of fat fuel was brought in; and
one or two splinters being delicately insinuated between the sticks on the
fire a very brilliant illumination sprang out. Fleda sent a congratulatory
look over to Hugh on the other side of the fireplace as she cosily
established herself on her little bench at one corner with her letter; he
had the Magazine. Mrs. Rossitur between them at the table with her one
candle was already insensible to all outward things.

And soon the other two were as delightfully absorbed. The bright light of
the fire shone upon three motionless and rapt figures, and getting no
greeting from them went off and danced on the old cupboard doors and paper
hangings, in a kindly hearty joviality that would have put any number of
stately wax candles out of countenance. There was no poverty in the room
that night. But the people were too busy to know how cosy they were; till
Fleda was ready to look up from her note and Hugh had gone twice carefully
over the new poem,--when there was a sudden giving out of the pine
splinters. New ones were supplied in eager haste and silence, and Hugh was
beginning "The wind's voices" for the third time when a soft-whispered
"Hugh!" across the fire made him look over to Fleda's corner. She was
holding up with both hands a five-dollar bank note and just shewing him
her eyes over it.

"What's that?" said Hugh in an energetic whisper.

"I don't know!" said Fleda, shaking her head comically;--"I am told 'The
wind's voices' have blown it here, but privately I am afraid it is a
windfall of another kind."

"What?" said Hugh laughing.

"Uncle Orrin says it is the first fruits of what I sent to the
'Excelsior,' and that more will come; but I do not feel at all sure that
it is entirely the growth of that soil."

"I dare say it is," said Hugh; "I am sure it is worth more than that. Dear
Fleda, I like it so much!"

Fleda gave him such a smile of grateful affection!--not at all as if she
deserved his praise but as if it was very pleasant to have.

"What put it into your head? anything in particular?"

"No--nothing--I was looking out of the window one day and seeing the
willow tree blow; and that looked over my shoulder; as you know Hans
Andersen says his stories did."

"It is just like you!--exactly as it can be."

"Things put themselves in my head," said Fleda, tucking another splinter
into the fire. "Isn't this better than a chandelier?"

"Ten times!"

"And so much pleasanter for having got it ourselves. What a nice time we
had, Hugh?"

"Very. Now for the portfolio, Fleda--come!--mother is fast; she won't see
or hear anything. What does father say, mother?"

In answer to this they had the letter read, which indeed contained nothing
remarkable beyond its strong expressions of affection to each one of the
little family; a cordial which Mrs. Rossitur drank and grew strong upon in
the very act of reading. It is pity the medicine of kind words is not more
used in the world--it has so much power. Then, having folded up her
treasure and talked a little while about it, Mrs. Rossitur caught up the
Magazine like a person who had been famished in that kind; and soon she
and it and her tallow candle formed a trio apart from all the world again.
Fleda and Hugh were safe to pass most mysterious-looking little papers
from hand to hand right before her, though they had the care to read them
behind newspapers, and exchanges of thought and feeling went on more
swiftly still, and softly, across the fire.

Looks, and smiles, and whispers, and tears too, under cover of a Tribune
and an Express. And the blaze would die down just when Hugh had got to
the last verse of something, and then while impatiently waiting for the
new pine splinters to catch he would tell Fleda how much he liked it, or
how beautiful he thought it, and whisper enquiries and critical
questions; till the fire reached the fat vein and leaped up in defiant
emulation of gas-lights unknown, and then he would fall to again with
renewed gusto. And Fleda hunted out in her portfolio what bits to give
him first, and bade him as she gave them remember this and understand
that, which was necessary to be borne in mind in the reading. And through
all the brightening and fading blaze, and all the whispering,
congratulating, explaining, and rejoicing going on at her side, Mrs.
Rossitur and her tallow candle were devoted to each other, happily and
engrossingly. At last, however, she flung the Magazine from her and
turning from the table sat looking into the fire with a rather uncommonly
careful and unsatisfied brow.

"What did you think of the second piece of poetry there, mother?" said
Hugh;--"that ballad?--'The wind's voices' it is called."

"'The wind's voices'?--I don't know--I didn't read it, I believe."

"Why mother! I liked it very much. Do read it--read it aloud."

Mrs. Rossitur took up the Magazine again abstractedly, and read--

  "'Mamma, what makes your face so sad?
  The sound of the wind makes me feel glad;
  But whenever it blows, as grave you look,
  As if you were reading a sorrowful book.'

  "'A sorrowful book I am reading, dear,--
  A book of weeping and pain and fear,--
  A book deep printed on my heart,
  Which I cannot read but the tears will start.

  "'That breeze to my ear was soft and mild,
  Just so, when I was a little child;
  But now I hear in its freshening breath
  The voices of those that sleep in death.'

  "'Mamma,' said the child with shaded brow,
  'What is this book you are reading now?
  And why do you read what makes you cry?'
  'My child, it comes up before my eye.

  "'Tis the memory, love, of a far-off day
  When my life's best friend was taken away;--
  Of the weeks and months that my eyes were dim
  Watching for tidings--watching for him.

  "'Many a year has come and past
  Since a ship sailed over the ocean fast,
  Bound for a port on England's shore,--
  She sailed--but was never heard of more.'

  "'Mamma'--and she closer pressed her side,--
  'Was that the time when my father died?--
  Is it his ship you think you see?--
  Dearest mamma--won't you speak to me?'

  "The lady paused, but then calmly said,
  'Yes, Lucy--the sea was his dying bed,
  And now whenever I hear the blast
  I think again of that storm long past.

  "'The winds' fierce bowlings hurt not me,
  But I think how they beat on the pathless sea,--
  Of the breaking mast--of the parting rope,--
  Of the anxious strife and the failing hope.'

  "'Mamma,' said the child with streaming eyes,
  'My father has gone above the skies;
  And you tell me this world is mean and base
  Compared with heaven--that blessed place.'

  "'My daughter, I know--I believe it all,--
  I would not his spirit to earth recall.
  The blest one he--his storm was brief,--
  Mine, a long tempest of tears and grief.

  "'I have you, my darling--I should not sigh.
  I have one star more in my cloudy sky,--
  The hope that we both shall join him there,
  In that perfect rest from weeping and care.'"

"Well, mother,--how do you like it?" said Hugh whose eyes gave tender
witness to _his_ liking for it.

"It is pretty--" said Mrs. Rossitur.

Hugh exclaimed, and Fleda laughing took it out of her hand.

"Why mother!" said Hugh,--"it is Fleda's."

"Fleda's!" exclaimed Mrs. Rossitur, snatching the Magazine again. "My dear
child, I was not thinking in the least of what I was reading. Fleda's!--"

She read it over anew, with swimming eyes this time, and then clasped
Fleda in her arms and gave her, not words, but the better reward of kisses
and tears. They remained so a long time, even till Hugh left them; and
then Fleda released from her aunt's embrace still crouched by her side
with one arm in her lap.

They both sat thoughtfully looking into the fire till it had burnt itself
out and nothing but a glowing bed of coals remained.

"That is an excellent young man!" said Mrs. Rossitur.

"Who?"

"Mr. Olmney. He sat with me some time after you had gone."

"So you said before," said Fleda, wondering at the troubled expression of
her aunt's face.

"He made me wish," said Mrs. Rossitur hesitating,--"that I could be
something different from what I am--I believe I should be a great deal
happier"--

The last word was hardly spoken. Fleda rose to her knees and putting both
arms about her aunt pressed face to face, with a clinging sympathy that
told how very near her spirit was; while tears from the eyes of both fell
without measure.

"Dear aunt Lucy--_dear_ aunt Lucy--I wish you would!--I am sure you would
be a great deal happier--"

But the mixture of feelings was too much for Fleda; her head sank lower on
her aunt's bosom and she wept aloud.

"But I don't know anything about it!" said Mrs. Rossitur, as well as she
could speak,--"I am as ignorant as a child!--"

"Dear aunty! that is nothing--God will teach you if you ask him; he has
promised. Oh ask him, aunt Lucy! I know you would be happier!--I know it
is better--a million times!--to be a child of God than to have everything
in the world--If they only brought us that, I would be very glad of all
our troubles!--indeed I would!"

"But I don't think I ever did anything right in my life!" said poor
Mrs. Rossitur.

"Dear aunt Lucy!" said Fleda, straining her closer and with her very heart
gushing out at these words,--"_dear_ aunty--Christ came for just such
sinners!--for just such as you and I."

"_You,_"--said Mrs. Rossitur, but speech failed utterly, and with a
muttered prayer that Fleda would help her, she sunk her head upon her
shoulder and sobbed herself into quietness, or into exhaustion. The
glow of the firelight faded away till only a faint sparkle was left in
the chimney.

There was not another word spoken, but when they rose up, with such kisses
as gave and took unuttered affection, counsel and sympathy, they bade each
other good-night.

Fleda went to her window, for the moon rode high and her childish habit
had never been forgotten. But surely the face that looked out that night
was as the face of an angel. In all the pouring moonbeams that filled the
air, she could see nothing but the flood of God's goodness on a dark
world. And her heart that night had nothing but an unbounded and
unqualified thanksgiving for all the "gentle discipline" they had felt;
for every sorrow and weariness and disappointment;--except besides the
prayer, almost too deep to be put into words, that its due and hoped-for
fruit might be brought forth unto perfection.



Chapter XXVII.



  I become not a cart as well as another man, a plague on my bringing up.

  Shakspeare.


Every day could not be as bright as the last, even by the help of pitch
pine knots. They blazed indeed, many a time, but the blaze shone upon
faces that it could not sometimes light up. Matters drew gradually within
a smaller and smaller compass. Another five dollars came from uncle Orrin,
and the hope of more; but these were carefully laid by to pay Philetus;
and for all other wants of the household excepting those the farm supplied
the family were dependent on mere driblets of sums. None came from Mr.
Rossitur. Hugh managed to collect a very little. That kept them from
absolute distress; that, and Fleda's delicate instrumentality. Regular
dinners were given up, fresh meat being now unheard-of, unless when a kind
neighbour made them a present; and appetite would have lagged sadly but
for Fleda's untiring care. She thought no time nor pains ill bestowed
which could prevent her aunt and Hugh from feeling the want of old
comforts; and her nicest skill was displayed in varying the combinations
of their very few and simple stores. The diversity and deliciousness of
her bread stuffs, Barby said, was "beyond everything!" and a cup of rich
coffee was found to cover all deficiencies of removes and entremêts; and
this was always served, Barby said further, as if the President of the
United States was expected. Fleda never permitted the least slackness in
the manner of doing this or anything else that she could control.

Mr. Plumfield had sent down an opportune present of a fine porker. One
cold day in the beginning of February Fleda was busy in the kitchen making
something for dinner, and Hugh at another table was vigorously chopping
sausage meat.

"I should like to have some cake again," said Fleda.

"Well, why don't you?" said Hugh, chopping away.

"No eggs, Mr. Rossitur,--and can't afford 'em at two shillings a dozen. I
believe I am getting discontented--I have a great desire to do something
to distinguish myself--I would make a plum pudding if I had raisins, but
there is not one in the house."

"You can get 'em up to Mr. Hemps's for sixpence a pound," said Barby.

But Fleda shook her head at the sixpence and went on moulding out her
biscuits diligently.

"I wish Philetus would make his appearance with the cows--it is a
very odd thing they should be gone since yesterday morning and no
news of them."

"I only hope the snow ain't so bright it'll blind his eyes," said Barby.

"There he is this minute," said Hugh. "It is impossible to tell from his
countenance whether successful or not."

"Well where are the cows, Mr. Skillcorn?" said Barby as he came in.

"I have went all over town," said the person addressed, "and they ain't
no place."

"Have you asked news of them, Philetus?"

"I have asked the hull town, and I have went all over, 'till I was a'most
beat out with the cold,--and I ha'n't seen the first sight of 'em yet!"

Fleda and Hugh exchanged looks, while Barby and Mr. Skillcorn entered into
an animated discussion of probabilities and impossibilities.

"If we should be driven from our coffee dinners to tea with no milk in
it!"--said Hugh softly in mock dismay.

"Wouldn't!" said Fleda. "We'd beat up an egg and put it in the coffee."

"We couldn't afford it," said Hugh smiling.

"Could!--cheaper than to keep the cows. I'll have some sugar at any rate,
I'm determined. Philetus!"

"Marm."

"I wish, when you have got a good pile of wood chopped, you would make
some troughs to put under the maple trees--you know how to make them,
don't you?"

"I do!"

"I wish you would make some--you have pine logs out there large enough,
haven't you?"

"They hadn't ought to want much of it--there's some gregious big ones!"

"I don't know how many we shall want, but a hundred or two at any rate;
and the sooner the better. Do you know how much sugar they make from
one tree?"

"Wall I don't," said Mr. Skillcorn, with the air of a person who was at
fault on no other point;--"the big trees give more than the little ones--"

Fleda's eyes flashed at Hugh, who took to chopping in sheer desperation;
and the muscles of both gave them full occupation for five minutes.
Philetus stood comfortably warming himself at the fire, looking first at
one and then at the other, as if they were a show and he had paid for it.
Barby grew impatient.

"I guess this cold weather makes lazy people of me!" she said bustling
about her fire with an amount of energy that was significant. It seemed
to signify nothing to Philetus. He only moved a little out of the way.

"Didenhover's cleared out," he burst forth at length abruptly.

"What!" said Fleda and Barby at once, the broom and the biscuits
standing still.

"Mr. Didenhover."

"What of him?"

"He has tuk himself off out o" town."

"Where to?"

"I can't tell you where teu--he ain't coming back, 'tain't likely."

"How do you know?"

"'Cause he's tuk all his traps and went, and he said farming didn't pay
and he wa'n't a going to have nothin' more to deu with it;--he telled Mis'
Simpson so--he lived to Mis' Simpson's; and she telled Mr. Ten Eyck."

"Are you sure, Philetus?"

"Sure as 'lection!--he telled Mis' Simpson so, and she telled Mr. Ten
Eyck; and he's cleared out."

Fleda and Hugh again looked at each other. Mr. Skillcorn having now
delivered himself of his news went out to the woodyard.

"I hope he ha'n't carried off our cows along with him," said Barby, as she
too went out to some other part of her premises.

"He was to have made us quite a payment on the first of March,"
said Fleda.

"Yes, and that was to have gone to uncle Orrin," said Hugh.

"We shall not see a cent of it. And we wanted a little of it for
ourselves.--I have that money from the Excelsior, but I can't touch a
penny of it for it must go to Philetus's wages. What Barby does without
hers I do not know--she has had but one five dollars in six months. Why
she stays I cannot imagine; unless it is for pure love."

"As soon as the spring opens I can go to the mill again," said Hugh after
a little pause. Fleda looked at him sorrowfully and shook her head as she
withdrew her eyes.

"I wish father would give up the farm," Hugh went on under his breath. "I
cannot bear to live upon uncle Orrin so."

Fleda's answer was to clasp her hands. Her only words were, "Don't say
anything to aunt Lucy."

"It is of no use to say anything to anybody," said Hugh. "But it weighs me
to the ground, Fleda!"

"If uncle Rolf doesn't come home by spring--I hope, I hope he will!--but
if he does not, I will take desperate measures. I will try farming myself,
Hugh. I have thought of it, and I certainly will. I will get Earl Douglass
or somebody else to play second fiddle, but I will have but one head on
the farm and I will try what mine is worth."

"You could not do it, Fleda."

"One can do anything!--with a strong enough motive."

"I'm afraid you'd soon be tired, Fleda."

"Not if I succeeded--not so tired as I am now."

"Poor Fleda! I dare say you are tired."

"It wasn't _that_ I meant," said Fleda, slightly drawing her breath;--"I
meant this feeling of everything going wrong, and uncle Orrin, and all--"

"But you _are_ weary," said Hugh affectionately. "I see it in your face."

"Not so much body as mind, after all. Oh Hugh! this is the worst part of
being poor!--the constant occupation of one's mind on a miserable
succession of trifles. I am so weary sometimes!--If I only had a nice
book to rest myself for a while and forget all these things--I would give
so much for it!--"

"Dear Fleda! I wish you had!"

"That was one delight of being in New York--I forgot all about money from
one end of it to the other--I put all that away;--and not having to think
of meals till I came to eat them. You can't think how tired I get of
ringing the changes on pork and flour and Indian meal and eggs and
vegetables!--"

Fleda looked tired and pale; and Hugh looked sadly conscious of it.

"Don't tell aunt Lucy I have said all this!" she exclaimed after a moment
rousing herself,--"I don't always feel so--only once in a while I get such
a fit--And now I have just troubled you by speaking of it!"

"You don't trouble any one in that way very often, dear Fleda," said Hugh
kissing her.

"I ought not at all--you have enough else to think of--but it is a kind of
relief sometimes. I like to do these things in general,--only now and then
I get tired, as I was just now, I suppose, and then one sees everything
through a different medium."

"I am afraid it would tire you more to have the charge of Earl Douglass
and the farm upon your mind;--and mother could be no help to you,--nor I,
if I am at the mill."

"But there's Seth Plumfield. O I've thought of it all. You don't know what
I am up to, Mr. Rossitur. You shall see how I will manage--unless uncle
Rolf comes home, in which case I will very gladly forego all my honours
and responsibilities together."

"I hope he will come!" said Hugh.

But this hope was to be disappointed. Mr. Rossitur wrote again about the
first of March, saying that he hoped to make something of his lands in
Michigan, and that he had the prospect of being engaged in some land
agencies which would make it worth his while to spend the summer there. He
bade his wife let anybody take the farm that could manage it and would
pay; and to remit to Dr. Gregory whatever she should receive and could
spare. He hoped to do something where he was.

It was just then the beginning of the sugar season; and Mrs. Douglass
having renewed and urged Earl's offer of help, Fleda sent Philetus down to
ask him to come the next day with his team. Seth Plumfield's, which had
drawn the wood in the winter, was now busy in his own sugar business. On
Earl Douglass's ground there happpened to be no maple trees. His lands
were of moderate extent and almost entirely cultivated as a sheep farm;
and Mr. Douglass himself though in very comfortable circumstances was in
the habit of assisting, on advantageous terms, all the farmers in the
neighbourhood.

Philetus came back again in a remarkably short time; and announced that he
had met Dr. Quackenboss in the way, who had offered to come with _his_
team for the desired service.

"Then you have not been to Mr. Douglass's?"

"I have not," said Philetus;--"I thought likely you wouldn't calculate to
want him teu."

"How came the doctor to know what you were going for?"

"I told him."

"But how came you to tell him?"

"Wall I guess he had a mind to know," said Philetus, "so I didn't keep it
no closer than I had teu."

"Well," said Fleda biting her lips, "you will have to go down to Mr.
Douglass's nevertheless, Philetus, and tell him the doctor is coming
to-morrow, but I should be very much obliged to him if he will be here
next day. Will you?"

"Yes marm!"

"Now dear Hugh, will you make me those little spouts for the trees!--of
some dry wood--you can get plenty out here. You want to split them up with
a hollow chisel about a quarter of an inch thick, and a little more than
half an inch broad. Have you got a hollow chisel?"

"No, but I can get one up the hill. Why must it be hollow?"

"To make little spouts, you know,--for the sap to run in. And then, my
dear Hugh! they must be sharpened at one end so as to fit where the chisel
goes in--I am afraid I have given you a day's work of it. How sorry I am
you must go to-morrow to the mill!--and yet I am glad too."

"Why need you go round yourself with these people?" said Hugh. "I don't
see the sense of it."

"They don't know where the trees are," said Fleda.

"I am sure I do not. Do you?"

"Perfectly well. And besides," said Fleda laughing, "I should have great
doubts of the discreetness of Philetus's auger if it were left to his
simple direction. I have no notion the trees would yield their sap as
kindly to him as to me. But I didn't bargain for Dr. Quackenboss."

Dr. Quackenboss arrived punctually the next morning with his oxen and
sled; and by the time it was loaded with the sap-troughs, Fleda in her
black cloak, yarn shawl, and grey little hood came out of the house to the
wood-yard. Earl Douglass was there too, not with his team, but merely to
see how matters stood and give advice.

"Good day, Mr. Douglass!" said the doctor. "You see I'm so fortunate as to
have got the start of you."

"Very good," said Earl contentedly,--"you may have it;--the start's one
thing and the pull's another. I'm willin' anybody should have the start,
but it takes a pull to know whether a man's got stuff in him or no."

"What do you mean?" said the doctor.

"I don't mean nothin' at all. You make a start to-day and I'll come ahint
and take the pull to-morrow. Ha' you got anythin' to boil down in,
Fleda?--there's a potash kittle somewheres, ain't there? I guess there is.
There is in most houses."

"There is a large kettle--I suppose large enough," said Fleda.

"That'll do, I guess. Well what do you calculate to put the syrup in--ha'
you got a good big cask, or plenty o' tubs and that? or will you sugar
off the hull lot every night and fix it that way? You must do one thing
or t'other, and it's good to know what you're a going to do afore you
come to do it."

"I don't know, Mr. Douglass," said Fleda;--"whichever is the best way--we
have no cask large enough, I am afraid."

"Well I tell you what I'll do--I know where there's a tub, and where
they ain't usin' it nother, and I reckon I can get 'em to let me have
it--I reckon I can--and I'll go round for't and fetch it here to-morrow
mornin' when I come with the team. 'Twon't be much out of my way. It's
more handier to leave the sugarin' off till the next day; and it had
ought to have a settlin' besides. Where'll you have your fire built?--in
doors or out?"

"Out--I would rather, if we can. But can we?"

"La, 'tain't nothin' easier--it's as easy out as in--all you've got to do
is to take and roll a couple of pretty sized billets for your fireplace
and stick a couple o' crotched sticks for to hang the kittle over--I'd as
lieve have it out as in, and if anythin' a leetle liever. If you'll lend
me Philetus, me and him'll fix it all ready agin you come back--'tain't no
trouble at all--and if the sticks ain't here we'll go into the woods after
'em, and have it all sot up."

But Fleda represented that the services of Philetus were just then in
requisition, and that there would be no sap brought home till to-morrow.

"Very good!" said Earl amicably,--"_very_ good! it's just as easy done one
day as another--it don't make no difference to me, and if it makes any
difference to you, of course we'll leave it to-day, and there'll be time
enough to do it to-morrow; me and him'll knock it up in a whistle.--What's
them little shingles for?"

Fleda explained the use and application of Hugh's mimic spouts. He turned
one about, whistling, while he listened to her.

"That's some o' Seth Plumfield's new jigs, ain't it. I wonder if he thinks
now the sap's a goin to run any sweeter out o' that 'ere than it would off
the end of a chip that wa'n't quite so handsome?"

"No, Mr. Douglass," said Fleda smiling,--"he only thinks that this will
catch a little more."

"His sugar won't never tell where it come from," remarked Earl, throwing
the spout down. "Well,--you shall see more o' me to-morrow. Good-bye, Dr.
Quackenboss!"

"Do you contemplate the refining process?" said the doctor, as they
moved off.

"I have often contemplated the want of it," said Fleda; "but it is best
not to try to do too much. I should like to make sure of something worth
refining in the first place."

"Mr. Douglass and I," said the doctor,--"I hope--a--he's a very
good-hearted man, Miss Fleda, but, ha! ha!--he wouldn't suffer loss from a
little refining himself.--Haw! you rascal--where are you going! Haw! I
tell ye--"

"I am very sorry, Dr. Quackenboss," said Fleda when she had the power and
the chance to speak again,--"I am very sorry you should have to take this
trouble; but unfortunately the art of driving oxen is not among Mr.
Skillcorn's accomplishments."

"My dear Miss Ringgan!" said the doctor, "I--I--nothing I assure you could
give me greater pleasure than to drive my oxen to any place where you
would like to have them go."

Poor Fleda wished she could have despatched them and him in one direction
while she took another; the art of driving oxen _quietly_ was certainly
not among the doctor's accomplishments. She was almost deafened. She tried
to escape from the immediate din by running before to shew Philetus about
tapping the trees and fixing the little spouts, but it was a longer
operation than she had counted upon, and by the time they were ready to
leave the tree the doctor was gee-hawing alongside of it; and then if the
next maple was not within sight she could not in decent kindness leave him
alone. The oxen went slowly, and though Fleda managed to have no delay
longer than to throw down a trough as the sled came up with each tree
which she and Philetus had tapped, the business promised to make a long
day of it. It might have been a pleasant day in pleasant company; but
Fleda's spirits were down to set out with, and Dr. Quackenboss was not the
person to give them the needed spring; his long-winded complimentary
speeches had not interest enough even to divert her. She felt that she was
entering upon an untried and most weighty undertaking; charging her time
and thoughts with a burthen they could well spare. Her energies did not
flag, but the spirit that should have sustained them was not strong enough
for the task.

It was a blustering day of early March; with that uncompromising
brightness of sky and land which has no shadow of sympathy with a heart
overcast. The snow still lay a foot thick over the ground, thawing a
little in sunny spots; the trees quite bare and brown, the buds even of
the early maples hardly shewing colour; the blessed evergreens alone doing
their utmost to redeem the waste, and speaking of patience and fortitude
that can brave the blast and outstand the long waiting and cheerfully bide
the time when "the winter shall be over and gone." Poor Fleda thought they
were like her in their circumstances, but she feared she was not like them
in their strong endurance. She looked at the pines and hemlocks as she
passed, as if they were curious preachers to her; and when she had a
chance she prayed quietly that she might stand faithfully like them to
cheer a desolation far worse and she feared far more abiding than snows
could make or melt away. She thought of Hugh, alone in his mill-work that
rough chilly day, when the wind stalked through the woods and over the
country as if it had been the personification of March just come of ape
and taking possession of his domains. She thought of her uncle, doing
what?--in Michigan,--leaving them to fight with difficulties as they
might,--why?--why? and her gentle aunt at home sad and alone, pining for
the want of them all, but most of him, and fading with their fortunes. And
Fleda's thoughts travelled about from one to the other and dwelt with them
all by turns till she was heart-sick; and tears, tears, fell hot on the
snow many a time when her eyes had a moment's shield from the doctor and
his somewhat more obtuse coadjutor. She felt half superstitiously as if
with her taking the farm were beginning the last stage of their falling
prospects, which would leave them with none of hope's colouring. Not that
in the least she doubted her own ability and success; but her uncle did
not deserve to have his affairs prosper under such a system and she had no
faith that they would.

"It is most grateful," said the doctor with that sideway twist of his jaw
and his head at once, in harmony,--"it is a most grateful thing to see
such a young lady--Haw I there now I--what are you about? haw,--haw
then!--It is a most grateful thing to see--"

But Fleda was not at his side; she had bounded away and was standing
under a great maple tree a little ahead, making sure that Philetus screwed
his auger _up_ into the tree instead of _down_, which he had several times
shewed an unreasonable desire to do. The doctor had steered his oxen by
her little grey hood and black cloak all the day. He made for it now.

"Have we arrived at the termination of our--a--adventure?" said he as he
came up and threw down the last trough.

"Why no, sir," said Fleda, "for we have yet to get home again."

"'Tain't so fur going that way as it were this'n," said Philetus. "My!
ain't I glad."

"Glad of what?" said the doctor. "Here's Miss Ringgan's walked the whole
way, and she a lady--ain't you ashamed to speak of being tired?"

"I ha'n't said the first word o' being tired!" said Philetus in an
injured tone of voice,--"but a man ha'n't no right to kill hisself, if he
ain't a gal!"

"I'll qualify to your being safe enough," said the doctor. "But
Miss Ringgan, my dear, you are--a--you have lost something since
you came out--"

"What?" said Fleda laughing. "Not my patience?"

"No," said the doctor, "no,--you're--a--you're an angel! but your cheeks,
my dear Miss Ringgan, shew that you have exceeded your--a--"

"Not my intentions, doctor," said Fleda lightly. "I am very well satisfied
with our day's work, and with my share of it, and a cup of coffee will
make me quite up again. Don't look at my cheeks till then."

"I shall disobey you constantly," said the doctor;--"but, my dear Miss
Fleda, we must give you some felicities for reaching home, or Mrs.
Rossitur will be--a--distressed when she sees them. Might I propose--that
you should just bear your weight on this wood-sled and let my oxen and me
have the honour--The cup of coffee, I am confident, would be at your lips
considerably earlier--"

"The sun won't be a great haighth by the time we get there," said Philetus
in a cynical manner; "and I ha'n't took the first thing to-day!"

"Well who has?" said the doctor; "you ain't the only one. Follow your nose
down hill, Mr. Skillcorn, and it'll smell supper directly. Now, my dear
Miss Ringgan!--will you?"

Fleda hesitated, but her relaxed energies warned her not to despise a
homely mode of relief. The wood-sled was pretty clean, and the road
decently good over the snow. So Fleda gathered her cloak about her and sat
down flat on the bottom of her rustic vehicle; too grateful for the rest
to care if there had been a dozen people to laugh at her; but the doctor
was only delighted, and Philetus regarded every social phenomenon as
coolly and in the same business light as he would the butter to his bread,
or any other infallible every-day matter.

Fleda was very glad presently that she had taken this plan, for besides
the rest of body she was happily relieved from all necessity of speaking.
The doctor though but a few paces off was perfectly given up to the care
of his team, in the intense anxiety to shew his skill and gallantry in
saving her harmless from every ugly place in the road that threatened a
jar or a plunge. Why his oxen didn't go distracted was a question; but the
very vehemence and iteration of his cries at last drowned itself in
Fleda's ear and she could hear it like the wind's roaring, without
thinking of it. She presently subsided to that. With a weary frame, and
with that peculiar quietness of spirits that comes upon the ending of a
days work in which mind and body have both been busily engaged, and the
sudden ceasing of any call upon either, fancy asked no leave and dreamily
roved hither and thither between the material and the spirit world; the
will too subdued to stir. Days gone by came marshalling their scenes and
their actors before her; again she saw herself a little child under those
same trees that stretched their great black arms over her head and swaying
their tops in the wind seemed to beckon her back to the past. They talked
of their old owner, whose steps had so often passed beneath them with her
own light tread,--light now, but how dancing then!--by his side; and of
her father whose hand perhaps had long ago tapped those very trees where
she had noticed the old closed-up soars of the axe. At any rate his
boyhood had rejoiced there, and she could look back to one time at least
in his manhood when she had taken a pleasant walk with him in summer
weather among those same woods, in that very ox-track she believed.
Gone--two generations that she had known there; hopes and fears and
disappointments, akin to her own, at rest,--as hers would be; and how
sedately the old trees stood telling her of it, and waving their arms in
grave and gentle commenting on the folly of anxieties that came and went
with the wind. Fleda agreed to it all; she heard all they said; and her
own spirit was as sober and quiet as their quaint moralizing. She felt as
if it would never dance again.

The wind had greatly abated of its violence; as if satisfied with the shew
of strength it had given in the morning it seemed willing to make no more
commotion that day. The sun was far on his way to the horizon, and many a
broad hill-side slope was in shadow; the snow had blown or melted from off
the stones and rocks leaving all their roughness and bareness unveiled;
and the white crust of snow that lay between them looked a cheerless waste
in the shade of the wood and the hill. But there were other spots where
the sunbeams struck and bright streams of light ran between the trees,
smiling and making them smile. And as Fleda's eye rested there another
voice seemed to say, "At evening-time it shall be light,"--and "Sorrow may
endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." She could have cried,
but spirits were too absolutely at an ebb. She knew this was partly
physical, because she was tired and faint, but it could not the better be
overcome. Yet those streaks of sunlight were pleasant company, and Fleda
watched them, thinking how bright they used to be once; till the oxen and
sled came out from the woods, and she could see the evening colours on the
hill-tops beyond the village, lighting up the whole landscape with promise
of the morrow. She thought her day had seen its brightest; but she thought
too that if she must know sorrows it was a very great blessing to know
them at Queechy.

The smoke of the chimney-tops came in sight, and fancy went home,--a few
minutes before her.

"I wonder what you'll take and do to yourself next!" said Barby in extreme
vexation when she saw her come in. "You're as white as the wall,--and as
cold, ain't you? I'd ha' let Philetus cut all the trees and drink all the
sap afterwards. I wonder which you think is the worst, the want o' you or
the want o' sugar."

A day's headache was pretty sure to visit Fleda after any over-exertion or
exhaustion, and the next day justified Barby's fears. She was the quiet
prisoner of pain. But Earl Douglass and Mr. Skillcorn could now do without
her in the woods; and her own part of the trouble Fleda always took with
speechless patience. She had the mixed comfort that love could bestow;
Hugh's sorrowful kiss and look before setting off for the mill, Mrs.
Rossitur's caressing care, and Barby's softened voice, and sympathizing
hand on her brow, and hearty heart-speaking kiss, and poor little King lay
all day with his head in her lap, casting grave wistful glances up at his
mistress's face and licking her hand with intense affection when even in
her distress it stole to his head to reward and comfort him. He never
would budge from her side, or her feet, till she could move herself and he
knew that she was well. As sure as King came trotting into the kitchen
Barby used to look into the other room and say, "So you're better, ain't
you, Fleda? I knowed it!"

After hours of suffering the fit was at last over; and in the evening,
though looking and feeling racked, Fleda would go out to see the
sap-boilers. Earl Douglass and Philetus had had a very good day of it,
and now were in full blast with the evening part of the work. The weather
was mild, and having the stay of Hugh's arm Fleda grew too amused to
leave them.

It was a very pretty scene. The sap-boilers had planted themselves near
the cellar door on the other side of the house from the kitchen door and
the wood-yard; the casks and tubs for syrup being under cover there; and
there they had made a most picturesque work-place. Two strong crotched
sticks were stuck in the ground some six or eight feet apart and a pole
laid upon them, to which by the help of some very rustic hooks two
enormous iron kettles were slung. Under them a fine fire of smallish split
sticks was doing duty, kept in order by a couple of huge logs which walled
it in on the one side and on the other. It was a dark night, and the fire
painted all this in strong lights and shadows; threw a faint fading Aurora
like light over the snow, beyond the shade of its log barriers; glimmered
by turns upon the paling of the garden fence, whenever the dark figures
that were passing and repassing between gave it a chance; and invested the
cellar-opening and the outstanding corner of the house with striking and
unwonted dignity, in a light that revealed nothing except to the
imagination. Nothing was more fancifully dignified or more quaintly
travestied by that light than the figures around it, busy and flitting
about and shewing themselves in every novel variety of grouping and
colouring. There was Earl Douglass, not a hair different from what he was
every day in reality, but with his dark skin and eyes, and a hat that like
its master had concluded to abjure all fashions and perhaps for the same
reason, he looked now like any bandit and now in a more pacific view could
pass for nothing less than a Spanish shepherd at least, with an iron ladle
in lieu of crook. There was Dr. Quackenboss, who had come too, determined
as Earl said, "to keep his eend up," excessively bland and busy and
important, the fire would throw his one-sidedness of feature into such
aspects of gravity or sternness that Fleda could make nothing of him but a
poor clergyman or a poor schoolmaster alternately. Philetus, who was kept
handing about a bucket of sap or trudging off for wood, defied all
comparison; he was Philetus still; but when Barby came once or twice and
peered into the kettle her strong features with the handkerchief she
always wore about her head were lit up into a very handsome gypsy. Fleda
stood some time unseen in the shadow of the house to enjoy the sight, and
then went forward on the same principle that a sovereign princess shews
herself to her army, to grace and reward the labours of her servants. The
doctor was profuse in enquiries after her health and Earl informed her of
the success of the day.

"We've had first rate weather," he said;--"I don't want to see no better
weather for sugar-makin'; it's as good kind o' weather as you need to
have. It friz everythin' up tight in the night, and it thew in the sun
this mornin' as soon as the sun was anywhere; the trees couldn't do no
better than they have done. I guess we ha'n't got much this side o' two
hundred gallon--I ain't sure about it, but that's what I think; and
there's nigh two hundred gallon we've fetched down; I'll qualify to better
than a hundred and fifty, or a hundred and sixty either. We should ha' had
more yet if Mr. Skillcorn hadn't managed to spill over one cask of it--I
reckon he wanted it for sass for his chicken."

"Now, Mr. Douglass!"--said Philetus, in a comical tone of deprecation.

"It is an uncommonly fine lot of sugar trees," said the doctor, "and they
stand so on the ground as to give great felicities to the oxen."

"Now, Fleda," Earl went on, busy all the while with his iron ladle in
dipping the boiling sap from one kettle into the other,--"you know how
this is fixed when we've done all we've got to do with it?--it must be
strained out o' this biler into a cask or a tub or somethin'
'nother,--anythin' that'll hold it,--and stand a day or so;--you may
strain it through a cotton cloth, or through a woollen cloth, or through
any kind of a cloth!--and let it stand to settle; and then when it's biled
down--Barby knows about bilin' down--you can tell when it's comin' to the
sugar when the yellow blobbers rises thick to the top and puffs off, and
then it's time to try it in cold water,--it's best to be a leetle the
right side o' the sugar and stop afore it's done too much, for the
molasses will dreen off afterwards--"

"It must be clarified in the commencement," put in the doctor.

"O' course it must be clarified," said Earl,--"Barby knows about
clarifyin'--that's when you first put it on--you had ought to throw in a
teeny drop o' milk fur to clear it,--milk's as good as a'most
anything,--or if you can get it calf's blood's better "--

"Eggs would be a more preferable ingredient on the present occasion, I
presume," said the doctor. "Miss Ringgan's delicacy would be--a--would
shrink from--a--and the albumen of eggs will answer all the same purpose."

"Well anyhow you like to fix it," said Earl,--"eggs or calf's blood--I
won't quarrel with you about the eggs, though I never heerd o' blue ones
afore, 'cept the robin's and bluebird's--and I've heerd say the swamp
black bird lays a handsome blue egg, but I never happened to see the nest
myself;--and there's the chippin' sparrow,--but you'd want to rob all the
birds' nests in creation to get enough of 'em, and they ain't here in
sugar time, nother; but anyhow any eggs'll do I s'pose if you can get
'em--or milk'll do if you ha'n't nothin' else--and after it is turned out
into the barrel you just let it stand still a spell till it begins to
grain and look clean on top"--

"May I suggest an improvement?" said the doctor. "Many persons are of the
opinion that if you take and stir it up well from the bottom for a length
of time it will help the coagulation of the particles. I believe that is
the practice of Mr. Plumfield and others."

"'Tain't the practice of as good men as him and as good sugar-bilers,
besides," said Earl; "though I don't mean to say nothin' agin Seth
Plumfield nor agin his sugar, for the both is as good as you'd need to
have; he's a good man and he's a good farmer--there ain't no better man in
town than Seth Plumfield, nor no better farmer, nor no better sugar
nother; but I hope there's as good; and I've seen as handsome sugar that
wa'n't stirred as I'd want to see or eat either."

"It would lame a man's arms the worst kind!" said Philetus.

Fleda stood listening to the discussion and smiling, when Hugh suddenly
wheeling about brought her face to face with Mr. Olmney.

"I have been sitting some time with Mrs. Rossitur," he said, "and she
rewarded me with permission to come and look at you. I mean!--not that I
wanted a reward, for I certainly did not--"

"Ah Mr. Olmney!" said Fleda laughing, "you are served right. You see
how dangerous it is to meddle with such equivocal things as
compliments. But we are worth looking at, aren't we? I have been
standing here this half hour."

He did not say this time what he thought.

"Pretty, isn't it?" said Fleda. "Stand a little further back, Mr.
Olmney--isn't it quite a wild-looking scene, in that peculiar light and
with the snowy background? Look at Philetus now with that bundle of
sticks--Hugh! isn't he exactly like some of the figures in the old
pictures of the martyrdoms, bringing billets to feed the fire?--that old
martyrdom of St. Lawrence--whose was it--Spagnoletto!--at Mrs.
Decatur's--don't you recollect? It is fine, isn't it, Mr. Olmney?"

"I am afraid," said he shaking his head a little, "my eye wants training.
I have not been once in your company I believe without your shewing me
something I could not see."

"That young lady, sir," said Dr. Quackenboss from the far side of the
fire, where he was busy giving it more wood,--"that young lady, sir, is a
pattron to her--a--to all young ladies."

"A patron!" said Mr. Olmney.

"Passively, not actively, the doctor means," said Fleda softly.

"Well I won't say but she's a good girl," said Mr. Douglass in an
abstracted manner, busy with his iron ladle,--"she means to be a good
girl--she's as clever a girl as you need to have!"

Nobody's gravity stood this, excepting Philetus, in whom the principle of
fun seemed not to be developed.

"Miss Ringgan, sir," Dr. Quackenboss went on with a most benign expression
of countenance,--"Miss Ringgan, sir, Mr. Olmney, sets an example to all
ladies who--a--have had elegant advantages. She gives her patronage to the
agricultural interest in society."

"Not exclusively, I hope?" said Mr. Olmney smiling, and making the
question with his eye of Fleda. But she did not meet it.

"You know," she said rather quickly, and drawing back from the fire, "I am
of an agricultural turn perforce--in uncle Rolf's absence I am going to be
a farmer myself."

"So I have heard--so Mrs. Rossitur told me,--but I fear--pardon me--you do
not look fit to grapple with such a burden of care."

Hugh sighed, and Fleda's eyes gave Mr. Olmney a hint to be silent.

"I am not going to grapple with any thing, sir; I intend to take
things easily."

"I wish I could take an agricultural turn too," said he smiling, "and be
of some service to you."

"O I shall have no lack of service," said Fleda gayly;--"I am not going
unprovided into the business. There is my cousin Seth Plumfield, who has
engaged himself to be my counsellor and instructor in general; I could not
have a better; and Mr. Douglass is to be my right hand; I occupying only
the quiet and unassuming post of the will, to convey the orders of the
head to the hand. And for the rest, sir, there is Philetus!"

Mr. Olmney looked, half laughing, at Mr. Skillcorn, who was at that moment
standing with his hands on his sides, eying with concentrated gravity the
movements of Earl Douglass and the doctor.

"Don't shake your head at him!" said Fleda. "I wish you had come an hour
earlier, Mr. Olmney."

"Why?"

"I was just thinking of coming out here," said Fleda, her eyes flashing
with hidden fun,--"and Hugh and I were both standing in the kitchen, when
we heard a tremendous shout from the woodyard. Don't laugh, or I can't go
on. We all ran out, towards the lantern which we saw standing there, and
so soon as we got near we heard Philetus singing out, 'Ho, Miss
Elster!--I'm dreadfully on't!'--Why he called upon Barby I don't know,
unless from some notion of her general efficiency, though to be sure he
was nearer her than the sap-boilers and perhaps thought her aid would come
quickest. And he was in a hurry, for the cries came thick--'Miss
Elster!--here!--I'm dreadfully on't'--"

"I don't understand--"

"No," said Fleda, whose amusement seemed to be increased by the
gentleman's want of understanding,--"and neither did we till we came up to
him. The silly fellow had been sent up for more wood, and splitting a log
he had put his hand in to keep the cleft, instead of a wedge, and when he
took out the axe the wood pinched him; and he had the fate of Milo before
his eyes, I suppose, and could do nothing but roar. You should have seen
the supreme indignation with which Barby took the axe and released him
with 'You're a smart man, Mr. Skillcorn!'"

"What was the fate of Milo?" said Mr. Olmney presently.

"Don't you remember,--the famous wrestler that in his old age trying to
break open a tree found himself not strong enough; and the wood closing
upon his hands held him fast till the wild beasts came and made an end
of him. The figure of our unfortunate wood-cutter though, was hardly so
dignified as that of the old athlete in the statue.--Dr. Quackenboss,
and Mr. Douglass,--you will come in and see us when this troublesome
business is done?"

"It'll be a pretty spell yet," said Earl;--"but the doctor, he can go
in,--he ha'n't nothin' to do. It don't take more'n half a dozen men to
keep one pot a bilin'."

"Ain't there ten on 'em, Mr. Douglass?" said Philetus.



Chapter XXVIII.



  He that has light within his own clear breast,
  May sit i' the 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 fruit 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 woodyard
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-briar
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 sunbeam. 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?--"

"O 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 headquarters. 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.

"O--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 it 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 waived 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 the 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. Oh 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 XXIX.



  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 shew 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 ain't 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 shewing 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 enquired 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--O 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. O 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--"

"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 shewed
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 anybody
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?"

"O 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 set 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 exclaimed, 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 to 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. O 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 won't 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 won't 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?"

"O 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
snow 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 an 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 raves 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 teeth-ache, and Catherine's away on a jig to Kenton, and the men
won't 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,
which ever 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 Quirlcakes; 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 XXX.



  _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.

"O 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 ain't 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 'em."

"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, "won't you never
recollect to bring that basket round the back way?"

"'Tain't 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!"

"'Tain't 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 won't
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
chop-sticks 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 hay-cock
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 chop-sticks 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 develope
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 won't 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--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
courtyard 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 won't do for him to vait--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 won't 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 XXXI.



  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 lookout 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 lile. 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 recognize its
freshening power.

[Illustration: Philetus was left to "shuck" and bring home a load of
the fruit.]

"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 gayety 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, at 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 taking breath and
his arm together. "You and I are rich, Hugh."

"And our riches cannot take to themselves wings and flyaway," 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. O 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 tableland, 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 sooth. 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 staid some time, but Fleda's hurry seemed to have forsaken her. She had
seized upon an interminable long grey 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 over-match 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 grey 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 ain't
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
won't 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
homoeopaths--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 wants 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 earrings 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
enquires 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 XXXII.



  _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 cosily 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 sousy 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 heart-ache."

"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 eat 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?"

"Yes," 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 won't waste the elegancies of my toilet upon your dull
perceptions--come here and let me shew 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 won't, 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
gayety 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
shew 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 shewn 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 ecstacies, 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 Mr. 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 earnestly 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, won't 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
Straits 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 eying 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 grey 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, won't 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--won't 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 original don't stand so
thick that one is in any danger of mistaking them. Is the painter
Shakspeare?--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 dryly.

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 won't 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 won't 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 everybody and 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 Venus.'"

"My dear little Fleda, you're too wise for anything!" said Constance with
a rather significant arching of her eyebrows. "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-behaved.

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 shewed 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 XXXIII



  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 won't 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. "O 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 won't 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 sha'n'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.'"

[Illustration: "And there goes Mr. Carleton!" said Constance.]

"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
minutes 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 gas-lights,--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 cats' 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 become 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 shewing 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 shew 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 made 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?"

"O--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 everybody 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 woods;
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 daring,--"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 XXXIV.



  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 mean time, 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
straight-forwardness.

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 gayly 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 won't, she won't."

"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 bookstores. 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 unfaithful. 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 ecstacies,--"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 him?--You need be under no
apprehensions about going--he will perhaps tell you that you are
charming, but I don't 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,--"won't 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 it 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 won't 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 dryly, 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 shewn 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 you 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 eying 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.

"O 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 dryly, 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 favorite 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 XXXV.



  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--"

"O 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 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 won't 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 won't go out of my way for anybody. If I leave you there, it will be in
my way. Why you are not getting homesick?"

"No sir, not exactly,--but I think I will go with you when you go."

"That won't 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 notfor 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 the 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.

[Illustration: Fleda saw with a start that it was Mr. Carleton.]

"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
oneself;" 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 oneself 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 quite tell 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 shewed 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 roughness 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--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?--O 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 shew 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 shew 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 shews 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
shew herself beautiful unless she is pleased;--I love better what comes
nearer home to the charities and wants of everyday 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 fairyland."

"Do you suppose," said he laughing, "that I leave the whole care of
fairyland 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 of 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 time, 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?"

"O, 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 XXXVI.



  Whence came this?
  This is some token from a newer friend.

  Shakspeare.


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 foot-fall 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 yet. 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 noiseliest 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 don't you 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. "Capt. Lewiston was telling me the other
night how the thing is managed; and I recognized 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 can 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 sha'n'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 shew 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 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 greenhouse, 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 eye-sore 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.--O 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, won't 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 dryly.

"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.

[Illustration: "I am sure Mr. Thorn will excuse me."]

"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 daylight. 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 make 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 shew 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?"

"O 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 shews 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 shew 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
dryly 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.

"It is 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 shewed 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 shewing 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 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, won't 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 freemasonry 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, won't 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 am