|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 lightened 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
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
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 towards rendering the dying man's last moments peaceful was done. Towards 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 entrusted 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
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 appending 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.
"And me too, Ruth," said an unexpected voice behind stern.
Both turned, and saw Mrs. Hazel 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 oddly 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.