Susan Warner.

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Susan Warner (1819-1885), Queechy (1852), Tauchnitz edition

Produced by Daniel FROMONT





VOL. 311





by the same author,



SAY AND SEAL 2 vols.













"I hope I may speak of woman without offence to the ladies."




Chapter I. Curtain rises at Queechy

II. Things loom out dimly through the smoke

III. You amuse me and I'll amuse you

IV. Aunt Miriam

V. As to whether a flower can grow in the woods

VI. Queechy at dinner

VII. The curtain falls upon one scene

VIII. The fairy leaves the house

IX. How Mr. Carleton happened to be not at home

X. The fairy and the Englishman

XI. A little candle

XII. Spars below

XIII. The fairy peeps into an English house, but does not stay there

XIV. Two Bibles in Paris

XV. Very literary

XVI Dissolving view, ending with a saw-mill in the distance

XVII. Rain and water-cresses for breakfast

XVIII. Mr. Rossitur's wits sharpened upon a ploughshare

XIX. Fleda goes after help and finds Dr. Quackenboss

XX. Society in Queechy

XXI. "The sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel"

XXII. Wherein a great many people pay their respects, in form and

XXIII. The Captain out-generalled by the fairy

XXIV. A breath of the world at Queechy

XXV. "As good a boy as you need to have"

XXVI. Pine knots

XXVII. Sweet — in its consequences




A single cloud on a sunny day,
When all the rest of heaven is clear,
A frown upon the atmosphere,
That hath no business to appear,
When skies are blue and earth is gay.

"Come, dear grandpa! — the old mare and the wagon are at the
gate — all ready."

"Well, dear! — responded a cheerful hearty voice, "they must
wait a bit; I haven't got my hat yet."

"O, I'll get that."

And the little speaker, a girl of some ten or eleven years
old, dashed past the old gentleman, and running along the
narrow passage which led to his room soon returned with the
hat in her hand.

"Yes, dear, — but that ain't all. I must put on my great-coat
— and I must look and see if I can find any money —"

"O yes — for the post-office. It's a beautiful day, grandpa.
Cynthy! — wont you come and help grandpa on with his great-
coat? — And I'll go out and keep watch of the old mare till
you're ready."

A needless caution. For the old mare, though spirited enough
for her years, had seen some fourteen or fifteen of them, and
was in no sort of danger of running away. She stood in what
was called the back meadow, just without the little paling
fence that enclosed a small courtyard round the house. Around
this courtyard rich pasture-fields lay on every side, the high
road cutting through them not more than a hundred or two feet
from the house.

The little girl planted herself on the outside of the paling,
and setting her back to it, eyed the old mare with great
contentment; for besides other grounds for security as to her
quiet behaviour, one of the men employed about the farm, who
had harnessed the equipage, was at the moment busied in
putting some clean straw in the bottom of the vehicle.

"Watkins," said the child presently to this person, "here is a
strap that is just ready to come unbuckled."

"What do you know about straps and buckles?" said the man
rather grumly. But he came round, however, to see what she
meant; and while he drew the one and fastened the other, took
special good care not to let Fleda know that her watchful eyes
had probably saved the whole riding party from ruin; as the
loosing of the strap would of necessity have brought on a
trial of the old mare's nerves, which not all her philosophy
could have been expected to meet. Fleda was satisfied to see
the buckle made fast, and that Watkins, roused by her hint, or
by the cause of it, afterwards took a somewhat careful look
over the whole establishment. In high glee then she climbed to
her seat in the little wagon, and her grandfather coming out
coated and hatted, with some difficulty mounted to his place
beside her.

"I think Watkins might have taken the trouble to wash the
wagon, without hurting himself," said Fleda; "it is all
speckled with mud since last time."

"Ha'n't he washed it!" said the old gentleman in a tone of
displeasure. "Watkins!""


"Why didn't you wash the wagon as I told you?"

"I did."

"It's all over slosh."

"That's Mr. Didenhover's work — he had it out day 'fore
yesterday; and if you want it cleaned, Mr. Ringgan, you must
speak to him about it. Mr. Didenhover may file his own doings;
it's more than I'm a going to."

The old gentleman made no answer, except to acquaint the mare
with the fact of his being in readiness to set out. A shade of
annoyance and displeasure for a moment was upon his face; but
the gate opening from the meadow upon the high road had hardly
swung back upon its hinges after letting them out, when he
recovered the calm sweetness of demeanour that was habitual
with him, and seemed as well as his little granddaughter to
have given care the go-by for the time. Fleda had before this
found out another fault in the harness, or rather in Mr.
Didenhover, which like a wise little child she kept to
herself. A broken place which her grandfather had ordered to
be properly mended, was still tied up with the piece of rope
which had offended her eyes the last time they had driven out.
But she said not a word of it, because "it would only worry
grandpa for nothing;" and forgetting it almost immediately,
she moved on with him in a state of joyous happiness that no
mud-stained wagon nor untidy rope-bound harness could stir for
an instant. Her spirit was like a clear still-running stream,
which quietly and surely deposits every defiling and obscuring
admixture it may receive from its contact with the grosser
elements around; the stream might for a moment be clouded; but
a little while, and it would run as clear as ever. Neither
Fleda nor her grandfather cared a jot for the want of
elegancies which one despised, and the other, if she had ever
known, had well nigh forgotten. What mattered it to her that
the little old green wagon was rusty and worn, or that years
and service had robbed the old mare of all the jauntiness she
had ever possessed, so long as the sun shone and the birds
sang? And Mr. Ringgan, in any imaginary comparison, might be
pardoned for thinking that he was the proud man, and that his
poor little equipage carried such a treasure as many a coach
and four went without.

"Where are we going first, grandpa? to the post-office?"

"Just there!"

"How pleasant it is to go there always, isn't it, grandpa? You
have the paper to get, and I — I don't very often get a
letter, but I have always the _hope_ of getting one; and that's
something. May be I'll have one to-day, grandpa?"

"We'll see. It's time those cousins of yours wrote to you."

"O _they_ don't write to me — it's only Aunt Lucy; I never had a
letter from a single one of them, except once from little
Hugh, — don't you remember, grandpa? I should think he must be
a very nice little boy, shouldn't you?"

"Little boy? why I guess he is about as big as you are, Fleda
— he is eleven years old, ain't he?"

"Yes, but I am past eleven, you know, grandpa, and I am a
little girl."

This reasoning being unanswerable, Mr. Ringgan only bade the
old mare trot on.

It was a pleasant day in autumn. Fleda thought it particularly
pleasant for riding, for the sun was veiled with thin, hazy
clouds. The air was mild and still, and the woods, like brave
men, putting the best face upon falling fortunes. Some trees
were already dropping their leaves; the greater part standing
in all the varied splendour which the late frosts had given
them. The road, an excellent one, sloped gently up and down
across a wide arable country, in a state of high cultivation,
and now showing all the rich variety of autumn. The reddish
buckwheat patches, and fine wood-tints of the fields where
other grain had been; the bright green of young rye or winter
wheat, then soberer-coloured pasture or meadow lands, and ever
and anon a tuft of gay woods crowning a rising ground, or a
knot of the everlasting pines looking sedately and steadfastly
upon the fleeting glories of the world around them; these were
mingled and interchanged, and succeeded each other in ever-
varying fresh combinations. With its high picturesque beauty,
the whole scene had a look of thrift, and plenty, and promise,
which made it eminently cheerful. So Mr. Ringgan and his
little granddaughter both felt it to be. For some distance,
the grounds on either hand the road were part of the old
gentleman's farm; and many a remark was exchanged between him
and Fleda, as to the excellence or hopefulness of this or that
crop or piece of soil; Fleda entering into all his enthusiasm,
and reasoning of clover leys and cockle, and the proper
harvesting of Indian corn, and other like matters, with no
lack of interest or intelligence.

"O grandpa," she exclaimed, suddenly, "wont you stop a minute
and let me get out. I want to get some of that beautiful

"What do you want that for?" said he. "You can't get out very

"O yes, I can — please, grandpa! I want some of it very much —
just one minute!'

He stopped, and Fleda got out and went to the roadside, where
a bittersweet vine had climbed into a young pine tree, and
hung it, as it were, with red coral. But her one minute was at
least four before she had succeeded in breaking off as much as
she could carry of the splendid creeper; for not until then
could Fleda persuade herself to leave it. She came back, and
worked her way up into the wagon with one hand full as it
could hold of her brilliant trophies.

"Now, what good 'll that do you?" inquired Mr. Ringgan, good-
humouredly, as he lent Fleda what help he could to her seat.

"Why, grandpa, I want it to put with cedar and pine in a jar
at home; it will keep for ever so long, and look beautiful.
Isn't that handsome? — only it was a pity to break it."

"Why, yes, it's handsome enough," said Mr. Ringgan, "but
you've got something just by the front door there, at home,
that would do just as well — what do you call it — that
flaming thing there?"

"What, my burning bush? O grandpa! I wouldn't cut that for
anything in the world! It's the only pretty thing about the
house; and, besides," said Fleda, looking up with a softened
mien, "you said that it was planted by my mother. O grandpa! I
wouldn't cut that for anything."

Mr. Ringgan laughed a pleased laugh. "Well, dear!" said he,
"it shall grow till it's as big as the house, if it will."

"It wont do that," said Fleda. "But I am very glad I have got
this bittersweet; this is just what I wanted. Now, if I can
only find some holly —"

"We'll come across some, I guess, by and by," said Mr.
Ringgan; and Fleda settled herself again to enjoy the trees,
the fields, the roads, and all the small handiwork of nature,
for which her eyes had a curious intelligence. But this was
not fated to be a ride of unbroken pleasure.

"Why, what are those bars down for?" she said, as they came up
with a field of winter grain. "Somebody's been in here with a
wagon. O grandpa! Mr. Didenhover has let the Shakers have my
butternuts! — the butternuts that you told him they mustn't

The old gentleman drew up his horse. "So he has!" said he.

Their eyes were upon the far end of the deep lot, where, at
the edge of one of the pieces of woodland spoken of, a
picturesque group of men and boys, in frocks and broad-brimmed
white hats, were busied in filling their wagon under a clump
of the now thin and yellow-leaved butternut trees.

"The scoundrel!" said Mr. Ringgan, under his breath.

"Would it be any use, grandpa, for me to jump down and run and
tell them you don't want them to take the butternuts? — I
shall have so few".

"No, dear — no," said her grandfather; "they have got ’em
about all by this time; the mischief's done. Didenhover meant
to let 'em have 'em unknown to me, and pocket the pay himself
Get up!"

Fleda drew a long breath, and gave a hard look at the distant
wagon, where her butternuts were going in by handfuls. She
said no more.

It was but a few fields further on, that the old gentleman
came to a sudden stop again.

"Ain't there some of my sheep over yonder there, Fleda — along
with Squire Thornton's?"

"I don't know, grandpa," said Fleda; "I can't see — yes, I do
see — yes, they are, grandpa; I see the mark."

"I thought so!" said Mr. Ringgan, bitterly; "I told
Didenhover, only three days ago, that if he didn't make up
that fence the sheep would be out, or Squire Thornton's would
be in; — only three days ago! Ah, well!" said he, shaking the
reins to make the mare move on again, — "it's all of a piece.
Everything goes — I can't help it."

"Why do you keep him, grandpa, if he don't behave right?"
Fleda ventured to ask, gently.

" 'Cause I can't get rid of him, dear," Mr. Ringgan answered,
rather shortly.

And till they got to the post-office, he seemed in a
disagreeable kind of muse, which Fleda did not choose to break
in upon. So the mile and a half was driven in sober silence.

"Shall I get out and go in, grandpa?" said Fleda, when he drew
up before the house.

"No, deary," said he, in his usual kind tone; "you sit still.
Holloa, there! — Good-day, Mr. Sampion — have you got anything
for me?"

The man disappeared and came out again.

"There's your paper, grandpa," said Fleda.

"Ay, and something else," said Mr. Ringgan: "I declare! —
'Miss Fleda Ringgan — care of E. Ringgan, Esq.' —There, dear,
there it is."

"Paris!" exclaimed Fleda, as she clasped the letter and both
her hands together. The butternuts and Mr. Didenhover were
forgotten at last. The letter could not be read in the jolting
of the wagon, but, as Fleda said, it was all the pleasanter,
for she had the expectation of it the whole way home.

"Where are we going now, grandpa?"

"To Queechy Run."

"That will give us a nice long ride. I am very glad. This has
been a good day. With my letter and my bittersweet I have got
enough, haven't I, grandpa?"

Queechy Run was a little village, a very little village, about
half a mile from Mr. Ringgan's house. It boasted, however, a
decent brick church of some size, a school-house, a lawyer's
office, a grocery store, a dozen or two of dwelling-houses,
and a post-office; though for some reason or other Mr. Ringgan
always chose to have his letters come through the
Sattlersville post-office, a mile and a half further off At
the door of the lawyer's office Mr. Ringgan again stopped, and
again shouted "Holloa!" —

"Good-day, Sir. Is Mr. Jolly within?"

"He is, Sir."

"Will you ask him to be so good as to step here a moment? I
cannot very well get out."

Mr. Jolly was a comfortable-looking little man, smooth and
sleek, pleasant and plausible, reasonable honest, too, as the
world goes; a nice man to have to do with; the world went so
easy with his affairs that you were sure he would make no
unnecessary rubs in your own. He came now fresh and brisk to
the side of the wagon, with that uncommon hilarity which
people sometimes assume when they have a disagreeable matter
on hand that must be spoken of.

"Good-morning, Sir! Fine day, Mr. Jolly."

"Beautiful day, Sir! Splendid season! How do you do, Mr.

"Why, Sir, I never was better in my life, barring this
lameness, that disables me very much. I can't go about and see
to things any more as I used to. However — we must expect
evils at my time of life. I don't complain. I have a great
deal to be thankful for."

"Yes, Sir, — we have a great deal to be thankful for," said
Mr. Jolly, rather abstractedly, and patting the old mare with
kind attention.

"Have you seen that fellow, McGowan?" said Mr. Ringgan,
abruptly, and in a lower tone.

"I have seen him," said Mr. Jolly, coming back from the old
mare to business.

"He's a hard customer, I guess, aint he?"

"He's as ugly a cur as ever was whelped!"

"What does he say?"

"Says he must have it."

"Did you tell him what I told you?"

"I told him, Sir, that you had not got the returns from your
farm that you expected this year, owing to one thing and
'nother; and that you couldn't make up the cash for him all at
once; and that he would have to wait a spell, but that he'd be
sure to get it in the long run. Nobody ever suffered by Mr.
Ringgan yet, as I told him."


"Well, Sir, — he was altogether refractible; he's as pig-
headed a fellow as I ever see."

"What did he say?"

"He gave me names, and swore he wouldn't wait a day longer —
said he'd waited already six months."

"He has so. I couldn't meet the last payment. There's a year's
rent due now. I can't help it. There needn't have been an
hour, if I could go about and attend to things myself. I have
been altogether disappointed in that Didenhover."

"I expect you have."

"What do you suppose he'll do, Mr. Jolly? — McGowan, I mean."

"I expect he'll do what the law 'll let him, Mr. Ringgan; I
don't know what 'll hinder him."

"It's a worse turn than I thought my infirmities would ever
play me," said the old gentleman after a short pause — "first
to lose the property altogether, and then not to be permitted
to wear out what is left of life in the old place — there wont
be much."

"So I told him, Mr. Ringgan. I put it to him. Says I, 'Mr.
McGowan, it's a cruel hard business; there ain't a man in town
that wouldn't leave Mr. Ringgan the shelter of his own roof as
long as he wants any, and think it a pleasure, if the rent was
anyhow.' "

"Well — well!" said the old gentleman, with a mixture of
dignity and bitterness, — "it doesn't much matter. My head
will find a shelter somehow, above ground or under it. — The
Lord will provide. — Whey! stand still, can't ye! What ails
the fool? The creature's seen years enough to be steady," he
added, with a miserable attempt at his usual cheerful laugh.

Fleda had turned away her head and tried not to hear when the
lowered tones of the speakers seemed to say that she was one
too many in the company. But she could not help catching a few
bits of the conversation, and a few bits were generally enough
for Fleda's wit to work upon; she had a singular knack at
putting loose ends of talk together. If more had been wanting,
the tones of her grandfather's voice would have filled up
every gap in the meaning of the scattered words that came to
her ear. Her heart sank fast as the dialogue went on; and she
needed no commentary or explanation to interpret the bitter
little laugh with which it closed. It was a chill upon all the
rosy joys and hopes of a most joyful and hopeful little

The old mare was in motion again, but Fleda no longer cared or
had the curiosity to ask where they were going. The
bittersweet lay listlessly in her lap; her letter, clasped to
her breast, was not thought of; and tears were quietly running
one after the other down her cheeks and falling on her sleeve;
she dared not lift her handkerchief nor turn her face towards
her grandfather lest they should catch his eye. Her
grandfather? — could it be possible that he must be turned out
of his old home in his old age? could it be possible? Mr.
Jolly seemed to think it might be, and her grandfather seemed
to think it must. Leave the old house! But where would he go?
— Son or daughter he had none left; resources he could have
none, or this need not happen. Work he could not; be dependent
upon the charity of any kin or friend she knew he would never;
she remembered hearing him once say he could better bear to go
to the almshouse than do any such thing. And then, if they
went, he would have his pleasant room no more where the sun
shone in so cheerfully, and they must leave the dear old
kitchen where they had been so happy; and the meadows and
hills would belong to somebody else, and she would gather her
stores of butternuts and chestnuts under the loved old trees
never again. But these things were nothing, though the image
of them made the tears come hot and fast, these were nothing
in her mind to the knowledge or the dread of the effect the
change would have upon Mr. Ringgan. Fleda knew him, and knew
it would not be slight. Whiter his head could not be, more
bowed it well might; and her own bowed in anticipation as her
childish fears and imaginings ran on into the possible future.
Of McGowan's tender mercies she had no hope. She had seen him
once, and being unconsciously even more of a physiognomist
than most children are, that one sight of him was enough to
verify all Mr. Jolly had said. The remembrance of his hard,
sinister face sealed her fears. Nothing but evil could come of
having to do with such a man. It was, however, still not so
much any foreboding of the future that moved Fleda's tears as
the sense of her grandfather's present pain, — the quick
answer of her gentle nature to every sorrow that touched him.
His griefs were doubly hers. Both from his openness of
character and her penetration, they could rarely be felt un-
shared; and she shared them always in more than due measure.

In beautiful harmony, while the child had forgotten herself in
keen sympathy with her grandfather's sorrows, he, on the other
hand, had half lost sight of them in caring for her. Again,
and this time not before any house but in a wild piece of
woodland, the little wagon came to a stop.

"Aint there some holly berries that I see yonder?" said Mr.
Ringgan, — "there, through those white birch stems? That's
what you were wanting, Fleda, aint it? Give your bittersweet
to me while you go get some, — and here, take this knife,
dear, you can't break it. Don't cut yourself."

Fleda's eyes were too dim to see white birch or holly, and she
had no longer the least desire to have the latter; but with
that infallible tact which assuredly is the gift of nature and
no other, she answered, in a voice that she forced to be
clear, "O yes! thank you, Grandpapa;" — and stealthily dashing
away the tears, clambered down from the rickety little wagon,
and plunged with a _cheerful_ step at least, through trees and
underbrush to the clump of holly. But if anybody had seen
Fleda's face! — while she seemed to be busied in cutting as
large a quantity as possible of the rich shining leaves and
bright berries. Her grandfather's kindness, and her effort to
meet it had wrung her heart; she hardly knew what she was
doing, as she cut off sprig after sprig, and threw them down
at her feet; she was crying sadly, with even audible sobs. She
made a long job of her bunch of holly. But when at last it
must come to an end, she choked back her tears, smoothed her
face, and came back to Mr. Ringgan smiling and springing over
the stones and shrubs in her way, and exclaiming at the beauty
of her vegetable stores. If her cheeks were red, he thought it
was the flush of pleasure and exercise, and she did not let
him get a good look at her eyes.

"Why, you've got enough to dress up the front room chimney,"
said he. "That'll be the best thing you can do with 'em, wont

"The front room chimney! No, indeed I wont, Grandpa. I don't
want 'em where nobody can see them, and you know we are never
in there now it is cold weather."

"Well, dear! anyhow you like to have it. But you ha'n't a jar
in the house big enough for them, have you?"

"O, I'll manage — I've got an old broken pitcher without a
handle, Grandpa, that'll do very well."

"A broken pitcher! that isn't a very elegant vase," said he.

"O you wouldn't know it is a pitcher when I have fixed it.
I'll cover up all the broken part with green you know. Are we
going home now, Grandpa?"

"No, I want to stop a minute at uncle Joshua's."

Uncle Joshua was a brother-in-law of Mr. Ringgan, a
substantial farmer, and very well to do in the world. He was
found not in the house, but abroad in the field with his men,
loading an enormous basket wagon with corn-stalks. At Mr.
Ringgan's shout he got over the fence, and came to the wagon-
side. His face showed sense and shrewdness, but nothing of the

Online LibrarySusan WarnerQueechy, Volume I → online text (page 1 of 33)