|CHAPTER II. -- FLORA AT HOME.|
MRS. GRAHAM'S life had been a quiet, unobtrusive, but truly Christian one. She had neglected no opportunity to implant in her young niece a love and reverence for holy things; and now that she was about to die, she felt that she had nothing to regret, that she had left no duty unfulfilled, so far as Flora's training was concerned. It was with a heart full of peace that she commended her charge to the "One above all others" and took her leave of earth.
Flora was almost inconsolable. She had no one to comfort her, for Aunt Sarah was as distant as ever, being entirely too much occupied with plans for the future to care about Flora. Her mother came to the funeral, but neither was overjoyed to see the other after their long separation. It could scarcely be otherwise. Natural affection had never been conspicuous in the Hazeley home, and the influence of these years apart
After they returned from the cemetery, however, Aunt Sarah informed Flora she was to return with her mother to her former, and as she deemed it, rightful home. The feelings with which the girl received this intelligence were by no means pleasant ones. But there was no use in crying or fretting about it, for when Aunt Sarah said a thing, she meant it, and could not by induced to alter her decision, even if Flora had felt inclined to ask her to do so. This she had no thought of doing, for she was not at all anxious to make her home with her cold, distant aunt.
"It is too bad!" She exclaimed, as she thought of all the bright helpful plans she and Aunt Bertha had made together, and which they had hoped to be able to carry out. "It is too bad!" she sobbed, as she bent over her trunk in her pretty little bedroom, the tears falling on the tasteful dresses, and the many loving tokens that had been given her by the dear hands now at rest beneath the unfeeling earth in the churchyard.
Mrs. Martin was surprised that Flora's mother made no objection to taking her daughter home. The truth
Just as the train was preparing to leave the station, Lottie Piper, one of Flora's friends and admirers, came running to the car, and tossed something through the open window into Flora's lap, saying hurriedly and pantingly, as she pressed the hand held out to her:
"There, Flora, take that. Don't laugh. I raised it all myself, and I want you to have it; but don't eat it! Keep it to remember me by. Good-bye," she called, as the train moved off.
Flora waved her handkerchief out of the window to Lottie, until her arm was tired. As she looked about the cars her attention was attracted by a titter from the opposite side. At first she could not understand why the girl who sat there should look at her and smile. As her neighbor gazed at her lap, Flora's eyes followed, and
At first she felt inclined to be provoked with Lottie for bringing such a thing and causing her to be laughed at. However, the remembrance of her parting words, "I raised it all myself; but don't eat it!" made her smile in spite of herself. This encouraged the girl opposite to slip over to the seat beside Flora, as Mrs. Hazeley was occupying the one in front, and the two girls, although entire strangers to each other, chatted away busily, until the train stopped at one of the stations, where the girl and her father, who sat farther back, left the car. Soon after, Flora found herself at home, Bartonville and Brinton being but a short distance apart. This brings us to the opening of our story.
It was Lottie's potato that lay upon the table, and Flora had been wondering what to do with it. The memories it awakened were of Brinton and the many pleasant strolls and romps she had enjoyed with Lottie in her father's fields, which joined Mrs. Graham's, of Aunt Bertha herself, and much more.
"But what am I to do with the potato?" she questioned. "I am not to eat it. I don't care to, either.
She soon found a jar such as she wanted, and after washing it clean and bright, filled it full of clear water, and carefully placed the potato, end up, in it, and then looked about for a suitable place for it.
"That window has a good broad seat," She said to herself; "and it is sunny, but the glass is so grimy! However, it will do. Better yet, I will open the window."
This was more easily said than done, for, although the weather was still warm-- it being September-- the window did not appear to have been opened for some time. Flora struggled and pushed, and at length succeeded in opening it, making noise enough as she did so, to attract the attention of a young girl who was passing. She stopped, looking up, inquiringly.
Flora was heated with her exertions and the thought of having attracted attention, so that before she realized what she was doing, she was smiling and saying:
"This old window was very hard to raise, but I was determined to do it."
"No," said the girl, looking as if she was not quite sure that it was the right thing to say.
"What is that in the jar?" she asked, as she came closer, and looked at the potato curiously, and then at Flora in a friendly way that pleased her.
"This," said Flora, patting the vegetable; "it is a potato."
"But what have you put it in there for?" persisted the girl.
"To grow, to be sure."
"Will it grow?"
"Of course it will," replied Flora, with an important air. "See! water is in this jar, and soon this potato will sprout, send roots down and leaves up, and then-- and then--it will just keep on growing, you know." And Flora felt sure that she had put quite an artistic finish to her description of potato culture.
"Oh, yes," cried her new acquaintance, with an intelligent light in her eyes; "I know very well what will happen then."
"What?" asked Flora, rather dubiously.
"Why, little sweet potatoes will grow on the roots, of course."
"I-- I don't think they will," said Flora, hesitatingly, not being well versed on the subject.
"Yes; but they must-- they always do," returned the girl, positively.
"Well, but there would be no room in the jar for potatoes to grow," said Flora.
"That's so." And the girl looked puzzled; then they both laughed, not knowing what else to do.
"What is your name?" asked Flora, by way of changing the subject, for she was a little fearful she might be asked to explain why little sweet potatoes would not grow in her jar.
"My name is Ruth Rudd," was the answer. "What is yours?"
"Is it? Well, I live just back of your house, on the next street. Good-bye. I guess I will see you some other time." And she hurried away.
"She is a real nice girl," Flora thought, as she turned away from the window; "I hope I can see her again." She stood for an instant looking about the room. It was nicely furnished, but it looked neglected and untidy, and Flora, having been so long accustomed to the attractiveness and order of her aunt's house, felt home-sick. Her loneliness came over her in a great wave of feeling,
How different were her thoughts now from what they had been under the old peach tree! Then she had reveled in rose-colored dreams; now she was confronted by gray realities. Her thoughts went rapidly over her life since Aunt Bertha's death.
She had been here not quite a week, and she found it such a different place from the home she had so lately left, that she was almost unwilling to call it "home." But while she considered her present home not very desirable, she had given no thought to the inmates, whether or not
She was young, and she soon wearied of her sombre thoughts, which could avail her nothing, and she glanced at the houses on each side of her own. There was a marked difference. It was not in the style of the building, for hers was the most attractive. It was, however, in the general appearance, and Flora felt she would like to begin at the topmost shingle and pull her home down to the ground. But the thought came to her that then she would have no home. She knew there was no room for her with Aunt Sarah, who was, no doubt, at this very moment enjoying her absence.
"No, indeed, I do not want to live with Aunt Sarah," she thought; and then began to wonder vaguely if she had not better go to work and try to make her present home a more congenial one.
The more she thought about it, the better the idea pleased her. Just as she was endeavoring to decide upon something definite to do, she was startled by seeing a board in the fence, just behind her, pushed aside. Before she could move, a round, fat, little face was thrust through the opening, and a pair of inquisitive brown eyes were
"Well, and who are you? and what do you mean by coming in here that way?" asked Flora, amused at the odd-looking little creature.
"I'm Jem," answered the midget, coolly; "and I didn't mean nuffing."
"Jem? I thought you were a girl," said Flora, looking at the quaint, short-waisted dress, that reached almost down to the copper toed shoes, and the funny, little, short, white apron, tied just under the fat arms, which were squeezed into sleeves much too tight for them.
"So I am a girl," answered Jem, indignantly; "don't you see I've gut a napron on wif pockets in?" And she thrust her chubby little fingers into one of them.
"But you said your name was 'Jem,' and that's a boy's name," persisted Flora, enjoying her odd companion.
"'Tain't none," was the sententious reply; "it's short for `Jemima'; that's what my really name is."
"Well, Jemima, what do you want in here?"
"Nothing? Well, that isn't in here."
"There ain't anythin' else's I can see," retorted Jem, turning down the corners of her mouth very far, and looking about disdainfully.
Flora laughed outright at this, but her visitor's countenance lost none of its solemnity.
"You do not seem to admire my yard, Jem."
"Don't see anythin' to remire," retorted Jem. "You'd just ought to peep in ours," and she moved over to the fence, and pulling away the board with a triumphant air, motioned Flora to look. Flora looked, but the first thing she saw was not the yard, but the young girl with whom she had been talking not an hour since.