Abbildungen der Seite

as they were passing through Queechy Run. Under that still cool clear autumn sky Fleda would have enjoyed the ride very much, but that her unfulfilled errand was weighing upon her, and she feared her aunt and uncle might want her services before she could be at home. Still, late as it was, she determined to stop for a minute at Mrs. Finn's and go home with a clear conscience. At her door, and not till there, the doctor was prevailed upon to part company, the rest of the way being perfectly plain.

Mrs. Finn's house was a great unprepossessing building, washed and dried by the rain and sun into a dark dingy colour, the only one that had ever supplanted the original hue of the fresh-sawn boards. This indeed was not an uncommon thing in the country; near all the houses of the Deepwater settlement were in the same case. Fleda went up a flight of steps to what seemed the front door, but the girl that answered her knock led her down them again and round to a lower entrance on the other side. This introduced Fleda to a large ground floor apartment, probably the common room of the family, with the large kitchen fireplace and flagged hearth and wall cupboards, and the only furniture the usual red-backed splinter chairs and wooden table. A woman standing before the fire with a broom in her hand answered Fleda's inclination with a saturnine nod of the head, and fetching one of the redbacks from the wall bade her 6 sit down."

Poor Fleda's nerves bade her " go away.” The people looked like their house. The principal woman, who remained standing broom in hand to hear Fleda's business, was in good truth a dark personage; her head covered with black hair, her person with a dingy black calico, and a sullen cloud lowering over her eye.

At the corner of the fireplace was an old woman, laid by in an easy chair; disabled, it was plain, not from mental but bodily infirmity; for her face had a cast of mischief which could not stand with the innocence of second childhood. At the other corner sat an elderly woman sewing, with tokens of her trade for yards on the floor around her. Back at the far side of the room a young man was eating his supper at the table alone; and under the table, on the floor, the enormous family bread trough was unwontedly filled with the

[ocr errors]

66 Yes.

sewing-woman's child, which had with superhuman efforts crawled into it and lay kicking and crowing in delight at its new cradle. Fleda did not know how to enter upon her business.

“I have been looking,” she began, “ for a person who is willing to go out to work-Miss Flora Quackenboss told me perhaps I might find somebody here."

Somebody to help ?" said the woman beginning to use her broom upon the hearth.--" Who wants 'em ???

56 Mrs. Rossitur-my aunt.

“Mrs. Rossitur?-what, down to old Squire Ringgan's place ?"

We are left alone and want somebody very much."

“Do you want her only a few days, or do you calculate to have her stop longer ? because you know it wouldn't be worth the while to put oneself out for a week.”

“O we want her to stay,--if we suit each other."

“Well I don't know," said the woman going on with her sweeping, ---- I could let you have Hannah, but I 'spect l'll want her to hum-What does Mis' Rossitur calculate to give ???

"I don't know-anything that's reasonable."

“Hannah kin go-just as good as not,” said the old woman in the corner rubbing her hands up and down her lap; -“ Hannah kin go, just as good as not !”

Hannah ain't a going," said the first speaker, answering without looking at her. “ Hannah 'll be wanted to hum; and she ain't a well girl neither; she's kind o weak in her muscles; and I calculate you want somebody that can take hold lively. There's Lucy--if she took a notion she could go-but she'd please herself about it. She won't do nothing without she has a notion."

This was inconclusive, and desiring to bring matters to a point Fleda after a pause asked if this lady thought Lucy would have a notion to go.

“Well I can't say--she ain't to hum or you could ask her. She's down to. Mis' Douglass's, working for her today. Do you know Mis' Douglass ?--Earl Douglass's wife 2

“ O yes, I knew her long ago," said Fleda, thinking it might be as well to throw in a spice of ingratiation ;-"I am Fleda Ringgan. I used to live here with my grand


“Don't say! Well I thought you had a kind o’lookthe old Squire's granddarter, ain't you?"

“She looks like her father," said the sewing-woman laying down her needle, which indeed had been little hindrance to her admiration since Fleda came in.

She's a real pretty gal,” said the old woman in the


66 He was as smart a lookin' man as there was in Queechy township, or Montepoole either," the sewingwoman went on, “Do you mind him, Flidda ?"

Anastasy," said the old woman aside, “let Hannah



“Hannah's a going to keep to hum !--Well about Lucy," she said, as Fleda rose to go, —“ I can't just say--suppos'n you come here to-morrow afternoon--there's a few coming to quilt, and Lucy 'll be to hum then. I should admire to have you,--and then you and Lucy can agree what you'll fix upon. You can get somebody to bring you, can't you ?"

Fleda inwardly shrank, but managed to get off with thanks and without making a positive promise, which Miss Anastasia would fain have had. She was glad to be out of the house and driving off with Hugh.

6 How delicious the open air feels!"
“What has this visit produced ?" said Hugh.

“An invitation to a party, and a slight possibility that at the party I may find what I want.

“A party !” said Hugh. Fleda laughed and explained. 6 And do you intend to go ?”

“ Not I!-at least I think not. But Hugh, don't say anything about all this to aunt Lucy. She would be troubled."

Fleda had certainly when she came away no notion of improving her acquaintance with Miss Anastasia ; but the supper, and the breakfast and the dinner of the next day, with all the nameless and almost numberless duties of housework that filled up the time between, wrought her to a very strong sense of the necessity of having some kind of "help” soon.

Mrs. Rossitur wearied her.

[ocr errors]

self excessively with doing very little, and then looked so sad to see Fleda working on, that it was more disheartening and harder to bear than the fatigue. Hugh was a most faithful and invaluable coadjutor, and his lack of strength was like her own made up by energy of will; but neither of them could bear the strain long; and when the final clearing away of the dinner-dishes gave her a breathing-time she resolved to dress herself and put her thimble in her pocket and go over to Miss Finn's quilting. Miss Lucy might not be like Miss Anastasia ; and if she were, anything that had hands and feet to move instead of her own would be welcome.

Hugh went with her to the door and was to come for her at sunset.


With superfluity of breeding
First makes you sick, and then with feeding.



MISS ANASTASIA was a little surprised and a good deal

gratified, Fleda saw, by her coming, and played the hostess with great benignity. The quilting-frame was stretched in an upper room, not in the long kitchen, to Fleda’s joy; most of the company were already seated at it, and she had to go through a long string of introductions before she was permitted to take her place. First of all Earl Douglass's wife, who rose up and taking both Fleda’s hands squeezed and shook them heartily, giving her with eye and lip a most genial welcome. This lady had every look of being a very clever woman a manager” she was said to be; and indeed her very nose had a little pinch which prepared one for nothing superfluous about her. Even her dress could not have wanted another breadth from the skirt and had no fulness to spare about the body. Neat as a pin though; and a well-to-do look through it all

. Miss Quackenboss Fleda recognised as an old friend, gilt beads and all. Catherine Douglass had grown up to a pretty girl during the five years since Fleda' had left Queechy, and gave her a greeting half smiling half shy. There was a little more affluence about the flow of her drapery, and the pink ribbon round her neck was confined by a little dainty Jew's harp of a brooch ; she had her mother's pinch of the nose too. Then there were two other young ladies ;--Miss Letitia Ann Thornton, a tall grown girl in pantalettes, evidently a would-be aristocrat from the air of her head and lip, with a well-looking face and looking well knowing of the same, and sporting neat little white

« ZurückWeiter »