|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
"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
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.
"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?'
"`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
`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--
"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
"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.
"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
"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-bye," 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.'"