Part 6 out of 18
It was a weary party that gathered round the supper-table that night,
weary it seemed as much in mind as in body; and the meal exerted its
cheering influence over only two of them; Mr. and Mrs. Rossitur sipped
their cups of tea abstractedly.
"I don't believe that fellow Donohan knows much about his business,"
remarked the former at length.
"Why don't you get somebody else, then?" said his wife.
"I happen to have engaged him, unfortunately."
"What doesn't he know?"
Mr. Rossitur laughed, not a pleasant laugh.
"It would take too long to enumerate. If you had asked me what part of
his business he _does_ understand, I could have told you shortly that I
"But you do not understand it very well yourself. Are you sure?"
"Am I sure of what?"
"That this man does not know his business?"
"No further sure than I can have confidence in my own common sense."
"What will you do?" said Mrs. Rossitur after a moment
A question men are not fond of answering, especially when they have
not made up their minds. Mr. Rossitur was silent, and his wife too,
"If I could get some long-headed Yankee to go along with him"--he remarked
again, balancing his spoon on the edge of his cup in curious illustration
of his own mental position at the moment; Donohan being the only fixed
point and all the rest wavering in uncertainty. There were a few silent
minutes before anybody answered.
"If you want one and don't know of one, uncle Rolf," said Fleda, "I dare
say cousin Seth might."
That gentle modest speech brought his attention round upon her. His
"Cousin Seth? who is cousin Seth?"
"He is aunt Miriam's son," said Fleda. "Seth Plumfield. He's a very good
farmer, I know; grandpa used to say he was; and he knows everybody."
"Mrs. Plumfield," said Mrs. Rossitur, as her husband's eyes went
inquiringly to her,--"Mrs. Plumfield was Mr. Ringgan's sister, you
remember. This is her son."
"Cousin Seth, eh?" said Mr. Rossitur dubiously. "Well--Why Fleda, your
sweet air don't seem to agree with you, as far as I see; I have not known
you look so--so _triste_--since we left Paris. What have you been doing,
"She has been doing everything, father," said Hugh.
"O! it's nothing," said Fleda, answering Mr. Rossitur's look and tone of
affection with a bright smile. "I'm a little tired, that's all."
'A little tired!' She went to sleep on the sofa directly after supper and
slept like a baby all the evening; but her power did not sleep with her;
for that quiet, sweet, tired face, tired in their service, seemed to bear
witness against the indulgence of anything harsh or unlovely in the same
atmosphere. A gentle witness-bearing, but strong in its gentleness. They
sat close together round the fire, talked softly, and from time to time
cast loving glances at the quiet little sleeper by their side. They did
not know that she was a fairy, and that though her wand had fallen out of
her hand it was still resting upon them.
_Gon_. Here is everything advantageous to lift.
_Ant_. True; save means to live.
Fleda's fatigue did not prevent her being up before sunrise the next day.
Fatigue was forgotten, for the light of a fair spring morning was shining
in at her windows and she meant to see aunt Miriam before breakfast. She
ran out to find Hugh, and her merry shout reached him before she did, and
brought him to meet her.
"Come, Hugh!--I'm going off up to aunt Miriam's, and I want you. Come!
Isn't this delicious?"
"Hush!--" said Hugh. "Father's just here in the barn. I can't go, Fleda."
Fleda's countenance clouded.
"Can't go! what's the matter?--can't you go, Hugh?"
He shook his head and went off into the barn.
A chill came upon Fleda. She turned away with a very sober step. What if
her uncle was in the barn, why should she hush? He never had been a check
upon her merriment, never; what was coming now? Hugh too looked disturbed.
It was a spring morning no longer. Fleda forgot the glittering wet grass
that had set her own eyes a sparkling but a minute ago; she walked along,
cogitating, swinging her bonnet by the strings in thoughtful
vibration,--till by the help of sunlight and sweet air, and the loved
scenes, her spirits again made head and swept over the sudden hindrance
they had met. There were the blessed old sugar maples, seven in number,
that fringed the side of the road,--how well Fleda knew them. Only
skeletons now, but she remembered how beautiful they looked after the
October frosts; and presently they would be putting out their new green
leaves and be beautiful in another way. How different in their free-born
luxuriance from the dusty and city-prisoned elms and willows she had
left. She came to the bridge then, and stopped with a thrill of pleasure
and pain to look and listen, Unchanged!--all but herself. The mill was not
going; the little brook went by quietly chattering to itself, just as it
had done the last time she saw it, when she rode past on Mr. Carleton's
horse. Four and a half years ago!--And now how strange that she had come
to live there again.
Drawing a long breath, and swinging her bonnet again, Fleda softly went on
up the hill; past the saw-mill, the ponds, the factories, the houses of
the settlement. The same, and not the same!--Bright with the morning sun,
and yet somehow a little browner and homelier than of old they used to be.
Fleda did not care for that; she would hardly acknowledge it to herself;
her affection never made any discount for infirmity. Leaving the little
settlement behind her thoughts as behind her back, she ran on now towards
aunt Miriam's, breathlessly, till field after field was passed and her eye
caught a bit of the smooth lake and the old farmhouse in its old place.
Very brown it looked, but Fleda dashed on, through the garden and in at
the front door.
Nobody at all was in the entrance room, the common sitting-room of the
family. With trembling delight Fleda opened the well-known door and stole
noiselessly through the little passage-way to the kitchen. The door of
that was only on the latch and a gentle movement of it gave to Fleda's eye
the tall figure of aunt Miriam, just before her, stooping down to look in
at the open mouth of the oven which she was at that moment engaged in
supplying with more work to do. It was a huge one, and beyond her aunt's
head Fleda could see in the far end the great loaves of bread, half baked,
and more near a perfect squad of pies and pans of gingerbread just going
in to take the benefit of the oven's milder mood. Fleda saw all this as it
were without seeing it; she stood still as a mouse and breathless till her
aunt turned; and then, a spring and a half shout of joy, and she had
clasped her in her arms and was crying with her whole heart. Aunt Miriam
was taken all aback; she could do nothing but sit down and cry too and
forget her oven door.
"Ain't breakfast ready yet, mother?" said a manly voice coming in. "I must
be off to see after them ploughs. Hollo!--why mother!--"
The first exclamation was uttered as the speaker put the door to the
oven's mouth; the second as he turned in quest of the hand that should
have done it. He stood wondering, while his mother and Fleda between
laughing and crying tried to rouse themselves and look up.
"What is all this?"
"Don't you see, Seth?"
"I see somebody that had like to have spoiled your whole baking--I don't
know who it is, yet."
"Don't you now, cousin Seth?" said Fleda shaking away her tears and
"I ha'n't quite lost my recollection. Cousin, you must give me a
kiss.--How do you do? You ha'n't forgot how to colour, I see, for all
you've been so long among the pale city-folks."
"I haven't forgotten any thing, cousin Seth," said Fleda, blushing indeed
but laughing and shaking his hand with as hearty good-will.
"I don't believe you have,--anything that is good," said he. "Where have
you been all this while?"
"O part of the time in New York, and part of the time in Paris, and some
"Well you ha'n't seen anything better than Queechy, or Queechy bread and
butter, have you?"
"Come, you shall give me another kiss for that," said he, suiting the
action to the word;--"and now sit down and eat as much bread and butter as
you can. It's just as good as it used to be. Come mother!--I guess
breakfast is ready by the looks of that coffee-pot."
"Breakfast ready!" said Fleda.
"Ay indeed; it's a good half hour since it ought to ha' been ready. If it
ain't I can't stop for it. Them boys will be running their furrows like
sarpents 'f I ain't there to start them."
"Which like serpents," said Fleda,--"the furrows or the men?"
"Well, I was thinking of the furrows," said he glancing at her;--"I guess
there ain't cunning enough in the others to trouble them. Come sit down,
and let me see whether you have forgotten a Queechy appetite."
"I don't know," said Fleda doubtfully,--"they will expect me at home."
"I don't care who expects you--sit down! you ain't going to eat any
bread and butter this morning but my mother's--you haven't got any like
it at your house. Mother, give her a cup of coffee, will you, and set
her to work."
Fleda was too willing to comply with the invitation, were it only for the
charm of old times. She had not seen such a table for years, and little as
the conventionalities of delicate taste were known there, it was not
without a comeliness of its own in its air of wholesome abundance and the
extreme purity of all its arrangements. If but a piece of cold pork were
on aunt Miriam's table, it was served with a nicety that would not have
offended the most fastidious; and amid irregularities that the fastidious
would scorn, there was a sound excellence of material and preparation
that they very often fail to know. Fleda made up her mind she would be
wanted at home; all the rather perhaps for Hugh's mysterious "hush"; and
there was something in the hearty kindness and truth of these friends that
she felt particularly genial. And if there was a lack of silver at the
board its place was more than filled with the pure gold of association.
They sat down to table, but aunt Miriam's eyes devoured Fleda. Mr. Plum
field set about his more material breakfast with all despatch.
[Illustration: "They will expect me at home."]
"So Mr. Rossitur has left the city for good," said aunt Miriam. "How does
he like it?"
"He hasn't been here but a day, you know, aunt Miriam," said Fleda
"Is he anything of a farmer?" asked her cousin.
"Not much," said Fleda.
"Is he going to work the farm himself?"
"How do you mean?"
"I mean, is he going to work the farm himself, or hire it out, or let
somebody else work it on shares?"
"I don't know," said Fleda;--"I think he is going to have a farmer and
oversee things himself."
"He'll get sick o' that," said Seth; "unless he's the luck to get hold of
just the right hand."
"Has he hired anybody yet?" said aunt Miriam, after a little interval of
supplying Fleda with 'bread and butter.'
"Yes ma'am, I believe so."
"What's his name?"
"Donohan,--an Irishman, I believe; uncle Rolf hired him in New York."
"For his head man?" said Seth, with a sufficiently intelligible look.
"Yes," said Fleda. "Why?"
But he did not immediately answer her.
"The land's in poor heart now," said he, "a good deal of it; it has been
wasted; it wants first-rate management to bring it in order and make much
of it for two or three years to come. I never see an Irishman's head yet
that was worth more than a joke. Their hands are all of 'em that's good
"I believe uncle Rolf wants to have an American to go with this man,"
Seth said nothing, but Fleda understood the shake of his head as he
reached over after a pickle.
"Are you going to keep a dairy, Fleda?" said her aunt.
"I don't know, ma'am;--I haven't heard anything about it."
"Does Mrs. Rossitur know anything about country affairs?"
"No--nothing," Fleda said, her heart sinking perceptibly with every
"She hasn't any cows yet?"
_She_!--any cows!--But Fleda only said they had not come; she believed
they were coming.
"What help has she got?"
"Two women--Irishwomen," said Fleda.
"Mother you'll have to take hold and learn her," said Mr. Plumfield.
"Teach _her_?" cried Fleda, repelling the idea;--"aunt Lucy? she cannot do
anything--she isn't strong enough;--not anything of that kind."
"What did she come here for?" said Seth.
"You know," said his mother, "that Mr. Rossitur's circumstances obliged
him to quit New York."
"Ay, but that ain't my question. A man had better keep his fingers off
anything he can't live by. A farm's one thing or t'other, just as it's
worked. The land won't grow specie--it must be fetched out of it. Is Mr.
Rossitur a smart man?"
"Very," Fleda said, "about everything but farming."
"Well if he'll put himself to school maybe, he'll learn," Seth concluded
as he finished his breakfast and went off. Fleda rose too, and was
standing thoughtfully by the fire, when aunt Miriam came up and put her
arms round her. Fleda's eyes sparkled again.
"You're not changed--you're the same little Fleda," she said.
"Not quite so little," said Fleda smiling.
"Not quite so little, but my own darling. The world hasn't spoiled
"I hope not, aunt Miriam."
"You have remembered your mother's prayer, Fleda?"
How tenderly aunt Miriam's hand was passed over the bowed head,--how
fondly she pressed her. And Fleda's answer was as fond.
"I wanted to bring Hugh up to see you, aunt Miriam, with me, but he
couldn't come. You will like Hugh. He is so good!"
"I will come down and see him," said aunt Miriam; and then she went to
look after her oven's doings. Fleda stood by, amused to see the quantities
of nice things that were rummaged out of it. They did not look like Mrs.
Renney's work, but she knew from old experience that they were good.
"How early you must have been up, to put these things in," said Fleda.
"Put them in! yes, and make them. These were all made this morning,
"This morning!--before breakfast! Why the sun was only just rising when I
set out to come up the hill; and I wasn't long coming, aunt Miriam."
"To be sure; that's the way to get things done. Before breakfast!--What
time do you breakfast, Fleda?"
"Not till eight or nine o'clock."
"Eight or nine!--_Here?_"
"There hasn't been any change made yet, and I don't suppose there will be.
Uncle Rolf is always up early, but he can't bear to have breakfast early."
Aunt Miriam's face showed what she thought; and Fleda went away with all
its gravity and doubt settled like lead upon her heart. Though she had one
of the identical apple pies in her hands, which aunt Miriam had quietly
said was "for her and Hugh," and though a pleasant savour of old times was
about it, Fleda could not get up again the bright feeling with which she
had come up the hill. There was a miserable misgiving at heart. It would
work off in time.
It had begun to work off, when at the foot of the hill she met her uncle.
He was coming after her to ask Mr. Plumfield about the desideratum of a
Yankee. Fleda put her pie in safety behind a rock, and turned back with
him, and aunt Miriam told them the way to Seth's ploughing ground.
A pleasant word or two had get Fleda's spirits a bounding again, and the
walk was delightful. Truly the leaves were not on the trees, but it was
April, and they soon would be; there was promise in the light, and hope in
the air, and everything smelt of the country and spring-time. The soft
tread of the sod, that her foot had not felt for so long,--the fresh look
of the newly-turned earth,--here and there the brilliance of a field of
winter grain,--and that nameless beauty of the budding trees, that the
full luxuriance of summer can never equal,--Fleda's heart was springing
for sympathy. And to her, with whom association was everywhere so strong,
there was in it all a shadowy presence of her grandfather, with whom she
had so often seen the spring-time bless those same hills and fields long
ago. She walked on in silence, as her manner commonly was when deeply
pleased; there were hardly two persons to whom she would speak her mind
freely then. Mr. Kossitur had his own thoughts.
"Can anything equal the spring-time!" she burst forth at length.
Her uncle looked at her and smiled. "Perhaps not; but it is one thing,"
said he sighing, "for taste to enjoy and another thing for calculation
"But one can do both, can't one?" said Fleda brightly.
"I don't know," said he sighing again. "Hardly."
Fleda knew he was mistaken and thought the sighs out of place. But they
reached her; and she had hardly condemned them before they set her off
upon a long train of excuses for him, and she had wrought herself into
quite a fit of tenderness by the time they reached her cousin.
They found him on a gentle side-hill, with two other men and teams, both
of whom were stepping away in different parts of the field. Mr. Plumfield
was just about setting off to work his way to the other side of the lot
when they came up with him.
Fleda was not ashamed of her aunt Miriam's son, even before such critical
eyes as those of her uncle. Farmer-like as were his dress and air, they
shewed him nevertheless a well-built, fine-looking man, with the
independent bearing of one who has never recognised any but mental or
moral superiority. His face might have been called handsome; there was at
least manliness in every line of it; and his excellent dark eye shewed an
equal mingling of kindness and acute common sense. Let Mr. Plumfield wear
what clothes he would one felt obliged to follow Burns' notable example
and pay respect to the _man_ that was in them.
"A fine day, sir," he remarked to Mr. Rossitur after they had
"Yes, and I will not interrupt you but a minute. Mr. Plumfield, I am in
want of hands,--hands for this very business you are about,
ploughing,--and Fleda says you know everybody; so I have come to ask if
you can direct me."
"Heads or hands, do you want?" said Seth, clearing his boot-sole from some
superfluous soil upon the share of his plough.
"Why both, to tell you the truth. I want hands, and teams, for that
matter, for I have only two, and I suppose there is no time to be lost.
And I want very much to get a person thoroughly acquainted with the
business to go along with my man. He is an Irishman, and I am afraid not
very well accustomed to the ways of doing things here."
"Like enough," said Seth;--"and the worst of 'em is you can't learn 'em."
"Well!--can you help me?"
"Mr. Douglass!"--said Seth, raising his voice to speak to one of his
assistants who was approaching them,--"Mr. Douglass!--you're holding that
'ere plough a little too obleekly for my grounds."
"Very good, Mr. Plumfield!" said the person called upon, with a quick
accent that intimated, "If you don't know what is best it is not my
affair!"--the voice very peculiar, seeming to come from no lower than the
top of his throat, with a guttural roll of the words.
"Is that Earl Douglass?" said Fleda.
"You remember him?" said her cousin smiling. "He's just where he was, and
his wife too.--Well Mr. Rossitur, 'tain't very easy to find what you want
just at this season, when most folks have their hands full and help is all
taken up. I'll see if I can't come down and give you a lift myself with
the ploughing, for a day or two, as I'm pretty beforehand with the spring,
but you'll want more than that. I ain't sure--I haven't more hands than
I'll want myself, but I think it is possible Squire Springer may spare you
one of his'n. He ain't taking in any new land this year, and he's got
things pretty snug; I guess he don't care to do any more than
common--anyhow you might try. You know where uncle Joshua lives, Fleda?
Well Philetus--what now?"
They had been slowly walking along the fence towards the furthest of Mr.
Plumfield's coadjutors, upon whom his eye had been curiously fixed as he
was speaking; a young man who was an excellent sample of what is called
"the raw material." He had just come to a sudden stop in the midst of the
furrow when his employer called to him; and he answered somewhat
"Why I've broke this here clevis--I ha'n't touched anything nor nothing,
and it broke right in teu!"
"What do you s'pose'll be done now?" said Mr. Plumfield gravely going up
to examine the fracture.
"Well 'twa'n't none of my doings," said the young man. "I ha'n't touched
anything nor nothing--and the mean thing broke right in teu. 'Tain't so
handy as the old kind o' plough, by a long jump."
"You go 'long down to the house and ask my mother for a new clevis; and
talk about ploughs when you know how to hold 'em," said Mr. Plumfield.
"It don't look so difficult a matter," said Mr. Rossitur,--"but I am a
novice myself. What is the principal thing to be attended to in ploughing,
There was a twinkle in Seth's eye, as he looked down upon a piece of straw
he was breaking to bits, which Fleda, who could see, interpreted
"Well," said he, looking up,--"the breadth of the stitches and the width
and depth of the farrow must be regulated according to the nature of the
soil and the lay of the ground, and what you're ploughing for;--there's
stubble ploughing, and breaking up old lays, and ploughing for fallow
crops, and ribbing, where the land has been some years in grass,--and so
on; and the plough must be geared accordingly, and so as not to take too
much land nor go out of the land; and after that the best part of the work
is to guide the plough right and run the furrows straight and even."
He spoke with the most impenetrable gravity, while Mr. Rossitur looked
blank and puzzled. Fleda could hardly keep her countenance.
"That row of poles," said Mr. Rossitur presently,--"are they to guide you
in running the furrow straight?"
"Yes sir--they are to mark out the crown of the stitch. I keep 'em right
between the horses and plough 'em down one after another. It's a kind of
way country folks play at ninepins," said Seth, with a glance half
inquisitive, half sly, at his questioner.
Mr. Rossitur asked no more. Fleda felt a little uneasy again. It was
rather a longish walk to uncle Joshua's, and hardly a word spoken on
The old gentleman was "to hum;" and while Fleda went back into some remote
part of the house to see "aunt Syra," Mr. Rossitur set forth his errand.
"Well,--and so you're looking for help, eh?" said uncle Joshua when he had
heard him through.
"Yes sir,--I want help."
"And a team too?"
"So I have said, sir," Mr. Rossitur answered rather shortly. "Can you
"Well,--I don't know as I can," said the old man, rubbing his hands slowly
over his knees.--"You ha'n't got much done yet, I s'pose?"
"Nothing. I came the day before yesterday."
"Land's in rather poor condition in some parts, ain't it?"
"I really am not able to say, sir,--till I have seen it."
"It ought to be," said the old gentleman shaking his head,--the fellow
that was there last didn't do right by it--he worked the land too hard,
and didn't put on it anywhere near what he had ought to--I guess you'll
find it pretty poor in some places. He was trying to get all he could
out of it, I s'pose. There's a good deal of fencing to be done too,
"All that there was, sir,--I have done none since I came."
"Seth Plumfield got through ploughing yet?"
"We found him at it."
"Ay, he's a smart man. What are you going to do, Mr. Rossitur, with that
piece of marsh land that lies off to the south-east of the barn, beyond
the meadow, between the hills? I had just sich another, and I"--
"Before I do anything with the wet land, Mr. ---- I am so unhappy as to
have forgotten your name?--"
"Springer, sir," said the old gentleman,--"Springer--Joshua Springer. That
is my name, sir."
"Mr. Springer, before I do anything with the wet land I should like to
have something growing on the dry; and as that is the present matter in
hand will you be so good as to let me know whether I can have your
"Well I don't know,--" said the old gentleman; "there ain't anybody to
send but my boy Lucas, and I don't know whether he would make up his mind
to go or not."
"Well sir!"--said Mr. Rossitur rising,--"in that case I will bid you good
morning. I am sorry to have given you the trouble."
"Stop," said the old man,--"stop a bit. Just sit down--I'll go in and see
Mr. Rossitur sat down, and uncle Joshua left him to go into the kitchen
and consult his wife, without whose counsel, of late years especially, he
rarely did anything. They never varied in opinion, but aunt Syra's wits
supplied the steel edge to his heavy metal.
"I don't know but Lucas would as leave go as not," the old gentleman
remarked on coming back from this sharpening process,--"and I can make out
to spare him, I guess. You calculate to keep him, I s'pose?"
"Until this press is over; and perhaps longer, if I find he can do
what I want."
"You'll find him pretty handy at a' most anything; but I mean,--I s'pose
he'll get his victuals with you."
"I have made no arrangements of the kind," said Mr. Rossitur controlling
with some effort his rebelling muscles. "Donohan is boarded somewhere
else, and for the present it will be best for all in my employ to follow
the same plan."
"Very good," said uncle Joshua, "it makes no difference,--only of
course in that case it is worth more, when a man has to find himself
and his team."
"Whatever it is worth I am quite ready to pay, sir."
"Very good! You and Lucas can agree about that. He'll be along in
So they parted; and Fleda understood the impatient quick step with which
her uncle got over the ground.
"Is that man a brother of your grandfather?"
"No sir--Oh no! only his brother-in-law. My grandmother was his sister,
but they weren't in the least like each other."
"I should think they could not," said Mr. Rossitur.
"Oh they were not!" Fleda repeated. "I have always heard that."
After paying her respects to aunt Syra in the kitchen she had come back
time enough to hear the end of the discourse in the parlour, and had felt
its full teaching. Doubts returned, and her spirits were sobered again.
Not another word was spoken till they reached home; when Fleda seized upon
Hugh and went off to the rock after her forsaken pie.
"Have you succeeded!' asked Mrs. Rossitur while they were gone.
"Yes--that is, a cousin has kindly consented to come and help me."
"A cousin!" said Mrs. Rossitur.
"Ay,--we're in a nest of cousins."
"In a _what_, Mr. Rossitur?"
"In a nest of cousins; and I had rather be in a nest of rooks. I wonder if
I shall be expected to ask my ploughmen to dinner! Every second man is a
cousin, and the rest are uncles."
Whilst skies are blue and bright.
Whilst flowers are gay,
Whilst eyes that change ere night
Make glad the day;
Whilst yet the calm hours creep,
Dream thou--and from thy sleep
Then wake to weep.
The days of summer flew by, for the most part lightly, over the heads of
Hugh and Fleda. The farm was little to them but a place of pretty and
picturesque doings and the scene of nameless delights by wood and stream,
in all which, all that summer, Fleda rejoiced; pulling Hugh along with her
even when sometimes he would rather have been poring over his books at
home. She laughingly said it was good for him; and one half at least of
every fine day their feet were abroad. They knew nothing practically of
the dairy but that it was an inexhaustible source of the sweetest milk and
butter, and indirectly of the richest custards and syllabubs. The flock of
sheep that now and then came in sight running over the hill-side, were to
them only an image of pastoral beauty and a soft link with the beauty of
the past. The two children took the very cream of country life. The books
they had left were read with greater eagerness than ever. When the weather
was "too lovely to stay in the house," Shakspeare or Massillon or Sully or
the "Curiosities of Literature" or "Corinne" or Milner's Church History,
for Fleda's reading was as miscellaneous as ever, was enjoyed under the
flutter of leaves and along with the rippling of the mountain spring;
whilst King curled himself up on the skirt of his mistress's gown and
slept for company; hardly more thoughtless and fearless of harm than his
two companions. Now and then Fleda opened her eyes to see that her uncle
was moody and not like himself, and that her aunt's gentle face was
clouded in consequence; and she could not sometimes help the suspicion
that he was not making a farmer of himself; but the next summer wind would
blow these thoughts away, or the next look of her flowers would put them
out of her head. The whole courtyard in front of the house had been given
up to her peculiar use as a flower-garden, and there she and Hugh made
themselves very busy.
But the summer-time came to an end.
It was a November morning, and Fleda had been doing some of the last jobs
in her flower-beds. She was coming in with spirits as bright as her
cheeks, when her aunt's attitude and look, more than usually spiritless,
suddenly checked them. Fleda gave her a hopeful kiss and asked for the
"How bright you look, darling!" said her aunt, stroking her cheek.
"Yes, but you don't, aunt Lucy. What has happened?"
"Mary and Jane are going away."
"Going away!--What for?"
"They are tired of the place--don't like it, I suppose."
"Very foolish of them! Well, aunt Lucy, what matter? we can get plenty
more in their room."
"Not from the city--not possible; they would not come at this time of
"Sure?--Well, then here we can at any rate."
"Here! But what sort of persons shall we get here? And your
"O but I think we can manage," said Fleda. "When do Mary and Jane
want to go?"
"Immediately!--to-morrow--they are not willing to wait till we can get
somebody. Think of it!"
"Well let them go," said Fleda,--"the sooner the better."
"Yes, and I am sure I don't want to keep them; but--" and Mrs. Rossitur
wrung her hands--"I haven't money enough to pay them quite,--and they
won't go without it."
Fleda felt shocked--so much that she could not help looking it.
"But can't uncle Rolf give it you?"
Mrs. Rossitur shook her head. "I have asked him."
"How much is wanting?"
"Twenty-five. Think of his not being able to give me that!"--Mrs.
Rossitur burst into tears.
"Now don't, aunt Lucy!"--said Fleda, guarding well her own
composure;--"you know he has had a great deal to spend upon the farm and
paying men, and all, and it is no wonder that he should be a little short
just now,--now cheer up!--we can get along with this anyhow."
"I asked him," said Mrs. Rossitur through her tears, "when he would be
able to give it to me; and he told me he didn't know!--"
Fleda ventured no reply but some of the tenderest caresses that lips and
arms could give; and then sprang away and in three minutes was at her
aunt's side again.
"Look here, aunt Lucy," said she gently,--"here is twenty dollars, if you
can manage the five."
"Where did you get this?" Mrs. Rossitur exclaimed.
"I got it honestly. It is mine, aunt Lucy," said Fleda smiling. "Uncle
Orrin gave me some money just before we came away, to do what I liked
with; and I haven't wanted to do anything with it till now."
But this seemed to hurt Mrs. Rossitur more than all the rest. Leaning her
head forward upon Fleda's breast and clasping her arms about her she cried
worse tears than Fleda had seen her shed. If it had not been for the
emergency Fleda would have broken down utterly too.
"That it should have come to this!--I can't take it, dear Fleda!"--
"Yes you must, aunt Lucy," said Fleda soothingly. "I couldn't do anything
else with it that would give me so much pleasure. I don't want it--it
would lie in my drawer till I don't know when. We'll let these people be
off as soon as they please. Don't take it so--uncle Rolf will have money
again--only just now he is out, I suppose--and we'll get somebody else in
the kitchen that will do nicely--you see if we don't."
Mrs. Rossitur's embrace said what words were powerless to say.
"But I don't know how we're to find any one here in the country--I don't
know who'll go to look--I am sure your uncle won't want to,--and Hugh
"I'll go," said Fleda cheerfully;--"Hugh and I. We can do famously--if
you'll trust me. I won't promise to bring home a French cook."
"No indeed--we must take what we can get. But you can get no one to-day,
and they will be off by the morning's coach--what shall we do
to-morrow,--for dinner? Your uncle--"
"I'll get dinner," said Fleda caressing her;--"I'll take all that on
myself. It sha'n't be a bad dinner either. Uncle Rolf will like what I do
for him I dare say. Now cheer up, aunt Lucy!--do--that's all I ask of you.
Won't you?--for me?"
She longed to speak a word of that quiet hope with which in every trouble
she secretly comforted herself--she wanted to whisper the words that were
that moment in her own mind, "Truly I know that it shall be well with them
that fear God;"--but her natural reserve and timidity kept her lips shut;
to her grief.
The women were paid off and dismissed and departed in the next day's coach
from Montepoole. Fleda stood at the front door to see them go, with a
curious sense that there was an empty house at her back, and indeed upon
her back. And in spite of all the cheeriness of her tone to her aunt, she
was not without some shadowy feeling that soberer times might be coming
"What is to be done now?" said Hugh close beside her.
"O we are going to get somebody else," said Fleda.
"I don't know!--You and I are going to find out."
"You and I!--"
"Yes. We are going out after dinner, Hugh dear," said she turning her
bright merry face towards him,--"to pick up somebody."
Linking her arm within his she went back to the deserted kitchen premises
to see how her promise about taking Mary's place was to be fulfilled.
"Do you know where to look?" said Hugh.
"I've a notion;--but the first thing is dinner, that uncle Rolf mayn't
think the world is turning topsy turvy. There is nothing at all here,
Hugh!--nothing in the world but bread--it's a blessing there is that.
Uncle Rolf will have to be satisfied with a coffee dinner to-day, and I'll
make him the most superb omelette--that my skill is equal to! Hugh dear,
you shall set the table.--You don't know how?--then you shall make the
toast, and I will set it the first thing of all. You perceive it is well
to know how to do everything, Mr. Hugh Rossitur."
"Where did you learn to make omelettes?" said Hugh with laughing
admiration, as Fleda bared two pretty arms and ran about the very
impersonation of good-humoured activity. The table was set; the coffee was
making; and she had him established at the fire with two great plates, a
pile of slices of bread, and a toasting-iron.
"Where? Oh don't you remember the days of Mrs. Renney? I have seen Emile
make them. And by dint of trying to teach Mary this summer I have taught
myself. There is no knowing, you see, what a person may come to."
"I wonder what father would say if he knew you had made all the coffee
"That is an unnecessary speculation, my dear Hugh, as I have no intention
of telling him. But see!--that is the way with speculators! 'While they go
on refining'--the toast burns!"
The coffee and the omelette and the toast and Mr. Rossitur's favourite
French salad, were served with beautiful accuracy; and he was quite
satisfied. But aunt Lucy looked sadly at Fleda's flushed face and saw that
her appetite seemed to have gone off in the steam of her preparations.
Fleda had a kind of heart-feast however which answered as well.
Hugh harnessed the little wagon, for no one was at hand to do it, and he
and Fleda set off as early as possible after dinner. Fleda's thoughts had
turned to her old acquaintance Cynthia Gall, who she knew was out of
employment and staying at home somewhere near Montepoole. They got the
exact direction from aunt Miriam who approved of her plan.
It was a pleasant peaceful drive they had. They never were alone together,
they two, but vexations seemed to lose their power or be forgotten; and an
atmosphere of quietness gather about them, the natural element of both
hearts. It might refuse its presence to one, but the attraction of both
together was too strong to be resisted.
Miss Cynthia's present abode was in an out of the way place, and a good
distance off; they were some time in reaching it. The barest-looking and
dingiest of houses, set plump in a green field, without one softening or
home-like touch from any home-feeling within; not a flower, not a shrub,
not an out-house, not a tree near. One would have thought it a deserted
house, but that a thin wreath of smoke lazily stole up from one of the
brown chimneys; and graceful as that was it took nothing from the hard
stern barrenness below which told of a worse poverty than that of paint
"Can this be the place?" said Hugh.
"It must be. You stay here with the horse, and I'll go in and seek my
fortune.--Don't promise much," said Fleda shaking her head.
The house stood back from the road. Fleda picked her way to it along a
little footpath which seemed to be the equal property of the geese. Her
knock brought an invitation to "come in."
An elderly woman was sitting there whose appearance did not mend the
general impression. She had the same dull and unhopeful look that her
"Does Mrs. Gall live here?"
"I do," said this person.
"Is Cynthia at home?"
The woman upon this raised her voice and directed it at an inner door.
"Lucindy!" said she in a diversity of tones,--"Lucindy!--tell Cynthy
here's somebody wants to see her."--But no one answered, and throwing the
work from her lap the woman muttered she would go and see, and left Fleda
with a cold invitation to sit down.
Dismal work! Fleda wished herself out of it. The house did not look
poverty-stricken within, but poverty must have struck to the very heart,
Fleda thought, where there was no apparent cherishing of anything. There
was no absolute distress visible, neither was there a sign of real comfort
or of a happy home. She could not fancy it was one.
She waited so long that she was sure Cynthia did not hold herself in
readiness to see company. And when the lady at last came in it was with
very evident marks of "smarting up" about her.
"Why it's Flidda Ringgan!" said Miss Gall after a dubious look or two at
her visitor. "How _do_ you do? I didn't 'spect to see _you_. How much you
She looked really pleased and gave Fleda's hand a very strong grasp as
she shook it.
"There ain't no fire here to-day," pursued Cynthy, paying her attentions
to the fireplace,--"we let it go down on account of our being all busy out
at the back of the house. I guess you're cold, ain't you?"
Fleda said no, and remembered that the woman she had first seen was
certainly not busy at the back of the house nor anywhere else but in that
very room, where she had found her deep in a pile of patchwork.
"I heerd you had come to the old place. Were you glad to be back again?"
Cynthy asked with a smile that might be taken to express some doubt upon
"I was very glad to see it again."
"I hain't seen it in a great while. I've been staying to hum this year
or two. I got tired o' going out," Cynthy remarked, with again a smile
very peculiar and Fleda thought a little sardonical. She did not know
how to answer.
"Well, how do you come along down yonder?" Cynthy went on, making a great
fuss with the shovel and tongs to very little purpose. "Ha' you come all
the way from Queechy?"
"Yes. I came on purpose to see you, Cynthy."
Without staying to ask what for, Miss Gall now went out to "the back of
the house" and came running in again with a live brand pinched in the
tongs, and a long tail of smoke running after it. Fleda would have
compounded for no fire and no choking. The choking was only useful to give
her time to think. She was uncertain how to bring in her errand.
"And how is Mis' Plumfield?" said Cynthy, in an interval of blowing
"She is quite well; but Cynthy, you need not have taken all that trouble
for me. I cannot stay but a few minutes."
"There is wood enough!" Cynthia remarked with one of her grim smiles; an
assertion Fleda could not help doubting. Indeed she thought Miss Gall
had grown altogether more disagreeable than she used to be in old times.
Why, she could not divine, unless the souring effect had gone on with
"And what's become of Earl Douglass and Mis' Douglass? I hain't heerd
nothin' of 'em this great while. I always told your grandpa he'd ha' saved
himself a great deal o' trouble if he'd ha' let Earl Douglass take hold of
things. You ha'n't got Mr. Didenhover into the works again I guess, have
you? He was there a good spell after your grandpa died."
"I haven't seen Mrs. Douglass," said Fleda. "But Cynthy, what do you think
I have come here for?"
"I don't know," said Cynthy, with another of her peculiar looks directed
at the fire. "I s'pose you want someh'n nother of me."
"I have come to see if you wouldn't come and live with my aunt, Mrs.
Rossitur. We are left alone and want somebody very much; and I thought I
would find you out and see if we couldn't have you, first of all,--before
I looked for anybody else."
Cynthy was absolutely silent. She sat before the fire, her feet stretched
out towards it as far as they would go and her arms crossed, and not
moving her steady gaze at the smoking wood, or the chimney-back, whichever
it might be; but there was in the corners of her mouth the threatening of
a smile that Fleda did not at all like.
"What do you say to it, Cynthy?"
"I reckon you'd best get somebody else," said Miss Gall with a kind of
condescending dryness, and the smile shewing a little more.
"Why?" said Fleda, "I would a great deal rather have an old friend than a
"Be you the housekeeper?" said Cynthy a little abruptly.
"O I am a little of everything," said Fleda;--"cook and housekeeper and
whatever comes first. I want you to come and be housekeeper, Cynthy."
"I reckon Mis' Rossitur don't have much to do with her help, does she?"
said Cynthy after a pause, during which the corners of her mouth never
changed. The tone of piqued independence let some light into Fleda's mind.
"She is not strong enough to do much herself, and she wants some one
that will take all the trouble from her. You'd have the field all to
"Your aunt sets two tables I calculate, don't she?"
"Yes--my uncle doesn't like to have any but his own family around him."
"I guess I shouldn't suit!" said Miss Gall, after another little pause,
and stooping very diligently to pick up some scattered shreds from the
floor. But Fleda could see the flushed face and the smile which pride and
a touch of spiteful pleasure in the revenge she was taking made
particularly hateful. She needed no more convincing that Miss Gall
"wouldn't suit;" but she was sorry at the same time for the perverseness
that had so needlessly disappointed her; and went rather pensively back
again down the little foot-path to the waiting wagon.
"This is hardly the romance of life, dear Hugh," she said as she
"Haven't you succeeded?"
Fleda shook her head.
"What's the matter?"
"O--pride,--injured pride of station! The wrong of not coming to our table
and putting her knife into our butter."
"And living in such a place!" said Hugh.
"You don't know what a place. They are miserably poor, I am sure; and
yet--I suppose that the less people have to be proud of the more they make
of what is left. Poor people!--"
"Poor Fleda!" said Hugh looking at her. "What will you do now?"
"O we'll do somehow," said she cheerfully. "Perhaps it is just as well
after all, for Cynthy isn't the smartest woman in the world. I remember
grandpa used to say he didn't believe she could get a bean into the middle
of her bread."
"A bean into the middle of her bread!" said Hugh.
But Fleda's sobriety was quite banished by his mystified look, and her
laugh rang along over the fields before she answered him.
That laugh had blown away all the vapours, for the present at least, and
they jogged on again very sociably.
"Do you know," said Fleda, after a while of silent enjoyment in the
changes of scene and the mild autumn weather,--"I am not sure that it
wasn't very well for me that we came away from New York."
"I dare say it was," said Hugh,--"since we came; but what makes you say
"I don't mean that it was for anybody else, but for me. I think I was a
little proud of our nice things there."
"_You,_ Fleda!" said Hugh with a look of appreciating affection.
"Yes I was, a little. It didn't make the greatest part of my love for
them, I am sure; but I think I had a little, undefined, sort of pleasure
in the feeling that they were better and prettier than other people had."
"You are sure you are not proud of your little King Charles now?"
"I don't know but I am," said Fleda laughing. "But how much pleasanter it
is here on almost every account. Look at the beautiful sweep of the ground
off among those hills--isn't it? What an exquisite horizon line, Hugh!"
"And what a sky over it!"
"Yes--I love these fall skies. Oh I would a great deal rather be here than
in any city that ever was built!"
"So would I," said Hugh. "But the thing is--"
Fleda knew quite well what the thing was, and did not answer.
"But my dear Hugh," she said presently,--"I don't remember that sweep of
hills when we were coming?"
"You were going the other way," said Hugh.
"Yes but, Hugh,--I am sure we did not pass these grain fields. We must
have got into the wrong road."
Hugh drew the reins, and looked, and doubted.
"There is a house yonder," said Fleda,--"we had better drive on and ask."
"There is no house--"
"Yes there is--behind that piece of wood. Look over it--don't you see a
light curl of blue smoke against the sky?--We never passed that house and
wood, I am certain. We ought to make haste, for the afternoons are short
now, and you will please to recollect there is nobody at home to get tea."
"I hope Lucas will get upon one of his everlasting talks with father,"
"And that it will hold till we get home," said Fleda. "It will be the
happiest use Lucas has made of his tongue in a good while."
Just as they stopped before a substantial-looking farm-house a man came
from the other way and stopped there too, with his hand upon the gate.
"How far are we from Queechy, sir?" said Hugh.
"You're not from it at all, sir," said the man politely. "You're in
Queechy, sir, at present."
"Is this the right road from Montepoole to Queechy village?"
"It is not, sir. It is a very tortuous direction indeed. Have I not the
pleasure of speaking to Mr. Rossitur's young gentleman?"
Mr. Rossitur's young gentleman acknowledged his relationship and begged
the favour of being set in the right way home.
"With much pleasure! You have been shewing Miss Rossitur the picturesque
country about Montepoole?"
"My cousin and I have been there on business, and lost our way
"Ah I dare say. Very easy. First time you have been there?"
"Yes sir, and we are in a hurry to get home."
"Well sir,--you know the road by Deacon Patterson's?--comes out just above
Hugh did not remember.
"Well--you keep this road straight on,--I'm sorry you are in a hurry,--you
keep on till--do you know when you strike Mr. Harris's ground?"
No, Hugh knew nothing about it, nor Fleda.
"Well I'll tell you now how it is," said the stranger, "if you'll permit
me. You and your--a--cousin--come in and do us the pleasure of taking some
refreshment--I know my sister'll have her table set out by this time--and
I'll do myself the honour of introducing you to--a--these strange roads
"Thank you, sir, but that trouble is unnecessary--cannot you direct us?"
"No trouble--indeed sir, I assure you, I should esteem it a favour--very
highly. I--I am Dr. Quackenboss, sir; you may have heard--"
"Thank you, Dr. Quackenboss, but we have no time this afternoon--we are
very anxious to reach home as soon as possible; if you would be be so good
as to put us in the way."
[Illustration: "Well, sir, you know the road by Deacon Patterson's?"]
"I--really sir, I am afraid--to a person ignorant of the various
localities--You will lose no time--I will just hitch your horse here, and
I'll have mine ready by the time this young lady has rested.
Miss--a--won't you join with me? I assure you I will not put you to the
expense of a minute--Thank you!--Mr. Harden!--Just clap the saddle on to
Lollypop and have him up here in three seconds.--Thank you!--My dear
Miss--a--won't you take my arm? I am gratified, I assure you."
Yielding to the apparent impossibility of getting anything out of Dr.
Quackenboss, except civility, and to the real difficulty of disappointing
such very earnest good will, Fleda and Hugh did what older persons would
not have done,--alighted and walked up to the house.
"This is quite a fortuitous occurrence," the doctor went on:--"I have
often had the pleasure of seeing Mr Rossitur's family in church--in the
little church at Queechy Run--and that enabled me to recognise your cousin
as soon as I saw him in the wagon. Perhaps Miss--a--you may have possibly
heard of my name?--Quackenboss--I don't know that you understood--"
"I have heard it, sir."
"My Irishmen, Miss--a--my Irish labourers, can't get hold of but one end
of it; they call me Boss--ha, ha, ha!"
Fleda hoped his patients did not get hold of the other end of it, and
"Hard to pull a man's name to pieces before his face,--ha, ha! but I
am--a--not one thing myself,--a kind of heterogynous--I am a piece of a
physician and a little in the agricultural line also; so it's all fair."
"The Irish treat my name as hardly, Dr. Quackenboss--they call me nothing
but Miss Ring-again."
And then Fleda could laugh, and laugh she did, so heartily that the doctor
"Ring-again! ha, ha!--Very good!--Well, Miss--a--I shouldn't think that
anybody in your service would ever--a--ever let you put your name in
But Fleda's delight at the excessive gallantry and awkwardness of this
speech was almost too much; or, as the doctor pleasantly remarked, her
nerves were too many for her; and every one of them was dancing by the
time they reached the hall-door. The doctor's flourishes lost not a bit of
their angularity from his tall ungainly figure and a lantern-jawed face,
the lower member of which had now and then a somewhat lateral play when he
was speaking, which curiously aided the quaint effect of his words. He
ushered his guests into the house, seeming in a flow of self-gratulation.
The supper-table was spread, sure enough, and hovering about it was the
doctor's sister; a lady in whom Fleda only saw a Dutch face, with eyes
that made no impression, disagreeable fair hair, and a string of gilt
beads round her neck. A painted yellow floor under foot, a room that
looked excessively _wooden_ and smelt of cheese, bare walls and a
well-filled table, was all that she took in besides.
"I have the honour of presenting you to my sister," said the doctor with
suavity. "Flora, the Irish domestics of this young lady call her name Miss
Ring-again--if she will let us know how it ought to be called we shall be
happy to be informed."
Dr. Quackenboss was made happy.
"Miss _Ringgan_--and this young gentleman is young Mr. Rossitur--the
gentleman that has taken Squire Ringgan's old place. We were so
fortunate as to have them lose their way this afternoon, coming from
the Pool, and they have just stepped in to see if you can't find 'em a
mouthful of something they can eat, while Lollypop is a getting ready to
see them home."
Poor Miss Flora immediately disappeared into the kitchen, to order a bit
of superior cheese and to have some slices of ham put on the gridiron,
and then coming back to the common room went rummaging about from
cupboard to cupboard, in search of cake and sweetmeats. Fleda protested
and begged in vain.
"She was so sorry she hadn't knowed," Miss Flora said,--"she'd ha' had
some cakes made that maybe they could have eaten, but the bread was dry;
and the cheese wa'n't as good somehow as the last one they cut, maybe Miss
Ringgan would prefer a piece of newer-made, if she liked it; and she
hadn't had good luck with her preserves last summer--the most of 'em had
fomented--she thought it was the damp weather, but there was some stewed
pears that maybe she would be so good as to approve--and there was some
ham! whatever else it was it was hot!--"
It was impossible, it was impossible, to do dishonour to all this
hospitality and kindness and pride that was brought out for them. Early or
late, they must eat, in mere gratitude. The difficulty was to avoid eating
everything. Hugh and Fleda managed to compound the matter with each other,
one taking the cake and pears, and the other the ham and cheese. In the
midst of all this over flow of good will Fleda bethought her to ask if
Miss Flora knew of any girl or woman that would go out to service. Miss
Flora took the matter into grave consideration as soon as her anxiety on
the subject of their cups of tea had subsided. She did not commit herself,
but thought it possible that one of the Finns might be willing to go out.
"Where do they live?"
"It's--a--not far from Queechy Run," said the doctor, whose now and then
hesitation in the midst of his speech was never for want of a thought but
simply and merely for the best words to clothe it in.
"Is it in our way to-night?"
He could make it so, the doctor said, with pleasure, for it would give him
permission to gallant them a little further.
They had several miles yet to go, and the sun went down as they were
passing through Queechy Run. Under that still cool clear autumn sky Fleda
would have enjoyed the ride very much, but that her unfulfilled errand was
weighing upon her, and she feared her aunt and uncle might want her
services before she could be at home. Still, late as it was, she
determined to stop for a minute at Mrs. Finn's and go home with a clear
conscience. At her door, and not till there, the doctor was prevailed upon
to part company, the rest of the way being perfectly plain.
"Not I!--at least I think not. But, Hugh, don't say anything about all
this to aunt Lucy. She would be troubled."
Fleda had certainly when she came away no notion of improving her
acquaintance with Miss Anastasia; but the supper, and the breakfast and
the dinner of the next day, with all the nameless and almost numberless
duties of housework that filled up the time between, wrought her to a
very strong sense of the necessity of having some kind of "help" soon.
Mrs. Rossitur wearied herself excessively with doing very little, and
then looked so sad to see Fleda working on, that it was more
disheartening and harder to bear than the fatigue. Hugh was a most
faithful and invaluable coadjutor, and his lack of strength was like her
own made up by energy of will; but neither of them could bear the strain
long; and when the final clearing away of the dinner-dishes gave her a
breathing-time she resolved to dress herself and put her thimble in her
pocket and go over to Miss Finn's quilting. Miss Lucy might not be like
Miss Anastasia; and if she were, anything that had hands and feet to move
instead of her own would be welcome.
Hugh went with her to the door and was to come for her at sunset.
With superfluity of breeding
First makes you sick, and then with feeding.
Miss Anastasia was a little surprised and a good deal gratified, Fleda
saw, by her coming, and played the hostess with great benignity. The
quilting-frame was stretched in an upper room, not in the long kitchen,
to Fleda's joy; most of the company were already seated at it, and she
had to go through a long string of introductions before she was permitted
to take her place. First of all Earl Douglass's wife, who rose up and
taking both Fleda's hands squeezed and shook them heartily, giving her
with eye and lip a most genial welcome. This lady had every look of being
a very _clever_ woman; "a manager" she was said to be; and indeed her
very nose had a little pinch which prepared one for nothing superfluous
about her. Even her dress could not have wanted another breadth from the
skirt and had no fulness to spare about the body. Neat as a pin though;
and a well-to-do look through it all. Miss Quackenboss Fleda recognised
as an old friend, gilt beads and all. Catherine Douglass had grown up to
a pretty girl during the five years since Fleda had left Queechy, and
gave her a greeting half smiling, half shy. There was a little more
affluence about the flow of her drapery, and the pink ribbon round her
neck was confined by a little dainty Jew's harp of a brooch; she had her
mother's pinch of the nose too. Then there were two other young
ladies;--Miss Letitia Ann Thornton, a tall grown girl in pantalettes,
evidently a would-be aristocrat from the air of her head and lip, with a
well-looking face and looking well knowing of the same, and sporting neat
little white cuffs at her wrists, the only one who bore such a
distinction. The third of these damsels, Jessie Healy, impressed Fleda
with having been brought up upon coarse meat and having grown heavy in
consequence; the other two were extremely fair and delicate, both in
complexion and feature. Her aunt Syra Fleda recognised without particular
pleasure and managed to seat herself at the quilt with the sewing-woman
and Miss Hannah between them. Miss Lucy Finn she found seated at her
right hand, but after all the civilities she had just gone through Fleda
had not courage just then to dash into business with her, and Miss Lucy
herself stitched away and was dumb.
So were the rest of the party--rather. The presence of the new-comer
seemed to have the effect of a spell. Fleda could not think they had been
as silent before her joining them as they were for some time afterwards.
The young ladies were absolutely mute, and conversation seemed to flag
even among the elder ones; and if Fleda ever raised her eyes from the
quilt to look at somebody she was sure to see somebody's eyes looking at
her, with a curiosity well enough defined and mixed with a more _or less_
amount of benevolence and pleasure. Fleda was growing very industrious and
feeling her cheeks grow warm, when the checked stream of conversation
began to take revenge by turning its tide upon her.
"Are you glad to be back to Queechy, Fleda?" said Mrs. Douglass from the
opposite far end of the quilt.
"Yes ma'am," said Fleda, smiling back her answer,--"on some accounts."
"Ain't she growed like her father, Mis' Douglass?" said the sewing woman.
"Do you recollect Walter Ringgan--what a handsome feller he was?"
The two opposite girls immediately found something to say to each other.
"She ain't a bit more like him than she is like her mother," said Mrs.
Douglass, biting off the end of her thread energetically. "Amy Ringgan was
a sweet good woman as ever was in this town."
Again her daughter's glance and smile went over to the speaker.
"You stay in Queechy and live like Queechy folks do," Mrs. Douglass added,
nodding encouragingly, "and you'll beat both on 'em."
But this speech jarred, and Fleda wished it had not been spoken.
"How does your uncle like farming?" said aunt Syra.
A home-thrust, which Fleda parried by saying he had hardly got accustomed
to it yet.
"What's been his business? what has he been doing all his life till now?"
said the sewing-woman.
Fleda replied that he had had no business; and after the minds of the
company had had time to entertain this statement she was startled by Miss
Lucy's voice at her elbow.
"It seems kind o' curious, don't it, that a man should live to be
forty or fifty years old and not know anything of the earth he gets
his bread from?"
"What makes you think he don't?" said Miss Thornton rather tartly.
"She wa'n't speaking o' nobody," said aunt Syra.
"I was--I was speaking of _man_--I was speaking abstractly," said Fleda's
right hand neighbour.
"What's abstractly?" said Miss Anastasia scornfully.
"Where do you get hold of such hard words, Lucy?" said Mrs. Douglass.
"I don't know, Mis' Douglass;--they come to me;--it's practice, I suppose.
I had no intention of being obscure."
"One kind o' word's as easy as another I suppose, when you're used to it,
ain't it?" said the sewing-woman.
"What's abstractly?" said the mistress of the house again.
"Look in the dictionary, if you want to know," said her sister.
"I don't want to know--I only want you to tell."
"When do you get time for it, Lucy? ha'n't you nothing else to practise?"
pursued Mrs. Douglass.
"Yes, Mis' Douglass; but then there are times for exertion, and other
times less disposable; and when I feel thoughtful, or low, I commonly
retire to my room and contemplate the stars or write a composition."
The sewing-woman greeted this speech with an unqualified ha! ha! and Fleda
involuntarily raised her head to look at the last speaker; but there was
nothing to be noticed about her, except that she was in rather nicer order
than the rest of the Finn family.
"Did you get home safe last night?" inquired Miss Quackenboss, bending
forward over the quilt to look down to Fleda.
Fleda thanked her, and replied that they had been overturned and had
several ribs broken.
"And where have you been, Fleda, all this while?" said Mrs. Douglass.
Fleda told, upon which all the quilting-party raised their heads
simultaneously to take another review of her.
"Your uncle's wife ain't a Frenchwoman, be she?" asked the sewing-woman.
Fleda said "oh no"--and Miss Quackenboss remarked that "she thought she
wa'n't;" whereby Fleda perceived it had been a subject of discussion.
"She lives like one, don't she?" said aunt Syra.
Which imputation Fleda also refuted to the best of her power.
"Well, don't she have dinner in the middle of the afternoon?" pursued
Fleda was obliged to admit that.
"And she can't eat without she has a fresh piece of roast meat on table
every day, can she?"
"It is not always roast," said Fleda, half vexed and half laughing.
"I'd rather have a good dish o' bread and 'lasses than the hull on't;"
observed old Mrs. Finn; from the corner where she sat manifestly turning
up her nose at the far-off joints on Mrs. Rossitur's dinner-table.
The girls on the other side of the quilt again held counsel together,
deep and low.
"Well didn't she pick up all them notions in that place yonder?--where you
say she has been?" aunt Syra went on.
"No," said Fleda; "everybody does so in New York."
"I want to know what kind of a place New York is, now," said old Mrs. Finn
drawlingly. "I s'pose it's pretty big, ain't it?"
Fleda replied that it was.
"I shouldn't wonder if it was a'most as far as from here to Queechy Run,
now, ain't it?"
The distance mentioned being somewhere about one-eighth of New York's
longest diameter, Fleda answered that it was quite as far.
"I s'pose there's plenty o' mighty rich folks there, ain't there?"
"Plenty, I believe," said Fleda.
"I should hate to live in it awfully!" was the old woman's conclusion.
"I should admire to travel in many countries," said Miss Lucy, for the
first time seeming to intend her words particularly for Fleda's ear. "I
think nothing makes people more genteel. I have observed it frequently."
Fleda said it was very pleasant; but though encouraged by this opening
could not muster enough courage to ask if Miss Lucy had a "notion" to come
and prove their gentility. Her next question was startling,--if Fleda had
ever studied mathematics?
"No," said Fleda. "Have you?"
"O my, yes! There was a lot of us concluded we would learn it; and we
commenced to study it a long time ago. I think it's a most elevating--"
The discussion was suddenly broken off, for the sewing-woman exclaimed,
as the other sister came in and took her seat,
"Why Hannah! you ha'n't been makin' bread with that crock on your hands!"
"Well Mis' Barnes!" said the girl,--"I've washed 'em, and I've made bread
with 'em, and even _that_ didn't take it off!"
"Do you look at the stars, too, Hannah?" said Mrs. Douglass.
Amidst a small hubbub of laugh and talk which now became general, poor
Fleda fell back upon one single thought--one wish; that Hugh would come to
fetch her home before tea-time. But it was a vain hope. Hugh was not to be
there till sundown, and supper was announced long before that. They all
filed down, and Fleda with them, to the great kitchen below stairs; and
she found herself placed in the seat of honour indeed, but an honour she
would gladly have escaped, at Miss Anastasia's right hand.
A temporary locked-jaw would have been felt a blessing. Fleda dared hardly
even look about her; but under the eye of her hostess the instinct of
good-breeding was found sufficient to swallow everything; literally and
figuratively. There was a good deal to swallow. The usual variety of
cakes, sweetmeats, beef, cheese, biscuits, and pies, was set out with some
peculiarity of arrangement which Fleda had never seen before, and which
left that of Miss Quackenboss elegant by comparison. Down each side of the
table ran an advanced guard of little sauces, in Indian file, but in
companies of three, the file leader of each being a saucer of custard, its
follower a ditto of preserves, and the third keeping a sharp look-out in
the shape of pickles; and to Fleda's unspeakable horror she discovered
that the guests were expected to help themselves at will from these
several stores with their own spoons, transferring what they took either
to their own plates or at once to its final destination, which last mode
several of the company preferred. The advantage of this plan was the
necessary great display of the new silver tea-spoons which Mrs. Douglass
slyly hinted to aunt Syra were the moving cause of the tea-party. But aunt
Syra swallowed sweetmeats and would not give heed.
There was no relief for poor Fleda. Aunt Syra was her next neighbour, and
opposite to her, at Miss Anastasia's left hand, was the disagreeable
countenance and peering eyes of the old crone her mother. Fleda kept her
own eyes fixed upon her plate and endeavoured to see nothing but that.
"Why here's Fleda ain't eating anything," said Mrs. Douglass. "Won't you
have some preserves? take some custard, do!--Anastasy, she ha'n't a
Fleda had secretly conveyed hers under cover.
"There _was_ one," said Miss Anastasia, looking about where one should
have been,--"I'll get another as soon as I give Mis' Springer her tea."
"Ha'n't you got enough to go round?" said the old woman plucking at her
daughter's sleeve,--"Anastasy!--ha'n't you got enough to go round?"
This speech which was spoken with a most spiteful simplicity Miss
Anastasia answered with superb silence, and presently produced spoons
enough to satisfy herself and the company. But Fleda! No earthly
persuasion could prevail upon her to touch pickles, sweetmeats, or
custard, that evening; and even in the bread and cakes she had a vision of
hands before her that took away her appetite. She endeavoured to make a
shew with hung beef and cups of tea, which indeed was not Pouchong; but
her supper came suddenly to an end upon a remark of her hostess, addressed
to the whole table, that they needn't be surprised if they found any bite
of pudding in the gingerbread, for it was made from the molasses the
children left the other day. Who "the children" were Fleda did not know,
neither was it material.
It was sundown, but Hugh had not come when they went to the upper rooms
again. Two were open now, for they were small and the company promised not
to be such. Fathers and brothers and husbands began to come, and loud
talking and laughing and joking took place of the quilting chit-chat.
Fleda would fain have absorbed herself in the work again, but though the
frame still stood there the minds of the company were plainly turned aside
from their duty, or perhaps they thought that Miss Anastasia had had
admiration enough to dispense with service. Nobody shewed a thimble but
one or two old ladies; and as numbers and spirits gathered strength, a
kind of romping game was set on foot in which a vast deal of kissing
seemed to be the grand wit of the matter. Fleda shrank away out of sight
behind the open door of communication between the two rooms, pleading with
great truth that she was tired and would like to keep perfectly quiet; and
she had soon the satisfaction of being apparently forgotten.
In the other room some of the older people were enjoying themselves more
soberly. Fleda's ear was too near the crack of the door not to have the
benefit of more of their conversation than she cared for. It soon put
quiet of mind out of the question.
"He'll twist himself up pretty short; that's my sense of it; and he won't
take long to do it, nother," said Earl Douglass's voice.
Fleda would have known it anywhere from its extreme peculiarity. It never
either rose or fell much from a certain pitch; and at that level the words
gurgled forth, seemingly from an ever-brimming fountain; he never wanted
one; and the stream had neither let nor stay till his modicum of sense had
fairly run out. People thought he had not a greater stock of that than
some of his neighbours; but he issued an amount of word-currency
sufficient for the use of the county.
"He'll run himself agin a post pretty quick," said uncle Joshua in a
confirmatory tone of voice.
Fleda had a confused idea that somebody was going to hang himself.
"He ain't a workin' things right," said Douglass,--"he ain't a workin'
things right; he's takin' hold o' everything by the tail end. He ain't
studied the business; he doesn't know when things is right, and he doesn't
know when things is wrong;--and if they're wrong he don't know how to set
'em right. He's got a feller there that ain't no more fit to be there than
I am to be Vice President of the United States; and I ain't a going to say
what I think I _am_ fit for, but I ha'n't studied for _that_ place and I
shouldn't like to stand an examination for't; and a man hadn't ought to be
a farmer no more if he ha'n't qualified himself. That's my idee. I like to
see a thing done well if it's to be done at all; and there ain't a stitch
o' land been laid right on the hull farm, nor a furrow driv' as it had
ought to be, since he come on to it; and I say, Squire Springer, a man
ain't going to get along in that way, and he hadn't ought to. I work hard
myself, and I calculate to work hard; and I make a livin by't; and I'm
content to work hard. When I see a man with his hands in his pockets, I
think he'll have nothin' else in 'em soon. I don't believe he's done a
hand's turn himself on the land the hull season!"
And upon this Mr. Douglass brought up.
"My son Lucas has been workin' with him, off and on, pretty much the hull
time since he come; and _he_ says he ha'n't begun to know how to spell
"Ay, ay! My wife--she's a little harder on folks than I be--I think it
ain't worth while to say nothin' of a man without I can say some good of
him--that's my idee--and it don't do no harm, nother,--but my wife, she
says he's got to let down his notions a peg or two afore they'll hitch
just in the right place; and I won't say but what I think she ain't maybe
fur from right. If a man's above his business he stands a pretty fair
chance to be below it some day. I won't say myself, for I haven't any
acquaintance with him, and a man oughtn't to speak but of what he is
knowing to,--but I have heerd say, that he wa'n't as conversationable as
it would ha' been handsome in him to be, all things considerin'. There
seems to be a good many things said of him, somehow, and I always think
men don't talk of a man if he don't give 'em occasion; but anyhow I've
been past the farm pretty often myself this summer, workin' with Seth
Plumfield; and I've took notice of things myself; and I know he's been
makin' beds o' sparrowgrass when he had ought to ha' been makin' fences,
and he's been helpin' that little girl o' his'n set her flowers, when he
would ha' been better sot to work lookin' after his Irishman; but I don't
know as it made much matter nother, for if he went wrong Mr. Rossitur
wouldn't know how to set him right, and if he was a going right Mr.
Rossitur would ha' been just as likely to ha' set him wrong. Well I'm
sorry for him!"
"Mr. Rossitur is a most gentlemanlike man," said the voice of Dr.
"Ay,--I dare say he is," Earl responded in precisely the same tone. "I
was down to his house one day last summer to see him.--He wa'n't to
"It would be strange if harm come to a man with such a guardian angel in
the house as that man has in his'n," said Dr. Quackenboss.
"Well she's a pretty creetur'!" said Douglass, looking up with some
animation. "I wouldn't blame any man that sot a good deal by her. I will
say I think she's as handsome as my own darter; and a man can't go no
furder than that I suppose."
"She won't help his farming much, I guess," said uncle Joshua,--"nor his
Fleda heard Dr. Quackenboss coming through the doorway and started
from her corner for fear he might find her out there and know what she
He very soon found her out in the new place she had chosen and came up to
pay his compliments. Fleda was in a mood for anything but laughing, yet
the mixture of the ludicrous which the doctor administered set her nerves
a twitching. Bringing his chair down sideways at one angle and his person
at another, so as to meet at the moment of the chair's touching the floor,
and with a look and smile slanting to match, the doctor said,
"Well, Miss Ringgan, has--a--Mrs. Rossitur,--does she feel herself
"Reconciled, sir?" said Fleda.
"She never quarrelled with it, sir," said Fleda, quite unable to keep
"Yes,--I mean--a--she feels that she can sustain her spirits in different
"She is very well, sir, thank you."
"It must have been a great change to her--and to you all--coming to
"Yes, sir; the country is very different from the city."
"In what part of New York was Mr. Rossitur's former residence?"
"In State street, sir."
"State street,--that is somewhere in the direction of the Park?"
"No, sir, not exactly."
"Was Mrs. Rossitur a native of the city?"
"Not of New York. O Hugh, my dear Hugh," exclaimed Fleda in another
tone,--"what have you been thinking of?"
"Father wanted me," said Hugh. "I could not help it, Fleda."
"You are not going to have the cruelty to take your--a--cousin away, Mr.
Rossitur?" said the doctor.
But Fleda was for once happy to be cruel; she would hear no remonstrances.
Though her desire for Miss Lucy's "help" had considerably lessened she
thought she could not in politeness avoid speaking on the subject, after
being invited there on purpose. But Miss Lucy said she "calculated to stay
at home this winter," unless she went to live with somebody at Kenton for
the purpose of attending a course of philosophy lectures that she heard
were to be given there. So that matter was settled; and clasping Hugh's
arm Fleda turned away from the house with a step and heart both lightened
by the joy of being out of it.
"I couldn't come sooner, Fleda," said Hugh.
"No matter--O I'm so glad to be away! Walk a little faster, dear
Hugh.--Have you missed me at home?"
"Do you want me to say no or yes?" said Hugh smiling. "We did very
well--mother and I--and I have left everything ready to have tea the
minute you get home. What sort of a time have you had?"
In answer to which Fleda gave him a long history; and then they walked on
awhile in silence. The evening was still and would have been dark but for
the extreme brilliancy of the stars through the keen clear atmosphere.
Fleda looked up at them and drew large draughts of bodily and mental
refreshment with the bracing air.
"Do you know to-morrow will be Thanksgiving day?"
"Ye--what made you think of it?"
"They were talking about it--they make a great fuss here
"I don't think we shall make much of a fuss," said Hugh.
"I don't think we shall. I wonder what I shall do--I am afraid uncle Rolf
will get tired of coffee and omelettes in the course of time; and my list
of receipts is very limited."
"It is a pity you didn't beg one of Mrs. Renney's books," said Hugh
laughing. "If you had only known--"
"'Tisn't too late!" said Fleda quickly,--"I'll send to New York for one. I
will! I'll ask uncle Orrin to get it for me. That's the best thought!--"
"But, Fleda! you're not going to turn cook in that fashion?"
"It would be no harm to have the book," said Fleda. "I can tell you we
mustn't expect to get anybody here that can make an omelette, or even
coffee, that uncle Rolf will drink. Oh Hugh!--"
"I don't know where we are going to get anybody!--But don't say anything
to aunt Lucy about it."
"Well, we can keep Thanksgiving day, Fleda, without a dinner," said Hugh
"Yes indeed; I am sure I can--after being among these people to-night. How
much I have that they want! Look at the Great Bear over there!--isn't that
better than New York?"
"The Great Bear hangs over New York too," Hugh said with a smile.
"Ah but it isn't the same thing. Heaven hasn't the same eyes for the city
and the country."
As Hugh and Fleda went quick up to the kitchen door they overtook a dark
figure, at whom looking narrowly as she passed, Fleda recognised Seth
Plumfield. He was joyfully let into the kitchen, and there proved to be
the bearer of a huge dish carefully covered with a napkin.
"Mother guessed you hadn't any Thanksgiving ready," he said,--"and she
wanted to send this down to you; so I thought I would come and fetch
"O thank her! and thank you, cousin Seth;--how good you are?"
"Mother ha'n't lost her old trick at 'em," said he, "so I hope
"O I know it is," said Fleda. "I remember aunt Miriam's Thanksgiving
chicken-pies. Now, cousin Seth, you must come in and see aunt Lucy."
"No," said he quietly,--"I've got my farm-boots on--I guess I won't see
anybody but you."
But Fleda would not suffer that, and finding she could not move him she
brought her aunt out into the kitchen. Mrs. Rossitur's manner of speaking
and thanking him quite charmed Seth, and he went away with a kindly
feeling towards those gentle bright eyes which he never forgot.
"Now we've something for to-morrow, Hugh!" said Fleda;--"and such a
chicken-pie I can tell you as _you_ never saw. Hugh, isn't it odd how
different a thing is in different circumstances? You don't know how glad I
was when I put my hands upon that warm pie-dish and knew what it was; and
when did I ever care in New York about Emile's doings?"
"Except the almond gauffres," said Hugh smiling.
"I never thought to be so glad of a chicken-pie," said Fleda,
shaking her head.
Aunt Miriam's dish bore out Fleda's praise, in the opinion of all that
tasted it; for such fowls, such butter, and such cream, as went to its
composition could hardly be known but in an unsophisticated state of
society. But one pie could not last for ever; and as soon as the signs of
dinner were got rid of, Thanksgiving day though it was, poor Fleda was
fain to go up the hill to consult aunt Miriam about the possibility of
"I don't know, dear Fleda," said she;--"if you cannot get Lucy Finn--I
don't know who else there is you can get. Mrs. Toles wants both her
daughters at home I know this winter, because she is sick; and Marietta
Winchel is working at aunt Syra's;--I don't know--Do you remember Barby
Elster, that used to live with me?"
"She _might_ go--she has been staying at home these two years, to take
care of her old mother, that's the reason she left me; but she has another
sister come home now,--Hetty, that married and went to Montepoole,--she's
lost her husband and come home to live; so perhaps Barby would go out
again. But I don't know,--how do you think your aunt Lucy would get along
"Dear aunt Miriam! you know we must do as we can. We _must_ have
"Barby is a little quick," said Mrs. Plumfield, "but I think she is
good-hearted, and she is thorough, and faithful as the day is long. If
your aunt and uncle can put up with her ways."
"I am sure we can, aunt Miriam. Aunt Lucy's the easiest person in the
world to please, and I'll try and keep her away from uncle Rolf. I think
we can get along. I know Barby used to like me."
"But then Barby knows nothing about French cooking, my child; she can
do nothing but the common country things. What will your uncle and aunt
say to that?"
"I don't know," said Fleda, "but anything is better than nothing. I
must try and do what she can't do. I'll come up and get you to teach
me, aunt Miriam."
Aunt Miriam hugged and kissed her before speaking.
"I'll teach you what I know, my darling;--and now we'll go right off and
see Barby--we shall catch her just in a good time."
It was a poor little unpainted house, standing back from the road, and
with a double row of boards laid down to serve as a path to it. But this
board-walk was scrubbed perfectly clean. They went in without knocking.
There was nobody there but an old woman seated before the fire shaking
all over with the St. Vitus's Dance. She gave them no salutation,
calling instead on "Barby!"--who presently made her appearance from the
"That's Mis' Plumfield, mother," said the daughter, speaking loud as to a
The old lady immediately got up and dropped a very quick and what was
meant to be a very respect-shewing curtsey, saying at the same time
with much deference and with one of her involuntary twitches,--"I
''maun' to know!"--The sense of the ludicrous and the feeling of pity
together were painfully oppressive. Fleda turned away to the daughter
who came forward and shook hands with a frank look of pleasure at the
sight of her elder visitor.
"Barby," said Mrs. Plumfield, "this is little Fleda Ringgan--do you
"I 'mind to know!" said Barby, transferring her hand to Fleda's and giving
it a good squeeze.--"She's growed a fine gal, Mis' Plumfield. You ha'n't
lost none of your good looks--ha' you kept all your old goodness along
Fleda laughed at this abrupt question, and said she didn't know.
"If you ha'n't, I wouldn't give much for your eyes," said Barby letting
go her hand.
Mrs. Plumfield laughed too at Barby's equivocal mode of complimenting.
"Who's that young gal, Barby?" inquired Mrs. Elster.
"That's Mis' Plumfield's niece, mother!"
"She's a handsome little creetur, ain't she?"
They all laughed at that, and Fleda's cheeks growing crimson, Mrs.
Plumfield stepped forward to ask after the old lady's health; and while
she talked and listened Fleda's eyes noted the spotless condition of the
room--the white table, the nice rag-carpet, the bright many-coloured
patch-work counterpane on the bed, the brilliant cleanliness of the floor
where the small carpet left the boards bare, the tidy look of the two
women; and she made up her mind that _she_ could get along with Miss
Barbara very well. Barby was rather tall, and in face decidedly a
fine-looking woman, though her figure had the usual scantling proportions
which nature or fashion assigns to the hard-working dwellers in the
country. A handsome quick grey eye and the mouth were sufficiently
expressive of character, and perhaps of temper, but there were no lines of
anything sinister or surly; you could imagine a flash, but not a cloud.
"Barby, you are not tied at home any longer, are you?" said Mrs.
Plumfield, coming back from the old lady and speaking rather low;--"now
that Hetty is here, can't your mother spare you?"
"Well I reckon she could, Mis' Plumfield,--if I could work it so that
she'd be more comfortable by my being away."
"Then you'd have no objection to go out again?"
"Fleda's uncle, you know, has taken my brother's old place, and they have
no help. They want somebody to take the whole management--just you, Barby.
Mrs. Rossitur isn't strong."
"Nor don't want to be, does she? I've heerd tell of her. Mis' Plumfield,
I should despise to have as many legs and arms as other folks and not be
able to help myself!"
"But you wouldn't despise to help other folks, I hope," said Mrs.
"People that want you very much too," said Fleda; for she quite longed to
have that strong hand and healthy eye to rely upon at home. Barby looked
at her with a relaxed face, and after a little consideration said "she
guessed she'd try."
"Mis' Plumfield," cried the old lady as they were moving,--"Mis'
Plumfield, you said you'd send me a piece of pork."
"I haven't forgotten it, Mrs. Elster--you shall have it."
"Well you get it out for me yourself," said the old woman speaking very
energetically,--"don't you send no one else to the barrel for't; because I
know you'll give me the biggest piece."
Mrs. Plumfield laughed and promised.
"I'll come up and work it out some odd day," said the daughter nodding
intelligently as she followed them to the door.
"We'll talk about that," said Mrs. Plumfield.
"She was wonderful pleased with the pie," said Barby, "and so was Hetty;
she ha'n't seen anything so good, she says, since she quit Queechy."
"Well, Barby," said Mrs. Plumfield, as she turned and grasped her hand,
"did you remember your Thanksgiving over it?"
"Yes, Mis' Plumfield," and the fine grey eyes fell to the floor,--"but I
minded it only because it had come from you. I seemed to hear you saying
just that out of every bone I picked."
"You minded _my_ message," said the other gently.
"Well I don't mind the things I had ought to most," said Barby in a
subdued voice,--"never!--'cept mother--I ain't very apt to forget her."
Mrs. Plumfield saw a tell-tale glittering beneath the drooping eye-lid.
She added no more but a sympathetic strong squeeze of the hand she held,
and turned to follow Fleda who had gone on ahead.
"Mis' Plumfield!" said Barby, before they had reached the stile that led
into the road, where Fleda was standing,--"Will I be sure of having the
money regular down yonder? You know I hadn't ought to go otherways, on
account of mother."
"Yes, it will be sure," said Mrs. Plumfield,--"and regular;" adding
quietly, "I'll make it so."
There was a bond for the whole amount in aunt Miriam's eyes; and quite
satisfied, Barby went back to the house.
"Will she expect to come to our table, aunt Miriam?" said Fleda when they