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“Oh no you didn't.”
“Oh yes !—indeed I do," said she looking up again, “thank you, Mr. Carleton."
A gentle kind pressure of his arm answered her thanks.
“I ought to be a good sprite to you, Mr. Carleton, Fleda said after musing a little while,—“you are so very good to me!"
Perhaps Mr. Carleton felt too much pleasure at this speech to make any answer, for he made none.
“It is only selfishness, Elfie," said he presently, looking down to the quiet sweet little face which seemed to him, and was, more pure than anything of earth’s mould he had
“ You know I must take care of you for my own sake."
Fleda laughed a little. - But what will you do when we get to Paris ?" “I don't know. "I should like to have you always, Elfie.
'You'll have to get aunt Lucy to give me to you,” said Fleda.
“Mr. Carleton," said she a few minutes after, --- is that story in a book ?"
“ About the lady and the little sprites that waited on her."
· Yes, it is in a book; you shall see it, Elfie. ---Here we
And here it was proposed to stay till the next day, lest Fleda might not be able to bear so much travelling at first. But the country inn was not found inviting; the dinner was bad and the rooms were worse; uninhabitable, the ladies said; and about the middle of the afternoon they began to cast about for the means of reaching Albany that night. None very comfortable could be had; however it was thought better to push on at any rate than wear out the night in such a place. The weather was very mild; the moon at the full.
“How is Fleda to go this afternoon?” said Mrs. Evelyn.
“She shall decide herself,” said Mrs. Carleton. will you go, my sweet Fleda ???
Fleda was lying upon a sort of rude couch which had
been spread for her, where she had been sleeping incessantly ever since she arrived, the hour of dinner alone excepted. Mrs. Carleton repeated her question.
I am afraid Mr. Carleton must be tired,” said Fleda, without opening her eyes.
“That means that you are, don't it?” said Rossitur. "No," said Fleda gently.
Mr. Carleton smiled and went out to press forward the arrangements. In spite of good words and good money there was some delay. It was rather late before the cavalcade left the inn; and a journey of several hours was before them. Mr. Carleton rode rather slowly too, for Fleda's sake, so the evening had fallen while they were yet a mile or two from the city.
His little charge had borne the fatigue well, thanks partly to his admirable care, and partly to her quiet pleasure in being with him. She had been so perfectly still for some distance that he thought she had dropped asleep. Looking down closer however to make sure about it he saw her thoughtful clear eyes most unsleepily fixed upon
“What are you gazing at, Elfie ?"
The look of thought changed to a look of affection as the eyes were brought to bear upon him, and she answered with a smile,
“Nothing —I was looking at the stars."
Mayn't I know them ?-I like to hear of pleasant things.
“I was thinking.--" said Fleda, looking up again at the stars, which shone with no purer ray than those grave eyes sent back to them, -" I was thinking-of being ready to die."
The words, and the calm thoughtful manner in which they were said, thrilled upon Mr. Carleton with a disagreeable shock.
“How came you to think of such a thing ?” said he lightly.
“I don't know,"—said Fleda, still looking at the stars " I suppose I was thinking--"
“What??? : said Mr. Carleton, inexpressibly curious to get at the workings of the child's mind, which was not easy, for Fleda was never very forward to talk of herself;
“what were you thinking? I want to know how you could get such a thing into your head.”
“It wasn't very strange," said Fleda. “The stars made me think of heaven, and grandpa's being there, and then I thought: how he was ready to go there, and that made him ready to die
“ I wouldn't think of such things, Elfie,” said Mr. Carleton after a few minutes.
Why not, sir ?" said Fleda quickly. "I don't think they are good for you.”
“But Mr. Carleton," said Fleda gently,—“if I don't think about it, how shall I ever be ready to die ?”
“It is not fit for you," said he evading the question“it is not necessary now,—there's time enough. You are a little body and should have none but gay thoughts.”
“But Mr. Carleton,” said Fleda with timid earnestness,
“ don't you think one could have gay thoughts better if one knew one was ready to die ?"
“What makes a person ready to die, Elfie?” said her friend, disliking to ask the question, but yet more unable to answer hers, and curious to hear what she would say.
“O---to be a Christian," said Fleda.
“But I have seen Christians," said Mr. Carleton, “ who were no more ready to die than other people.”
“ Then they were make-believe Christians," said Fleda decidedly.
“What makes you think so ?" said her friend, carefully guarding his countenance from anything like a smile.
Because,” said Fleda, “grandpa was ready, and my father was ready, and my mother too; and I know it was because they were Christians.”
" Perhaps your kind of Christians are different from my kind,” said Mr. Carleton, carrying on the conversation half in spite of himself. “What do you mean by a Christian, Elfie?"
“Why, what the Bible means," said Fleda, looking at him with innocent earnestness.
Mr. Carleton was ashamed to tell her he did not know what that was, or he was unwilling to say what he felt would trouble the happy confidence she had in him. He was silent; but as they rode on, a bitter wish crossed his mind that he could have the simple purity of the little child in his arms; and he thought he would give his broad acres, supposing it possible that religion could be true,—in exchange for that free happy spirit that looks up to all its possessions in heaven.
Starres are poore books and oftentimes do misse;
notable. The first half of the passage was extremely unquiet, and most of the passengers uncomfortable to match. Then the weather cleared ; and the rest of the way, though lengthened out a good deal by the tricks of the wind, was very fair and pleasant.
Fifteen days of tossing and sea-sickness had brought little Fleda to look like the ghost of herself. So soon as the weather changed and sky and sea were looking gentle again, Mr. Carleton had a mattress and cushions laid in a sheltered corner of the deck for her, and carried her up. She had hardly any more strength than a baby.
“What are you looking at me so for, Mr. Carleton ?" said she, a little while after he had carried her up, with a sweet serious smile that seemed to know the answer to her question.
He stooped down and clasped her little thin hand, as reverentially as if she really had not belonged to the earth.
6 You are more like a sprite than I like to see you just now," said he, unconsciously fastening the child's heart to himself with the magnetism of those deep eyes.--" I must get some of the sailors' salt beef and sea-biscuit for
youthey say that is the best thing to make people well.”
"O I feel better already,” said Fleda, and settling her little face upon the cushion and closing her eyes, she added, “thank you, Mr. Carleton !"
The fresh air began to restore her immediately; she was