Part 11 out of 18
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.
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?
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"And I am sure that was very noble," said Florence.
"It was what no nation but the English would ever have done," said
"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,
"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
"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
"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,"
"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
"I hardly know whether I have listened with most pleasure or pain,
"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
"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
"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
"Hurt her hand!" said Edith. But she was taken possession of by her
"That is a lovely girl, Mr. Carleton," said Mrs. Evelyn with an
indescribable look--outwardly benign, but beneath that most keen in
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
But Mr. Carleton did not seem at all interested in the subject, and
presently introduced another.
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
"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
"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
"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 eclat, 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
"Ha! my fair Saxon," said the doctor;--"what has brought you down
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"_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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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.
"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."--
"Those are exceeding fine--a hybrid between the Chinese and the
Rose-a-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
"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
"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?"
"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
"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
"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
"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
"Were you frightened this afternoon?"
"Well, if you weren't frightened, I guess nobody else was," said
Whence came this?
This is some token from a newer friend.
The snow-flakes were falling softly and thick when Fleda got up the
"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,"
"What a wretched storm!"
"Wretched! This beautiful snow! Here have I been enjoying it for
But Florence rubbed her hands and looked as if Fleda were no rule for
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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?"
"_Which_ did he say it was for?"
"He didn't say it was either for Miss Florence or for you, Miss
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
"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