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“Welcome the sour cup of prosperity! Amiction may one day smile again, and till then, sit thee down, sorrow!”—LOVE'S LABOUR LOST.
It had been a wild night, and the morning looked scared. Perhaps it was only the particular locality, for if ever a place shewed bleak and winter-stricken, the little town of Quarrenton was in that condition that morning. The snow overlaid and enveloped everything, except where the wind had been at work; and the wind and the gray clouds seemed the only agencies abroad.
Not a ray of sunlight to relieve the uniform sober tints, the universal gray and white, only varied where a black house-roof, partially cleared, or a blacker barebranched tree, gave it a sharp interruption. There was not a solitary thing that bore an indication of comfortable life, unless the curls of smoke that went up from the chimneys; and Fleda was in no condition to study their physiognomy.
A little square hotel, perched alone on ā rising ground, looked the especial bleak and unpromising spot of the place. It bore, however, the imposing title of the Pocahontas; and there the sleigh set them down.
They were ushered up stairs into a little parlour, furnished in the usual syle, with one or two articles a great deal too showy for the place, and a general dearth as to the rest. A lumbering mahogany sofa, that shewed as much wood and as little promise as possible, a marble-topped centre-table, chairs in the minority, and curtains minus, and the hearth-rug providently turned bottom upwards. On the centre-table lay a pile of Penny Magazines, à volume of selections of poetry from various good authors, and a sufficient complement of newspapers. The room was rather cold, but of that the waiter gave a reasonable explanation in the fact that the fire had not been burning long
Furs, however, might be dispensed with, or Fleda thought
20; and taking off her bonnet she endeavoured to rest her weary head against the sharp-cut top of the sofa-back, which seemed contrived expressly to punish and forbid all attempts at ease-seeking The mere change of position was still comparative ease. But the black fox had not done duty yet. Its ample folds were laid over the sofa, cushion, back, and all, so as at once to serve for pillow and mattress; and Fleda being gently placed upon it laid her face down again upon the soft fur, which gave a very kindly welcome not more to the body than to the mind. Fleda almost smiled as she felt that. The furs were something more than a pillow for her cheek-they were the soft image of somewhat for her mind to rest on. But entirely exhausted, too much for smiles or tears, though both were near, she resigned herself as helplessly as an infant to the feeling of rest; and in five minutes was in a state of dreamy unconsciousness.
Mrs Renney, who had slept a great part of the night, courted sleep anew in the rocking-chair, till breakfast should be ready; the other woman had found quarters in the lower part of the house; and Mr Carleton stood still with folded arms to read at his leisure the fair face that rested so con. fidingly upon the back fur of his cloak, looking so very fair in the contrast. It was the same face he had known in time past -the same, with only an alteration that had added new graces, but had taken away none of the old. Not one of the soft outlines had grown hard under Time's discipline; not a curve had lost its grace or its sweet mobility; and yet the hand of Time had been there; for on brow and lip and cheek and eyelid there was that nameless grave composure which said touchingly that hope had long ago clasped hands with submission. And perhaps, that if hope's anchor had not been well placed, ay, even where it could not be moved, the storms of life might have beaten even hope from her ground, and made a clean sweep of desolation over all she had left. Not the storms of the last few weeks. Mr Carleton saw and understood their work in the perfectly colourless and thin cheek. But these other finer drawn characters had taken longer to write. He did not know the instrument, but he read the handwriting, ánd came to his own resolutions therefrom.
Yet if not untroubled, she had remained unspotted by the world; that was as clear as the other. The slight eyebrow sat with its wonted calm purity of outline just where it used;
the eyelid fell as quietly; the forehead above it was as unruífled; and if the mouth had a subdued gravity that it had taken years to teach, it had neither lost any of the sweetness nor any of the simplicity of childhood. It was a strange picture that Mr Carleton was looking at—strange for its rareness. In this very matter of simplicity, that the world will never leave those who belong to it. Half sitting and half reclining, she had given herself to rest with the abandonment and self-forgetfulness of a child; her attitude had the very grace of a child's unconsciousness; and her face shewed that even in placing herself there she had lost all thought of any other presence or any other
eyes than her own; even of what her hand and cheek lay upon, and what it betokened. It meant something to Mr Carleton too; and if Fleda could have opened her eyes she would have seen in those that were fixed upon her a happy promise for her future life. She was beyond making any such observations; and Mrs Renney gave no interruption to his till the breakfast bell rang. Mr Carleton had desired the meal to be served in a private
But he was met with a speech in which such a confusion of arguments endeavoured to persuade him to be of another mind, that he had at last given way. It was asserted that the ladies would have their breakfast a great deal quicker and a great deal hotter with the rest of the company; and in the same breath that it would be a very great favour to the house if the gentleman would not put them to the inconvenience of setting a separate table; the reasons of which inconvenience were set forth in detail, or would have been if the gentleman would have heard them; and desirous especially of haste, on Fleda's account, Mr Carleton signified his willingness to let the house accommodate itself. Following the bell, a waiter now came to announce and conduct them to their breakfast.
Down the stairs, through sundry narrow turning passages, they went to a long low room at one corner of the house ; where a table was spread for a very nondescript company, as it soon proved, many of their last night's companions having found their way thither. The two ladies, however, were given the chief posts at the head, as near as possible to a fiery hot stove, and served with tea and coffee from a neighbouring table by a young lady in long ringlets, who was there probably for their express honour. But, alas for the breakfast! They might as good have had the comfort of a private room, for there was none other to be had. Of the tea and coffee, it might be said as once it was said of two bad roads—“whichever one you take, you will wish you had taken the other;" the beefsteak was a problem of impracticability; and the chickens-Fleda could not help thinking, that a well-to-do rooster which she saw flapping his wings in the yard, must, in all probability, be at that very moment endeavouring to account for a sudden breach in his social circle; and if the oysters had been some very fine ladies, they could hardly have retained less recollection of their original circumstances. It was in vain to try to eat or to drink ; and Fleda returned to her sofa with even an increased appetite for rest, the more that her head began to take its revenge for the trials to which it had been put the past day and night.
She had closed her eyes again in her old position. Mrs Renney was tying her bonnet-strings. Mr Carleton was pacing up
“ Aren't you going to get ready, Miss Ringgan ?" said the former.
“ How soon will the cars be here ?” exclaimed Fleda, start
“ Presently," said Mr Carleton; “but,” said he, coming up to her and taking her hands—“I am going to prescribe for you again will you let me?"
Fleda's face gave small promise of opposition.
“ You are not fit to travel now. You need some hours of quiet rest before we go any further."
“But when shall we get home ?” said Fleda.
“ In good time—not by the railroad—there is a nearer way that will take us to Queechy without going through Greenfield. I have ordered a room to be made ready for you—will you try if it be habitable ?”
Fleda submitted ; and indeed there was in his manner a sort of gentle determination to which few women would have opposed themselves ; besides, that her head threatened to make a journey a miserable business. “ You are ill now," said Mr Carleton.
“ Cannot you
induce your companion to stay and attend you ?”
“I don't want her," said Fleda. Mr Carleton, however, mooted the question himself with Mrs Renney, but she represented to him, though with much deference, that the care of her property must oblige her to go
where and when it went. He rang, and ordered the housekeeper to be sent.
Presently after, a young lady in ringlets entered the room, and first taking a somewhat leisurely survey of the company, walked to the window, and stood there looking out. A dim recollection of her figure and air made Fleda query whether she were not the person sent for; but it was several minutes before it came into Mr Carleton's head to ask if she belonged to the house. “ I do, sir," was the dignified answer. Will
you shew this lady the room prepared for her. And take care that she wants nothing."
The owner of the ringlets answered not, but turning the front view of them full upon Fleda, seemed to intimate that she was ready to act as her guide. She hinted, however, that the rooms were very airy in winter, and that Fleda would stand a better chance of comfort where she was. But this Fleda would not listen to, and followed her adviser to the half-warmed, and certainly very airy apartment which had been got ready for her. It was probably more owing to something in her own appearance, than to Mr Carleton's word of admonition on the subject, that her attendant was really assiduous and kind.
“ Be you of this country?” she said abruptly, after her good offices, as Fleda thought, were ended, and she had just closed
She opened them again, and said, “ Yes."
The young lady gave her a good look out of her large dark eyes, and, remarking that “she thought they didn't look much like,” left the room.
The day was spent by poor Fleda between pain and stupor, each of which acted in some measure to check the other-too much exhausted for nervous pain, to reach the height it sometimes did, while yet that was sufficient to prevent stupor from