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CHAPTER XIV. .
Heav'n bless thee;
went to see.
0 NE of the greatest of Fleda's pleasures was when Mr.
Carleton came to take her out with him. He did that often. Fleda only wished he would have taken Hugh too, but somehow he never did. Nothing but that was wanting to make the pleasure of those times perfect. Knowing that she saw the common things in other company, Guy was at the pains to vary the amusement when she went with him. Instead of going to Versailles or St. Cloud, he would take her long delightful drives into the country and shew her some old or interesting place that nobody else
Often there was a history belonging to the spot, which Fleda listened to with the delight of eye and fancy at once. In the city, where they more frequently walked, still he shewed her what she would perhaps have seen under no other other guidance. He made it his business to give her pleasure; and understanding the inquisitive active little spirit he had to do with he went where his own tastes would hardly have led him. The Quai aux Fleurs was often visited, but also the Halle aux Blés, the great Halle aux Vins, the Jardin des Plantes, and the Marché des Innocens. Guy even took the trouble, more for her sake than his own, to go to the latter place once very early in the morning, when the market bell had not two hours sounded, while the interest and prettiness of the scene were yet in their full life. Hugh was in company this time, and the delight of both children was beyond words, as it would have been beyond anybody's patience that had not a strong motive to back it. They never discovered that Mr. Carleton was in a hurry, as indeed he was not. They bargained for fruit with any number of people, upon all sorts of inducements, and to an extent of which they had no competent notion, but Hugh had his mother's purse, and Fleda was skilfully commissioned to purchase what she pleased for Mrs. Carleton. Verily the two children that morning bought pleasure, not peaches. Fancy and Benevolence held the purse strings, and Economy did not even look on. They revelled too, Fleda especially, amidst the bright pictures of the odd, the new, and the picturesque, and the varieties of character and incident, that were displayed around them; even till the country people began to go away and the scene to lose its charm. It never lost it in memory, and many a time in after life Hugh and Fleda recurred to something that was seen or done “ that morning when we bought fruit at the Innocens."
Besides these scenes of everyday life, which interested and amused Fleda to the last degree, Mr. Carleton shewed her many an obscure part of Paris where deeds of daring and of blood had been, and thrilled the little listener's ear with histories of the Past. He judged her rightly. She would rather at any time have gone to walk with him, than with anybody else to see any show that could be devised. His object in all this was in the first place to give her pleasure, and in the second place to draw out her mind into free communion with his own, which he knew could only be done by talking sense to her. He succeeded as he wished. Lost in the interest of the scenes he presented to her eye and mind, she forgot everything else and shewed him herself; precisely what he wanted to see.
It was strange that a young man, an admired man of fashion, a flattered favourite of the gay and great world, and furthermore a reserved and proud repeller of almost all who sought his intimacy, should seek and delight in the society of a little child. His mother would have wondered if she had known it. Mrs. Rossitur did marvel that even Fleda should have so won upon the cold and haughty young Englishman; and her husband said he probably chose to have Fleda with him because he could make up his mind to like nobody else. A remark which perhaps arose from the utter failure of every attempt to draw him and Charlton nearer together. But Mr. Rossitur was only half right. The reason lay deeper.
Mr. Carleton had admitted the truth of Christianity, upon what he considered sufficient grounds, and would now have steadily fought for it, as he would for anything else that he believed to be truth. But there he stopped. He had not discovered nor tried to discover whether the truth of Christianity imposed any obligation upon him. He had cast off his unbelief, and looked upon it now as a singular folly. But his belief was almost as vague and as fruitless as his infidelity had been. Perhaps, a little, his bitter dissatisfaction with the world and human things, or rather his despondent view of them, was mitigated. If there was, as he now held, a Supreme Orderer of events, it might be, and it was rational to suppose there would be, in the issues of time, an entire change wrought in the disordered and dishonoured state of his handiwork. There might be a remedial system somewhere,---nay, it might be in the Bible; he meant to look some day. But that he had anything to do with that change--that the working of the remedial system called for hands—that his had any charge in the matter had never entered into his imagination or stirred his conscience. He was living his old life at Paris, with his old dissatisfaction, perhaps a trifle less bitter. He was seeking pleasure in whatever art, learning, literature, refinement and luxury can do for a man who has them all at command; but there was something within him that spurned this ignoble existence and called for higher aims and worthier exertion. He was not vicious, he never had been vicious, or, as somebody else said, his vices were all refined vices; but a life of mere self-indulgence although pursued without self-satisfaction, is constantly lowering the standard and weakening the forces of virtue,-lessening the whole man.
He felt it so; and to leave his ordinary scenes and occupations and lose a morning with little Fleda was a freshening of his better nature; it was like breathing pure air after the feverheat of a sick room; it was like hearing the birds sing after the meaningless jabber of Bedlam. Mr. Carleton indeed did not put the matter quite so strongly to himself. He called Fleda his good angel. He did not exactly know that the office this good angel performed was simply to hold a candle to his conscience. For conscience was not by any means dead in him; it only wanted light to see by. When he turned from the gay and corrupt world in which he lived, where the changes were rung incessantly upon self-interest, falsehood, pride, and the various more or less refined forms of sensuality, and when he looked upon that pure bright little face, so free from selfishness, those clear eyes so innocent of evil, the peaceful brow under which a thought of double-dealing had never hid, Mr. Carleton felt himself in a healthier region. Here as elsewhere, he honoured and loved the image of truth; in the broad sense of truth;—that which suits the perfect standard of right. But his pleasure in this case was invariably mixed with a slight feeling of self-reproach; and it was this hardly recognised stir of his better nature, this clearing of his mental eyesight under the light of a bright example, that made him call the little torch-bearer his good angel. If this were truth, this purity, uprightness and singleness of mind, as conscience said it was, where was he? how far wandering from his beloved Idol!
One other feeling saddened the pleasure he had in her society-a belief that the ground of it could not last. she could grow up so !"-he said to himself. “ But it is impossible. A very few years, and all that clear sunshine of the mind will be overcast;--there is not a cloud now!”
Under the working of these thoughts Mr. Carleton some times forgot to talk to his little charge, and would walk for a length of way by her side wrapped up in sombre musings. Fleda never disturbed him then, but waited contentedly and patiently for him to come out of them, with her old feeling wondering what he could be thinking of and wishing he were as happy as she. But he never left her very long ; he was sure to waive his own humour and give her all the graceful kind attention which nobody else could bestow so well. Nobody understood and appreciated it better than Fleda.
One day, some months after they had been in Paris, they were sitting in the Place de la Concorde, Mr. Carleton was in one of these thinking fits. He had been giving Fleda a long detail of the scenes that had taken place in that spot
a history of it from the time when it had lain an unsightly waste; -such a graphic lively account as he knew wel how to give. The absorbed interest with which she had lost everything else in what he was saying had given him at once reward and motive enough as he went on. Standing by his side, with one little hand confidingly resting on his knee, she gazed alternately into his face and towards the broad highly-adorned square by the side of which they had. placed themselves, and where it was hard to realize that the ground had once been soaked in blood while madness and death filled the air; and her changing face like a mirror gave him back the reflection of the times he held up to her view. And still standing there in the same attitude after he had done she had been looking out towards the square in a fit of deep meditation. Mr. Carleton had forgotten her for awhile in his own thoughts, and then the sight of the little gloved hand upon his knee brought him back again.
“What are you musing about, Elfie, dear ??? he said cheerfully, taking the hand in one of his.
Fleda gave a swift glance into his face, as if to see whether it would be safe for her to answer his question; a kind of exploring look, in which her eyes often acted as scouts for her tongue. Those she met pledged their faith for her security ; yet Fleda's look went back to the
square and then again to his face in silence.
“How do you like living in Paris ?” said he. “You should know by this time."
“I like it very much indeed,” said Fleda. “I thought you would."
“I like Queechy better though," she went on gravely, her eyes turning again to the square.
“Like Queechy better! Were you thinking of Queechy just now when I spoke to you?"
6 Oh no!"_with a smile.
“Were you going over all those horrors I have been distressing you with ???
"No," said Fleda ;-"I was thinking of them, awhile ago.”
“ What then ?" said he pleasantly. “ You were looking so sober I should like to know how near your thoughts were to mine."