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Mr. Carleton smiled as he now and then saw a glance of intelligence or admiration pass between one and another of the company; and a little knowing nod from Mrs. Evelyn and many a look from his mother confessed he had been quite right.
Those two, Mrs. Evelyn and Mrs. Carleton, were by far the most kind and eager in their attention to Fleda. Mrs. Thorn did little else but look at her. The gentlemen amused themselves with her. But Mr. Carleton, true to the hopes Fleda had founded upon his good-nature, had stood her friend all the day, coming to her help if she needed any, and placing himself easily and quietly between her and anything that threatened to try or annoy her too much. Fieda felt it with grateful admiration. Yet she noticed, too, that he was a very different person at this dinner-table from what he had been the other day at her grandfather's. Easy and graceful, always, he filled his own place, but did not seem to care to do more; there was even something bordering on haughtiness in his air of grave
He was not the life of the company here; he contented himself with being all that the company could possibly require of him.
On the whole Fleda was exceedingly well pleased with her day, and thought all the people in general very kind. It was quite late before she set out to go home again; and then Mrs. Evelyn and Mrs. Carleton were extremely afraid lest she should take cold, and Mr. Carleton without saying one word about it wrapped her up so very nicely after she got into the wagon, in a warm cloak of his mother's. The drive home, through the gathering shades of twilight, was to little Fleda thoroughly charming. It was almost in perfect silence, but she liked that; and all the way home her mind was full of a shadowy beautiful world that seemed to lie before and around her.
It was a happy child that Mr. Carleton lifted from the wagon when they reached Queechy. He read it in the utter lightheartedness of brow and voice, and the spring to the ground which hardly needed the help of his hands.
“Thank you, Mr. Carleton," she said when she had reached her own door; (he would not go in) “I have had a very nice time!"
“Good night," said he. “Tell your grandfather I will come to-morrow to see him about some business."
Fleda ran gayly into the kitchen. Only Cynthia was there.
- Where is grandpa, Cynthy ?"
“ He went off into his room a half an hour ago. I believe he's layin' down. He ain't right well, I s'pect. What’s made you so late ?"
" they kept me," said Fleda. Her gayety suddenly sobered, she took off her bonnet and coat and throwing them down in the kitchen stole softly along the passage to her grandfather's room. She stopped a minute at the door and held her breath to see if she could hear any movement which might tell her he was not asleep. It was all still, and pulling the iron latch with her gentlest hand Fleda went on tiptoe into the room. He was lying on the bed, but awake, for she had made no noise and the blue eyes opened and looked upon her as she came near. “ Are you not well
, dear grandpa ?" said the little girl. Nothing made of flesh and blood ever spoke words of more spirit-like sweetness,--not the beauty of a fine organ, but such as the sweetness of angel-speech might be; a whisper of love and tenderness that was hushed by its own intensity. He did not answer, or did not notice her first question; she repeated it.
“Don't you feel well ?"
There was the shadow of somewhat in his tone, that fell upon his little granddaughter's heart and brow at once. Her voice next time, though not suffered to be anything but clear and cheerful still, had in part the clearness of apprehension.
66 What is the matter ?”
She felt the shadow again, and he seemed to say that time would shew her the meaning of it. She put her little hand in one of his which lay outside the coverlets, and stood looking at him; and presently said, but in a very different key from the same speech to Mr. Carleton,
“I have had a very nice time, dear grandpa.”
Her grandfather made her no answer. He brought the dear little hand to his lips and kissed it twice, so earnestly that it was almost passionately; then laid it on the side of the bed again, with his own upon it, and patted it slowly and fondly and with an inexpressible kind of sadness in the
Fleda's lip trembled and her heart was fluttering, but she stood so that he could not see her face in the dusk, and kept still till the rebel features were calm again and she had schooled the heart to be silent.
Mr. Ringgan had closed his eyes, and perhaps was asleep, and his little granddaughter sat quietly down on a chair by the bedside to watch by him, in that gentle solrowful patience which women often know but which hardly belongs to childhood. Her eye and thoughts, as she sat there in the dusky twilight, fell upon the hand of her grandfather which still fondly held one of her own; and fancy travelled fast and far, from what it was to what it had been. Rough, discoloured, stiff
, as it lay there now, she thought how it had once had the hue and the freshness and the grace of youth, when it had been the instrument of uncommon strength and wielded an authority that none could stand against. Her fancy waridered over the scenes it had known; when it had felled trees in the wild forest, and those fingers, then supple and slight, had played the fife to the struggling men of the Revolution; how its activity had outdone the activity of all other hands in clearing and cultivating those very fields where her feet loved to run; how in its pride of strength it had handled the scythe and the sickle and the flail, with a grace and efficiency that no other could attain; arid how in happy manhood that strong hand had fondled and sheltered and led the little children that now had grown up and were gone! --Strength and activity, ay, and the fruits of them, were passed away ;-his children were dead ;--his race was run; -the shock of corn was in full season, ready to be gathered. Poor little Fleda! her thought had travelled but a very little way before the sense of these things entirely overcame her; her head bowed on her knees, and she wept tears that all the fine springs of her nature were moving to feed-many, many--but poured forth as quietly as biti terly; she smothered every sound. That beautiful sha- . dowy world with which she had been so busy a little while ago,--alas! she had left the fair outlines and the dreamy light and had been tracking one solitary path through the wilderness, and she saw how the traveller foot-sore and weather-beaten comes to the end of his way. And after all, he comes to the end.— Yes, and I must travel through life and come to the end, too,” thought little Fleda ;—“life is but a passing through the world; my hand must wither and grow old too, if I live long enough, and whether or no, I must come to the end-Oh, there is only one thing that ought to be very much minded in this world !!!
That thought, sober though it was, brought sweet consolation. Fleda’s tears, if they fell as fast, grew brighter, as she remembered with singular tender joy that her mother and her father had been ready to see the end of their journey, and were not afraid of it; that her grandfather and her aunt Miriam were happy in the same quiet confidence, and she believed she herself was a lamb of the Good Shepherd's flock. “And he will let none of his lambs be lost, she thought. "How happy I am! How happy we all are !"
Her grandfather still lay quiet as if asleep, and gently drawing her hand from under his, Fleda went and got a candle and sat down by him again to read, carefully shading the light so that it might not awake him.
He presently spoke to her, and more cheerfully. “ Are you reading, dear ?"
“Yes, grandpa !" said the little girl looking up brightly. “ Does the candle disturb you ?”
66 No dear! What have you got there ?"
“I just took up this volume of Newton that has the hymns in it."
66 Read out."
Fleda read Mr. Newton's long beautiful hymn, Lord will provide;" but with her late thoughts fresh in her mind it was hard to get through the last verses ;
"No strength of our own,
Or goodness we claim;
The Saviour's great name,
For safety we hide;
The Lord will provide.
$* When life sinks apace,
And death is in view,
Shall comfort us through.
With Christ on our side,
The Lord will provide !" The little reader's voice changed, almost broke, but she struggled through, and then was quietly crying behind her hand.
“Read it again," said the old gentleman after a pause.
There is no cannot in the vocabulary of affection. Fleda waited a minute or two to rally her forces, and then went through it again, more steadily than the first time.
“Yes," said Mr. Ringgan calmly, folding his hands, " that will do! That trust won't fail, for it is founded upon a rock. He is a rock; and he knoweth them that put their trust in him!' I have been a fool to doubt ever that he would make all things work well-The Lord will provide !"
Grandpa," said Fleda, but in an unsteady voice, and shading her face with her hand still,-_“I can remember reading this hymn to my mother once when I was so little that suggestions' was a hard word to me.”
“Ay, ay,--I dare say," said the old gentleman,--"your Inother knew that Rock and rested her hope upon it, where mine stands now. If ever there was a creature that might have trusted to her own doings, I believe she was one, for I never saw her do anything wrong, -as I know. But she knew Christ was all. Will you follow him as she did, dear ???
Fleda tried in vain to give an answer. “Do you know what her last prayer for you was, Fleda ?"
No, grandpa.” “ It was that you might be kept “unspotted from the world.? I heard her make that prayer myself.” And stretching out his hand the old gentleman laid it tenderly upon Fleda's bowed head, saying with strong earnestness and affection, even his voice somewhat shaken, “God grant that prayer !-whatever else he do with her, keep my child from the evil !-and bring her to join her father and mother in heaven ---and me!"