Part 4 out of 18
person of consequence was that he had thought fit to do so. Fleda would
permit neither of them to do anything for her that she could help.
They took their revenge in raillery, which was not always good-natured.
Mr. Carleton never answered it in any other way than by his look of cold
disdain,--not always by that; little Fleda could not be quite so unmoved.
Many a time her nice sense of delicacy confessed itself hurt, by the deep
and abiding colour her cheeks would wear after one of their ill mannered
flings at her. She bore them with a grave dignity peculiar to herself, but
the same nice delicacy forbade her to mention the subject to any one; and
the young gentlemen contrived to give the little child in the course of
the voyage a good deal of pain. She shunned them at last as she would the
plague. As to the rest Fleda liked her life on board ship amazingly. In
her quiet way she took all the good that offered and seemed not to
recognise the ill.
Mr. Carleton had bought for her a copy of The Rape of the Lock, and
Bryant's poems. With these, sitting or lying among her cushions, Fleda
amused herself a great deal; and it was an especial pleasure when he would
sit down by her and read and talk about them. Still a greater was to watch
the sea, in its changes of colour and varieties of agitation, and to get
from Mr. Carleton, bit by bit, all the pieces of knowledge concerning it
that he had ever made his own. Even when Fleda feared it she was
fascinated; and while the fear went off the fascination grew deeper.
Daintily nestling among her cushions she watched with charmed eyes the
long rollers that came up in detachments of three to attack the good ship,
that like a slandered character rode patiently over them; or the crested
green billows, or sometimes the little rippling waves that shewed old
Ocean's placidest face; while with ears as charmed as if he had been
delivering a fairy tale she listened to all Mr. Carleton could tell her of
the green water where the whales feed, or the blue water where Neptune
sits in his own solitude, the furtherest from land, and the pavement under
his feet outdoes the very canopy overhead in its deep colouring; of the
transparent seas where the curious mysterious marine plants and animals
may be clearly seen many feet down, and in the North where hundreds of
feet of depth do not hide the bottom; of the icebergs; and whirling great
fields of ice, between which if a ship gets she had as good be an almond
in a pair of strong nut crackers. How the water grows colder and murkier
as it is nearer the shore; how the mountain waves are piled together; and
how old Ocean, like a wise man, however roughened and tumbled outwardly by
the currents of Life, is always calm at heart. Of the signs of the
weather; the out-riders of the winds, and the use the seaman makes of the
tidings they bring; and before Mr. Carleton knew where he was he found
himself deep in the science of navigation, and making a star-gazer of
little Fleda. Sometimes kneeling beside him as he sat on her mattress,
with her hand leaning on his shoulder, Fleda asked, listened, and looked;
as engaged, as rapt, as interested, as another child would be in Robinson
Crusoe, gravely drinking in knowledge with a fresh healthy taste for it
that never had enough. Mr. Carleton was about as amused and as interested
as she. There is a second taste of knowledge that some minds get in
imparting it, almost as sweet as the first relish. At any rate Fleda never
felt that she had any reason to fear tiring him; and his mother
complaining of his want of sociableness said she believed Guy did not like
to talk to anybody but that little pet of his and one or two of the old
sailors. If left to her own resources Fleda was never at a loss; she
amused herself with her books, or watching the sailors, or watching the
sea, or with some fanciful manufacture she had learned from one of the
ladies on board, or with what the company about her were saying and doing.
One evening she had been some time alone, looking out upon the restless
little waves that were tossing and tumbling in every direction. She had
been afraid of them at first and they were still rather fearful to her
imagination. This evening as her musing eye watched them rise and fall her
childish fancy likened them to the up-springing chances of
life,--uncertain, unstable, alike too much for her skill and her strength
to manage. She was not more helpless before the attacks of the one than of
the other. But then--that calm blue Heaven that hung over the sea. It was
like the heaven of power and love above her destinies; only this was far
higher and more pure and abiding. "He knoweth them that trust in him."
"There shall not a hair of your head perish."
Not these words perhaps, but something like the sense of them was in
little Fleda's head. Mr. Carleton coming up saw her gazing out upon the
water with an eye that seemed to see nothing.
"Elfie!--Are you looking into futurity?"
"No,--yes,--not exactly," said Fleda smiling.
"No, yes, and not exactly!" said he throwing himself down beside her.--"
What does all that mean?"
"I wasn't exactly looking into futurity," said Fleda.
"What then?--Don't tell me you were 'thinking;' I know that dready. What?"
Fleda was always rather shy of opening her cabinet of thoughts. She
glanced at him, and hesitated, and then yielded to a fascination of eye
and smile that rarely failed of its end. Looking off to the sea again, as
if she had left her thoughts there, she said,
"I was only thinking of that beautiful hymn of Mr. Newton's."
"That long one, 'The Lord will provide.'"
"Do you know it?--Tell it to me, Elfie--let us see whether I shall think
Fleda knew the whole and repeated it.
"Though troubles assail,
And dangers affright,
Though friends should all fall,
And foes all unite;
Yet one thing secures us
The Scripture assures us
'The Lord will provide.'
"The birds without barn
Or storehouse are fed;
From them let us learn
To trust for our bread.
His saints what is fitting
Shall ne'er be denied,
So long as 'tis written,
'The Lord will provide.'
"His call we obey,
Like Abraham of old,
Not knowing our way,
But faith makes us bold.
And though we are strangers,
We have a good guide,
And trust in all dangers
'The Lord will provide.'
"We may like the ships
In tempests be tossed
On perilous deeps,
But cannot be lost.
Though Satan enrages
The wind and the tide,
The promise engages
'The Lord will provide.'
"When Satan appears
To stop up our path,
And fills us with fears,
We triumph by faith.
He cannot take from us,
Though oft he has tried,
This heart-cheering promise,
'The Lord will provide.'
"He tells us we're weak,
Our hope is in vain,
The good that we seek
We ne'er shall obtain;
But when such suggestions
Our spirits have tried,
This answers all questions.
'The Lord will provide.'
"No strength of our own,
Or goodness we claim;
But since we have known
The Saviour's great name
In this, our strong tower,
For safety we hide;
The Lord is our power!
'The Lord will provide.'
"When life sinks apace,
And death is in view,
This word of his grace
Shall comfort us through.
No fearing nor doubting,
With Christ on our side,
We hope to die shouting,
'The Lord will provide.'"
Guy listened very attentively to the whole. He was very far from
understanding the meaning of several of the verses, but the bounding
expression of confidence and hope he did understand, and did feel.
"Happy to be so deluded!" he thought.--"I almost wish I could share the
He was gloomily silent when she had done, and little Fleda's eyes were so
full that it was a little while before she could look towards him and ask
in her gentle way, "Do you like it, Mr. Carleton?"
She was gratified by his grave, "Yes!"
"But, Elfie," said he smiling again, "you have not told me your
thoughts yet. What had these verses to do with the sea you were looking
at so hard?"
"Nothing--I was thinking," said Fleda slowly,--"that the sea seemed
something like the world,--I don't mean it was like, but it made me think
of it; and I thought how pleasant it is to know that God takes care of
"Don't he take care of everybody?"
"Yes--in one sort of way," said Fleda; "but then it is only his children
that he has promised to keep from everything that will hurt them."
"I don't see how that promise is kept, Elfie. I think those who call
themselves so meet with as many troubles as the rest of the world, and
"Yes," said Fleda quickly, "they have troubles, but then God won't let the
troubles do them any harm."
A subtle evasion, thought Mr. Carleton.--"Where did you learn that,
"The Bible says so," said Fleda.
"Well, how do you know it from that?" aid Mr. Carleton, impelled, he
hardly knew whether by his bad or his good angel, to carry on the
"Why," said Fleda, looking as if it were a very simple question and Mr.
Carleton were catechising her,--"you know, Mr. Carleton, the Bible was
written by men who were taught by God exactly what to say, so there could
be nothing in it that is not true."
"How do you know those men were so taught?"
"The Bible says so."
A child's answer!--but with a child's wisdom in it, not learnt of the
schools. "He that is of God heareth God's words." To little Fleda, as to
every simple and humble intelligence, the Bible proved itself; she had no
need to go further.
Mr. Carleton did not smile, for nothing would have tempted him to hurt
her feelings; but he said, though conscience did not let him do it
without a twinge,
"But don't you know, Elfie, there are some people who do not believe
"Ah but those are bad people," replied Fleda quickly;--"all good people
A child's reason again, but hitting the mark this time. Unconsciously,
little Fleda had brought forward a strong argument for her cause. Mr.
Carleton felt it, and rising up that he might not be obliged to say
anything more, he began to pace slowly up and down the deck, turning the
Was it so? that there were hardly any good men (he thought there might be
a few) who did not believe in the Bible and uphold its authority? and
that all the worst portion of society was comprehended in the other
class?--and if so, how had he overlooked it? He had reasoned most
unphilosophically from a few solitary instances that had come under his
own eye; but applying the broad principle of induction it could not be
doubted that the Bible was on the side of all that is sound, healthful,
and hopeful, in this disordered world. And whatever might be the character
of a few exceptions, it was not supposable that a wide system of hypocrisy
should tell universally for the best interests of mankind. Summoning
history to produce her witnesses, as he went on with his walk up and down,
he saw with increasing interest, what he had never seen before, that the
Bible had come like the breath of spring upon the moral waste of mind;
that the ice-bound intellect and cold heart of the world had waked into
life under its kindly influence and that all the rich growth of the one
and the other had come forth at its bidding. And except in that
sun-lightened tract, the world was and had been a waste indeed. Doubtless
in that waste, intellect had at different times put forth sundry barren
shoots, such as a vigorous plant can make in the absence of the sun, but
also like them immature, unsound, and groping vainly after the light in
which alone they could expand and perfect themselves; ripening no seed for
a future and richer growth. And flowers the wilderness had none. The
affections were stunted and overgrown.
All this was so,--how had he overlooked it? His unbelief had come from a
thoughtless, ignorant, one-sided view of life and human things. The
disorder and ruin which he saw, where he did not also see the adjusting
hand at work, had led him to refuse his credit to the Supreme Fabricator.
He thought the waste would never be reclaimed, and did not know how much
it already owed to the sun of revelation; but what was the waste where
that light had not been!--Mr. Carleton was staggered. He did not know what
to think. He began to think he had been a fool.
Poor little Fleda was meditating less agreeably the while. With the sure
tact of truth she had discerned that there was more than jest in the
questions that had been put to her. She almost feared that Mr. Carleton
shared himself the doubts he had so lightly spoken of, and the thought
gave her great distress. However, when he came to take her down to tea,
with all his usual manner, Fleda's earnest look at him ended in the
conviction that there was nothing very wrong under that face.
For several days Mr. Carleton pondered the matter of this evening's
conversation, characteristically restless till he had made up his mind. He
wished very much to draw Fleda to speak further upon the subject, but it
was not easy; she never led to it. He sought in vain an opportunity to
bring it in easily, and at last resolved to make one.
"Elfie," said he one morning when all the rest of the passengers were
happily engaged at a distance with the letter-bags,--"I wish you would let
me hear that favourite hymn of yours again,--I like it very much."
Fleda was much gratified, and immediately with great satisfaction
repeated the hymn. Its peculiar beauty struck him yet more the second
time than the first.
"Do you understand those two last verses?" said he when she had done.
Fleda said "Yes!" rather surprised.
"I do not," he said gravely.
Fleda paused a minute or two, and then finding that it depended on her to
enlighten him, said in her modest way,
"Why it means that we have no goodness of our own, and only expect to be
forgiven and taken to heaven for the Saviour's sake."
Mr. Carleton asked, "How_for his sake_?"
"Why you know, Mr. Carleton, we don't deserve to go there, and if we are
forgiven at all it must be for what he has done."
"And what is that, Elfie?"
"He died for us," said Fleda, with a look of some anxiety into Mr.
"Died for us!--And what end was that to serve, Elfie?" said he, partly
willing to hear the full statement of the matter, and partly willing to
see how far her intelligence could give it.
"Because we are sinners," said Fleda, "and God has said that sinners
"Then how can he keep his word and forgive at all?"
"Because Christ has died _for us_," said Fleda eagerly;--"instead of us."
"Do you understand the justice of letting one take the place of others?"
"He was willing, Mr. Carleton," said Fleda, with a singular wistful
expression that touched him.
"Still, Elfie," said he after a minute's silence,--"how could the ends of
justice be answered by the death of one man in the place of millions?"
"No, Mr. Carleton, but he was God as well as man," Fleda said, with a
sparkle in her eye which perhaps delayed her companion's rejoinder.
"What should induce him, Elfie," he said gently, "to do such a thing for
people who had displeased him?"
"Because he loved us, Mr. Carleton."
She answered with so evident a strong and clear appreciation of what she
was saying that it half made its way into Mr. Carleton's mind by the force
of sheer sympathy. Her words came almost as something new.
Certainly Mr. Carleton had heard these things before, though perhaps
never in a way that appealed so directly to his intelligence and his
candour. He was again silent an instant, pondering, and so was Fleda.
"Do you know, Elfie," said Mr. Carleton, "there are some people who do not
believe that the Saviour was anything more than a man?"
"Yes I know it," said Fleda;--"it is very strange!"
"Why is it strange?"
"Because the Bible says it so plainly."
"But those people hold I believe that the Bible does not say it?"
"I don't see how they could have read the Bible," said Fleda. "Why he said
"Who said so?"
"Jesus Christ. Don't _you_ believe it, Mr. Carleton?"
She saw he did not, and the shade that had come over her face was
reflected in his before he said "No."
"But perhaps I shall believe it yet, Elfie," he said kindly. "Can you shew
me the place in your Bible where Jesus says this of himself?"
Fleda looked in despair. She hastily turned over the leaves of her Bible
to find the passages he had asked for, and Mr. Carleton was cut to the
heart to see that she twice was obliged to turn her face from him and
brush her hand over her eyes, before she could find them. She turned to
Matt. xxvi. 63, 64, 65, and without speaking gave him the book, pointing
to the passage. He read it with great care, and several times over.
"You are right, Elfie," he said. "I do not see how those who honour the
authority of the Bible and the character of Jesus Christ can deny the
truth of his own declaration. If that is false so must those be."
Fleda took the Bible and hurriedly sought out another passage.
"Grandpa shewed me these places," she said, "once when we were talking
about Mr. Didenhover--_he_ didn't believe that. There are a great many
other places, grandpa said; but one is enough;"--
She gave him the latter part of the twentieth chapter of John.--
"You see, Mr. Carleton, he let Thomas fall down and worship him and call
him God; and if he had _not_ been, you know----God is more displeased
with that than with any thing.'
"With what, Elfie?"
"With men's worshipping any other than himself. He says he 'will not give
his glory to another.'"
"Where is that?"
"I am afraid I can't find it," said Fleda,--"it is somewhere in
Isaiah, I know"--
She tried in vain; and failing, then looked up in Mr. Carleton's face to
see what impression had been made.
"You see Thomas believed when he _saw_" said he, answering her;--"I will
believe too when I see."
"Ah if you wait for that--" said Fleda.
Her voice suddenly checked, she bent her face down again to her little
Bible, and there was a moment's struggle with herself.
"Are you looking for something more to shew me?" said Mr. Carleton kindly,
stooping his face down to hers.
"Not much," said Fleda hurriedly; and then making a great effort she
raised her head and gave him the book again.
"Look here, Mr. Carleton,--Jesus said, 'Blessed are they that have _not_
seen and yet have believed.'"
Mr. Carleton was profoundly struck, and the thought recurred to him
afterwards and was dwelt upon.--"Blessed are they that have _not_ seen,
and yet have believed." It was strange at first, and then he wondered that
it should ever have been so. His was a mind peculiarly open to conviction,
peculiarly accessible to truth; and his attention being called to it he
saw faintly now what he had never seen before, the beauty of the principle
of _faith_;--how natural, how reasonable, how _necessary_, how honourable
to the Supreme Being, how happy even for man, that the grounds of his
trust in God being established, his acceptance of many other things should
rest on that trust alone.
Mr. Carleton now became more reserved and unsociable than ever. He wearied
himself with thinking. If be could have got at the books, he would have
spent his days and nights in studying the evidences of Christianity, but
the ship was bare of any such books, and he never thought of turning to
the most obvious of all, the Bible itself. His unbelief was shaken; it was
within an ace of falling in pieces to the very foundation; or rather he
began to suspect how foundationless it had been. It came at last to one
point with him;--If there were a God, he would not have left the world
without a revelation,--no more would he have suffered that revelation to
defeat its own end by becoming corrupted or alloyed, if there was such a
revelation it could be no other than the Bible;--and his acceptance of
the whole scheme of Christianity now hung upon the turn of a hair. Yet he
could not resolve himself. He balanced the counter-doubts and arguments,
on one side and on the other, and strained his mind to the task;--he could
not weigh them nicely enough. He was in a maze; and seeking to clear and
calm his judgment that he might see the way out, it was in vain that he
tried to shake his dizzied head from the effect of the turns it had made.
By dint of anxiety to find the right path reason had lost herself in the
Fleda was not, as Mr. Carleton had feared she would be, at all alienated
from him by the discovery that had given her so much pain. It wrought in
another way, rather to add a touch of tender and anxious interest to the
affection she had for him. It gave her however much more pain than he
thought. If he had seen the secret tears that fell on his account he would
have been grieved; and if he had known of the many petitions that little
heart made for him--he could hardly have loved her more than he did.
One evening Mr. Carleton had been a long while pacing up and down the deck
in front of little Fleda's nest, thinking and thinking, without coming to
any end. It was a most fair evening, near sunset, the sky without a cloud
except two or three little dainty strips which set off its blue. The ocean
was very quiet, only broken into cheerful mites of waves that seemed to
have nothing to do but sparkle. The sun's rays were almost level now, and
a long path of glory across the sea led off towards his sinking disk.
Fleda sat watching and enjoying it all in her happy fashion, which always
made the most of everything good, and was especially quick in catching any
form of natural beauty.
Mr. Carleton's thoughts were elsewhere; too busy to take note of things
around him. Fleda looked now and then as he passed at his gloomy brow,
wondering what he was thinking of, and wishing that he could have the same
reason to be happy that she had. In one of his turns his eye met her
gentle glance; and vexed and bewildered as he was with study there was
something in that calm bright face that impelled him irresistibly to ask
the little child to set the proud scholar right. Placing himself beside
her, he said,
"Elfie, how do you know there is a God?--what reason have you for thinking
so, out of the Bible?"
It was a strange look little Fleda gave him. He felt it at the time, and
he never forgot it. Such a look of reproach, sorrow, and _pity_, he
afterwards thought, as an angel's face might have worn. The _question_ did
not seem to occupy her a moment. After this answering look she suddenly
pointed to the sinking sun and said,
"Who made that, Mr. Carleton?"
Mr. Carleton's eyes, following the direction of hers, met the long bright
rays whose still witness-bearing was almost too powerful to be borne. The
sun was just dipping majestically into the sea, and its calm
self-assertion seemed to him at that instant hardly stronger than its
vindication of its Author.
A slight arrow may find the joint in the armour before which many
weightier shafts have fallen powerless. Mr. Carleton was an unbeliever no
more from that time.
He borrowed a box of the ear of the Englishman, and swore he would pay
him again when he was able.--Merchant of Venice.
One other incident alone in the course of the voyage deserves to be
mentioned; both because it served to bring out the characters of several
people, and because it was not,--what is?--without its lingering
Thorn and Rossitur had kept up indefatigably the game of teasing Fleda
about her "English admirer," as they sometimes styled him. Poor Fleda
grew more and more sore on the subject. She thought it was very strange
that two grown men could not find enough to do to amuse themselves
without making sport of the comfort of a little child. She wondered they
could take pleasure in what gave her so much pain; but so it was; and
they had it up so often that at last others caught it from them; and
though not in malevolence yet in thoughtless folly many a light remark
was made and question asked of her that set little Fleda's sensitive
nerves a quivering. She was only too happy that they were never said
before Mr. Carleton; that would have been a thousand times worse. As it
was, her gentle nature was constantly suffering from the pain or the fear
of these attacks.
"Where's Mr. Carleton?" said her cousin coming up one day.
"I don't know," said Fleda,--"I don't know but he is gone up into one of
"Your humble servant leaves you to yourself a great while this morning, it
seems to me. He is growing very inattentive."
"I wouldn't permit it, Miss Fleda, if I were you," said Thorn maliciously.
"You let him have his own way too much."
"I wish you wouldn't talk so, cousin Charlton!" said Fleda.
"But seriously," said Charlton, "I think you had better call him to
account. He is very suspicious lately. I have observed him walking by
himself and looking very glum indeed. I am afraid he has taken some fancy
into his head that would not suit you. I advise you to enquire into it."
"I wouldn't give myself any concern about it!" said Thorn lightly,
enjoying the child's confusion and his own fanciful style of
backbiting,--"I'd let him go if he has a mind to, Miss Fleda. He's no such
great catch. He's neither lord nor knight--nothing in the world but a
private gentleman, with plenty of money I dare say, but you don't care for
that;--and there's as good fish in the sea as ever came out of it. I don't
think much of him!"
He is wonderfully better than _you_, thought Fleda as she looked in the
young gentleman's face for a second, but she said nothing.
"Why, Fleda," said Charlton laughing, "it wouldn't be a killing affair,
would it? How has this English admirer of yours got so far in your
fancy?--praising your pretty eyes, eh?--Eh?" he repeated, as Fleda kept a
"No," said Fleda in displeasure,--"he never says such things."
"No?" said Charlton. "What then? What does he say? I wouldn't let him make
a fool of me if I were you. Fleda!--did he ever ask you for a kiss?"
"No!" exclaimed Fleda half beside herself and bursting into tears;--"I
wish you wouldn't talk so! How can you?"
They had carried the game pretty far that time, and thought best to leave
it. Fleda stopped crying as soon as she could, lest somebody should see
her; and was sitting quietly again, alone as before, when one of the
sailors whom she had never spoken to came by, and leaning over towards her
with a leer as he passed, said,
"Is this the young English gentleman's little sweetheart?"
Poor Fleda! She had got more than she could bear. She jumped up and ran
down into the cabin; and in her berth Mrs. Carleton found her some time
afterwards, quietly crying, and most sorry to be discovered. She was
exceeding unwilling to tell what had troubled her. Mrs. Carleton, really
distressed, tried coaxing, soothing, reasoning, promising, in a way the
most gentle and kind that she could use.
"Oh it's nothing--it's nothing," Fleda said at last eagerly,--"it's
because I am foolish--it's only something they said to me."
Again was Fleda most unwilling to answer, and it was after repeated urging
that she at last said,
"Cousin Charlton and Mr. Thorn."
"Charlton and Mr. Thorn!--What did they say? What did they say,
"O it's only that they tease me," said Fleda, trying hard to put an end to
the tears which caused all this questioning, and to speak as if they were
about a trifle. But Mrs. Carleton persisted.
"What do they say to tease you, love? what is it about?--Guy, come in
here and help me to find out what is the matter with Fleda."
Fleda hid her face in Mrs. Carleton's neck, resolved to keep her lips
sealed. Mr. Carleton came in, but to her great relief his question was
directed not to her but his mother.
"Fleda has been annoyed by something those young men, her cousin and Mr.
Thorn, have said to her;--they tease her, she says, and she will not tell
me what it is."
Mr. Carleton did not ask, and he presently left the state-room.
"O I am afraid he will speak to them!" exclaimed Fleda as soon as he was
gone.--"O I oughtn't to have said that!"--
Mrs. Carleton tried to soothe her and asked what she was afraid of. But
Fleda would not say any more. Her anxious fear that she had done mischief
helped to dry her tears, and she sorrowfully resolved she would keep her
griefs to herself next time.
Rossitur and Thorn were in company with a brother officer and friend of
the latter when Mr. Carleton approached them.
"Mr. Rossitur and Mr. Thorn," said he, "you have indulged yourselves in a
style of conversation extremely displeasing to the little girl under my
mother's care. You will oblige me by abandoning it for the future."
There was certainly in Mr. Carleton's manner a sufficient degree of the
cold haughtiness with which he usually expressed displeasure; though his
words gave no other cause of offence. Thorn retorted rather insolently,
"I shall oblige myself in the matter, and do as I think proper."
"I have a right to speak as I please to my own cousin," said Rossitur
sulkily,--"without asking anybody's leave. I don't see what you have to
do with it."
"Simply that she is under my protection and that I will not permit her to
"I don't see how she is under your protection," said Rossitur.
"And I do not see how the potency of it will avail in this case,' said his
"Neither position is to be made out in words," said Mr. Carleton calmly.
"You see that I desire there be no repetition of the offence. The rest I
will endeavour to make clear if I am compelled to it."
"Stop, sir!" said Thorn, as the young Englishman was turning away, adding
with an oath,--"I won't bear this! You shall answer this to me, sir!"
"Easily," said the other.
"And me too," said Rossitur. "You have an account to settle with me,
"I will answer what you please," said Carleton carelessly,--"and as soon
as we get to land--provided you do not in the mean time induce me to
refuse you the honour."
However incensed, the young men endeavoured to carry it off with the same
coolness that their adversary shewed. No more words passed. But Mrs.
Carleton, possibly quickened by Fleda's fears, was not satisfied with the
carriage of all parties, and resolved to sound her son, happy in knowing
that nothing but truth was to be had from him. She found an opportunity
that very afternoon when he was sitting alone on the deck. The
neighbourhood of little Fleda she hardly noticed. Fleda was curled up
among her cushions, luxuriously bending over a little old black Bible
which was very often in her hand at times when she was quiet and had no
observation to fear.
"Reading!--always reading?" said Mrs. Carleton, as she came up and took a
place by her son.
"By no means!" he said, closing his book with a smile;--"not enough to
tire any one's eyes on this voyage, mother."
"I wish you liked intercourse with living society," said Mrs. Carleton,
leaning her arm on his shoulder and looking at him rather wistfully.
"You need not wish that,--when it suits me," he answered.
"But none suits you. Is there any on board?"
"A small proportion," he said, with the slight play of feature which
always effected a diversion of his mother's thoughts, no matter in what
channel they had been flowing.
"But those young men," she said, returning to the charge,--"you hold
yourself very much aloof from them?"
He did not answer, even by a look, but to his mother the perfectly quiet
composure of his face was sufficiently expressive.
"I know what you think, but Guy, you always had the same opinion of them?"
"I have never shewn any other."
"Guy," she said speaking low and rather anxiously,--"have you got into
trouble with those young men?"
"_I_ am in no trouble, mother," he answered somewhat haughtily; "I cannot
speak for them."
Mrs. Carleton waited a moment.
"You have done something to displease them, have you not?"
"They have displeased me, which is somewhat more to the purpose.
"But their folly is nothing to you?"
"No,--not their folly."
"Guy," said his mother, again pausing a minute, and pressing her hand more
heavily upon his shoulder, "you will not suffer this to alter the friendly
terms you have been on?--whatever it be,--let it pass."
"Certainly--if they choose to apologize and behave themselves."
"What, about Fleda?"
"I have no idea they meant to trouble her--I suppose they did not at all
know what they were doing,--thoughtless nonsense,--and they could have had
no design to offend you. Promise me that you will not take any further
notice of this!"
He shook off her beseeching hand as he rose up, and answered haughtily,
and not without something like an oath, that he _would_.
Mrs. Carleton knew him better than to press the matter any further; and
her fondness easily forgave the offence against herself, especially as her
son almost immediately resumed his ordinary manner.
It had well nigh passed from the minds of both parties, when in the
middle of the next day Mr. Carleton asked what had become of Fleda?--he
had not seen her except at the breakfast table. Mrs. Carleton said she
was not well.
"What's the matter?"
"She complained of some headache--I think she made herself sick
yesterday--she was crying all the afternoon, and I could not get her to
tell me what for. I tried every means I could think of, but she would not
give me the least clue--she said 'no' to everything I guessed--I can't
bear to see her do so--it makes it all the worse she does it so
quietly--it was only by a mere chance I found she was crying at all, but I
think she cried herself ill before she stopped. She could not eat a
mouthful of breakfast."
Mr. Carleton said nothing and with a changed countenance went directly
down to the cabin. The stewardess, whom he sent in to see how she was,
brought back word that Fleda was not asleep but was too ill to speak to
her. Mr. Carleton went immediately into the little crib of a state-room.
There he found his little charge, sitting bolt upright, her feet on the
rung of a chair and her hands grasping the top to support herself. Her
eyes were closed, her face without a particle of colour, except the dark
shade round the eyes which bespoke illness and pain. She made no attempt
to answer his shocked questions and words of tender concern, not even by
the raising of an eyelid, and he saw that the intensity of pain at the
moment was such as to render breathing itself difficult. He sent off the
stewardess with all despatch after iced water and vinegar and brandy, and
himself went on an earnest quest of restoratives among the lady passengers
in the cabin, which resulted in sundry supplies of salts and cologne; and
also offers of service, in greater plenty still, which he all refused.
Most tenderly and judiciously he himself applied various remedies to the
suffering child, who could not direct him otherwise than by gently putting
away the things which she felt would not avail her. Several were in vain.
But there was one bottle of strong aromatic vinegar which was destined to
immortalize its owner in Fleda's remembrance. Before she had taken three
whiffs of it her colour changed. Mr. Carleton watched the effect of a few
whiffs more, and then bade the stewardess take away all the other things
and bring him a cup of fresh strong coffee. By the time it came Fleda was
ready for it, and by the time Mr. Carleton had administered the coffee he
saw it would do to throw his mother's shawl round her and carry her up on
deck, which he did without asking any questions. All this while Fleda had
not spoken a word, except once when he asked her if she felt better. But
she had given him, on finishing the coffee, a full look and half smile of
such pure affectionate gratitude that the young gentleman's tongue was
tied for some time after.
With happy skill, when he had safely bestowed Fleda among her cushions on
deck, Mr. Carleton managed to keep off the crowd of busy inquirers after
her well-doing, and even presently to turn his mother's attention another
way, leaving Fleda to enjoy all the comfort of quiet and fresh air at
once. He himself, seeming occupied with other things, did no more but keep
watch over her, till he saw that she was able to bear conversation again.
Then he seated himself beside her and said softly,
[Illustration: Then he seated himself beside her.]
"Elfie,--what were you crying about all yesterday afternoon?"
Fleda changed colour, for soft and gentle as the tone was she heard in
it a determination to have the answer; and looking up beseechingly into
his face she saw in the steady full blue eye that it was a determination
she could not escape from. Her answer was an imploring request that he
would not ask her. But taking one of her little hands and carrying it to
his lips, he in the same tone repeated his question. Fleda snatched away
her hand and burst into very frank tears; Mr. Carleton was silent, but
she knew through silence that he was only quietly waiting for her to
"I wish you wouldn't ask me, sir," said poor Fleda, who still could not
turn her face to meet his eye;--"It was only something that happened
"What was it, Elfie?--You need not be afraid to tell me."
"It was only--what you said to Mrs. Carleton yesterday,--when she was
"About my difficulty with those gentlemen?"
"Yes," said Fleda, with a new gush of tears, as if her grief stirred
afresh at the thought.
Mr. Carleton was silent a moment; and when he spoke there was no
displeasure and more tenderness than usual in his voice.
"What troubled you in that, Elfie? tell me the whole."
"I was sorry, because,--it wasn't right," said Fleda, with a grave
truthfulness which yet lacked none of her universal gentleness and
"What wasn't right?"
"To speak--I am afraid you won't like me to say it, Mr. Carleton."
"I will, Elfie,--for I ask you."
"To speak to Mrs. Carleton so, and besides,--you know what you said, Mr.
"It was _not_ right," said he after a minute,--"and I very seldom
use such an expression, but you know one cannot always be on one's
"But," said Fleda with gentle persistence, "one can always do what
The deuce one can!--thought Mr, Carleton to himself. "Elfie,--was that
all that troubled you?--that I had said what was not right?"
"It wasn't quite that only," said Fleda hesitating,--"What else?"
She stooped her face from his sight and he could but just understand
"I was disappointed--"
"What, in me!"
Her tears gave the answer; she could add to them nothing but an assenting
nod of her head.
They would have flowed in double measure if she had guessed the pain she
had given. Her questioner heard her with a keen pang which did not leave
him for days. There was some hurt pride in it, though other and more
generous feelings had a far larger share. He, who had been admired,
lauded, followed, cited, and envied, by all ranks of his countrymen and
countrywomen;--in whom nobody found a fault that could be dwelt upon amid
the lustre of his perfections and advantages;--one of the first young men
in England, thought so by himself as well as by others;--this little pure
being had been _disappointed_ in him. He could not get over it. He
reckoned the one judgment worth all the others. Those whose direct or
indirect flatteries had been poured at his feet were the proud, the
worldly, the ambitious, the interested, the corrupted;--their praise was
given to what they esteemed, and that, his candour said, was the least
estimable part of him. Beneath all that, this truth-loving,
truth-discerning little spirit had found enough to weep for. She was right
and they were wrong. The sense of this was so keen upon him that it was
tea or fifteen minutes before he could recover himself to speak to his
little reprover. He paced up and down the deck, while Fleda wept more and
more from the fear of having offended or grieved him. But she was soon
reassured on the former point. She was just wiping away her tears, with
the quiet expression of patience her face often wore, when Mr. Carleton
sat down beside her and took one of her hands.
"Elfie," said he,--"I promise you I will never say such a thing again."
He might well call her his good angel, for it was an angelic look the
child gave him. So purely humble, grateful, glad,--so rosy with joyful
hope,--the eyes were absolutely sparkling through tears. But when she saw
that his were not dry, her own overflowed. She clasped her other hand to
his hand and bending down her face affectionately upon it, she wept,--if
ever angels weep,--such tears as they.
"Elfie," said Mr. Carleton, as soon as he could,--"I want you to go down
stairs with me; so dry those eyes, or my mother will be asking all sorts
of difficult questions."
Happiness is a quick restorative. Elfie was soon ready to go where he
They found Mrs. Carleton fortunately wrapped up in a new novel, some
distance apart from the other persons in the cabin. The novel was
immediately laid aside to take Fleda on her lap and praise Guy's nursing.
"But she looks more like a wax figure yet than anything else, don't
"Not like any that ever I saw," said Mr. Carleton gravely. "Hardly
substantial enough. Mother, I have come to tell you I am ashamed of myself
for having given you such cause of offence yesterday."
Mrs. Carleton's quick look, as she laid her hand on her son's arm, said
sufficiently well that she would have excused him from making any apology
rather than have him humble himself in the presence of a third person.
"Fleda heard me yesterday," said he; "it was right she should hear
"Then my dear Guy," said his mother with a secret eagerness which she did
not allow to appear,--"if I may make a condition for my forgiveness, which
you had before you asked for it,--will you grant me one favour?"
"Certainly, mother,--if I can."
"You promise me?"
"As well in one word as in two."
"Promise me that you will never, by any circumstances, allow yourself to
be drawn into--what is called _an affair of honour_."
Mr. Carleton's brow changed, and without making any reply, perhaps to
avoid his mother's questioning gaze, he rose up and walked two or three
times the length of the cabin. His mother and Fleda watched him
"Do you see how you have got me into trouble, Elfie?" said he, stopping
Fleda looked wonderingly, and Mrs. Carleton exclaimed, "What trouble?"
"Elfie," said he, without immediately answering his mother, "what would
your conscience do with two promises both of which cannot be kept?"
"What such promises have you made?" said Mrs Carleton eagerly.
"Let me hear first what Fleda says to my question."
"Why," said Fleda, looking a little bewildered,--"I would keep the
"Not the one first made?" said he smiling.
"No," said Fleda,--"not unless it was the right one."
"But don't you think one ought to keep one's word, in any event?"
"I don't think anything can make it right to do wrong," Fleda said
gravely, and not without a secret trembling consciousness to what point
she was speaking.
He left them and again took several turns up and down the cabin before
he sat down.
"You have not given me your promise yet, Guy," said his mother, whose eye
had not once quitted him. "You said you would."
"I said, if I could."
"I have two honourable meetings of the proscribed kind now on hand, to
which I stand pledged."
Fleda hid her face in an agony. Mrs. Carleton's agony was in every line of
hers as she grasped her son's wrist exclaiming, "Guy, promise me!" She had
words for nothing else. He hesitated still a moment, and then meeting his
mother's look he said gravely and steadily,
"I promise you, mother, I never will."
His mother threw herself upon his breast and hid her face there, too much
excited to have any thought of her customary regard to appearances;
sobbing out thanks and blessings even audibly. Fleda's gentle head was
bowed in almost equal agitation; and Mr. Carleton at that moment had no
doubt that he had chosen well which promise to keep.
There remained however a less agreeable part of the business to manage.
After seeing his mother and Fleda quite happy again, though without
satisfying in any degree the curiosity of the former, Guy went in search
of the two young West Point officers. They were together, but without
Thorn's friend, Capt. Beebee. Him Carleton next sought and brought to the
forward deck where the others were enjoying their cigars; or rather
Charlton Rossitur was enjoying his, with the happy self satisfaction of a
pair of epaulettes off duty. Thorn had too busy a brain to be much of a
smoker. Now, however, when it was plain that Mr. Carleton had something to
say to them, Charlton's cigar gave way to his attention; it was displaced
from his mouth and held in abeyance; while Thorn puffed away more intently
"Gentlemen," Carleton began,--"I gave you yesterday reason to expect that
so soon as circumstances permitted, you should have the opportunity which
offended honour desires of trying sounder arguments than those of reason
upon the offender. I have to tell you to-day that I will not give it you.
I have thought further of it."
"Is it a new insult that you mean by this, sir?" exclaimed Rossitur in
astonishment. Thorn's cigar did not stir.
"Neither new nor old. I mean simply that I have changed my mind."
"But this is very extraordinary!" said Rossitur. "What reason do
"I give none, sir."
"In that case," said Capt. Beebee, "perhaps Mr. Carleton will not object
to explain or unsay the things which gave offence yesterday."
"I apprehend there is nothing to explain, sir,--I think I must have been
understood; and I never take back my words, for I am in the habit of
speaking the truth."
"Then we are to consider this as a further, unprovoked, unmitigated insult
for which you will give neither reason nor satisfaction!" cried Rossitur.
"I have already disclaimed that, Mr. Rossitur."
"Are we, on mature deliberation, considered unworthy of tha _honour_ you
so condescendingly awarded to us yesterday?"
"My reasons have nothing to do with you, sir, nor with your friend; they
are entirely personal to myself."
"Mr. Carleton must be aware," said Capt. Beebee, "that his conduct, if
unexplained, will bear a very strange construction."
Mr. Carleton was coldly silent.
"It never was heard of," the Captain went on,--"that a gentleman declined
both to explain and to give satisfaction for any part of his conduct which
had called for it."
"It never was heard that a _gentleman_ did," said Thorn, removing his
cigar a moment for the purpose of supplying the emphasis which his friend
had carefully omitted to make.
"Will you say, Mr. Carleton," said Rossitur, "that you did not mean to
offend us yesterday in what you said?"
"No, Mr. Rossitur."
"You will not!" cried the Captain.
"No, sir; for your friends had given me, as I conceived, just cause
of displeasure; and I was, and am, careless of offending those who
have done so."
"You consider yourself aggrieved, then, in the first place?" said Beebee.
"I have said so, sir."
"Then," said the Captain, after a puzzled look out to sea, "supposing that
my friends disclaim all intention to offend you in that case--"
"In that case I should be glad, Capt. Beebee, that they had changed their
line of tactics--there is nothing to change in my own."
"Then what are we to understand by this strange refusal of a meeting, Mr.
Carleton? what does it mean?"
"It means one thing in my own mind, sir, and probably another in yours;
but the outward expression I choose to give it is that I will not reward
uncalled-for rudeness with an opportunity of self-vindication."
"You are," said Thorn sneeringly, "probably careless as to the figure your
own name will cut in connection with this story?"
"Entirely so," said Mr. Carleton, eying him steadily.
"You are aware that your character is at our mercy?"
A slight bow seemed to leave at their disposal the very small portion of
his character he conceived to lie in that predicament.
"You will expect to hear yourself spoken of in terms that befit a man who
has cowed out of an engagement he dared not fulfil?"
"Of course," said Carleton haughtily, "by my present refusal I give you
leave to say all that, and as much more as your ingenuity can furnish in
the same style; but not in my hearing, sir."
"You can't help yourself," said Thorn, with the same sneer. "You have rid
yourself of a gentleman's means of protection,--what others will you use?
"I will leave that to the suggestion of the moment. I do not doubt it will
be found fruitful."
Nobody doubted it who looked just then on his steady sparkling eye.
"I consider the championship of yesterday given up of course," Thorn went
on in a kind of aside, not looking at anybody, and striking his cigar
against the guards to clear it of ashes;--"the champion has quitted the
field; and the little princess but lately so walled in with defences must
now listen to whatever knight and squire may please to address to her.
Nothing remains to be seen of her defender but his spurs."
"They may serve for the heels of whoever is disposed to annoy her," said
Mr. Carleton. "He will need them."
He left the group with the same air of imperturbable self-possession which
he had maintained during the conference. But presently Rossitur, who had
his private reasons for wishing to keep friends with an acquaintance who
might be of service in more ways than one, followed him and declared
himself to have been, in all his nonsense to Fleda, most undesirous of
giving displeasure to her temporary guardian, and sorry that it had fallen
out so. He spoke frankly, and Mr. Carleton, with the same cool
gracefulness with which he had carried on the quarrel, waived his
displeasure, and admitted the young gentleman apparently to stand as
before in his favour. Their reconciliation was not an hour old when Capt.
Beebee joined them.
"I am sorry I must trouble you with a word more on this disagreeable
subject, Mr. Carleton," he began, after a ceremonious salutation,--"My
friend, Lieut. Thorn, considers himself greatly outraged by your
determination not to meet him. He begs to ask, by me, whether it is your
purpose to abide by it at all hazards?"
"There is some misunderstanding here, which I greatly regret.--I hope you
will see and excuse the disagreeable necessity I am under of delivering
the rest of my friend's message."
"Say on, sir."
"Mr. Thorn declares that if you deny him the common courtesy which no
gentleman refuses to another, he will proclaim your name with the most
opprobrious adjuncts to all the world, and in place of his former regard
he will hold you in the most unlimited contempt, which he will have no
scruple about shewing on all occasions."
Mr. Carleton coloured a little, but replied coolly,
"I have not lived in Mr. Thorn's favour. As to the rest, I forgive
him!--except indeed he provoke me to measures for which I never will
"Measures!" said the Captain.
"I hope not! for my own self-respect would be more grievously hurt than
his. But there is an unruly spring somewhere about my composition that
when it gets wound up is once in a while too much for me."
"But," said Rossitur, "pardon me,--have you no regard to the effect of his
"You are mistaken, Mr. Rossitur," said Carleton slightly;--this is but
the blast of a bellows,--not the Simoom."
"Then what answer shall I have the honour of carrying back to my friend?"
said Capt. Beebee, after a sort of astounded pause of a few minutes.
"None, of my sending, sir."
Capt. Beebee touched his cap, and went back to Mr. Thorn, to whom he
reported that the young Englishman was thoroughly impracticable, and that
there was nothing to be gained by dealing with him; and the vexed
conclusion of Thorn's own mind, in the end, was in favour of the wisdom of
letting him alone.
In a very different mood, saddened and disgusted, Mr. Carleton shook
himself free of Rossitur and went and stood alone by the guards looking
out upon the sea. He did not at all regret his promise to his mother, nor
wish to take other ground than that he had taken. Both the theory and the
practice of duelling he heartily despised, and he was not weak enough to
fancy that he had brought any discredit upon either his sense or his
honour by refusing to comply with an unwarrantable and barbarous custom.
And he valued mankind too little to be at all concerned about their
judgment in the matter. His own opinion was at all times enough for him.
But the miserable folly and puerility of such an altercation as that in
which he had just been engaged, the poor display of human character, the
little low passions which bad been called up, even in himself, alike
destitute of worthy cause and aim, and which had perhaps but just missed
ending in the death of some and the living death of others,--it all
wrought to bring him back to his old wearying of human nature and
despondent eying of the everywhere jarrings, confusions, and discordances
in the moral world. The fresh sea-breeze that swept by the ship,
roughening the play of the waves, and brushing his own cheek with its
health-bearing wing, brought with it a sad feeling of contrast. Free, and
pure, and steadily directed, it sped on its way, to do its work. And like
it all the rest of the natural world, faithful to the law of its Maker,
was stamped with the same signet of perfection. Only man, in all the
universe, seemed to be at cross purposes with the end of his being. Only
man, of all animate or inanimate things, lived an aimless, fruitless,
broken life,--or fruitful only in evil. How was this? and whence? and when
would be the end? and would this confused mass of warring elements ever be
at peace? would this disordered machinery ever work smoothly, without let
or stop any more, and work out the beautiful something for which sure it
was designed? And could any hand but its first Maker mend the broken wheel
or supply the spring that was wanting?
Has not the Desire of all nations been often sought of eyes that were
never taught where to look for him.
Mr. Carleton was standing still by the guards, looking thoughtfully out to
windward to meet the fresh breeze, as if the Spirit of the Wilderness were
in it and could teach him the truth that the Spirit of the World knew not
and had not to give, when he became sensible of something close beside
him; and looking down met little Fleda's upturned face, with such a look
of purity, freshness, and peace, it said as plainly as ever the dial-plate
of a clock that _that_ little piece of machinery was working right. There
was a sunlight upon it, too, of happy confidence and affection. Mr.
Carleton's mind experienced a sudden revulsion. Fleda might see the
reflection of her own light in his face as he helped her up to a stand
where she could be more on a level with him; putting his arm round her to
guard against any sudden roll of the ship.
"What makes you wear such a happy face?" said he, with an expression half
envious, half regretful.
"I don't know!" said Fleda innocently. "You, I suppose."
He looked as bright as she did, for a minute.
"Were you ever angry, Elfie?"
"I don't know--" said Fleda. "I don't know but I have."
He smiled to see that although evidently her memory could not bring the
charge, her modesty would not deny it.
"Were you not angry yesterday with your cousin and that unmannerly
friend of his?"
"No," said Fleda, a shade crossing her face,--"I was not _angry_ "--
And as she spoke her hand was softly put upon Mr. Carleton's; as if partly
in the fear of what might have grown out of _his_ anger, and partly in
thankfulness to him that he had rendered it unnecessary. There was a
singular delicate timidity and tenderness in the action.
"I wish I had your secret, Elfie," said Mr. Carleton, looking wistfully
into the clear eyes that met his.
"What secret?" said Fleda smiling.
"You say one can always do right--is that the reason you are
happy?--because you follow that out?"
"No," said Fleda seriously. "But I think it is a great deal pleasanter."
"I have no doubt at all of that, neither, I dare say, have the rest of the
world; only somehow when it comes to the point they find it is easier to
do wrong. What's your secret, Elfie?"
"I haven't any secret," said Fleda. But presently, seeming to bethink
herself, she added gently and gravely,
"Aunt Miriam says--"
"She says that when we love Jesus Christ it is easy to please him."
"And do you love him, Elfie?" Mr Carleton asked after a minute.
Her answer was a very quiet and sober "Yes."
He doubted still whether she were not unconsciously using a form of speech
the spirit of which she did not quite realize. That one might "not see and
yet believe," he could understand; but for _affection_ to go forth towards
an unseen object was another matter. His question was grave and acute.
"By what do you judge that you do, Elfie?"
"Why, Mr. Carleton," said Fleda, with an instant look of appeal, "who else
_should_ I love?"
"If not him "--her eye and her voice made sufficiently plain. Mr. Carleton
was obliged to confess to himself that she spoke intelligently, with
deeper intelligence than he could follow. He asked no more questions. Yet
truth shines by its own light, like the sun. He had not perfectly
comprehended her answers, but they struck him as something that deserved
to be understood, and he resolved to make the truth of them his own.
The rest of the voyage was perfectly quiet. Following the earnest advice
of his friend Capt. Beebee, Thorn had given up trying to push Mr. Carleton
to extremity; who on his part did not seem conscious of Thorn's existence.
There the most daintie paradise on ground
Itselfe doth offer to his sober eye,--
-----The painted flowres, the trees upshooting hye,
The dales for shade, the hills for breathing space,
The trembling groves, the christall running by;
And that, which all faire works doth most aggrace,
The art which all that wrought appeared in no place.
They had taken ship for London, as Mr. and Mrs. Carleton wished to visit
home for a day or two before going on to Paris. So leaving Charlton to
carry news of them to the French capital, so soon as he could persuade
himself to leave the English one, they with little Fleda in company posted
down to Carleton, in ----shire.
It was a time of great delight to Fleda, that is, as soon as Mr. Carleton
had made her feel at home in England; and somehow he had contrived to do
that and to scatter some clouds of remembrance that seemed to gather about
her, before they had reached the end of their first day's journey. To be
out of the ship was itself a comfort, and to be alone with kind friends
was much more. With great joy Fleda put her cousin Charlton and Mr. Thorn
at once out of sight and out of mind; and gave herself with even more than
her usual happy readiness to everything the way and the end of the way had
for her. Those days were to be painted days in Fleda's memory.
She thought Carleton was a very odd place. That is, the house, not the
village which went by the same name. If the manner of her two companions
had not been such as to put her entirely at her ease she would have felt
strange and shy. As it was she felt half afraid of losing herself in the
house, to Fleda's unaccustomed eyes it was a labyrinth of halls and
staircases, set with the most unaccountable number and variety of rooms;
old and new, quaint and comfortable, gloomy and magnificent; some with
stern old-fashioned massiveness of style and garniture; others absolutely
bewitching (to Fleda's eyes and understanding) in the rich beauty and
luxuriousness of their arrangements. Mr. Carleton's own particular haunts
were of these; his private room, the little library as it was called, the
library, and the music-room, which was indeed rather a gallery of fine
arts, so many treasures of art were gathered there. To an older and
nice-judging person these rooms would have given no slight indications of
their owner's mind--it had been at work on every corner of them. No
particular fashion had been followed in anything, nor any model consulted
but that which fancy had built to the mind's order. The wealth of years
had drawn together an enormous assemblage of matters, great and small,
every one of which was fitted either to excite fancy, or suggest thought,
or to satisfy the eye by its nice adaptation. And if pride had had the
ordering of them, all these might have been but a costly museum, a
literary alphabet that its possessor could not put together, an ungainly
confession of ignorance on the part of the intellect that could do nothing
with this rich heap of material. But pride was not the genius of the
place. A most refined taste and curious fastidiousness had arranged and
harmonized all the heterogeneous items; the mental hieroglyphics had been
ordered by one to whom the reading of them was no mystery. Nothing struck
a stranger at first entering, except the very rich effect and faultless
air of the whole, and perhaps the delicious facilities for every kind of
intellectual cultivation which appeared on every hand; facilities which it
must be allowed do seem in general _not_ to facilitate the work they are
meant to speed. In this case however it was different. The mind that
wanted them bad brought them together to satisfy its own craving.
These rooms were Guy's peculiar domain. In other parts of the house,
where his mother reigned conjointly with him, their joint tastes had
struck out another style of adornment which might be called a style of
superb elegance. Not superb alone, for taste had not permitted so heavy a
characteristic to be predominant; not merely elegant, for the fineness of
all the details would warrant an ampler word. A larger part of the house
than both these together had been left as generations past had left it, in
various stages of, refinement, comfort and comeliness. It was a day or two
before Fleda found out that it was all one; she thought at first that it
was a collection of several houses that had somehow inexplicably sat down
there with their backs to each other; it was so straggling and irregular a
pile of building, covering so much ground, and looking so very unlike the
different parts to each other. One portion was quite old; the other parts
ranged variously between the present and the far past. After she once
understood this it was a piece of delicious wonderment and musing and
great admiration to Fleda; she never grew weary of wandering round it and
thinking about it, for from a child fanciful meditation was one of her
delights. Within doors she best liked Mr. Carleton's favourite rooms.
Their rich colouring and moderated light and endless stores of beauty and
curiosity made them a place of fascination.
Out of doors she found still more to delight her. Morning, noon, and night
she might be seen near the house gazing, taking in pictures of natural
beauty which were for ever after to hang in Fleda's memory as standards of
excellence in that sort. Nature's hand had been very kind to the place,
moulding the ground in beautiful style. Art had made happy use of the
advantage thus given her; and now what appeared was neither art nor
nature, but a perfection that can only spring from the hands of both.
Fleda's eyes were bewitched. She stood watching the rolling slopes of
green turf, _so_ soft and lovely, and the magnificent trees, that had kept
their ground for ages and seen generations rise and fall before their
growing strength and grandeur. They were scattered here and there on the
lawn, and further back stood on the heights and stretched along the ridges
of the undulating ground, the outposts of a wood of the same growth still
"How do you like it, Elfie?" Mr. Carleton asked her the evening of the
first day, as he saw her for a length of time looking out gravely and
intently from before the hall door.
"I think it is beautiful!" said Fleda. "The ground is a great deal
smoother here than it was at home."
"I'll take you to ride to-morrow," said he smiling, "and shew you rough
"As you did when we came from Montepoole?" raid Fleda rather eagerly.
"Would you like that?"
"Yes, very much,--if _you_ would like it, Mr. Carleton."
"Very well," said he. "So it shall be."
And not a day passed during their short stay that he did not give her one
of those rides. He shewed her rough ground, according to his promise, but
Fleda still thought it did not look much like the mountains "at home." And
indeed unsightly roughnesses had been skilfully covered or removed; and
though a large part of the park, which was a very extensive one, was
wildly broken and had apparently been left as nature left it, the hand of
taste had been there; and many an unsuspected touch instead of hindering
had heightened both the wild and the beautiful character. Landscape
gardening had long been a great hobby of its owner.
"How far does your ground come, Mr Carleton?" inquired Fleda on one of
these rides, when they had travelled a good distance from home.
"Further than you can see, Elfie."
"Further than I can see!--It must be a very large farm!"
"This is not a farm where we are now," said he;--"did you mean
that?--this is the park; we are almost at the edge of it on this side."
"What is the difference between a farm and a park?" said Fleda.
"The grounds of a farm are tilled for profit; a park is an uncultivated
enclosure kept merely for men and women and deer to take pleasure in."
"_I_ have taken a good deal of pleasure in it," said Fleda. "And have you
a farm besides, Mr. Carleton?"
"A good many, Elfie."
Fleda looked surprised, and then remarked that it must be very nice to
have such a beautiful piece of ground just for pleasure.
She enjoyed it to the full during the few days she was there. And one
thing more, the grand piano in the music-room. The first evening of their
arrival she was drawn by the far-off sounds, and Mrs. Carleton seeing it
went immediately to the music-room with her. The room had no light, except
from the moonbeams that stole in through two glass doors which opened upon
a particularly private and cherished part of the grounds, in summer-time
full of flowers; for in the very refinement of luxury delights had been
crowded about this favourite apartment. Mr. Carleton was at the
instrument, playing. Fleda sat down quietly in one corner and
listened,--in a rapture of pleasure she had hardly ever known from any
like source. She did not think it could be greater, till after a time, in
a pause of the music, Mrs. Carleton asked her son to sing a particular
ballad, and that one was followed by two or three more. Fleda left her
corner, she could not contain herself, and favoured by the darkness came
forward and stood quite near; and if the performer bad bad light to see
by, he would have been gratified with the tribute paid to his power by the
unfeigned tears that ran down her cheeks. This pleasure was also repeated
from evening to evening.
"Do you know we set off for Paris to-morrow?" said Mrs. Carleton the last
evening of their stay, as Fleda came up to the door after a prolonged
ramble in the park, leaving Mr. Carleton with one or two gardeners at a
"Yes!" said Fleda, with a sigh that was more than half audible.
"Are you sorry?" said Mrs. Carleton smiling.
"I cannot be glad," said Fleda, giving a sober look over the lawn.
"Then you like Carleton?"
"Very much!--It is a prettier place than Queechy."
"But we shall have you here again, dear Fleda," said Mrs. Carleton
restraining her smile at this, to her, very moderate complement.
"Perhaps not," said Fleda quietly.--"Mr. Carleton said," she added a
minute after with more animation, "that a park was a place for men and
women and deer to take pleasure in. I am sure it is for children too!"
"Did you have a pleasant ride this morning?"
"O very!--I always do. There isn't anything I like so well."
"What, as to ride on horseback with Guy?" said Mrs. Carleton looking
"Unless what, my dear Fleda?"
"Unless, perhaps,--I don't know,--I was going to say, unless perhaps to
hear him sing."
Mrs. Carleton's delight was unequivocally expressed; and she promised
Fleda that she should have both rides and songs there in plenty another
time; a promise upon which Fleda built no trust at all.
The short journey to Pans was soon made. The next morning Mrs. Carleton
making an excuse of her fatigue left Guy to end the care he had rather
taken upon himself by delivering his little charge into the hands of her
friends. So they drove to the Hotel------, Rue------, where Mr. Rossitur
had apartments in very handsome style. The found him alone in the saloon.
"Ha! Carleton--come back again. Just in time--very glad to see you. And
who is this?--Ah, another little daughter for aunt Lucy."
Mr. Rossitur, who gave them this greeting very cordially, was rather a
fine looking man, decidedly agreeable both in person and manner. Fleda was
pleasantly disappointed after what her grandfather had led her to expect.
There might be something of sternness in his expression; people gave him
credit for a peremptory, not to say imperious temper; but if truly, it
could not often meet with opposition. The sense and gentlemanly character
which marked his face and bearing had an air of smooth politeness which
seemed habitual. There was no want of kindness nor even of tenderness in
the way he drew Fleda within his arm and held her there, while he went on
talking to Mr. Carleton; now and then stooping his face to look in at her
bonnet and kiss her, which was his only welcome. He said nothing to her
after his first question.
He was too busy talking to Guy. He seemed to have a great deal to tell
him. There was this for him to see, and that for him to hear, and charming
new things which had been done or doing since Mr. Carleton left Paris. The
impression upon Fleda's mind after listening awhile was that the French
capital was a great Gallery of the Fine Arts, with a magnified likeness of
Mr. Carleton's music room at one end of it. She thought her uncle must be
most extraordinarily fond of pictures and works of art in general, and
must have a great love for seeing company and hearing people sing. This
latter taste Fleda was disposed to allow might be a very reasonable one.
Mr. Carleton, she observed, seemed much more cool on the whole subject.
But meanwhile where was aunt Lucy?--and had Mr. Rossitur forgotten the
little armful that he held so fast and so perseveringly? No, for here was
another kiss, and another look into her face, so kind that Fleda gave him
a piece of her heart from that time.
"Hugh!" said Mr. Rossitur suddenly to somebody she had not seen
before,--"Hugh!--here is your little cousin. Take her off to your mother."
A child came forward at this bidding hardly larger than herself. He was a
slender graceful little figure, with nothing of the boy in his face or
manner; delicate as a girl, and with something almost melancholy in the
gentle sweetness of his countenance. Fleda's confidence was given to it on
the instant, which had not been the case with anything in her uncle, and
she yielded without reluctance the hand he took to obey his father's
command. Before two steps had been taken however, she suddenly broke away
from him and springing to Mr. Carleton's side silently laid her hand in
his. She made no answer whatever to a ligit word or two of kindness that
he spoke just for her ear. She listened with downcast eyes and a lip that
he saw was too unsteady to be trusted, and then after a moment more,
without looking, pulled away her hand and followed her cousin. Hugh did
not once get a sight of her face on the way to his mother's room, but
owing to her exceeding efforts and quiet generalship he never guessed the
cause. There was nothing in her face to raise suspicion when he reached
the door and opening it announced her with,
"Mother, here's cousin Fleda come."
Fleda had seen her aunt before, though several years back, and not long
enough to get acquainted with her. But no matter;--it was her mother's
sister sitting there, whose face gave her so lovely a welcome at that
speech of Hugh's, whose arms were stretched out so eagerly towards her;
and springing to them as to a very haven of rest Fleda wept on her
bosom those delicious tears that are only shed where the heart is at
home. And even before they were dried the ties were knit that bound her
to her new sphere.
"Who came with you, dear Fleda?" said Mrs. Rossitur then. "Is Mrs.
Carleton here? I must go and thank her for bringing you to me."
"_Mr_. Carleton is here," said Hugh.
"I must go and thank him then. Jump down, dear Fleda--I'll be back in
Fleda got off her lap, and stood looking in a kind of enchanted maze,
while her aunt hastily arranged her hair at the glass. Looking, while
fancy and memory were making strong the net in which her heart was caught.
She was trying to see something of her mother in one who had shared her
blood and her affection so nearly. A miniature of that mother was left to
Fleda, and she had studied it till she could hardly persuade herself that
she had not some recollection of the original; and now she thought she
caught a precious shadow of something like it in her aunt Lucy. Not in
those pretty bright eyes which had looked through kind tears so lovingly
upon her; but in the graceful ringlets about the temples, the delicate
contour of the face, and a something, Fleda could only have said it was "a
something," about the mouth _when at rest_, the shadow of her mother's
image rejoiced her heart. Rather that faint shadow of the loved lost one
for little Fleda, than any other form or combination of beauty on earth.
As she stood fascinated, watching the movements of her aunt's light
figure, Fleda drew a long breath with which went off the whole burden of
doubt and anxiety that had lain upon her mind ever since the journey
began. She had not known it was there, but she felt it go. Yet even when
that sigh of relief was breathed, and while fancy and feeling were weaving
their rich embroidery into the very tissue of Fleda's happiness, most
persons would have seen merely that the child looked very sober, and have
thought probably that she felt very tired and strange. Perhaps Mrs.
Rossitur thought so, for again tenderly kissing her before she left the
room she told Hugh to take off her things and make her feel at home.
Hugh upon this made Fleda sit down and proceeded to untie her tippet
strings and take off her coat with an air of delicate tenderness which
shewed he had great pleasure in his task, and which made Fleda take a good
deal of pleasure in it too.
"Are you tired, cousin Fleda?" said he gently.
"No," said Fleda. "O no."
"Charlton said you were tired on board ship."
"I wasn't tired," said Fleda, in not a little surprise; "I liked it
"Then maybe I mistook. I know Charlton said _he_ was tired, and I thought
he said you were too. You know my brother Charlton, don't you?"
"Are you glad to come to Paris?"
"I am glad now," said Fleda. "I wasn't glad before."
"I am very glad," said Hugh. "I think you will like it. We didn't know you
were coming till two or three days ago when Charlton got here. Do you like
to take walks?"
"Yes, very much."
"Father and mother will take us delightful walks in the Tuileries, the
gardens you know, and the Champs Elysees, and Versailles, and the
Boulevards, and ever so many places; and it will be a great deal
pleasanter now you are here. Do you know French?"
"Then you'll have to learn. I'll help you if you will let me. It is very
easy. Did you get my last letter?"
"I don't know," said Fleda,--"the last one I had came with one of aunt
Lucy's, telling me about Mrs. Carleton--I got it just before "--
Alas! before what? Fleda suddenly remembered, and was stopped short. From
all the strange scenes and interests which lately had whirled her along,
her spirit leaped back with strong yearning recollection to her old home
and her old ties; and such a rain of tears witnessed the dearness of what
she had lost and the tenderness of the memory that had let them slip for a
moment, that Hugh was as much distressed as startled. With great
tenderness and touching delicacy he tried to soothe her and at the same
time, though guessing to find out what was the matter, lest he should make
"Just before what?" said he, laying his hand caressingly on his little
cousin's shoulder;--"Don't grieve so, dear Fleda!"
"It was only just before grandpa died," said Fleda.
Hugh had known of that before, though like her he had forgotten it for a
moment. A little while his feeling was too strong to permit any further
attempt at condolence; but as he saw Fleda grow quiet he took courage to
"Was he a good man?" he asked softly.
"Then," said Hugh, "you know he is happy now, Fleda. If he loved Jesus
Christ he is gone to be with him. That ought to make you glad as well
Fleda looked up, though tears were streaming yet, to give that full happy
answer of the eye that no words could do. This was consolation and
sympathy. The two children had a perfect understanding of each other from
that time forward; a fellowship that never knew a break nor a weakening.
Mrs. Rossitur found on her return that Hugh had obeyed her charge to the
letter. He had made Fleda feel at home. They were sitting close together,
Hugh's hand affectionately clasping hers, and he was holding forth on some
subject with a gracious politeness that many of his elders might have
copied; while Fleda listened and assented with entire satisfaction. The
rest of the morning she passed in her aunt's arms; drinking draughts of
pleasure from those dear bright eyes; taking in the balm of gentlest words
of love, and soft kisses, every one of which was felt at the bottom of
Fleda's heart, and the pleasure of talking over her young sorrows with one
who could feel them all and answer with tears as well as words of
sympathy. And Hugh stood by the while looking at his little orphan cousin
as if she might have dropped from the clouds into his mother's lap, a rare
jewel or delicate flower, but much more delicate and precious than they or
any other possible gift.
Hugh and Fleda dined alone. For as he informed her his father never would
have children at the dinner-table when he had company; and Mr. and Mrs.
Carleton and other people were to be there to-day, Fleda made no remark
on the subject, by word or look, but she thought none the less. She
thought it was a very mean fashion. _She_ not come to the table when
strangers were there! And who would enjoy them more? When Mr. Rossitur
and Mr Carleton had dined with her grandfather, had she not taken as much
pleasure in their society, and in the whole thing, as any other one of
the party? And at Carleton, had she not several times dined with a
tableful, and been unspeakably amused to watch the different manners and
characteristics of people who were strange to her? However, Mr. Rossitur
had other notions. So she and Hugh had their dinner in aunt Lucy's
dressing-room, by themselves; and a very nice dinner it was, Fleda
thought; and Rosaline, Mrs. Rossitur's French maid, was well affected and
took admirable care of them. Indeed before the close of the day Rosaline
privately informed her mistress, "qu'elle serait entetee surement de cet
enfant dans trois jours;" and "que son regard vraiment lui serrait le
coeur." And Hugh was excellent company, failing all other, and did the
honours of the table with the utmost thoughtfulness, and amused Fleda the
whole time with accounts of Paris and what they would do and what she
should see; and how his sister Marion was at school at a convent, and
what kind of a place a convent was; and how he himself always staid at
home and learned of his mother and his father; "or by himself," he said,
"just as it happened;" and he hoped they would keep Fleda at home too. So
Fleda hoped exceedingly, but this stern rule about the dining had made
her feel a little shy of her uncle; she thought perhaps he was not kind
and indulgent to children like her aunt Lucy; and if he said she must go
to a convent she would not dare to ask him to let her stay. The next time
she saw him however, she was obliged to change her opinion again, in
part; for he was very kind and indulgent, both to her and Hugh; and more
than that he was very amusing. He shewed her pictures, and told her new
and interesting things; and finding that she listened eagerly he seemed
pleased to prolong her pleasure, even at the expense of a good deal of
his own time.
Mr. Rossitur was a man of cultivated mind and very refined and fastidious
taste. He lived for the pleasures of Art and Literature and the society
where these are valued. For this, and not without some secret love of
display, he lived in Paris; not extravagant in his pleasures, nor silly in
his ostentation, but leading, like a gentleman, as worthy and rational a
life as a man can lead who lives only to himself, with no further thought
than to enjoy the passing hours. Mr. Rossitur enjoyed them elegantly, and
for a man of the world, moderately, bestowing however few of those
precious hours upon his children. It was his maxim that they should be
kept out of the way whenever their presence might by any chance interfere
with the amusements of their elders; and this maxim, a good one certainly
in some hands, was in his reading of it a very broad one. Still when he
did take time to give his family he was a delightful companion to those of
them who could understand him. If they shewed no taste for sensible
pleasure he had no patience with them nor desire of their company. Report
had done him no wrong in giving him a stern temper; but this almost never
came out in actual exercise; Fleda knew it only from an occasional hint
now and then, and by her childish intuitive reading of the lines it had
drawn round the mouth and brow. It had no disagreeable bearing on his
everyday life and manner; and the quiet fact probably served but to
heighten the love and reverence in which his family held him very high.
Mr. Rossitur did once moot the question whether Fleda should not join
Marion at her convent. But his wife looked very grave and said that she
was too tender and delicate a little thing to be trusted to the hands of
strangers; Hugh pleaded, and argued that she might share all his lessons;
and Fleda's own face pleaded more powerfully. There was something
appealing in its extreme delicacy and purity which seemed to call for
shelter and protection from every rough breath of the world; and Mr.
Rossitur was easily persuaded to let her remain in the stronghold of home.
Hugh had never quitted it. Neither father nor mother ever thought of such
a thing. He was the cherished idol of the whole family. Always a delicate
child, always blameless in life and behaviour, his loveliness of mind and
person, his affectionateness, the winning sweetness that was about him
like a halo, and the slight tenure by which they seemed to hold him, had
wrought to bind the hearts of father and mother to this child, as it were,
with the very life-strings of both. Not his mother was more gentle with
Hugh than his much sterner father. And now little Fleda, sharing somewhat
of Hugh's peculiar claims upon their tenderness and adding another of her
own, was admitted, not to the same place in their hearts,--that could not
be,--but to their honour be it spoken, to the same place in all outward
shew of thought and feeling. Hugh had nothing that Fleda did not have,
even to the time, care, and caresses of his parents. And not Hugh rendered
them a more faithful return of devoted affection.
[Illustration: The children were always together.]
Once made easy on the question of school, which was never seriously
stirred again, Fleda's life became very happy. It was easy to make her
happy; affection and sympathy would have done it almost anywhere; but in
Paris she had much more; and after time had softened the sorrow she
brought with her, no bird ever found existence less of a burden, nor sang
more light-heartedly along its life. In her aunt she had all but the name
of a mother; in her uncle, with kindness and affection, she had amusement,
interest, and improvement; in Hugh everything;--love, confidence,
sympathy, society, help; their tastes, opinions, pursuits, went hand in
hand. The two children were always together. Fleda's spirits were brighter
than Hugh's, and her intellectual tastes stronger and more universal. That
might be as much from difference of physical as of mental constitution.
Hugh's temperament led him somewhat to melancholy, and to those studies
and pleasures which best side with subdued feeling and delicate nerves.
Fleda's nervous system was of the finest too, but, in short, she was as
like a bird as possible. Perfect health, which yet a slight thing was
enough to shake to the foundation;--joyous spirits, which a look could
quell;--happy energies, which a harsh hand might easily crush for ever.
Well for little Fleda that so tender a plant was permitted to unfold in so
nicely tempered an atmosphere. A cold wind would soon have killed it.
Besides all this there were charming studies to be gone through every day
with Hugh; some for aunt Lucy to hear, some for masters and mistresses.
There were amusing walks in the Boulevards, and delicious pleasure taking
in the gardens of Paris, and a new world of people and manners and things
and histories for the little American. And despite her early rustic
experience Fleda had from nature an indefeasible taste for the elegancies
of life; it suited her well to see all about her, in dress, in furniture,
in various appliances, as commodious and tasteful as wealth and refinement
could contrive it; and she very soon knew what was right in each kind.
There were now and then most gleeful excursions in the environs of Paris,
when she and Hugh found in earth and air a world of delights more than
they could tell anybody but each other. And at home, what peaceful times
they two had,--what endless conversations, discussions, schemes,
air-journeys of memory and fancy, backward and forward; what sociable
dinners alone, and delightful evenings with Mr. and Mrs. Rossitur in the
saloon when nobody or only a very few people were there; how pleasantly in
those evenings the foundations were laid of a strong and enduring love for
the works of art, painted, sculptured, or engraven, what a multitude of
curious and excellent bits of knowledge Fleda's ears picked up from the
talk of different people. They were capital ears; what they caught they
never let fall. In the course of the year her gleanings amounted to more
than many another person's harvest.
Heav'n bless thee;
Thou hast the sweetest face I ever look'd on.
One of the greatest of Fleda's pleasures was when Mr. Carleton came to
take her out with him. He did that often. Fleda only wished he would have
taken Hugh too, but somehow he never did. Nothing but that was wanting to
make the pleasure of those times perfect. Knowing that she saw the _common
things_ in other company, Guy was at the pains to vary the amusement when
she went with him. Instead of going to Versailles or St. Cloud, he would
take her long delightful drives into the country and shew her some old or
interesting place that nobody else went to see. Often there was a history
belonging to the spot, which Fleda listened to with the delight of eye and
fancy at once. In the city, where they more frequently walked, still he
shewed her what she would perhaps have seen under no other guidance. He
made it his business to give her pleasure; and understanding the
inquisitive active little spirit he had to do with he went where his own
tastes would hardly have led him. The Quai aux Fleurs was often visited,
but also the Halle aux Bles, the great Halle aux Vins, the Jardin des
Plantes, and the Marche des Innocens. Guy even took the trouble, more for
her sake than his own, to go to the latter place once very early in the
morning, when the market-bell had not two hours sounded, while the
interest and prettiness of the scene were yet in their full life. Hugh was
in company this time, and the delight of both children was beyond words,
as it would have been beyond anybody's patience that had not a strong
motive to back it. They never discovered that Mr. Carleton was in a hurry,
as indeed he was not. They bargained for fruit with any number of people,
upon all sorts of inducements, and to an extent of which they had no
competent notion, but Hugh had his mother's purse, and Fleda was skilfully
commissioned to purchase what she pleased for Mrs. Carleton. Verily the
two children that morning bought pleasure, not peaches. Fancy and
Benevolence held the purse strings, and Economy did not even look on. They
revelled too, Fleda especially, amidst the bright pictures of the odd, the
new, and the picturesque, and the varieties of character and incident,
that were displayed around them; even till the country people began to go
away and the scene to lose its charm. It never lost it in memory; and many
a time in after life Hugh and Fleda recurred to something that was seen
or done "that morning when we bought fruit at the Innocens."
Besides these scenes of everyday life, which interested and amused Fleda
to the last degree, Mr. Carleton shewed her many an obscure part of Paris
where deeds of daring and of blood had been, and thrilled the little
listener's ear with histories of the Past. He judged her rightly. She
would rather at any time have gone to walk with him, than with anybody
else to see any show that could be devised. His object in all this was in
the first place to give her pleasure, and in the second place to draw out
her mind into free communion with his own, which he knew could only be
done by talking sense to her. He succeeded as he wished. Lost in the
interest of the scenes he presented to her eye and mind, she forgot
everything else and shewed him herself; precisely what he wanted to see.
It was strange that a young man, an admired man of fashion, a flattered
favourite of the gay and great world, and furthermore a reserved and proud
repeller of almost all who sought his intimacy, should seek and delight in
the society of a little child. His mother would have wondered if she had
known it. Mrs. Rossitur did marvel that even Fleda should have so won upon
the cold and haughty young Englishman; and her husband said he probably
chose to have Fleda with him because he could make up his mind to like
nobody else. A remark which perhaps arose from the utter failure of every
attempt to draw him and Charlton nearer together. But Mr. Rossitur was
only half right. The reason lay deeper.
Mr. Carleton had admitted the truth of Christianity, upon what he
considered sufficient grounds, and would now have steadily fought for it,
as he would for anything else that he believed to be truth. But there he
stopped. He had not discovered nor tried to discover whether the truth of
Christianity imposed any obligation upon him. He had cast off his
unbelief, and looked upon it now as a singular folly. But his belief was
almost as vague and as fruitless as his infidelity had been. Perhaps, a
little, his bitter dissatisfaction with the world and human things, or
rather his despondent view of them, was mitigated. If there was, as he now
held, a Supreme Orderer of events, it might be, and it was rational to
suppose there would be, in the issues of time, an entire change wrought in
the disordered and dishonoured state of his handiwork. There might be a
remedial system somewhere,--nay, it might be in the Bible; he meant to
look some day. But that _he_ had anything to do with that change--that the
working of the remedial system called for hands--that _his_ had any charge
in the matter had never entered into his imagination or stirred his
conscience. He was living his old life at Paris, with his old
dissatisfaction, perhaps a trifle less bitter. He was seeking pleasure in
whatever art, learning, literature, refinement, and luxury can do for a
man who has them all at command; but there was something within him that
spurned this ignoble existence and called for higher aims and worthier
exertion. He was not vicious, he never had been vicious, or, as somebody
else said, his vices were all refined vices; but a life of mere
self-indulgence although pursued without self-satisfaction, is constantly
lowering the standard and weakening the forces of virtue,--lessening the
whole man. He felt it so; and to leave his ordinary scenes and occupations
and lose a morning with little Fleda was a freshening of his better
nature; it was like breathing pure air after the fever heat of a sick
room; it was like hearing the birds sing after the meaningless jabber of
Bedlam. Mr. Carleton indeed did not put the matter quite so strongly to
himself. He called Fleda his good angel. He did not exactly know that the
office this good angel performed was simply to hold a candle to his
conscience. For conscience was not by any means dead in him; it only
wanted light to see by. When he turned from the gay and corrupt world in
which he lived, where the changes were rung incessantly upon
self-interest, falsehood, pride, and the various more or less refined
forms of sensuality, and when he looked upon that pure bright little face,
so free from selfishness, those clear eyes so innocent of evil, the
peaceful brow under which a thought of double-dealing had never hid, Mr.
Carleton felt himself in a healthier region. Here as elsewhere, he
honoured and loved the image of truth; in the broad sense of truth;--that
which suits the perfect standard of right. But his pleasure in this case
was invariably mixed with a slight feeling of self-reproach; and it was
this hardly recognised stir of his better nature, this clearing of his
mental eye-sight under the light of a bright example, that made him call
the little torch-bearer his good angel. If this were truth, this purity,
uprightness, and singleness of mind, as conscience said it was, where was
he? how far wandering from his beloved Idol!
One other feeling saddened the pleasure he had in her society--a belief
that the ground of it could not last. "If she could grow up so!"--he said
to himself. "But it is impossible. A very few years, and all that clear
sunshine of the mind will be overcast;--there is not a cloud now!"--
Under the working of these thoughts Mr. Carleton sometimes forgot to
talk to his little charge, and would walk for a length of way by her
side wrapped up in sombre musings. Fleda never disturbed him then, but
waited contentedly and patiently for him to come out of them, with her
old feeling wondering what he could be thinking of and wishing he were
as happy as she. But he never left her very long; he was sure to waive
his own humour and give her all the graceful kind attention which nobody
else could bestow so well. Nobody understood and appreciated it better
One day, some months after they had been in Paris, they were sitting in
the Place de la Concorde, Mr. Carleton was in one of these thinking fits.
He had been giving Fleda a long detail of the scenes that had taken place
in that spot--a history of it from the time when it had lain an unsightly
waste;--such a graphic lively account as he knew well how to give. The
absorbed interest with which she had lost everything else in what he was
saying had given him at once reward and motive enough as he went on.
Standing by his side, with one little hand confidingly resting on his
knee, she gazed alternately into his face and towards the broad
highly-adorned square by the side of which they had placed themselves, and
where it was hard to realize that the ground had once been soaked in blood
while madness and death filled the air; and her changing face like a
mirror gave him back the reflection of the times he held up to her view.
And still standing there in the same attitude after he had done she had
been looking out towards the square in a fit of deep meditation. Mr.
Carleton had forgotten her for awhile in his own thoughts, and then the
sight of the little gloved hand upon his knee brought him back again.
"What are you musing about, Elfie, dear?" he said cheerfully, taking the
hand in one of his.
Fleda gave a swift glance into his face, as if to see whether it would be
safe for her to answer his question; a kind of exploring look, in which
her eyes often acted as scouts for her tongue. Those she met pledged their
faith for her security; yet Fleda's look went back to the square and then