|CHAPTER V. -- THE BEGINNING.|
MONDAY morning was cloudy. Flora felt gloomy and dispirited, and notwithstanding her good resolutions, not in a mood to make any extra exertion.
Mr. Hazeley had gone to his work, Harry and Alec to school, and the mother was in bed with a sick headache. Flora was lonely. There was much to be done, she realized, but just where to begin she did not know. There was no one to tell her what to do, and everything looked very dark to her on this Monday morning.
The dishes were nicely washed, and carefully put away. The little dining room had been swept and dusted, and looked somewhat more inviting. The window where the sweet potato, the last link binding her with the past at Brinton, stood, had been washed until the glass fairly shone, and now she stood gazing listlessly out into the street.
Presently she saw Ruth, on her way home from market. When in front of the house, Ruth looked up, and saw
"You look lonely, this morning," was Ruth's greeting.
"Indeed, I feel so," admitted Flora.
"If you are not busy come home with me for a while."
"I should like nothing better," cried Flora. "Just wait until I tell mother."
In a moment she was back, and the two walked on, Flora insisting on helping Ruth with her market-basket.
Jem met them at the door of the tiny house, and conducted them in with great dignity. Flora was delighted with everything.
"What a dear little house," She exclaimed, glancing about her admiringly.
"I am glad you like it," said Ruth, looking pleased.
"And what a dear, little, old-fashioned housekeeper you make!"
"Do you really think so?"
"Of course I do," said Flora, heartily. "Ruth, dear," she continued, abruptly changing the subject, "I want a talk with you."
"I shall be so glad to have you," said Ruth, seating
"I will help," replied Flora. "Run, Jem dear, and get another knife for me, like a good girl."
Jem obeyed, and soon returning, brought with her a box filled with bits of calicoes, and various odds and ends, seated herself also, and proceeded to fashion what she was pleased to call "doll's clothes."
"Ruth," began Flora, after they were all settled and busy, "I like you ever so much, and I hope we always will be friends. You seem to know so much, and you have had so much experience, that I am sure you can help me a great deal, if you will."
"Of course, dear," was her gentle reply, "I would be glad to help you all I can, and I shall be as pleased as possible for us to be friends. As to my knowing much, you are mistaken; I know but very little of anything; and experience,-- well, I have had some, I suppose; but then, it isn't the sort that would help you, I am afraid. However, I shall be glad to do anything I can for you." "I am sure you can help me, Ruth. You have helped me already," said Flora, decidedly. "And I mean to do as you suggested, and try to make my home just what I
"I don't like to hear you talk about your mother so, Flora dear," said Ruth, in a troubled tone.
"How are you to help me, if I don't tell you just what I think and feel?"
"Perhaps, if you were to let your mother see and know that you wanted to help her, and make things bright, and talk with her--"
"Talk!" interrupted Flora; "I don't believe she would do it, even if I were to try."
"Oh, but have you tried yet?" asked Ruth, looking up archly. "You cannot tell until you do."
"Very well," said Flora, laughing, "I guess I shall try. But there is another thing," and the troubled look returned to her face. "It is about the boys, my brothers. They stay at home scarcely ever. I don't know where they go so often, and I am sure mother does not, and I don't believe she cares--you need not look grave again, Ruth--I don't. Harry and Alec seem to be good boys, and it is a pity they are not restrained. They may get into bad company--if they are not in it already--and do
"It would take a wiser head than mine to tell you that," Ruth answered; "but you might try and see if you could not make it so pleasant at home they would not care to be away so much."
"It seems pretty plain to me that that is easier to say than to do," retorted Flora, just a little impatiently.
"Yes, I know," assented Ruth, meekly; "I don't pretend to be a Solomon; I only said you might try."
"I don't believe they would stay for me," contended Flora, stubbornly.
"That is another thing you have never tried yet," said Ruth, smiling mischievously.
"That is so," laughed Flora, as she took two or three curly parings, and put them on Ruth's hair, to show penitence for her contrariety. "I guess I had better not talk any more, until I have tried to do something. I don't know how to begin my reformatory measures, but I suppose all will be well if I start with 'whatsoever."
By this time the apples were finished, and she rose to go.
"You haven't remired my doll's things," said Jem, reproachfully.
"So I have not," said Flora, and she sat down beside the little seamstress, and began to "remire" the various articles held up for inspection. She was compelled to see through Jem's eyes, however, for the shapes of the garments were not so striking or familiar as to suggest their names.
When at length she reluctantly-took her leave, Ruth invited her to come soon again, to which she laughingly replied she certainly should. After this, matters went on more pleasantly at Flora's home. She busied herself with making the house look as copy and as attractive as the shabby furniture and worn carpet would admit. She succeeded beyond her own expectations. She was gratified also that her brothers seemed to enjoy the improved condition of affairs, and so did her father when he was at home. Lottie's potato was now adding its mite to the general reform, and was sprouting nicely, sending its delicate white roots downward into the clear water, and its closely folded leaflets upward, to grow green in the warm sunlight. It seemed to be quite at home in the bright window. Flora had ceased to dream when she looked at her quaint friend. The days now, were too full to build air-castles. Mrs. Hazeley was pleased to shift her respon-
She had not yet attempted to influence the boys by word, but they soon noticed the new air of homeliness pervading the rooms, and consequently did not go out so much as had been their custom. Alec, the younger boy, was very mercurial and mischievous, while Harry, the elder, was quiet, and fond of reading.
One evening Harry seemed to be more than usually inclined to be sociable, and gave his mother and sister an animated account of something that had happened "down town," that day. When he finished he took up his book, and was just preparing to read, when Flora, eyeing the volume distrustfully, asked:
"What are you reading, Harry?"
Harry looked up at her quizzically, and answered her question by another.
"Why? What is it to you, anyway?"
"Nothing," said Flora, rather disconcerted. She was
"I thought so," replied Harry, coolly, returning to his book.
"Will you not tell me what you are reading?" again asked Flora, not willing to be so easily vanquished.
"Why do you want to know?" demanded Harry, looking at her suspiciously.
Flora's lips again framed "nothing," but no sound came, for like a flash she thought, "If I say that, he will say, 'I thought so,' as he did before. No, I will give a reason," so she said:
"You seemed to be so interested in it, I thought it must be very entertaining."
"So it is," replied Harry, throwing a mischievous glance over to the corner at Alec, where he sat thoroughly engrossed in his favorite pastime of whittling, and in serene thoughtlessness allowing the clippings to fall according to their own sweet will.
Harry was confident that Flora intended to "read him a lecture upon trashy literature," as he afterward privately told Alec. He replied:
"It is interesting, Flo, about murders, and bears, cut
"I am not made nervous so easily as you may think, my dear boy," retorted Flora, condescendingly, and at the same time glancing cautiously at Harry, to see what effect this would have.
She had determined to try and gain an influence over her brothers, and felt that to show an interest in their occupations would be a good beginning. She realized the task she thus imposed on herself, but she meant to do her best, for this was another "whatsoever."
Harry was for a moment too much surprised to speak. Then he said, saucily:
"Ah, indeed! Well, let me read some to you."
"I shall be glad for you to read to me, if you will read a story I have just started. I feel sure you will enjoy it. If yours is a book for boys only, I fear I could not appreciate it."
"Oh, you couldn't?" said Harry. "Why not, may I ask?"
But Flora was up and away ere the sentence was completed. Harry congratulated himself on having put her to flight, and returned to his book with a self-satisfied
"Now, Hal, I would be ever so glad if you would read that story aloud to us, while I crochet, and Alec whittles on the floor."
Alec looked confused, and began to pick up some of the litter he had made.
"Never mind, Alec," said Flora, laughing, "I will clear it up this time. Could you not put a newspaper under you to catch the cuttings, another time?"
"All right," said Alec, looking relieved.
"We are all ready, Harry," said Flora, sitting down and taking up her work.
"Humph!" said Harry, glancing carelessly down the page. "There's nothing in such a story. I don't want to read it. It is too flat."
"You are mistaken," replied Flora, spiritedly. "It's not a bit flat, and there is something in it. It is about a brave boy who saved a train."
"Oh, yes, I know," said Harry, skeptically, "and was not hurt."
"Yes, but he did get hurt. Why not read it, and see?" suggested Flora.
"Yes, read it, Hal," said Alec; "let's see what it is, anyway."
"All right," and Harry began to read with a comical nasal twang, very rasping to Flora's feelings, but she had the wisdom to say nothing. She was very glad, later, because Harry gradually dropped the false tone, and she could see by his manner that he had become interested, inspite of himself. Alec too, had ceased whittling, and was listening intently.
Forgetting to criticise, Harry read the entire story, which, in truth, was a pathetic little incident, very gracefully and entertainingly told. He was silent, as he laid the paper on the table, but his thoughts were busy.
"I was right, was I not, Harry?" asked Flora.
"Yes," drawled Harry, smilingly, "you were. I did enjoy it, and I am glad you asked me to read it. But, let me see," he added, turning to the clock, "what time is it? Well," and he laughed, "I was good. It is nearly ten. Guess I will retire; I was going out, but it is too late."
Flora was secretly rejoiced to hear this, but she simple
"Flora, will you lend me that paper?" asked Alec, as she was preparing to go to her room. Flora willingly placed the paper in his hand, remarking, as she did so,
"I am glad you like the story. I have others, if you want them. Aunt Bertha kept me well supplied."
"Good night," returned Alec, and he was gone.
Flora was more nearly content than she had been for some time, as she sank into peaceful slumber that night.