Abbildungen der Seite



He said no more ;--but Fleda's sobs said a great deal. And when the sobs were hushed, she still sat shedding quiet tears, sorrowed and disturbed by her grandfather's

She had never known it so grave, so solemn; but there was that shadow of something else in it besides, and she would have feared if she had known what to fear. He told her at last that she had better go to bed, and to say to Cynthy that he wanted to see her. She was going, and had near reached the door, when he said,

6. Elfieda!"
She hastened back to the bedside.
6. Kiss me.”

He let her do so twice, without moving, and then holding her to his breast he pressed one long earnest passionate kiss upon her lips, and released her.

Fleda told Cynthy that her grandfather wished her to come to him, and then mounted the stairs to her little bed

She went to the window and opening it looked out at the soft moonlit sky; the weather was mild again and a little hazy, and the landscape was beautiful. But little Fleda was tasting realities, and she could not go off upon dream-journeys to seek the light food of fancy through the air. She did not think to-night about the people the moon was shining on; she only thought of one little sad anxious heart,--and of another down stairs, more sad and anxious still, she feared ;---what could it be about?

--what could it be about? Now that Mr. Jolly had settled all that troublesome business with McGowan 2

As she stood there at the window, gazing out aimlessly into the still night,--it was very quiet, --she heard Cynthy at the back of the house calling out, but as if she were afraid of making too much noise, “ Watkins ! - Watkins !"

The sound had business, if not anxiety, in it. Fleda instinctively held her breath to listen. Presently she heard Watkins reply; but they were round the corner, she could not easily make out what they said. It was only by straining her ears that she caught the words,

“Watkins, Mr. Ringgan wants you to go right up on the hill to Mis' Plumfield's and tell her he wants her to come right down--he thinks”-the voice of the speaker fell, and Fleda could only make out the last words“ Dr. James.”


[ocr errors]

More was said, but so thick and low that she could under: stand nothing.

She had heard enough. She shut the window, trembling, and fastened again the parts of her dress she had loosened; and softly and hastily went down the stairs into the kitchen,

Cynthy !--what is the matter with grandpa ?" “Why ain't you in bed, Flidda ?" said Cynthy with some sharpness. “That's what you had ought to be. I am sure your grandpa wants you to be abed."

- But tell me," said Fleda anxiously.

“I don't know as there's anything the matter with him," said Cynthy. “Nothing much, I suppose. What makes you think anything is the matter ?"

“ Because I heard you telling Watkins to go for aunt Miriam.' Fleda could not say,---- and the doctor,"

“ Well your grandpa thought he'd like to have her come down, and he don't feel right well,--so I sent Watkins

up but you'd better go to bed, Flidda; you'll catch cold if you sit up o' night."

Fleda was unsatisfied, the more because Cynthy would not meet the keen searching look with which the little girl tried to read her face. She was not to be sent to bed, and all Cynthy's endeavours to make her change her mind were of no avail. Fleda saw in them but fresh reason for staying, and saw besides, what Cynthy could not hide, a somewhat of wandering and uneasiness in her manner which strengthened her resolution. She sat down in the chimney corner, resolved to wait till her aunt Miriam came; there would be satisfaction in her, for aunt Miriam always told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

It was a miserable three quarters of an hour. The kitchen seemed to wear a strange desolate look, though seen in its wonted bright light of fire and candles, and in itself nice and cheerful as usual. Fleda looked at it also through that vague fear which casts its own lurid colour upon everything. The very flickering of the candle blaze seemed of ill omen, and her grandfather's empty chair stood a signal of pain to little Fleda whenever she looked at ito She sat still, in submissive patience, her cheek pale with the working of a heart too big for that little body. Cynthia was going in and out of her grandfather's room, but Fleda would not ask her any more questions, to be disappointed with word-answers; she waited, but the minutes seemed very long,—and very sad.

The characteristic outward calm which Fleda had kept, and which belonged to a nature uncommonly moulded to patience and fortitude, had yet perhaps heightened the pressure of excited fear within. When at last she saw the cloak and hood of aunt Miriam coming through the moonlight to the kitchen door, she rushed to open it, and quite overcome for the moment threw her arms around her and was speechless. Aunt Miriam's tender and quiet voice comforted her.

“ You up yet, Fleda! Hadn't you better go to bed ? "Tisn't good for you."

“That's what I've been a telling her,” said Cynthy, “but she wa’n’t a mind to listen to me.

But the two little arms embraced aunt Miriam's cloak and wrappers and the little face was hid there still, and Fleda's answer was a half smothered ejaculation.

“ I am so glad you are come, dear aunt Miriam !!!

Aunt Miriam kissed her again, and again repeated her request.

* O no—I can't go to bed," said Fleda crying;—“I can't till I know I am sure something is the matter, or Cynthy wouldn't look so. Do tell me, aunt Miriam !"

“ I can't tell you anything, dear, except that grandpa is not well—that is all I know-I am going in to see him. I will tell you in the morning how he is.'

“ No," said Fleda, “I will wait here till you come out. I couldn't sleep.”

Mrs. Plumfield made no more efforts to persuade her, but rid herself of cloak and hood and went into Mr. Ringgan's room. Fleda placed herself again in her chimney

Burying her face in her hands, she sat waiting more quietly; and Cynthy, having finished all her business, took a chair on the hearth opposite to her. Both were silent and motionless, except when Cynthy once in a while got up to readjust the sticks of wood on the fire. They sat there waiting so long that Fleda's anxiety began to quicken again.


[ocr errors]

“Don't you think the doctor is a long time coming, Cynthy ?" said she raising her head at last. Her question, breaking that forced silence, sounded fearful.

“It seems kind o' long," said Cynthy. “I guess Watkins ha'n't found him to hum.'

Watkins indeed presently came in and reported as much, and that the wind was changing and it was coming off cold; and then his heavy boots were heard going up the stairs to his room overhead; but Fleda listened in vain for the sound of the latch of her grandfather's door, or aunt Miriam's quiet foot-fall in the passage; listened and longed, till the minutes seemed like the links of a heavy chain which she was obliged to pass over from hand to hand, and the last link could not be found. The noise of Watkins' feet ceased overhead, and nothing stirred or moved but the crackling flames and Cynthia's elbows, which took tums each in resting upon the opposite arm, and now and then a tell-tale gust of wind in the trees. If Mr. Ringgan was asleep, why did not aunt Miriam come out and see them,if he was better, why not come and tell them so. He had been asleep when she first went into his room, and she had come back for a minute then to try again to get Fleda to bed; why could she not come out for a minute once more. Two hours of watching and trouble had quite changed little Fleda; the dark ring of anxiety had come under each eye in her little pale face; she looked herself almost ill.

Aunt Miriam's grave step was heard coming out of the room at last, it did not sound cheerfully in Fleda's ears. She came in, and stopping to give some direction to Cynthy, walked up to Fleda. Her face encouraged no questions. She took the child's head tenderly in both her hands, and told her gently, but it was in vain that she tried to make her voice quite as usual, that she had better go to bed that she would be sick.

Fleda looked up anxiously in her face,
“ How is he?"
But her next word was the wailing cry of sorrow,

6 Oh

grandpa !-"

The old lady took the little child in her arms and they both sat there by the fire until the morning dawned.



Patience and sorrow strove
Who should express her goodliest.



HEN Mr. Carleton knocked at the front door the next

day about two o'clock it was opened to him by Cynthy. He asked for his late host.

Mr. Ringgan is dead." “ Dead !” exclaimed the young man much shocked ;" when ? how ???

“Won't you come in, sir ?” said Cynthy ;—“ maybe you'll see Mis' Plumfield.”

“No, certainly," replied the visiter. “Only tell me about Mr. Ringgan.

“ He died last night.”
• What was the matter with him ???

“I don't know,” said Cynthy in a business-like tone of voice,—“I s'pose the doctor knows, but he didn't say nothing about it. . He died very sudden.” .

6 Was he alone??'

“No his sister was with him; he had been complaining all the evening that he didn't feel right, but I didn't think nothing of it and I didn't know as he did; and towards evening he went and laid down, and Flidda was with him a spell, talking to him; and at last he sent her to bed and called me in and said he felt mighty strange and he didn't know what it was going to be, and that he had as lieve I should send up and ask Mis’ Plumfield to come down, and perhaps I might as well send for the doctor too. And I sent right off

, but the doctor wa’n’t to hum, and didn't get here till long after. Mis? Plumfield, she come; and Mr. Ringgan was asleep then, and I didn't know as it was going to be

« ZurückWeiter »