Part 10 out of 18
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
"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
"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
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
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,
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
"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.
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
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
[Illustration: Philetus was left to "shuck" and bring home a load of
"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
"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
"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."
"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
"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
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
"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."
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
There was but one voice at home on the point whether Fleda should go.
So she went.
_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
"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,
"Yes!" said he. "This isn't the right place for you. You are too
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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?"
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
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
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
"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,
"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
"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
"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.
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"My fancy has no stamp of nationality, in this, at least," he said
"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,
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"Hush!" said Fleda smiling. "That happened not to be an English rose,
"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
"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
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.
Hark! I hear the sound of coaches,
The hour of attack approaches.
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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,
"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
"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
"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
"Ah, your goodness would made friends of everything."
"Not of boors, I hope," said Fleda coolly. "Besides, what do you mean by
"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
"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
"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
"It is very absurd!" said Mr. Stackpole
"O--these people have nothing to do with such things--do them nothing
"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
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
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
"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
"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.