|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, let 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
"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
"Aunt Sarah, how this 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,"
"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 driv
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
"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
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 here 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
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 signed, even as she thought, "That is quite impossible." She had forgotten for the moment that "With God, all things are possible."