|CHAPTER VI. -- SOME RESULTS.|
"I BELIEVE I am going to realize some of the dreams I used to have, after all," Flora said to herself, as she laid her head upon her pillow that night. She was right. The first step had been taken by her in the path of becoming an earnest worker, and to influence those about her as she had planned she would like to do, although not in such a way as this, nor in such surroundings. Her cherished dream of being instrumental in leading others into a higher and better life was now, she began to realize, leading her into the lines of duty in her own home, and among her own people. She could not wish for more.
She would not be like so many others, who in their desire to do great things, neglect the opportunities near at hand, and who, in longing to lead the heathen to a higher plane of life, forget those at home, who possibly for want of a word or act, have slipped, stumbled, and fallen on life's pathway.
Flora was growing, and with an earnest prayer to the Christ for guidance, strength, and tact, she cheerfully assumed more duties in the home, and greater responsibility. Her bright, sunny disposition, her pleasant face, her extreme willingness to respond to requests, gradually won a place for her in the hearts of those in her home.
The class in Sunday-school was assumed with a feeling of great apprehension. It was composed of five girls between the ages of ten and twelve. At first sight of their youthful teacher, these girls had been inclined to be displeased, but when they grew to know the sunny, sweet good-nature, born of the great desire to do them good, and which shone out of the earnest eyes, they loved her dearly. The teaching of this class was fraught with great good, both to the teacher and scholars, and this meeting with the eager, bright girls was soon eagerly looked forward to by Flora from week to week.
"How things have improved at Mr. Hazeley's!" soon grew to be a common remark among the neighbors.
"Yes, since Flora came home, it has become very different from what it formerly was," would be the spirit, if not the words of the reply.
Flora overheard a similar remark one day, and it gave
It must not be supposed that she always had an easy time. This was not so, for as she often said to Ruth, "When mother and Harry are not in a good humor, things do become tangled."
However, to do the family justice, they were beginning to see and to more fully appreciate the changes made in their home since Flora, who had left them a small maiden, had returned with her thoughtful ways and mature manner. They forgot sometimes that she was but sixteen, and would fancy she was older than she really was. In fact, almost imperceptibly, she assumed all responsibility, and they deferred to her judgment in many things. Best of all, however, they began to love her.
Her younger brother Alec seemed to have entirely surrendered to her gentle, loving rule, and was ever willing to listen to her advice. He was always ready to help her by running errands, chopping wood, drawing water, and performing a dozen other little tasks quite new to him, for he had never aided his mother in any way. In fact she had never asked her boys to assist her,
Mrs. Hazeley also had changed under the magic wand of Flora's sunny influence and determination to win the love of all. She had become at least a willing agent to the general change taking place in her home, and which recommended itself to her because her responsibilities were lightened and carried by other shoulders.
The house itself was transformed. Even cynical little Jem was becoming satisfied with it. It still contained the same furniture, but there was an air of comfort and home life about it never there before, but introduced by the magic of Flora's presence.
Lottie's sweet potato added its share to the general improvement which was going on. The long thread-like roots looked very white in the jar of water in which they were growing, and the graceful tendrils and light-green leaves were quite refreshing to the eyes. Flora had trained the vine about the window on small cords, and already it had nearly covered the lower part with its delicate branches. Flora would have felt lonely without it to care for; especially after being accustomed to have plants in profusion around her at her old home. Then
She was really surprised to find how fond she had grown of her brothers, and they of her. She could think of her mother very differently now, and she in turn began to show signs of an awakening affection for her daughter.
As to Ruth, she was ever the same, a quiet little home body, whose hands were always too full to allow her to come to Flora, but whose demure little face never failed to smile a welcome to her friend, and whose wise brain could turn over Flora's tangles and straighten them.
The two girls loved each other dearly; and no safer, truer friend and guide could Flora have found than Ruth Rudd, who, although no older than she herself,
Harry Hazeley was a manly fellow with fine qualities. He had been allowed to do as he pleased, and had not been greatly benefited by this freedom. No restraining hand or guiding voice had been held out to him, or to cheer him on his way. Not being evil minded, he had taken but few wrong steps, and now his attention had been attracted to higher and better things.
As I have said, Harry had good qualities; one of which was a kind disposition, and although it was not always apparent to his every-day associates, was brought into play whenever he met any one who seemed in need of assistance.
One morning, as he was walking through the market on his way to school, his attention was attracted by an old man. One of his feet was swathed in bandages, and he was hobbling painfully back and forth, from his wagon to the stall, where he was trying to arrange a quantity of vegetables and some flowering plants which formed his stock in trade.
Harry had a quarter of an hour to spare, and he immediately offered to help the old man, who was only too glad to accept the proffered assistance, and who introduced himself, between the journeys from stall to wagon, as "Major Joe Benson, a gardener on a small scale."
Major Joe was an old ex-soldier, who had been wounded, and later imprisoned. The title "Major" was only a nominal one, and not indicative of any rank. His name, as he informed Harry, was Joseph Major Benson, Major being his mother's maiden name. He preferred to transpose this and call himself Major Joseph Benson, shortened for convenience to "Major Joe."
"It sounded sort of big, you know," he said, drawing himself up and looking dignified, until reminded by a sharp twinge in his foot that "rheumatiz" and dignity did not agree.
Major Joe was very talkative, and would not cease his persuasions until Harry had promised to drive out to his home with him some day, and see his nice little farm and Mrs. Benson, and he added:
"She will be delighted to see you, because you possess such a kind heart, and because you helped me. You must come."
"Yes, I will," returned Harry, "but I must be off to school now. Good-bye." And away he went, mentally pronouncing the major "a jolly old chap."
The visit was made, and strange though it seemed, a fast friendship sprang up between the two, and the visits became quite frequent. Harry had taken Alec with him several times, and he too had greatly enjoyed the trip. Major Joe could tell any number of quaint tales and reminiscences of interest to the brothers. Mrs. Benson, who was more active than her husband, was always desirous for Harry and Alec to remain to tea. Her heart had been reached by the kindness of Harry to her "Major," as she lovingly called him, and she could not do enough for them.
Harry had passed his old friend's stall a number of times since Flora's return, and had of course told him about his sister. The major had a strong desire to see this wonderful girl, as he deemed her to be, from the glowing descriptions that came to him. Finally he insisted, and Mrs. Benson sent in a kind invitation that the three, Harry, Flora, and Alec must come home with him to spend the afternoon and take tea.
He chose a beautiful day in early summer for the
Major Joe was to call for his three young friends on his way home from market. He had promised to be on hand by noon, and as punctuality was an economizer of time, in the old gentleman's opinion, it was barely twelve o'clock when he drew up with a great attempt at flourishing before the Hazeleys' door.