Part 2 out of 18
over the tops of the trees they looked abroad to a very wide extent of
country undulating with hill and vale,--hill and valley alike far below at
their feet. Fair and rich,--the gently swelling hills, one beyond another,
in the patchwork dress of their many-coloured fields,--the gay hues of the
woodland softened and melted into a rich autumn glow,--and far away,
beyond even where this glow was sobered and lost in the distance, the
faint blue line of the Catskill; faint, but clear and distinct through the
transparent air. Such a sky!--of such etherealized purity as if made for
spirits to travel in and tempting them to rise and free themselves from
the soil; and the stillness,--like nature's hand laid upon the soul,
bidding it think. In view of all that vastness and grandeur, man's
littleness does bespeak itself. And yet, for every one, the voice of the
scene is not more humbling to pride than rousing to all that is really
noble and strong in character. Not only "What thou art,"--but "What thou
mayest be!" What place thou oughtest to fill,--what work thou hast to
do,--in this magnificent world. A very extended landscape however genial
is also sober in its effect on the mind. One seems to emerge from the
narrowness of individual existence, and take a larger view of Life as well
as of Creation.
Perhaps Mr. Carleton felt it so, for after his first expression of
pleasure he stood silently and gravely looking for a long time. Little
Fleda's eye loved it too, but she looked her fill and then sat down on a
stone to await her companion's pleasure, glancing now and then up at his
face which gave her no encouragement to interrupt him. It was gravely and
even gloomily thoughtful. He stood so long without stirring that poor
Fleda began to have sad thoughts of the possibility of gathering all the
nuts from the hickory trees, and she heaved a very gentle sigh once or
twice; but the dark blue eye which she with reason admired remained fixed
on the broad scene below, as if it were reading or trying to read there a
difficult lesson. And when at last he turned and began to go up the path
again he kept the same face, and went moodily swinging his arm up and
down, as if in disturbed thought. Fleda was too happy to be moving to care
for her companion's silence; she would have compounded for no more
conversation so they might but reach the nut trees. But before they had
got quite so far Mr. Carleton broke the silence, speaking in precisely the
same tone and manner he had used the last time.
"Look here, Fairy," said he, pointing to a small heap of chestnut burs
piled at the foot of a tree,--"here's a little fortune for you already."
"That's a squirrel!" said Fleda, looking at the place very attentively.
"There has been nobody else here. He has put them together, ready to be
carried off to his nest."
"We'll save him that trouble," said Mr. Carleton. "Little rascal! he's a
Didenhover in miniature."
"Oh no!" said Fleda; "he had as good a right to the nuts I am sure as we
have, poor fellow.--Mr. Carleton--"
Mr. Carleton was throwing the nuts into the basket. At the anxious and
undecided tone in which his name was pronounced he stopped and looked up,
at a very wistful face.
"Mightn't we leave these nuts till we come back? If we find the trees over
here full we sha'n't want them; and if we don't, these would be only a
"And the squirrel would be disappointed?" said Mr. Carleton smiling. "You
would rather we should leave them to him?"
Fleda said yes, with a relieved face, and Mr. Carleton still smiling
emptied his basket of the few nuts he had put in, and they walked on.
In a hollow, rather a deep hollow, behind the crest of the hill, as Fleda
had said, they came at last to a noble group of large hickory trees, with
one or two chestnuts standing in attendance on the outskirts. And also as
Fleda had said, or hoped, the place was so far from convenient access that
nobody had visited them; they were thick hung with fruit. If the spirit of
the game had been wanting or failing in Mr. Carleton, it must have roused
again into full life at the joyous heartiness of Fleda's exclamations. At
any rate no boy could have taken to the business better. He cut, with her
permission, a stout long pole in the woods; and swinging himself lightly
into one of the trees shewed that he was a master in the art of whipping
them. Fleda was delighted but not surprised; for from the first moment of
Mr. Carleton's proposing to go with her she bad been privately sure that
he would not prove an inactive or inefficient ally. By whatever slight
tokens she might read this, in whatsoever fine characters of the eye, or
speech, or manner, she knew it; and knew it just as well before they
reached the hickory trees as she did afterwards.
When one of the trees was well stripped the young gentleman mounted into
another, while Fleda set herself to hull and gather up the nuts under the
one first beaten. She could make but little headway however compared with
her companion; the nuts fell a great deal faster than she could put them
in her basket. The trees were heavy laden and Mr. Carleton seemed
determined to have the whole crop; from the second tree he went to the
third. Fleda was bewildered with her happiness; this was doing business in
style. She tried to calculate what the whole quantity would be, but it
went beyond her; one basketful would not take it, nor two, not three,--it
wouldn't _begin to_, Fleda said to herself. She went on hulling and
gathering with all possible industry.
After the third tree was finished Mr. Carleton threw down his pole, and
resting himself upon the ground at the foot told Fleda he would wait a few
moments before he began again. Fleda thereupon left off her work too, and
going for her little tin pail presently offered it to him temptingly
stocked with pieces of apple-pie. When he had smilingly taken one, she
next brought him a sheet of white paper with slices of young cheese.
"No, thank you," said he.
"Cheese is very good with apple-pie," said Fleda competently.
"Is it?" said he laughing. "Well--upon that--I think you would teach me a
good many things, Miss Fleda, if I were to stay here long enough."
"I wish you would stay and try, sir," said Fleda, who did not know exactly
what to make of the shade of seriousness which crossed his face. It was
gone almost instantly.
"I think anything is better eaten out in the woods than it is at home,"
"Well I don't know," said her friend. "I have no doubt that is the case
with cheese and apple-pie, and especially under hickory trees which one
has been contending with pretty sharply. If a touch of your wand, Fairy,
could transform one of these shells into a goblet of Lafitte or
Amontillado we should have nothing to wish for."
'Amontillado' was Hebrew to Fleda, but 'goblet' was intelligible.
"I am sorry!" she said,--"I don't know where there is any spring up
here,--but we shall come to one going down the mountain."
"Do you know where all the springs are?"
"No, not all, I suppose," said Fleda, "but I know a good many. I have gone
about through the woods so much, and I always look for the springs."
"And who roams about through the woods with you?"
"Oh nobody but grandpa," said Fleda. "He used to be out with me a great
deal, but he can't go much now,--this year or two."
"Don't you go to school?"
"O no!" said Fleda smiling.
"Then your grandfather teaches you at home?"
"No,"--said Fleda,--"father used to teach me,--grandpa doesn't
teach me much."
"What do you do with yourself all day long?"
"O plenty of things," said Fleda, smiling again. "I read, and talk to
grandpa, and go riding, and do a great many things."
"Has your home always been here, Fairy?" said Mr. Carleton after a few
Fleda said "No sir," and there stopped; and then seeming to think that
politeness called upon her to say more, she added,
"I have lived with grandpa ever since father left me here when he was
going away among the Indians,--I used to be always with him before."
"And how long ago is that?"
"It is--four years, sir;--more, I believe. He was sick when he came back,
and we never went away from Queechy again."
Mr. Carleton looked again silently at the child, who had given him these
pieces of information with a singular grave propriety of manner, and even
as it were reluctantly.
"And what do you read, Fairy?" he said after a minute;--"stories of
"No," said Fleda, "I haven't any. We haven't a great many books--there are
only a few up in the cupboard, and the Encyclopaedia; father had some
books, but they are locked up in a chest. But there is a great deal in the
"The Encyclopaedia!" said Mr. Carleton;--"what do you read in that? what
can you find to like there?"
"I like all about the insects, and birds and animals; and about
flowers,--and lives of people, and curious things. There are a great
many in it."
"And what are the other books in the cupboard, which you read?"
"There's Quentin Durward," said Fleda,--"and Rob Roy, and Guy Mannering in
two little bits of volumes; and the Knickerbocker, and the Christian's
Magazine, and an odd volume of Redgauntlet, and the Beauties of Scotland."
"And have you read all these, Miss Fleda?" said her companion, commanding
his countenance with difficulty.
"I haven't read quite all of the Christian's Magazine, nor all of the
Beauties of Scotland."
"All the rest?"
"O yes," said Fleda,--"and two or three times over. And there are three
great red volumes besides, Robertson's history of something, I believe. I
haven't read that either."
"And which of them all do you like the best?"
"I don't know," said Fleda,--"I don't know but I like to read the
Encyclopaedia as well as any of them. And then I have the newspapers to
"I think, Miss Fleda," said Mr. Carleton a minute after, "you had
better let me take you with my mother over the sea, when we go back
"You know," said he half smiling, "your aunt wants you, and has engaged my
mother to bring you with her if she can."
"I know it," said Fleda. "But I am not going."
It was spoken not rudely but in a tone of quiet determination.
"Aren't you too tired, sir?" said she gently, when she saw Mr. Carleton
preparing to launch into the remaining hickory trees.
"Not I!" said he. "I am not tired till I have done, Fairy. And besides,
cheese is workingman's fare, you know, isn't it?"
"No," said Fleda gravely,--"I don't think it is."
"What then?" said Mr. Carleton, stopping as he was about to spring into
the tree, and looking at her with a face of comical amusement.
"It isn't what _our_ men live on," said Fleda, demurely eying the fallen
nuts, with a head full of business.
They set both to work again with renewed energy, and rested not till the
treasures of the trees had been all brought to the ground, and as large a
portion of them as could be coaxed and shaken into Fleda's basket had been
cleared from the hulls and bestowed there. But there remained a vast
quantity. These with a good deal of labour Mr. Carleton and Fleda gathered
into a large heap in rather a sheltered place by the side of a rock, and
took what measures they might to conceal them. This was entirely at
"You and your maid Cynthia will have to make a good many journeys, Miss
Fleda, to get all these home, unless you can muster a larger basket."
"O _that's_ nothing," said Fleda. "It will be all fun. I don't care how
many times we have to come. You are _very_ good, Mr. Carleton."
"Do you think so?" said he. "I wish I did. I wish you would make your wand
rest on me, Fairy."
"My wand?" said Fleda.
"Yes--you know your grandfather says you are a fairy and carry a wand.
What does he say that for, Miss Fleda?"
Fleda said she supposed it was because he loved her so much; but the rosy
smile with which she said it would have let her hearer, if he had needed
enlightening, far more into the secret than she was herself. And if the
simplicity in her face had not been equal to the wit, Mr. Carleton would
never have ventured the look of admiration he bestowed on her. He knew it
was safe. _Approbation_ she saw, and it made her smile the rosier; but the
admiration was a step beyond her; Fleda could make nothing of it.
They descended the mountain now with a hasty step, for the day was wearing
well on. At the spot where he had stood so long when they went up, Mr.
Carleton paused again for a minute. In mountain scenery every hour makes a
change. The sun was lower now, the lights and shadows more strongly
contrasted, the sky of a yet calmer blue, cool and clear towards the
horizon. The scene said still the same that it had said a few hours
before, with a touch more of sadness; it seemed to whisper, "All things
have an end--thy time may not be for ever--do what thou wouldest
do--'while ye have light believe in the light that ye may be children of
Whether Mr. Carleton read it so or not, he stood for a minute motionless
and went down the mountain looking so grave that Fleda did not venture to
speak to him, till they reached the neighbourhood of the spring.
"What are you searching for, Miss Fleda?" said her friend.
She was making a busy quest here and there by the side of the
"I was looking to see if I could find a mullein leaf," said Fleda.
"A mullein leaf? what do you want it for?"
"I want it--to make a drinking cup of," said Fleda, her intent bright eyes
peering keenly about in every direction.
"A mullein leaf! that is too rough; one of these golden leaves--what are
they?--will do better, won't it?"
"That is hickory," said Fleda. "No; the mullein leaf is the best because
it holds the water so nicely.--Here it is!--"
And folding up one of the largest leaves into a most artist-like cup, she
presented it to Mr. Carleton.
"For me, was all that trouble?" said he. "I don't deserve it."
"You wanted something, sir," said Fleda. "The water is very cold
He stooped to the bright little stream and filled his rural goblet
"I never knew what it was to have a fairy for my cup-bearer before," said
he. "That was better than anything Bordeaux or Xeres ever sent forth."
He seemed to have swallowed his seriousness, or thrown it away with the
mullein leaf. It was quite gone.
"This is the best spring in all grandpa's ground," said Fleda. "The water
is as good as can be."
"How came you to be such a wood and water spirit? you must live out of
doors. Do the trees ever talk to you? I sometimes think they do to me."
"I don't know--I think _I_ talk to _them_," said Fleda.
"It's the same thing," said her companion smiling. "Such beautiful woods!"
"Were you never in the country before in the fall, sir?"
"Not here--in my own country often enough--but the woods in England do not
put on such a gay face, Miss Fleda, when they are going to be stripped of
their summer dress--they look sober upon it--the leaves wither and grow
brown and the woods have a dull russet colour. Your trees are true
Yankees--they 'never say die!'"
"Why, are the Americans more obstinate than the English?" said Fleda.
"It is difficult to compare unknown quantities," said Mr. Carleton
laughing and shaking his head. "I see you have good ears for the key-note
Fleda looked a little hard at him, but he did not explain; and indeed they
were hurrying along too much for talking, leaping from stone to stone, and
running down the smooth orchard slope. When they reached the last fence,
but a little way from the house, Fleda made a resolute pause.
"Mr. Carleton--" said she.
Mr. Carleton put down his basket, and looked in some surprise at the
hesitating anxious little face that looked up at him.
"Won't you please not say anything to grandpa about my going away?"
"Why not, Fairy?" said he kindly.
"Because I don't think I ought to go."
"But may it not be possible," said he, "that your grandfather can judge
better in the matter than you can do?"
"No," said Fleda, "I don't think he can. He would do anything he thought
would be most for my happiness; but it wouldn't be for my happiness," she
said with an unsteady lip,--"I don't know what he would do if I went!"
"You think he would have no sunshine if your wand didn't touch him?" said
Mr. Carleton smiling.
"No sir," said Fleda gravely,--"I don't think that,--but won't you please,
Mr. Carleton, not to speak about it?"
"But are you sure," he said, sitting down on a stone hard by and taking
one of her hands, "are you sure that you would not like to go with us? I
wish you would change your mind about it. My mother will love you very
much, and I will take the especial charge of you till we give you to your
aunt in Paris;--if the wind blows a little too rough I will always put
myself between it and you," he added smiling.
Fleda smiled faintly, but immediately begged Mr. Carleton "not to say
anything to put it into her grandfather's head."
"It must be there already, I think, Miss Fleda; but at any rate you know
my mother must perform her promise to your aunt Mrs. Rossitur; and she
would not do that without letting your grandfather know how glad she would
be to take you."
Fleda stood silent a moment, and then with a touching look of waiting
patience in her sweet face suffered Mr. Carleton to help her over the
fence; and they went home.
To Fleda's unspeakable surprise it was found to be past four o'clock, and
Cynthy had supper ready. Mr. Ringgan with great cordiality invited Mr.
Carleton to stay with them, but he could not; his mother would expect him
"Where is your mother?"
"At Montepoole, sir; we have been to Niagara, and came this way on our
return; partly that my mother might fulfil the promise she made Mrs.
Rossitur--to let you know, sir, with how much pleasure she will take
charge of your little granddaughter and convey her to her friends in
Paris, if you can think it best to let her go."
"Hum!--she is very kind." said Mr. Ringgan, with a look of grave and not
unmoved consideration which Fleda did not in the least like;--"How long
will you stay at Montepoole, sir?"
It might be several days, Mr. Carleton said.
"Hum--You have given up this day to Fleda, Mr. Carleton,--suppose you take
to-morrow for the game, and come here and try our country fare when you
have got through shooting?--you and young Mr. Rossitur?--and I'll think
over this question and let you know about it."
Fleda was delighted to see that her friend accepted this invitation with
"You will be kind enough to give my respects to your mother," Mr. Ringgan
went on, "and thanks for her kind offer. I may perhaps--I don't
know--avail myself of it. If anything should bring Mrs. Carleton this way
we should like to see her. I am glad to see my friends," he said, shaking
the young gentleman's hand,--"as long as I have a house to ask 'em to!"
"That will be for many years, I trust," said Mr. Carleton respectfully,
struck with something in the old gentleman's manner.
"I don't know, sir!" said Mr. Ringgan, with again the dignified look of
trouble;--"it may not be!--I wish you good day, sir."
A mind that in a calm angelic mood
Of happy wisdom, meditating good,
Beholds, of all from her high powers required,
Much done, and much designed, and more desired.
"I've had such a delicious day, dear grandpa,"--said little Fleda as they
sat at supper;--"you can't think how kind Mr. Carleton has been."
"Has he?--Well dear--I'm glad on't,--he seems a very nice young man."
"He's a smart-lookin' feller," said Cynthy, who was pouring out the tea.
"And we have got the greatest quantity of nuts!" Fleda went on,--"enough
for all winter. Cynthy and I will have to make ever so many journeys to
fetch 'em all; and they are splendid big ones. Don't you say anything to
Mr. Didenhover, Cynthy."
"I don't desire to meddle with Mr. Didenhover unless I've got to," said
Cynthy with an expression of considerable disgust. "You needn't give no
charges to me."
"But you'll go with me, Cynthy?"
"I s'pose I'll have to," said Miss Gall dryly, after a short interval of
sipping tea and helping herself to sweetmeats.
This lady had a pervading acidity of face and temper, but it was no more.
To take her name as standing for a fair setting forth of her character
would be highly injurious to a really respectable composition, which the
world's neglect (there was no other imaginable cause) had soured a little.
Almost Fleda's first thought on coming home had been about Mr. Jolly. But
she knew very well, without asking, that he had not been there; she would
not touch the subject.
"I haven't had such a fine day of nutting in a great while, grandpa," she
said again; "and you never saw such a good hand as Mr. Carleton is at
whipping the trees."
"How came he to go with you?"
"I don't know,--I suppose it was to please me, in the first place; but I am
sure he enjoyed it himself; and he liked the pie and cheese, too, Cynthy."
"Where did your cousin go?"
"O he went off after the woodcock. I hope he didn't find any."
"What do you think of those two young men, Fairy?"
"In what way, grandpa?"
"I mean, which of them do you like the best?"
"But t'other one's your cousin," said Mr. Ringgan, bending forward and
examining his little granddaughter's face with a curious pleased look, as
he often did when expecting an answer from her.
"Yes," said Fleda, "but he isn't so much of a gentleman."
"How do you know that?"
"I don't think he is," said Fleda quietly.
"But why. Fairy?"
"He doesn't know how to keep his word as well, grandpa."
"Ay, ay? let's hear about that," said Mr. Ringgan.
A little reluctantly, for Cynthia was present, Fleda told the story of the
robins, and how Mr. Carleton would not let the gun be fired.
"Wa'n't your cousin a little put out by that?"
"They were both put out," said Fleda, "Mr. Carleton was very angry for a
minute, and then Mr. Rossitur was angry, but I think he could have been
angrier if he had chosen."
Mr. Ringgan laughed, and then seemed in a sort of amused triumph about
"Well dear!" he remarked after a while,--"you'll never buy wooden nutmegs,
Fleda laughed and hoped not, and asked him why he said so. But he
didn't tell her.
"Mr. Ringgan," said Cynthy, "hadn't I better run up the hill after supper,
and ask Mis' Plumfield to come down and help to-morrow? I suppose you'll
want considerable of a set out; and if both them young men comes you'll
want some more help to entertain 'em than I can give you, it's likely?"
"Do so--do so," said the old gentleman. "Tell her who I expect, and ask
her if she can come and help you, and me too."
"O and I'll go with you, Cynthy," said Fleda. "I'll get aunt Miriam to
come, I know."
"I should think you'd be run off your legs already, Flidda," said Miss
Cynthia; "what ails you to want to be going again?"
But this remonstrance availed nothing. Supper was hurried through, and
leaving the table standing Cynthia and Fleda set off to "run up the hill."
They were hardly a few steps from the gate when they heard the clatter of
horses' hoofs behind them, and the two young gentlemen came riding
hurriedly past, having joined company and taken their horses at Queechy
Run. Rossitur did not seem to see his little cousin and her companion; but
the doffed cap and low inclination of the other rider as they flew by
called up a smile and blush of pleasure to Fleda's face; and the sound of
their horses' hoofs had died away in the distance before the light had
faded from her cheeks or she was quite at home to Cynthia's observations.
She was possessed with the feeling, what a delightful thing it was to have
people do things in such a manner.
"That was your cousin, wa'n't it?" said Cynthy, when the spell was off.
"No," said Fleda, "the other one was my cousin."
"Well--I mean one of them fellers that went by. He's a soldier, ain't he?'
"An officer," said Fleda.
"Well, it does give a man an elegant look to be in the militie, don't it?
I should admire to have a cousin like that. It's dreadful becoming to have
that--what is it they call it?--to let the beard grow over the mouth. I
s'pose they can't do that without they be in the army can they?"
"I don't know," said Fleda. "I hope not. I think it is very ugly."
"Do you? Oh!--I admire it. It makes a man look so spry!"
A few hundred yards from Mr. Ringgan's gate the road began to wind up a
very long heavy hill. Just at the hill's foot it crossed by a rude bridge
the bed of a noisy brook that came roaring down from the higher grounds,
turning sundry mill and factory wheels in its way. About half way up the
hill one of these was placed, belonging to a mill for sawing boards. The
little building stood alone, no other in sight, with a dark background of
wood rising behind it on the other side of the brook; the stream itself
running smoothly for a small space above the mill, and leaping down madly
below, as if it disdained its bed and would clear at a bound every
impediment in its way to the sea. When the mill was not going the quantity
of water that found its way down the hill was indeed very small, enough
only to keep up a pleasant chattering with the stones; but as soon as the
stream was allowed to gather all its force and run free its loquacity was
such that it would prevent a traveller from suspecting his approach to the
mill, until, very near, the monotonous hum of its saw could be heard. This
was a place Fleda dearly loved. The wild sound of the waters and the
lonely keeping of the scene, with the delicious smell of the new-sawn
boards, and the fascination of seeing the great logs of wood walk up to
the relentless, tireless up-and-down-going steel; as the generations of
men in turn present themselves to the course of those sharp events which
are the teeth of Time's saw; until all of a sudden the master spirit, the
man-regulator of this machinery, would perform some conjuration on lever
and wheel,--and at once, as at the touch of an enchanter, the log would be
still and the saw stay its work;--the business of life came to a stand,
and the romance of the little brook sprang up again. Fleda never tired of
it--never. She would watch the saw play and stop, and go on again; she
would have her ears dinned with the hoarse clang of the machinery, and
then listen to the laugh of the mill-stream; she would see with untiring
patience one board after another cut and cast aside, and log succeed to
log; and never turned weary away from that mysterious image of Time's
doings. Fleda had besides, without knowing it, the eye of a painter. In
the lonely hillside, the odd-shaped little mill, with its accompaniments
of wood and water, and the great logs of timber lying about the ground in
all directions and varieties of position, there was a picturesque charm
for her, where the country people saw nothing but business and a place fit
for it. Their hands grew hard where her mind was refining. Where they made
dollars and cents, she was growing rich in stores of thought and
associations of beauty. How many purposes the same thing serves!
[Illustration: "Who's got it now, Cynthy?"]
"That had ought to be your grandpa's mill this minute," observed Cynthy.
"I wish it was!" sighed Fleda. "Who's got it now, Cynthy?"
"O it's that chap McGowan, I expect;--he's got pretty much the hull of
everything. I told Mr. Ringgan I wouldn't let him have it if it was me, at
the time. Your grandpa'd be glad to get it back now, I guess."
Fleda guessed so too; but also guessed that Miss Gall was probably very
far from being possessed of the whole rationale of the matter. So she made
her no answer.
After reaching the brow of the hill the road continued on a very gentle
ascent towards a little settlement half a quarter of a mile off; passing
now and then a few scattered cottages or an occasional mill or turner's
shop. Several mills and factories, with a store and a very few
dwelling-houses were all the settlement; not enough to entitle it to the
name of a village. Beyond these and the mill-ponds, of which in the course
of the road there were three or four, and with a brief intervening space
of cultivated fields, a single farm house stood alone; just upon the
borders of a large and very fair sheet of water from which all the others
had their supply.--So large and fair that nobody cavilled at its taking
the style of a lake and giving its own pretty name of Deepwater both to
the settlement and the farm that half embraced it. This farm was Seth
At the garden gate Fleda quitted Cynthy and rushed forward to meet her
aunt, whom she saw coming round the corner of the house with her gown
pinned up behind her from attending to some domestic concern among the
pigs, the cows, or the poultry.
"O aunt Miriam," said Fleda eagerly, "we are going to have company to tea
to-morrow--won't you come and help us?"
Aunt Miriam laid her hands upon Fleda's shoulders and looked at Cynthy.
"I came up to see if you wouldn't come down to-morrow, Mis' Plumfield,"
said that personage, with her usual dry business tone, always a little on
the wrong side of sweet;--"your brother has taken a notion to ask two
young fellers from the Pool to supper, and they're grand folks I s'pose,
and have got to have a fuss made for 'em. I don't know what Mr. Ringgan was
thinkin' of, or whether he thinks I have got anything to do or not; but
anyhow they're a comin', I s'pose, and must have something to eat; and I
thought the best thing I could do would be to come and get you into the
works, if I could. I should feel a little queer to have nobody but me to
say nothin' to them at the table."
"Ah do come, aunt Miriam!" said Fleda; "it will be twice as pleasant if
you do; and besides, we want to have everything very nice, you know."
Aunt Miriam smiled at Fleda, and inquired of Miss Gall what she had in
"Why I don't know, Mis' Plumfield," said the lady, while Fleda threw her
arms round her aunt and thanked her,--"there ain't nothin' particler--pork
and beef and the old story. I've got some first-rate pickles. I calculated
to make some sort o' cake in the morning."
"Any of those small hams left?"
"Not a bone of 'em--these six weeks, _I_ don't see how they've gone, for
my part. I'd lay any wager there were two in the smoke-house when I took
the last one out. If Mr. Didenhover was a little more like a weasel I
should think he'd been in."
"Have you cooked that roaster I sent down?"
"No, Mis' Plumfield, I ha'n't--it's such a plaguy sight of trouble!" said
Cynthy with a little apologetic giggle;--"I was keepin' it for some day
when I hadn't much to do."
"I'll take the trouble of it. I'll be down bright and early in the
morning, and we'll see what's best to do. How's your last churning,
"Well--I guess it's pretty middlin,' Mis' Plumfield."
"'Tisn't anything very remarkable, aunt Miriam," said Fleda shaking her
"Well, well," said Mrs. Plumfield smiling, "run away down home now, and
I'll come to-morrow, and I guess we'll fix it. But who is it that grandpa
Fleda and Cynthy both opened at once.
"One of them is my cousin, aunt Miriam, that was at West Point, and the
other is the nicest English gentleman you ever saw--you will like him very
much--he has been with me getting nuts all to-day."
"They're a smart enough couple of chaps," said Cynthia; "they look as if
they lived where money was plenty."
"Well I'll come to-morrow," repeated Mrs. Plumfield, "and we'll see about
it. Good night, dear!"
She took Fleda's head in both her hands and gave her a most affectionate
kiss; and the two petitioners set off homewards again.
Aunt Miriam was not at all like her brother, in feature, though the moral
characteristics suited the relationship sufficiently well. There was the
expression of strong sense and great benevolence; the unbending
uprightness, of mind and body at once; and the dignity of an essentially
noble character, not the same as Mr. Ringgan's, but such as well became
his sister. She had been brought up among the Quakers, and though now and
for many years a staunch Presbyterian, she still retained a tincture of
the calm efficient gentleness of mind and manner that belongs so
inexplicably to them. More womanly sweetness than was in Mr. Ringgan's
blue eye a woman need not wish to have; and perhaps his sister's had not
so much. There was no want of it in her heart, nor in her manner, but the
many and singular excellencies of her character were a little overshadowed
by super-excellent housekeeping. Not a taint of the littleness that
sometimes grows therefrom,--not a trace of the narrowness of mind that
over-attention to such pursuits is too apt to bring;--on every important
occasion aunt Miriam would come out free and unshackled from all the
cobweb entanglements of housewifery; she would have tossed housewifery to
the winds if need were (but it never was, for in a new sense she always
contrived to make both ends meet). It was only in the unbroken everyday
course of affairs that aunt Miriam's face shewed any tokens of that
incessant train of _small cares_ which had never left their impertinent
footprints upon the broad high brow of her brother. Mr. Ringgan had no
affinity with small cares; deep serious matters received his deep and
serious consideration; but he had as dignified a disdain of trifling
annoyances or concernments as any great mastiff or Newfoundlander ever had
for the yelping of a little cur.
Ynne London citye was I borne,
Of parents of grete note;
My fadre dydd a nobile arms
Emblazon onne hys cote.
In the snuggest and best private room of the House at Montepoole a party
of ladies and gentlemen were gathered, awaiting the return of the
sportsmen. The room had been made as comfortable as any place could be in
a house built for "the season," after the season was past. A splendid fire
of hickory logs was burning brilliantly and making amends for many
deficiencies; the closed wooden shutters gave the reality if not the look
of warmth, for though the days might be fine and mild the mornings and
evenings were always very cool up there among the mountains; and a table
stood at the last point of readiness for having dinner served. They only
waited for the lingering woodcock-hunters.
It was rather an elderly party, with the exception of one young man whose
age might match that of the absent two. He was walking up and down the
room with somewhat the air of having nothing to do with himself. Another
gentleman, much older, stood warming his back at the fire, feeling about
his jaws and chin with one hand and looking at the dinner-table in a sort
of expectant reverie. The rest, three ladies, sat quietly chatting. All
these persons were extremely different from one another in individual
characteristics, and all had the unmistakable mark of the habit of good
society; as difficult to locate and as easy to recognize as the sense of
_freshness_ which some ladies have the secret of diffusing around
themselves;--no definable sweetness, nothing in particular, but making a
very agreeable impression.
One of these ladies, the mother of the perambulating young officer (he
was a class-mate of Rossitur's), was extremely plain in feature, even more
than _ordinary_. This plainness was not however devoid of sense, and it
was relieved by an uncommon amount of good-nature and kindness of heart.
In her son the sense deepened into acuteness, and the kindness of heart
retreated, it is to be hoped, into some hidden recess of his nature; for
it very rarely shewed itself in open expression. That is, to an eye keen
in reading the natural signs of emotion; for it cannot be said that his
manner had any want of amenity or politeness.
The second lady, the wife of the gentleman on the hearth-rug, or rather on
the spot where the hearth-rug should have been, was a strong contrast to
this mother and son; remarkably pretty, delicate and even lovely; with a
black eye however that though in general soft could shew a mischievous
sparkle upon occasion; still young, and one of those women who always were
and always will be pretty and delicate at any age.
The third had been very handsome, and was still a very elegant woman, but
her face had seen more of the world's wear and tear. It had never known
placidity of expression beyond what the habitual command of good-breeding
imposed. She looked exactly what she was, a perfect woman of the world. A
very good specimen,--for Mrs. Carleton had sense and cultivation and even
feeling enough to play the part very gracefully; yet her mind was bound in
the shackles of "the world's" tyrannical forging and had never been free;
and her heart bowed submissively to the same authority.
"Here they are! Welcome home," exclaimed this lady, as her son and his
friend at length made their appearance;--"Welcome home--we are all
famishing; and I don't know why in the world we waited for you, for I am
sure you don't deserve it. What success? What success, Mr. Rossitur?"
"'Faith ma'am, there's little enough to boast of, as far as I am
concerned. Mr. Carleton may speak for himself."
"I am very sorry, ma'am, you waited for me," said that gentleman. "I am a
delinquent I acknowledge. The day came to an end before I was at all
aware of it."
"It would not do to flatter you so far as to tell you why we waited," said
Mrs. Evelyn's soft voice. And then perceiving that the gentleman at whom
she was looking gave her no answer she turned to the other. "How many
woodcock, Mr. Rossitur?"
"Nothing to shew, ma'am," he replied. "Didn't see a solitary one. I heard
some partridges, but I didn't mean to have room in my bag for them."
"Did you find the right ground, Rossitur?"
"I had a confounded long tramp after it if I didn't," said the
discomfited sportsman, who did not seem to have yet recovered his
"Were you not together?" said Mrs. Carleton. "Where were you, Guy?"
"Following the sport another way, ma'am; I had very good success too."
"What's the total?" said Mr. Evelyn. "How much game did you bag?"
"Really, sir, I didn't count. I can only answer for a bag full."
"Ladies and gentlemen!" cried Rossitur, bursting forth,--"What will you
say when I tell you that Mr. Carleton deserted me and the sport in a most
unceremonious manner, and that he,--the cynical philosopher, the reserved
English gentleman, the gay man of the world,--you are all of 'em by turns,
aren't you, Carleton?--_he!_--has gone and made a very cavaliero servante
of himself to a piece of rusticity, and spent all to-day in helping a
little girl pick up chestnuts!"
"Mr. Carleton would be a better man if he were to spend a good many more
days in the same manner," said that gentleman, dryly enough. But the
entrance of dinner put a stop to both laughter and questioning for a time,
all of the party being well disposed to their meat.
When the pickerel from the lakes, and the poultry and half-kept joints had
had their share of attention, and a pair of fine wild ducks were set on
the table, the tongues of the party found something to do besides eating.
"We have had a very satisfactory day among the Shakers, Guy," said Mrs.
Carleton; "and we have arranged to drive to Kenton to-morrow--I suppose you
will go with us?"
"With pleasure, mother, but that I am engaged to dinner about five or six
miles in the opposite direction."
"Engaged to dinner!--what with this old gentleman where you went last
night? And you too, Mr. Rossitur?"
"I have made no promise, ma'am, but I take it I must go."
"Vexatious! Is the little girl going with us, Guy?"
"I don't know yet--I half apprehend, yes; there seems to be a doubt in her
grandfather's mind, not whether he can let her go, but whether he can keep
her, and that looks like it."
"Is it your little cousin who proved the successful rival of the woodcock
to-day, Carleton?" said Mrs. Evelyn. "What is she?"
"I don't know, ma'am, upon my word. I presume Carleton will tell you she
is something uncommon and quite remarkable."
"Is she, Mr. Carleton?"
"Come! That _is_ something, from _you_," said Rossitur's brother officer,
"What's the uncommonness?" said Mrs. Thorn, addressing herself rather to
Mr. Rossitur as she saw Mr. Carleton's averted eye;--"Is she handsome,
"I can't tell you, I am sure, ma'am. I saw nothing but a nice child enough
in a calico frock, just such as one would see in any farm-house. She
rushed into the room when she was first called to see us, from somewhere
in distant regions, with an immense iron ladle a foot and a half long in
her hand with which she had been performing unknown feats of housewifery;
and they had left her head still encircled with a halo of kitchen-smoke.
If as they say 'coming events cast their shadows before,' she was the
shadow of supper."
"Oh Carleton, Carleton!" said Mrs. Evelyn, but in a tone of very gentle
and laughing reproof,--"for shame! What a picture! and of your cousin!"
"Is she a pretty child, Guy?" said Mrs. Carleton, who did not relish her
son's grave face.
"No ma'am--something more than that."
"About ten or eleven."
"That's an ugly age."
"She will never be at an ugly age."
"What style of beauty?"
"The highest--that degree of mould and finish which belongs only to the
"That is hardly the kind of beauty one would expect to see in such a
place," said Mrs. Carleton. "From one side of her family to be sure she
has a right to it."
"I have seen very few examples of it anywhere," said her son.
"Who were her parents?" said Mrs. Evelyn.
"Her mother was Mrs. Rossitur's sister,--her father--"
"Amy Carleton!" exclaimed Mrs. Evelyn,--"O I knew her! Was Amy Carleton
her mother? O I didn't know whom you were talking of. She was one of my
dearest friends. Her daughter may well be handsome--she was one of the
most lovely persons I ever knew; in body and mind both. O I loved Amy
Carleton very much. I must see this child."
"I don't know who her father was," Mrs. Carleton went on.
"O her father was Major Ringgan," said Mrs. Evelyn. "I never saw him, but
I have heard him spoken of in very high terms. I always heard that Amy
married very well."
"Major Ringgan!" said Mrs. Thorn;--"his name is very well known; he was
"He was a self-made man entirely," said Mrs. Evelyn, in a tone that
conveyed a good deal more than the simple fact.
"Yes, he was a self made man," said Mrs. Thorn, "but I should never think
of that where a man distinguishes himself so much; he was very
"Yes, and for more than officer-like qualities," said Mrs. Evelyn. "I have
heard his personal accomplishments as a gentleman highly praised."
"So that little Miss Ringgan's right to be a beauty may be considered
clearly made out," said Mr. Thorn.
"It is one of those singular cases," said Mr. Carleton, "where purity of
blood proves itself, and one has no need to go back to past generations to
make any inquiry concerning it."
"Hear him!" cried Rossitur;--"and for the life of me I could see nothing
of all this wonder. Her face is not at all striking."
"The wonder is not so much in what it _is_ as in what it indicates," said
"What does it indicate?" said his mother.
"Suppose you were to ask me to count the shades of colour in a rainbow,"
"Hear him!" cried Thorn again.
"Well, I hope she will go with us and we shall have a chance of seeing
her," said Mrs. Carleton.
"If she were only a few years older it is my belief you would see enough
of her, ma'am," said young Rossitur.
The haughty coldness of Mr. Carleton's look at this speech could not be
"But she has beauty of feature too, has she not?" Mrs. Carleton asked
again of her son.
"Yes, in very high degree. The contour of the eye and brow I never
"It is a little odd," said Mrs. Evelyn with the slightest touch of a
piqued air, (she had some daughters at home)--"that is a kind of beauty
one is apt to associate with high breeding, and certainly you very rarely
see it anywhere else; and Major Ringgan, however distinguished and
estimable, as I have no doubt he was,--And this child must have been
brought up with no advantages, here in the country."
"My dear madam," said Mr. Carleton smiling a little, "this high breeding
is a very fine thing, but it can neither be given nor bequeathed; and we
cannot entail it."
"But it can be taught, can't it?"
"If it could be taught it is to be hoped it would be oftener learned,"
said the young man dryly.
"But what do we mean, then, when we talk of the high breeding of certain
classes--and families? and why are we not disappointed when we look to
find it in connection with certain names and positions in society?"
"I do not know," said Mr. Carleton.
"You don't mean to say, I suppose, Mr. Carleton," said Thorn bridling a
little, "that it is a thing independent of circumstances, and that there
is no value in blood?"
"Very nearly--answering the question as you understand it."
"May I ask how you understand it?"
"As you do, sir."
"Is there no high breeding then in the world?" asked good-natured Mrs.
Thorn, who could be touched on this point of family.
"There is very little of it. What is commonly current under the name is
merely counterfeit notes which pass from hand to hand of those who are
bankrupt in the article."
"And to what serve then," said Mrs. Evelyn colouring, "the long lists of
good old names which even you, Mr. Carleton, I know, do not disdain?"
"To endorse the counterfeit notes," said Mr. Carleton smiling.
"Guy you are absurd!" said his mother. "I will not sit at the table and
listen to you if you talk such stuff. What do you mean?"
"I beg your pardon, mother, you have misunderstood me," said he seriously.
"Mind, I have been talking, not of ordinary conformity to what the world
requires, but of that fine perfection of mental and moral constitution
which in its own natural necessary acting leaves nothing to be desired, in
every occasion or circumstance of life. It is the pure gold, and it knows
no tarnish; it is the true coin, and it gives what it proffers to give; it
is the living plant ever-blossoming, and not the cut and art-arranged
flowers. It is a thing of the mind altogether; and where nature has not
curiously prepared the soil it is in vain to try to make it grow. _This_
is not very often met with?"
"No indeed," said Mrs. Carleton;--"but you are so fastidiously nice in all
your notions!--at this rate nothing will ever satisfy you."
"I don't think it is so very uncommon," said Mrs. Thorn. "It seems to me
one sees as much of it as can be expected, Mr. Carleton."
Mr. Carleton pared his apple with an engrossed air.
"O no, Mrs. Thorn," said Mrs. Evelyn, "I don't agree with you--I don't
think you often see such a combination as Mr. Carleton has been speaking
of--very rarely!--but, Mr. Carleton, don't you think it is generally found
in that class of society where the habits of life are constantly the most
polished and refined?"
"Possibly," answered he, diving into the core of his apple.
"No, but tell me;--I want to know what you think."
"Cultivation and refinement have taught people to recognize and analyze
and imitate it; the counterfeits are most current in that society,--but as
to the reality I don't know--it is nature's work and she is a little
freaky about it."
"But Guy!" said his mother impatiently;--"this is not selling but giving
away one's birthright. Where is the advantage of birth if breeding is not
supposed to go along with it. Where the parents have had intelligence and
refinement do we not constantly see them inherited by the children? and in
an increasing degree from generation to generation?"
"Very extraordinary!" said Mrs. Thorn.
"I do not undervalue the blessings of inheritance, mother, believe me, nor
deny the general doctrine; though intelligence does not always descend,
and manners die out, and that invaluable legacy, _a name_, may be thrown
away. But this delicate thing we are speaking of is not intelligence nor
refinement, but comes rather from a happy combination of qualities,
together with a peculiarly fine nervous constitution;--the _essence_ of it
may consist with an omission, even with an awkwardness, and with a sad
ignorance of conventionalities."
"But even if that be so, do you think it can ever reach its full
development but in the circumstances that are favourable to it?" said
"Probably not often; the diamond in some instances wants the graver;--but
it is the diamond. Nature seems now and then to have taken a princess's
child and dropped it in some odd corner of the kingdom, while she has left
the clown in the palace."
"From all which I understand," said Mr. Thorn, "that this little chestnut
girl is a princess in disguise."
"Really, Carleton!"--Rossitur began.
Mrs. Evelyn leaned back in her chair and quietly eating a piece of apple
eyed Mr. Carleton with a look half amused and half discontented, and
behind all that, keenly attentive.
"Take for example those two miniatures you were looking at last night,
Mrs. Evelyn," the young man went on;--"Louis XVI. and Marie
Antoinette--what would you have more unrefined, more heavy, more _animal_,
than the face of that descendant of a line of kings?"
Mrs. Evelyn bowed her head acquiescingly and seemed to enjoy her apple.
"_He_ had a pretty bad lot of an inheritance sure enough, take it all
together," said Rossitur.
"Well," said Thorn,--"is this little stray princess as well-looking as
"Better, in some respects," said Mr. Carleton coolly.
"Better!" cried Mrs. Carleton.
"Not in the brilliancy of her beauty, but in some of its
characteristics;--better in its promise."
"Make yourself intelligible, for the sake of my nerves, Guy," said his
mother. "Better looking than Marie Antoinette!"
"My unhappy cousin is said to be a fairy, ma'am," said Mr. Rossitur; "and
I presume all this may be referred to enchantment."
"That face of Marie Antoinette's," said Mr. Carleton smiling, "is an
"Uneducated!" exclaimed Mrs. Carleton.
"Don't mistake me, mother,--I do not mean that it shows any want of
reading or writing, but it does indicate an untrained character--a mind
unprepared for the exigencies of life."
"She met those exigencies indifferent well too," observed Mr. Thorn.
"Ay--but pride, and the dignity of rank, and undoubtedly some of the finer
qualities of a woman's nature, might suffice for that, and yet leave her
utterly unfitted to play wisely and gracefully a part in ordinary life."
"Well, she had no such part to play," said Mrs. Carleton.
"Certainly, mother--but I am comparing faces."
"Well--the other face?"
"It has the same style of refined beauty of feature, but--to compare
them in a word, Marie Antoinette looks to me like a superb exotic that
has come to its brilliant perfection of bloom in a hot-house--it would
lose its beauty in the strong free air--it would change and droop if it
lacked careful waiting upon and constant artificial excitement;--the
other," said Mr. Carleton musingly,--is a flower of the woods, raising
its head above frost and snow and the rugged soil where fortune has
placed it, with an air of quiet patient endurance;--a storm wind may
bring it to the ground, easily--but if its gentle nature be not broken,
it will look up again, unchanged, and bide its time in unrequited beauty
and sweetness to the end."
"The exotic for me!" cried Rossitur,--"if I only had a place for her. I
don't like pale elegancies."
"I'd make a piece of poetry of that if I was you, Carleton," said
"Mr. Carleton has done that already," said Mrs. Evelyn smoothly.
"I never heard you talk so before, Guy," said his mother looking at him.
His eyes had grown dark with intensity of expression while he was
speaking, gazing at visionary flowers or beauties through the dinner-table
mahogany. He looked up and laughed as she addressed him, and rising turned
off lightly with his usual sir.
"I congratulate you, Mrs. Carleton," Mrs. Evelyn whispered as they went
from the table, "that this little beauty is not a few years older."
"Why?" said Mrs. Carleton. "If she is all that Guy says, I would give
anything in the world to see him married."
"Time enough," said Mrs. Evelyn with a knowing smile.
"I don't know," said Mrs. Carleton,--"I think he would be happier. He is a
restless spirit--nothing satisfies him--nothing fixes him. He cannot rest
at home--he abhors politics--he flits way from country to country and
doesn't remain long anywhere."
"And you with him."
"And I with him. I should like to see if a wife could not persuade him to
stay at home."
"I guess you have petted him too much," said Mrs. Evelyn slyly.
"I cannot have petted him too much, for he has never disappointed me."
"No--of course not; but it seems you find it difficult to lead him."
"No one ever succeeded in doing that," said Mrs. Carleton, with a smile
that was anything but an ungratified one. "He never wanted driving, and to
lead him is impossible. You may try it, and while you think you are going
to gain your end, if he thinks it worth while, you will suddenly find that
he is leading you. It is so with everybody--in some inexplicable way."
Mrs. Evelyn thought the mystery was very easily explicable as far as the
mother was concerned; and changed the conversation.
To them life was a simple art
Of duties to be done,
A game where each man took his part,
A race where all must run;
A battle whose great scheme and scope
They little cared to know,
Content, as men-at-arms, to cope
Each with his fronting foe.
On so great and uncommon an occasion as Mr. Ringgan's giving a
dinner-party the disused front parlour was opened and set in order; the
women-folks, as he called them, wanting the whole back part of the house
for their operations. So when the visitors arrived, in good time, they
were ushered into a large square bare-looking room--a strong contrast even
to their dining-room at the Poolwhich gave them nothing of the welcome of
the pleasant farmhouse kitchen, and where nothing of the comfort of the
kitchen found its way but a very strong smell of roast pig. There was the
cheerless air of a place where nobody lives, or thinks of living. The very
chairs looked as if they had made up their minds to be forsaken for a term
of months; it was impossible to imagine that a cheerful supper had ever
been laid upon the stiff cold-looking table that stood with its leaves
down so primly against the wall. All that a blazing fire could do to make
amends for deficiencies, it did; but the wintry wind that swept round the
house shook the paper window-shades in a remorseless way; and the utmost
efforts of said fire could not prevent it from coming in and giving
disagreeable impertinent whispers at the ears of everybody.
Mr. Ringgan's welcome, however, was and would have been the same thing
anywhere--genial, frank, and dignified; neither he nor it could be changed
by circumstances. Mr. Carleton admired anew, as he came forward, the fine
presence and noble look of his old host; a look that it was plain had
never needed to seek the ground; a brow that in large or small things had
never been crossed by a shadow of shame. And to a discerning eye the face
was not a surer index of a lofty than of a peaceful and pure mind; too
peace-loving and pure perhaps for the best good of his affairs in the
conflict with a selfish and unscrupulous world. At least now, in the time
of his old age and infirmity; in former days his straightforward wisdom
backed by an indomitable courage and strength had made Mr. Ringgan no safe
subject for either braving or overreaching.
Fleda's keen-sighted affection was heartily gratified by the manner in
which her grandfather was greeted by at least one of his guests, and that
the one about whose opinion she cared the most. Mr. Carleton seemed as
little sensible of the cold room as Mr. Ringgan himself. Fleda felt sure
that her grandfather was appreciated; and she would have sat delightedly
listening to what the one and the other were presently saying, if she had
not taken notice that her cousin looked _astray_. He was eying the fire
with a profound air and she fancied he thought it poor amusement. Little
as Fleda in secret really cared about that, with an instant sacrifice of
her own pleasure she quietly changed her position for one from which she
could more readily bring to bear upon Mr. Rossitur's distraction the very
light artillery of her conversation; and attacked him on the subject of
the game he had brought home. Her motive and her manner both must have
been lost upon the young gentleman. He forthwith set about amusing himself
in a way his little entertainer had not counted upon, namely, with giving
a chase to her wits; partly to pass away the time, and partly to gratify
his curiosity, as he said, "to see what Fleda was made of." By a curious
system of involved, startling, or absurd questions, he endeavoured to
puzzle or confound or entrap her. Fleda however steadily presented a grave
front to the enemy, and would every now and then surprise him with an
unexpected turn or clever doubling, and sometimes, when he thought he had
her in a corner, jump over the fence and laugh at him from the other side.
Mr. Rossitur's respect for his little adversary gradually increased, and
finding that she had rather the best of the game he at last gave it up,
just as Mr. Ringgan was asking Mr. Carleton if he was a judge of stock?
Mr. Carleton saying with a smile "No, but he hoped Mr. Ringgan would give
him his first lesson,"--the old gentleman immediately arose with that
alacrity of manner he always wore when he had a visitor that pleased him,
and taking his hat and cane led the way out; choosing, with a man's true
carelessness of housewifery etiquette, the kitchen route, of all others.
Not even admonished by the sight of the bright Dutch oven before the fire
that he was introducing his visitors somewhat too early to the pig, he led
the whole party through, Cynthia scuttling away in haste across the
kitchen with something that must not be seen, while aunt Miriam looked out
at the company through the crack of the pantry door, at which Fleda
ventured a sly glance of intelligence.
It was a fine though a windy and cold afternoon; the lights and shadows
were driving across the broad upland and meadows.
"This is a fine arable country," remarked Mr. Carleton.
"Capital, sir,--capital, for many miles round, if we were not so far from
a market. I was one of the first that broke ground in this township,--one
of the very first settlers--I've seen the rough and the smooth of it, and
I never had but one mind about it from the first. All this--as far as you
can see--I cleared myself; most of it with my own hand."
"That recollection must attach you strongly to the place, I should
"Hum--perhaps I cared too much for it," he replied, "for it is taken away
from me. Well--it don't matter now."
"Is it not yours?"
"No sir!--it _was_ mine, a great many years; but I was obliged to part
with it, two years ago, to a scoundrel of a fellow--McGowan up here--he
got an advantage over me. I can't take care of myself any more as I
used to do, and I don't find that other people deal by me just as I
He was silent for a moment and then went on,--
"Yes sir! when I first set myself down here, or a little further that way
my first house was,--a pretty rough house, too,--there wa'n't two settlers
beside within something like ten miles round.--I've seen the whole of it
cleared, from the cutting of the first forest trees till this day."
"You have seen the nation itself spring up within that time," remarked
"Not exactly--that question of our nationality was settled a little before
I came here. I was born rather too late to see the whole of that play--I
saw the best of it though--boys were men in those days. My father was in
the thick of it from beginning to end."
"In the army, was he?"
"Ho yes, sir! he and every child he had that wasn't a girl--there wasn't a
man of the name that wa'n't on the right side. I was in the army myself
when I was fifteen. I was nothing but a fifer--but I tell you sir! there
wasn't a general officer in the country that played his part with a
prouder heart than I did mine!"
"And was that the general spirit of the ranks?"
"Not altogether," replied the old gentleman, passing his hand several
times abstractedly over his white hair, a favourite gesture with
him,--"not exactly that--there was a good deal of mixture of different
materials, especially in this state; and where the feeling wasn't pretty
strong it was no wonder if it got tired out; but the real stuff, the true
Yankee blood, was pretty firm! Ay, and some of the rest! There was a good
deal to try men in those days. Sir, I have seen many a time when I had
nothing to dine upon but my fife, and it was more than that could do to
keep me from feeling very empty!"
"But was this a common case? did this happen often?" said Mr. Carleton.
"Pretty often--pretty often, sometimes," answered the old gentleman.
"Things were very much out of order, you see, and in some parts of the
country it was almost impossible to get the supplies the men needed.
Nothing would have kept them together,--nothing under heaven--but the love
and confidence they had in one name. Their love of right and independence
wouldn't have been strong enough, and besides a good many of them got
disheartened. A hungry stomach is a pretty stout arguer against abstract
questions. I have seen my father crying like a child for the wants and
sufferings he was obliged to see and couldn't relieve."
"And then you used to relieve yourselves, grandpa," said Fleda.
"How was that, Fairy?"
Fleda looked at her grandfather, who gave a little preparatory laugh and
passed his hand over his head again.
"Why yes," said he,--"we used to think the tories, King George's men you
know, were fair game; and when we happened to be in the neighbourhood of
some of them that we knew were giving all the help they could to the
enemy, we used to let them cook our dinners for us once in a while."
"How did you manage that, sir?"
"Why, they used to have little bake-ovens to cook their meats and so on,
standing some way out from the house,--did you never gee one of
them?--raised on four little heaps of stone; the bottom of the oven is one
large flat stone, and the arch built over it;--they look like a great
bee-hive. Well--we used to watch till we saw the good woman of the house
get her oven cleverly heated, and put in her batch of bread, or her meat
pie, or her pumpkin and apple pies!--whichever it was--there didn't any of
'em come much amiss--and when we guessed they were pretty nigh done, three
or four of us would creep in and whip off the whole--oven and all!--to a
safe place. I tell you," said he with a knowing nod of his head at the
laughing Fleda,--"those were first-rate pies!"
"And then did you put the oven back again afterwards, grandpa?"
"I guess not often, dear!" replied the old gentleman.
"What do you think of such lawless proceedings, Miss Fleda?" said Mr.
Carleton, laughing at or with her.
"O I like it," said Fleda. "You liked those pies all the better, didn't
you, grandpa, because you had got them from the tories?"
"That we did! If we hadn't got them maybe King George's men would, in some
shape. But we weren't always so lucky as to get hold of an oven full. I
remember one time several of us had been out on a foraging expedition----
there, sir, what do you think of that for a two and a half year old?"
They had come up with the chief favourite of his barn-yard, a fine
deep-coloured Devon bull.
"I don't know what one might see in Devonshire," he remarked presently,
"but I know _this_ country can't shew the like of him!"
A discussion followed of the various beauties and excellencies of the
animal; a discussion in which Mr. Carleton certainly took little part,
while Mr. Ringgan descanted enthusiastically upon 'hide' and 'brisket' and
'bone,' and Rossitur stood in an abstraction, it might be scornful, it
might be mazed. Little Fleda quietly listening and looking at the
beautiful creature, which from being such a treasure to her grandfather
was in a sort one to her, more than half understood them all; but Mr.
Ringgan was too well satisfied with the attention of one of his guests to
miss that of the other.
"That fellow don't look as if _he_ had ever known short commons," was
Rossitur's single remark as they turned away.
"You did not give us the result of your foraging expedition, sir," said
Mr. Carleton in a different manner.
"Do, grandpa," said Fleda softly.
"Ha!--Oh it is not worth telling," said the old gentleman, look ing
gratified;--"Fleda has heard my stories till she knows them by heart--she
could tell it as well herself. What was it?--about the pig?--We had been
out, several of us, one afternoon to try to get up a supper--or a dinner,
for we had had none--and we had caught a pig. It happened that I was the
only one of the party that had a cloak, and so the pig was given to me to
carry home, because I could hide it the best. Well sir!--we were coming
home, and had set our mouths for a prime supper, when just as we were
within a few rods of our shanty who should come along but our captain! My
heart sank as it never has done at the thought of a supper before or
since, I believe! I held my cloak together as well as I could, and kept
myself back a little, so that if the pig shewed a cloven foot behind me,
the captain might not see it. But I almost gave up all for lost when I saw
the captain going into the hut with us. There was a kind of a rude
bedstead standing there; and I set myself down upon the side of it, and
gently worked and eased my pig off under my cloak till I got him to roll
down behind the bed. I knew," said Mr. Ringgan laughing, "I knew by the
captain's eye as well as I knew anything, that he smelt a rat; but he kept
our counsel, as well as his own; and when he was gone we took the pig out
into the woods behind the shanty and roasted him finely, and we sent and
asked Capt. Sears to supper; and he came and helped us eat the pig with a
great deal of appetite, and never asked no questions how we came by him!"
"I wonder your stout-heartedness did not fail, in the course of so long a
time," said Mr. Carleton.
"Never sir!" said the old gentleman. "I never doubted for a moment what
the end would be. My father never doubted for a moment. We trusted in God
and in Washington!"
"Did you see actual service yourself?"
"No sir--I never did. I wish I had. I should like to have had the honour
of striking one blow at the rascals. However they were hit pretty well. I
ought to be contented. My father saw enough of fighting--he was colonel of
a regiment--he was at the affair of Burgoyne. _That_ gave us a lift in
good time. What rejoicing there was everywhere when that news came! I
could have fifed all day upon an empty stomach and felt satisfied. People
reckoned everywhere that the matter was settled when that great piece of
good fortune was given us. And so it was!--wa'n't it, dear?" said the old
gentleman, with one of those fond, pleased, sympathetic looks to Fleda
with which he often brought up what he was saying.
"General Gates commanded there?" said Mr. Carleton.
"Yes sir--Gates was a poor stick--I never thought much of him. That fellow
Arnold distinguished himself in the actions before Burgoyne's surrender.
He fought like a brave man. It seems strange that so mean a scamp should
have had so much blood in him?"
"Why, are great fighters generally good men, grandpa?" said Fleda.
"Not exactly, dear!" replied her grandfather;--"but such
little-minded rascality is not just the vice one would expect to find
in a gallant soldier."
"Those were times that made men," said Mr. Carleton musingly.
"Yes," answered the old gentleman gravely,--"they were times that called
for men, and God raised them up. But Washington was the soul of the
"Well, the time made him," said Mr. Carleton.
"I beg your pardon," said the old gentleman with a very decided little
turn of his head,--"I think he made the time. I don't know what it would
have been, sir, or what it would have come to, but for him. After all, it
is rather that the things which try people shew what is in them;--I hope
there are men enough in the country yet, though they haven't as good a
chance to shew what they are."
"Either way," said his guest smiling; "it is a happiness, Mr. Ringgan, to
have lived at a time when there was something worth living for."
"Well--I don't know--" said the old gentleman;--"those times would make
the prettiest figure in a story or a romance, I suppose; but I've tried
both, and on the whole," said he with another of his looks at Fleda,--"I
think I like these times the best!"
Fleda smiled her acquiescence. His guest could not help thinking to
himself that however pacific might be Mr. Ringgan's temper, no man in
those days that tried men could have brought to the issue more stern
inflexibility and gallant fortitude of bearing. His frame bore evidence
of great personal strength, and his eye, with all its mildness, had an
unflinching dignity that _could_ never have quailed before danger or
duty. And now, while he was recalling with great animation and pleasure
the scenes of his more active life, and his blue eye was shining with the
fire of other days, his manner had the self-possession and quiet
sedateness of triumph that bespeak a man always more ready to do than to
say. Perhaps the contemplation of the noble Roman-like old figure before
him did not tend to lessen the feeling, even the sigh of regret, with
which the young man said,
"There was something then for a man to do!"
"There is always that," said the old gentleman quietly. "God has given
every man his work to do; and 'tain't difficult for him to find out what.
No man is put here to be idle."
"But," said his companion, with a look in which not a little haughty
reserve was mingled with a desire to speak out his thoughts, "half the
world are busy about hum-drum concerns and the other half doing nothing,
"I don't know about that," said Mr. Ringgan;--"that depends upon the way
you take things. 'Tain't always the men that make the most noise that are
the most good in the world. Hum-drum affairs needn't be hum-drum in the
doing of 'em. It is my maxim," said the old gentleman looking at his
companion with a singularly open pleasant smile,--"that a man may be great
about a'most anything--chopping wood, if he happens to be in that line. I
used to go upon that plan, sir. Whatever I have set my hand to do, I have
done it as well as I knew how to; and if you follow that rule out you'll
not be idle, nor hum-drum neither. Many's the time that I have mowed what
would be a day's work for another man, before breakfast."
Rossitur's smile was not meant to be seen. But Mr. Carleton's, to the
credit of his politeness and his understanding both, was frank as the old
gentleman's own, as he answered with a good-humoured shake of his head,
"I can readily believe it, sir, and honour both your maxim and your
practice. But I am not exactly in that line."
"Why don't you try the army?" said Mr. Ringgan with a look of interest.
"There is not a cause worth fighting for," said the young man, his brow
changing again. "It is only to add weight to the oppressor's hand, or
throw away life in the vain endeavour to avert it. I will do neither."
"But all the world is open before such a young man as you," said
"A large world," said Mr. Carleton with his former mixture of
expression,--"but there isn't much in it."
"Politics?" said Mr. Ringgan.
"It is to lose oneself in a seething-pot, where the scum is the most
"But there is society?" said Rossitur.
"Nothing better or more noble than the succession of motes that flit
through a sunbeam into oblivion."
"Well, why not then sit down quietly on one's estates and enjoy them, one
who has enough?"
"And be a worm in the heart of an apple."
"Well then," said Rossitur laughing, though not knowing exactly how far he
might venture, "there is nothing left for you, as I don't suppose you
would take to any of the learned professions, but to strike out some new
path for yourself--hit upon some grand invention for benefiting the human
race and distinguishing your own name at once."
But while he spoke his companion's face had gone back to its usual look
of imperturbable coolness; the dark eye was even haughtily unmoved, till
it met Fleda's inquiring and somewhat anxious glance. He smiled.
"The nearest approach I ever made to that," said he, "was when I went
chestnuting the other day. Can't you find some more work for me, Fairy?"
Taking Fleda's hand with his wonted graceful lightness of manner he walked
on with her, leaving the other two to follow together.
"You would like to know, perhaps," observed Mr. Rossitur in rather a low
tone,--"that Mr. Carleton is an Englishman."
"Ay, ay?" said Mr. Ringgan. "An Englishman, is he?--Well sir,--what is it
that I would like to know?"
"_That"_ said Rossitur. "I would have told you before if I could. I
supposed you might not choose to speak quite so freely, perhaps, on
American affairs before him."
"I haven't two ways of speaking, sir, on anything," said the old gentleman
a little dryly. "Is your friend very tender on that chapter?"
"O not that I know of at all," said Rossitur; "but you know there is a
great deal of feeling still among the English about it--they have never
forgiven us heartily for whipping them; and I know Carleton is related to
the nobility and all that, you know; so I thought--"
"Ah well!" said the old gentleman,--"we don't know much about
nobility and such gimcracks in this country. I'm not much of a
courtier. I am pretty much accustomed to speak my mind as I think
it.--He's wealthy, I suppose?"
"He's more than that, sir. Enormous estates! He's the finest fellow in the
world--one of the first young men in England."
"You have been there yourself and know?" said Mr. Ringgan, glancing at his
"If I have not, sir, others have told me that do."
"Ah well," said Mr. Ringgan placidly,--"we sha'n't quarrel, I guess. What
did he come out here for, eh?"
"Only to amuse himself. They are going back again in a few weeks, and I
intend accompanying them to join my mother in Paris. Will my little cousin
be of the party?"
They were sauntering along towards the house. A loud calling of her name
the minute before had summoned Fleda thither at the top of her speed; and
Mr. Carleton turned to repeat the same question.
The old gentleman stopped, and striking his stick two or three times
against the ground looked sorrowfully undetermined.
"Well, I don't know!--" he said at last,--"it's a pretty hard
matter--she'd break her heart about it, I suppose,--"
"I dare urge nothing, sir," said Mr. Carleton. "I will only assure you
that if you entrust your treasure to us she shall be cherished as you
would wish, till we place her in the hands of her aunt."
"I know that, sir,--I do not doubt it," said Mr. Ringgan, "but--I'll tell
you by and by what I conclude upon," he said with evident relief of manner
as Fleda came bounding back to them. "Mr. Rossitur, have you made your
peace with Fleda?"
"I was not aware that I had any to make, sir," replied the young
gentleman. "I will do it with pleasure if my little cousin will tell me
how. But she looks as if she needed enlightening as much as myself."
"She has something against you, I can tell you," said the old gentleman,
looking amused, and speaking as if Fleda were a curious little piece of
human mechanism which could hear its performances talked of with all the
insensibility of any other toy. "She gives it as her judgment that Mr.
Carleton is the most of a gentleman, because he keeps his promise."
Poor Fleda's cheek was hot with a distressful blush. Rossitur coloured
with anger. Mr. Carleton's smile had a very different expression.
"If Fleda will have the goodness to recollect," said Rossitur, "I cannot
be charged with breaking a promise, for I made none."
"But Mr. Carleton did," said Fleda.
"She is right, Mr. Rossitur, she is right," said that gentleman; "a
fallacy might as well elude Ithuriel's spear as the sense of a pure
spirit--there is no need of written codes. Make your apologies, man, and
confess yourself in the wrong."
"Pho, pho," said the old gentleman,--"she don't take it very much to heart.
I guess _I_ ought to be the one to make the apologies," he added, looking
at Fleda's face.
But Fleda commanded herself, with difficulty, and announced that dinner
"Mr. Rossitur tells me, Mr. Carleton, you are an Englishman," said his
host. "I have some notion of that's passing through my head before, but
somehow I had entirely lost sight of it when I was speaking so freely to
you a little while ago--about our national quarrel--I know some of your
countrymen owe us a grudge yet."
"Not I, I assure you," said the young Englishman. "I am ashamed of them
for it. I congratulate you on being Washington's countryman and a sharer
in his grand struggle for the right against the wrong."
Mr. Ringgan shook his guest's hand, looking very much pleased; and having
by this time arrived at the house the young gentlemen were formally
introduced at once to the kitchen, their dinner, and aunt Miriam.
It is not too much to say that the entertainment gave perfect satisfaction
to everybody--better fate than attends most entertainments. Even Mr.
Rossitur's ruffled spirit felt the soothing influence of good cheer, to
which he happened to be peculiarly sensible, and came back to its average
condition of amenity.
Doubtless that was a most informal table, spread according to no rules
that for many generations at least have been known in the refined world;
an anomaly in the eyes of certainly one of the company. Yet the board had
a character of its own, very far removed from vulgarity, and suiting
remarkably well with the condition and demeanour of those who presided
over it--a comfortable, well-to-do, substantial look, that could afford to
dispense with minor graces; a self-respect that was not afraid of
criticism. Aunt Miriam's successful efforts deserve to be celebrated.
In the middle of the table the polished amber of the pig's arched back
elevated itself,--a striking object,--but worthy of the place he filled,
as the honours paid him by everybody abundantly testified. Aunt Miriam had
sent down a basket of her own bread, made out of the new flour, brown and
white, both as sweet and fine as it is possible for bread to be; the
piled-up slices were really beautiful. The superb butter had come from
aunt Miriam's dairy too, for on such an occasion she would not trust to
the very doubtful excellence of Miss Cynthia's doings. Every spare place
on the table was filled with dishes of potatoes and pickles and
sweetmeats, that left nothing to be desired in their respective kinds; the
cake was a delicious presentment of the finest of material; and the pies,
pumpkin pies, such as only aunt Miriam could make, rich compounds of
everything _but_ pumpkin, with enough of that to give them a name--Fleda
smiled to think how pleased aunt Miriam must secretly be to see the homage
paid her through them. And most happily Mrs. Plumfield had discovered that
the last tea Mr. Ringgan had brought from the little Queechy store was not
very good, and there was no time to send up on "the hill" for more, so she
made coffee. Verily it was not Mocha, but the thick yellow cream with
which the cups were filled readily made up the difference. The most
curious palate found no want.
Everybody was in a high state of satisfaction, even to Miss Cynthia Grail;
who, having some lurking suspicion that Mrs. Plumfield might design to cut
her out of her post of tea-making, had slipped herself into her usual
chair behind the tea-tray before anybody else was ready to sit down. No
one at table bestowed a thought upon Miss Cynthia, but as she thought of
nothing else she may be said to have had her fair share of attention. The
most unqualified satisfaction however was no doubt little Fleda's.
Forgetting with a child's happy readiness the fears and doubts which had
lately troubled her, she was full of the present, enjoying with a most
unselfish enjoyment everything that pleased anybody else. _She_ was glad
that the supper was a fine one, and so approved, because it was her
grandfather's hospitality and her aunt Miriam's housekeeping; little
beside was her care for pies or coffee. She saw with secret glee the
expression of both her aunt's and Mr. Ringgan's face; partly from pure
sympathy, and partly because, as she knew, the cause of it was Mr.
Carleton, whom privately Fleda liked very much. And after all perhaps he
had directly more to do with her enjoyment than all other causes together.
Certainly that was true of him with respect to the rest of the
dinner-table. None at that dinner-table had ever seen the like. With all
the graceful charm of manner with which he would have delighted a courtly
circle, he came out from his reserve and was brilliant, gay, sensible,
entertaining, and witty, to a degree that assuredly has very rarely been
thrown away upon an old farmer in the country and his un-polite sister.
They appreciated him though, as well as any courtly circle could have
done, and he knew it. In aunt Miriam's strong sensible face, when not full
of some hospitable care, he could see the reflection of every play of his
own; the grave practical eye twinkled and brightened, giving a ready
answer to every turn of sense or humour in what he was saying. Mr.
Ringgan, as much of a child for the moment as Fleda herself, had lost
everything disagreeable and was in the full genial enjoyment of talk,
rather listening than talking, with his cheeks in a perpetual dimple of
gratification, and a low laugh of hearty amusement now and then rewarding
the conversational and kind efforts of his guest with a complete triumph.
Even the subtle charm which they could not quite recognise wrought
fascination. Miss Cynthia declared afterwards, half admiring and half
vexed, that he spoiled her supper, for she forgot to think how it tasted.
Rossitur--his good humour was entirely restored; but whether even Mr.
Carleton's power could have achieved that without the perfect seasoning of
the pig and the smooth persuasion of the richly-creamed coffee, it may
perhaps be doubted. He stared, mentally, for he had never known his friend
condescend to bring himself out in the same manner before; and he wondered
what he could see in the present occasion to make it worth while.
But Mr. Carleton did not think his efforts thrown away. He understood and
admired his fine old host and hostess; and with all their ignorance of
conventionalities and absence of what is called _polish_ of manner, he
could enjoy the sterling sense, the good feeling, the true hearty
hospitality, and the dignified courtesy which both of them shewed. No
matter of the outside; this was in the grain. If mind had lacked much
opportunity it had also made good use of a little; his host, Mr. Carleton
found, had been a great reader, was well acquainted with history and a
very intelligent reasoner upon it; and both he and his sister shewed a
strong and quick aptitude for intellectual subjects of conversation. No
doubt aunt Miriam's courtesy had not been taught by a dancing master, and
her brown-satin gown had seen many a fashion come and go since it was
made, but a _lady_ was in both; and while Rossitur covertly smiled, Mr.
Carleton paid his sincere respect where he felt it was due. Little Fleda's
quick eye hardly saw, but more than half felt, the difference. Mr.
Carleton had no more eager listener now than she, and perhaps none whose
unaffected interest and sympathy gave him more pleasure.
[Illustration: Fleda coloured and looked at her grandfather.]
When they rose from the table Mr. Ringgan would not be _insinuated_ into
the cold front room again.
"No, no," said he,--"what's the matter?--the table? Push the table back,
and let it take care of itself,--come, gentlemen, sit down--draw up your
chairs round the fire, and a fig for ceremony! Comfort, sister Miriam,
against politeness, any day in the year;--don't you say so too, Fairy?
Come here by me."
"Miss Fleda," said Mr. Carleton, "will you take a ride with me to
Montepoole to-morrow? I should like to make you acquainted with my mother."
Fleda coloured and looked at her grandfather.
"What do you say, deary?" he inquired fondly; "will you go?--I believe,
sir, your proposal will prove a very acceptable one. You will go, won't
Fleda would very much rather not! But she was always exceedingly afraid
of hurting people's feelings; she could not bear that Mr. Carleton should
think she disliked to go with him, so she answered yes, in her usual
Just then the door opened and a man unceremoniously walked in, his
entrance immediately following a little sullen knock that had made a
mockery of asking permission. An ill-looking man, in the worst sense; his
face being a mixture of cunning, meanness, and insolence. He shut the
door and came with a slow leisurely step into the middle of the room
without speaking a word. Mr. Carleton saw the blank change in Fleda's
face. She knew him.
"Do you wish to see me, Mr. McGowan?" said Mr. Ringgan, not without
something of the same change.
"I guess I ha'n't come here for nothing," was the gruff retort.
"Wouldn't another time answer as well?"
"I don't mean to find you here another time," said the man chuckling,--"I
have given you notice to quit, and now I have come to tell you you'll
clear out. I ain't a going to be kept out of my property for ever. If I
can't get my money from you, Elzevir Ringgan, I'll see you don't get no
more of it in your hands."
"Very well, sir," said the old gentleman;--"You have said all that is
"You have got to hear a little more, though," returned the other, "I've an
idea that there's a satisfaction in speaking one's mind. I'll have that
much out of you! Mr. Ringgan, a man hadn't ought to make an agreement to
pay what he doesn't _mean_ to pay, and what he has made an agreement to
pay he ought to meet and be up to, if he sold his soul for it! You call
yourself a Christian, do you, to stay in another man's house, month after
month, when you know you ha'n't got the means to give him the rent for it!
That's what _I_ call stealing, and it's what I'd live in the County House
before I'd demean myself to do I and so ought you."
"Well, well! neighbour," said Mr. Ringgan, with patient dignity,--"it's no
use calling names. You know as well as I do how all this came about. I
hoped to be able to pay you, but I haven't been able to make it out,
without having more time."
"Time!" said the other. "Time to cheat me out of a little more houseroom.
If I was agoing to live on charity, Mr. Ringgan, I'd come out and say so,
and not put my hand in a man's pocket this way. You'll quit the house by
the day after to morrow, or if you don't I'll let you hear a little more
of me that you won't like!"
He stalked out, shutting the door after him with a bang. Mr. Carleton had
quitted the room a moment before him.
Nobody moved or spoke at first, when the man was gone, except Miss
Cynthia, who as she was taking something from the table to the pantry
remarked, probably for Mr. Rossitur's benefit, that "Mr. Ringgan had to
have that man punished for something he did a few years ago when he was
justice of the peace, and she guessed likely that was the reason he had a
grudge agin him ever since." Beyond this piece of dubious information
nothing was said. Little Fleda stood beside her grandfather with a face of
quiet distress; the tears silently running over her flushed cheeks, and
her eyes fixed upon Mr. Ringgan with a tender touching look of sympathy,
most pure from self-recollection.
Mr. Carleton presently came in to take leave of the disturbed family. The
old gentleman rose and returned his shake of the hand with even a degree
more than usual of his manly dignity, or Mr. Carleton thought so.
"Good day to you, sir!" he said heartily. "We have had a great deal of
pleasure in your society, and I shall always be very happy to see
you--wherever I am." And then following him to the door and wringing his
hand with a force he was not at all aware of, the old gentleman added in a
lower tone, "I shall let her go with you!"
Mr. Carleton read his whole story in the stern self-command of brow, and
the slight convulsion of feature which all the self-command could not
prevent. He returned warmly the grasp of the hand answering merely, "I
will see you again."
Fleda wound her arms round her grandfather's neck when they were gone, and
did her best to comfort him, assuring him that "they would be just as
happy somewhere else." And aunt Miriam earnestly proffered her own home.
But Fleda knew that her grandfather was not comforted. He stroked her head
with the same look of stern gravity and troubled emotion which had grieved
her so much the other day. She could not win him to a smile, and went to
bed at last feeling desolate. She had no heart to look out at the night.
The wind was sweeping by in wintry gusts; and Fleda cried herself to sleep
thinking how it would whistle round the dear old house when their ears
would not be there to hear it.
He from his old hereditary nook
Must part; the summons came,--our final leave we took.
Mr. Carleton came the next day, but not early, to take Fleda to Montepoole.
She had told her grandfather that she did not think he would come, because
after last night he must know that she would not want to go. About twelve
o'clock however he was there, with a little wagon, and Fleda was fain to
get her sun bonnet and let him put her in. Happily it was her maxim never
to trust to uncertainties, so she was quite ready when he came and they
had not to wait a minute.
Though Fleda had a little dread of being introduced to a party of
strangers and was a good deal disappointed at being obliged to keep her
promise, she very soon began to be glad. She found her fear gradually
falling away before Mr. Carleton's quiet kind reassuring manner; he took
such nice care of her; and she presently made up her mind that he would
manage the matter so that it would not be awkward. They had so much
pleasant talk too. Fleda had found before that she could talk to Mr.
Carleton, nay she could not help talking to him; and she forgot to think
about it. And besides, it was a pleasant day, and they drove fast, and
Fleda's particular delight was driving; and though the horse was a little
gay she had a kind of intuitive perception that Mr. Carleton knew how to
manage him. So she gave up every care and was very happy.
When Mr. Carleton asked after her grandfather, Fleda answered with great
animation, "O he's very well! and such a happy thing--You heard what that
man said last night, Mr. Carleton, didn't you?"
"Well it is all arranged;--this morning Mr. Jolly--he's a friend of
grandpa's that lives over at Queechy Run and knew about all this--he's a
lawyer--he came this morning and told grandpa that he had found some one
that could lend him the money he wanted and there was no trouble about it;
and we are so happy, for we thought we should have to go away from where
we live now, and I know grandpa would have felt it dreadfully. If it
hadn't been for that,--I mean, for Mr. Jolly's coming--I couldn't have
gone to Montepoole to-day."
"Then I am very glad Mr. Jolly made his appearance," said Mr. Carleton.
"So am I," said Fleda;--"but I think it was a little strange that Mr.
Jolly wouldn't tell us who it was that he had got the money from. Grandpa
said he never saw Mr. Jolly so curious."
When they got to the Pool Fleda's nervousness returned a little; but she
went through the dreaded introduction with great demureness and perfect
propriety. And throughout the day Mr. Carleton had no reason to fear
rebuke for the judgment which he had pronounced upon his little paragon.
All the flattering attention which was shewn her, and it was a good deal,
could not draw Fleda a line beyond the dignified simplicity which seemed
natural to her; any more than the witty attempts at raillery and
endeavours to amuse themselves at her expense, in which some of the
gentlemen shewed their wisdom, could move her from her modest
self-possession. _Very_ quiet, _very_ modest, as she invariably was,
awkwardness could not fasten upon her; her colour might come and her timid
eye fall; it often did; but Fleda's wits were always in their place and
within call. She would shrink from a stranger's eye, and yet when spoken
to her answers were as ready and acute as they were marked for simplicity
and gentleness. She was kept to dinner; and though the arrangement and
manner of the service must have been strange to little Fleda, it was
impossible to guess from word or look that it was the first time within
her recollection that she had ever seen the like. Her native instincts
took it all as quietly as any old liberalized traveller looks upon the
customs of a new country. Mr. Carleton smiled as he now and then saw a
glance of intelligence or admiration pass between one and another of the
company; and a little knowing nod from Mrs. Evelyn and many a look from
his mother confessed he had been quite right.
Those two, Mrs. Evelyn and Mrs. Carleton, were by far the most kind and
eager in their attention to Fleda. Mrs. Thorn did little else but look at
her. The gentlemen amused themselves with her. But Mr. Carleton, true to
the hopes Fleda had founded upon his good-nature, had stood her friend all
the day, coming to her help if she needed any, and placing himself easily