|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 hitherto 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.
"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. "Tomorrow 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
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. "May be 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. "He 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
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
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 hope, 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
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 opening, 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
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 appreciation from her father.