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anything more after all than just a turn, such as anybody might take; and Mis’ Plumfield went in and sot by him; and there wa’n’t no one else in the room; and after a while he come to, and talked to her, she said, a spell; but he seemed to think it was something more than common ailed him; and all of a sudden he just riz up half way in bed and then fell back and died --with no more warning than that.”
“And how is the little girl ?"
“Why," said Cynthy, looking off at right angles from her visiter, “she's middling now, I s'pose, but she won't be before long, or else she must be harder to make sick than other folks.--We can't get her out of the room,” she added, bringing her eyes to bear, for an instant, upon the young gentleman, ----" she stays in there the hull time since morning--I've tried, and Mis’ Plumfield's tried, and every body has tried, and there can't none of us manage it; she will stay in there, and it's an awful cold room when there ain't no fire."
Cynthy and her visiter were both taking the benefit of the chill blast which rushed in at the opon door.
“ The room?" said Mr. Carleton. 6. The room where the body lies ???
“ Yes--it's dreadful chill in there when the stove ain't heated, and she sits there the hull time. And she ha’n’t got much to boast of now, she looks as if a feather would blow her away.”
The door at the further end of the hall opened about two inches and a voice called out through the crack,
Cynthy !--- Mis' Plumfield wants to know if that is Mr. Carleton ?"
6 Well she'd like to see him. Ask him to walk into the front room, she says."
Cynthy upon this shewed the way, and Mr. Carleton walked into the same room where a very few days before he had been so kindly welcomed by his fine old host. Cold indeed it was now, as was the welcome he would have given. There was no fire in the chimney, and even all the signs of the fire of the other day had been carefully cleared away; the clean empty fireplace looked a mournful assurance that its cheerfulness would not soon come back again. It was a raw disagreeable day; the paper windowshades fluttered uncomfortably in the wind, which had its way now; and the very chairs and tables seemed as if they had taken leave of life and society for ever. Mr. Carleton walked slowly up and down, his thoughts running perhaps somewhat in the train where poor little Fleda's had been so busy last night; and wrapped up in broadcloth as he was to the chin, he shivered when he heard the chill wind moaning round the house and rustling the paper hangings and thought of little Fleda's delicate frame, exposed as Cynthia had described it. He made up his mind it must not be.
Mrs. Plumfield presently came in, and met him with the calm dignity of that sorrow which needs no parade and that truth and meekness of character which can make none. Yet there was nothing like stoicism, no affected or proud repression of feeling; her manner was simply the dictate of good sense borne out by a firm and quiet spirit. Mr. Carleton was struck with it; it was a display of character different from any he had ever before met with; it was something he could not quite understand. For he wanted the key. But all the high respect he had felt for this lady from the first was confirmed and strengthened.
After quietly receiving Mr. Carleton's silent grasp of the hand, aunt Miriam said,
“I troubled you to stop, sir, that I might ask you how much longer you expect to stop at Montepoole."
Not more than two or three days, he said.
“I understood,” said aunt Miriam after a minute's pause, " that Mrs. Carleton was so kind as to say she would take care of Elfleda to France and put her in the hands of her aunt."
“She would have great pleasure in doing it," said Mr. Carleton. “I can promise for your little niece that she shall have a mother's care so long as my mother can render it."
Aunt Miriam was silent, and he saw her eyes fill.
“ You should not have had the pain of seeing me to-day," said he gently, “ if I could have known it would give you any; but since I am here, may I ask, whether it is your determination that Fleda shall go with us?"
"It was my brother's," said aunt Miriam, sighing ;—" he told me--last night--that he wished her to go with Mrs. Carleton—if she would still be so good as to take her.'
“I have just heard about her, from the housekeeper," said Mr. Carleton, “what has disturbed me a good deal. Will you forgive me, if I venture to propose that she should come to us at once. Of course we will not leave the place for several days—till you are ready to part with her.”
Aunt Miriam hesitated, and again the tears flushed to
“I believe it would be best,” she said, "since it must be--I cannot get the child away from her grandfather-I am afraid I want firmness to do it--and she ought not to be there--she is a tender little creature
For once self-command failed her--she was obliged to cover her face.
“A stranger's hands cannot be more tender of her than ours will be," said Mr. Carleton, his warm pressure of aunt Miriam's hand repeating the promise. "My mother will bring a carriage for her this afternoon, if you will permit.”
If you please, sir,--since it must be, it does not matter a day sooner or later," repeated aunt Miriam,——“ if she can be got awayI don't know whether it will be possible.”
Mr. Carleton had his own private opinion on that point. He merely promised to be there again in a few hours and took his leave.
He came, with his mother, about five o'clock in the afternoon. They were shewn this time into the kitchen, where they found two or three neighbours and friends with aunt Miriam and Cynthy. The former received them with the same calm simplicity that Mr. Carleton had admired in the morning, but said she was afraid their coming would be in vain; she had talked with Fleda about the proposed plan and could not get her to listen to it. She doubted whether it would be possible to persuade her. And yet-
Aunt Miriam's self-possession seemed to be shaken when she thought of Fleda; she could not speak of her without watering eyes.
“She's fixing to be sick as fast as ever she can, marked Cynthia dryly, in a kind of aside meant for the audience;—“ there wa’n't a grain of colour in her face when I went in to try to get her out a little while ago; and Mis'
Plumfield ha’n’t the heart to do anything with her, nor nobody else."
“Mother, will you see what you can do ?" said Mr. Carleton.
Mrs. Carleton went, with an expression of face that her son, nobody else, knew meant that she thought it a particularly disagreeable piece of business. She came back after the lapse of a few minutes, in tears.
“I can do nothing with her,” she said hurriedly ;-“1 don't know what to say to her; and she looks like death. Go yourself, Guy; you can manage her if any one can.
Mr. Carleton went immediately.
The room into which a short passage admitted him was cheerless indeed. On a fair afternoon the sun's rays came in there pleasantly, but this was a true November day; a grey sky and a chill raw wind that found its way in between the loose window-sashes and frames. One corner of the room was sadly tenanted by the bed which held the remains of its late master and owner. At a little table between the windows, with her back turned towards the bed, Fleda was sitting, her face bowed in her hands upon the old quarto bible that lay there open; a shawl round her shoulders.
Mr. Carleton went up to the side of the table and softly spoke her name. Fleda looked up at him for an instant, and then buried her face in her hands on the book as before. That look might have staggered him, but that Mr. Carleton rarely was staggered in any purpose when he had once made up his mind. It did move him, --so much that he was obliged to wait a minute or two before he could muster firmness to speak to her again. Such a look,--s0 pitiful in its sorrow, so appealing in its helplessness, so imposing in its purity,—he had never seen, and it absolutely awed him. Many a child's face is lovely to look upon for its innocent purity, but more commonly it is not like this; it is the purity of snow, unsullied, but not unsullyable; there is another kind more ethereal, like that of light, which you feel is from another sphere and will not know soil. But there were other signs in the face that would have nerved Mr. Carleton's resolution if he had needed it. Twenty-four hours had wrought a sad change. The child
looked as if she had been ill for weeks. Her cheeks were colourless; the delicate brow would have seemed pencilled on marble but for the dark lines which weeping and watching, and still more sorrow, had drawn underneath; and the beautiful moulding of the features shewed under the transparent skin like the work of the sculptor. She was not crying then, but the open pages of the great bible had been wet with very many tears since her head had rested there.
Fleda," said Mr. Carleton after à moinent,—“you must come with me.
The words were gently and tenderly spoken, yet they had that tone which young and old instinctively know it is vain to dispute. Fleda glanced up again, a touching imploring look it was very difficult to bear, and her “Oh no -I cannot,”—went to his heart.
went to his heart. It was not resistance but entreaty, and all the arguments she would have urged seemed to lie in the mere tone of her voice. She had no power of urging them in any other way, for even as she spoke her head went down again on the bible with a burst of sorrow.
Mr. Carleton was moved, but not shaken in his purpose. He was silent a moment, drawing back the hair that fell over Fleda's forehead with a gentle caressing touch; and then he said, still lower and more tenderly than before, but without flinching, “ You must come with me, Fleda."
Mayn't I stay," said Fleda, sobbing, while he could see in the tension of the iñuscles à violent effort at self-control which he did not like to see,—“màyn't I stay till-tillthe day after to-morrow ??
“No, dear Fleda," said he still stroking her head kindly,
“I will bring you back, but you must go with me now. Your aunt wishes it and we all think it is best. I will bring you back.”
She sobbed bitterly for a few minutes. Then she begged in smothered words that he would leave her alone a little while. He went immediately.
She checked her sobs when she heard the door close upon him, or as soon as she could, and rising went and knelt down by the side of the bed. It was not to cry, though what she did could not be done without many tears,—it was to repeat with equal earnestness and solemnity her mother's