« ПредишнаНапред »
sinking into sleep. Beyond any power of thought, or even fancy, with only a dreamy succession of images flitting across her mind, the hours passed, she knew not how; that they did pass, she knew from her handmaid in the long curls, who was every now and then coming in to look at her, and give her fresh water; it needed no ice. Her handmaid told her that the cars were gone by—that it was near noon—then, that it was past noon. There was no help for it; she could only lie still and wait; it was long past noon before she was able to move; and she was looking ill enough yet, when she at last opened the door of the parlour and slowly presented herself.
Mr Carleton was there alone, Mrs Renney having long since accompanied her baggage. He came forward instantly, and led Fleda to the sofa, with such gentle, grave kindness, that she could hardly bear it; her nerves had been in an unsteady state all day. A table was set, and partially spread with evidently much more care than the one of the morning, and Fleda sat looking at it, afraid to trust herself to look anywhere else. For years she had been taking care of others, and now there was something so strange in this feeling of being cared for, that her heart was full. Whatever Mr Carleton saw or suspected of this, it did not appear. On the contrary, his manner and his talk on different matters was as cool, as quiet, as graceful, as if neither he nor Fleda had anything particular to think of; avoiding even an allusion to whatever might in the least distress her. Fleda thought she had a great many reasons to be grateful to him, but she never thanked him for anything more than at that moment she thanked him for the delicacy which so regarded her delicacy, and put her in a few minutes completely at her ease as she could be.
The refreshments were presently brought, and Fleda was served with them in a way that went, as far as possible, towards making them satisfactory; but though a great improvement upon the morning, they furnished still but a substitute for a meal. There was a little pause then, after the horses were ordered.
“I am afraid you have wanted my former prescription today,” said Mr Carleton, after considering the little-improved colour of Fleda's face.
“ I have, indeed.” « Where is it?”
Fleda hesitated, and then, in a little confusion, said she supposed it was lying on Mrs Evelyn's centre-table.
“How happens that ?" said he, smiling.
“ Because I could not help it, Mr Carleton,” said Fleda, with no little difficulty; “I was foolish–I could not bring it away.”
He understood and was silent.
“ Are you fit to bear a long ride in the cold ?” he said, compassionately, a few minutes after.
it will do me good.”
My head has been pretty bad," said Fleda, a little evasively.
Well, what would you have ?” said he, lightly; "doesn't that make a miserable day of it?"
Fleda hesitated and coloured, and then, conscious that her cheeks were answering for her, coloured so exceedingly, that she was fain to put both her hands up to hide what they only served the more plainly to shew. Ño advantage was taken. Mr Carleton said nothing; she could not see what answer might be in his face. It was only by a peculiar quietness in his tone whenever he spoke to her afterwards that Fleda knew she had been thoroughly understood. She dared not lift her eyes.
They had soon employment enough around her. A sleigh and horses, better than anything else Quarrenton had been known to furnish, were carrying her rapidly towards home; the weather bad perfectly cleared off, and in full brightness and fairness, the sun was shining upon a brilliant world. It was cold indeed, though the only wind was that made by their progress; but Fleda had been again unresistingly wrapped in the furs, and was, for the time, beyond the reach of that or any other annoyance. She sat silently and quietly enjoying; so quietly that a stranger might have questioned there being any enjoyment in the case. It was a very picturesque, broken country, fresh covered with snow; and at that hour, late in the day, the lights and shadows were a constantly varying charm to the eye. Clumps of evergreens stood out in full disclosure against the white ground; the bare branches of neighbouring trees, in all their barrenness, had a wild prospective or retrospective beauty peculiar to themselves. On the wavy white surface of the meadow-land, or the steep hill-sides, lay every variety of shadow in blue and neutral tint; where they lay not, the snow was too brilliant to be borne.
And afar off, through a heaven, bright and cold enough to hold the canopy
over winter's head, the ruler of the day was gently preparing to say good-bye to the world. Fleda's eye seemed to be new set for all forms of beauty, and roved from one to the other as grave and bright as nature itself.
For a little way Mr Carleton had left her to her musings, and was as silent as she. But then he gently drew her into a conversation that broke up the settled gravity of her face, and obliged her to divide her attention between nature and him, and his part of it he knew how to manage. But though eye and smile constantly answered him, he could win neither to a straightforward bearing.
They were about a mile from Queechy when Fleda suddenly cxclaimed
“Oh, Mr Carleton, please stop the sleigh !” The horses were stopped.
“ It is only Earl Douglass—our farmer,” Fleda said in explanation—" I want to ask how they are at home.”
In answer to her nod of recognition, Mr Douglass came to the side of the vehicle; but till he was there, close, gave her no other answer by word or sign; when there, broke forth his accustomed guttural
“How d'ye do?”
“How d'ye do, Mr Douglass," said Fleda. “ How are they all at home?”
“Well, there ain't nothin' new among 'em, as I've heerd on,” said Earl, diligently though stealthily, at the same time qualifying himself to make a report of Mr Carleton. “I guess they'll be glad to see you. I be."
* Thank you, Mr Douglass. How is Hugh ?”
“He ain't nothin' different from what he's been for a spell back--at least I ain't heerd that he was. Maybe he is, but if he is, I ha'n't heerd speak of it, and if he was, I think I should ha' heerd speak of it. He was pretty bad a spell ago—about when you went away—but he's been better sen.
So they say I ha'n't seen him.-Well, Flidda,” he added, with somewhat of a sly gleam in his eye—"do you think you're going to make up your mind to stay to hum this time ?”
“I have no immediate intention of running away, Mr Douglass," said Fleda, her pale cheeks turning rose as she saw him looking curiously up and down the edges of the black fox. His eye came back to hers with a good-humoured intelligence that she could hardly stand.
“ It's time you was back," said he. “ Your uncle's to hum - but he don't do me much good, whatever he does to other folks—nor himself nother, as far as the farm goes; there's that
“Very well, Mr Douglass,” said Fleda, “I shall be at home now, and I'll see about it."
“Very good !” said Earl, as he stepped back—“Queechy can't get along without you, that's no mistake.”
They drove on a few minutes in silence.
“ Aren't you thinking, Mr Carleton," said Fleda, “ that my countrymen are a strange mixture ?”
“I was not thinking of them at all at this moment. I believe such a notion has crossed
mind.” “ It has crossed mine very often,” said Fleda. “How do you read them ? what is the basis of it?"
“I think--the strong self-respect which springs from the security and importance that republican institutions give every
But,” she added, colouring, “I have seen very little of the world, and ought not to judge."
“I have no doubt you are quite right,” said Mr Carleton, smiling. “But don't you think an equal degree of self-respect may consist with giving honour where honour is due ?”
“Yes,” said Fleda, a little doubtfully—“where religion and not republicanism is the spring of it."
"Humility and not pride,” said he. “ Yes—you are right.”
My countrymen do yield honour where they think it is due,” said Fleda, “especially where it is not claimed. They must give it to reality-not to pretension. And, I confess, I would rather them see them a little rude in their independence than cringing before mere advantages of external positioneven for my own personal pleasure."
“I agree with you, Elfie-putting, perhaps, the last clause out of the question.” Now, that man,” said Fleda, smiling at his look—“I
suppose his address must have struck you as very strange, and yet there was no want of respect under it. I am sure he has a true thorough respect, and even regard for me, and would prove it on any occasion.”
“ I have no doubt of that.”
“Not quite. I confess I should require more from any one under my control.”
my own land."
Oh, nobody is under control here," said Fleda.
" That is, I mean, individual control, unless so far as self-interest comes in. I suppose that is all-powerful here as elsewhere."
“And the reason it gives less power to individuals is, that the greater freedom of resources makes no man's interest depend so absolutely on one other man. That is a reason yoil cannot regret. No-your countrymen have the best of it, Elfie. But do you suppose that this is a fair sample of the whole country?"
“I dare not say that,” said Fleda. “I am afraid there is not so much intelligence and cultivation everywhere. But I am sure there are many parts of the land that will bear a fair comparison with it.” " It is more than I would dare
for “I should think"Fleda suddenly stopped. “What?” said Mr Carleton, gently.
I beg your pardon, sir— I was going to say something very presumptuous.
“ You cannot,” he said, in the same tone.
“I was going to say," said Fleda, blushing, “ that I should think there might be a great deal of pleasure in raising the tone of mind and character among the people--as one could who had influence over a large neighbourhood.”
His smile was very bright in answer. “I have been trying that, Elfie, for the last eight years."
Fleda's eye looked now eagerly in pleasure and in curiosity for more.
But he was silent. “I was thinking, a little while ago," he said, “ of the time, once before, when I rode here with you when you were beginning to lead me to the problem I have been trying to work out ever since. When I left you in Paris, I went to resolve with myself the question, What I had to do in the world? Your little Bible was my invaluable help. I had read very little of it when I threw aside all other books; and
my problem was soon solved. I saw that the life has no honour nor value which is not spent to the glory of God. I saw the end I was made for—the happiness I was fitted for-the dignity to which even a fallen creature may rise, through his dear Redeemer and Surety."
Fleda's eyes were down now. Mr Carleton was silent a moment, watching one or two bright witnesses that fell from them.
"The next conclusion was easy—that my work was at home