Part 17 out of 18
"I give all my part of her to you," he said at length. "Mr. Carleton, I
shall see both of you in heaven?"
"I hope so," was the answer, in those very calm and clear tones that have
a singular effect in quieting emotion, while they indicate anything but
the want of it.
"I am the best off of you all," Hugh said.
He lay still for awhile with shut eyes. Fleda had withdrawn herself from
his arms and stood at his side, with a bowed head, but perfectly quiet. He
still held Mr. Carleton's hand, as something he did not want to part with.
"Fleda," said he, "who is that crying?--Mother--come here."
Mr. Carleton gave place to her. Hugh pulled her down to him till her face
lay upon his, and folded both his arms around her.
"Mother," he said softly, "will you meet me in heaven?--say yes."
"How can I, dear Hugh?"
"You can, dear mother," said he kissing her with exceeding tenderness of
expression,--"my Saviour will be yours and take you there. Say you will
give yourself to Christ--dear mother!--sweet mother! promise me I shall
see you again!--"
Mrs. Rossitur's weeping it was difficult to hear. But Hugh hardly shedding
a tear still kissed her, repeating, "Promise me, dear mother--promise me
that you will;"--till Mrs. Rossitur in an agony sobbed out the word he
wanted,--and Hugh hid his face then in her neck.
Mr. Carleton left the room and went down stairs. He found the sitting-room
desolate, untenanted and cold for hours; and he went again into the
kitchen. Barby was there for some time, and then she left him alone.
He had passed a long while in thinking and walking up and down, and he was
standing musing by the fire, when Fleda again came in. She came in
silently, to his side, and putting her arm within his laid her face upon
it with a simplicity of trust and reliance that went to his heart; and she
wept there for a long hour. They hardly changed their position in all that
time; and her tears flowed silently though incessantly, the only tokens of
sympathy on his part being such a gentle caressing smoothing of her hair
or putting it from her brow as he had used when she was a child. The
bearing of her hand and head upon his arm in time shewed her increasingly
weary. Nothing shewed him so.
"Elfie--my dear Elfie," he said at last very tenderly, in the same way
that he would have spoken nine years before--"Hugh gave his part of you to
me--I must take care of it."
Fleda tried to rouse herself immediately.
"This is poor entertainment for you, Mr. Carleton," she said, raising her
head and wiping away the tears from her face.
"You are mistaken," he said gently. "You never gave me such pleasure but
twice before, Elfie."
Fleda's head went down again instantly, and this time there was something
almost caressing in the motion.
"Next to the happiness of having friends on earth," he said soothingly,
"is the happiness of having friends in heaven. Don't weep any more
to-night, my dear Elfie."
"He told me to thank you--" said Fleda. But stopping short and clasping
with convulsive energy the arm she held, she shed more violent tears than
she had done that night before. The most gentle soothing, the most tender
reproof, availed at last to quiet her; and she stood clinging to his arm
still and looking down into the fire.
"I did not think it would be so soon," she said.
"It was not soon to him, Elfie."
"He told me to thank you for singing. How little while it seems since we
were children together--how little while since before that--when I was a
little child here--how different!"
"No, the very same," said he, touching his lips to her forehead,--"you are
the very same child you were then; but it is time you were my child, for I
see you would make yourself ill. No--" said he softly taking the hand
Fleda raised to her face,--"no more tonight--tell me how early I may see
you in the morning--for, Elfie, I must leave you after breakfast."
Fleda looked up inquiringly.
"My mother has brought news that determines me to return to England
"I have been too long from home--I am wanted there."
Fleda looked down again and did her best not to shew what she felt.
"I do not know how to leave you--and now--but I must. There are
disturbances among the people, and my own are infected. I _must_ be there
"Political disturbances?" said Fleda.
"Somewhat of that nature--but partly local. How early may I come to you?"
"But you are not going away tonight? It is very late."
"That is nothing--my horse is here."
Fleda would have begged in vain, if Barby had not come in and added her
word, to the effect that it would be a mess of work to look for lodgings
at that time of night, and that she had made the west room ready for Mr.
Carleton. She rejected with great sincerity any claim to the thanks with
which Fleda as well as Mr. Carleton repaid her; "there wa'n't no trouble
about it," she said. Mr. Carleton however found his room prepared for him
with all the care that Barby's utmost ideas of refinement and exactness
It was still very early the next morning; when he left it and came into
the sitting-room, but he was not the first there. The firelight glimmered
on the silver and china of the breakfast table, all set; everything was in
absolute order, from the fire to the two cups and saucers which were alone
on the board. A still silent figure was standing by one of the windows
looking out. Not crying; but that Mr. Carleton knew from the unmistakable
lines of the face was only because tears were waiting another time; quiet
now, it would not be by and by. He came and stood at the window with her.
"Do you know," he said, after a little, "that Mr. Rossitur purposes to
"Does he?" said Fleda rather starting, but she added not another word,
simply because she felt she could not safely.
"He has accepted, I believe, a consulship at Jamaica."
"Jamaica!" said Fleda. "I have heard him speak of the West Indies--I am
not surprised--I know it was likely he would not stay here."
How tightly her fingers that were free grasped the edge of the
window-frame. Mr. Carleton saw it and softly removed them into his
"He may go before I can be here again. But I shall leave my mother to take
care of you, Elfie."
"Thank you," said Fleda faintly. "You are very kind--"
"Kind to myself," he said smiling. "I am only taking care of my own. I
need not say that you will see me again as early as my duty can make it
possible;--but I may be detained, and your friends may be
gone--Elfie--give me the right to send if I cannot come for you. Let me
leave my wife in my mother's care."
Fleda looked down, and coloured, and hesitated; but the expression in her
face was not that of doubt.
"Am I asking too much?" he said gently.
"No sir," said Fleda,--"and--but--"
"What is in the way?"
But it seemed impossible for Fleda to tell him.
"May I not know?" he said, gently putting away the hair from Fleda's face,
which looked distressed. "Is it only your feeling?"
"No sir," said Fleda,--"at least--not the feeling you think it is--but--I
could not do it without giving great pain."
Mr. Carleton was silent.
"Not to anybody you know, Mr. Carleton," said Fleda, suddenly fearing a
wrong interpretation of her words,--"I don't mean that--I mean somebody
else--the person--the only person you could apply to--" she said, covering
her face in utter confusion.
"Do I understand you?" said he smiling. "Has this gentleman any reason to
dislike the sight of me?"
"No sir," said Fleda,--"but he thinks he has."
"That only I meant," said he. "You are quite right, my dear Elfie; I of
all men ought to understand that."
The subject was dropped, and in a few minutes his gentle skill had well
nigh made Fleda forget what they had been talking about. Himself and his
wishes seemed to be put quite out of his own view, and out of hers as far
as possible; except that the very fact made Fleda recognize with
unspeakable gratitude and admiration the kindness and grace that were
always exerted for her pleasure. If her good-will could have been put into
the cups of coffee she poured out for him, he might have gone in the
strength of them all the way to England. There was strength of another
kind to be gained from her face of quiet sorrow and quiet self-command
which were her very childhood's own.
"You will see me at the earliest possible moment," he said when at last
taking leave.--"I hope to be free in a short time; but it may not be.
Elfie--if I should be detained longer than I hope--if I should not be able
to return in a reasonable time, will you let my mother bring you out?--if
I cannot come to you will you come to me?"
Fleda coloured a good deal, and said, scarce intelligibly, that she hoped
he would be able to come. He did not press the matter. He parted from her
and was leaving the room. Fleda suddenly sprang after him, before he had
reached the door, and laid her hand on his arm.
"I did not answer your question, Mr. Carleton," she said with cheeks that
were dyed now,--"I will do whatever you please--whatever you think best."
His thanks were most gratefully though silently spoken, and he went away.
Daughter, they seem to say,
Peace to thy heart!
We too, yes, daughter,
Have been as thou art.
Seeing in part,--
Tried, troubled, tempted,--
Sustained,--as thou art.
Mr. Rossitur was disposed for no further delay now in leaving Queechy. The
office at Jamaica, which Mr. Carleton and Dr. Gregory had secured for him,
was immediately accepted; and every arrangement pressed to hasten his
going. On every account he was impatient to be out of America, and
especially since his son's death. Marion was of his mind. Mrs. Rossitur
had more of a home feeling, even for the place where home had not been to
her as happy as it might.
They were sad weeks of bustle and weariness that followed Hugh's death;
less sad perhaps for the weariness and the bustle. There was little time
for musing, no time for lingering regrets. If thought and feeling played
their Eolian measures on Fleda's harpstrings, they were listened to only
by snatches, and she rarely sat down and cried to them.
A very kind note had been received from Mrs. Carleton.
April gave place to May. One afternoon Fleda had taken an hour or two to
go and look at some of the old places on the farm, that she loved and
that were not too far to reach. A last look she guessed it might be, for
it was weeks since she had had a spare afternoon, and another she might
not he able to find. It was a doubtful pleasure she sought too, but she
must have it.
She visited the long meadow and the height that stretched along it, and
even went so far as the extremity of the valley, at the foot of the
twenty-acre lot, and then stood still to gather up the ends of memory.
There she had gone chestnutting with Mr. Ringgan--thither she had guided
Mr. Carleton and her cousin Rossitur that day when they were going after
wood-cock--there she had directed and overseen Earl Douglass's huge crop
of corn. How many pieces of her life were connected with it. She stood for
a little while looking at the old chestnut trees, looking and thinking,
and turned away soberly with the recollection, "The world passeth
away,--but the word of our God shall stand forever." And though there was
one thought that was a continual well of happiness in the depth of Fleda's
heart, her mind passed it now, and echoed with great joy the countersign
of Abraham's privilege,--"Thou art my portion, O Lord!"--And in that
assurance every past and every hoped-for good was sweet with added
sweetness. She walked home without thinking much of the long meadow.
It was a chill spring afternoon and Fleda was in her old trim, the black
cloak, the white shawl over it, and the hood of grey silk. And in that
trim she walked into the sitting-room.
A lady was there, in a travelling dress, a stranger. Fleda's eye took in
her outline and feature one moment with a kind of bewilderment, the next
with perfect intelligence. If the lady had been in any doubt, Fleda's
cheeks alone would have announced her identity. But she came forward
without hesitation after the first moment, pulling off her hood, and stood
before her visiter, blushing in a way that perhaps Mrs. Carleton looked at
as a novelty in her world. Fleda did not know how she looked at it, but
she had nevertheless an instinctive feeling, even at the moment, that the
lady wondered how her son should have fancied particularly anything that
went about under such a hood.
Whatever Mrs. Carleton thought, her son's fancies she knew were
unmanageable; and she had far too much good breeding to let her thoughts
be known; unless to one of those curious spirit thermometers that can tell
a variation of temperature through every sort of medium. There might have
been the slightest want of forwardness to do it, but she embraced Fleda
with great cordiality.
"This is for the old time--not for the new, dear Fleda," she said. "Do you
"Perfectly!--very well," said Fleda, giving Mrs. Carleton for a moment a
glimpse of her eyes.--"I do not easily forget."
"Your look promises me an advantage from that, which I do not deserve, but
which I may as well use as another. I want all I can have, Fleda."
There was a half look at the speaker that seemed to deny the truth of
that, but Fleda did not otherwise answer. She begged her visiter to sit
down, and throwing off the white shawl and black cloak, took tongs in hand
and began to mend the fire. Mrs. Carleton sat considering a moment the
figure of the fire-maker, not much regardful of the skill she was bringing
to bear upon the sticks of wood.
Fleda turned from the fire to remove her visitor's bonnet and wrappings,
but the former was all Mrs. Carleton would give her; she threw off shawl
and tippet on the nearest chair.
It was the same Mrs. Carleton of old,--Fleda saw while this was
doing,--unaltered almost entirely. The fine figure and bearing were the
same; time had made no difference; even the face had paid little tribute
to the years that had passed by it; and the hair held its own without a
change. Bodily and mentally she was the same. Apparently she was thinking
the like of Fleda.
"I remember you very well," she said with kindly accent when Fleda sat
down by her. "I have never forgotten you. A dear little creature you were.
I always knew that."
Fleda hoped privately the lady would see no occasion to change her mind;
but for the present she was bankrupt in words.
"I was in the same room this morning at Montepoole where we used to dine,
and it brought back the whole thing to me--the time when you were sick
there with us. I could think of nothing else. But I don't think I was your
Such a rush of blood again answered her as moved Mrs. Carleton in common
kindness to speak of common things. She entered into a long story of her
journey--of her passage from England--of the steamer that brought her--of
her stay in New York;--all which Fleda heard very indifferently well. She
was more distinctly conscious of the handsome travelling dress which
seemed all the while to look as its wearer had done, with some want of
affinity upon the little grey hood which lay on the chair in the corner.
Still she listened and responded as became her, though for the most part
with eyes that did not venture from home. The little hood itself could
never have kept its place with less presumption, nor with less flutter of
Mrs. Carleton came at last to a general account of the circumstances that
had determined Guy to return home so suddenly, where she was more
interesting. She hoped he would not be detained, but it was impossible to
tell. It was just as it might happen.
"Are you acquainted with the commission I have been charged with?" she
said, when her narrations had at last lapsed into silence and Fleda's eyes
had returned to the ground.
"I suppose so, ma'am," said Fleda with a little smile.
"It is a very pleasant charge," said Mrs. Carleton softly kissing her
cheek. Something in the face itself must have called forth that kiss, for
this time there were no requisitions of politeness.
"Do you recognize my commission, Fleda?"
Fleda did not answer. Mrs. Carleton sat a few minutes thoughtfully drawing
back the curls from her forehead, Mr. Carleton's very gesture, but not by
any means with his fingers; and musing perhaps on the possibility of a
hood's having very little to do with what it covered.
"Do you know," she said, "I have felt as if I were nearer to Guy since I
have seen you."
The quick smile and colour that answered this, both very bright, wrought
in Mrs Carleton an instant recollection that her son was very apt to be
right in his judgments and that probably the present case might prove him
so. The hand which had played with Fleda's hair was put round her waist,
very affectionately, and Mrs. Carleton drew near her.
"I am sure we shall love each other, Fleda," she said.
It was said like Fleda, not like Mrs. Carleton, and answered as simply.
Fleda had gained her place. Her head was in Mrs. Carleton's neck, and
"At least I am sure I shall love you," said the lady kissing her,--"and I
don't despair on my own account,--for somebody else's sake."
"No--" said Fleda,--but she was not fluent to-day. She sat up and
repeated, "I have not forgotten old times either, Mrs. Carleton."
"I don't want to think of the old time--I want to think of the new,"--she
seemed to have a great fancy for stroking back those curls of hair;--"I
want to tell you how happy I am, dear Fleda."
Fleda did not say whether she was happy or unhappy, and her look might
have been taken for dubious. She kept her eyes on the ground, while Mrs.
Carleton drew the hair off from her flushing cheeks, and considered the
face laid bare to her view; and thought it was a fair face--a very
presentable face--delicate and lovely--a face that she would have no
reason to be ashamed of, even by her son's side. Her speech was not
precisely to that effect.
"You know now why I have come upon you at such a time. I need not ask
pardon?--I felt that I should be hardly discharging my commission if I did
not see you till you arrived in New York. My wishes I could have made to
wait, but not my trust. So I came."
"I am very glad you did!"
She could fain have persuaded the lady to disregard circumstances and stay
with her, at least till the next day, but Mrs. Carleton was unpersuadable.
She would return immediately to Montepoole.
"And how long shall you be here now?" she said.
"A few days--it will not be more than a week."
"Do you know how soon Mr. Rossitur intends to sail for Jamaica?"
"As soon as possible--he will make his stay in New York very short--not
more than a fortnight perhaps,--as short as he can."
"And then, my dear Fleda, I am to have the charge of you--for a little
while--am I not?"
Fleda hesitated and began to say, "Thank you," but it was finished with a
burst of very hearty tears.
Mrs. Carleton knew immediately the tender spot she had touched. She put
her arms about Fleda and caressed her as gently as her own mother might
"Forgive me, dear Fleda!--I forgot that so much that is sad to you must
come before what is so much pleasure to me.--Look up and tell me that you
Fleda soon looked up, but she looked very sorrowful, and said nothing.
Mrs. Carleton watched her face for a little while, really pained.
"Have you heard from Guy since he went away?" she whispered.
And therewith she put into Fleda's hand a letter,--not Mrs. Carleton's
letter, as Fleda's first thought was. It had her own name and the seal
was unbroken. But it moved Mrs. Carleton's wonder to see Fleda cry again,
and longer than before. She did not understand it. She tried soothing,
but she ventured no attempt at consoling, for she did not know what was
"You will let me go now, I know," she said smilingly, when Fleda was again
recovered and standing before the fire with a face _not_ so sorrowful,
Mrs. Carleton saw. "But I must say something--I shall not hurt you again."
"Oh no, you did not hurt me at all--it was not what you said."
"You will come to me, dear Fleda? I feel that I want you very much."
"Thank you--but there is my uncle Orrin, Mrs. Carleton,--Dr. Gregory."
"Dr. Gregory? He is just on the eve of sailing for Europe--I thought
you knew it."
"On the _eve?_--so soon?"
"Very soon, he told me. Dear Fleda--shall I remind you of my commission,
and who gave it to me?"
Fleda hesitated still; at least she stood looking into the fire and did
"You do not own his authority yet," Mrs. Carleton went on,--"but I am sure
his wishes do not weigh for nothing with you, and I can plead them."
Probably it was a source of some gratification to Mrs. Carleton to see
those deep spots on Fleda's cheeks. They were a silent tribute to an
invisible presence that flattered the lady's affection,--or her pride.
"What do you say, dear Fleda--to him and to me?" she said smiling and
"I will come, Mrs. Carleton."
The lady was quite satisfied and departed on the instant, having got, she
said, all she wanted; and Fleda--cried till her eyes were sore.
The days were few that remained to them in their old home; not more than a
week, as Fleda had said. It was the first week in May.
The evening before they were to leave Queechy, Fleda and Mrs. Rossitur
went together to pay their farewell visit to Hugh's grave. It was some
distance off. They walked there arm in arm without a word by the way.
The little country grave-yard lay alone on a hill-side, a good way from
any house, and out of sight even of any but a very distant one. A sober
and quiet place, no tokens of busy life immediately near, the fields
around it being used for pasturing sheep, except an instance or two of
winter grain now nearing its maturity. A by-road not much travelled led to
the grave-yard, and led off from it over the broken country, following the
ups and downs of the ground to a long distance away, without a moving
thing upon it in sight near or far. No sound of stirring and active
humanity. Nothing to touch the perfect repose. But every lesson of the
place could be heard more distinctly amid that silence of all other
voices. Except indeed nature's voice; that was not silent; and neither did
it jar with the other. The very light of the evening fell more tenderly
upon the old grey stones and the thick grass in that place.
Fleda and Mrs. Rossitur went softly to one spot where the grass was not
grown and where the bright white marble caught the eye and spoke of grief
fresh too. Oh that that were grey and moss-grown like the others! The
mother placed herself where the staring black letters of Hugh's name could
not remind her so harshly that it no more belonged to the living; and
sitting down on the ground hid her face; to struggle through the parting
agony once more with added bitterness.
Fleda stood awhile sharing it, for with her too it was the last time, in
all likelihood. If she had been alone, her grief might have witnessed
itself bitterly and uncontrolled; but the selfish relief was foregone, for
the sake of another, that it might be in her power by and by to minister
to a heart yet sorer and weaker than hers. The tears that fell so quietly
and so fast upon the foot of Hugh's grave were all the deeper-drawn and
Awhile she stood there; and then passed round to a group a little way off,
that had as dear and strong claims upon her love and memory. These were
not fresh, not very; oblivion had not come there yet; only Time's
softening hand. Was it softening?--for Fleda's head was bent down further
here, and tears rained faster. It was hard to leave these! The cherished
names that from early years had lived in her child's heart,--from this
their last earthly abiding-place she was to part company. Her mother's and
her father's graves were there, side by side; and never had Fleda's heart
so clung to the old grey stones, never had the faded lettering seemed so
dear,--of the dear names and of the words of faith and hope that were
their dying or living testimony. And next to them was her grandfather's
resting-place; and with that sunshiny green mound came a throng of
strangely tender and sweet associations, more even than with the other
two. His gentle, venerable, dignified figure rose before her, and her
heart yearned towards it. In imagination Fleda pressed again to her breast
the withered hand that had led her childhood so kindly; and overcome here
for a little she kneeled down upon the sod and bent her head till the long
grass almost touched it, in an agony of human sorrow. Could she leave
them?--and for ever in this world? and be content to see no more these
dear memorials till others like them should be raised for herself, far
away?--But then stole in consolations not human, nor of man's
devising,--the words that were written upon her mother's tombstone,--
"_Them that sleep in Jesus will God bring with him_."--It was like the
march of angel's feet over the turf. And her mother had been a meek child
of faith, and her father and grandfather, though strong men, had bowed
like little children to the same rule.--Fleda's head bent lower yet, and
she wept, even aloud, but it was one half in pure thankfulness and a joy
that the world knows nothing of. Doubtless they and she were one;
doubtless though the grass now covered their graves, the heavenly bond in
which they were held would bring them together again in light, to a new
and more beautiful life that should know no severing. Asleep in
Jesus;--and even as he had risen so should they,--they and others that she
loved,--all whom she loved best. She could leave their graves; and with an
unspeakable look of thanks to Him who had brought life and immortality to
light, she did; but not till she had there once again remembered her
mother's prayer, and her aunt Miriam's words, and prayed that rather
anything might happen to her than that prosperity and the world's favour
should draw her from the simplicity and humility of a life above the
world. Rather than not meet them in joy at the last,--oh let her want what
she most wished for in this world.
If riches have their poisonous snares, Fleda carried away from this place
a strong antidote. With a spirit strangely simple, pure, and calm she went
back to her aunt.
Poor Mrs. Rossitur was not quieted, but at Fleda's touch and voice, gentle
and loving as the spirit of love and gentleness could make them, she tried
to rouse herself; lifted up her weary head and clasped her arms about her
niece. The manner of it went to Fleda's heart, for there was in it both a
looking to her for support and a clinging to her as another dear thing she
was about to lose. Fleda could not speak for the heart-ache.
"It is harder to leave this place than all the rest," Mrs. Rossitur
murmured, after some little time had passed on.
"He is not here," said Fleda's soothing voice. It set her aunt to
"No--I know it--" she said.
"We shall see him again. Think of that."
"You will," said Mrs. Rossitur very sadly.
"And so will you, dear aunt Lucy,--_dear_ aunt Lucy--you promised him?"
"Yes--" sobbed Mrs. Rossitur,--"I promised him--but I am such a poor
"So poor that Jesus cannot save you?--or will not?--No, dear aunt
Lucy--you do not think that;--only trust him--you do trust him now,
do you not?"
A fresh gush of tears came with the answer, but it was in the affirmative;
and after a few minutes Mrs. Rossitur grew more quiet.
"I wish something were done to this," she said, looking at the fresh earth
beside her;--"if we could have planted something--"
"I have thought of it a thousand times," said Fleda sighing;--I would have
done it long ago if I could have got here;--but it doesn't matter, aunt
Lucy,--I wish I could have done it."
"You?" said Mrs. Rossitur;--"my poor child! you have been wearing yourself
out working for me,--I never was worth anything!"--she said, hiding her
"When you have been the dearest and best mother to me? Now that is not
right, aunt Lucy--look up and kiss me."
The pleading sweet tone of voice was not to be resisted. Mrs. Rossitur
looked up and kissed her earnestly enough but with unabated self reproach.
"I don't deserve to kiss you, for I have let you try yourself beyond your
strength.--How you look!--Oh how you look!--"
"Never mind how I look," said Fleda bringing her face so close that her
aunt could not see it. "You helped me all you could, aunt Lucy--don't talk
so--and I shall look well enough by and by. I am not so very tired."
"You always were so!" exclaimed Mrs. Rossitur clapping her in her arms
again;--"and now I am going to lose you too--My dear Fleda!--that gives me
more pleasure than anything else in the world!--"
But it was a pleasure well cried over.
"We shall all meet again, I hope,--I will hope,--" said Mrs. Rossitur
meekly when Fleda had risen from her arms;
"Dear aunty!--but before that--in England--you will come to see me--Uncle
Rolf will bring you."
Even then Fleda could not say even that without the blood mounting to her
face. Mrs. Rossitur shook her head and sighed; but smiled a little too, as
if that delightful chink of possibility let some light in.
"I shouldn't like to see Mr. Carleton now," she said, "for I could not
look him in the face; and I am afraid he wouldn't want to look in mine, he
would be so angry with me."
[Illustration: Slowly and lingeringly they moved away.]
The sun was sinking low on that fair May afternoon and they had two miles
to walk to get home. Slowly and lingeringly they moved away.
The talk with her aunt had shaken Fleda's calmness and she could have
cried now with all her heart; but she constrained herself. They stopped a
moment at the fence to look the last before turning their backs upon the
place. They lingered, and still Mrs. Rossitur did not move, and Fleda
could not take away her eyes.
It was that prettiest time of nature which while it shows indeed the
shade side of everything, makes it the occasion of a fair contrast The
grave-stones cast long shadows over the ground, foretokens of night
where another night was resting already; the longest stretched away from
the head of Hugh's grave. But the rays of the setting sun softly touching
the grass and the face of the white tombstone seemed to say, "Thy
brother shall rise again." Light upon the grave! The promise kissing the
record of death!--It was impossible to look in calmness. Fleda bowed her
head upon the paling and cried with a straitened heart, for grief and
Mrs. Rossitur had not moved when Fleda looked up again. The sun was yet
lower; the sunbeams, more slant, touched not only that bright white
stone--they passed on beyond, and carried the promise to those other grey
ones, a little further off; that she had left--yes, for the last time; and
Fleda's thoughts went forward swiftly to the time of the promise.--"_Then_
shall be brought to pass the saying which is written, Death is swallowed
up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks
be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus
Christ."--And then as she looked, the sunbeams might have been a choir of
angels in light singing, ever so softly, "Glory to God in the highest, and
on earth peace, good will towards men."
With a full heart Fleda clasped her aunt's arm, and they went gently down
the lane without saying one word to each other, till they had left the
graveyard far behind them and were in the high road again.
Fleda internally thanked Mr. Carleton for what he had said to her on a
former occasion, for the thought of his words had given her courage, or
strength, to go beyond her usual reserve in speaking to her aunt; and she
thought her words had done good.
Use your pleasure: If your love do not persuade you to come, let not
Merchant of Venice.
On the way home Mrs. Rossitur and Fleda went a trifle out of their road to
say good-bye to Mrs. Douglass's family. Fleda had seen her aunt Miriam in
the morning, and bid her a conditional farewell; for, as after Mrs.
Rossitur's sailing she would be with Mrs. Carleton, she judged it little
likely that she should see Queechy again.
They had time for but a minute at Mrs. Douglass's. Mrs. Rossitur had
shaken hands and was leaving the house when Mrs. Douglass pulled
"Be you going to the West Indies too, Fleda?"
"No, Mrs. Douglass."
"Then why don't you stay here?"
"I want to be with my aunt while I can," said Fleda.
"And then do you calculate to stop in New York?"
"For awhile," said Fleda colouring.
"O go 'long!" said Mrs. Douglass, "I know all about it. Now do you s'pose
you're agoing to be any happier among all those great folks than you
would be if you staid among little folks?" she added tartly; while
Catherine looked with a kind of incredulous admiration at the future lady
"I don't suppose that greatness has anything to do with happiness, Mrs.
Douglass," said Fleda gently.
So gently,--and so calmly sweet the face was that said it that Mrs.
Douglass's mood was overcome.
"Well you ain't agoing to forget Queechy?" she said, shaking Fleda's hand
with a hearty grasp.
"I'll tell you what I think," said Mrs. Douglass, the tears in her eyes
answering those in Fleda's.--"It'll be a happy house that gets you into
it, wherever 'tis! I only wish it wa'n't out o' Queechy."
Fleda thought on the whole as she walked home that she did not wish any
such thing. Queechy seemed dismantled, and she thought she would rather go
to a new place now that she had taken such a leave of every thing here.
Two things remained however to be taken leave of; the house and Barby.
Happily Fleda had little time for the former. It was a busy evening, and
the morning would be more busy; she contrived that all the family should
go to rest before her, meaning then to have one quiet look at the old
rooms by herself; a leave-taking that no other eyes should interfere with.
She sat down before the kitchen fire-place, but she had hardly realized
that she was alone when one of the many doors opened and Barby's tall
figure walked in.
"Here you be," she half whispered. "I knowed there wouldn't be a minute's
peace to-morrow; so I thought I'd bid you good-bye to-night."
Fleda gave her a smile and a hand, but did not speak. Barby drew up a
chair beside her, and they sat silent for some time, while quiet tears
from the eyes of each said a great many things.
"Well, I hope you'll be as happy as you deserve to be,"--were Barby's
first words, in a voice very altered from its accustomed firm and
"Make some better wish for me than that, dear Barby."
"I wouldn't want any better for myself," said Barby determinately.
"I would for you," said Fleda.
She thought of Mr. Carleton's words again, and went on in spite of
"It is a mistake, Barby. The best of us do not deserve anything good; and
if we have the sight of a friend's face, or the very sweet air we breathe,
it is because Christ has bought it for us. Don't let us forget that, and
"I do, always," said Barby crying,--"forget everything. Fleda, I wish
you'd pray for me when you are far away, for I ain't as good as you be."
"Dear Barby," said Fleda, touching her shoulder affectionately, "I haven't
waited to be far away to do that."
Barby sobbed for a few minutes with the strength of a strong nature that
rarely gave way in that manner; and then dashed her tears right and left,
not at all as if she were ashamed of them, but with a resolution not to
"There won't be nothing good left in Queechy, when you're gone, you and
Mis' Plumfield--without I go and look at the place where Hugh lies--"
"Dear Barby," said Fleda with softening eyes, "won't you be something good
Barby put up her hand to shield her face. Fleda was silent for she saw
that strong feeling was at work.
"I wish I could," Barby broke forth at last, "if it was only for
"Dear Barby," said Fleda, "you can do this for me--you can go to church
and hear what Mr. Olmney says. I should go away happier if I thought you
would, and if I thought you would follow what he says; for dear Barby
there is a time coming when you will wish you were a Christian more than
you do now; and not for my sake."
"I believe there is, Fleda."
"Then will you?--won't you give me so much pleasure?"
"I'd do a'most anything to do you a pleasure."
"Then do it, Barby."
"Well, I'll go," said Barby. "But now just think of that, Fleda, how you
might have stayed in Queechy all your days and done what you liked with
everybody. I'm glad you ain't, though; I guess you'll be better off."
Fleda was silent upon that.
"I'd like amazingly to see how you'll be fixed," said Barby after a trifle
of ruminating. "If 'twa'n't for my old mother I'd be 'most a mind to pull
up sticks and go after you."
"I wish you could, Barby; only I am afraid you would not like it so well
there as here."
"Maybe I wouldn't. I s'pect them English folks has ways of their own, from
what I've heerd tell; they set up dreadful, don't they?"
"Not all of them," said Fleda.
"No, I don't believe but what I could get along with Mr. Carleton well
enough--I never see any one that knowed how to behave himself better."
Fleda gave her a smiling acknowledgment of this compliment.
"He's plenty of money, ha'n't he?"
"I believe so."
"You'll be sot up like a princess, and never have anything to do no more."
"O no," said Fleda laughing,--"I expect to have a great deal to do; if I
don't find it, I shall make it."
"I guess it'll be pleasant work," said Barby. "Well, I don't care! you've
done work enough since you've lived here that wa'n't pleasant, to play for
the rest of your days; and I'm glad on't. I guess he don't hurt himself.
You wouldn't stand it much longer to do as you have been doing lately."
"That couldn't be helped," said Fleda; "but that I may stand it to-morrow
I am afraid we must go to bed, Barby."
Barby bade her good-night and left her. But Fleda's musing mood was gone.
She had no longer the desire to call back the reminiscences of the old
walls. All that page of her life, she felt, was turned over; and after a
few minutes' quiet survey of the familiar things, without the power of
moralizing over them as she could have done half an hour before, she left
them--for the next day had no eyes but for business.
It was a trying week or two before Mr. Rossitur and his family were fairly
on shipboard. Fleda as usual, and more than usual,--with the eagerness of
affection that felt its opportunities numbered and would gladly have
concentrated the services of years into days,--wrought, watched, and
toiled, at what expense to her own flesh and blood Mrs. Rossitur never
knew, and the others were too busy to guess. But Mrs. Carleton saw the
signs of it, and was heartily rejoiced when they were fairly gone and
Fleda was committed to her hands.
For days, almost for weeks, after her aunt was gone Fleda could do little
but rest and sleep; so great was the weariness of mind and body, and the
exhaustion of the animal spirits, which had been kept upon a strain to
hide her feelings and support those of others. To the very last moment
affection's sweet work had been done; the eye, the voice, the smile, to
say nothing of the hands, had been tasked and kept in play to put away
recollections, to cheer hopes, to soften the present, to lighten the
future; and hardest of all, to do the whole by her own living example. As
soon as the last look and wave of the hand were exchanged and there was no
longer anybody to lean upon her for strength and support, Fleda shewed how
weak she was, and sank into a state of prostration as gentle and deep
almost as an infant's.
As sweet and lovely as a child too, Mrs. Carleton declared her to be;
sweet and lovely as _she_ was when a child; and there was no going beyond
that. As neither this lady nor Fleda had changed essentially since the
days of their former acquaintanceship, it followed that there was still as
little in common between them, except indeed now the strong ground of
affection. Whatever concerned her son concerned Mrs. Carleton in almost
equal degree; anything that he valued she valued; and to have a thorough
appreciation of him was a sure title to her esteem. The consequence of all
this was that Fleda was now the most precious thing in the world to her
after himself; especially since her eyes, sharpened as well as opened by
affection, could find in her nothing that she thought unworthy of him. In
her personally, country and blood Mrs. Carleton might have wished changed;
but her desire that her son should marry, the strongest wish she had known
for years, had grown so despairing that her only feeling now on the
subject was joy; she was not in the least inclined to quarrel with his
choice. Fleda had from her the tenderest care, as well as the utmost
delicacy that affection and good-breeding could teach. And Fleda needed
both, for she was slow in going back to her old health and strength; and
stripped on a sudden of all her old friends, on this turning-point of her
life, her spirits were in that quiet mood that would have felt any jarring
The weeks of her first languor and weariness were over, and she was
beginning again to feel and look like herself. The weather was hot and the
city disagreeable now, for it was the end of June; but they had pleasant
rooms upon the Battery, and Fleda's windows looked out upon the waving
tops of green trees and the bright waters of the bay. She used to lie
gazing out at the coming and going vessels with a curious fantastic
interest in them; they seemed oddly to belong to that piece of her life,
and to be weaving the threads of her future fate as they flitted about in
all directions before her. In a very quiet, placid mood, not as if she
wished to touch one of the threads, she lay watching the bright sails that
seemed to carry the shuttle of life to and fro; letting Mrs. Carleton
arrange and dispose of everything and of her as she pleased.
She was on her couch as usual, looking out one fair morning, when Mrs.
Carleton came in to kiss her and ask how she did. Fleda said better.
"Better! you always say 'better'," said Mrs. Carleton; "but I don't see
that you get better very fast. And sober;--this cheek is too sober," she
added, passing her hand fondly over it;--"I don't like to see it so."
"That is just the way I have been feeling, ma'am--unable to rouse myself.
I should be ashamed of it, if I could help it."
"Mrs. Evelyn has been here begging that we would join her in a party to
the Springs--Saratoga--how would you like that?"
"I should like anything that you would like, ma'am," said Fleda, with a
thought how she would like to read Montepoole for Saratoga.
"The city is very hot and dusty just now."
"Very, and I am sorry to keep you in it, Mrs. Carleton."
"Keep me, love?" said Mrs. Carleton bending down her face to her again;--"
it's a pleasure to be kept anywhere by you."
Fleda shut her eyes, for she could hardly bear a little word now.
"I don't like to keep _you_ here--it is not myself I am thinking of. I
fancy a change would do you good."
"You are very kind, ma'am."
"Very interested kindness," said Mrs. Carleton. "I want to see you looking
a little better before Guy comes--I am afraid he will look grave at both
of us." But as she paused and stroked Fleda's cheek it came into her mind
to doubt the truth of the last assertion, and she ended off with, "I wish
he would come!--"
So Fleda wished truly; for now, cut off as she was from her old
associations, she longed for the presence of the one friend that was to
take place of them all.
"I hope we shall hear soon that there is some prospect of his getting
free," Mrs. Carleton went on. "He has been gone now,--how many weeks?--I
am looking for a letter to-day. And there it is!--"
The maid at this moment entered with the steamer despatches. Mrs. Carleton
pounced upon the one she knew and broke it open.
"Here it is!--and there is yours, Fleda."
With kind politeness she went off to read her own and left Fleda to study
hers at her leisure. An hour after she came in again. Fleda's face was
turned from her.
"Well what does he say?" she asked in a lively tone.
"I suppose the same he has said to you, ma'am," said Fleda.
"I don't suppose it indeed," said Mrs. Carleton laughing, "He has given me
sundry charges, which if he has given you it is morally certain we shall
never come to an understanding."
"I have received no charges." said Fleda.
"I am directed to be very careful to find out your exact wish in the
matter and to let you follow no other. So what is it, my sweet Fleda?"
"I promised--" said Fleda colouring and turning her letter over. But there
"Whom and what?" said Mrs. Carleton after she had waited a
"What did you promise, my dear Fleda?"
"That--I would do as he said."
"But he wishes you to do as you please."
Fleda brought her eyes quick out of Mrs. Carleton's view, and was silent.
"What do you say, dear Fleda?" said the lady, taking her hand and
bending over her.
"I am sure we shall be expected," said Fleda. "I will go."
"You are a darling girl!" said Mrs. Carleton kissing her again and again.
"I will love you forever for that. And I am sure it will be the best thing
for you--the sea will do you good--and ne vous en deplaise, our own home
is pleasanter just now than this dusty town. I will write by this steamer
and tell Guy we will be there by the next. He will have everything in
readiness, I know, at all events; and in half an hour after you get there,
my dear Fleda, you will be established in all your rights--as well as if
it had been done six months before. Guy will know how to thank you. But
after all, Fleda, you might do him this grace--considering how long he has
been waiting upon you."
Something in Fleda's eyes induced Mrs. Carleton to say, laughing,
"What's the matter?"
"He never waited for me," said Fleda simply.
"Didn't he?--But my dear Fleda I--" said Mrs. Carleton in amused
extremity,--"how long is it since you knew what he came out here for?"
"I don't know now, ma'am," said Fleda. But she became angelically rosy the
"He never told you?"
"And you never asked him?"
"Why no, ma'am!"
"He will be well suited in a wife," said Mrs. Carleton laughing. "But he
can have no objection to your knowing now, I suppose. He never told me but
at the latest. You must know, Fleda, that it has been my wish for a great
many years that Guy would marry--and I almost despaired, he was so
difficult to please--his taste in everything is so fastidious; but I am
glad of it now," she added, kissing Fleda's cheek. "Last spring--not this
last, but a year ago--one evening at home I was talking to him on this
subject; but he met everything I said lightly--you know his way--and I saw
my words took no hold. I asked him at last in a kind of desperation if he
supposed there was a woman in the world that could please him; and he
laughed, and said if there was he was afraid she was not in that
hemisphere. And a day or two after he told me he was going to America."
"Did he say for what?"
"No,--but I guessed as soon as I found he was prolonging his stay, and I
was sure when he wrote me to come out to him. But I never knew till I
landed, Fleda my dear, any more than that. The first question I asked him
was who he was going to introduce to me."
The interval was short to the next steamer, but also the preparations were
few. A day or two after the foregoing conversation, Constance Evelyn
coming into Fleda's room found her busy with some light packing.
"My dear little creature!" she exclaimed ecstatically,--"are you
going with us?"
"No," said Fleda.
"Where are you going then?"
"England!--Has--I mean, is there any addition to my list of acquaintances
in the city?"
"Not that I know of," said Fleda, going on with her work.
"And you are going to England!--Greenhouses will be a desolation to me!--"
"I hope not," said Fleda smiling;--"you will recover yourself, and your
sense of sweetness, in time."
"It will have nothing to act upon!--And you are going to England!--I think
it is very mean of you not to ask me to go too and be your bridesmaid."
"I don't expect to have such a thing," said Fleda.
"Not?--Horrid! I wouldn't be married so, Fleda. You don't know the
world, little Queechy; the art _de vous faire valoir_ I am afraid is
unknown to you."
"So it may remain with my good will," said Fleda.
"Why?" said Constance.
"I have never felt the want of it," said Fleda simply.
"When are you going?" said Constance after a minute's pause.
"By the Europa."
"But this is a very sudden move!"
"I should think you would want a little time to make preparations."
"That is all happily taken off my hands," said Fleda. "Mrs. Carleton has
written to her sister in England to take care of it for me."
"I didn't know that Mrs. Carleton had a sister.--What's her name?"
Constance was silent again.
"What are you going to do about mourning, Fleda? wear white, I suppose. As
nobody there knows anything about you, you won't care."
"I do not care in the least," said Fleda calmly; "my feeling would quite
as soon choose white as black. Mourning so often goes alone, that I should
think grief might be excused for shunning its company."
"And as you have not put it on yet," said Constance, "you won't feel the
change. And then in reality after all he was only a cousin."
Fleda's quiet mood, sober and tender as it was, could go to a certain
length of endurance, but this asked too much. Dropping the things from her
hands, she turned from the trunk beside which she was kneeling and hiding
her face on a chair wept such tears as cousins never shed for each other.
Constance was startled and distressed; and Fleda's quick sympathy knew
that she must be, before she could see it.
"You needn't mind it at all, dear Constance," she said as soon as she
could speak,--"it's no matter--I am in such a mood sometimes that I cannot
bear anything. Don't think of it," she said kissing her.
Constance however could not for the remainder of her visit get back her
wonted light mood, which indeed had been singularly wanting to her during
the whole interview.
Mrs. Carleton counted the days to the steamer, and her spirits rose with
each one. Fleda's spirits were quiet to the last degree, and passive, too
passive, Mrs. Carleton thought. She did not know the course of the years
that had gone, and could not understand how strangely Fleda seemed to
herself now to stand alone, broken off from her old friends and her former
life, on a little piece of time that was like an isthmus joining two
continents. Fleda felt it all exceedingly; felt that she was changing from
one sphere of life to another; never forgot the graves she had left at
Queechy, and as little the thoughts and prayers that had sprung up beside
them. She felt, with all Mrs. Carleton's kindness, that she was completely
alone, with no one on her side the ocean to look to; and glad to be
relieved from taking active part in anything she made her little Bible her
companion for the greater part of the time.
"Are you going to carry that sober face all the way to Carleton?" said
Mrs. Carleton one day pleasantly.
"I don't know, ma'am."
"What do you suppose Guy will think of it?"
But the thought of what he would think of it, and what he would say to
it, and how fast he would brighten it, made Fleda burst into tears.
Mrs. Carleton resolved to talk to her no more, but to get her home as
fast as possible.
"I have one consolation," said Charlton Rossitur as he shook hands with
her on board the steamer;--"I have received permission, from
head-quarters, to come and see you in England; and to that I shall look
forward constantly from this time."
The full sum of me
Is sum of something; which to term in gross,
Is an unlesson'd girl, unschool'd, unpractis'd;
Happy in this, she is not yet so old
But she may learn; and happier than this,
She is not bred so dull but she can learn;
Happiest of all, is that her gentle spirit
Commits itself to yours to be directed,
As from her lord, her governor, her king.
Merchant of Venice.
They had a very speedy passage to the other side, and partly in
consequence of that Mr. Carleton was _not_ found waiting for them in
Liverpool. Mrs. Carleton would not tarry there but hastened down at once
to the country, thinking to be at home before the news of their arrival.
It was early morning of one fair day in July when they were at last
drawing near the end of their journey. They would have reached it the
evening before but for a storm which had constrained them to stop and
wait over the night at a small town about eight miles off. For fear
then of passing Guy on the road his mother sent a servant before, and
making an extraordinary exertion was actually herself in the carriage
by seven o'clock.
Nothing could be fairer than that early drive, if Fleda might have enjoyed
it in peace. The sweet morning air was exceeding sweet, and the summer
light fell upon a perfect luxuriance of green things. Out of the carriage
Fleda's spirits were at home, but not within it; and it was sadly irksome
to be obliged to hear and respond to Mrs. Carleton's talk, which was kept
up, she knew, in the charitable intent to divert her. She was just in a
state to listen to nature's talk; to the other she attended and replied
with a patient longing to be left free that she might steady and quiet
herself. Perhaps Mrs. Carleton's tact discovered this in the
matter-of-course and uninterested manner of her rejoinders; for as they
entered the park gates she became silent, and the long drive from them to
the house was made without a word on either side.
For a length of way the road was through a forest of trees of noble
growth, which in some places closed their arms overhead and in all
sentinelled the path in stately array. The eye had no scope beyond the
ranks of this magnificent body; Carleton park was celebrated for its
trees; but magnificent though they were and dearly as Fleda loved every
form of forest beauty, she felt oppressed. The eye forbidden to range, so
was the mind, shut in to itself; and she only felt under the gloom and
shadow of those great trees the shadow of the responsibilities and of the
change that were coming upon her. But after a while the ranks began to be
thinned and the ground to be broken; the little touches of beauty with
which the sun had enlivened the woodland began to grow broader and
cheerfuller; and then as the forest scattered away to the right and left,
gay streams of light came through the glades and touched the surface of
the rolling ground, where in the hollows, on the heights, on the sloping
sides of the dingles, knots of trees of yet more luxuriant and picturesque
growth, planted or left by the cultivator's hand long ago and trained by
no hand but nature's, stood so as to distract a painter's eye; and just
now, in the fresh gilding of the morning and with all the witchery of the
long shadows upon the uneven ground certainly charmed Fleda's eye and mind
both. Fancy was dancing again, albeit with one hand upon gravity's
shoulder, and the dancing was a little nervous too. But she looked and
caught her breath as she looked, while the road led along the very edge of
a dingle, and then was lost in a kind of enchanted open woodland--it
seemed so--and then passing through a thicket came out upon a broad sweep
of green turf that wiled the eye by its smooth facility to the distant
screen of oaks and beeches and firs on its far border. It was all new.
Fleda's memory had retained only an indistinct vision of beauty, like the
face of an angel in a cloud as painters have drawn it; now came out the
beautiful features one after another, as if she had never seen them.
So far nature had seemed to stand alone. But now another hand appeared,
not interfering with nature but adding to her. The road came upon a belt
of the shrubbery where the old tenants of the soil were mingled with
lighter and gayer companionship and in some instances gave it place;
though in general the mingling was very graceful. There was never any
crowding of effects; it seemed all nature still, only as if several climes
had joined together to grace one. Then that was past; and over smooth
undulating ground, bearing a lighter growth of foreign wood with here and
there a stately elm or ash that disdained their rivalry, the carriage came
under the brown walls and turrets of the house. Fleda's mood had changed
again; and as the grave outlines rose above her, half remembered and all
the more for that imposing, she trembled at the thought of what she had
come there to do and to be. She felt very nervous and strange and out of
place, and longed for the familiar free and voice that would bid her be at
home. Mrs. Carleton, now, was not enough of a stand-by. With all that,
Fleda descended from the carriage with her usual quiet demureness; no one
that did not know her well would have seen in her any other token of
emotion than a somewhat undue and wavering colour.
They were welcomed, at least one of them was, with every appearance of
sincerity by the most respectable-looking personage who opened to them and
whom Fleda remembered instantly. The array of servants in the hall would
almost have startled her if she had not recollected the same thing on her
first coming to Carleton. She stepped in with a curious sense of that
first time, when she had come there a little child.
"Where is your master?' was Mrs. Carleton's immediate demand.
"Mr. Carleton set off this morning for Liverpool."
Mrs. Carleton gave a quick glance at Fleda, who kept her eyes at home.
"We did not meet him--we have not passed him--how long ago?" were her next
"My master left Carleton as early as five o'clock--he gave orders to drive
as fast as possible."
"Then he had gone through Hollonby an hour before we left it," said Mrs.
Carleton looking again to her companion;--"but he will hear of us at
Carstairs--we stopped there yesterday afternoon--he will be back again in
a few hours I am sure. Then we have been expected?"
"Yes ma'am--my master gave orders that you should be expected."
"Is all well, Popham?"
"All is well, madam!"
"Is Lady Peterborough here?"
"His lordship and Lady Peterborough arrived the day before yesterday," was
the succint reply.
Drawing Fleda's arm within hers and giving kind recognition to the rest
who stood around, Mrs. Carleton led her to the stairs and mounted them,
repeating in a whisper, "He will be here presently again." They went to
Mrs. Carleton's dressing room, Fleda wondering in an interval fever
whether "orders had been given" to expect her also; from the old butler's
benign look at her as he said "All is well!" she could not help thinking
it. If she maintained her outward quiet it was the merest external crust
of seeming; there was nothing like quiet beneath it; and Mrs. Carleton's
kiss and fond words of welcome were hardly composing.
Mrs. Carleton made her sit down, and with very gentle hands was busy
arranging her hair, when the housekeeper came in; to pay her more
particular respects and to offer her services. Fleda hardly ventured a
glance to see whether _she_ looked benign. She was a dignified elderly
person, as stately and near as handsome as Mrs. Carleton herself.
"My dear Fleda," said the latter when she had finished the hair,--"I am
going to see my sister--will you let Mrs. Fothergill help you in anything
you want, and take you then to the library--you will find no one, and I
will come to you there. Mrs. Fothergill, I recommend you to the particular
care of this lady."
The recommendation was not needed, Fleda thought, or was very effectual;
the housekeeper served her with most assiduous care, and in absolute
silence. Fleda hurried the finishing of her toilet.
"Are the people quiet in the country?" she forced herself to say.
"Perfectly quiet, ma'am. It needed only that my master should be at home
to make them so."
"How is that?"
"He has their love and their ear, ma'am, and so it is that he can just do
his pleasure with them."
"How is it in the neighbouring country?"
"They're quiet, ma'am, I believe,--mostly--there's been some little
disturbance in one place and another, and more fear of it, as well as I
can make out, but it's well got over, as it appears. The noblemen and
gentlemen in the country around were very glad, all of them I am told, of
Mr. Carleton's return. Is there nothing more I can do for you, ma'am?"
The last question was put with an indefinable touch of kindliness which
had not softened the respect of her first words. Fleda begged her to show
the way to the library, which Mrs. Fothergill immediately did, remarking
as she ushered her in that "those were Mr. Carleton's favourite rooms."
Fleda did not need to be told that; she put the remark and the benignity
together, and drew a nervous inference. But Mrs. Fothergill was gone and
she was alone. Nobody was there, as Mrs. Carleton had said.
Fleda stood still in the middle of the floor, looking around her, in a
bewildered effort to realize the past and the present; with all the mind
in the world to cry, but there was too great a pressure of excitement and
too much strangeness of feeling at work. Nothing before her in the dimly
familiar place served at all to lessen this feeling, and recovering from
her maze she went to one of the glazed doors, which stood open, and turned
her back upon the room with its oppressive recollections. Her eye lighted
upon nothing that was not quiet now. A secluded piece of smooth green,
partially bordered with evergreens and set with light shrubbery of rare
kinds, exquisitely kept; over against her a sweetbriar that seemed to have
run wild, indicating, Fleda was sure, the entrance of the path to the rose
garden, that her memory alone would hardly have helped her to find. All
this in the bright early summer morning, and the sweet aromatic smell of
firs and flowers coming with every breath. There were draughts of
refreshment in the air. It composed her, and drinking it in delightedly
Fleda stood with folded arms in the doorway, half forgetting herself and
her position, and going in fancy from the firs and the roses over a very
wide field of meditation indeed. So lost, that she started fearfully on
suddenly becoming aware that a figure had come just beside her.
It was an elderly and most gentlemanly-looking man, as a glance made her
know. Fleda was reassured and ashamed in a breath. The gentleman did not
notice her confusion, however, otherwise than by a very pleasant and
well-bred smile, and immediately entered into some light remarks on the
morning, the place, and the improvements Mr. Carleton had made in the
latter. Though he said the place was one of those which could bear very
well to want improvement; but Carleton was always finding something to do
which excited his admiration.
"Landscape gardening is one of the pleasantest of amusements," said Fleda.
"I have just knowledge enough in the matter to admire;--to originate any
ideas is beyond me; I have to depend for them upon my gardener,--and my
wife--and so I lose a pleasure, I suppose; but every man has his own
particular hobby. Carleton, however, has more than his share--he has half
a dozen, I think."
"Half a dozen hobbies!" said Fleda.
"Perhaps I should not call them hobbies, for he manages to ride them all
skilfully; and a hobby-horse, I believe, always runs away with the man?"
Fleda could hardly return his smile. She thought people were possessed
with an unhappy choice of subjects in talking to her that morning. But
fancying that she had very ill kept up her part in the conversation and
must have looked like a simpleton, she forced herself to break the silence
which followed the last remark, and asked the same question she had asked
Mrs. Fothergill,--if the country was quiet?
"Outwardly quiet," he said;--"O yes--there is no more difficulty--that is,
none which cannot easily be handled. There was some danger a few months
ago, but it is blown over; all was quiet on Carleton's estates so soon as
he was at home, and that of course had great influence on the
neighbourhood. No, there is nothing to be apprehended. He has the hearts
of his people completely, and one who has their hearts can do what he
pleases with their heads, you know. Well he deserves it--he has done a
great deal for them."
Fleda was afraid to ask in what way,--but perhaps he read the question
in her eyes.
"That's one of his hobbies--ameliorating the condition of the poorer
classes on his estates. He has given himself to it for some years back; he
has accomplished a great deal for them--a vast deal indeed! He has changed
the face of things, mentally and morally, in several places, with his
adult schools, and agricultural systems, and I know not what; but the most
powerful means I think after all has been the weight of his personal
influence, by which he can introduce and carry through any measure;
neither ignorance nor prejudice nor obstinacy seem to make head against
him. It requires a peculiar combination of qualities, I think,--very
peculiar and rare,--to deal successfully with the mind of the masses."
"I should think so indeed," said Fleda.
"He has it--I don't comprehend it--and I have not studied his machinery
enough to understand that; but I have seen the effects. Never should have
thought he was the kind of man either--but there it is!--I don't
comprehend him. There is only one fault to be found with him though."
"What is that?" said Fleda smiling.
"He has built a fine dissenting chapel down here towards Hollonby," he
said gravely, looking her in the face,--"and what is yet worse, his uncle
tells me, he goes there half the time himself!"
Fleda could not help laughing, nor colouring, at his manner.
"I thought it was always considered a meritorious action to build a
church," she said.
"Indubitably.--But you see, this was a chapel."
The laugh and the colour both grew more unequivocal--Fleda could
not help it.
"I beg your pardon, sir--I have not learned such nice
distinctions--Perhaps a chapel was wanted just in that place."
"That is presumable. But _he_ might be wanted somewhere else. However,"
said the gentleman with a good-humoured smile,--"his uncle forgives him;
and if his mother cannot influence him,--I am afraid nobody else will.
There is no help for it. And I should be very sorry to stand ill with him.
I have given you the dark side of his character."
"What is the other side in the contrast?" said Fleda, wondering at herself
for her daring.
"It is not for me to say," he answered with a slight shrug of the
shoulders and an amused glance at her;--"I suppose it depends upon
people's vision,--but if you will permit me, I will instance a bright spot
that was shewn to me the other day, that I confess, when I look at it,
dazzles my eyes a little."
Fleda only bowed; she dared not speak again.
"There was a poor fellow--the son of one of Mr. Carleton's old tenants
down here at Enchapel,--who was under sentence of death, lying in prison
at Carstairs. The father, I am told, is an excellent man and a good
tenant; the son had been a miserable scapegrace, and now for some crime--I
forget what--had at last been brought to justice. The evidence against him
was perfect and the offence was not trifling--there was not the most
remote chance of a pardon, but it seemed the poor wretch had been building
up his dependence upon that hope and was resting on it; and consequently
was altogether indisposed and unfit to give his attention to the subjects
that his situation rendered proper for him.
"The gentleman who gave me this story was requested by a brother
clergyman to go with him to visit the prisoner. They found him quite
stupid--unmovable by all that could be urged, or rather perhaps the style
of the address, as it was described to me, was fitted to confound and
bewilder the man rather than enlighten him. In the midst of all this Mr.
Carleton came in--he was just then on the wing for America, and he had
heard of the poor creature's condition in a visit to his father. He
came,--my informant said,--like a being of a different planet. He took the
man's hand,--he was chained foot and wrist,--'My poor friend,' he said, 'I
have been thinking of you here, shut out from the light of the sun, and I
thought you might like to see the face of a friend';--with that singular
charm of manner which he knows how to adapt to everybody and every
occasion. The man was melted at once--at his feet, as it were;--he could
do anything with him. Carleton began then, quietly, to set before him the
links in the chain of evidence which had condemned him--one by one--in
such a way as to prove to him, by degrees but irresistibly, that he had no
hope in this world. The man was perfectly subdued--sat listening and
looking into those powerful eyes that perhaps you know,--taking in all his
words and completely in his hand. And then Carleton went on to bring
before him the considerations that he thought should affect him in such a
case, in a way that this gentleman said was indescribably effective and
winning; till that hardened creature was broken down,--sobbing like a
Fleda did her best, but she was obliged to hide her face in her hands, let
what would be thought of her.
"It was the finest exhibition of eloquence, this gentleman said, he
had ever listened to.--For me it was an exhibition of another kind. I
would have believed such an account of few men, but of all the men I
know I would least have believed it of Guy Carleton a few years ago;
even now I can hardly believe it. But it is a thing that would do
honour to any man."--
Fleda felt that the tears were making their way between her fingers, but
she could not help it; and she presently knew that her companion had gone
and she was left alone again. Who was this gentleman? and how much did he
know about her? More than that she was a stranger, Fleda was sure; and
dreading his return, or that somebody else might come and find her with
tokens of tears upon her face, she stepped out upon the greensward and
made for the flaunting sweet-briar that seemed to beckon her to visit its
The entrance of a green path was there, or a grassy glade, more or less
wide, leading through a beautiful growth of firs and larches. No roses,
nor any other ornamental shrubs; only the soft, well-kept footway through
the woodland. Fleda went gently on and on, admiring, where the trees
sometimes swept back, leaving an opening, and at other places stretched
their graceful branches over her head. The perfect condition of
everything to the eye, the rich coloured vegetation,--of varying colour
above and below,--the absolute retirement, and the strong pleasant smell
of the evergreens, had a kind of charmed effect upon senses and mind too.
It was a fairyland sort of place. The presence of its master seemed
everywhere; it was like him; and Fleda pressed on to see yet livelier
marks of his character and fancy beyond. By degrees the wood began to thin
on one side; then at once the glade opened into a bright little lawn rich
with roses in full bloom. Fleda was stopped short at the sudden vision of
loveliness. There was the least possible appearance of design; no dry beds
were to be seen; the luxuriant clumps of Provence and white roses, with
the varieties of the latter, seemed to have chosen their own places; only
to have chosen them very happily. One hardly imagined that they had
submitted to dictation, if it were not that Queen Flora never was known to
make so effective a disposition of her forces without help. The screen of
trees was very thin on the border of this opening, so thin that the light
from beyond came through. On a slight rocky elevation which formed the
further side of it sat an exquisite little Moorish temple, about which and
the face of the rock below some Noisette and Multiflora climbers were
vying with each other; and just at the entrance of the further path a
white dog-rose had thrown itself over the way, covering the lower branches
of the trees with its blossoms.
Fleda stood spell bound a good while, with a breath oppressed with
pleasure. But what she had seen excited her to see more, and a dim
recollection of the sea-view from somewhere in the walk drew her on. Roses
met her now frequently. Now and then a climber, all alone, seemed to have
sought protection in a tree by the path-side, and to have displayed itself
thence in the very wantonness of security, hanging out its flowery
wreaths, fearless of hand or knife. Clusters of Noisettes, or of French or
Damask roses, where the ground was open enough, stood without a rival and
needing no foil, other than the beautiful surrounding of dark evergreen
foliage. But the distance was not long before she came out upon a wider
opening and found what she was seeking--the sight of the sea. The glade,
here, was upon the brow of high ground, and the wood disappearing entirely
for a space left the eye free to go over the lower tree-tops and the
country beyond to the distant shore and sea-line. Roses were here too; the
air was full of the sweetness of Damask and Bourbon varieties; and a few
beautiful Banksias, happily placed, contrasted without interfering with
them. It was very still;--it was very perfect;--the distant country was
fresh-coloured with the yet early light which streamed between the trees
and laid lines of enchantment upon the green turf; and the air came up
from the sea-board and bore the breath of the roses to Fleda every now and
then with a gentle puff of sweetness. Such light--she had seen none such
light since she was a child. Was it the burst of mental sunshine that had
made it so bright?--or was she going to be really a happy child again?
No--no,--not that; and yet something very like it. So like it that she
almost startled at herself. She went no further. She could not have borne,
just then, to see any more; and feeling her heart too full she stood even
there, with hands crossed upon her bosom, looking away from the roses to
the distant sea-line.
[Illustration: The roses could not be sweeter to any one.]
That said something very different. That was very sobering; if she had
needed sobering, which she did not. But it helped her to arrange the
scattered thoughts which had been pressing confusedly upon her brain.
"Look away from the roses" indeed she could not, for the same range of
vision took in the sea and them,--and the same range of thought. These
might stand for an emblem of the present; that, of the future,--grave,
far-off, impenetrable;--and passing as it were the roses of time Fleda
fixed upon that image of eternity; and weighing the one against the other,
felt, never in her life more keenly, how wild it would be to forget in
smelling the roses her preparations for that distant voyage that must be
made from the shores where they grow. With one eye upon this brightest
bits of earth before her, the other mentally was upon Hugh's grave. The
roses could not be sweeter to any one; but in view of the launching away
into that distant sea-line, in view of the issues on the other shore, in
view of the welcome that might be had there,--the roses might fade and
wither, but her happiness could not go with their breath. They were
something to be loved, to be used, to be thankful for,--but not to live
upon; something too that whispered of an increased burden of
responsibility, and never more deeply than at that moment did Fleda
remember her mother's prayer; never more simply recognized that happiness
could not be made of these things. She might be as happy at Queechy as
here. It depended on the sunlight of undying hopes, which indeed would
give wonderful colour to the flowers that might be in her way;--on the
possession of resources the spring of which would never dry;--on the peace
which secures the continual feast of a merry heart. Fleda could take her
new honours and advantages very meekly, and very soberly, with all her
appreciation of them. The same work of life was to be done here as at
Queechy. To fulfil the trust committed to her, larger here--to keep her
hope for the future--undeceived by the sunshine of earth to plant her
roses where they would bloom everlastingly.
The weight of these things bowed Fleda to the ground and made her bury her
face in her hands. But there was one item of happiness from which her
thoughts never even in imagination dissevered themselves, and round it
they gathered now in their weakness. A strong mind and heart to uphold
hers,--a strong hand for here to rest in,--that was a blessing; and Fleda
would have cried heartily but that her feelings were too high wrought.
They made her deaf to the light sound of footsteps coming over the
grass,--till two hands gently touched hers and lifted her up, and then
Fleda was at home. But surprised and startled she could hardly lift up her
face. Mr. Carleton's greeting was as grave and gentle as if she had been a
"Do not fancy I am going to thank you for the grace you have shewn me,"
said he lightly. "I know you would never have done it if circumstances had
not been hard pleaders in my cause. I will thank you presently when you
have answered one or two questions for me."
"Questions?" said Fleda looking up. But she blushed the next instant at
her own simplicity.
He was leading her back on the path she had come. No further however than
to the first opening, where the climbing dog-rose hung over the way.
There he turned aside crossing the little plot of greensward, and they
ascended some steps cut in the rock to the pavilion Fleda had looked at
from a distance.
It stood high enough to command the same sea-view. On that side it was
entirely open, and of very light construction on the others. Several
people were there; Fleda could hardly tell how many; and when Lord
Peterborough was presented to her she did not find out that he was her
morning's acquaintance. Her eye only took in besides that there were one
or two ladies, and a clergyman in the dress of the Church of England; she
could not distinguish. Yet she stood beside Mr. Carleton with all her
usual quiet dignity, though her eye did not leave the ground and her words
were in no higher key than was necessary, and though she could hardly bear
the unchanged easy tone of his. The birds were in a perfect ecstasy all
about them; the soft breeze came through the trees, gently waving the
branches and stirring the spray wreaths of the roses, the very fluttering
of summer's drapery; some roses looked in at the lattice, and those which
could not be there sent in their congratulations on the breath of the
wind, while the words were spoken that bound them together.
Mr. Carleton then dismissing his guests to the house, went with Fleda
again the other way. He had felt the extreme trembling of the hand which
he took, and would not go in till it was quieted. He led her back to the
very rose-bush where he had found her, and in his own way, presently
brought her spirit home from its trembling and made it rest; and then
suffered her to stand a few minutes quite silent, looking out again over
the fair rich spread of country that lay between them and the sea.
"Now tell me, Elfie," said he softly, drawing back with the same old
caressing and tranquillizing touch the hair that hung over her
brow,--"what you were thinking about when I found you here?--in the very
luxury of seclusion--behind a rose-bush."
Fleda looked a quick look, smiled, and hesitated, and then said it was
rather a confusion of thoughts.
"It will be a confusion no longer when you have disentangled them for me."
"I don't know--" said Fleda. And she was silent, but so was he, quietly
waiting for her to go on.
"Perhaps you will wonder at me, Mr. Carleton," she said, hesitating and
"Perhaps," he said smiling;--"but if I do I will not keep you in
"I was almost bewildered, in the first place,--with beauty--and then--"
"Do you like the rose garden?"
"Like it!--I cannot speak of it!"
"I don't want you to speak of it," said he smiling at her. "What followed
upon liking it, Elfie?"
"I was thinking," said Fleda, looking resolutely away from him,--"in the
midst of all this,--that it is not these things which make people happy."
"There is no question of that," he replied. "I have realized it thoroughly
for a few months past."
"No, but seriously, I mean," said Fleda pleadingly.
"And seriously you are quite right, dear Elfie. What then?"
"I was thinking," said Fieda, speaking with some difficulty, "of Hugh's
grave,--and of the comparative value of things; and afraid, I
"Of making a wrong estimate?"
"Yes--and of not doing and being just what I ought."
Mr. Carleton was silent for a minute, considering the brow from which his
fingers drew off the light screen.
"Will you trust me to watch over and tell you?"
Fleda did not trust her voice to tell him, but her eyes did it.
"As to the estimate--the remedy is to 'keep ourselves in the love of
God;' and then these things are the gifts of our Father's hand and will
never be put in competition with him. And they are never so sweet as when
"Oh I know that!"
"This is a danger I share with you. We will watch over each other."
Fleda was silent with filling eyes.
"We do not seek our happiness in these things," he said tenderly. "I never
found it in them. For years, whatever others may have judged, I have felt
myself a poor man; because I had not in the world a friend in whom I could
have entire sympathy. And if I am rich now, it is not in any treasure that
I look to enjoy in this world alone."
"Oh do not, Mr. Carleton!" exclaimed Fleda, bowing her head in distress,
and giving his hand an earnest entreaty.
"What shall I not do?" said he half laughing and half gently, bringing her
face near enough for his lips to try another kind of eloquence. "You shall
not do this, Elfie, for any so light occasion.--Was this the whole burden
of those grave thoughts?"
"Not quite--entirely--" she said stammering. "But grave thoughts are not
"Not always. I want to know what gave yours a tinge of that colour
"It was hardly that.--You know what Foster says about 'power to its very
last particle being duty'--I believe it frightened me a little."
"If you feel that as strongly as I do, Elfie, it will act as a strong
corrective to the danger of false estimates."
"I do feel it," said Fleda. "One of my fears was that I should not feel
"One of my cares will be that you do not act upon it too fiercely," said
he smiling. "The power being limited so is the duty. But you shall have
power enough, Elfie, and work enough. I have precisely what I have
needed--my good sprite back again."
"With a slight difference."
"She is to act under direction now."
"Not at all--only under safe control," he said laughing.
"I am very glad of the difference, Mr. Carleton," said Fleda, with a grave
and grateful remembrance of it.
"If you think the sprite's old office is gone, you are mistaken," said he.
"What were your other fears?--one was that you should not feel enough your
responsibility, and the other that you might forget it."
"I don't know that there were any other particular fears," said Fleda;--"I
had been thinking of all these things--"
"And what else?"
Her colour and her silence begged him not to ask. He said no more, and let
her stand still again looking off through the roses, while her mind more
quietly and lightly went over the same train of thoughts that had moved it
before; gradually calmed; came back from being a stranger to being at
home, at least in one presence; and ended, her action even before her look
told him where, as her other hand unconsciously was joined to the one
already on his arm. A mute expression of feeling the full import of which
he read, even before her eye coming back from its musings was raised to
him, perhaps unconsciously too, with all the mind in it; its timidity was
not more apparent than its simplicity of clinging affection and
dependence. Mr. Carleton's answer was in three words, but in the tone and
manner that accompanied them there was a response to every part of her
appeal; so perfect that Fleda was confused at her own frankness.
They began to move towards the house, but Fleda was in a maze again and
could hardly realize anything. "His wife"!--was she that?--had so
marvellous a change really been wrought in her?--the little asparagus
cutter of Queechy transformed into the mistress of all this domain, and of
the stately mansion of which they caught glimpses now and then, as they
drew near it by another approach into which Mr. Carleton had diverged. And
his wife!--that was the hardest to realize of all.
She was as far from realizing it when she got into the house. They
entered now at once into the breakfast-room where the same party were
gathered whom she had met once before that morning. Mr. Carleton the
elder, and Lord Peterborough and Lady Peterborough, she had met without
seeing. But Fleda could look at them now; and if her colour came and went
as frankly as when she was a child, she could speak to them and meet
their advances with the same free and sweet self-possession as then; the
rare dignity of a little wood-flower, that is moved by a breath, but
recovers as easily and instantly its quiet standing. There were one or
two who looked a little curiously at first to see whether this new member
of the family were worthy of her place and would fill it to satisfy them.
Not Mr. Carleton; he never sought to ascertain the value of anything that
belonged to him by a popular vote; and his own judgment always stood
carelessly alone. But Mrs. Carleton was less sure of her own ground or of
others. For five minutes she noted Fleda's motions and words, her blushes
and smiles, as she stood talking to one and another;--for five minutes,
and then with a little smile at her sister Mrs. Carleton moved off to the
breakfast-table, well pleased that Lady Peterborough was too engaged to
answer her. Fleda had won them all. Mr. Carleton's intervening shield of
grace and kindness was only needed here against the too much attention or
attraction that might distress her. He was again, now they were in
presence of others, exactly what he had been to her when she was a child,
the same cool and efficient friend and protector. Nobody in the room
shewed less thought of her _except_ in action; a great many little things
done for her pleasure or comfort, so quietly that nobody knew it but one
person, and she hardly noticed it at the time. All could not have the
There was an uninterrupted easy flow of talk at the table, which Fleda
heard just enough to join in where it was necessary; the rest of the time
she sat in a kind of abstraction, dipping enormous strawberries one by
one into white sugar, with a curious want of recognition between them and
the ends of her fingers; it never occurred to her that they had picked
"I have done something for which you will hardly thank me, Mr. Carleton,"
said Lord Peterborough. "I have driven this lady to tears within the first
hour of her being in the house."
"If she will forgive you, I will, my lord," Mr. Carleton answered
"I will confess myself though," continued his lordship looking at the face
that was so intent over the strawberries. "I was under the impression when
I first saw a figure in the window that it was Lady Peterborough. I own as
soon as I found it was a stranger I had my suspicions--which did not lack
confirmation in the course of the interview--I trust I am forgiven the
means I used."
"It seems you had your curiosity too, my lord," said Mr. Carleton
"Which ought in all justice to have lacked gratification," said Lady
Peterborough. "I hope Fleda will not be too ready to forgive you."
"I expect forgiveness nevertheless," said he looking at Fleda. "Must I
wait for it?"
"I am much obliged to you, sir."
And then she gave him a very frank smile and blush as she added, "I beg
pardon--you know my tongue is American."
"I don't like that," said his lordship gravely.
"Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh," said the
elder Carleton. "The heart being English, we may hope the tongue will
become so too."
"I will not assure you of that, sir," Fleda said laughingly, though her
cheeks showed the conversation was not carried on without effort. Oddly
enough nobody saw it with any dissatisfaction.
"Of what, madam?" said Lord Peterborough.
"That I will not always keep a rag of the stars and stripes flying
But that little speech had almost been too much for her equanimity.
"Like Queen Elizabeth who retained the crucifix when she gave up the
profession of popery."
"Very unlike indeed!" said Fleda, endeavouring to understand what Mr.
Carleton was saying to her about wood strawberries and hautbois.
"Will you allow that, Carleton?"
"What, my lord?"
"A rival banner to float alongside of St. George's?"
'"The flags are friendly, my lord."
"Hum--just now,--they may seem so.--Has your little standard-bearer
anything of a rebellious disposition?"
"Not against any lawful authority, I hope," said Fleda.
"Then there is hope for you, Mr. Carleton, that you will be able to
prevent the introduction of mischievous doctrines."
"For shame, Lord Peterborough!" said his wife,--"what atrocious
suppositions you are making. I am blushing, I am sure, for your want of
"Why--yes--" said his lordship, looking at another face whose blushes were
more unequivocal,--"it may seem so--there is no appearance of anything
untoward, but she is a woman after all. I will try her. Mrs. Carleton,
don't you think with my Lady Peterborough that in the present nineteenth
century women ought to stand more on that independent footing from which
lordly monopoly has excluded them?"
The first name Fleda thought belonged to another person, and her downcast
eyelids prevented her seeing to whom it was addressed. It was no matter,
for any answer was anticipated.
"The boast of independence is not engrossed by the boldest footing, my
"She has never considered the subject," said Lady Peterborough.
"It is no matter," said his lordship. "I must respectfully beg an answer
to my question."
The silence made Fleda look up.
"Don't you think that the rights of the weak ought to be on a perfect
equality with those of the strong?"
"The rights of the weak _as such_--yes, my lord."
The gentlemen smiled; the ladies looked rather puzzled.
"I have no more to say, Mr. Carleton," said his lordship, "but that we
must make an Englishwoman of her!"
"I am afraid she will never be a perfect cure," said Mr. Carleton smiling.
"I conceive it might require peculiar qualities in the physician,--but I
do not despair. I was telling her of some of your doings this morning, and
happy to see that they met with her entire disapproval."
Mr. Carleton did not even glance towards Fleda and made no answer, but
carelessly gave the conversation another turn; for which she thanked him
There was no other interruption of any consequence to the well-bred flow
of talk and kindliness of manner on the part of all the company, that put
Fleda as much as possible at her ease. Still she did not realize anything,
and yet she did realize it so strongly that her woman's heart could not
rest till it bad eased itself in tears. The superbly appointed table at
which she sat,--her own, though Mrs. Carleton this morning presided,--the
like of which she had not seen since she was at Carleton before; the
beautiful room with its arrangements, bringing back a troop of
recollections of that old time; all the magnificence about her, instead of
elevating sobered her spirits to the last degree. It pressed home upon her
that feeling of responsibility, of the change that come over her; and
though beneath it all very happy, Fleda hardly knew it, she longed so to
be alone and to cry. One person's eyes, however little seemingly observant
of her, read sufficiently well the unusual shaded air of her brow and her
smile. But a sudden errand of business called him abroad immediately after
The ladies seized the opportunity to carry Fleda up and introduce her to
her dressing-room and take account of Lady Peterborough's commission, and
ladies and ladies' maids soon formed a busy committee of dress and
decorations. It did not enliven Fleda, it wearied her, though she forgave
them the annoyance in gratitude for the pleasure they took in looking at
her. Even the delight her eye had from the first minute she saw it, in the
beautiful room, and her quick sense of the carefulness with which it had
been arranged for her, added to the feeling with which she was oppressed;
she was very passive in the hands of her friends.
In the midst of all this the housekeeper was called in and formally
presented, and received by Fleda with a mixture of frankness and
bashfulness that caused Mrs. Fothergill afterwards to pronounce her "a
lady of a very sweet dignity indeed."
"She is just such a lady as you might know my master would have fancied,"
said Mr. Spenser.
"And what kind of a lady is that?" said Mrs. Fothergill.
But Mr. Spenser was too wise to enter into any particulars and merely
informed Mrs. Fothergill that she would know in a few days.
"The first words Mrs. Carleton said when Mr. Carleton got home," said the
old butler,--"she put both her hands on his arms and cried out, 'Guy, I am
delighted with her!'"
"And what did _he_ say?" said Mrs. Fothergill.
"He!" echoed Mr. Spenser in a tone of indignant intelligence,--"what
should _he_ say?--He didn't say anything; only asked where she was,