|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
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
"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
"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
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 tumult
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
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
"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 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.