Part 15 out of 18
the remains of yours and take my hand in pledge of it."
Thorn was ashamed and confounded, in the midst of passions that made
him at the moment a mere wreck of himself. He inwardly drew back
exceedingly from the proposal. But the grace with which the words were
said wrought upon all the gentlemanly character that belonged to him,
and made it impossible not to comply. The pistol was exchanged for Mr.
"I need not assure you," said the latter, "that nothing of what we have
talked of to-night shall ever be known or suspected, in any quarter,
unless by your means."
Thorn's answer was merely a bow, and Mr. Carleton withdrew, his quondam
antagonist lighting him ceremoniously to the door.
It was easy for Mr. Carleton the next morning to deal with his guest at
the break fast-table.
The appointments of the service were such as of themselves to put Charlton
in a good humour, if he had not come already provided with that happy
qualification; and the powers of manner and conversation which his
entertainer brought into play not only put them into the background of
Capt. Rossitur's perceptions but even made him merge certain other things
in fascination, and lose all thought of what probably had called him
there. Once before, he had known Mr. Carleton come out in a like manner,
but this time he forgot to be surprised.
The meal was two thirds over before the business that had drawn them
together was alluded to.
"I made an odd request of you last night, Capt. Rossitur," said his
host;--"you haven't asked for an explanation."
"I had forgotten all about it," said Rossitur candidly. "I am
_inconsequent_ enough myself not to think everything odd that requires an
"Then I hope you will pardon me if mine seem to touch upon what is not my
concern. You had some cause to be displeased with Mr. Thorn's behaviour
Who told you as much?--was in Rossitur's open eyes, and upon his tongue;
but few ever asked naughty questions of Mr Carleton. Charlton's eyes came
back, not indeed to their former dimensions, but to his plate, in silence.
"He was incomprehensible," he said after a minute,--"and didn't act
like himself--I don't know what was the matter. I shall call him to
account for it."
"Capt. Rossitur, I am going to ask you a favour."
"I will grant it with the greatest pleasure," said Charlton,--"if it lie
within my power."
"A wise man's addition," said Mr. Carleton,--"but I trust you will not
think me extravagant. I will hold myself much obliged to you if you will
let Mr. Thorn's folly, or impertinence, go this time without notice."
Charlton absolutely laid down his knife in astonishment; while at the same
moment this slight let to the assertion of his dignity roused it to
"Sir--Mr. Carleton--" he stammered,--"I would be very happy to grant
anything in my power,--but this, sir,--really goes beyond it."
"Permit me to say," said Mr. Carleton, "that I have myself seen Thorn upon
the business that occasioned his discomposure, and that it has been
satisfactorily arranged; so that nothing more is to be gained or desired
from a second interview."
Who gave you authority to do any such thing?--was again in Charlton's
eyes, and an odd twinge crossed his mind; but as before his thoughts
"_My_ part of the business cannot have been arranged," he said,--"for it
lies in a question or two that I must put to the gentleman myself."
"What will that question or two probably end in?" said Mr. Carleton
"I can't tell!" said Rossitur,--"depends on himself--it will end according
to his answers."
"Is his offence so great that it cannot be forgiven upon my entreaty?"
"Mr. Carleton!" said Rossitur,--"I would gladly pleasure you, sir, but you
see, this is a thing a man owes to himself."
"What thing, sir?"
"Why, not to suffer impertinence to be offered him with impunity."
"Even though the punishment extend to hearts at home that must feel it far
more heavily than the offender?"
"Would you suffer yourself to be insulted, Mr. Carleton?" said Rossitur,
by way of a mouth stopper.
"Not if I could help it," said Mr. Carleton smiling;--"but if such a
misfortune happened, I don't know how it would be repaired by being made a
matter of life and death."
"But honour might," said Rossitur.
"Honour is not reached, Capt. Rossitur. Honour dwells in a strong citadel,
and a squib against the walls does in no wise affect their security."
"But also it is not consistent with honour to sit still and suffer it."
"Question. The firing of a cracker, I think, hardly warrants a sally."
"It calls for chastisement though," said Rossitur a little shortly.
"I don't know that," said Mr. Carleton gravely. "We have it on the highest
authority that it is the glory of man to _pass by_ a transgression."
"But you can't go by that," said Charlton a little fidgeted;--"the world
wouldn't get along so;--men must take care of themselves."
"Certainly. But what part of themselves is cared for in this resenting of
"Why, their good name!"
"As how affected?--pardon me."
"By the world's opinion," said Rossitur,--"which stamps every man with
something worse than infamy who cannot protect his own standing."
"That is to say," said Mr. Carleton seriously,--"that Capt. Rossitur will
punish a fool's words with death, or visit the last extremity of distress
upon those who are dearest to him, rather than leave the world in any
doubt of his prowess."
"Mr. Carleton!" said Rossitur colouring. "What do you mean by
speaking so, sir?"
"Not to displease you, Capt. Rossitur."
"Then you count the world's opinion for nothing?"
"For less than nothing--compared with the regards I have named."
"You would brave it without scruple?"
"I do not call him a brave man who would not, sir."
"I remember," said Charlton half laughing,--"you did it yourself once; and
I must confess I believe nobody thought you lost anything by it."
"But forgive me for asking," said Mr. Carleton,--"is this terrible world a
party to _this_ matter? In the request which I made,--and which I have not
given up, sir,--do I presume upon any more than the sacrifice of a little
"Why, yes,--" said Charlton looking somewhat puzzled, "for I promised the
fellow I would see to it, and I must keep my word."
"And you know how that will of necessity issue."
"I can't consider that, sir; that is a secondary matter. I must do what I
told him I would."
"At all hazards?" said Mr. Carleton.
"Not hazard, but certainty,--of incurring a reckoning far less easy to
"What, do you mean with yourself?" said Rossitur.
"No sir," said Mr. Carleton, a shade of even sorrowful expression crossing
his face;--"I mean with one whose displeasure is a more weighty
matter;--one who has declared very distinctly, 'Thou shalt not kill.'"
"I am sorry for it," said Rossitur after a disturbed pause of some
minutes,--"I wish you had asked me anything else; but we can't take this
thing in the light you do, sir. I wish Thorn had been in any spot of the
world but at Mrs. Decatur's last night, or that Fleda hadn't taken me
there; but since he was, there is no help for it,--I must make him account
for his behaviour, to her as well as to me. I really don't know how to
help it, sir."
"Let me beg you to reconsider that," Mr. Carleton said with a smile which
disarmed offence,--"for if you will not help it, I must."
Charlton looked in doubt for a moment and then asked "how he would help
"In that case, I shall think it my duty to have you bound over to keep
He spoke gravely now, and with that quiet tone which always carries
conviction. Charlton stared unmistakably and in silence.
"You are not in earnest?" he then said.
"I trust you will permit me to leave you forever in doubt on that
point," said Mr. Carleton, with again a slight giving way of the muscles
of his face.
"I cannot indeed," said Rossitur. "Do you mean what you said just now?"
"But Mr. Carleton," said Rossitur, flushing and not knowing exactly how to
take him up,--"is this the manner of one gentleman towards another?"
He had not chosen right, for he received no answer but an absolute
quietness which needed no interpretation. Charlton was vexed and confused,
but somehow it did not come into his head to pick a quarrel with his host,
in spite of his irritation. That was perhaps because he felt it to be
"I beg your pardon," he said, most unconsciously verifying Fleda's words
in his own person,--"but Mr. Carleton, do me the favour to say that I have
misunderstood your words. They are incomprehensible to me, sir."
"I must abide by them nevertheless, Capt. Rossitur," Mr. Carleton
answered with a smile. "I will not permit this thing to be done, while, as
I believe, I have the power to prevent it. You see," he said, smiling
again,--"I put in practice my own theory."
Charlton looked exceedingly disturbed, and maintained a vexed and
irresolute silence for several minutes, realizing the extreme
disagreeableness of having more than his match to deal with.
"Come, Capt. Kossitur," said the other turning suddenly round upon
him,--"say that you forgive me what you know was meant in no
disrespect to you?"
"I certainly should not," said Rossitur, yielding however with a half
laugh, "if it were not for the truth of the proverb that it takes two to
make a quarrel."
"Give me your hand upon that. And now that the question of honour is taken
out of your hands, grant not to me but to those for whom I ask it, your
promise to forgive this man."
Charlton hesitated, but it was difficult to resist the request, backed as
it was with weight of character and grace of manner, along with its
intrinsic reasonableness; and he saw no other way so expedient of getting
out of his dilemma.
"I ought to be angry with somebody," he said, half laughing and a little
ashamed;--"if you will point out any substitute for Thorn I will let him
go--since I cannot help myself--with pleasure."
"I will bear it," said Mr. Carleton lightly. "Give me your promise for
Thorn and hold me your debtor in what amount you please."
"Very well--I forgive him," said Rossitur;--"and now Mr. Carleton I shall
have a reckoning with you some day for this."
"I will meet it. When you are next in England you shall come down to----
shire, and I will give you any satisfaction you please."
They parted in high good-humour; but Charlton looked grave as he went down
the staircase; and very oddly all the way down to Whitehall his head was
running upon the various excellencies and perfections of his cousin Fleda.
There is a fortune coming
Towards you, dainty, that will take thee thus,
And set thee aloft.
That day was spent by Fleda in the never-failing headache which was sure
to visit her after any extraordinary nervous agitation or too great mental
or bodily trial. It was severe this time, not only from the anxiety of the
preceding night but from the uncertainty that weighed upon her all day
long. The person who could have removed the uncertainty came indeed to the
house, but she was too ill to see anybody.
The extremity of pain wore itself off with the day, and at evening she was
able to leave her room and come down stairs. But she was ill yet, and
could do nothing but sit in the corner of the sofa, with her hair unbound,
and Florence gently bathing her head with cologne.
Anxiety as well as pain had in some measure given place to exhaustion, and
she looked a white embodiment of endurance which gave a shock to her
friends' sympathy. Visitors were denied,--and Constance and Edith devoted
their eyes and tongues at least to her service, if they could do no more.
It happened that Joe Manton was out of the way, holding an important
conference with a brother usher next door, a conference that he had no
notion would be so important when he began it; when a ring on his own
premises summoned one of the maid-servants to the door. She knew nothing
about "not at home," and unceremoniously desired the gentleman to "walk
up,"--"the ladies were in the drawing-room."
The door had been set wide open for the heat, and Fleda was close in the
corner behind it; gratefully permitting Florence's efforts with the
cologne, which yet she knew could avail nothing but the kind feelings of
the operator; for herself patiently waiting her enemy's time. Constance
was sitting on the floor looking at her.
"I can't conceive how you can bear so much," she said at length.
Fleda thought, how little she knew what was borne!
"Why you could bear it I suppose if you had to," said Edith
"She knows she looks most beautiful," said Florence, softly passing her
cologned hands down over the smooth hair;--"she knows
"'Il faut souffrir pour etre belle.'"
"La migraine ne se guerit avec les douceurs," said Mr. Carleton
entering;--"try something sharp, Miss Evelyn."
"Where are we to get it?" said Constance springing up, and adding in a
most lack-a-daisical aside to her mother, "(Mamma!--the fowling
piece!)--Our last vinegar hardly comes under the appellation; and you
don't expect to find anything volatile in this house, Mr. Carleton?"
"Have you none for grave occasions, Miss Constance?"
"I won't retort the question about 'something sharp,'" said Constance
arching her eyebrows, "because it is against my principles to make people
uncomfortable; but you have certainly brought in some medicine with you,
for Miss Ringgan's cheeks a little while ago were as pure as her
mind--from a tinge of any sort--and now, you see--"
"My dear Constance," said her mother, "Miss Ringgan's cheeks will stand a
much better chance if you come away and leave her in peace. How can she
get well with such a chatter in her ears."
"Mr. Carleton and I, mamma, are conferring upon measures of relief,--and
Miss Ringgan gives token of improvement already."
"For which I am very little to be thanked," said Mr. Carleton. "But I am
not a bringer of bad news, that she should look pale at the sight of me."
"Are you a bringer of any news?" said Constance, "O do let us have them,
Mr. Carleton!--I am dying for news--I haven't heard a bit to-day."
"What is the news, Mr. Carleton?" said her mother's voice, from the more
distant region of the fire.
"I believe there are no general news, Mrs. Evelyn."
"Are there any particular news?" said Constance.--"I like particular news
infinitely the best!"
"I am sorry, Miss Constance, I have none for you. But--will this headache
yield to nothing?"
"Fleda prophesied that it would to time," said Florence;--"she Would not
let us try much beside."
"And I must confess there has been no volatile agency employed at all,"
said Constance;--"I never knew time have less of it; and Fleda seemed to
prefer him for her physician."
"He hasn't been a good one to-day," said Edith nestling affectionately
to her side. "Isn't it better, Fleda?"--for she had covered her eyes
with her hand.
"Not just now," said Fleda softly.
"It is fair to change physicians if the first fails," said Mr. Carleton.
"I have had a slight experience in headache-curing,--if you will permit
me, Miss Constance, I will supersede time and try a different
He went out to seek it; and Fleda leaned her head in her hand and tried to
quiet the throbbing heart every pulsation of which was felt so keenly at
the seat of pain. She knew from Mr. Carleton's voice and manner,--she
_thought_ she knew,--that he had exceeding good tidings for her; once
assured of that she would soon be better; but she was worse now.
"Where is Mr. Carleton gone?" said Mrs. Evelyn.
"I haven't the least idea, mamma--he has ventured upon an extraordinary
undertaking and has gone off to qualify himself, I suppose. I can't
conceive why he didn't ask Miss Ringgan's permission to change her
physician, instead of mine."
"I suppose he knew there was no doubt about that." said Edith, hitting the
precise answer of Fleda's thoughts.
"And what should make him think there was any doubt about mine?" said
"O you know," said her sister, "you are so odd nobody can tell what you
will take a fancy to."
"You are--extremely liberal in your expressions, at least, Miss Evelyn,--I
must say," said Constance, with a glance of no doubtful
meaning.--"Joe--did you let Mr. Carleton in?"
"Well let him in next time; and don't let in anybody else."
Whereafter the party relapsed into silent expectation.
It was not many minutes before Mr. Carleton returned.
"Tell your friend, Miss Constance," he said putting an exquisite little
vinaigrette into her hand,--"that I have nothing worse for her than that."
"Worse than this!" said Constance examining it. "Mr. Carleton--I doubt
exceedingly whether smelling this will afford Miss Ringgan any benefit."
"Why, Miss Constance?"
"Because--it has made me sick only to look at it!"
"There will be no danger for her," he said smiling.
"Won't there?--Well, Fleda my dear--here, take it," said the young
lady;--"I hope you are differently constituted from me, for I feel a
sudden pain since I saw it;--but as you keep your eyes shut and so escape
the sight of this lovely gold chasing, perhaps it will do you no
"It will do her all the more good for that," said Mrs. Evelyn.
The only ears that took the benefit of this speech were Edith's and Mr.
Carleton's; Fleda's were deafened by the rush of feeling. She very little
knew what she was holding. Mr. Carleton stood with rather significant
gravity watching the effect of his prescription, while Edith beset her
mother to know why the outside of the vinaigrette being of gold should
make it do Fleda any more good; the disposing of which question
effectually occupied Mrs. Evelyn's attention for some time.
"And pray how long is it since you took up the trade of a physician, Mr.
Carleton?" said Constance.
"It is--just about nine years, Miss Constance," he answered gravely.
But that little reminder, slight as it was, overcame the small remnant of
Fleda's self-command; the vinaigrette fell from her hands and her face was
hid in them; whatever became of pain, tears must flow.
"Forgive me," said Mr. Carleton gently, bending down towards her, "for
speaking when I should have been silent.--Miss Evelyn, and Miss Constance,
will you permit me to order that my patient be left in quiet."
And he took them away to Mrs. Evelyn's quarter, and kept them all three
engaged in conversation, too busily to trouble Fleda with any attention;
till she had had ample time to try the effect of the quiet and of the
vinegar both. Then he went himself to look after her.
"Are you better?" said he, bending down and speaking low.
Fleda opened her eyes and gave him, what a look!--of grateful feeling. She
did not know the half that was in it; but he did. That she was better was
a very small item.
"Ready for the coffee?" said he smiling.
"O no," whispered Fleda,--"it don't matter about that--never mind
But he went back with his usual calmness to Mrs. Evelyn and begged
that she would have the goodness to order a cup of rather strong
coffee to be made.
"But Mr. Carleton, sir," said that lady,--"I am not at all sure that it
would be the best thing for Miss Ringgan--if she is better,--I think it
would do her far more good to go to rest and let sleep finish her cure,
before taking something that will make sleep impossible."
"Did you ever hear of a physician, Mrs. Evelyn," he said smiling, "that
allowed his prescriptions to be interfered with? I must beg you will do me
"I doubt very much whether it will be a favour to Miss Ringgan," said Mrs.
And she rang the bell and gave the desired order, with a somewhat
disconcerted face. But Mr. Carleton again left Fleda to herself and
devoted his attention to the other ladies, with so much success, though
with his usual absence of effort, that good humour was served long before
Then indeed he played the physician's part again; made the coffee himself
and saw it taken, according to his own pleasure; skilfully however seeming
all the while, except to Fleda, to be occupied with everything else. The
group gathered round her anew; she was well enough to bear their talk by
this time; by the time the coffee was drunk quite well.
"Is it quite gone?" asked Edith.
"You will owe your physician a great many thanks, my dear Fleda," said
Fleda's only answer to this, however, was by a very slight smile; and
she presently left the room to go up stairs and arrange her yet
"That is a very fine girl," remarked Mrs. Evelyn, preparing half a cup of
coffee for herself in a kind of amused abstraction,--"my friend Mr. Thorn
will have an excellent wife of her."
"Provided she marries him," said Constance somewhat shortly.
"I am sure I hope she won't," said Edith,--"and I don't believe
"What do you think of his chances of success, Mr. Carleton?"
"Your manner of speech would seem to imply that they are very good, Mrs.
Evelyn," he answered coolly.
"Well don't you think so?" said Mrs. Evelyn, coming back to her seat with
her coffee-cup, and apparently dividing her attention between it and her
subject,--"It's a great chance for her--most girls in her circumstances
would not refuse it--_I_ think he's pretty sure of his ground."
"So I think," said Florence.
"It don't prove anything, if he is," said Constance dryly. "I hate people
who are always sure of their ground!"
"What do you think, Mr. Carleton?" said Mrs. Evelyn, taking little
satisfied sips of her coffee.
"May I ask, first, what is meant by the 'chance' and what by the
"Why Mr. Thorn has a fine fortune, you know, and he is of an excellent
family--there is not a better family in the city--and very few young men
of such pretensions would think of a girl that has no name nor standing."
"Unless she had qualities that would command them," said Mr. Carleton.
"But Mr. Carleton, sir," said the lady,--"do you think that can be? do you
think a woman can fill gracefully a high place in society if she has had
disadvantages in early life to contend with that were calculated to unfit
her for it?"
"But mamma," said Constance,--"Fleda don't shew any such thing."
"No, she don't shew it," said Mrs. Evelyn,--"but I am not talking of
Fleda--I am talking of the effect of early disadvantages. What do you
think, Mr. Carleton?"
"Disadvantages of what kind, Mrs. Evelyn?"
"Why, for instance--the strange habits of intercourse, on familiar terms,
with rough and uncultivated people,--such intercourse for years--in all
sorts of ways,--in the field and in the house,--mingling with them as one
of them--it seems to me it must leave its traces on the mind and on the
habits of acting and thinking?"
"There is no doubt it does," he answered with an extremely
"And then there's the actual want of cultivation," said Mrs. Evelyn,
warming;--"time taken up with other things, you know,--usefully and
properly, but still taken up,--so as to make much intellectual acquirement
and accomplishments impossible; it can't be otherwise, you know,--neither
opportunity nor instructors; and I don't think anything can supply the
want in after life--it isn't the mere things themselves which may be
acquired--the mind should grow up in the atmosphere of them--don't you
think so, Mr. Carleton?"
"Music, for instance, and languages, and converse with society, and a
great many things, are put completely beyond reach;--Edith, my dear, you
are not to touch the coffee,--nor Constance either,--no I will not let
you,--And there could not be even much reading, for want of books if for
nothing else. Perhaps I am wrong, but I confess I don't see how it is
possible in such a case"--
She checked herself suddenly, for Fleda with the slow noiseless step that
weakness imposed had come in again and stood by the centre-table.
"We are discussing a knotty question, Miss Ringgan," said Mr. Carleton
with a smile, as he brought a bergere for her; "I should like to have your
voice on it."
There was no seconding of his motion. He waited till she had seated
herself and then went on.
"What in your opinion is the best preparation for wearing
A glance at Mrs. Evelyn's face which was opposite her, and at one or two
others which had undeniably the air of being _arrested_, was enough for
Fleda's quick apprehension. She knew they had been talking of her. Her
eyes stopped short of Mr. Carleton's and she coloured and hesitated. No
"By prosperity you mean--?"
"Rank and fortune," said Florence, without looking up.
"Marrying a rich man, for instance," said Edith, "and having one's
This peculiar statement of the case occasioned a laugh all round, but the
silence which followed seemed still to wait upon Fleda's reply.
"Am I expected to give a serious answer to that question?" she said a
"Expectations are not stringent things," said her first questioner
smiling. "That waits upon your choice."
"They are horridly stringent, _I_ think," said Constance. "We shall all be
disappointed if you don't, Fleda my dear."
"By wearing it 'well' you mean, making a good use of it?"
"And gracefully," said Mrs. Evelyn.
"I think I should say then," said Fleda after some little hesitation and
speaking with evident difficulty,--"Such an experience as might teach one
both the worth and the worthlessness of money."
Mr. Carleton's smile was a sufficiently satisfied one; but Mrs.
"The _worth_ and the _worthlessness!_--Fleda my dear, I don't
"And what experience teaches one the worth and what the worthlessness of
money?" said Constance;--"Mamma is morbidly persuaded that I do not
understand the first--of the second I have an indefinite idea from never
being able to do more than half that I want with it."
Fleda smiled and hesitated again, in a way that shewed she would willingly
be excused, but the silence left her no choice but to speak.
"I think," she said modestly, "that a person can hardly understand the
true worth of money,--the ends it can best subserve,--that has not been
taught it by his own experience of the want; and--"
"What follows?" said Mr. Carleton.
"I was going to say, sir, that there is danger, especially when people
have not been accustomed to it, that they will greatly overvalue and
misplace the real worth of prosperity; unless the mind has been steadied
by another kind of experience, and has learnt to measure things by a
"And how when they _have_ been accustomed to it?" said Florence.
"The same danger, without the 'especially'," said Fleda, with a look that
disclaimed any assuming.
"One thing is certain," said Constance,--"you hardly ever see _les
nouveaux riches_ make a graceful use of anything.--Fleda my dear, I am
seconding all of your last speech that I understand. Mamma, I perceive, is
at work upon the rest."
"I think we ought all to be at work upon it," said Mrs. Evelyn, "for Miss
Ringgan has made it out that there is hardly anybody here that is
qualified to wear prosperity well."
"I was just thinking so," said Florence.
Fleda said nothing, and perhaps her colour rose a little.
"I will take lessons of her," said Constance, with eyebrows just raised
enough to neutralize the composed gravity of the other features,--"as soon
as I have an amount of prosperity that will make it worth while."
"But I don't think," said Florence, "that a graceful use of things is
consistent with such a careful valuation and considering of the exact
worth of everything--it's not my idea of grace."
"Yet _propriety_ is an essential element of gracefulness, Miss Evelyn."
"Well," said Florence,--"certainly; but what then?"
"Is it attainable, in the use of means, without a nice knowledge of their
"But, Mr. Carleton, I am sure I have seen improper things--things improper
in a way--gracefully done?"
"No doubt; but, Miss Evelyn," said he smiling "the impropriety did not in
those cases, I presume, attach itself to the other quality. The graceful
_manner_ was strictly proper to its ends, was it not, however the ends
might be false?"
"I don't know," said Florence;--"you have gone too deep for me. But do
you think that close calculation, and all that sort of thing, is
likely to make people use money, or anything else, gracefully? I never
thought it did."
"Not close calculation alone," said Mr. Carleton.
"But do you think it is _consistent_ with gracefulness?"
"The largest and grandest views of material things that man has ever
taken, Miss Evelyn, stand upon a basis of the closest calculation."
Florence worked at her worsted and looked very dissatisfied.
"O Mr. Carleton," said Constance as he was going,--"don't leave your
vinaigrette--there it is on the table."
He made no motion to take it up.
"Don't you know, Miss Constance, that physicians seldom like to have
anything to do with their own prescriptions?"
"It's very suspicious of them," said Constance;--"but you must take it,
Mr. Carleton, if you please, for I shouldn't like the responsibility of
its being left here; and I am afraid it would be dangerous to our peace of
"I shall risk that," he said laughing. "Its work is not done."
"And then, Mr. Carleton," said Mrs. Evelyn, and Fleda knew with what a
look,--"you know physicians are accustomed to be paid when their
prescriptions are taken."
But the answer to this was only a bow, so expressive in its air of haughty
coldness that any further efforts of Mrs. Evelyn's wit were chilled for
some minutes after he had gone.
Fleda had not seen this. She had taken up the vinaigrette, and was
thinking with acute pleasure that Mr. Carleton's manner last night and
to-night had returned to all the familiar kindness of old times. Not as it
had been during the rest of her stay in the city. She could be quite
contented now to have him go back to England, with this pleasant
remembrance left her. She sat turning over the vinaigrette, which to her
fancy was covered with hieroglyphics that no one else could read; of her
uncle's affair, of Charlton's danger, of her own distress, and the
kindness which had wrought its relief, more penetrating and pleasant than
even the fine aromatic scent which fairly typified it,--Constance's voice
broke in upon her musings.
"Isn't it awkward?" she said as she saw Fleda handling and looking at the
pretty toy,--"Isn't it awkward? I sha'n't have a bit of rest now for fear
something will happen to that. I hate to have people do such things!"
"Fleda my dear," said Mrs. Evelyn,--"I wouldn't handle it, my love; you
may depend there is some charm in it--some mischievous hidden
influence,--and if you have much to do with it I am afraid you will
find a gradual coldness stealing over you, and a strange forgetfulness
of Queechy, and you will perhaps lose your desire ever to go back there
The vinaigrette dropped from Fleda's fingers, but beyond a heightened
colour and a little tremulous gravity about the lip, she gave no other
sign of emotion.
"Mamma," said Florence laughing,--"you are too bad!"
"Mamma," said Constance, "I wonder how any tender sentiment for you can
continue to exist in Fleda's breast!--By the way, Fleda, my dear, do you
know that we have heard of two escorts for you? but I only tell you
because I know you'll not be fit to travel this age."
"I should not be able to travel to-morrow," said Fleda.
"They are not going to-morrow," said Mrs. Evelyn quietly.
"Who are they?"
"Excellent ones," said Mrs. Evelyn. "One of them is your old friend
"Mr. Olmney!" said Fleda. "What has brought him to New York?"
"Really," said Mrs. Evelyn laughing,--"I do not know. What should keep
him away? I was very glad to see him, for my part. Maybe he has come to
take you home."
"Who is the other?" said Fleda.
"That's another old friend of yours--Mrs. Renney."
"Mrs. Renney?--who is she?" said Fleda.
"Why don't you know? Mrs. Renney--she used to live with your aunt Lucy in
some capacity--years ago,--when she was in New York,--housekeeper, I
think; don't you remember her?"
"Perfectly, now," said Fleda. "Mrs. Renney!--"
"She has been housekeeper for Mrs. Schenck these several years, and she is
going somewhere out West to some relation, her brother, I believe, to take
care of his family; and her road leads her your way."
"When do they go, Mrs. Evelyn?"
"Both the same day, and both the day after to-morrow. Mr. Olmney takes the
morning train, he says, unless you would prefer some other,--I told him
you were very anxious to go,--and Mrs. Renney goes in the afternoon. So
there's a choice for you."
"Mamma," said Constance, "Fleda is not fit to go at all, either time."
"I don't think she is," said Mrs. Evelyn. "But she knows best what she
likes to do."
Thoughts and resolutions came swiftly one after another into Fleda's mind
and were decided upon in as quick succession. First, that she must go the
day after to-morrow, at all events. Second, that it should not be with
Mr. Olmney. Third, that to prevent that, she must not see him in the mean
time, and therefore--yes, no help for it,--must refuse to see any one that
called the next day; there was to be a party in the evening, so then she
would be safe. No doubt Mr. Carleton would come, to give her a more
particular account of what he had done, and she wished unspeakably to hear
it; but it was not possible that she should make an exception in his
favour and admit him alone. That could not be. If friends would only be
simple and straightforward and kind,--one could afford to be
straightforward too;--but as it was she must not do what she longed to do
and they would be sure to misunderstand. There was indeed the morning of
the day following left her if Mr. Olmney did not take it into his head to
stay. And it might issue in her not seeing Mr. Carleton at all, to bid
good-bye and thank him? He would not think her ungrateful, he knew better
than that, but still--Well! so much for kindness!--
"What _are_ you looking so grave about?" said Constance.
"Considering ways and means," Fleda said with a slight smile.
"Ways and means of what?"
"You don't mean to go the day after to-morrow?"
"It's too absurd for anything! You sha'n't do it."
"I must indeed."
"Mamma," said Constance, "if you permit such a thing, I shall hope that
memory will be a fingerboard of remorse to you, pointing to Miss Ringgan's
"I shall charge it entirely upon Miss Ringgan's own fingerboard," said
Mrs. Evelyn, with her complacently amused face. "Fleda, my dear,--shall I
request Mr. Olmney to delay his journey for a day or two, my love, till
you are stronger?"
"Not at all, Mrs. Evelyn! I shall go then;--if I am not ready in the
morning I will take Mrs. Renney in the afternoon--I would quite as lief go
"Then I will make Mr. Olmney keep to his first purpose," said Mrs. Evelyn.
Poor Fleda, though with a very sorrowful heart, kept her resolutions, and
for very forlornness and weariness slept away a great part of the next
day. Neither would she appear in the evening, for fear of more people than
one. It was impossible to tell whether Mrs. Evelyn's love of mischief
would not bring Mr. Olmney there, and the Thorns, she knew, were invited.
Mr. Lewis would probably absent himself, but Fleda could not endure even
the chance of seeing his mother. She wanted to know, but dared not ask,
whether Mr. Carleton had been to see her. What if to-morrow morning should
pass without her seeing him? Fleda pondered this uncertainty a little,
and then jumped out of bed and wrote him the heartiest little note of
thanks and remembrance that tears would let her write; sealed it, and
carried it herself to the nearest branch of the despatch post the first
thing next morning.
She took a long look that same morning at the little vinaigrette which
still lay on the centre-table, wishing very much to take it up stairs and
pack it away among her things. It was meant for her she knew, and she
wanted it as a very pleasant relic from the kind hands that had given it;
and besides, he might think it odd if she should slight his intention. But
how odd it would seem to him if he knew that the Evelyns had half
appropriated it. And appropriate it anew, in another direction, she could
not. She could not without their knowledge, and they would put their own
absurd construction on what was a simple matter of kindness; she could not
[Illustration: "I told him, 'O you were not gone yet!'"]
The morning, a long one it was, had passed away; Fleda had just finished
packing her trunk, and was sitting with a faint-hearted feeling of body
and mind, trying to rest before being called to her early dinner, when
Florence came to tell her it was ready.
"Mr. Carleton was here awhile ago," she said, "and he asked for you; but
mamma said you were busy; she knew you had enough to tire you without
coming down stairs to see him. He asked when you thought of going."
"What did you tell him?"
"I told him, 'O you were not gone yet!'--it's such a plague to be bidding
people good-bye--_I_ always want to get rid of it. Was I right?"
Fleda said nothing, but in her heart she wondered what possible concern it
could be of her friends if Mr. Carleton wanted to see her before she went
away. She felt it was unkind--they did not know how unkind, for they did
not understand that he was a very particular friend and an old
friend--they could not tell what reason there was for her wishing to bid
him good-bye. She thought she should have liked to do it, very much.
Methought I was--there is no man can tell what. Methought I was, and
methought I had,--But man is but a patched fool, if he will offer to say
what methought I had.--Midsummer Night's Dream.
Mrs. Evelyn drove down to the boat with Fleda and did not leave her till
she was safely put in charge of Mrs. Renney. Fleda immediately retreated
to the innermost depths of the ladies' cabin, hoping to find some rest for
the body at least if not forgetfulness for the mind.
The latter was not to be. Mrs. Renney was exceeding glad to see her and
bent upon knowing what had become of her since those days when they used
to know each other.
"You're just the same, Miss Fleda, that you used to be--you're very little
altered--I can see that--though you're looking a good deal more thin and
pale--you had very pretty roses in your cheeks in those times.--Yes, I
know, I understood Mrs. Evelyn to say you had not been well; but allowing
for that I can see you are just yourself still--I'm glad of it. Do you
recollect, Miss Fleda, what a little thing you was then?"
"I recollect, very well," said Fleda.
"I'm sure of another thing--you're just as good as you used to be," said
the housekeeper looking at her complacently. "Do you remember how you used
to come into my room to see me make jelly? I see it as well as if it was
yesterday;--and you used to beg me to let you squeeze the lemons; and I
never could refuse you, because you never did anything I didn't want you
to; and do you mind how I used to tie you up in a big towel for fear you
would stain your dress with the acid, and I'd stand and watch to see you
putting all your strength to squeeze 'em clean, and be afraid that Mrs.
Rossitur would be angry with me for letting you spoil your hands, but you
used to look up and smile at me so, I couldn't help myself but let you do
just whatever you had a mind. You don't look quite so light and bright as
you did in those times; but to be sure, you ain't feeling well! See
here--just let me pull some of these things onto this settee, and you put
yourself down there and rest--pillows--let's have another pillow,--there,
Oh if Fleda might have silenced her! She thought it was rather hard that
she should have two talkative companions on this journey of all others.
The housekeeper paused no longer than to arrange her couch and see her
comfortably laid down.
"And then Mr. Hugh would come in to find you and carry you away--he never
could bear to be long from you. How is Mr. Hugh, Miss Fleda? he used to
be always a very delicate looking child. I remember you and him used to
be always together--he was a very sweet boy! I have often said I never
saw such another pair of children. How does Mr. Hugh have his health,
"Not very well, just now," said Fleda gently, and shutting her eyes that
they might reveal less.
There was need; for the housekeeper went on to ask particularly after
every member of the family, and where they had been living, and as much
as she conveniently could about how they had been living. She was very
kind through it all, or she tried to be; but Fleda felt there was a
difference since the time when her aunt kept house in State street and
Mrs. Renney made jellies for her. When her neighbours' affairs were
exhausted Mrs. Renney fell back upon her own, and gave Fleda a very
circumstantial account of the occurrences that were drawing her westward;
how so many years ago her brother had married and removed thither; how
lately his wife had died; what in general was the character of his wife,
and what, in particular, the story of her decease; how many children were
left without care, and the state of her brother's business which demanded
a great deal; and how finally, she, Mrs. Renney, had received and
accepted an invitation to go on to Belle Riviere and be housekeeper de
son chef. And as Fleda's pale worn face had for some time given her no
sign of attention the housekeeper then hoped she was asleep, and placed
herself so as to screen her and have herself a good view of everything
that was going on in the cabin.
But poor Fleda was not asleep, much as she rejoiced in being thought so.
Mind and body could get no repose, sadly as the condition of both called
for it. Too worn to sleep, perhaps;--too down-hearted to rest. She blamed
herself for it, and told over to herself the causes, the recent causes,
she had of joy and gratitude; but it would not do. Grateful she could be
and was; but tears that were not the distillation of joy came with her
gratitude; came from under the closed eyelid in spite of her; the pillow
was wet with them. She excused herself, or tried to, with thinking that
she was weak and not very well, and that her nerves had gone through so
much for a few days past it was no wonder if a reaction left her without
her usual strength of mind. And she could not help thinking there had been
a want of kindness in the Evelyns to let her come away to-day to make such
a journey, at such a season, under such guardianship. But it was not all
that; she knew it was not. The journey was a small matter; only a little
piece of disagreeableness that was well in keeping with her other
meditations. She was going home and home had lost all its fair-seeming;
its honours were withered. It would be pleasant indeed to be there again
to nurse Hugh; but nurse him for what?--life or death?--she did not like
to think; and beyond that she could fix upon nothing at all that looked
bright in the prospect; she almost thought herself wicked, but she could
not. If she might hope that her uncle would take hold of his farm like a
man, and redeem his character and his family's happiness on the old
place,--that would have been something; but he had declared a different
purpose, and Fleda knew him too well to hope that he would be better than
his word. Then they must leave the old homestead, where at least the
associations of happiness clung, and go to a strange land. It looked
desolate to Fleda, wherever it might be. Leave Queechy!--that she loved
unspeakably beyond any other place in the world; where the very hills had
been the friends of her childhood, and where she had seen the maples grow
green and grow red through as many-coloured changes of her own fortunes;
the woods where the shade of her grandfather walked with her and where the
presence even of her father could be brought back by memory; where the air
was sweeter and the sunlight brighter, by far, than in any other place,
for both had some strange kindred with the sunny days of long ago. Poor
Fleda turned her face from Mrs. Renney, and leaving doubtful prospects and
withering comforts for a while as it were out of sight, she wept the fair
outlines and the red maples of Queechy as if they had been all she had to
regret. They had never disappointed her. Their countenance had comforted
her many a time, under many a sorrow. After all, it was only fancy
choosing at which shrine the whole offering of sorrow should be made. She
knew that many of the tears that fell were due to some other. It was in
vain to tell herself they were selfish; mind and body were in no condition
to struggle with anything.
It had fallen dark some time, and she had wept and sorrowed herself into a
half-dozing state, when a few words spoken near aroused her.
"It is snowing,"--was said by several voices.
"Going very slow, ain't we?" said Fleda's friend in a suppressed voice.
"Yes, 'cause it's so dark, you see; the Captain dursn't let her run."
Some poor witticism followed from a third party about the 'Butterfly's'
having run herself off her legs the first time she ever ran at all; and
then Mrs. Renney went on.
"Is the storm so bad, Hannah?"
"Pretty thick--can't see far ahead--I hope we'll make out to find our way
in--that's all _I_ care for."
"How far are we?"
"Not half way yet--I don't know--depends on what headway we make, you
know;--there ain't much wind yet, that's a good thing."
"There ain't any danger, is there?"
This of course the chambermaid denied, and a whispered colloquy followed
which Fleda did not try to catch. A new feeling came upon her weary
heart,--a feeling of fear. There was a sad twinge of a wish that she were
out of the boat and safe back again with the Evelyns, and a fresh sense of
the unkindness of letting her come away that afternoon so attended. And
then with that sickness of heart the forlorn feeling of being alone, of
wanting some one at hand to depend upon, to look to. It is true that in
case of real danger none such could be a real protection,--and yet not so
neither, for strength and decision can live and make live where a moment's
faltering will kill, and weakness must often falter of necessity. "All
the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth" to his people; she thought of
that, and yet she feared, for his ways are often what we do not like. A
few moments of sick-heartedness and trembling,--and then Fleda mentally
folded her arms about a few other words of the Bible and laid her head
down in quiet again.--"_The Lord is my refuge and my fortress; my God; in
him will I trust_."
And then what comes after,--"_He shall cover thee with his feathers, and
under his wings shalt thou trust; his truth shall be thy shield and
Fleda lay quiet till she was called to tea.
"Bless me, how pale you are!" said the housekeeper, as Fleda raised
herself up at this summons,--"do you feel very bad, Miss Fleda?"
Fleda said no.
"Are you frighted?" said the housekeeper;--"there's no need of
that--Hannah says there's no need--we'll be in by and by."
"No, Mrs. Renney," said Fleda smiling. "I believe I am not very
The housekeeper and Hannah both looked at her with strangely touched
faces, and again begged her to try the refreshment of tea. But Fleda
would not go down, so they served her up there with great zeal and
tenderness. And then she waited patiently and watched the people in the
cabin, as they sat gossiping in groups or stupefying in solitude; and
thought how miserable a thing is existence where religion and refinement
have not taught the mind to live in somewhat beyond and above its
Late at night the boat arrived safe at Bridgeport. Mrs. Renney and Fleda
had resolved to stay on board till morning, when the former promised to
take her to the house of a sister she had living in the town; as the cars
would not leave the place till near eleven o'clock. Kest was not to be
hoped for meantime in the boat, on the miserable couch which was the best
the cabin could furnish; but Fleda was so thankful to have finished the
voyage in safety that she took thankfully everything else, even lying
awake. It was a wild night. The wind rose soon after they reached
Bridgeport, and swept furiously over the boat, rattling the tiller chains
and making Fleda so nervously alive to possibilities that she got up two
or three times to see if the boat were fast to her moorings. It was very
dark, and only by a fortunately placed lantern she could see a bit of the
dark wharf and one of the posts belonging to it, from which the lantern
never budged; so at last, quieted or tired out, nature had her rights, and
It was not refreshing rest after all, and Fleda was very glad that Mrs.
Renney's impatience for something comfortable made her willing to be astir
as early as there was any chance of finding people up in the town. Few
were abroad when they left the boat, they two. Not a foot had printed the
deep layer of snow that covered the wharf. It had fallen thick during the
night. Just then it was not snowing; the clouds seemed to have taken a
recess, for they hung threatening yet; one uniform leaden canopy was over
the whole horizon.
"The snow ain't done yet," said Mrs. Renney.
"No, but the worst of our journey is over," said Fleda. "I am glad to be
on the land."
"I hope we'll get something to eat here," said Mrs. Renney as they stepped
along over the wharf. "They ought to be ashamed to give people such a
mess, when it's just as easy to have things decent. My! how it has snowed.
I declare, if I'd ha' known I'd ha' waited till somebody had tracked a
path for us. But I guess it's just as well we didn't,--you look as like a
ghost as you can, Miss Fleda. You'll be better when you get some
breakfast. You'd better catch on to my arm--I'll waken up the seven
sleepers but what I'll have something to put life into you directly."
Fleda thanked her but declined the proffered accommodation, and followed
her companion in the narrow beaten path a few travellers had made in the
street, feeling enough like a ghost, if want of flesh and blood reality
were enough. It seemed a dream that she was walking through the grey light
and the empty streets of the little town; everything looked and felt so
wild and strange.
If it was a dream she was soon waked out of it. In the house where they
were presently received and established in sufficient comfort, there was
such a little specimen of masculine humanity as never shewed his face in
dream land yet; a little bit of reality enough to bring any dreamer to his
senses. He seemed to have been brought up on stove heat, for he was ail
glowing yet from a very warm bed he had just tumbled out of somewhere, and
he looked at the pale thin stranger by his mother's fireplace as if she
were an anomaly in the comfortable world. If he could have contented
himself with looking!--but he planted himself firmly on the rug just two
feet from Fleda, and with a laudable and most persistent desire to examine
into the causes of what he could not understand he commenced inquiring,
"Are you cold?--say! Are you cold?--say!"--in a tone most provokingly made
up of wonder and dulness. In vain Fleda answered him, that she was not
very cold and would soon not be cold at all by that good fire;--the
question came again, apparently in all its freshness, from the
interrogator's mind,--"Are you cold?--say!--"
And silence and words, looking grave and laughing, were alike thrown away.
Fleda shut her eyes at length and used the small remnant of her patience
to keep herself quiet till she was called to breakfast. After breakfast
she accepted the offer of her hostess to go up stairs and lie down till
the cars were ready; and there got some real and much needed refreshment
of sleep and rest.
It lasted longer than she bad counted upon. For the cars were not ready
at eleven o'clock; the snow last night had occasioned some perplexing
delays. It was not till near three o'clock that the often-despatched
messenger to the depot brought back word that they might go as soon as
they pleased. It pleased Mrs. Renney to be in a great hurry, for her
baggage was in the cars she said, and it would be dreadful if she and it
went different ways; so Fleda and her companion hastened down to the
station house and choose their places some time before anybody else
thought of coming. They had a long, very tiresome waiting to go through,
and room for some uneasy speculations about being belated and a night
journey. But Fleda was stronger now, and bore it all with her usual
patient submission. At length, by degrees the people dropped in and
filled the cars, and they get off.
"How early do you suppose we shall reach Greenfield?" said Fleda.
"Why we ought to get there between nine and ten o'clock, I should think,"
said her companion. "I hope the snow will hold up till we get there,"
Fleda thought it a hope very unlikely to be fulfilled. There were as yet
no snow-flakes to be seen near by, but at a little distance the low
clouds seemed already to enshroud every clump of trees and put a mist
about every hill. They surely would descend more palpably soon.
It was pleasant to be moving swiftly on again towards the end of their
journey, if Fleda could have rid herself of some qualms about the possible
storm and the certain darkness; they might not reach Greenfield by ten
o'clock; and she disliked travelling in the night at any time. But she
could do nothing, and she resigned herself anew to the comfort and trust
she had built upon last night. She had the seat next the window, and with
a very sober kind of pleasure watched the pretty landscape they were
flitting by--misty as her own prospects,--darkening as they?--no, she
would not allow that thought. "'Surely I know that it shall be well with
them that fear God;' and I can trust him." And she found a strange
sweetness in that naked trust and clinging of faith, that faith never
tried never knows. But the breath of daylight was already gone, though the
universal spread of snow gave the eye a fair range yet, white, white, as
far as the view could reach, with that light misty drapery round
everything in the distance and merging into the soft grey sky; and every
now and then as the wind served, a thick wreath of white vapour came by
from the engine and hid all, eddying past the windows and then skimming
off away over the snowy ground from which it would not lift; a more
palpable veil for a moment of the distant things,--and then broken,
scattered, fragmentary, lovely in its frailty and evanishing. It was a
pretty afternoon, but a sober; and the bare black solitary trees near hand
which the cars flew by, looked to Fleda constantly like finger-posts of
the past; and back at their bidding her thoughts and her spirits went,
back and forward, comparing, in her own mental view, what had once been so
gay and genial with its present bleak and chill condition. And from this,
in sudden contrast, came a strangely fair and bright image of Heaven--its
exchange of peace for all this turmoil,--of rest for all this weary
bearing up of mind and body against the ills that beset both,--of its
quiet home for this unstable strange world where nothing is at a
stand-still--of perfect and pure society for the unsatisfactory and
wearying friendships that the most are here. The thought came to Fleda
like one of those unearthly clear Northwestern skies from which a storm
cloud has rolled away, that seem almost to mock Earth with their distance
from its defilement and agitations. "Truly I know that it shall be well
with them that fear God!"--She could remember Hugh,--she could not think
of the words without him,--and yet say them with the full bounding
assurance. And in that weary and uneasy afternoon her mind rested and
delighted itself with two lines of George Herbert, that only a Christian
can well understand,--
"Thy power and love,--my love and trust,
Make one place everywhere."
But the night fell, and Fleda at last could see nothing but the dim rail
fences they were flying by, and the reflection from some stationary
lantern on the engine or one of the forward cars, that always threw a
bright spot of light on the snow. Still she kept her eyes fastened out of
the window; anything but the view _inboard_. They were going slowly now,
and frequently stopping; for they were out of time, and some other trains
were to be looked out for. Nervous work; and whenever they stopped the
voices which at other times were happily drowned in the rolling of the
car-wheels, rose and jarred in discords far less endurable. Fleda shut
her ears to the words, but it was easy enough without words to understand
the indications of coarse and disagreeable natures in whose neighbourhood
she disliked to find herself; of whose neighbourhood she exceedingly
disliked to be reminded. The muttered oath, the more than muttered jest,
the various laughs that tell so much of head or heart emptiness,--the
shadowy but sure tokens of that in human nature which one would not
realize and which one strives to forget;--Fleda shrank within herself and
would gladly have stopped her ears; did sometimes covertly. Oh if home
could be but reached, and she out of this atmosphere! how well she
resolved that never another time, by any motive, of delicacy or
otherwise, she would be tempted to trust herself in the like again
without more than womanly protection. The hours rolled wearily on; they
heard nothing of Greenfield yet.
They came at length to a more obstinate stop than usual. Fleda took her
hands from her ears to ask what was the matter.
"I don't know," said Mrs. Renney. "I hope they won't keep us a great while
The door swung open and the red comforter and tarpaulin hat of one of the
brakemen shewed itself a moment. Presently after "Can't get on"--was
repeated by several voices in the various tones of assertion,
interrogation, and impatience. The women folks, having nobody to ask
questions of, had nothing for it but to be quiet and use their ears.
"Can't get on!" said another man coming in,--"there's nothing but snow out
o' doors--track's all foul."
A number of people instantly rushed out to see.
"Can't get on any further to-night?" asked a quiet old gentleman of the
"Not another inch, sir;--worse off than old Dobbs was in the
mill-pond,--we've got half way but we can't turn and go back."
"And what are we going to do?" said an unhappy wight not quick in drawing
"I s'pose we'll all be stiff by the morning," answered the other
gravely,--"unless the wood holds out, which ain't likely."
How much there is in even a cheery tone of voice, Fleda was sorry when
this man took his away with him. There was a most uncheering confusion of
tongues for a few minutes among the people he had left, and then the car
was near deserted; everybody went out to bring his own wits to bear upon
the obstacles in the way of their progress. Mrs. Renney observed that she
might as well warm her feet while she could, and went to the stove for
Poor Fleda felt as if she had no heart left. She sat still in her place
and leaned her head upon the back of the deserted chair before her, in
utter inability to keep it up. The night journey was bad enough, but
_this_ was more than she had counted upon. Danger, to be sure, there might
be none in standing still there all night, unless perhaps the danger of
death from the cold;--she had heard of such things;--but to sit there till
morning among all those people and obliged to hear their unloosed
tongues,--Fleda felt almost that she could not bear it,--a most forlorn
feeling, with which came anew a keen reflection upon the Evelyns for
having permitted her to run even the hazard of such trouble. And in the
morning, if well it came, who would take care of them in all the
subsequent annoyance and difficulty of getting out of the snow?--
It must have taken very little time for these thoughts to run through her
head, for half a minute had not flown when the vacant seat beside her was
occupied and a hand softly touched one of hers which lay in her lap.
Fleda started up in terror,--to have the hand taken and her eye met by
"Mr. Carleton!--O sir, how glad I am to see you!"--was said by eye and
cheek as unmistakably as by word.
"Have you come from the clouds?"
"I might rather ask that question of you," said he smiling.
"You have been invisible ever since the night when I had the honour of
playing the part of your physician."
"I could not help it, sir,--I was sure you would believe it. I wanted
exceedingly to see you and to thank you--as well as I could--but I was
obliged to leave it--"
She could hardly say so much. Her swimming eye gave him more thanks than
he wanted. But she scolded herself vigorously and after a few minutes was
able to look and speak again.
"I hoped you would not think me ungrateful, sir, but in case you might, I
wrote to let you know that you were mistaken."
"You wrote to me!" said he.
"Yes, sir--yesterday morning--at least it was put in the post
"It was more unnecessary than you are aware off," he said with a smile and
turning one of his deep looks away from her.
"Are we fast here for all night, Mr. Carleton?" she said presently.
"I am afraid so--I believe so--I have been out to examine and the storm is
"You need not look so about it for me," said Fleda;--"I don't care for it
at all now."
And a long-drawn breath half told how much she had cared for it, and what
a burden was gone.
"You look very little like breasting hardships," said Mr. Carleton,
bending on her so exactly the look of affectionate care that she had
often had from him when she was a child, that Fleda was very near
"O you know," she said, speaking by dint of great force upon
herself,--"You know the will is everything, and mine is very good--"
But he looked extremely unconvinced and unsatisfied.
"I am so comforted to see you sitting there, sir," Fleda went on
gratefully,--"that I am sure I can bear patiently all the rest."
His eye turned away and she did not know what to make of his gravity. But
a moment after he looked again and spoke with his usual manner.
"That business you entrusted to me," he said in a lower tone,--"I believe
you will have no more trouble with it."
"So I thought!--so I gathered--the other night,--" said Fleda, her heart
and her face suddenly full of many things.
"The note was given up--I saw it burned."
Fleda's two hands clasped each other mutely.
"And will he be silent?"
"I think he will choose to be so--for his own sake."
The only sake that would avail in that quarter, Fleda knew. How had Mr.
Carleton ever managed it!
"And Charlton?" she said after a few minutes' tearful musing.
"I had the pleasure of Capt. Rossitur's company to breakfast, the next
morning,--and I am happy to report that there is no danger of any trouble
"How shall I ever thank you, sir!" said Fleda with trembling lips.
His smile was so peculiar she almost thought he was going to tell her. But
just then Mrs. Renney having accomplished the desirable temperature of her
feet, came back to warm her ears, and placed herself on the next seat;
happily not the one behind but the one before them, where her eyes were
thrown away; and the lines of Mr. Carleton's mouth came back to their
usual quiet expression.
"You were in particular haste to reach home?" he asked.
Fleda said no, not in the abstract; it made no difference whether to-day
"You had heard no ill news of your cousin?"
"Not at all, but it is difficult to find an opportunity of making the
journey, and I thought I ought to come yesterday."
He was silent again; and the baffled seekers after ways and means who had
gone out to try arguments upon the storm, began to come pouring back into
the car. And bringing with them not only their loud and coarse voices with
every shade of disagreeableness aggravated by ill-humour, but also an
average amount of snow upon their hats and shoulders, the place was soon
full of a reeking atmosphere of great coats. Fleda was trying to put up
her window, but Mr. Carleton gently stopped her and began bargaining with
a neighbouring fellow-traveller for the opening of his.
"Well, sir, I'll open it if you wish it," said the man civilly, "but
they say we sha'n't have nothing to make fires with more than an hour
or two longer;--so maybe you'll think we can't afford to let any too
much cold in."
The gentleman however persisting in his wish and the wish being moreover
backed with those arguments to which every grade of human reason is
accessible, the window was opened. At first the rush of fresh air was a
great relief; but it was not very long before the raw snowy atmosphere
which made its way in was felt to be more dangerous, if it was more
endurable, than the close pent-up one it displaced. Mr. Carleton ordered
the window closed again; and Fleda's glance of meek grateful patience was
enough to pay any reasonable man for his share of the suffering. _Her_
share of it was another matter. Perhaps Mr. Carleton thought so, for he
immediately bent himself to reward her and to avert the evil, and for that
purpose brought into play every talent of manner and conversation that
could beguile the time and make her forget what she was among. If success
were his reward he had it. He withdrew her attention completely from all
that was around her, and without tasking it; she could not have borne
that. He did not seem to task himself; but without making any exertion he
held her eye and ear and guarded both from communication with things
disagreeable. He knew it. There was not a change in her eye's happy
interest, till in the course of the conversation Fleda happened to mention
Hugh, and he noticed the saddening of the eye immediately afterwards.
"Is he ill?" said Mr. Carleton.
"I don't know," said Fleda faltering a little,--"he was not--very,--but a
few weeks ago--"
Her eye explained the broken sentences which there in the neighbourhood of
other ears she dared not finish.
"He will be better after he has seen you," said Mr. Carleton gently.
A very sorrowful and uncertain "yes," with an "if" in the speaker's mind
which she did not bring out.
"Can you sing your old song yet,--" said Mr. Carleton softly,--
"'Yet one thing secures us.
But Fleda burst into tears.
"Forgive me," he whispered earnestly,--"for reminding you of that,--you
did not need it, and I have only troubled you."
"No sir, you have not," said Fleda,--"it did not trouble me--and Hugh
knows it better than I do. I cannot bear anything to-night, I believe--"
"So you have remembered that, Mr. Carleton?" she said a minute after.
"Do you remember that?" said he, putting her old little Bible into her
Fleda seized it, but she could hardly bear the throng of images that
started up around it. The smooth worn cover brought so back the childish
happy days when it had been her constant companion--the shadows of the
Queechy of old, and Cynthia and her grandfather; and the very atmosphere
of those times when she had led a light-hearted strange wild life all
alone with them, reading the Encyclopaedia and hunting out the
wood-springs. She opened the book and slowly turned over the leaves where
her father's hand had drawn those lines, of remark and affection, round
many a passage,--the very look of them she knew; but she could not see it
now, for her eyes were dim and tears were dropping fast into her
lap,--she hoped Mr. Carleton did not see them, but she could not help it;
she could only keep the book out of the way of being blotted. And there
were other and later associations she had with it too,--how dear!--how
Mr. Carleton was quite silent for a good while--till the tears had ceased;
then he bent towards her so as to be heard no further off.
"It has been for many years my best friend and companion," he said in
a low tone.
Fleda could make no answer, even by look.
"At first," he went on softly, "I had a strong association of you with it;
but the time came when I lost that entirely, and itself quite swallowed up
the thought of the giver."
A quick glance and smile told how well Fleda understood, how heartily she
was pleased with that. But she instantly looked away again.
"And now," said Mr. Carleton after a pause,--"for some time past, I have
got the association again; and I do not choose to have it so. I have come
to the resolution to put the book back into your hands and not receive it
again, unless the giver go with the gift."
Fleda looked up, a startled look of wonder, into his face, but the dark
eye left no doubt of the meaning of his words; and in unbounded confusion
she turned her own and her attention, ostensibly, to the book in her hand,
though sight and sense were almost equally out of her power. For a few
minutes poor Fleda felt as if all sensation had retreated to her
finger-ends. She turned the leaves over and over, as if willing to cheat
herself or her companion into the belief that she had something to think
of there, while associations and images of the past were gone with a
vengeance, swallowed up in a tremendous reality of the present; and the
book, which a minute ago was her father's Bible, was now--what was
it?--something of Mr. Carleton's which she must give back to him. But
still she held it and looked at it--conscious of no one distinct idea but
that, and a faint one besides that he might like to be repossessed of his
property in some reasonable time--time like everything else was in a
whirl; the only steady thing in creation seemed to be that perfectly still
and moveless figure by her side--till her trembling fingers admonished her
they would not be able to hold anything much longer; and gently and
slowly, without looking, her hand put the book back towards Mr. Carleton.
That both were detained together she knew but hardly felt;--the thing was
that she had given it!--
There was no other answer; and there was no further need that Mr. Carleton
should make any efforts for diverting her from the scene and the
circumstances where they were. Probably he knew that, for he made none. He
was perfectly silent for a long time, and Fleda was deaf to any other
voice that could be raised, near or far. She could not even think.
Mrs. Renney was happily snoring, and most of the other people had
descended into their coat collars, or figuratively speaking had lowered
their blinds, by tilting over their hats in some uncomfortable position
that signified sleep; and comparative quiet had blessed the place for some
time; as little noticed indeed by Fleda as noise would have been. The sole
thing that she clearly recognized in connection with the exterior world
was that clasp in which one of her hands lay. She did not know that the
car had grown quiet, and that only an occasional grunt of ill-humour, or
waking-up colloquy, testified that it was the unwonted domicile of a
number of human beings who were harbouring there in a disturbed state of
mind. But this state of things could not last. The time came that had been
threatened, when their last supply of extrinsic warmth was at an end.
Despite shut windows, the darkening of the stove was presently followed by
a very sensible and fast-increasing change of temperature; and this
addition to their causes of discomfort roused every one of the company
from his temporary lethargy. The growl of dissatisfied voices awoke again,
more gruff than before; the spirit of jesting had long languished and now
died outright, and in its stead came some low and deep and bitter-spoken
curses. Poor Mrs. Renney shook off her somnolency and shook her shoulders,
a little business shake, admonitory to herself to keep cool; and Fleda
came to the consciousness that some very disagreeable chills were making
their way over her.
"Are you warm enough?" said Mr. Carleton suddenly, turning to her.
"Not quite," said Fleda hesitating,--"I feel the cold a little. Please
don't, Mr. Carleton!--" she added earnestly as she saw him preparing to
throw off his cloak, the identical black fox which Constance had described
with so much vivacity;--"pray do not! I am not very cold--I can bear a
little--I am not so tender as you think me; I do not need it, and you
would feel the want very much after wearing it.--I won't put it on."
But he smilingly bade her "stand up," stooping down and taking one of her
hands to enforce his words, and giving her at the same time the benefit of
one of those looks of good humoured wilfulness to which his mother always
yielded, and to which Fleda yielded instantly, though with a colour
considerably heightened at the slight touch of peremptoriness in his tone.
"You are not offended with me, Elfie?" he said in another manner, when she
had sat down again and he was arranging the heavy folds of the cloak.
Offended!--A glance answered.
"You shall have everything your own way," he whispered gently, as he
stooped down to bring the cloak under her feet,--"_except yourself_."
What good care should be taken of that exception was said in the dark
eye at which Fleda hardly ventured half a glance. She had much ado to
She was shielded again from all the sights and sounds within reach. She
was in a maze. The comfort of the fur cloak was curiously mixed with the
feeling of something else, of which that was an emblem,--a surrounding of
care and strength which would effectually be exerted for her
protection,--somewhat that Fleda had not known for many a long day,--the
making up of the old want. Fleda had it in her heart to cry like a baby.
Such a dash of sunlight had fallen at her feet that she hardly dared look
at it for fear of being dazzled; but she could not look anywhere that she
did not see the reflection.
In the mean time the earful of people settled again into sullen quietude.
The cold was not found propitious to quarrelling. Those who could subsided
anew into lethargy, those who could not gathered in their outposts to make
the best defence they might of the citadel. Most happily it was not an
extreme night; cold enough to be very disagreeable and even (without a fur
cloak) dangerous; but not enough to put even noses and ears in immediate
jeopardy. Mr. Carleton had contrived to procure a comfortable wrapper for
Mrs. Renney from a Yankee who for the sake of being "a warm man" as to his
pockets was willing to be cold otherwise for a time. The rest of the great
coats and cloaks which were so alert and erect a little while ago were
doubled up on every side in all sorts of despondent attitudes. A dull
quiet brooded over the assembly; and Mr. Carleton walked up and down the
vacant space. Once he caught an anxious glance from Fleda, and came
immediately to her side.
"You need not be troubled about me," he said with a most genial smile;--"I
am not suffering--never was further from it in my life."
Fleda could neither answer nor look.
"There are not many hours of the night to wear out," he said. "Can't you
follow your neighbour's example?"
She shook her head.
"This watching is too hard for you. You will have another headache
"No--perhaps not," she said with a grateful look up.
"You do not feel the cold now, Elfie?"
"Not at all--not in the least--I am perfectly comfortable--I am doing
He stood still, and the changing lights and shades on Fleda's cheek
"Do you know where we are, Mr. Carleton?"
"Somewhere between a town the name of which I have forgotten and a place
called Quarrenton, I think; and Quarrenton, they tell me, is but a few
miles from Greenfield. Our difficulties will vanish, I hope, with the
He walked again, and Fleda mused, and wondered at herself in the black
fox. She did not venture another look, though her eye took in nothing very
distinctly but the outlines of that figure passing up and down through the
car. He walked perseveringly; and weariness at last prevailed over
everything else with Fleda; she lost herself with her head leaning against
the bit of wood between the windows.
The rousing of the great coats, and the growing gray light, roused her
before her uneasy sleep had lasted an hour. The lamps were out, the car
was again spotted with two long rows of window-panes, through which the
light as yet came but dimly. The morning had dawned at last, and seemed to
have brought with it a fresh accession of cold, for everybody was on the
stir. Fleda put up her window to get a breath of fresh air and see how the
A change of weather had come with the dawn. It was not fine yet. The
snowing had ceased, but the clouds hung overhead still, though not with
the leaden uniformity of yesterday; they were higher and broken into many
a soft grey fold, that promised to roll away from the sky by and by. The
snow was deep on the ground; every visible thing lapped in a thick white
covering; a still, very grave, very pretty winter landscape, but somewhat
dreary in its aspect to a trainful of people fixed in the midst of it out
of sight of human habitation. Fleda felt that, but only in the abstract;
to her it did not seem dreary; she enjoyed the wild solitary beauty of the
scene very much, with many a grateful thought of what might have been. As
it was, she left difficulties entirely to others.
As soon as it was light the various inmates of the strange dormitory
gathered themselves up and set out on foot for Quarrenton. By one of them
Mr. Carleton sent an order for a sleigh, which in as short a time as
possible arrived, and transported him and Fleda and Mrs. Renney, and one
other ill-bestead woman, safely to the little town of Quarrenton.
Welcome the sour cup of prosperity! Affliction may one day smile again,
and till then, Sit thee down, sorrow!--Love's Labour Lost.
It had been a wild night, and the morning looked scared. Perhaps it was
only the particular locality, for if ever a place shewed bleak and winter
stricken the little town of Quarrenton was in that condition that morning.
The snow overlaid and enveloped everything, except where the wind had been
at work; and the wind and the grey clouds seemed the only agencies abroad.
Nor a ray of sunlight to relieve the uniform sober tints, the universal
grey and white, only varied where a black house-roof, partially cleared,
or a blacker bare-branched tree, gave it a sharp interruption. There was
not a solitary thing that bore an indication of comfortable life, unless
the curls of smoke that went up from the chimneys; and Fleda was in no
condition to study their physiognomy.
A little square hotel, perched alone on a rising ground, looked the
especial bleak and unpromising spot of the place. It bore however the
imposing title of the Pocahontas; and there the sleigh set them down.
They were ushered up-stairs into a little parlour furnished in the usual
style, with one or two articles a great deal too showy for the place and a
general dearth as to the rest. A lumbering mahogany sofa, that shewed as
much wood and as little promise as possible; a marble-topped centre-table;
chairs in the minority and curtains minus; and the hearth-rug providently
turned bottom upwards. On the centre-table lay a pile of Penny Magazines,
a volume of selections of poetry from various good authors, and a
sufficient complement of newspapers. The room was rather cold, but of that
the waiter gave a reasonable explanation in the fact that the fire had not
been burning long.
Furs however might be dispensed with, or Fleda thought so; and taking off
her bonnet she endeavoured to rest her weary head against the sharp-cut
top of the sofa-back, which seemed contrived expressly to punish and
forbid all attempts at ease-seeking. The mere change of position was still
comparative ease. But the black fox had not done duty yet. Its ample folds
were laid over the sofa, cushion-back and all, so as at once to serve for
pillow and mattress, and Fleda being gently placed upon it laid her face
down again upon the soft fur, which gave a very kindly welcome not more to
the body than to the mind. Fleda almost smiled as she felt that. The furs
were something more than a pillow for her cheek--they were the soft image
of somewhat for her mind to rest on. But entirely exhausted, too much for
smiles or tears, though both were near, she resigned herself as helplessly
as an infant to the feeling of rest; and in five minutes was in a state of
Mrs. Renney, who had slept a great part of the night, courted sleep anew
in the rocking-chair, till breakfast should be ready; the other woman had
found quarters in the lower part of the house; and Mr. Carleton stood
still with folded arms to read at his leisure the fair face that rested so
confidingly upon the black fur of his cloak, looking so very fair in the
contrast. It was the same face he had known in time past,--the same, with
only an alteration that had added new graces but had taken away none of
the old. Not one of the soft outlines had grown hard under Time's
discipline; not a curve had lost its grace or its sweet mobility; and yet
the hand of Time had been there; for on brow and lip and cheek and eyelid
there was that nameless grave composure which said touchingly that hope
had long ago clasped hands with submission. And perhaps, that if hope's
anchor had not been well placed, ay, even where it could not be moved, the
storms of life might have beaten even hope from her ground and made a
clean sweep of desolation over all she had left. Not the storms of the
last few weeks. Mr. Carleton saw and understood their work in the
perfectly colourless and thin cheek. But these other finer drawn
characters had taken longer to write. He did not know the instrument, but
he read the hand-writing, and came to his own resolutions therefrom.
Yet if not untroubled she had remained unspotted by the world; that was as
clear as the other. The slight eyebrow sat with its wonted calm purity of
outline just where it used; the eyelid fell as quietly; the forehead above
it was as unruffled; and if the mouth had a subdued gravity that it had
taken years to teach, it had neither lost any of the sweetness nor any of
the simplicity of childhood. It was a strange picture that Mr. Carleton
was looking at,--strange for its rareness. In this very matter of
simplicity, that the world will never leave those who belong to it. Half
sitting and half reclining, she had given herself to rest with the
abandonment and self-forgetfulness of a child; her attitude had the very
grace of a child's unconsciousness; and her face shewed that even in
placing herself there she had lost all thought of any other presence or
any other eyes than her own; even of what her hand and cheek lay upon,
and what it betokened. It meant something to Mr. Carleton too; and if
Fleda could have opened her eyes she would have seen in those that were
fixed upon her a happy promise for her future life. She was beyond making
any such observations; and Mrs. Renney gave no interruption to his till
the breakfast bell rang.
Mr. Carleton had desired the meal to be served in a private room. But he
was met with a speech in which such a confusion of arguments endeavoured
to persuade him to be of another mind, that he had at last given way. It
was asserted that the ladies would have their breakfast a great deal
quicker and a great deal hotter with the rest of the company; and in the
same breath that it would be a very great favour to the house if the
gentleman would not put them to the inconvenience of setting a separate
table; the reasons of which inconvenience were set forth in detail, or
would have been if the gentleman would have heard them; and desirous
especially of haste, on Fleda's account, Mr. Carleton signified his
willingness to let the house accommodate itself. Following the bell a
waiter now came to announce and conduct them to their breakfast.
Down the stairs, through sundry narrow turning passages, they went to a
long low room at one corner of the house; where a table was spread for a
very nondescript company, as it soon proved, many of their last night's
companions having found their way thither. The two _ladies_, however, were
given the chief posts at the head, as near as possible to a fiery hot
stove, and served with tea and coffee from a neighbouring table by a young
lady in long ringlets who was there probably for their express honour. But
alas for the breakfast! They might as good have had the comfort of a
private room, for there was none other to be had. Of the tea and coffee it
might be said as once it was said of two bad roads--"whichever one you
take you will wish you had taken the other;" the beefsteak was a problem
of impracticability; and the chickens--Fleda could not help thinking that
a well-to-do rooster which she saw flapping his wings in the yard, must in
all probability be at that very moment endeavouring to account for a
sudden breach in his social circle; and if the oysters had been some very
fine ladies they could hardly have retained less recollection of their
original circumstances. It was in vain to try to eat or to drink; and
Fleda returned to her sofa with even an increased appetite for rest, the
more that her head began to take its revenge for the trials to which it
had been put the past day and night.
She had closed her eyes again in her old position. Mrs. Renney was tying
her bonnet-strings. Mr. Carleton was pacing up and down.
"Aren't you going to get ready, Miss Ringgan?" said the former.
"How soon will the cars be here?" exclaimed Fleda starting up.
"Presently," said Mr. Carleton; "but," said he, coming up to her
and taking her hands,--"I am going to prescribe for you again--will
you let me?"
Fleda's face gave small promise of opposition.
"You are not fit to travel now. You need some hours of quiet rest before
we go any further."
"But when shall we get home?" said Fleda.
"In good time--not by the railroad--there is a nearer way that will take
us to Queechy without going through Greenfield. I have ordered a room to
be made ready for you--will you try if it be habitable?"
Fleda submitted; and indeed there was in his manner a sort of gentle
determination to which few women would have opposed themselves; besides
that her head threatened to make a journey a miserable business.
"You are ill now," said Mr. Carleton. "Cannot you induce your companion to
stay and attend you?"
"I don't want her," said Fleda.
Mr. Carleton however mooted the question himself with Mrs. Renney, but she
represented to him, though with much deference, that the care of her
property must oblige her to go where and when it went. He rang and ordered
the housekeeper to be sent.
Presently after a young lady in ringlets entered the room, and first
taking a somewhat leisurely survey of the company, walked to the window
and stood there looking out. A dim recollection of her figure and air made
Fleda query whether she were not the person sent for; but it was several
minutes before it came into Mr. Carleton's head to ask if she belonged to
"I do, sir," was the dignified answer.
"Will you shew this lady the room prepared for her? And take care that she
The owner of the ringlets answered not, but turning the front view of them
full upon Fleda seemed to intimate that she was ready to act as her guide.
She hinted however that the rooms were very _airy_ in winter and that
Fleda would stand a better chance of comfort where she was. But this Fleda
would not listen to, and followed her adviser to the half warmed and
certainly very airy apartment which had been got ready for her. It was
probably more owing to something in her own appearance than to Mr.
Carleton's word of admonition on the subject that her attendant was really
assiduous and kind.
"Be you of this country?" she said abruptly, after her good offices as
Fleda thought were ended, and she had just closed her eyes.
She opened them again and said "yes."
"Well, that ain't in the parlour, is he?"
"What?" said Fleda.
"One of our folks?"
"An American, you mean?--No."
"I thought he wa'n't--What is he?"
"He is English."
"Is he your brother?"
The young lady gave her a good look out of her large dark eyes, and
remarking that "she thought they didn't look much like," left the room.
The day was spent by poor Fleda between pain and stupor, each of which
acted in some measure to check the other; too much exhausted for nervous
pain to reach the height it sometimes did, while yet that was sufficient
to prevent stupor from sinking into sleep. Beyond any power of thought or
even fancy, with only a dreamy succession of images flitting across her
mind, the hours passed she knew not how; that they did pass she knew from
her handmaid in the long curls who was every now and then coming in to
look at her and give her fresh water; it needed no ice. Her handmaid told
her that the cars were gone by--that it was near noon--then that it was
past noon. There was no help for it; she could only lie still and wait; it
was long past noon before she was able to move; and she was looking ill
enough yet when she at last opened the door of the parlour and slowly
Mr. Carleton was there alone, Mrs. Renney having long since accompanied
her baggage. He came forward instantly and led Fleda to the sofa, with
such gentle grave kindness that she could hardly bear it; her nerves had
been in an unsteady state all day. A table was set and partially spread
with evidently much more care than the one of the morning; and Fleda sat
looking at it afraid to trust herself to look anywhere else. For years she
had been taking care of others; and now there was something so strange in
this feeling of being cared for, that her heart was full. Whatever Mr.
Carleton saw or suspected of this, it did not appear. On the contrary his
manner and his talk on different matters was as cool, as quiet, as
graceful, as if neither he nor Fleda had anything particular to think of;
avoiding even an allusion to whatever might in the least distress her.
Fleda thought she had a great many reasons to be grateful to him, but she
never thanked him for anything more than at that moment she thanked him
for the delicacy which so regarded her delicacy and put her in a few
minutes completely at her ease as she could be.
The refreshments were presently brought, and Fleda was served with them
in a way that went as far as possible towards making them satisfactory;
but though a great improvement upon the morning they furnished still but
the substitute for a meal. There was a little pause then after the horses
"I am afraid you have wanted my former prescription to-day," said Mr.
Carleton, after considering the little-improved colour of Fleda's face.
"I have indeed."
"Where is it?"
Fleda hesitated, and then in a little confusion said she supposed it was
lying on Mrs. Evelyn's centre-table.
"How happens that?" said he smiling.
"Because--I could not help it, Mr. Carleton," said Fleda with no little
difficulty;--"I was foolish--I could not bring it away."
He understood and was silent.
"Are you fit to bear a long ride in the cold?" he said compassionately a
few minutes after.
"Oh yes!--It will do me good."
"You have had a miserable day, have you not?"
"My head has been pretty bad,--" said Fleda a little evasively.
"Well, what would you have?" said he lightly;--"doesn't that make a
miserable day of it?"
Fleda hesitated and coloured,--and then conscious that her cheeks were
answering for her, coloured so exceedingly that she was fain to put both
her hands up to hide what they only served the more plainly to shew. No
advantage was taken. Mr. Carleton said nothing; she could not see what
answer might be in his face. It was only by a peculiar quietness in his
tone whenever he spoke to her afterwards that Fleda knew she had been
thoroughly understood. She dared not lift her eyes.
They had soon employment enough around her. A sleigh and horses better
than anything else Quarrenton had been known to furnish, were carrying
her rapidly towards home; the weather had perfectly cleared off, and in
full brightness and fairness the sun was shining upon a brilliant world.
It was cold indeed, though the only wind was that made by their progress;
but Fleda had been again unresistingly wrapped in the furs and was for
the time beyond the reach of that or any other annoyance. She eat
silently and quietly enjoying; so quietly that a stranger might have
questioned there being any enjoyment in the case. It was a very
picturesque broken country, fresh-covered with snow; and at that hour,
late in the day, the lights and shadows were a constantly varying charm
to the eye. Clumps of evergreens stood out in full disclosure against the
white ground; the bare branches of neighbouring trees, in all their
barrenness, had a wild prospective or retrospective beauty peculiar to
themselves. On the wavy white surface of the meadow-land, or the steep
hill-sides, lay every variety of shadow in blue and neutral tint; where
they lay not the snow was too brilliant to be borne. And afar off,
through a heaven bright and cold enough to hold the canopy over Winter's
head, the ruler of the day was gently preparing to say good-bye to the
world. Fleda's eye seemed to be new set for all forms of beauty, and
roved from one to the other, as grave and bright as nature itself.
For a little way Mr. Carleton left her to her musings and was as silent as
she. But then he gently drew her into a conversation that broke up the
settled gravity of her face and obliged her to divide her attention
between nature and him, and his part of it he knew how to manage. But
though eye and smile constantly answered him he could win neither to a
They were about a mile from Queechy when Pleda suddenly exclaimed,
"O Mr. Carleton, please stop the sleigh I--"
The horses were stopped.
"It is only Earl Douglass--our farmer," Fleda said in explanation,--"I