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Title: The Hazeley Family
Author: Johnson, A. E. (Alfred Edwin), 1879-
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Hazeley Family" ***

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[Illustration: Hazeley Family. Page 23.]



    THE HAZELEY FAMILY
    BY
    Mrs. A. E. JOHNSON

    _PHILADELPHIA_
    American Baptist Publication Society
    _1420 CHESTNUT STREET_



    THE HAZELEY FAMILY

    BY

    MRS. A. E. JOHNSON
    _Author of Clarence and Corinne_

    PHILADELPHIA
    AMERICAN BAPTIST PUBLICATION SOCIETY
    1420 CHESTNUT STREET



    Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1894, by the
    AMERICAN BAPTIST PUBLICATION SOCIETY,
    In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.



CONTENTS.


                                       PAGE

    CHAPTER I.
    THE HAZELEY HOME,                     5

    CHAPTER II.
    FLORA AT HOME,                       15

    CHAPTER III.
    RUTH RUDD,                           26

    CHAPTER IV.
    FLORA'S FIRST SUNDAY,                37

    CHAPTER V.
    THE BEGINNING,                       46

    CHAPTER VI.
    SOME RESULTS,                        58

    CHAPTER VII.
    A VISIT TO MAJOR JOE,                67

    CHAPTER VIII.
    MORE RESULTS,                        79

    CHAPTER IX.
    RUTH'S NEW HOME,                     89
    CHAPTER X.
    LOTTIE PIPER,                        97

    CHAPTER XI.
    CHANGES,                            106

    CHAPTER XII.
    LED AWAY,                           117

    CHAPTER XIII.
    IN THE HOSPITAL AND OUT AGAIN,      124

    CHAPTER XIV.
    A CHAPTER OF WONDERS,               132

    CHAPTER XV.
    GOING HOME,                         142

    CHAPTER XVI.
    LOTTIE'S TRIALS,                    151

    CHAPTER XVII.
    MORE SURPRISES,                     162

    CHAPTER XVIII.
    A CHRISTMAS INVITATION,             171

    CHAPTER XIX.
    A HOMELY WEDDING,                   180



THE HAZELEY FAMILY.



CHAPTER I.

THE HAZELEY HOME.


Sixteen-year-old Flora Hazeley stood by the table in the dingy little
dining room, looking down earnestly and thoughtfully at a shapely,
yellow sweet potato.

It was only a potato, but the sight of it brought to its owner, not only
a crowd of pleasant memories, but a number of unpleasant anticipations.
Hence, the earnest, thoughtful expression on her young face.

Flora was the only daughter. She had two brothers, one older and one
younger than herself, Harry and Alec, aged respectively, eighteen and
thirteen. The mother was of an easy-going, careless disposition, and
seemed indifferent to the management of her household. Especially did
she dislike responsibility of any kind. She was well pleased, therefore,
to receive one day a letter from her sister, Mrs. Graham, a childless
widow, offering to take Flora, who was then just five years old,
promising to rear her as if she had been her own daughter.

Mrs. Graham was well off. In her case this meant that she lived in a
pretty home of her own, with a nice income, not only supporting herself
in comfort, but permitting her to provide a home for her elder sister
for many years, who had entire charge of the housekeeping. This sister,
Mrs. Sarah Martin, was also a widow and childless. The resemblance went
no further, for they differed, not only in manner, but opinions,
thoughts, and character.

Mrs. Graham, after a great deal of careful thought, had come to the
conclusion to adopt her little niece. In fact she had often thought it
over ever since the child first began to walk, and call her by name. She
was a sensible woman, and it always annoyed her when she would visit her
sister to see the careless way in which the children were being trained.
Seeing this, she had long wished to take and train Flora according to
her own idea of what constituted the education of a girl.

"It will be so much worse for her than for the boys," she had said one
day to Mrs. Martin. "I do dislike to see such a bright little child
brought up to be good for nothing; and that is just the way in which it
will be, if I do not take charge of her myself."

The latter clause was intended to draw indirectly from her sister an
opinion of such a proceeding, for Mrs. Martin was by no means partial to
children. However, it was received with the indifferent observation:

"Esther never did have any interest in children anyhow. She never had
any idea how to take care of herself, much less anybody else," to which
was added a remark to the effect that if her sister Bertha chose to
burden herself with a troublesome child, she was sure she had nothing to
do with the matter, and did not intend to have.

Mrs. Graham was rather surprised to have her suggestion received so
coolly. She had expected a great deal of trouble in getting Sarah to
consent, even provisionally. She was very glad to meet no more serious
opposition, for, although she had fully decided in her own mind
regarding the matter, yet her peace-loving nature dreaded unpleasant
scenes. She purposely and entirely overlooked the expression of stern
determination in the sharp-featured countenance of her sister, and
forthwith resolved to send for Flora without further loss of time.

Thus it was that Flora Hazeley changed homes. She was not legally
adopted by her aunt, but was simply taken with the understanding she
would be returned to her parents in case Mrs. Graham should in any way
change her mind, or weary of her charge. This provision was inserted by
Mrs. Martin, who determined, in spite of her seeming indifference, not
to be ignored by her sister, upon whose bounty she considered she had a
primary claim.

For eleven years Flora lived in the pretty home of her Aunt Bertha. Her
time was filled by various occupations, school, caring for the flowers
in the garden, and dreaming under the old peach tree, which never bore
any peaches, but grew on contentedly in the farthest corner of the yard.

However, these were by no means the only ways in which Flora spent her
time, for Mrs. Martin, notwithstanding her stern resolve not to have
anything to do with her, had suddenly taken an equally stern
determination to do her share toward "bringing sister Esther's child up
properly."

This was fortunate for Flora. Aunt Sarah instructed her thoroughly and
carefully in the details of housekeeping, cooking, serving, washing, in
fact, everything she knew herself. How fortunate it was that she learned
how to do these things, Flora realized some time afterward, as Mrs.
Martin had intended she should. While she was learning them, Flora's
progress was due rather more to the awe she felt of her stern aunt than
to the desire to excel.

Mrs. Martin was ever ready to scold and find fault. Mrs. Graham never
criticised, but always had a bright smile and something pleasant to say.
As a natural consequence, she was dearly loved by her niece.

Mrs. Hazeley, Flora's mother, delighted to be relieved of her
troublesome little girl, settled down more contentedly than ever, to
enjoy the quiet of her daughter's absence, and became daily more and
more indisposed to exert herself in order to make her home attractive.

It was usually pretty quiet now, because neither of the boys stayed in
the house a moment longer than necessity demanded. Mr. Hazeley was
employed on the railroad, and consequently was away from home a great
deal. Mrs. Hazeley did little but turn aimlessly about, making herself
believe that she was a very hard-working woman and then imagining
herself much fatigued, found it necessary to rest often and long. She
was at heart a good woman, when that organ could be reached, but
possessed a weak, vacillating disposition, entirely lacking the gentle
firmness of her sister, Mrs. Graham, or the uncompromising energy of
Mrs. Martin.

Mr. Hazeley had long ceased to complain of his home and its management,
for his words had no further effect than to bring upon himself a storm
of tearful scolding, which drove him out of the house to seek more
genial quarters. He was by nature a peaceable man, and when he found
that neither ease nor peace could be had at home, remained there as
little as possible. In fact, as Mrs. Hazeley's sisters had often said,
"if the whole family did not go to ruin, it would not be Esther's
fault."

Flora's life at her aunt's pleasant home had been a very happy one, and
the time passed rapidly away. She was nearly through school, and looked
eagerly forward into the future, that to her was so full of brightest
hopes. It was her ambition to be of some use in the world. Just what she
wanted to do, she did not know--she had not yet determined; but that it
was to be something great and good, she was confident, for small things
did not enter into her conception of usefulness.

Aunt Bertha was her confidante for all her plans, or rather, dreams; she
could do nothing without Aunt Bertha, for had not she the means? Flora
felt sure nothing great could be done without money, that is, nothing
she would care to do.

But, alas! Her summer sky, so promising and brilliant with hopes and
indefinite plans, was suddenly overcast. Aunt Bertha was taken ill one
day; the doctor said it was prostration, and he feared she might not
rally. Flora was told. Her Aunt Bertha, whom she loved so dearly, and
who loved her so much! Must she die? "I love her far more than my
mother," she whispered to herself. This seemed very disloyal in Flora.
But in truth, she had little cause to love the mother who had been so
eager to relinquish her claim, and who, in all these years, had never
expressed a wish to have her daughter at home.

During her sister's illness, Aunt Sarah spent her time in constant
attendance upon her. She was cold, stern, and unapproachable as ever,
giving the child little information in regard to the sick one who had
been so kind to her. She was not allowed to enter the sick room during
the first of her aunt's illness, although Mrs. Graham had often asked to
see her niece.

One day, just before the spirit passed away, the sick woman called her
sister, and said in a weak, trembling voice:

"Sister, I suppose you know I cannot live long, and that my will is
made."

Mrs. Martin silently nodded.

"Well," continued Mrs. Graham, "I have left everything to you--I thought
it would be best."

Again a silent nod.

"But, Sarah, I want you to promise one thing; that you will see Flora
has what she needs to carry out her plans. The dear child has so longed
to carry out some of her plans. I want her to have means to make
whatever she may decide upon a success. And one more thing," she
continued, pausing for breath, and looking pleadingly into the face
above her, "I do hope, Sarah, that you will keep Flora here with you. Do
not send her back to her home. I have left all I own in your hands, and
I trust to you, sister, to do what I wish."

This long expression of her wishes had so taxed the fast-failing
strength of the invalid, that she sank back, exhausted. No answer was
expected, and Mrs. Martin was silent; and silent too, because she had
not the slightest intention of doing as her sister wished. It was truly
heartless; but Mrs. Martin was one of those people who do not present
the harsh side of their nature in all its intensity until the reins of
power are placed in their hands. So long as Mrs. Graham held the
purse-strings, she acquiesced with as much grace as possible in her
sister's plans. Was not the money Mrs. Graham's to do with as she
pleased? It was quite a different thing, however, to feel that now
everything would be in her hands to use as she chose. No matter if the
donor was still looking into her face, her mind was made up that things
should be ordered in the future according to her good pleasure. It was
not at all her wish to burden herself with Esther's child, and forthwith
she decided that back to her home Flora should go. However, she did not
allow these unworthy thoughts to disturb the last moments of her
tender-hearted sister, by giving expression to them. So good Mrs. Graham
passed peacefully away.

Flora was allowed to see her shortly before she died. The kind voice
whispered words of comfort, telling her that Aunt Sarah would take care
of her. These words fell unnoticed at the time upon the ear of the
sobbing girl, who had been so accustomed to have Aunt Bertha think and
plan for her.



CHAPTER II.

FLORA AT HOME.


Mrs. Graham's life had been a quiet, unobtrusive, but truly Christian
one. She had neglected no opportunity to implant in her young niece a
love and reverence for holy things; and now that she was about to die,
she felt that she had nothing to regret, that she had left no duty
unfulfilled, so far as Flora's training was concerned. It was with a
heart full of peace that she commended her charge to the "One above all
others" and took her leave of earth.

Flora was almost inconsolable. She had no one to comfort her, for Aunt
Sarah was as distant as ever, being entirely too much occupied with
plans for the future to care about Flora. Her mother came to the
funeral, but neither was overjoyed to see the other after their long
separation. It could scarcely be otherwise. Natural affection had never
been conspicuous in the Hazeley home, and the influence of these years
apart had not helped matters at all. Indeed, they were little more to
each other than strangers.

After they returned from the cemetery, however, Aunt Sarah informed
Flora she was to return with her mother to her former, and as she deemed
it, rightful home. The feelings with which the girl received this
intelligence were by no means pleasant ones. But there was no use in
crying or fretting about it, for when Aunt Sarah said a thing, she meant
it, and could not be induced to alter her decision, even if Flora had
felt inclined to ask her to do so. This she had no thought of doing, for
she was not at all anxious to make her home with her cold, distant aunt.

"It is too bad!" she exclaimed, as she thought of all the bright helpful
plans she and Aunt Bertha had made together, and which they had hoped to
be able to carry out. "It is too bad!" she sobbed, as she bent over her
trunk in her pretty little bedroom, the tears falling on the tasteful
dresses, and the many loving tokens that had been given her by the dear
hands now at rest beneath the unfeeling earth in the churchyard.

Mrs. Martin was surprised that Flora's mother made no objection to
taking her daughter home. The truth was Mrs. Hazeley had been wanting
this very thing for some time. It was not, however, because of any
particularly affectionate or motherly feeling toward her child; but she
had been thinking that Flora, of whose ability she had heard much, would
be a very great help to her in caring for the house. Thus it was that
Flora returned to the home she had left eleven years before.

Just as the train was preparing to leave the station, Lottie Piper, one
of Flora's friends and admirers, came running to the car, and tossed
something through the open window into Flora's lap, saying hurriedly and
pantingly, as she pressed the hand held out to her:

"There, Flora, take that. Don't laugh. I raised it all myself, and I
want you to have it; but don't eat it! Keep it to remember me by.
Good-bye," she called, as the train moved off.

Flora waved her handkerchief out of the window to Lottie, until her arm
was tired. As she looked about the cars her attention was attracted by a
titter from the opposite side. At first she could not understand why the
girl who sat there should look at her and smile. As her neighbor gazed
at her lap, Flora's eyes followed, and there she saw the cause of the
merriment in Lottie's parting gift--a yellow sweet potato.

At first she felt inclined to be provoked with Lottie for bringing such
a thing and causing her to be laughed at. However, the remembrance of
her parting words, "I raised it all myself; but don't eat it!" made her
smile in spite of herself. This encouraged the girl opposite to slip
over to the seat beside Flora, as Mrs. Hazeley was occupying the one in
front, and the two girls, although entire strangers to each other,
chatted away busily, until the train stopped at one of the stations,
where the girl and her father, who sat farther back, left the car. Soon
after, Flora found herself at home, Bartonville and Brinton being but a
short distance apart.

This brings us to the opening of our story.

It was Lottie's potato that lay upon the table, and Flora had been
wondering what to do with it. The memories it awakened were of Brinton
and the many pleasant strolls and romps she had enjoyed with Lottie in
her father's fields, which joined Mrs. Graham's, of Aunt Bertha herself,
and much more.

"But what am I to do with the potato?" she questioned. "I am not to eat
it. I don't care to, either. Oh! I know, I will plant it in a jar of
water and let it grow. That would please Lottie, I guess."

She soon found a jar such as she wanted, and after washing it clean and
bright, filled it full of clear water, and carefully placed the potato,
end up, in it, and then looked about for a suitable place for it.

"That window has a good broad seat," she said to herself; "and it is
sunny, but the glass is so grimy! However, it will do. Better yet, I
will open the window."

This was more easily said than done, for, although the weather was still
warm--it being September--the window did not appear to have been opened
for some time.

Flora struggled and pushed, and at length succeeded in opening it,
making noise enough as she did so, to attract the attention of a young
girl who was passing. She stopped, looking up, inquiringly.

Flora was heated with her exertions and the thought of having attracted
attention, so that before she realized what she was doing, she was
smiling and saying:

"This old window was very hard to raise, but I was determined to do it."

"No," said the girl, looking as if she was not quite sure that it was
the right thing to say.

"What is that in the jar?" she asked, as she came closer, and looked at
the potato curiously, and then at Flora in a friendly way that pleased
her.

"This," said Flora, patting the vegetable; "it is a potato."

"But what have you put it in there for?" persisted the girl.

"To grow, to be sure."

"Will it grow?"

"Of course it will," replied Flora, with an important air. "See! water
is in this jar, and soon this potato will sprout, send roots down and
leaves up, and then--and then--it will just keep on growing, you know."
And Flora felt sure that she had put quite an artistic finish to her
description of potato culture.

"Oh, yes," cried her new acquaintance, with an intelligent light in her
eyes; "I know very well what will happen then."

"What?" asked Flora, rather dubiously.

"Why, little sweet potatoes will grow on the roots, of course."

"I--I don't think they will," said Flora, hesitatingly, not being well
versed on the subject.

"Yes; but they must--they always do," returned the girl, positively.

"Well, but there would be no room in the jar for potatoes to grow," said
Flora.

"That's so." And the girl looked puzzled; then they both laughed, not
knowing what else to do.

"What is your name?" asked Flora, by way of changing the subject, for
she was a little fearful she might be asked to explain why little sweet
potatoes would not grow in her jar.

"My name is Ruth Rudd," was the answer. "What is yours?"

"Flora Hazeley."

"Is it? Well, I live just back of your house, on the next street.
Good-bye. I guess I will see you some other time." And she hurried away.

"She is a real nice girl," Flora thought, as she turned away from the
window; "I hope I can see her again."

She stood for an instant looking about the room. It was nicely
furnished, but it looked neglected and untidy, and Flora, having been so
long accustomed to the attractiveness and order of her aunt's house,
felt home-sick. Her loneliness came over her in a great wave of
feeling, and running through the kitchen, out of the door, went into
the yard, which was a good-sized one, but so filled with rubbish and
piles of boards, scarcely noticed through her tears, that she met with
many a stumble before she reached the farther end. She wanted some quiet
place in which to sit and think, as she used to do under the old peach
tree at Brinton. She was sure she "could think of nothing in that
house," and the best she could do was to seat herself on an old block at
the very back of the yard. She felt she could think better out in the
open air, under the sky, for she was a great lover of nature, and loved
to look at the blue sky. The sun was under a cloud, but the air was warm
and pleasant.

How different were her thoughts now from what they had been under the
old peach tree! Then she had reveled in rose-colored dreams; now she was
confronted by gray realities. Her thoughts went rapidly over her life
since Aunt Bertha's death.

She had been here not quite a week, and she found it such a different
place from the home she had so lately left, that she was almost
unwilling to call it "home." But while she considered her present home
not very desirable, she had given no thought to the inmates, whether or
not they had found in _her_ a very desirable addition to the circle.

She was young, and she soon wearied of her sombre thoughts, which could
avail her nothing, and she glanced at the houses on each side of her
own. There was a marked difference. It was not in the style of the
building, for hers was the most attractive. It was, however, in the
general appearance, and Flora felt she would like to begin at the
topmost shingle and pull her home down to the ground. But the thought
came to her that then she would have no home. She knew there was no room
for her with Aunt Sarah, who was, no doubt, at this very moment enjoying
her absence.

"No, indeed, I do not want to live with Aunt Sarah," she thought; and
then began to wonder vaguely if she had not better go to work and try to
make her present home a more congenial one.

The more she thought about it, the better the idea pleased her. Just as
she was endeavoring to decide upon something definite to do, she was
startled by seeing a board in the fence, just behind her, pushed aside.
Before she could move, a round, fat, little face was thrust through the
opening, and a pair of inquisitive brown eyes were fastened upon her.
For a moment they looked, and then the owner squeezed through, and stood
still, eyeing Flora complacently.

"Well, and who are you? and what do you mean by coming in here that
way?" asked Flora, amused at the odd-looking little creature.

"I'm Jem," answered the midget, coolly; "and I didn't mean nuffing."

"Jem? I thought you were a girl," said Flora, looking at the quaint,
short-waisted dress, that reached almost down to the copper toed shoes,
and the funny, little, short white apron, tied just under the fat arms,
which were squeezed into sleeves much too tight for them.

"So I am a girl," answered Jem, indignantly; "don't you see I've gut a
napron on wif pockets in?" And she thrust her chubby little fingers into
one of them.

"But you said your name was 'Jem,' and that's a boy's name," persisted
Flora, enjoying her odd companion.

"'Tain't none," was the sententious reply; "it's short for 'Jemima';
that's what my really name is."

"Well, Jemima, what do you want in here?"

"Nuffing."

"Nothing? Well, that isn't in here."

"There ain't anythin' else's I can see," retorted Jem, turning down the
corners of her mouth very far, and looking about disdainfully.

Flora laughed outright at this, but her visitor's countenance lost none
of its solemnity.

"You do not seem to admire my yard, Jem."

"Don't see anythin' to remire," retorted Jem. "You'd just ought to peep
in ours," and she moved over to the fence, and pulling away the board
with a triumphant air, motioned Flora to look. Flora looked, but the
first thing she saw was not the yard, but the young girl with whom she
had been talking not an hour since.



CHAPTER III.

RUTH RUDD.


Ruth, standing by a long wooden bench, in the neat, brick-paved yard,
was engaged in watering some plants that were her especial pride.

Hearing a noise at the fence, she turned, and recognizing Flora, smiled
and asked:

"Won't you come in?"

"Thank you," replied Flora, smiling in return. "I think I will."

Jem looked on wonderingly as her sister and the visitor, whom she
considered her especial property, chatted.

She could not understand how they knew each other. At length, as they
took no notice of her, she determined to assert herself; so, going up to
Flora, she demanded:

"What do you think of _my_ yard?"

"Oh," said Flora, recollecting for what purpose they had come, "I like
it very much indeed, Jem."

"It's a pretty good yard, I think," said Jem, with much emphasis on the
pronoun. "Come and look at the flowers, and I'll tell you the names of
them." And she drew Flora nearer the bench.

"This is a gibonia," she continued, pointing with her fat finger to the
flower named.

"You mean a 'begonia,' don't you, Jem?" said Flora.

"Yes," answered Jem, without changing countenance in the least, or
seeming in any way abashed; "and this is a gerangum."

"A geranium," corrected Flora. "Yes, I see."

"And this is a chipoonia," pointing to a petunia, "and--Oh, there's
Pokey!" and breaking away in the midst of her explanations, she gave
chase to a fat little gray kitten that just then scampered across the
yard, and into the house.

"What a cute little girl Jem is," said Flora to Ruth; "is she your
sister?"

"Yes, that is, she is my half-sister; her mother was not my own mother,
you know."

"Oh, she is your step-mother," said Flora.

"She was," corrected Ruth; "but she has been dead ever since Jem was a
little baby. My own mother died when I was quite small," she added,
with an elderly air.

"Who keeps house for you?" asked Flora, in surprise.

"I do," replied Ruth. "I keep house for father, and take care of Jem.
She is all the company I have."

"What a smart girl you are. How old are you, Ruth?"

"I'm sixteen, but I feel ever so much older. You see, it is a great
responsibility to have everything at home resting upon one," and Ruth
looked very wise.

"I should think so," said Flora, thoughtfully. "I am sixteen too."

"Are you? That's nice. We ought to be good friends," returned Ruth,
smiling.

"Yes, I am sure we shall be," replied Flora, earnestly. "I like you ever
so much, Ruth. I am very lonely here. I know nobody in this place except
my home folks."

"How strange," said Ruth, in a puzzled way. "Tell me about it."

Flora was glad to tell her story.

"You poor child!" exclaimed matronly Ruth, taking her hand between both
her own, and pressing it. "How sorry I am for you."

"Are you?" said Flora, laughing nervously, for she felt more like
crying. "I was just feeling sorry for you."

"Sorry for me? Why?"

"Because you have to live here all alone, or almost alone, and have so
many responsibilities. You must get very lonely."

"Oh, but my responsibilities keep me so busy I have no time to be
lonely. Besides, I like responsibilities."

"You do? Perhaps if I had a few I wouldn't be so lonely either; but then
you see I have none."

"I think you have," returned Ruth, soberly, and added, after a moment's
thought, "I think you have a great many."

"What are they?"

"Your mother, and father, and brothers, and your home. You are
responsible for your conduct toward your parents. It is your duty to be
a good daughter. There's your home, it is your duty to make it pleasant
and comfortable. And there are your brothers----"

"Oh, do stop, Ruth!" cried Flora. "You have told me enough. You talk as
if you were thirty years old instead of sixteen. No, no! I will not
hear any more to-day about responsibilities; I have had enough for one
day," and she playfully placed her hand over Ruth's lips.

"I wasn't going to say any more about them," said Ruth. "I was only
going to ask you to come into the house, for I must begin to prepare our
supper."

"No, thank you!" replied Flora; "I must go now; but I should like to
come again soon."

"Indeed, come as often as you please; the oftener you come the better I
shall like it. Come right through the fence whenever you want to; you
will almost always find me here."

"Thank you," said Flora. She bade Ruth good-bye, and returned home the
same way she had come, entirely unconscious of the look of disapproval
with which little Jem was regarding her from the window of an upper
room, whither she had retreated with her precious Pokey.

Jem felt quite slighted. Flora and Ruth had been so much occupied with
each other as to forget entirely her important little self, and she
determined to severely punish "Sister Ruth" for her conduct. She
immediately proceeded to put her determination into execution by
stowing herself and Pokey away in the darkest corner under the bed, and
there she remained in spite of Ruth's coaxing calls.

Ruth found her there fast asleep, when she went to look for her at
teatime. Ruth was well acquainted with Jem's various modes of punishing
her, and she readily guessed the cause of her little sister's present
displeasure; and likewise knowing her well, she decided to let her alone
until she was ready to come down. At last Jem came down while Ruth was
washing the dishes. She was in perfectly good spirits, for she felt
satisfied that her sister had been sufficiently punished in having been
deprived of her company for so long a time. She sat down quietly and ate
her supper, which had been set aside for her. She did not say anything
about the events of the afternoon and neither did Ruth, who was busy
thinking about Flora. Strangely enough, influenced by some unseen power,
Flora was at the same moment thinking of Ruth. When our young friend
entered her home, she found her father had returned in her absence. Her
mother was hurrying about in an aimless, impatient way, trying to get
supper and at the same time set the table. These two occupations were
not progressing very rapidly in her nervous hands.

Harry and Alec were both in the dining room; the former sitting by the
window reading, and the latter whittling a bit of wood with his
pocket-knife, and letting the chips fly and settle where they would. It
was not a very inviting picture, but with Ruth's gentle face before her,
and her words "It is your duty to be a good daughter" in her mind, Flora
stoutly determined she would begin immediately and undertake her
responsibilities in the very best way she could. With these thoughts she
quietly said to her mother she would finish setting the table. It was
not much to do, but she felt a great deal better in making this first
effort to be of use in her home.

"What have I been thinking about not to have been doing this before? It
is an actual treat to be busy," she continued to herself, as she placed
the plates, cups, and saucers on the table. She did not know it, but
both Harry and Alec were watching her whenever they were sure she was
not looking.

The boys had not paid any attention to their sister since her return
home; in fact, they both thought it a bother to have a girl about the
place. Moreover, Flora had made no effort to prove herself a very
valuable addition to the little family. But this evening, as she moved
back and forth, the neat and tasteful way in which she arranged the
table, was so different from the usual careless manner, that both boys
were favorably impressed. Mrs. Hazeley too, when she hurried in with the
supper, gave a sigh of relief, as she noted that everything was ready.
And the father, although preoccupied with his own thoughts, glanced
about with a pleased look in his eyes.

Although Flora was not aware of all this, she did not fail to notice
there was a difference from the ordinary meal. The boys refrained from
their usual snappish behavior, the mother was less peevish, and her
father's face wore a look of quiet approval. On the whole, there was
change enough to cause Flora to determine she would follow out the
suggestion of her friend Ruth, and endeavor to make her home what she
desired it to be.

When supper was over, Harry and Alec took their hats and went out, no
one asking where they were going, or when they would return.

"How queer," thought Flora, who had volunteered to clear the table and
wash the dishes, "how queer, that neither mother nor father seems to
care where the boys go, or what they do." And realizing the
indifference of her parents, Flora began to feel an interest in the
pursuits of her brothers.

When Flora retired to rest that night, she felt quite pleased with her
experience of the afternoon and evening, and she intended that this
should be the beginning of a new departure in her life; and she felt
glad that she had found such a friend as Ruth. She arose early the next
morning, and was downstairs before her mother was stirring. It was
Sunday, and the entire family were in the habit of rising later than
usual on that day.

"What a dingy old place this is, to be sure," said Flora. "I'll make the
fire and straighten things up a little."

When she had finished she looked about, and shook her head.

"It doesn't look a bit comfortable, or homelike. No wonder the boys go
out every evening. I do wish I knew where to begin to improve things,
but I don't, and I have no one to ask about it, except Ruth; yes, I will
talk to her about things. Perhaps she can help me."

When Mrs. Hazeley came downstairs, to her surprise and unbounded delight
she found the fire burning, the kettle boiling, and the table daintily
laid, ready for breakfast.

"Why, Flora! I did not know you were up," she said, looking around,
well-pleased with the generally improved condition of the room.

"I do believe your aunt has made quite a housekeeper of you," she
continued, a moment later, as she inwardly congratulated herself upon
the circumstance which had sent her daughter home.

Flora flushed at this unexpected, and for her mother, somewhat unusual
word of commendation, but made no reply, for the simple reason that she
did not know what to say. In spite of this feeling of pleasure that her
effort was appreciated, she could not help wishing herself back in her
aunt's home,--not as it now stood, with Aunt Sarah at its head, but as
it had been under Aunt Bertha's gentle control. The more she thought of
it, the more intense became the longing to be there in the old, happy,
care-free life at Brinton. But there was nothing to be gained by
wishing: Aunt Bertha was dead; Aunt Sarah was there, and there to stay;
and she was at home, and here to stay; so there was nothing to do but to
make the best of things, and get as much comfort out of life as she
could. Then she thought of Ruth's life, and her brave effort to make a
home for her father and Jem, and inwardly Flora determined to emulate
her example. How well she succeeded the future will show.



CHAPTER IV.

FLORA'S FIRST SUNDAY.


Breakfast over, and the dishes cleared away, Flora looked about,
wondering what else there was for her to do. Her father was reading a
paper, and the boys had gone away. She went to the window where Lottie's
potato stood in its jar. The sight of it carried her thoughts back so
vividly to the old days, that she half resolved to look at it no more.

She felt dull and spiritless to-day; it was no wonder, for there was
little to make her feel otherwise. At Aunt Bertha's, every one had been
accustomed to attend church, and Flora remained to Sunday-school. She
had been converted and received into the church about a year before her
aunt's death. Her sudden sorrow, her hasty trip from Brinton, and her
unfamiliar surroundings in her new home, caused her to feel as if she
had been removed to a heathen land.

None of the Hazeley household attended church, and Flora knew of no
place to which she could go, for all was so new and strange to her, and
being somewhat timid, she would not go alone.

Still standing at the window, and looking drearily out on the quiet
street, she saw Ruth and little Jem passing, on their way to church.
When they saw Flora they stopped, and she, glad to see a friendly face,
hastened to open the door.

"Would you not like to come with us to church, this morning?" asked
Ruth.

"Indeed I should," replied Flora. "I was just wondering what I was going
to do with myself to day. Wait a minute; I will be ready in a very short
time."

As good as her word, she was soon ready. "I am so glad that you stopped
for me, Ruth," said she, as they walked along. "I know nothing about the
churches here, and no one goes from our house."

"That is too bad," returned Ruth, sympathizingly.

Flora was indeed glad that she had come when, as they ascended the
church steps, she heard the deep tones of the organ pealing out a
welcome to all who entered. As they walked up the aisle, it seemed as if
the sweet notes of the music twined around them, as though enfolding
them in a loving embrace. A feeling of quiet content filled the heart
of the young girl, and for a time the realities were forgotten in the
soothing sense of rest that stole over her. Nor did she attempt to
arouse herself until the opening services were ended, and the minister
arose to announce his text.

In clear, distinct tones he read: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do
it with thy might." Twice he slowly read the words, until Flora thought
he surely must have pressed them right into her brain, for she felt that
they were indelibly imprinted on her memory. Whether the sermon was
intended especially for young people, or not, she did not know, but she
felt that it was peculiarly adapted to herself. I have no doubt that the
older folks felt the same with regard to themselves. It was one of those
texts and sermons that suit everybody.

"I wonder how many of my hearers can say truthfully that they have done
with their might 'whatsoever' their hands found to do," said the
minister, looking, as Flora thought, directly at her.

She dropped her eyes uneasily to the floor, and mentally admitted, "I,
for one, have not, unless it was to grumble and fret with all my might.
I have done that, but nothing else, at least since I came home."

"I am sure you cannot say that your hand has found nothing to do. You
can perhaps say that your hand has not found what you wished it to do;
but that is not what the words of the text teach. It says '_whatsoever_
thy hand finds to do.' Then too, it is to be done 'with thy might'; not
half-heartedly."

"Oh," commented Flora to herself, "why _should_ he talk so straight at
me? If he is not describing Flora Hazeley, I am mistaken."

"Did you ever notice," the minister continued, "that when you did a
thing heartily, even though it was not the most agreeable occupation to
you, it became more easy and pleasant to you?"

Flora thought of the little help she had voluntarily given her mother
the previous evening, and again inwardly agreed with the speaker. The
minister said a great many things that morning, some of which had never
entered Flora's mind, and they made her very thoughtful; so thoughtful
that she paid but little attention to the strains of the organ that
accompanied her out of the church. She remembered he had spoken of many
kinds of work the hands might find to do, and which were to be done
faithfully and heartily. Perhaps it would be church work; perhaps
professional work; perhaps mechanical work; and perhaps house-work and
home-work. The last two, he thought, ought to go together, as neither
could do very well without the other, although each differed in
character. "House-work," he said, "as all knew, was sweeping, dusting,
cooking, and the other duties connected with caring for the house; but
home-work was the making and keeping a home; helping those in it to be
contented and happy; brightening and making it cheery by both word and
deed; shedding a healthful and inspiring influence, so that those around
us may be the better for our presence."

"According to that, we _all_ have a 'whatsoever,'" said Flora,
emphatically to herself; "and the sooner I decide to start on my own
part, the better it will be for me."

With her mind busy with many things, Flora was very quiet on her way
home. The sermon to which they had listened was plain and practical. It
was not brilliant, but it was helpful. The ideas were not necessarily
new, but the words fell upon at least one heart already prepared and
softened by circumstances to receive and profit by them. To Flora they
were seed, falling upon the prepared ground of her heart, and in due
time the fruit came forth. Most of the suggestions were new to her, for
never before had she viewed them in this particular light.

Ruth respected her friend's silence, for she saw that she was busy with
her thoughts, and guessing something of what they were, she was also
quiet. Jem was unaffected by the silence of her elders. She walked along
at Ruth's side, with her hand closely holding her sister's. Her happy
life caused her every now and then to lapse from her dignified walk, and
give a little jump and a skip. A continual volley of questions was
thrown at Ruth, whose replies were not always as obvious as occasion
demanded.

Jem's quick retort, "No, it isn't, Ruth," brought her to a realization
of her abstractedness, and she resolved to be more attentive.

They left Flora at her door, Ruth asking if she had enjoyed the service,
and added:

"Will you not come to Sunday-school with us this afternoon?"

"I did enjoy the sermon very much," Flora replied, "and I shall be
pleased to go to Sunday-school. If you will call for me, Ruth, I will be
ready when you come."

A number of things grew out of Flora's experience on this Sunday. Its
influence stayed with her, and had no small part in shaping her future
life. She soon became an earnest worker to make the world better for her
living in it; striving patiently and faithfully to render her daily life
a power for good to those around her. How she succeeded our story will
tell. Last, but not least, a strong affection sprang up between Ruth and
herself, which proved a blessing to both.

Ruth taught a class in the Sunday-school, and persuaded Flora to consent
to take one also, if the necessity arose. She introduced her to the
superintendent, who welcomed her cordially to the little band of
Christian toilers.

"One class is in need of a teacher," he said; "will you not take it? It
is composed of girls from ten to twelve years of age."

"Oh, I should not dare to undertake a class of girls so old!" exclaimed
Flora. "I am too young myself. Give me little girls, such as Ruth has."

"But," said Mr. Gardiner, "there is no such class in need of a teacher.
Besides, it is not the age that has to do with your success as a
teacher; it is the earnestness, perseverance, patience, and true piety
which you bring to the work that will bring forth the results you
desire."

"I am so inexperienced," murmured Flora.

"Neither has that anything to do with the matter," contended the
gentleman, smiling. "Experience will come, all in good time," he added.

"Well," said Flora, "I will do my best."

"That is right," answered Mr. Gardiner, heartily. He felt sure that the
young girl before him would succeed, for energy, conscientiousness, and
determination could be read plainly in her bearing, and these, he knew,
were characteristics of a successful teacher. He was glad, therefore, he
had persuaded her.

Ruth, also, was pleased, for now her friend would be also a co-worker.

Flora felt sad when she thought that her family were the only ones of
those who knew her who were entirely indifferent as to what she did or
where she went.

"Only think, Ruth," she said to her friend, "it doesn't matter to them,
whether I go wrong or right. What encouragement is there for a girl in
my place to try to do right?"

"It does seem hard, dear," the gentle friend replied; "but then you will
shine out all the brighter in the end for doing right in the face of
discouragements; and God cares, you know."

They were at the gate, and bidding Ruth good-bye, Flora slowly went up
the path to the house, her brain very active with new thoughts and
purposes.

"Yes, God will help me, if I ask him," said Flora, softly, as she went
to her room, and after doffing her hat and jacket, she knelt beside her
bed, and asked the dear Lord to bless and strengthen her in her new
surroundings, and let her life tell for him.



CHAPTER V.

THE BEGINNING.


Monday morning was cloudy. Flora felt gloomy and dispirited, and
notwithstanding her good resolutions, not in a mood to make any extra
exertion.

Mr. Hazeley had gone to his work, Harry and Alec to school, and the
mother was in bed with a sick headache. Flora was lonely. There was much
to be done, she realized, but just where to begin she did not know.
There was no one to tell her what to do, and everything looked very dark
to her on this Monday morning.

The dishes were nicely washed, and carefully put away. The little dining
room had been swept and dusted, and looked somewhat more inviting. The
window where the sweet potato, the last link binding her with the past
at Brinton, stood, had been washed until the glass fairly shone, and now
she stood gazing listlessly out into the street.

Presently she saw Ruth, on her way home from market. When in front of
the house, Ruth looked up, and saw Flora's woe-begone face at the
window. She stopped, and gave her a smiling little nod. Flora's
countenance brightened immediately, and she hastened to meet her.

"You look lonely, this morning," was Ruth's greeting.

"Indeed, I feel so," admitted Flora.

"If you are not busy come home with me for a while."

"I should like nothing better," cried Flora. "Just wait until I tell
mother."

In a moment she was back, and the two walked on, Flora insisting on
helping Ruth with her market-basket.

Jem met them at the door of the tiny house, and conducted them in with
great dignity. Flora was delighted with everything.

"What a dear little house," she exclaimed, glancing about her
admiringly.

"I am glad you like it," said Ruth, looking pleased.

"And what a dear, little, old-fashioned housekeeper you make!"

"Do you really think so?"

"Of course I do," said Flora, heartily. "Ruth, dear," she continued,
abruptly changing the subject, "I want a talk with you."

"I shall be so glad to have you," said Ruth, seating herself, with a
pan of apples in her lap. "Sit down beside me, and you can talk while I
pare these apples."

"I will help," replied Flora. "Run, Jem dear, and get another knife for
me, like a good girl."

Jem obeyed, and soon returning, brought with her a box filled with bits
of calicoes, and various odds and ends, seated herself also, and
proceeded to fashion what she was pleased to call "doll's clothes."

"Ruth," began Flora, after they were all settled and busy, "I like you
ever so much, and I hope we always will be friends. You seem to know so
much, and you have had so much experience, that I am sure you can help
me a great deal, if you will."

"Of course, dear," was her gentle reply, "I would be glad to help you
all I can, and I shall be as pleased as possible for us to be friends.
As to my knowing much, you are mistaken; I know but very little of
anything; and experience,--well, I have had some, I suppose; but then,
it isn't the sort that would help you, I am afraid. However, I shall be
glad to do anything I can for you."

"I am sure you can help me, Ruth. You have helped me already," said
Flora, decidedly. "And I mean to do as you suggested, and try to make my
home just what I would like to have it. I don't know how to begin
exactly; and then, mother never seems to care how things go, and that
makes me feel as if I did not care either."

"I don't like to hear you talk about your mother so, Flora dear," said
Roth, in a troubled tone.

"How are you to help me, if I don't tell you just what I think and
feel?"

"Perhaps, if you were to let your mother see and know that you wanted to
help her, and make things bright, and talk with her----"

"Talk!" interrupted Flora; "I don't believe she would do it, even if I
were to try."

"Oh, but _have_ you tried yet?" asked Ruth, looking up archly. "You
cannot tell until you do."

"Very well," said Flora, laughing, "I guess I shall try. But there is
another thing," and the troubled look returned to her face. "It is about
the boys, my brothers. They stay at home scarcely ever. I don't know
where they go so often, and I am sure mother does not, and I don't
believe she cares--you need not look grave again, Ruth--I don't. Harry
and Alec seem to be good boys, and it is a pity they are not restrained.
They may get into bad company--if they are not in it already--and do
something dreadful, and bring disgrace on us all. What can I do about
that?"

"It would take a wiser head than mine to tell you that," Ruth answered;
"but you might try and see if you could not make it so pleasant at home
they would not care to be away so much."

"It seems pretty plain to me that that is easier to say than to do,"
retorted Flora, just a little impatiently.

"Yes, I know," assented Ruth, meekly; "I don't pretend to be a Solomon;
I only said you might try."

"I don't believe they would stay for me," contended Flora, stubbornly.

"That is another thing you have never tried yet," said Ruth, smiling
mischievously.

"That is so," laughed Flora, as she took two or three curly parings, and
put them on Ruth's hair, to show penitence for her contrariety. "I guess
I had better not talk any more, until I have tried to do something. I
don't know how to begin my reformatory measures, but I suppose all will
be well if I start with 'whatsoever.'"

By this time the apples were finished, and she rose to go.

"You haven't remired my doll's things," said Jem, reproachfully.

"So I have not," said Flora, and she sat down beside the little
seamstress, and began to "remire" the various articles held up for
inspection. She was compelled to see through Jem's eyes, however, for
the shapes of the garments were not so striking or familiar as to
suggest their names.

When at length she reluctantly took her leave, Ruth invited her to come
soon again, to which she laughingly replied she certainly should. After
this, matters went on more pleasantly at Flora's home. She busied
herself with making the house look as cosy and as attractive as the
shabby furniture and worn carpet would admit. She succeeded beyond her
own expectations. She was gratified also that her brothers seemed to
enjoy the improved condition of affairs, and so did her father when he
was at home. Lottie's potato was now adding its mite to the general
reform, and was sprouting nicely, sending its delicate white roots
downward into the clear water, and its closely folded leaflets upward,
to grow green in the warm sunlight. It seemed to be quite at home in the
bright window. Flora had ceased to dream when she looked at her quaint
friend. The days now, were too full to build air-castles. Mrs. Hazeley
was pleased to shift her responsibility to Flora, who enjoyed nothing
better than to have all her time occupied. Often, when tangles would
come, Flora would run over to the ever-sympathetic Ruth, and receive
advice from her. Thus, in being busy, Flora became more content, and
often, as she thought of Aunt Sarah, she knew she would not be found
fretting.

She had not yet attempted to influence the boys by word, but they soon
noticed the new air of homeliness pervading the rooms, and consequently
did not go out so much as had been their custom. Alec, the younger boy,
was very mercurial and mischievous, while Harry, the elder, was quiet,
and fond of reading.

One evening Harry seemed to be more than usually inclined to be
sociable, and gave his mother and sister an animated account of
something that had happened "down town," that day. When he finished he
took up his book, and was just preparing to read, when Flora, eyeing the
volume distrustfully, asked:

"What are you reading, Harry?"

Harry looked up at her quizzically, and answered her question by
another.

"Why? What is it to you, anyway?"

"Nothing," said Flora, rather disconcerted. She was unaccustomed to
boys, and had but little tact in dealing with them.

"I thought so," replied Harry, coolly, returning to his book.

"Will you not tell me what you are reading?" again asked Flora, not
willing to be so easily vanquished.

"Why do you want to know?" demanded Harry, looking at her suspiciously.

Flora's lips again framed "nothing," but no sound came, for like a flash
she thought, "If I say that, he will say, 'I thought so,' as he did
before. No, I will give a reason," so she said:

"You seemed to be so interested in it, I thought it must be very
entertaining."

"So it is," replied Harry, throwing a mischievous glance over to the
corner at Alec, where he sat thoroughly engrossed in his favorite
pastime of whittling, and in serene thoughtlessness allowing the
clippings to fall according to their own sweet will.

Harry was confident that Flora intended to "read him a lecture upon
trashy literature," as he afterward privately told Alec. He replied:

"It is interesting, Flo, about murders, and bears, cut-throats and
burglars, and other horrors that would make you nervous to read about."

"I am not made nervous so easily as you may think, my dear boy,"
retorted Flora, condescendingly, and at the same time glancing
cautiously at Harry, to see what effect this would have.

She had determined to try and gain an influence over her brothers, and
felt that to show an interest in their occupations would be a good
beginning. She realized the task she thus imposed on herself, but she
meant to do her best, for this was another "whatsoever."

Harry was for a moment too much surprised to speak. Then he said,
saucily:

"Ah, indeed! Well, let me read some to you."

"I shall be glad for you to read to me, if you will read a story I have
just started. I feel sure you will enjoy it. If yours is a book for boys
only, I fear I could not appreciate it."

"Oh, you couldn't?" said Harry. "Why not, may I ask?"

But Flora was up and away ere the sentence was completed. Harry
congratulated himself on having put her to flight, and returned to his
book with a self-satisfied smile. Flora, however, had only gone to her
room for a paper. Hurrying back, she spread it before astonished Harry,
and, pointing to its columns, said, in a peculiarly persuasive manner:

"Now, Hal, I would be ever so glad if you would read that story aloud to
us, while I crochet, and Alec whittles on the floor."

Alec looked confused, and began to pick up some of the litter he had
made.

"Never mind, Alec," said Flora, laughing, "I will clear it up this time.
Could you not put a newspaper under you to catch the cuttings, another
time?"

"All right," said Alec, looking relieved.

"We are all ready, Harry," said Flora, sitting down and taking up her
work.

"Humph!" said Harry, glancing carelessly down the page. "There's nothing
in such a story. I don't want to read it. It is too flat."

"You are mistaken," replied Flora, spiritedly. "It's not a bit flat, and
there is something in it. It is about a brave boy who saved a train."

"Oh, yes, I know," said Harry, skeptically, "and was not hurt."

"Yes, but he did get hurt. Why not read it, and see?" suggested Flora.

"Yes, read it, Hal," said Alec; "let's see what it is, anyway."

"All right," and Harry began to read with a comical nasal twang, very
rasping to Flora's feelings, but she had the wisdom to say nothing. She
was very glad, later, because Harry gradually dropped the false tone,
and she could see by his manner that he had become interested, in spite
of himself. Alec too, had ceased whittling, and was listening intently.

Forgetting to criticise, Harry read the entire story, which, in truth,
was a pathetic little incident, very gracefully and entertainingly told.
He was silent, as he laid the paper on the table, but his thoughts were
busy.

"I was right, was I not, Harry?" asked Flora.

"Yes," drawled Harry, smilingly, "you were. I did enjoy it, and I am
glad you asked me to read it. But, let me see," he added, turning to the
clock, "what time is it? Well," and he laughed, "I was good. It is
nearly ten. Guess I will retire; I was going out, but it is too late."

Flora was secretly rejoiced to hear this, but she simply said,
"Good-night." She felt a glow of satisfaction as she realized a
beginning had been made toward gaining the hold upon her brothers she so
much desired.

"Flora, will you lend me that paper?" asked Alec, as she was preparing
to go to her room. Flora willingly placed the paper in his hand,
remarking, as she did so,

"I am glad you like the story. I have others, if you want them. Aunt
Bertha kept me well supplied."

"Good night," returned Alec, and he was gone.

Flora was more nearly content than she had been for some time, as she
sank into peaceful slumber that night.



CHAPTER VI.

SOME RESULTS.


"I believe I am going to realize some of the dreams I used to have,
after all," Flora said to herself, as she laid her head upon her pillow
that night.

She was right. The first step had been taken by her in the path of
becoming an earnest worker, and to influence those about her as she had
planned she would like to do, although not in such a way as this, nor in
such surroundings. Her cherished dream of being instrumental in leading
others into a higher and better life was now, she began to realize,
leading her into the lines of duty in her own home, and among her own
people. She could not wish for more.

She would not be like so many others, who in their desire to do great
things, neglect the opportunities near at hand, and who, in longing to
lead the heathen to a higher plane of life, forget those at home, who
possibly for want of a word or act, have slipped, stumbled, and fallen
on life's pathway.

Flora was growing, and with an earnest prayer to the Christ for
guidance, strength, and tact, she cheerfully assumed more duties in the
home, and greater responsibility. Her bright, sunny disposition, her
pleasant face, her extreme willingness to respond to requests, gradually
won a place for her in the hearts of those in her home.

The class in Sunday-school was assumed with a feeling of great
apprehension. It was composed of five girls between the ages of ten and
twelve. At first sight of their youthful teacher, these girls had been
inclined to be displeased, but when they grew to know the sunny, sweet
good-nature, born of the great desire to do them good, and which shone
out of the earnest eyes, they loved her dearly. The teaching of this
class was fraught with great good, both to the teacher and scholars, and
this meeting with the eager, bright girls was soon eagerly looked
forward to by Flora from week to week.

"How things have improved at Mr. Hazeley's!" soon grew to be a common
remark among the neighbors.

"Yes, since Flora came home, it has become very different from what it
formerly was," would be the spirit, if not the words of the reply.

Flora overheard a similar remark one day, and it gave her a feeling of
great joy to know the change was becoming apparent. Her resolution was
strengthened to sustain this newly made reputation.

It must not be supposed that she always had an easy time. This was not
so, for as she often said to Ruth, "When mother and Harry are not in a
good humor, things do become tangled."

However, to do the family justice, they were beginning to see and to
more fully appreciate the changes made in their home since Flora, who
had left them a small maiden, had returned with her thoughtful ways and
mature manner. They forgot sometimes that she was but sixteen, and would
fancy she was older than she really was. In fact, almost imperceptibly,
she assumed all responsibility, and they deferred to her judgment in
many things. Best of all, however, they began to love her.

Her younger brother Alec seemed to have entirely surrendered to her
gentle, loving rule, and was ever willing to listen to her advice. He
was always ready to help her by running errands, chopping wood, drawing
water, and performing a dozen other little tasks quite new to him, for
he had never aided his mother in any way. In fact she had never asked
her boys to assist her, or to save her extra steps or work, forgetting
it ought to be required from them.

Mrs. Hazeley also had changed under the magic wand of Flora's sunny
influence and determination to win the love of all. She had become at
least a willing agent to the general change taking place in her home,
and which recommended itself to her because her responsibilities were
lightened and carried by other shoulders.

The house itself was transformed. Even cynical little Jem was becoming
satisfied with it. It still contained the same furniture, but there was
an air of comfort and home life about it never there before, but
introduced by the magic of Flora's presence.

Lottie's sweet potato added its share to the general improvement which
was going on. The long thread-like roots looked very white in the jar of
water in which they were growing, and the graceful tendrils and
light-green leaves were quite refreshing to the eyes. Flora had trained
the vine about the window on small cords, and already it had nearly
covered the lower part with its delicate branches. Flora would have felt
lonely without it to care for; especially after being accustomed to have
plants in profusion around her at her old home. Then too, it carried
her back to the happy days at Aunt Bertha's, bringing a feeling of joy
that she had been permitted to live there so long, and to be trained in
such a gentle, firm, loving manner. Frequently she mentally contrasted
her care-free life there, and her life of responsibility now, and she
determined, with the help that is from above, she would not sink to her
surroundings, but would elevate them to her level. Bravely, patiently,
hopefully did she go forward with this end in view.

She was really surprised to find how fond she had grown of her brothers,
and they of her. She could think of her mother very differently now, and
she in turn began to show signs of an awakening affection for her
daughter.

As to Ruth, she was ever the same, a quiet little home body, whose hands
were always too full to allow her to come to Flora, but whose demure
little face never failed to smile a welcome to her friend, and whose
wise brain could turn over Flora's tangles and straighten them.

The two girls loved each other dearly; and no safer, truer friend and
guide could Flora have found than Ruth Rudd, who, although no older than
she herself, was very mature in thought, manner, and speech. Her face
however, was childlike and innocent, reflecting the pure soul within.
Flora was fortunate indeed in having her for a friend and confidante.

Harry Hazeley was a manly fellow with fine qualities. He had been
allowed to do as he pleased, and had not been greatly benefited by this
freedom. No restraining hand or guiding voice had been held out to him,
or to cheer him on his way. Not being evil minded, he had taken but few
wrong steps, and now his attention had been attracted to higher and
better things.

As I have said, Harry had good qualities; one of which was a kind
disposition, and although it was not always apparent to his every-day
associates, was brought into play whenever he met any one who seemed in
need of assistance.

One morning, as he was walking through the market on his way to school,
his attention was attracted by an old man. One of his feet was swathed
in bandages, and he was hobbling painfully back and forth, from his
wagon to the stall, where he was trying to arrange a quantity of
vegetables and some flowering plants which formed his stock in trade.

Harry had a quarter of an hour to spare, and he immediately offered to
help the old man, who was only too glad to accept the proffered
assistance, and who introduced himself, between the journeys from stall
to wagon, as "Major Joe Benson, a gardener on a small scale."

Major Joe was an old ex-soldier, who had been wounded, and later
imprisoned. The title "Major" was only a nominal one, and not indicative
of any rank. His name, as he informed Harry, was Joseph Major Benson,
Major being his mother's maiden name. He preferred to transpose this and
call himself Major Joseph Benson, shortened for convenience to "Major
Joe."

"It sounded sort of big, you know," he said, drawing himself up and
looking dignified, until reminded by a sharp twinge in his foot that
"rheumatiz" and dignity did not agree.

Major Joe was very talkative, and would not cease his persuasions until
Harry had promised to drive out to his home with him some day, and see
his nice little farm and Mrs. Benson, and he added:

"She will be delighted to see you, because you possess such a kind
heart, and because you helped me. You must come."

"Yes, I will," returned Harry, "but I must be off to school now.
Good-bye." And away he went, mentally pronouncing the major "a jolly old
chap."

The visit was made, and strange though it seemed, a fast friendship
sprang up between the two, and the visits became quite frequent. Harry
had taken Alec with him several times, and he too had greatly enjoyed
the trip. Major Joe could tell any number of quaint tales and
reminiscences of interest to the brothers. Mrs. Benson, who was more
active than her husband, was always desirous for Harry and Alec to
remain to tea. Her heart had been reached by the kindness of Harry to
her "Major," as she lovingly called him, and she could not do enough for
them.

Harry had passed his old friend's stall a number of times since Flora's
return, and had of course told him about his sister. The major had a
strong desire to see this wonderful girl, as he deemed her to be, from
the glowing descriptions that came to him. Finally he insisted, and Mrs.
Benson sent in a kind invitation that the three, Harry, Flora, and Alec
must come home with him to spend the afternoon and take tea.

He chose a beautiful day in early summer for the visit, and Flora was
anticipating it with no small degree of pleasure, for it would be the
first real holiday she had had since coming home. The thought that the
boys cared enough about her to plan a trip for her was a very pleasant
one. Her mother seemed as much pleased with the idea as the rest, and
had insisted upon her going, so Flora felt warranted in thoroughly
enjoying her new experience. Mrs. Hazeley was daily becoming more
energetic, and seemed really arousing to the fact that she had a place
to fill in her home.

Major Joe was to call for his three young friends on his way home from
market. He had promised to be on hand by noon, and as punctuality was an
economizer of time, in the old gentleman's opinion, it was barely twelve
o'clock when he drew up with a great attempt at flourishing before the
Hazeleys' door.

[Illustration: Hazeley Family. Page 67.]



CHAPTER VII.

A VISIT TO MAJOR JOE.


Quite an effort was necessary in order to arrange the board for an extra
seat for Flora and Alec. At length it was made ready, and Flora was
helped in, and Alec followed, while Harry took his place beside the
major, who commented as follows:

"So this is your sister, Harry? Well, well, she's a sister to be proud
of; and I haven't a doubt but you are proud of her. Here, you Jacob, git
up, will you?" and he shook the reins vigorously over his horse's back.
"You never do come to a standstill but what you think it's meant for you
to go to sleep."

Jacob, roused from his intended doze, lazily shook his fat sides, and
slowly moved along. It was a lovely June day, and the little party had a
very pleasant ride of about an hour and a half, Jacob not being inclined
to hurry.

Major Joe was conversationally inclined, and nothing pleased him more
than to hear the sound of his own voice. He chatted continually: now
about the orchards they passed, and their probable yield of fruit; now
about the styles of the houses, as they came into view, and interspersed
these remarks with reminiscences of the time when he was in the army.

The ride seemed quite a short one to Flora, who had enjoyed it
thoroughly.

Mrs. Benson stood at the gate, watching for them; and in her white
kerchief and neat cap, looked good-natured and comfortable. A saucy
little spaniel sat in the middle of the road, watching too; and he was
the first to catch sight of the wagon. He gave notice of the same by a
sharp bark, and springing to his feet, doubled himself together, and
bounded away, raising a cloud of dust in his haste to reach and greet
his master. How happy he was when he reached the carriage! He sprang up
at old Jacob, who paid no attention to such a small animal, but merely
turned away his head with an air of supreme indifference.

"Jump, Dolby, jump!" said Major Joe. After several ineffectual trials,
and two or three hard falls into the dusty road, Dolby landed beside his
owner, who had made room for him, and gave himself a vigorous shake,
which sent the dust he had gathered in his long hair, over Flora's
clothes and into her face, causing her to choke, and a moment later to
laugh. Dolby concluded this was in recognition of himself, and turning
around, eyed Flora quizzically, and gave a satisfied little friendly
bark.

The garden and nursery belonging to Major Joe were not large, but they
were very fruitful, enabling him to realize considerable from the sale
of his flowers and vegetables. He did not carry on his trade in a
scientific manner, but merely for his love of the beautiful and useful
things of the vegetable kingdom, and because to be inactive was for him
to be unhappy. His receipts from the sale of the products of his land,
together with his pension, enabled himself and Mrs. Benson to live very
comfortably in their own snug little cottage, and, in addition, to lay
aside something for a rainy day.

"Well, mother, here we are," said Major Joe, throwing the reins over
Jacob's back.

"So I see," answered Mrs. Benson, nodding smilingly to the entire party.
"Just come right in," she added, as Alec sprang out on one side of the
wagon, and Harry helped Flora from the other.

The young people followed their hostess through the gate, and up the
box-bordered walk into the cosy little cottage. Flora was soon seated
in a low rocking-chair by the window, whose broad sill was filled with
potted plants.

There Harry and Alec left her in good Mrs. Benson's care, while they
went for a walk over the place.

Flora soon discovered that her hostess was as sociable as the major, and
but a short time passed before they were chatting like old friends.

By-and-by, Alec thrust his merry face in at the door, and said:

"Come out here, Flora; the major wants you to see his garden."

"Yes, dear, go, if you are perfectly rested," said Mrs. Benson. "I will
stay here, and see about preparing our early tea."

Flora joined her brother out of doors, and found Major Joe and Harry
waiting.

"Come and see my little green-house," said the old man, waving his hand,
and looking at them from over his spectacles with an important air.
Flora complied quite willingly, for she was very fond of flowers, and
immediately won the major's good opinion with her enthusiasm over his
pet plants, and the interest with which she listened while he enlarged
upon his management of them. The care of his garden was a tax upon his
time, and really constituted quite a little labor. Then, outside, it was
so pleasant to walk up and down among the neat flower-beds, in the
small, but nicely kept orchard; and in the kitchen garden, for the major
prided himself on his choice vegetables, some of which frequently took
prizes at the county fair.

The major himself was in his glory, for he had someone to whom he could
talk. Talking was an occupation of which he never wearied, and now he
chatted about the various departments of his labors, and how pleasant it
was to watch the growth and development of the plants.

His tongue was still going very fast, when Mrs. Benson appeared in the
doorway, and called to them that tea was ready. Reluctantly the old
gardener relinquished his young listeners, who were, however, quite
willing to vary the program, for they were hungry. The sight of the
pleasant room, neat tea-table, and their genial, motherly hostess, was a
very inviting one. In a lull of the conversation, during the progress of
the meal, Mrs. Benson remarked, with a sad little smile, that Flora
reminded her of her Ruth.

"So she does," exclaimed her husband. "I knew she made me think of
somebody, but couldn't make it clear who it was."

"Is Ruth your daughter?" asked Flora.

"She is, or leastways she was," said Mrs. Benson, heaving a sigh, and
adding, in a low voice, "She's dead now."

"I am very sorry," said Flora, with ready sympathy.

"Yes, our Ruth was a fine girl, but a little headstrong. We did all we
could to make her happy and contented at home, but it seemed as if we
did not succeed, and so, one day she ran off to marry a man we couldn't
care for, because we were sure he wouldn't treat our girl kind--not that
there was anything against him, but he was so cold and unfeeling. But
she wouldn't listen to us, and went off, and we never saw her again."

"How sad!" said Flora; "but couldn't you go to see her?"

Mrs. Benson shook her head. "No; he said we were not to have anything to
do with Ruthie, after he married her, and they moved away somewhere, we
never knew where, until we heard in a roundabout way that she was dead."
Here Mrs. Benson paused to wipe away a tear. "I had hoped she would at
least have stayed near home, and been a comfort to us in our old age;
but, I suppose it's all right, and for the best. But excuse me for
telling you so soon of our great sorrow. I should not have done it. Have
you ever heard," she continued--and soon all were laughing heartily at
her quaint sayings.

Flora, however, could not send from her thoughts this sad story. When
the pleasant visit was drawing to an end, and they all were bidding Mrs.
Benson good-bye, promising to come again, it still lingered with her. As
old Jacob was soberly and deliberately trotting homeward, she revolved
it over and over in her mind. Somehow it fastened itself upon her in a
way she did not understand, and not until she was home, and had retired
to her room for the night, did she arrive at even a partial solution of
the perplexing problem. Then it dawned upon her with surprising
clearness, that it certainly was because of the similarity of names in
Mrs. Benson's daughter and her friend and adviser, Ruth Rudd.

This was very slight ground on which even to build an air-castle, but
Flora did not stop to consider that, but in the midst of her dreaming
resolved to go the next day, and rehearse to Ruth the story she had
heard from Mrs. Benson.

Accordingly, next morning, after the work was done, and her mother was
seated with her sewing, Flora donned her hat, and went to see her
friend, expecting to find her busy as usual. She was, therefore, very
much surprised to be met at the door, even before she had knocked, by
Ruth herself, whose gentle face wore a troubled, anxious look, and she
spoke in a low tone, as she responded to Flora's query:

"What is it, Ruthie?"

"Father is very sick."

"Oh, I am so sorry! What is the matter? When was he taken ill? Was it
suddenly?"

"Yes and no," said Ruth, answering simply the last question put by
Flora. "He was compelled to stop work yesterday, and come home. He has
been in poor health for a long time. I have been afraid, for quite a
while, that he would break down."

"The doctor does not think he will die, does he?" whispered Flora, in an
awed tone.

"Yes, he does," said Ruth, as she wiped her eyes with the corner of her
apron.

The two girls, with their arms entwined, and a deep tenderness in their
voices, then went into the little kitchen, where Jem sat, holding her
beloved kitten close to her for comfort.

"Yes, the doctor says that he cannot last long. But what bothers me is,
there seems to be something on his mind, and I can see he is worried."

"What about? Do you know?" asked Flora, sympathizingly.

"Well, I can guess," Ruth answered, taking from a work-basket a stocking
of Jem's, and beginning to darn it in an abstracted, mechanical way.

"You see," she continued, "father married my mother--my own mother, I
mean--against her parents' wishes--she was young--and he never would be
reconciled to them, because they had objected to him. Neither would he
allow them to have anything to do with each other afterward. He was very
stern, and it all made mother so unhappy it just broke her heart, I am
sure. She died when I was very small. He has told me, since Jem's mamma
died, he wished he had tried to pacify my grandparents. But he had moved
far away from them, and now, if he should die, he has nobody with whom
to leave Jem and me. But he was always so proud; and now we shall be all
alone," and she gave a sorrowful little sigh.

"See here, Ruth," exclaimed Flora, a sudden thought flashing across her
mind. "What was your mother's name?"

"Ruth, it was the same as mine," was the reply.

"Yes, but what was her last name?"

"Benson, I think."

"Well, then, I think I know your grandparents," cried Flora.

"You do? How? Where?" returned Ruth, in a puzzled, disjointed way.

"Wasn't, or isn't, your grandfather named Joseph Benson?" asked Flora.

"Yes, Joseph Major Benson; but how did you know?"

"Oh, I found out," was the answer. "And they live just a little way out
in the country."

"But, how do you know all that?" persisted Ruth, incredulously.

"Because I was there yesterday."

"Oh, Flora, are you sure? Don't raise my hopes and then disappoint me."

"My dear, you will not be disappointed; I should not like to do that,"
said Flora, gravely; "but let me tell you, and you can see for
yourself." And then she told the story Mrs. Benson had told her, ending
with, "So, you see, there can be no mistake."

Ruth was delighted, and thanked her friend again and again.

"Just see how God works," she said. "Who can tell what he will bring
about. How glad I am! I must not tell father anything about it just yet.
We must manage to send word to grandfather, and have him here before we
tell. It would not do to excite father unnecessarily; he is so very
weak."

"That is so, Ruthie," said Flora; "you are wise, as usual, in thinking
of that. I should have done quite differently. I should have rushed
right in at once and told him."

"Not if you had been in my place," was the gentle answer. "You see, I
have been accustomed to think about such things ever since Jem's mother
died, as father never took much interest in the management of our
household affairs."

After some more talk, it was arranged that Flora should go and bring
Major Joe to see his son-in-law in the morning, and then the friends
parted, Flora to hurry home and enlist her brothers' aid in her new
project; and Ruth to return to the bedside of her father, with the
pleasant hope of not only easing his mind, but the feeling that should
he die, she would not be left entirely alone in the world; a possibility
which she had dreaded more because of her little sister, than on her own
account.



CHAPTER VIII.

MORE RESULTS.


When Flora entered the house she found her brothers there before her,
and both very quiet. It had grown to be such a pleasant thing to find
their cheery sister at home when they came in, that they had almost
unconsciously commenced to look forward to seeing her, and hearing her
merry voice. They hastened home from school, and felt, but never
expressed, disappointment when she was not there.

Flora, while not yet so wise and thoughtful as her friend Ruth, was
daily learning lessons of usefulness, and continually using and
developing new powers heretofore latent, and with her natural tact
refrained from commenting upon many changes easily observed, going on in
the habits of her brothers. And now she simply smiled at Harry, and
pinched Alec's ear playfully, as she passed him.

Then she went to her room to remove her hat, and hastened back to help
her mother with the dinner. While putting the dishes on the table she
imparted her news to Harry and Alec, between her trips from table to
pantry. They were both well pleased to have the prospect of being able
to brighten the lives of Major Joe and Mrs. Benson. They considered
Flora very bright to come to the conclusion she did.

"I forgot all about that story soon after I heard it," said Alec,
conscious stricken. "Didn't you, Hal?"

"I am afraid I did," laughed his brother. "But what else was there for
me to do? I knew no way in which I might help, as Flora did."

"That's so," rejoined Alec, in a relieved tone, willing to share in his
brother's self-absolution.

"Of course neither of you could have done anything, for you did not know
Ruth. But tell me, what will be best to do?" asked Flora, pausing with a
dish she was carrying to the table.

"I know," said Harry. "To-morrow is Saturday and market day also, and we
all can go and see Major Joe in his stall, and tell him what we have
heard, and what we think. If he is interested, one of us can stay at his
stall while he goes and sees Ruth."

"How glad he will be; and how glad I am," said Flora. "It would be
dreadful for Ruth and poor little Jem to be left with no one to take
care of them."

Thus the question was decided.

The next morning Major Joe was surprised by a visit from all three of
his young friends, and none the less delighted to see them, however,
because they came unexpectedly, and he gave them a hearty welcome. It
was understood beforehand that Flora was to be the one to open the
subject, and explain matters. She did not tell everything at once, as
Alec thought she ought to do, but approached the object of their visit
in a delicate way.

"Major Joe; guess what brought us here to-day."

"I'm sure I can't say," answered the old man, rubbing his rough hands
together, with a beaming smile. "Maybe to see your old friend?"

"To be sure; we're always glad to do that," replied Flora, as she placed
the little bunches of parsley and thyme in more perfect order. "We have
come for something else. Something very important," she added, seeing
that Major Joe had no curiosity as to the nature of their errand with
him.

"What would you say if I told you we had found somebody who belongs to
you?"

"To me?" queried the puzzled man. "I don't see how you could do that."

"Yes, but I have," said Flora. "I am sure of it."

The old major shook his head doubtingly.

"And I want you to come with me and see if what I said is not true,"
persisted Flora, coaxingly.

"But how can I?" questioned Major Joe in reply. "I cannot leave my
stall--who would wait on my customers?"

"Why not let me take charge until you return," asked Harry, speaking for
the first time.

"And I can help," added Alec.

"Now you see it's all fixed," said Flora.

"Surely you're not afraid to trust us, are you?" asked Harry, as he saw
his old friend still undecided.

"No, no; it's not that, my boy; only----"

"Only nothing," interrupted Flora, laughingly. "You must come, so say no
more about it." And she caught his arm and led him away, an unwilling
and unbelieving captive.

Ruth opened the door in answer to Flora's gentle tap. The latter could
no longer restrain her impatience.

"Now, Major Joe," she exclaimed, softly, for fear of disturbing the
sick man, "whom does this little sobersides remind you of?"

At first the old man looked from one to the other in a bewildered
manner. Then his eyes rested on Ruth's face long and attentively. The
tears gathered, and he involuntarily held out his hand, and said,
softly, "Ruthie."

Scarcely realizing what she was doing, Ruth, probably drawn by the
tender, loving tone that touched her heart, put her own in it.

"Who is she? What does it all mean?" asked the major, looking helplessly
at Flora.

"It means," answered Flora, softly, "that this is truly Ruthie. Not your
own Ruth, but her daughter and namesake--your grand-daughter Ruth."

"Is that so? Are you sure? Don't say so if you ain't," pleaded the old
man. And then the thought flashed across Flora's mind that perhaps after
all she was mistaken, and had only brought her old friend there to be
disappointed.

"Ruth dear," she said, dropping into a chair, weakened by the very
thought, "tell him--tell him all about yourself; your mother's name, and
everything. Do, please, quick!"

Ruth told the history of her dead mother's life, as she had heard it
from her own lips.

Eagerly Major Joe listened, and when she was through, he held out his
arms to her, saying:

"You are my poor Ruth's daughter," and the tears prevented him from
adding more. Ruth and Flora wiped their eyes in sympathy: Ruth rejoicing
in the possession of a grandfather; Flora, that provision was thus made
for Ruth.

This tearful trio was interrupted a moment later by the entrance of Jem,
carrying her doll under one arm, and her beloved Pokey under the other.

"Why, Ruth Rudd, I'm extonished at you, hugging a old market man!" and
Jem looked at her sister with unbounded disapproval.

"Hush Jem, you must not talk so," said Ruth. "This is our grandfather."

"Not mine," returned matter-of-fact Jem, standing still in the middle of
the room, and looking suspiciously at the visitor. "Not mine. I never
had any, and don't want one."

"Who is this?" asked Major Joe, looking at the defiant little figure
dubiously.

"She is my half-sister," answered Ruth.

"Well, well," said her grandfather, "she ain't Ruth's child, so I've no
call to take her when I take you, Ruth. Her father can send her to his
own people."

"Then, grandfather, I cannot go with you," said Ruth, sadly, but firmly.
"I will never leave Jem."

"Ruth, you're not going to leave me, are you?" cried the little girl.

"No, indeed, dear, I shall not leave you. It was not very nice for you
to speak of grandpa as you did just now. You should always be polite to
an old person. Remember this, Jem."

"I don't care," said Jem, defiantly. "He's horrid. He wants to take you
away, and you're all I've got 'cept father, and--and he's going to die,"
she sobbed, hiding her face in Ruth's arms.

"Don't cry, Jem. I will not leave my little sister. What could I do
without you?"

"No, no, little one, Ruth's grandfather won't part you, if you're so
fond of each other." And the major came over and patted the sobbing
child's head, soothingly. His was too tender a heart to withstand the
sight of a child in distress, so it was soon settled that he was to be
Jem's grandfather also, which arrangement was accepted by the little
girl as readily as she had rejected the idea a moment before.

Then the major, his heart made very tender by memories of the past, was
ready to visit the invalid.

John Rudd had always been a quiet man, but willful and determined to
succeed in whatever he undertook. He was not bad at heart, and when a
wrong act was committed it was invariably caused by obstinacy. He
usually quickly repented of his course, and made all reparation in his
power.

Knowing that Mr. and Mrs. Benson did not like him as well as he had
hoped, he determined to marry Ruth, and to prohibit all intercourse with
her family. In everything else he was thoroughly honorable, but he
tenaciously held to this point. Ruth Benson, loving him devotedly, and
believing all he said or did was infallible, implicitly obeyed this
strange request without a question, and neither did she hear of or from
her parents.

That the unnecessary sacrifice did not add to her happiness, was proven
by the fact that she lost her free, light-hearted ways, and became quiet
and melancholy, after a year or two of married life. Her husband was
proud--too proud to admit that he had made a mistake, until it was too
late for such an admission to do any good, and so after a few years she
died, leaving behind her little namesake, Ruth. She seemed to have
transmitted to the child in a large measure her own disposition, for
Ruth was always a grave, silent, little thing, entirely unlike other
children, and quite old for her years.

It was nice too, she possessed such a sweet disposition and even temper,
for when her father brought home a new mother for the little Ruth, many
changes were made in the home, and great would have been the discord but
for Ruth's peaceful characteristics. Shortly after his second marriage,
John Rudd moved to Bartonville, whether for business openings, or to be
near the early home of Ruth's mother, no one ever knew.

Ruth knew the story of her mother's married life, of the home of her
girlhood, and of the kind parents, but she did not know where the home
was.

Whatever the reason for his coming, it was well for Ruth and Jem, for as
I have said, provision was now made for them both at Major Joe's farm.

Ruth's life thus far, since the cares of the home were put upon her at
the death of Jem's mother, had been an uneventful one. She had no
companion but her little sister, who so filled her brain, and heart, and
time, that she had no opportunity to grow lonesome. Personally, Ruth
would have felt happier if her father had allowed the love, she doubted
not he held for her, to find expression in a word of praise, a tender
kiss, or appreciation of her efforts. But her father never thought of
this longing of his daughter: he was so self-contained himself, and
unemotionally inclined, that he could not have understood this craving,
even had he known of its existence, which it is needless to say, he did
not.

It was rather hard for so young a girl to persevere in her home-making
with such a singleness of purpose as Ruth displayed, to give up her
beloved studies without a sigh of regret, and to strive to train her
younger sister, knowing she would receive no word of approbation from
her father.



CHAPTER IX.

RUTH'S NEW HOME.


Flora was very glad to know that at last her tender-hearted, patient
Ruth had found some one to love her as well as to require of her duties.
Love is a lightener of labor, and Flora felt that, in this respect at
least, she was more fortunate than her friend. She felt sure, moreover,
she was fast gaining the affection of her brothers and of her mother,
who was gradually awaking to love for Flora and the desire to make the
home attractive. She had something to work for. But Ruth--she had no one
to whom to look for love, except Jem, as it was impossible to think of
their quiet, undemonstrative father ever expressing any of his love for
his daughters. One could only judge from his manner, for he never said
much, and that was the same as when she first knew them.

John Rudd apparently took it as a matter of course that Major Benson
came to see him as he lay ill, and expressed neither pleasure nor
displeasure when he stated that should he not recover Ruth and Jem
would be well cared for. He accepted, without feeling, the heartily
expressed forgiveness from the major, thinking that perhaps it was due
in some degree to the presence of two faces standing near by with
earnest, pleading looks at the newly found grandfather, who, deprived of
his daughter, would fill the vacancy in his heart with Ruth and Jem.

It was very difficult for Major Joe, with his tender heart, to leave his
grandchildren. At last, however, he did, promising to return in the
afternoon with Mrs. Benson, who would be overjoyed to see them,
especially Ruth, who was so like her mother at her age.

As they returned to the market, Major Joe was prolific in his
expressions of gratitude to Flora for her part in bringing about this
delightful re-union, for had this not been done, Ruth and Jem would have
suffered, and would have been left without parents or home.

Harry and Alec were well pleased with their new position, and because
trade had been very flourishing during their period of power. Major Joe
heartily thanked them all for their kind help to him this morning. Flora
then returned home, but Harry and Alec remained to do anything else
possible for Major Joe, as he wished to go home at once, and must pack
his wares.

It is neither necessary to recount in detail all that pertained to the
last hours of John Rudd, nor how attentive Grandfather Joe was to his
newly found grandchildren; nor how overjoyed Mrs. Benson was when she
first saw them. It will be enough to say that all that could be done
toward rendering the dying man's last moments peaceful was done. Toward
the last he roused, and in a simple, but earnest way, expressed himself
content to die. He said that, although he had not spoken of the matter
for fear of distressing the children, he had known for some time that it
was to be so, and that long ago he had made his peace with God. He
regretted his past careless life, both as to his duty to his Maker and
to the children intrusted to him; "but," he continued, "God is good, and
ever willing to forgive, and to accept a truly contrite spirit, and my
trust is stayed on him." He expressed himself as very grateful to him
for his goodness in providing for his children. He blessed them all with
his last breath and passed peacefully away.

When the last sad rites had been performed, Ruth's grandparents
immediately began preparations to take her and Jem home.

The modest furniture of her home was entirely removed, although it
somewhat crowded the cottage, but Ruth could not now part with these
mementos of her former life, which had been her mother's.

At last, everything was ready, the little house was given up, and Ruth
was spending a few moments with Flora, who, although instrumental in
finding a new home for Ruth and Jem, was full of sorrow at the prospect
of her loss in the parting with her friend.

"Don't look so sad, Flora dear," said Ruth. "Think what a blessing it is
that poor little Jem and I have not been left altogether alone in the
world. Had God not led you to find our dear grandparents, how very
wretched we should be now. Besides, you know, we are not to be so far
away; we can see each other often."

"That is true," returned Flora, brightening up; "I am glad of that; but
it will be so lonely not to have you near me. Besides, I don't know any
other girl as intimately as I do you."

"Oh, you will," said Ruth. "I am sure you will meet and become
acquainted with some one as you did me. I hope, if you do, you may be
permitted to do them as much good as you have done me."

"And me too, Ruth," said an unexpected voice behind them.

Both turned, and saw Mrs. Hazeley standing in the doorway with a smile
upon her lips and tears in her eyes.

"I used to be very unhappy, as you both know, and it was because I
expected life to form itself for me--either for pleasure or unhappiness.
Then Flora came," and she went over to her daughter and placed an arm
about her, and looked lovingly in her eyes; "I watched her closely,
and I soon discovered that she had determined to make this house a
home, and a delightful one. No untoward circumstances seemed to
discourage, but she was ever cheery and sprightly. We have gained
by her home-coming--how much I cannot tell. She seems to have the
mere power of will to mold circumstances as she chooses----"

"Not my will, mother," softly interrupted Flora, her face suffused with
happy smiles; "it is God's will."

"Yes, yes, my dear," said Mrs. Hazeley, "I believe it. I want his will
to mold my life too. A godless life is a wretched life, my children."

Harry and Alec had entered during the conversation, and were standing
listening in amazement to what they heard from their mother.

"And the boys too," continued Mrs. Hazeley; "I am sure they have been
helped by their sister's example."

"I know I have!" exclaimed Alec. Harry's only reply was to remark that
the major was at the door waiting for Ruth. Then he turned and went out.

Flora felt a strange mixture of feelings at that moment. She was glad to
know she had helped Ruth; unutterably grateful for her mother's words;
and hurt at the seeming indifference of her brother. It was not her way,
however, to dwell on what she could not prevent, so she only determined
to strive harder than before to penetrate the armor of cold indifference
worn by Harry of late.

As Harry left, they all went to the gate to wave a good-bye to Ruth. In
the wagon was Jem, perched on a seat beside her grandfather, to whom she
had clung with all the strength of her loving little heart. Immediately
after the funeral she had gone home with him, taking "Pokey," and
leaving Ruth in peace to pack. This was really a comfort to Ruth, as
Jem's presence would not have been of any great assistance.

Soon everything was settled, and with many injunctions to come soon, the
party drove off, little Jem holding the reins with a steady hand, and a
determination to drive all the way home.

A new life thus opened for the orphans, Ruth and Jem--a life of freedom
from care, of joyous liberty to run at will in the garden of their
grandfather, who delighted in the company of Jem, and who returned his
affection in full measure. The life at the cottage was blessed by the
loving guardianship of the grandmother, who saw in Ruth her own daughter
of long ago.

Under this beneficent influence Ruth lost some of her seriousness,
becoming more like other girls, and grew rosy and stout.

The life at the farm had so absorbed Jem's mind and time that, for the
time being, "Pokey" was forgotten, much to the latter's satisfaction,
for now she could lie in the sun and sleep in peace without fear of
being unceremoniously awakened by her erratic little mistress.

Flora watched the wagon containing Ruth and Jem until it was out of
sight, and then went into the house. Alec and Harry had gone away. Mrs.
Hazeley was sewing, and Flora, having no especial duty, and caring for
none, went over and stood at the window, listlessly gazing into space.
Her eyes soon dropped, and her attention was attracted by the yellow
leaves on the sweet-potato vine. Flora felt as if all to which she had
clung was leaving her in her loneliness. She looked closer. The potato
was still firm and hard, and the jar was quite packed with roots, but
the leaves on the vine were dying.



CHAPTER X.

LOTTIE PIPER.


Flora had stood for some little time, mechanically caressing the vine,
when she was surprised to hear near at hand, in a voice strangely
familiar, the words:

"Well, I declare!"

Looking up quickly, but scarcely crediting her own eyes, she exclaimed:

"Lottie Piper!"

"Flora Hazeley!" returned the voice, and in a moment the friends were
locked in each other's arms.

"Where did you come from? What are you doing here?" asked Flora,
eagerly, in her desire to account for Lottie's presence in the village.

"Only one question at a time, if you please," laughingly returned
Lottie. "Can you not guess?" she added, glancing at her gown, and for
the first time Flora noticed it was black.

The quick tears sprang to Flora's eyes.

"Oh, Lottie, who is it? Not your mother?" she said, sympathetically,
her arm tightening in its grasp, and her thoughts running back to her
sorrow when Aunt Bertha passed away.

"Yes," returned Lottie, sadly, "mother is dead. Father felt that he
could not be happy at home, and so he went away out West, and left me
with my aunt, Mrs. Emmeline Durand. And Flora, if you want to know what
misery is, just you come and take my place for a while." And she looked
at Flora with such a mingled expression of regret at her lot, and
assumed resignation, that Flora was tempted to laugh, in spite of her
sorrow in learning of the death of Mrs. Piper.

"If you want to laugh, you may," said Lottie, seeing her difficulty, and
appreciating it, as was shown by the merry twinkle in her bright black
eyes.

"No, no, I must not laugh," said Flora, squeezing her friend's arm
affectionately. "I'm so sorry that your mother is dead. Where does your
aunt live? I will come and see you."

"No, you--I mean you--can't--that is, she won't let you," stammered
Lottie, blushing hotly.

"Yes, I understand. It is all right. It is not your fault," said Flora,
hastily, appreciating the situation; and wishing to relieve the
embarrassment of the other, she added, "You can come and see me."

"I don't know," answered Lottie, glad to find that Flora understood. "I
hardly think she would let me come. I have not asked her to go anywhere,
as yet. I have been with her about five weeks, and this is the first
time I have been out, except on an errand. She says she doesn't approve
of girls 'gadding the streets.' I must go now. I have stayed longer than
I ought to already, for I had a long walk before I saw you. Flora," she
added, an instant later, as she glanced at the window, "isn't that a
potato in that jar?"

"Yes," answered Flora, "it is the same one you gave me when I was
leaving Brinton."

"Really? The very same?"

"Yes. You know you told me not to eat it, and I didn't know what to do
with it at first. Then I thought it would look very nice if I put it in
the window; I did, and it has grown splendidly and has kept green all
winter."

"I am so glad you thought of that, Flora, because that was what I first
noticed as I passed. And I thought it looked like a sweet-potato vine.
And then, you know," Lottie continued, "if you hadn't I should not have
stopped or seen you ever, because I did not know where you were going
when you came away. But what will my aunt say? I guess I'll not get
anything for supper but a bit of tongue, and I don't fancy that, I can
tell you. Good-bye." And with a hurried kiss, and a warm embrace, Lottie
hurried down the street.

She was sorry to go, as it was so good to meet somebody she
knew--somebody connected with the old, happy home-life, for while
Lottie's mother lived, she had been very happy. But now she was so
lonely.

She hurried along the streets until she came to one near the suburbs of
the town. This street had trees on either side, and was very quiet. The
houses were small and nearly all set back from the street.

Lottie walked along briskly, turning deftly in and out, and at length
arrived safe and sound at the little gate leading into her aunt's yard.
This gate opened upon a small space, which doubtless had been intended
by the builder of the house to be beautified with flowers; but Mrs.
Durand's front yard was closely paved with red brick. Not a flower, or a
vine, or a bush broke the monotony, which, however, was not wearisome,
as the yard was small.

A high board fence enclosed the little yard on each side. Close to the
gate stood a large, old poplar, strangely drawn toward the quiet narrow
street, as if weary of the unattractiveness of the house.

Lottie was nervous; she dreaded the reception she felt sure awaited her.
The only thing that occurred to her to do was to knock, and she did so.

Receiving no response, she knocked again and waited. There was still no
response, and thinking she had not been heard, she knocked again and
again.

At length, just as she had decided that her aunt must be out, a calm
voice from behind the door said in deliberate tones:

"If you will take the trouble to turn the knob, the door might open."

This idea had not occurred to Lottie, and the knowledge that the door
was not locked somewhat confused her. However, she opened the door, and
went in.

"There is a mat in front of the door," suggested the voice in the same
slow, measured tones.

After wiping off the infinitesimal amount of dust from her shoes, Lottie
timidly ventured into the room.

"Go to your room, if you will, and lay aside your wraps," came the
voice, in an authoritative way.

Without speaking, Lottie obeyed. She felt as she slowly climbed the
stairs that she had become a veritable automaton, without volition or
energy, and compelled to do certain things. This grated on the sensitive
nature of the girl, to whom, in the happy days that had passed, freedom
to live in and enjoy the open air was everything. And now--and Lottie
inwardly groaned at the thought--her actions were directed by one who
seemed to forget her own girlhood, or that she had ever enjoyed the
bright blue sky, the green fields, the merry, twittering birds, or the
companionship of those who were of her own age.

Lottie had often wondered in her own mind if her aunt had ever been
young, and if she had enjoyed her youth. There was no one to whom she
could go for an answer. Had there been, Lottie would have been surprised
to learn that she had been full of bright, merry fun, and had enjoyed
life as she had at home.

"At home," Lottie thought, and paused, thinking of her mother, of the
comforts and freedom of home, and then she looked in the glass to see if
she was not old, for those happy days _did_ seem so far away.

Mrs. Durand had met with many disappointments and a great deal of
trouble in her life, of which Lottie knew nothing, and which had
embittered her disposition, making her crabbed and disagreeable. As she
now was, Lottie supposed she had ever been.

For some moments Lottie had looked in the glass, musingly. Now, as her
thoughts returned to herself and her surroundings, she saw a dreary,
woe-begone face looking at her from the quaint, cracked, old-fashioned
mirror on her bureau. It was so doleful and forlorn, that Lottie nearly
cried in sympathy with the miseries of the face before her. In a moment,
realizing that it was her own reflection she saw, and enjoying her
mistake, she laughed heartily, whereat the face in the mirror smiled
pleasantly in return.

"Humph!" said the voice downstairs.

"Oh dear!" exclaimed Lottie softly; "I have made her think that I don't
care about staying out so long." And she slowly turned from the bureau
and her mirth-provoking _vis à vis_, and leaving her room, slowly
descended the stairs to her aunt.

The room in which her aunt sat was furnished very plainly. Some
cane-bottomed chairs, a black horse-hair sofa, a small wooden stand,
adorned with a red cloth on which was the family Bible; two or three
pictures upon the dingy walls, a pair of tall lamps with a bit of red
flannel in the bottom, graced the mantelpiece. A dull ingrain carpet,
and some home-made mats covered the floor. These, with a cloth-covered
brick used to keep the door open, completed the furnishing of Mrs.
Durand's parlor.

Mrs. Durand herself was a small, thin, wiry woman. Her features could
hardly be called attractive; her lips were thin and tightly shut; her
eyes were colorless, and she wore three stiff, little curls on each side
of her face. She wore a dark gown, over which was a black apron, and on
her head was a black lace cap. She was busily engaged in making another
mat to adorn the floor, from long, bright-colored strips of cloth.

For some time she continued her work in silence. Lottie would have
spoken had she had anything to say.

Presently, to Lottie's great surprise and relief, her aunt remarked:

"You may as well set the table, as you are here."

Lottie was glad to have something to do, as she was so much happier when
employed.

"She hasn't scolded me yet, but it will come, that's certain," she said
to herself, as she placed the dishes on the little round table in the
back room which answered for both kitchen and dining room.

While at supper, Mrs. Durand questioned her niece about her walk, and
Lottie told her, not forgetting the chance meeting with her friend,
Flora Hazeley.

After supper, as was her duty, Lottie washed and put away the dishes,
without further conversation with her aunt. That done, she took up a
book and began to read.



CHAPTER XI.

CHANGES.


Time passed on, and with it as usual came changes. The summer was gone
and it was November, and the weather was cold and dreary.

Lottie's life was much the same from day to day; there was little
variety to make the life of the young girl pleasant. True, she did not
have a hard time, nor was she overworked, nor did she ever go hungry;
but the atmosphere of the house was always chill and drear, and Mrs.
Durand was as unsociable and unsympathetic as ever.

It was perhaps true, that Lottie was somewhat prone to slightly
exaggerate her unhappiness, and to dwell upon it until it seemed almost
unendurable.

One morning, as she was dressing, she heard her aunt call, and upon
going to her room, discovered that she was suffering from an attack of
acute rheumatism. Then, indeed, Lottie was sure her misery was at such a
height, that it could go no further.

As may be supposed, the sharp pain she endured did not render Mrs.
Durand a more pleasant companion, and Lottie found that while it had
been difficult to please her before it seemed utterly impossible to do
so now.

Lottie did her best, with a determination pleasant to witness, and with
the knowledge that it was her duty to care for her aunt under such
painful conditions.

Lottie was lonely; she seemed to be entirely cut off from everybody she
knew and cared for. She seldom heard from her father, and never from her
brother, who had left his home when she was quite a little girl. She
sometimes wondered if he was dead. She was industrious, and soon learned
to keep house for her aunt very acceptably. She was not hard to please
and was of a loving, sociable disposition. If her aunt had only made an
effort to be agreeable and interested in her, Lottie would have been
perfectly content.

If the months had brought but little change to Lottie, they had wrought
a number of very important ones in the life of our friend Flora.

First, the news had reached them one day that the husband and father was
killed in a railroad accident. This, of itself, completely
revolutionized affairs at the Hazeleys'. And then, just as they were
trying to become a little accustomed to the sad change in the household,
Harry disappointed them.

This was indeed a great blow, for Harry was, in a large measure, their
main dependence. He was now about twenty years old and had been steadily
at work for some time, and seemed on a good road to a successful
business career. At first, he gave his earnings to his mother, only
reserving enough to clothe himself neatly and comfortably, for he felt
anxious to supply, as far as he could, her loss in the death of his
father. This money, added to what Mrs. Hazeley and Flora made by doing
plain sewing, and what Alec could earn out of school hours by keeping
his eyes open, and his willingness to be of assistance to any one, was a
great help toward keeping things going. For, although the little home
was their own, of course there were the extra incidental expenses.

Mrs. Hazeley and Flora soon grew to depend on Harry, far more than they
realized, until taught by his increasing fondness for remaining from
home in the evening, and not unfrequently, all night. Great, indeed,
was their sorrow when they learned how these evenings were spent--in the
gambling house and the saloon. Had it not been for their hope in the
Christ and his saving power, they would not have seen the faintest
brightness in this cloud, which was a great burden to each, a sorrow
about which they hardly dared speak.

Flora spoke earnestly and lovingly to her brother several times about
the way he was conducting himself, but, as we have seen, he was not one
to take this kindly, and knowing this, Flora felt she could do nothing
but pray for her erring brother, who was so young, and yet so willful.

She never lost hope, nor did her firm belief that his better, nobler
nature would prevail, weaken through those long, dark, hard days.

Mrs. Hazeley and Flora were compelled to devote all their attention to
their work, as Harry could no longer be trusted to aid them financially;
and, despite their brave, uncomplaining efforts, it was ofttimes
difficult to make both ends meet.

Aunt Sarah had not visited them for some time, in fact, not since Flora
came home, nor did they hear from her; and though knowing she might help
them in their need, they could not bring themselves to inform her of
their condition.

At length, one night they watched and waited for Harry to come home.

He did not come that night, nor the next, nor the one following; nor
could they hear anything of him, except that he had not been around for
days.

Where had he gone and what would he do? These were questions that Flora
asked herself with a sick heart.

Mrs. Hazeley, with her naturally weak disposition, would have given way
to despair under this new trouble and drifted back into the same
condition in which we first found her, had it not been for her newly
found trust and hope in her Heavenly Father, and the inspiring example
of her courageous, self-reliant daughter. Flora seemed to grow stronger
and more dignified under the added trials, and her mother, now a true
Christian, was to her a great help and comfort; in fact, the two were
all in all to each other, and the home that had at one time appeared to
Flora most miserable, was now a haven of rest; and the mother from whom
she had once turned away coldly, was now warmly loved and loving.
Truly, there was sweetness mixed with her cup of bitterness.

Major Joe Benson, who had kept up his acquaintance with his young
friends whom he greatly admired, and who by this time was considered
quite a friend of the family, offered to take Alec to live with him.
There was a very good school, he said, at no great distance from his
home, and he would be glad to have the boy's help on his little place,
especially now that Zeke was getting on in years, and had gotten above
doing the many odd jobs he had performed when a boy, which state, while
it was not many years distant, sufficed to make Zeke act, as Major Joe
said, "very mannish."

No sooner was the proposition mentioned in Alec's hearing, than he was
all enthusiasm, for nothing did he desire more than to live in the
country. His mind was fully made up to become a farmer, and no recital
of the hardships connected therewith, could divest such a life of its
charms for him.

So it was settled, and it was really a great comfort to have at least
one of the family well provided for, with the prospects of seeing him an
upright and industrious man.

Now that provision was thus made for Alec, and he was but little expense
to them, Flora and Mrs. Hazeley could manage very well by practising
strict economy.

Life progressed very evenly and uneventfully, we might almost add
happily, except for the sorrow caused by their ignorance of Harry's
whereabouts.

One day, into their quiet and peaceful lives, very unexpectedly came
Mrs. Sarah Martin, who was surprised at their comfortable surroundings.

She was greeted pleasantly by Flora and Mrs. Hazeley, who were
determined to forgive and forget her treatment of them, but the warmth,
which affection gives, was lacking. This did not fail to make itself
manifest to Mrs. Martin, and, strange to say, instead of displeasing
her, it seemed to have quite a softening effect upon her callous heart.
The memory of this visit, and the picture of her niece's heroic efforts
to keep her mother and herself from want, proved a veritable
ever-present and sharp thorn in the side.

"Here I am, alone in the world, with plenty to supply all my wishes and
some to spare," she thought one evening. We must do her justice; she was
not miserly, but she was selfish--she wished to insure for her lifetime
comfort for herself, and the gratification of her desires. "Here am I
with plenty and to spare, while those of my own flesh and blood are
struggling to keep the wolf from the door," she mused.

Having commenced to reproach herself she did not hesitate, for at every
step seeing herself as others saw her, she discovered more cause to
regret her attitude toward her sister.

"Have I been false to my trust?" she soliloquized, questioningly.
"No--not exactly--because I gave no promise. And yet--Bertha supposed I
would follow her request. However, I am not bound to do as she wished.

"Bertha would not have left me in charge had she supposed I would not
carry out her wishes," she continued. "Probably she would not have given
her property to Esther. She is so careless and extravagant that such a
course would have been equal to her throwing the money away. Suppose the
money had been left in trust to Flora? Would Esther have done more than
I have done? No, she would have wasted it. What is the difference?
Nothing; I am doing as Esther would have done. Anyway, I will leave all
to Flora, who will enjoy it after I am dead, and that will make it all
right."

Another thing Mrs. Martin tried to argue in support of the idea that she
had done all for the best, was that Flora had developed such astonishing
qualities of self-government and ability. "She has almost made another
woman of that mother of hers," she said to herself. "One can easily see
that the material for a real, sound, sensible, practical woman is not in
Esther, and if Flora were not there with her she would be the same as
before, only worse."

There was a good deal of truth in what Mrs. Martin said. Some people
cannot do or be anything without a definite motive, or an active
example. But what did all this arguing amount to? Nothing at all, save
to keep her mind in a constant state of turmoil, by her efforts to ease
her conscience.

At last, with the constant strain she became mentally exhausted, and in
spite of her efforts to the contrary for a long time lay upon the bed, a
sufferer from nervous prostration. Her brain was unnaturally active, and
she gained but little benefit from her enforced quiet. A neighboring
physician was called, but found it impossible to benefit her in her
present condition. He might prescribe medicines to meet certain symptoms
in her case, but he could not reach the seat of the trouble. She did not
consider that it was her business to add a description of her mental
condition to that of her physical one. She grew no better, and finally
she decided to take a course of heroic treatment.

First, she proceeded to pay her physician and to inform him that she had
no further need of his services, much to that gentleman's disgust, who
left muttering that it was queer that the patient should be the one to
decide whether or not the doctor had been of service to her.

Next, she wrote in a feeble, trembling, and unintelligible way, the
following short, blunt note:

    "NIECE FLORA:--I am sick. I want to see you.
                                      "S. MARTIN."

Flora and her mother were sitting sewing very busily that afternoon when
the postman rapped on the door.

The sun was streaming in at the window, no longer adorned by the sweet
potato, which was long since dead, but touching brightly the green
leaves and scarlet blossoms of some geraniums--some of Ruth's
"gerangums," according to Jem, that held the place of honor.

"From Aunt Sarah, mother," said Flora, carelessly, handing it to Mrs.
Hazeley, who in turn read the short note.

"Well, Flora dear; what will you do about it?" she questioned, resuming
her work.

"Oh, I guess I had better go and see her; hadn't I?" asked Flora, as she
cut her thread.

"You may do as you please about the matter," returned Mrs. Hazeley, and
there the matter dropped.

They continued their work in silence, their thoughts as busy as their
fingers.



CHAPTER XII.

LED AWAY.


And what had become of Harry Hazeley in all this time? Let us go back a
little.

Probably all would have gone well with the lad, who was beginning to see
a new life stretching out before him under the sunny influence of his
sister, had his father lived.

While Mr. Hazeley exercised but little restraining power over his son
during his life, the fact that he had a father had considerable
influence over Harry. When Mr. Hazeley was killed, Harry realized that
he was thrown on his own resources, and the fact that he was subject to
no higher authority, took a firm hold upon him. At first, the idea
aroused in him an innate, but undeveloped manliness, and he determined
to stand by his mother and sister, and be a comfort to them as well as a
support.

But the inherent weakness in his character soon gained the supremacy,
and for the time over-ruled all his resolutions, which had been made in
his own strength.

It was inevitable that he should mingle with his companions in work, and
soon they gained an influence over him that was not for his highest
good. Being somewhat older than he himself was, they instilled into him
a false idea of their superiority, and it was by this means they
retained him in their "set"--a set of wild, dissipated young men.

Where was his judgment? Alas! he had inherited sufficient of his
mother's weak disposition to over-rule it, and consequently, he was one
of the kind most easily deceived and led.

One of the youths, whose name was Edward Hopkins, gained considerable
influence over Harry. He it was who persuaded him to leave his mother
and sister, and seek employment in another town, where, he said, work
could easily be secured, with shorter hours and greater pay. This seemed
very inviting to Harry, who, at that time, never thought of deserting
his home, but was anxious to earn more money, and thus become better
able to care for the family and have more for what he called
pleasure--cards and gaming and wine, for he had now become addicted to
the use of the latter, through whose insidious influence he was fast
losing his manly bearing.

Poor boy! How many noble men has Satan conquered and then cast off? How
many homes has he ruined, and hearts broken, and hopes destroyed?

But I am glad to say that I shall not be obliged to trace Harry Hazeley
to the bottom of the pit into which he had fallen, for God had most
graciously heard the prayers of his loving, trusting sister, who had
first set the example of prayer to the mother, who now frequently joined
her, and he was not permitted to reach its utmost depths.

True, he went down pretty far, and his rescue was effected by rather
severe means; but what mattered that, so he was saved?

After leaving home, Harry plunged into his new, reckless life, with a
strength that not only surprised, but very soon disgusted Hopkins, who
wished to preserve the appearance, at least, of a gentleman.

Harry had been able to secure a first-class, remunerative position very
readily, but so much went to satisfy his craving for excitement, that
none was left to send home to make life a little easier for Mrs.
Hazeley and Flora.

After a while, however, his increasing unsteadiness secured for him
dismissal from the shop where he had been employed. He was fortunate in
securing place after place, but unfortunate in being unable to retain
them, until at length he did but little work and a good deal of
gambling. The work he then did was around and about the saloons where he
had chances to game and drink.

One bitter cold night in December, a group of men stopped in front of
one of these places, and after some discussion, entered. It proved to be
Harry's stopping place, and he was sitting by the fire, for the time
being idle.

To look at the sunken cheeks, restless eyes, and uncared-for appearance,
one would never suppose this was the once straight, tall, active Harry
Hazeley, so greatly was he changed.

The leader of the group of young men who entered the bar-room appeared
to be attracted by the forlorn figure near the stove, as soon as he came
in. He seemed to know him, for presently he walked over to him and
tapping him familiarly on the shoulder, cried:

"Why, hello, old chap! How are you?"

Harry immediately recognized his old acquaintance, Edward Hopkins. He
did not appear particularly glad to see him, however.

"Say, old fellow, you don't seem ready to shed tears of joy at seeing
your old chum," remarked Ed, in a jovial tone, sitting down beside him.

Harry said nothing, but sat looking into the fire.

"Look here, now, Hal; you do look a little hard up. Haven't been getting
along so well lately, I guess?"

"No, I haven't," said Harry, without turning around.

"Well, listen to me," resumed Ed. "The old proverb, 'a friend in need is
a friend indeed,' is true, isn't it?"

"What of it?" questioned Harry, still apathetic.

"Just this," replied Ed, bringing his hand heavily down on his knee,
"that I'm going to be a friend to you now."

Harry smiled incredulously. His confidence in the friendship of such a
flashily-dressed fellow as Ed was, had been shaken.

"Come, don't be so glum, Hal. I've something to say to you," Ed
continued, glancing around the room.

His comrades were all occupied in another part of the room.

"Now," went on Hopkins, lowering his voice, "we fellows," nodding toward
the group, "are planning a little business. And if you want to, you can
help us."

"What is it?" asked Harry, indifferently.

Edward took no notice of his manner, but went on:

"Well, we're going to--er--ah--walk into a small establishment, you
know," and he winked slyly at Harry.

"Steal?" asked Harry, in a cold tone.

"If you like to put it that way, yes."

"Look here, Ed Hopkins," and Harry turned in scorn upon this
hypocritical friend, who seemed so desirous of ruining him entirely.
"Look here," he repeated, "let me tell you I don't want to share any of
your 'little plans.' I've fallen low, I know, but I'm not a thief yet,"
and Harry straightened himself up and looked with a flashing eye into
the crafty face beside him.

Hopkins was angry, as much because he had partially let Harry into his
secret, as because he had refused to join him. However, he congratulated
himself that he had not gone very far, and he left him abruptly, in a
high temper, going over to the group at the other end of the room.

A heated discussion was progressing there about something in connection
with the game of cards they were playing. They appealed to Hopkins as
he joined the group. This did not seem to add peace to the scene, for
the quarrel waxed hotter, and the voices grew louder.

Presently there was the sound of a scuffle, during which was heard the
report of a pistol. Immediately there was a stampede, and when the
officer, who had been attracted to the spot by the noise, rushed in,
followed by a small crowd of men and boys, no one was to be seen but
Harry Hazeley. He was lying on the floor by the stove, and gave no sign
of life as the officer rolled him over. Whether the pistol had been
fired accidentally or intentionally, nobody knew. The shot, however, was
certainly not intended for the one who received it. It was found on
examination that Harry was wounded in the side. He had also, in falling
struck his head against the edge of the stove, and cut it.

"Well," said the officer, "I guess we'll have to take this young fellow
to the hospital. From his looks he'll not be likely to have a better
place to go to, even if he could tell where he belonged."



CHAPTER XIII.

IN THE HOSPITAL AND OUT AGAIN.


When Harry Hazeley returned to consciousness, he found himself in bed in
one of the wards of a hospital, with his head bound up, and a dull
aching in his side. He was in too much pain to wonder how he came there,
so he closed his eyes and tried to go to sleep, but he could not. It
seemed as if his mind had never been so active as it was now that he
longed to forget everything, in the hope that this might ease his
throbbing head. But that troublesome thing, memory, would assert itself,
and his thoughts would travel back to the home he had left, and the
sorrowing ones in it, and,--perhaps it was owing to the weak state of
his system,--the tears forced themselves from underneath his eyelids,
and rolled down his cheeks. But what is the good of thinking about these
things? he mentally asked, and so he impatiently brushed the tears away.

Poor Harry had a hard time of it. He did not improve very rapidly,
although he had the best of attention and nursing. His system was so
poisoned by the use of alcohol, and he was so weak from having been so
long without nourishing food that, while his wound was not a very
serious one, it nearly cost him his life.

The pain from his wound, together with a low fever, racked his system
until it was almost unbearable. His brain, however, was unusually
active, and over and over again did he recall his life since he left
home, and each time his repugnance grew; and when he began to
convalesce, and he realized there was hope for him, he determined to
lead a different life as soon as he was able to be around again. He
sincerely and deeply repented of the past, and he felt the need of a
Saviour, as he had never done before. He longed for some one to come and
tell him of the Christ and of his saving power. He fully realized that
he must have a helper, stronger than his will or his resolutions.

One morning, when Harry was getting a little more strength, there
hobbled over to his bedside a crippled young man, who supported himself
upon crutches. His body was distorted, and his legs were drawn up and
twisted in a sad manner; but his face was bright and cheerful and
intelligent, and his shoulders, arms, and hands had a look of manliness
and strength about them that was greatly at variance with the feebleness
of the rest of his frame.

"Well, friend," said this odd mixture of strength and weakness, as he
seated himself slowly and cautiously by the bed. "Well, friend, how goes
the world with you?"

"I'm sure I don't know," replied Harry, drearily. "I haven't been caring
much about the world lately. I ain't in much of a hurry to care either.
There'll be time enough when I get out in it again."

"Time enough! Time enough! Yes, that's the cry," said the young man.
"That's what has caused more misery in the world than anything else;
it's a rope that has lost many a soul forever."

Harry turned away impatiently. He did not want to hear.

"Of course you don't want to hear me talk that way," said the lame man
bluntly, divining his thought. "I didn't suppose you did. But, let me
tell you, young fellow, there's enough of that rotten rope left for you
to lose your soul with. Will you turn your head away when you feel it
snap, and find yourself dying, with nothing to hold on to, I wonder?"
Without more ado he grasped his crutches, and painfully hobbled away.

Harry tried to be glad he was gone. He did not succeed as easily,
however, in dismissing from his mind the words he had heard. Perhaps it
was the odd, abrupt way in which they were spoken, that made them fasten
themselves so tenaciously on his memory. Certainly he would have been
angry had any one else spoken so plainly and unceremoniously to him. The
sight of his body, telling such an eloquent tale of suffering, made it
almost impossible for any one to be angry with Joel Piper. Harry
presently found himself wondering about him, and wishing he would come
back and talk to him again.

He did not come, and one day Harry found courage to ask the nurse, who
was busied near him, to tell him the name of the lame young man who
talked to him one day.

"Oh, do you mean Joel Piper?" she asked in return.

"I didn't know that was his name," replied Harry, looking amused.

"Yes, it is," replied the nurse. "It's an odd name, I know, but he is
just as nice as he can be. He's had a world of trouble and pain; but
he's come out pure gold."

"Wasn't he always that?" asked Harry, curiously.

"No, indeed, he wasn't. He was one of the wildest young men, and it was
that which brought on the sickness--rheumatic fever--which twisted him
up so. It was this illness too, that brought about his conversion; and
now he likes to visit the hospitals and talk to all the young men he can
find, and try to get them to turn about. He says he's trying to make up
for lost time. Some think he's crazy, but he isn't--only eccentric."

"Does he come here often?" asked Harry.

"Well, sometimes he does," was the answer. "Would you like to see him
again?"

"I wouldn't mind having a little talk with him," admitted Harry.

"I'll tell him," said the kind woman.

Joel came; but Harry could not tell from his manner whether he was
pleased or not at his having expressed a desire to see him.

Now that he was there, what should he say? Harry asked this question,
but no answer came.

But Joel seemed to understand all about the matter, and began right
away:

"You've had a rough time, eh? Didn't expect it, now, did you, when you
started out? Going to have a good time, enjoy yourself, and all that?
Well, it's all right. You've had about enough of that sort of thing, I
guess. You'd like to turn right about face now, and go back to your
mother, perhaps?"

"Who told you I had a mother?" asked Harry, sharply.

"Nobody," was the calm rejoinder.

"How did you know?"

"I didn't know; I only guessed. Somehow or other, you look as if you
had. Have you?"

"Yes, I have," groaned Harry, "and a sister too; but I came away and
left them, and now I'm ashamed to go back."

"Well, if you're made of the right kind of stuff you'll go to work as
soon as you're out of this, and fix things so you'll not be ashamed to
go back," said Joel. "Between us," he went on, bending over and looking
at Harry with one eye shut up tightly, "I've got a mother and sister
too. I did pretty much as you did, only worse, I guess. I've been
working hard to make a man of myself before I go back to them. I'm
going soon too."

"To work!" exclaimed Harry, looking at the crooked figure
pityingly. "What can _you_ do?"

"Do?" repeated Joel, raising his brows, and opening wide his eyes.
"Look," and he held up his long slim fingers. "I can write beautifully,"
he continued, with the simplicity of a child. "And I'm a clerk in a
large clock and jewelry establishment. A good kind friend who came to
see me at the hospital when I was so ill, secured the situation for me.
And if you mean to turn about sure enough, and no going back about it, I
will try and get you taken on as a salesman."

Harry was completely won by Joel's plain, straight-forward manner and
hearty kindness, and gave his promise to turn over a new leaf. What is
of more importance he kept the promise faithfully.

When Harry was discharged from the hospital, he looked quite different
from what he did when he first entered it, or rather when he was carried
there. He was worn almost to a shadow, it is true; but his sickness had
taken from him the look of the outcast, and his intercourse with his new
friend, and the hopes he had for the future restored to him once more
the ability to look the "whole world in the face."

He was clad in a suit that had been worn by Joel ere his body was so
distorted by rheumatism. It was not a perfect fit, but it was clean and
neat, and gave to Harry a very presentable air.

True to his promise, Joel tried and succeeded in getting the situation
he spoke of for his young friend toward whom he had been strongly
attracted.

Harry was also naturally smart and intelligent, and now that he had put
off the shackles of the false friends with whom Satan had provided him,
promised to do well in his new position. Joel was determined that
through no fault of his should Harry fail. He never lost sight of him
for any length of time. The two boarded at the same place, and Joel
insisted on his accompanying him to church. They read, talked, and
walked together, and as a natural consequence became much attached to
each other.



CHAPTER XIV.

A CHAPTER OF WONDERS.


It was a dull, gray, rainy morning when our friend Flora found herself
standing in front of the house that had been her home for so many years.

What a flood of memories the sight of the familiar scene brought to her!
She paused a moment or two to revel in the pleasure she thus felt. She
did not feel at all excited, or even curious as to the cause for, or the
probable result of her trip. Turning to the house, she stepped to the
door, and lifted the knocker.

The door was opened by the neat, but uncommunicative maid, who was in
charge of affairs during Mrs. Martin's illness; and who silently, and
apparently acting on previous arrangement, led the way direct to the
sick room.

Although the day was dark and cloudy, the window shades were down, and
heavy curtains lent their aid to darken the room still more.

Mrs. Martin's greeting was somewhat of a surprise to Flora as she stood
on the threshold, scarcely knowing whether to enter the darkened chamber
or not.

"Why don't you come in and shut the door?" came in fretful tones from
the bed.

"I should like to do it, indeed, Aunt Sarah, if I could only see my
way," returned Flora, mischievously. She wondered at her own temerity.
At one time she would not have dared use such liberty of speech with
this punctilious aunt. But she had grown to be very independent since
she had been thrown so entirely upon her own resources, and had become
accustomed to think and act both for herself and others. She felt that
she had grown, in that she no longer stood in awe of Aunt Sarah's cold
tones. Why should she? She had come to ask no favor.

"Well," came in questioning tones from the invalid.

"May I draw up the shades, Aunt Sarah?" asked Flora, advancing slowly
into the room and closing the door softly.

"I suppose so. You can draw up anything you like, it makes no difference
to me," was the somewhat ungracious reply.

Flora paid no attention to the tone, but drew up the shades, making it
possible to see what was in the room.

"Aunt Sarah, how thin you are!" she cried, incautiously. "Why, you have
been sick."

"Of course I have. You didn't suppose I was pretending, did you?"
retorted Mrs. Martin.

"No," said Flora, "I did not, nor did I know you were so ill. And now
tell me, can I do anything to render you more comfortable?"

"No, I think not," she replied. "Yes, you might bring me some toast and
a cup of tea," she added a moment later.

As she turned at once to leave the room, Flora wondered in her own mind,
whether Mrs. Martin really wished for something to eat. The truth was,
Mrs. Martin, now that Flora was here in the house, even in her very
room, wished to decide how she could broach the subject which had lain
on her heart so long. She was thinking deeply, and did not notice
Flora's entrance until she heard:

"Here they are, Aunt Sarah, nice and hot."

"What?" the invalid returned, in a surprised way.

"The toast and tea," replied Flora.

"Oh yes, put them on the table."

Flora did so, daintily arranging them so as to be inviting to the eye as
well as the palate, and inwardly wondering what new caprice her aunt
would develop next. However, she had decided to yield to all her
peculiarities, and to bear with her whims, and so with unruffled face,
she turned to arrange the room, as only a woman's hand can. The grace
and care were not lost upon her aunt, whose eyes closely followed every
motion as she moved silently about the room.

"Sit down," said Mrs. Martin, after a few moments' silence.

Flora did so; and after a slight hesitation, Mrs. Martin began, having
concluded to open the subject at once, for nothing was to be gained by
delay.

"Niece Flora," she said, looking in the young girl's face, "I sent for
you to tell you I feel that I have done what I had no business to do."

"What have you done, Aunt Sarah?" asked Flora, half suspecting what she
wished to say to her.

"I mean in sending you away from here as I did," was the blunt reply.

"You had a right to do whatever you wanted to," stammered Flora. She
could stand unmoved before the cold, hard Aunt Sarah; Aunt Sarah
repentant, she did not know how to meet.

"No, I had no right to do it," continued Mrs. Martin. It was plain she
did not intend to spare herself in the least. "I had no right to do it.
Sister Bertha wanted you to stay, and I know she did. I had no right to
take her money, and live in her home, and use her things when I knew she
only left them to me because she trusted me to do what she wanted."

"Never mind, Aunt Sarah; I knew nothing about it, so do not worry. It is
all right." And Flora moved nearer the bed, and took her hand in her own
and tenderly held it.

Instead of complying, Mrs. Martin seemed to gain strength, and she went
on:

"No; you knew nothing about her wishes, but I did. And, Flora, I have
not been happy in this house. In fact, I did not deserve to be."

"You can talk about that when you get well."

"I will never be well unless I make right what I have made wrong,"
returned Mrs. Martin. "I want to know, Flora, if you can forgive your
selfish old aunt for driving--yes, driving is the word," as Flora
started to speak--"you from the home which was intended for you? Will
you not come back to it?" And the tears began to gather in the eyes that
had long been strangers to such an expression of emotion.

Flora felt very helpless now in the face of all these different moods.
She could think of nothing else to do but stroke the sick woman's
forehead gently and soothingly. After a moment or two of silence, she
said: "I forgive you, Aunt Sarah, if you think there's anything to
forgive. Everything has turned out for the best, at least so far as I am
concerned. As to coming back, I think I don't care to--that is, I
couldn't leave mother, you know."

"I don't want you to leave your mother, child. Why can't she come too?"

"Do you mean to come here to live?"

"Yes; here to live."

"She would like that, I know," said Flora, adding mentally, "providing
you were different."

She soon discovered that her unspoken thought had been realized before
it had been expressed.

"Now," said the sick woman, drawing a breath of relief, "I can be at
peace. It is not too late for me to make amends and carry out sister
Bertha's wishes. Ah, child, you do not know what I have suffered of
late; but it's all right now."

"Try to go to sleep now, won't you?" asked Flora, coaxingly, fearing the
effect of the conversation upon the invalid.

"No; I don't want to go to sleep," said Mrs. Martin, with a shade of her
old firmness; "I just want to lie here and think."

She did go to sleep, however, very soon, and awoke greatly refreshed,
for her mind was at ease, and she was surprised to find how much more
pleasant the prospect of recovery was since she had something to look
forward to.

And Flora? She was delighted, for to her the old home had never lost its
charm.

Faithfully she nursed the sick woman, who, in spite of her efforts to
the contrary, now and then yielded to her old-time habit of
fault-finding, when nothing pleased her. Mrs. Martin was very regretful
for these outbursts, and after each, more carefully watched her own
tongue, and the movements and manner of her young nurse and daily
became more attached to her; and the more necessary it seemed to her to
retain her sunshiny presence.

Flora was as happy in her present position, and at her future prospects,
as it was possible for her to be with the ever-present feeling of
uncertainty and sorrow at the absence of her dearly loved brother, from
whom she had expected such great things. She was a very sensible girl,
and had learned long before this that to waste her time in worriment
over what she could not help in any way, would not enable her to
discharge her present duties as she would wish. Knowing this, as I say,
so well, she put Harry into the charge of the One "who never slumbers
nor sleeps," and went about her daily duties with a light step and merry
smile. For days she planned her mother's coming, and how she would enjoy
the life here. Her own pleasant little room was hers again, and many
were the happy hours she passed there. Every few moments throughout the
day she would be in her aunt's room reading to her, or perhaps giving
her a daintily arranged meal, or placing the pillows more comfortably.

One of her greatest pleasures was in arranging her Aunt Bertha's old
room, preparatory to the coming of her mother, to whom she had assigned
it. Very lovingly and carefully did she do this, for her heart was
filled with tender memories of the past.

Mrs. Martin had told her to fix everything to suit herself, and refused
to have a word to say further than to heartily approve of all her
arrangements.

"I have been at the head of affairs a long time," she had said; "it is
time now for us to change places."

"I think you are trying to spoil me, Aunt Sarah," remarked Flora, one
day, when she had been told a number of times to do just as she liked.

"I think there is no danger of that, my dear," said Mrs. Martin.

She was right, for the experience Flora had gained in the years since
she had been home had so strengthened and developed her that it would
have been well-nigh impossible to "spoil her," as she had termed it.

As soon as her aunt was able to sit up, Flora was to return home to get
her mother, and in fact the whole family, if she could find them, and
bring them to Aunt Sarah's, to live there.

Mrs. Martin insisted that she wanted a house full; adding, smilingly:

"The more, the merrier, my dear."

Flora wished this could be possible--she longed to be able to bring
Harry back with them; and, safe in that peaceful home, win him from his
evil ways. She sighed, even as she thought, "That is quite impossible."
She had forgotten for the moment that "With God, all things are
possible."



CHAPTER XV.

GOING HOME.


During all these weary months, Harry Hazeley had not once written home;
and neither his mother nor sister knew where he was.

His friend, Joel Piper, had written to his mother, but to his regret,
had as yet received no reply. This saddened him, as in his letter he had
told of the changes in him, not only in his body, but in his heart and
life, for he wished his mother, who had done so much for him, to know.

Harry as yet had no news to write home. Joel was working slowly, it is
true, to induce Harry to attend some meetings which were being held
successively in different churches. Harry became interested, and later
he had the happiness of knowing that he had accepted Christ, and been
received by him.

In the meantime he had applied himself steadily and faithfully to his
business, and not only earned the respect of his employers, but saved a
good share of his money.

"And now," he thought, triumphantly, "there is nothing to prevent me
from going home."

This thought took complete possession of him, and in his leisure moments
he did little else than picture to himself his home-coming, and the
sight of mother, sister, and brother. They would rejoice, he was sure,
in his new life. He wondered if Flora had changed much, and in what way
Alec passed away the days.

These thoughts of home and home-folks, together with the great desire to
see them again, gradually wore away the feeling of shame with which he
had been assailed whenever his thoughts had turned that way before.

"Joel!" he exclaimed, as they were sitting together, one pleasant
evening, "I see no other way but to do it!"

"What is it you mean, my boy?" asked Joel, as he looked at Harry for a
moment, and then returned to his book.

"To go home, and see them all," returned Harry.

"Believe I will too," said Joel, slapping his book by way of emphasis.
"By the way, Harry," he continued, "my home isn't so very far from
yours; only a couple of hours' ride. You live at Bartonville and I live
at Brinton, or rather, I did."

"Is that so? Well, then, let us go together."

"What do you intend to do? Give up your situation here for good, or just
ask for leave of absence?" asked Joel.

"Oh, I shall give it up entirely," was the answer. "I prefer to get
something to do nearer home. What will you do?"

"I shall come back," said Joel, decidedly. "My people are farmers. I
could be of no service now on a farm, you know, even if I cared for it,
which I don't."

Thus the matter was decided, and arrangements were made accordingly.

One evening, as Mrs. Hazeley sat in her home, all alone, stitching away
busily, she was startled to hear a loud rap on the door.

"Who can it be?" she thought, rising to answer the knock. She found
herself confronted by a tall, rather slight young man, with a grave
face, which, however, was now illuminated by a smile of expectancy.

"Harry! Harry! my boy Harry!" she cried, holding open her arms. The
mother's quick instinct and penetrating love could not be deceived by
appearances, no matter how altered. The form might be changed, and the
features matured, but there was something that brought to her the memory
of her child, the baby of long ago.

After the first greetings were over, Harry settled down, and prepared to
unburden his mind. His mother noticed that he glanced about him
wistfully and inquiringly.

"No," said Mrs. Hazeley, answering the query in his eyes, "Flora is not
here. She went to stay with your Aunt Sarah, who is very ill. I am
expecting to go myself, whenever I hear from her to that effect. Alec
too, is away. He is living with that good old man, 'Major Benson,' you
used to call him, you remember. Alec enjoys a country life. He intends
to be a farmer, he says. It was very kind of him to give the boy such an
opening. The poor child was so afraid of being a burden to us. I have
every reason to be grateful for my children."

"Except me, mother," said Harry.

"No, my boy," returned his mother, looking keenly at him. "I am sure I
have reason to be grateful for you too. But tell me, Harry, where have
you been, and why did you not write to us, and keep us posted?"

The entire absence of reproach or fault finding, and the warm affection
with which he was received by his mother, touched the young man very
deeply, and with his heart made tender with these thoughts, he
determined to confide fully all his past to his mother, from whom he
felt sure he would receive ready sympathy.

When the story was told, Mrs. Hazeley could but exclaim, "Bless the
Lord, oh my soul!"

"And forget not all his benefits," added Harry reverently.

They were interrupted at that moment by a knock upon the door--a quick,
business-like, energetic knock.

"I know who that is," said Mrs. Hazeley, smilingly, as she arose to
admit the new-comer. It was Flora.

"Did ever returned prodigal receive a more hearty welcome than I?"
exclaimed Harry, laughingly, but gratefully.

His old habit of reserve was being gradually overcome, and he was
becoming accustomed to express his feelings quite freely, much to the
present and subsequent delight of his family.

This evening, a memorable one in the history of the little family, was
by no means over. Just as the happy trio were seated, with heads bowed
reverently in thankfulness to the Giver of all good, the knocker was
raised another time.

As the heads were lifted, and Flora arose to open the door, she
remarked, merrily:

"That must be Alec. I suppose the magnetism of our presence is drawing
him to us."

It was not Alec It was our good friend Joel Piper.

"I was told Mrs. Hazeley lived here," said he.

"So she does," answered Flora, trying to recall where she had seen the
familiar face before her. Joel was doing the same. He was the first to
ask, however, "Haven't I met you before?"

"I was just thinking I had seen you somewhere," said Flora, looking
puzzled.

"In Brinton, perhaps?" suggested Joel.

"That is just it--you know--Lottie Piper," exclaimed Flora
disconnectedly.

"Yes, yes," said Joel, eagerly; "I'm her brother. I remember now. You
are Flora Hazeley. Well, well," he cried, accepting Flora's invitation
to enter the room, where he saw his friend Harry, for whom he was
hunting. "I was just looking for you, Hal," said he, having first been
presented to Mrs. Hazeley, who was delighted to welcome the young man
who had done so much for her Harry. "I was looking for you, Hal, but I
had no idea I should meet an old acquaintance, in the shape of your
sister. But that reminds me," he added, sadly, "I have been to the old
home. No wonder I didn't hear from them. Sickness, death, and
desolation! I found the home, but no one in it."

"How could that be?" asked Harry.

"I know," said Flora, gently. "I saw Lottie for a few moments the other
day, and she told me all about it. I am so sorry."

"Is my sister here?" Joel asked, eagerly.

"Yes, she is here--in Bartonville; she is living with her aunt."

"I know," said Joel, "my father's sister. I shall be glad to see Lottie;
but mother is gone, and now it is too late."

"No, no, Joel, don't talk that way," said Harry, soothingly. "You have
no need to say that. You haven't come home as you left it. And suppose
your mother is not here, don't you think she knows all about it? And
then, there is your sister, you know."

"That is all true, Harry. It would have been hard to have come back as I
went away, and found her gone. I could not have helped the little girl
then. But one thing more," he said, turning to Flora, who was wiping
her eyes in sympathy. "Where is my father?"

"Lottie says he went away somewhere, to work."

"Then I shall hope to see him, some day, and that will be one
consolation." Joel was comforted by his friends, and his own kind,
helpful deeds were bearing fruit for him.

It was arranged that Joel should board--he would hear of no other
arrangement--with Mrs. Hazeley until he should find his sister, and see
how she was situated, before returning to his employment.

Flora's news was almost forgotten in the general rejoicing over Harry's
unexpected return and the equally unexpected addition to the little
household in Joel. But when things were somewhat quieted down, she had
something wonderful to relate also.

"Well, well, well," said Mrs. Hazeley. "To think of sister Sarah
softening, at her age. When will wonders cease!"

Harry did not approve of this proposed breaking up of their own little
home. He feared it might be but a passing whim of Aunt Sarah's.

"Oh, no," maintained Flora, stoutly. "Whatever else Aunt Sarah is, she
is not fickle. When she says she means to do a thing, that thing is as
good as done."

"That's very true," said her mother. So it was settled that, after due
preparation, the family should move to Brinton.

The only regret that Flora felt at leaving her home in Bartonville was
that she would be obliged to part with her class of girls, whom she
loved and who loved her. She comforted herself with the thought that she
would have another, if possible, in Brinton. The girls she left behind
always cherished the memory of their young teacher, and strove to
imitate her gentle, earnest ways, and noble traits. Surely, the seed she
had sown in their hearts would spring up, blossom, and bear fruit for
the Master's kingdom.



CHAPTER XVI.

LOTTIE'S TRIALS.


"Well! Things have come to a pretty pass! Here I've been running up and
down, here and there and everywhere, like a chicken with its head cut
off, trying to please Aunt Emmeline, and I'm just about as near doing it
now as I was when I commenced. It's grumble, grumble, grumble, every
minute in the day; and I will not stand it--not a day longer, now!" and
Lottie gave the fire a vigorous shake that sent the sparks darting
hither and thither, in every direction.

It was hard for her. Lottie conscientiously did all she could for the
fretful invalid upstairs. But her efforts were not appreciated. Instead,
Mrs. Durand seemed to grow more irritable daily. Nothing Lottie did
pleased her; the tea was either too weak or too strong; the toast either
too hot or too cold; the beef-tea was too highly seasoned, or not
enough. Thus the fault-finding continued, day in and day out.

Heretofore Lottie had succeeded in bearing with her captious patient
fairly well, her natural patience and sweetness of disposition being a
great help to her. But this day her task seemed a little harder to bear
than usual, and a short time before the outburst at the opening of the
chapter the climax was reached, when her aunt struck her with the cane
she used to aid her in getting about the room, for she was able to go
about a very little during the day.

Lottie had been sent for some water, and in her zeal to please her aunt
by being quick about it, had spilled a few drops in that good woman's
lap, and she, without stopping to think, had given her niece a rap with
her stick.

"No, I shall not stand it another minute," muttered Lottie, as she
angrily paced the floor of the little room, whither she had rushed from
her aunt's presence.

Apparently she had determined to do something, for she went to work
energetically to put everything to rights. She put more coal on the
fire, and, in fact, did everything she deemed necessary. Then she stole
quietly up to her room, packed some things in a bundle, and noiselessly
left the house.

[Illustration: Hazely Family. Page 153.]

Where was she going? She did not know. What was she going to do? She
only knew that she was going far away from her Aunt Emmeline's, where
she had been insulted. The old poplar solemnly waved its long, bare arms
over her head, as if wishing her "good-bye." She had a vague idea she
would go and find her friend Flora; she would at least advise her what
to do, for, after once fairly in the street, the fact that she had no
home but the one she was leaving behind, made itself felt very plainly.

She had not seen Flora since that first day when they had met
accidentally, and she had almost forgotten the way she had come, for she
had been in such a hurry she gave little heed to anything. She would go
as best she could remember. It seemed to her that she was walking a
great distance, and when at length she came to a small public square,
she sat down upon one of the cold, damp seats, almost discouraged, and
utterly unhappy. No mother, no home--nothing but misery. The tears were
very near the surface, when she heard her name called at no great
distance.

That was strange, though the voice sounded familiar. Stranger still,
however, was the sight of a young man making his way rapidly toward her
with a shuffling gait, and leaning upon two canes. Although the face
seemed familiar, Lottie was frightened, and was preparing to run away
when her steps were arrested by the strange young man saying, in
half-laughing, half-vexed tones:

"Why, Lottie, girl, don't you know your brother Joel?"

"What? Not my brother Joel?" exclaimed Lottie, joyously, yet
distrustfully.

"The very same, and yet not the same," replied Joel, sadly, as he
remembered how great was the physical change in him, and which was so
apparent.

"I was straight and strong when you last saw me, Lottie," he said,
looking down at his twisted limbs. "I was straight and strong when I
left the old home, and now you see what I am." And he seated himself
beside Lottie, who had remained on the bench.

"Oh, Joel, what made you so?" she cried, in a distressed voice.

"Never mind about that now, little sister. I will tell you all about it
some time. But mother----"

"Didn't you know? She is dead." And Lottie burst into tears, while the
half-repressed sobs of the utterly miserable girl, shook her slender
frame.

"Yes, I know," answered her brother, softly.

"How did you know?" asked Lottie, as she raised her tear-stained face
in surprise at his knowledge, when she knew he had been away so long.

"Never mind that, either," returned Joel; "but tell me everything."

Lottie told about the death of their mother, then added:

"Oh, Joel, she so wanted to see you before she died, and now it's too
late."

"Yes, too late." The words found an echo in the young man's own breast.
He had put it off too long, this home-coming. Hoping and wanting to come
back to his home and parents, well able to take care of himself and to
help them too, he had waited, and worked, and saved, and now she for
whom he so longed was not here to bid him welcome. The thought also came
to him that it was well this "too late" came only in the disappointment
of earthly hopes. Suppose it meant the loss of his soul as well? Then
another thought came, this time full of comfort and peace:

"She will know I am changed, and I shall meet her in heaven."

Then he turned to his sister, feeling that here was a work for him--a
legacy left him by his mother.

"Where is father, Lottie?" he asked a moment later, inwardly wondering
at her presence here.

"Father? Oh, after mother's death he couldn't stay there any more, he
said, and so he went away to work. Out west, I believe," she added,
rather glad than otherwise to break the silence that had followed her
last words. "I haven't seen him since he brought me to live here."

"Live here? With whom?" inquired her brother.

"With Aunt Emmeline." And then she poured forth into sympathetic ears a
recital of her woes, inflicted largely by her aunt.

"What are you going to do?" asked Joel, when she finished. "Are you
going back?"

"No, I am not. That settles it!"

"Never?"

"No, never!"

Joel was amused. He well knew that the angry girl would be obliged,
sooner or later, to modify her emphatic and hasty assertions. However,
he thought it best to make no criticism, at least until she should see
her folly and mistake herself; so he only said:

"Well, I guess you had better come with me just now. Both of us will
catch cold if we stay here much longer."

Unquestioningly, Lottie arose. She did not care where she went, so long
as she was with Joel, who now was all she had to cling to.

The sight of poor, deformed Joel, hobbling painfully along, touched
Lottie's heart as nothing else could have done, as she contrasted his
shrunken body with her own strong, robust self. She felt almost glad her
mother could not see him now--she had been so proud of Joel's strength.

At length they halted before a small house that appeared strangely
familiar to Lottie, and Joel rapped on the door. What was her surprise
and delight to see the door opened by Flora Hazeley.

"Lottie!" the latter exclaimed.

"Flora!"

Joel stood by, smilingly, while Lottie was introduced to the rest of the
family.

"It seems so strange that both your brother and mine should be returned
runaways, doesn't it, Flora?" remarked Lottie, when all were seated.

"How about Lottie?" slyly whispered Joel, as he sat by her side.

Lottie deigned no reply, but tossed her head willfully, while she
thought: "No, I will never go back to Aunt Emmeline's."

It was a very pleasant little home party that sat and chatted in the old
dining room that evening, but it was not until Lottie and Flora were
alone in the room which they were to share for the night, that Lottie
opened her heart, and poured out her woes into Flora's sympathetic ear.

"Oh, Lottie, how could you?" asked Flora, when the recital was over.

"Oh, Flora, of course I could do it, and so would you have done, in my
place," returned Lottie, in an injured tone.

"Is it possible that you have left your poor, sick aunt all alone?"

"She isn't very sick; she only thinks she is," said Lottie, sulkily.
"She can get about her room well enough. It won't hurt her to go a bit
farther, and go downstairs."

Flora, after a few more ineffectual words, saw Lottie was feeling too
bitter and hurt to be ashamed of her desertion of her poor, sick aunt,
and, with her customary tact, dropped the subject entirely. For a few
moments there was silence, each busy with her own thoughts.

As Flora was brushing her hair, of which she was justly proud, she said:

"Lottie, let us sit here in front of the fire. I often do, and watch the
sparks as they flit here and there. I feel like talking to-night. I have
listened to your story. Now, you come here with me; I want to tell you
mine."

Nothing loth, Lottie seated herself, and listened attentively while her
friend told of her own life, with all of its disappointments, hardships,
and trials.

"What has all this to do with me?" asked Lottie, suspiciously, for she
had a vague idea that Flora had an object in view.

"It has this to do with you, Lottie dear," answered Flora, as she put
her own shapely hand, gently but firmly, over the rebellious one in
Lottie's lap. "It will show you that none of us can have things exactly
as we want them, and we are cowards if we run away from our duties. Had
I been left to choose what I wished, I should not have chosen a single
thing that came to me, and yet I am sure everything turned out for the
very best. In the first place, Aunt Sarah's sending me home made me
think and act for myself and others, and in doing so I became far
stronger than I would have been had I stayed with, and depended on Aunt
Bertha, if she had lived. In doing the second, I found pleasure, and now
that after all our worrying Harry has come back so changed, I am just as
happy as I can be. But suppose I had run away, when things were dark and
discouraging, would I now have anything to be happy over?"

"But nobody ever struck you, Flora. That is different," said Lottie,
looking less stubborn.

"No," replied Flora; "that is very true, dear; nobody ever struck me.
But I have had other things quite as hard. Indeed, things that I thought
I could not possibly endure. But, you know who helped me bear them,
don't you, Lottie dear?"

"Yes," was the subdued reply. "You mean God helped you."

"Yes, and he will help you too, Lottie, if you will let him. But you
must take up your duties again, you know."

"What? go back to Aunt Emmeline?"

"Yes, I mean just that. I am sure she did not intend to treat you badly.
She will tell you so, I have no doubt, some day."

"I don't know about that," said Lottie; "but, I guess I ought to go.
But, suppose she will not have me back again; what then?"

"Oh, don't borrow trouble. It will be time enough to think about that
when it happens," replied Flora. "But come, it's time we were asleep."

Sleep, however, did not come to Lottie as soon as it did to her friend.
Her mind was too busy, turning over the events of the day, and
anticipating the possible ones of the morrow. Nevertheless, Lottie was
not really a coward, and when she had decided on a certain course, she
kept to it, as we have already seen.



CHAPTER XVII.

MORE SURPRISES.


Next day, Lottie informed her brother of her decision to return to her
aunt, and apologize for her unceremonious departure.

Joel was very glad that she had come to this conclusion of her own free
will, for he had feared he might have trouble in bringing her to it. He
more than half-suspected that Flora had a good deal to do with his
sister's present submissive state, and was accordingly grateful.

Lottie bade her friends good-bye, and with Joel to keep her courage up,
turned her face determinedly toward her aunt's home, only making a
comical grimace, as Flora whispered to her some words of encouragement,
adding the assurance that all would come out right.

The brother and sister walked on together in silence, for some time; and
then it was Joel who talked, for Lottie was too busy thinking to care
for conversation. She acted as guide until they stood under the old
poplar in front of the quiet little house, and then she took refuge
behind her brother, who marched undauntedly up to the door, and gave a
knock, which said plainly: "Here are some people who mean business."

The knock evidently surprised Mrs. Durand, for she opened the door
herself, instead of telling them to "Come in," as was her usual custom.

At first she saw no one but Joel, and seemed strongly inclined to close
the door upon him; but when she caught sight of Lottie, standing
demurely behind him, she steadied herself firmly upon her canes, and
inquired, "What do you want?"

"In the first place, Aunt Emmeline," said Joel, calmly, "I suppose you
know me?"

"No, I can't say I do," was the reply.

"I am not much surprised. It has been some time since we met. I am Joel
Piper, your nephew, and Lottie's brother."

Mrs. Durand said nothing, but only stood and looked.

"Lottie, come here; Aunt Emmeline, Lottie has something to say to you."

Lottie came from behind her brother, and speaking rapidly, as if she
were afraid she would lose courage if she did not talk fast, said: "I've
come to say that I am sorry I acted so badly, Aunt Emmeline, and if you
will let me, I'll come back again."

"Come in," was the brusque command. Joel and Lottie entered, and Mrs.
Durand closed the door. Then she turned to them, and said, simply:

"If you want to come back, I guess you may."

Lottie shrugged her shoulders. She wanted so much to say that she did
not come back because she wanted to, but because she thought she ought,
and she bit her tongue, by way of admonishing that unruly member to keep
still.

Joel guessed something of what was passing in his sister's mind, and
hastened to engage Mrs. Durand in conversation.

She seemed really touched as the young man recounted the history of his
sickness and sufferings in a strange city; and Lottie, sitting silently
listening, was more than half convinced that she had judged her aunt too
severely. By the time Joel was ready to go, she was quite satisfied that
she _did_ want to come back. Then the old house really looked homelike,
especially after the feeling of loneliness and homesickness she had
experienced the day before as she walked the streets not knowing which
way to look for shelter.

That evening, after everything was done, as Mrs. Durand was seated by
the fire in her easy chair, and Lottie was hemming a table-cloth, Mrs.
Durand asked abruptly:

"Why did you come back?"

Lottie looked up in astonishment, scarcely knowing what to say. But
deeming it best to tell her exact reason, she said: "Because I thought
it was my duty to do it."

For a while there was silence, during which Lottie glanced up timidly to
see the effect of her words upon her aunt, but she could discover
nothing.

"I suppose you were pretty angry with me, when you went?" was the next
remark.

"Awful!" said Lottie, catching her breath at her own temerity.

Again there was silence.

"Well," returned Mrs. Durand, "if you hadn't been in such a hurry, I
should have told you I didn't mean to strike you; but, I suppose I can
tell you so now, can't I?"

"Oh dear, Aunt Emmeline, you needn't say anything at all about it," said
Lottie, eagerly. "I acted just horrid; I know I did."

"I can't blame you much, child. Old people like me, with the rheumatism,
are apt to be snappish. But I guess we both have had a lesson we will
not be likely to forget. Come, now, I think it is time you were in bed,
so put away your sewing, and go."

"Can I get you anything, aunt?" asked Lottie, as she prepared to obey.

"Nothing at all, my dear," was the soft reply, that sent Lottie upstairs
in a state of pleasurable surprise at the turn things had taken. Never
had she felt more glad of anything than she was to find herself in the
little chamber again, because it was home.

Joel, in the meantime, after he had seen his sister fairly reinstated in
her old place, returned to Mrs. Hazeley's, where he duly reported the
success of his visit.

Flora was very glad things were straightening out for her young friend,
Lottie, for she was really fond of her, because of her open, truthful
nature.

A few days more Joel spent with his friends, and then, after arranging
with his aunt for his sister's future, insisting on supplying her needs
outside of her board, for which Mrs. Durand would accept nothing, he
left, to return to his work, feeling at least contented, if not carrying
back with him the memory of a happy home welcome and reunion. It was
good to have somebody to work for and care for, and Joel was accustomed
to placing full value upon present blessings or privileges, and his
example had not been lost upon Lottie, whose lot, while greatly changed
and improved, was by no means entirely freed from thorns, for Aunt
Emmeline was still Aunt Emmeline, and was likely to continue to be so.
However, since Lottie's return, she had treated the girl with a fair
amount of consideration, much to her satisfaction and enjoyment. Lottie
was beginning to feel at home. In fact, as the months rolled by, and she
grew in age and experience, Lottie gradually became the household
manager, and her aunt was content to oversee.

After a time, Mr. Piper grew tired of "rolling around," as he informed
his sister and daughter, and determined to marry a second time. He
moreover informed Lottie that it would be more agreeable to all
concerned if she would conclude to remain with her aunt.

"Humph!" said that good woman. "It's well that it is agreeable to all;
but suppose it wasn't? As it is, child," she added, "you know you are
welcome to a home with me just as long as you want it. I have no wish to
part with you. But I must say, your father is pretty cool."

At one time Lottie's heart would have beaten tumultuously at the
prospect of a permanent home with Aunt Emmeline, but it was not so now,
and she felt very grateful, when she lay down that night, that God had
so cared for her, when she could not care for herself.

To return to our friends, the Hazeleys. They had all removed to Brinton,
all but Alec, who seemed so well-contented with his quarters at Major
Joe's, that he did not wish to change. There was really no necessity for
him to do so. He was doing well at school, although he was by no means
what might be considered a brilliant pupil. In fact, his own prediction
that he would be no scholar, but a practical farmer, seemed likely to
come true.

Major Joe had other help now, and Alec gave his time out of school and
during holidays, to the owner of a large farm in the immediate
neighborhood, where he was learning many things that were needful to
know in his chosen calling. He always came home at night, and was known
all around as a "fine lad." Major Joe had grown too feeble to attend
market any longer, and so he had turned that part of his business over
to the young man, who now had charge of his garden, and who, it seemed
more than likely would have charge of Ruth some time in the future, when
he had grown able to do so. The major remained at home, alternately
nursing his rheumatic limbs, and helping "mother" and Ruth with the
poultry, of which they raised a quantity, and, as Jem said, were
"getting awful rich off the eggs and things." Ruth was a thrifty,
thorough-going little housekeeper, one after her grandmother's own
heart, while Jem was just a lively little girl, who insisted on
bestowing her help, which, however, usually proved more of a hindrance.
She was, however, the pet of the old people, and made things merry in
the little cottage.

Alec Hazeley had gone to see his brother as soon as he had heard of his
return, and had spent some days at home prior to the removal of the
family. And he was the last object they saw as they steamed out of the
station. Mrs. Martin was no longer the active, stirring woman she had
been before her illness, but was now a confirmed invalid. She was much
altered, in every way, and was very glad to have her sister and family
with her; and they were altogether a peaceful, happy, little household.

It was not Harry's intention to remain at home long after he had seen
his mother and sister settled. But, somehow--perhaps it was because
every one seemed glad to have him there--he stayed longer than he had
intended; and, surprising to himself, and altogether delightful to
Flora and his mother, he one day informed them that he felt he had
received a decided call to the ministry.

"Oh, Harry!" cried his sister. "How sudden! I wasn't dreaming of such a
thing; but I am _so_ glad."

"Yes," answered Harry, seriously, "I feel as if I must prepare myself to
preach. Something tells me, and I feel sure it is the voice of God, that
I shall prosper at nothing else but winning souls for Christ. As I was
snatched from the toils of the Evil One, so must I help save others. I
believe that God rescued me for that very purpose."

Aunt Sarah was delighted, and would hear of nothing but that he should
immediately begin to fit himself for his new work. The family circle was
again broken, but this time, how different the circumstances, and how
hopeful the future appeared, with all united in the bond of love for
Christ and a hope for his re-appearing.



CHAPTER XVIII.

A CHRISTMAS INVITATION.


Years have passed, and long since the grass was green over Mrs. Martin's
grave. Side by side she lay with her gentle sister, and over the two
graves the graceful branches of the willow drooped, and in summer the
sod was starred with daisies.

It was December. The trees were bare of leaves, and the grass was
withered. The weather was cold. The folks in Brinton predicted a hard
winter. In the cosy home where Mrs. Hazeley now presided with a calm
demeanor, and Flora flitted about happy and contented, there seemed no
need to fear the searching winds of winter. Flora was no longer a girl,
but a well-grown young woman--changed, and yet not changed. She had
matured with years; but it was easy to discern the same merry,
thoughtful Flora of the old days.

Shortly after his conversion, Harry had heard and followed the voice of
his Master to "preach the gospel," and now he was the pastor of the
church where Aunt Bertha had sat and listened to the gospel, eagerly
taking in the blessed words of life--the same church where Aunt Sarah
had listened, stern and cold, with her hard features turned upward to
the minister; and the same church where two happy faces--one of a quiet
and attractive-looking matron: the other of a fair, bright-eyed younger
woman--were seen every Lord's Day.

Very proud was Flora of her manly, earnest brother who had won so
completely the hearts of the people; and equally proud was Harry of his
sister, who was loved and respected by all. They saw but little of Alec,
who had never outgrown his love for the country, and who still lived in
Brinton. He was industrious and economical, and his friends were sure he
would some day be a wealthy man.

It wanted but a few days to Christmas, when, one afternoon, during a few
idle moments, Flora stood by the window lightly drumming against the
pane, and smiling, as if her thoughts were very pleasant.

She had not been standing there long when the front gate opened, and
Harry came toward the house.

Flora hurried to open the door for him, and pausing to remove his
overcoat, he said:

"Here is a letter for you, Flo."

"A letter for me?" she repeated. "I wonder from whom it can be." She
returned to the room with the letter in her hand.

"A letter, Flora?" inquired her mother. "Who is writing to you, dear?"

"It is from Alec, mother," was the answer, a moment later.

"What does the dear boy say--anything of importance?" asked Mrs.
Hazeley.

"It is a very short letter. Shall I read it?"

"Never mind, Flora; just tell us what he wants."

"It is simply a very short, but very urgent, invitation for us all to
spend Christmas with him. You, especially, Harry."

"Me? I wonder why?"

"Shall we go, mother?"

"Of course. I would not disappoint the boy for anything; besides, we
have not seen him for so long."

All were satisfied with this arrangement.

Christmas morning dawned bright and clear, but very cold.

Harry held service in the morning in his church, and of course Mrs.
Hazeley and Flora were present. Everything was in readiness to start
away immediately at its close.

"It will not really matter; and we cannot miss seeing our Harry conduct
his first Christmas service," said Flora, positively.

The exercises were simple but impressive; the singing sweet and
solemn--the sermon earnest and tender. It seemed to Flora as if she were
shut in from everything, and that she really moved among the
circumstances connected with the Saviour's birth. It seemed to her that
she was with the wise men who brought gifts, and came to worship the
infant Jesus; and the words of the anthem, "Glory to God in the highest,
peace on earth, good will to men," echoed and re-echoed through her
whole being. "Truly," she thought, "that peace has entered my soul, and
how can I have aught but 'good will to men'?"

Mrs. Hazeley's feelings found expression by the tears rolling down her
cheeks under her veil. Flora saw them, but knew they were for joy.

Never had Harry spoken as he spoke that morning. He scarcely recognized
himself in the preacher whose impassioned words were holding spell-bound
the people who filled the church, drawing from them alternately tears
of sympathy and smiles of joy.

When the service was at an end, and the usual interchange of Christmas
wishes over, the young minister joined his mother and sister, who were
waiting for him, and, with one upon each arm, directed his steps to the
depot, where they boarded the cars for Alec's home.

Flora felt too peaceful and happy to talk, and, in fact, they were all
disinclined for conversation, and so the short journey was made in
silence. True to his word, Alec was at the station to welcome them, and
delighted that they had all come.

He conducted them to a carriage he had in waiting, and helped them in.

"What do you want to ride to Major Joe's for?" asked Harry. "It is such
a short distance."

"Oh, I want you to ride to-day, so ask no more questions," was the saucy
reply.

"Alec has some new project in his head," whispered Flora to her mother,
who nodded and smiled, as if anything and everything were in order, so
far as she was concerned.

Harry asked no more questions, but was busy looking about him, and
trying to decide where they were going; if to Major Joe's, why take
such a roundabout course? All to no avail, however, and he abandoned the
matter to the driver.

There was no snow, to cover with its white, glittering blanket, the
rough spots, but the brightness of the sun made amends for this lack by
gilding the bare places. It was a green Christmas, but there was a
lurking promise of snows and storms yet to come, in the brisk, sharp
wind, that drove the withered leaves--reminders of the summer's
beauty--along, as Flora remarked, "like little, old women dressed in
brown, and caught in a wind-storm." Alec noticed, as they drove along,
that his brother still glanced about inquiringly, evidently not yet
satisfied as to the road to Major Joe's from the station. Alec was
amused. It was so long since Harry had been there, he felt sure he could
not remember. It was with a view to drawing his attention from this, and
thus prevent his asking more questions, that Alec began to talk
diligently. He pointed out the different objects of interest along the
way, and then would branch off into a series of remarks or conjectures
concerning them.

"This now," he said, pointing to a pretty house they were passing, "is
Mrs. Brown's new residence. Isn't it tasteful? Contains all the latest
modern improvements--at least, so they say. And here is the homestead of
a well-to-do widow. Very benevolent. Quite a good thing for widows." He
was interrupted by Flora's inquiry:

"Why widows especially?"

"Oh, because, you see, all they need is to have just enough to keep them
comfortably while they live. They don't care about making improvements,
and buying or speculating as a general thing, like----"

"Like what?" asked Harry, drily, as his brother paused.

"Well, like me, for instance," returned Alec.

"So, I suppose you think there is no necessity for you to be
benevolent."

"It's not but that I should, so much as I cannot afford to be. You see,
I am a young man, and I need to be very prudent about the way I invest
what money I have, in order to accumulate a little more."

"Oh, Alec," laughed Flora, "you certainly have accumulated a pretty good
stock of self-complacency, and have cultivated a fine opinion of
yourself."

"Yes," returned Alec, good-humoredly, touching up his horse with the
end of his whip. "One must blow his own trumpet, if no one else will for
him."

"Bad policy, my boy," interposed Harry, who seemed for the time being,
to feel himself a boy again. "Bad policy. It is better not to have a
trumpet blown at all, than to do it yourself. True worth will always
receive its proper recognition."

"Not always; you are wrong there," said Alec, his eyes twinkling
mischievously at the success of his plan for diverting his brother's
attention.

"Yes, always," persisted Harry. "Probably not from the direction you
desire, or are looking toward; but, if one looks in the right direction,
he will find that if he is worthy of esteem, honor, and respect, he will
get it from those upon whom his course has made an impression. The
trouble is, that people often look too far away. Either they do not
think to look among those immediately about them, and among whom they
live, or they do not place the proper value upon their opinions and
respect."

"Well, well," said Alec, coolly, as he drew up before the gate of a new
and very pretty cottage. "I am very much obliged to you for your
valuable homily. I hope I shall profit by it. But, my dear brother, 'all
is well that ends well'; and as my chief object in engaging you in
conversation was to give you something to think about besides which way
we were going, I am delighted that I was successful." And with a polite
bow, the saucy fellow jumped down and proceeded to help his passengers
to alight.



CHAPTER XIX.

A HOMELY WEDDING.


No sooner had the little party alighted, than the cottage door flew
open, and a crowd of familiar faces met their astonished gaze.

There was the old major, wrinkled and lame, leaning on his cane, but
smiling as if he had forgotten that there was any "rheumatiz" in the
world.

There was the bright-faced little Jem of long ago, now grown into a
stout maiden, and looking as sober and matter-of-fact as ever.

And motherly little Ruth was there, with her face wreathed in smiles.

There was good Mrs. Benson, busy and bustling with the weight of some
unusual responsibility.

Such a royal welcome as our friends received. Tongues were kept busy
with stories of the generosity of the dear old Saint Nicholas, and
wishes for the new year.

"What a pretty house!" exclaimed Flora, as the hum of voices was
lessening.

"I am glad you like it, sister mine," returned Alec who was at her side,
"because, you know, it belongs to me."

"To you? Then you have been industrious in all these years. Are you
going to live here all alone?"

"Yes, you are right there, Flora," Alec answered, totally ignoring her
question. "I have worked hard, and saved too. But, there! I am blowing
my own trumpet again, in spite of Hal's lecture!" And he glanced
roguishly at his brother.

But Harry only smiled.

"What on earth do you want with a whole house?" asked Flora, curiously.
"Are the major and Mrs. Benson going to live with you?" she added,
wishing to understand it all.

"No," said Alec, "they are going back home."

Flora and Harry were thoroughly puzzled, and from time to time glanced
at their brother questioningly, as if they feared he was joking them.
Flora noticed, however, what the others were all too busy to see, that
Alec was constantly glancing out of the front window, as if expecting
some one.

At last her curiosity and his evident uneasiness were both satisfied;
for a buggy drove up to the door, and from it alighted a young girl and
an elderly woman, and--Joel Piper, who after dismissing the conveyance
came toward the house, where they were met by Alec, who presented them
triumphantly to the rest.

"Lottie Piper, is this you?" cried Flora.

The young girl was really Lottie, and the elderly woman was Mrs.
Emmeline Durand, her aunt.

"Yes, it's me," answered Lottie, serenely and ungrammatically.

"This is a delightful surprise. What next?" exclaimed Flora.

"Shall I tell you?" asked Alec, coming forward and offering Lottie his
arm, who evidently understood the whole situation; "it is simply
this,"--and the two fine-looking young people walked toward the window
where Harry was standing, and paused before him,--"I love Lottie, and I
think she loves me." Lottie's bright eyes dropped to the floor, her face
suffused with blushes, with a bright little smile trembling around her
mouth. "I love Lottie; and, Harry, I want you to pronounce us husband
and wife."

Mrs. Hazeley and Flora looked somewhat dazed, and then, turning to each
other, locked arms and walked toward the bridal pair, each face showing
surprise, but also betraying real joy at the event.

The others were happy. All knew what the day would bring forth, and each
had united with the others in mystifying Mrs. Hazeley, Flora, and Harry.

The last named, while much surprised, as was but natural, understood the
situation and the part he was expected to take, as Alec and Lottie
stepped toward him.

"Very well, Alec. I am glad you have made such a happy choice. Are you
both ready? Please stand here. That is it. So."

Then, amid the hush that fell upon the little company, Harry's voice was
clearly heard, saying:

"'What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.'"

At the close of the short, but very impressive service, Harry offered a
short prayer that the "great All-Father would watch over, guard, and
guide these two lives that had linked themselves together for all time."

Then came congratulations, and everybody tried to talk at once. Then
came dinner. This was in charge of Mrs. Benson, and it is only necessary
to say that it was one long to be remembered; for she was an excellent
cook.

In the course of the dinner, Alec was pressed by Flora to tell how he
had become acquainted with Lottie. He quite willingly complied.

"I first met her on the day I came down to see you off on the cars when
you all left for Brinton; and just as the train was disappearing around
a curve, and I was turning about to go home, a girl came running up all
out of breath.

"'Oh,' said she, 'has the train gone?' I said, 'Yes; did you want to get
on?'

[Illustration: Hazeley Family. Page 184.]

"'No,' said she; 'but my friend is on it, and I wanted to say Good-bye.'
'I'm sorry,' said I, 'but who is your friend?' Not that it was any of my
business to know, but somehow or other I felt interested, and she didn't
seem to mind, but said: 'Flora Hazeley.' 'That's my sister,' said I; 'do
you know her?' 'I guess I do,' was the answer. 'It is too bad; but it
can't be helped, I suppose. I'm always late when I should be early, and
early when I should be late.'

"This sounded so odd that we both laughed, and then she turned and was
out of sight in a very few seconds. I didn't see her again until one day
several years afterward, when I was doing business for myself--taking my
vegetables and things to town to sell, you know. It happened on this
morning I had some fine, fresh vegetables left over from market, and I
wanted to sell them before going home. I went through several streets,
knocking at the doors and asking if the folks would like to buy what I
had. At one of the houses I met Lottie again. She did not recognize me
at first, but amused me very much by the close bargains she drove.
'Well,' said I, 'you are a case.' She looked up at me suddenly, as if
she would like to give me a bit of her mind, and she saw who I was.
Then, of course, she began to ask after you all; and that is the way we
became acquainted. I always went there afterward when I had anything
left over, and, when I saw what a close bargain she could drive, and
what a good housekeeper she made for her aunt, I thought: 'Lottie is the
girl to help a fellow get on in the world.' So, after a while, with the
consent of the good aunt and no objections from our brother Joel here,
to whom we wrote about the matter, and who came on to see us and give us
his blessing, we made the arrangements that you see have been carried
out to-day."

"How about Lottie's father?" said Flora, slyly.

"We wrote to him too, and he didn't object, either--that that is, he
didn't answer--and silence is consent, you know."

"Alec," said Harry, gravely, "I am glad, of course, to see you doing
well; but it hurts me to hear you talk so much about getting rich and
saying nothing about higher and better things. What is to become of you
when you are called to lay aside the possessions you are striving so
hard to get?"

"Now, never you mind Alec, my good preacher brother," interposed Lottie,
looking at him with a complacent smile. "Alec is fond of mystifying
people. He is just as good a Christian as ever a young man was. He and I
both--to set your mind at rest--were converted over a year ago, at a
revival in Bartonville. We mean to try and live right--don't we, Alec?"
And she beamed on everybody, in no way abashed by her frank confession.
It was plain that Lottie would be matter-of-fact and practical to the
end of her days.

"My dear Alec, give me your hand!" cried Harry. And the two brothers
clasped hands warmly, while Joel nodded approvingly. Flora, who sat next
to Lottie, slipped her arm around her waist and gave her a sisterly
embrace; and Mrs. Hazeley exclaimed, wiping the tears away: "If ever a
woman was blessed in her children, I am that one. Truly, God is good."

"That he is," rejoined Mrs. Benson. "My husband and I can testify to
that." And her eyes rested lovingly upon Ruth and little Jem.

"Well," put in Mrs. Durand, Lottie's aunt. "_You_ are all rejoicing; but
I am not so sure that I can join you. I lose my housekeeper and the only
companion I have when I lose Lottie. One doesn't mind living alone so
much when one is used to it; but when you have had company for so long,
it comes awkward to go back to the old habits."

"Remember the old proverb, Aunt Emmeline, 'Never cross the bridge until
you come to it,'" laughed Lottie. Then, turning to Alec, who sat quietly
smiling, she said: "Tell her, Alec, do."

"Aunt Emmeline, come with me a moment; I have something to show you,"
and offering her his arm they left the room. Crossing the wide hall,
they ascended the stairs, and stopping at a closed door, Alec said, as
he pushed it open:

"This room is for Aunt Emmeline, as long as she will occupy it. We could
not do without her."

Mrs. Durand's fears were thrown to the wind when she heard this, and saw
the dainty room. Turning to Alec, with her eyes bright with tears, she
said, as she threw her arms around his neck:

"Oh, Alec, I do not deserve this. But it makes me very happy to know you
think enough of me to do this for me."

As they entered the room, where all was gayety, her face wreathed in
smiles, Mrs. Durand said:

"Now I can join in the general rejoicing. I have a new home--this
one--with Lottie and Alec."

Everybody was pleased, and Lottie looked her happiness; for her face was
ever very expressive of her feelings.

For a long time Jem, who was as quiet and quaint in her ways as ever,
had been occupied in the effort to make peace between Dolby and Pokey,
who were now old and feeble, but very dear to the heart of their
mistress, who had insisted that they must come to the wedding.

During Alec's story, Flora had caught a look of decided disapproval on
Jem's face, and determining to ascertain the cause, she asked:

"Jem, dear, does anything trouble you? What do you think of this?"

"Do you mean the wedding?" Jem questioned.

"Yes."

"Well, then,"--and the words came slowly, distinctly, and
decisively,--"I think it was a very disinteresting one."

"How would you have had things, if you could have had your way?" asked
Flora, much amused at Jem's positive tone.

"Oh, _I'd_ have had white satin, and orange blossoms, and lots of
presents, and a great big wedding cake, with a beautiful ornament on
top, and all such, you know." In her earnestness she had forgotten that
Pokey was on her lap, hidden under the table-cloth, for fear her
indulgent grandma would see her and be disgusted, and banish her from
the room. Pokey, feeling that the little hands were no longer pressing
her down and reminding her that she must lie still, quietly dropped to
the floor, and began cautiously to explore.

"Now, Jem," went on Flora, argumentatively, "suppose we did have all the
fine things you named, how much happier would that make us all?"

"Oh, I don't know anything about that. I only know it would have been
prettier, and more to my taste as a guest, you see," returned Jem with
dignity, much to the amusement of her listeners.

"Ah, Jem," said Harry, shaking his head at her, and pretending to be
very serious: "Ah, Jem, you little know how much unhappiness often
follows the orange blossoms and satin."

"I don't know anything about that, either," was the cool rejoinder. "I
only know they are prettier to look at."

"Everybody to his taste, say I, Jem," remarked Alec, solemnly; which bit
of philosophy was promptly put into practice by Dolby, who evidently
found it to his taste just then to spring upon Pokey while her young
mistress was busy talking, and who received a sharp box on the ear for
his pains. Of course such behavior necessitated the removal of poor
Pokey in disgrace by Jem.

Before anybody was ready for it, the hour of separation had come. After
a great deal of talking and a good many "good-byes," the Hazeleys were
on the cars, being carried back to Brinton, and the unique reunion was
over.

"What a queer Christmas party we have been to!" laughed Flora, when they
were again at home. "But I enjoyed it."

"Yes," answered Harry. "So did I."

"And I," added his mother, "more than all. Just to think, what wonderful
things God does bring about!"

"Yes," said Harry, reverently, "how well the words of Isaiah apply to
us: 'I will lead them in paths that they have not known. I will make
darkness light before them, and crooked things straight.'"


THE END.



Transcriber's Note:

Punctuation has been standardised. Both "to day" and "to-day" have been
retained as they appear in the original publication, as has "extonished".
On page 132 "let the way direct" has been changed to "led the way direct".





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