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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesHow It All Came Round - Chapter 47. Charlotte Harman's Comfort
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How It All Came Round - Chapter 47. Charlotte Harman's Comfort Post by :DillsBest Category :Long Stories Author :L. T. Meade Date :May 2012 Read :2542

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How It All Came Round - Chapter 47. Charlotte Harman's Comfort

CHAPTER XLVII. CHARLOTTE HARMAN'S COMFORT

Jasper Harman did not come to his brother's house that night, but about the time he might be expected to arrive there came a note from him instead. It was plausibly written, and gave a plausible excuse for his absence. He told John of sudden tidings with regard to some foreign business. These tidings were really true. Jasper said that a confidential clerk had gone to the foreign port where they dealt to inquire into this special matter, but that he thought it best, as the stakes at issue were large, to go also himself, to inquire personally. He would not be long away, &c. &c. He would write when to expect his return. It was a letter so cleverly put together, as to cause no alarm to any one. John Harman read it, folded it up, and told Charlotte that they need not expect Jasper in Prince's Gate for at least a week. The week passed, and though Jasper had neither come nor written, there was no anxiety felt on his account. In the mean time affairs had outwardly calmed down in Prince's Gate. The agitation, which had been felt even by the humblest servant in the establishment had ceased. Everything had returned to its accustomed groove. The nine days' wonder of that put off wedding had ceased to be a wonder. It still, it is true, gave zest to conversation in the servants' hall, but upstairs it was never mentioned. The even routine of daily life had resumed its sway, and things looked something as they did before, except that Mr. Harman grew to all eyes perceptibly weaker, that Charlotte was very grave and pale and quiet, that old Uncle Jasper was no longer in and out of the house, and that John Hinton never came near it. The luxurious house in Prince's Gate was unquestionably very dull; but otherwise no one could guess that there was anything specially amiss there.

On a certain morning, Charlotte got up, put on her walking things, and went out. She had not been out of doors for a week, and a sudden longing to be alone in the fresh outer world came over her too strongly to be rejected. She called a hansom and once more drove to her favorite Regent's Park. The park was now in all the full beauty and glory of its spring dress, and Charlotte sat down under the green and pleasant shade of a wide spreading oak-tree. She folded her hands in her lap and gazed straight before her. She had lived through one storm, but she knew that another was before her. The sky overhead was still gray and lowering; there was scarcely even peace in this brief lull in the tempest. In the first sudden fierceness of the storm she had acted nobly and bravely, but now that the excitement was past, there was coming to her a certain hardening of heart, and she was beginning to doubt the goodness of God. At first, most truly she had scarcely thought of herself at all, but it was impossible as the days went on for her not to make a moan over her own altered life. The path before her looked very dark, and Charlotte's feet had hitherto been unaccustomed to gloom. She was looking forward to the death, the inevitable and certainly approaching death of her father. That was bad, that was dreadful; but bad and dreadful as it would be to say good-bye to the old man, what must follow would be worse; however she might love him, however tenderly she might treat him, during his few remaining days or weeks of life, when all was over and he could return no more to receive men's praise or blame, then she must disgrace him, she must hold him up for the world's scorn. It would be impossible even to hope that the story would not be known, and once known it would heap dishonor on the old head she loved. For Charlotte, though she saw the sin, though the sin itself was most terrible and horrible to her, was still near enough to Christ in her nature to forgive the sinner. She had suffered; oh, how bitterly through this man! but none the less for this reason did she love him. But there was another cause for her heartache; and this was more personal. Hinton and she were parted. That was right. Any other course for her to have pursued would have been most distinctly wrong. But none the less did her heart ache and feel very sore; for how easily had Hinton acquiesced in her decision! She did not even know of his visit to the house. That letter, which would have been, whatever its result, like balm to her wounded spirit, had never reached her. Hinton was most plainly satisfied that they should meet no more. Doubtless it was best, doubtless in the end it would prove the least hard course; but none the less did hot tears fall now; none the less heavy was her heart. She was wiping away a tear or two, and thinking these very sad thoughts, when a clear little voice in her ear startled her.

"My pretty lady!" said the sweet voice, and looking round Charlotte saw little Harold Home standing by her side. Charlotte had not seen Harold since his illness. He had grown taller and thinner than of old, but his loving eyes were fixed on her face, and now his small brown hands beat impatiently upon her knees.

"Daisy and Angus are just round the corner," he whispered. "Let us play a game of hide and seek, shall we?"

He pulled her hand as he spoke, and Charlotte got up to humor him at once. They went quickly round to the other side of the great oak-tree, Harold sitting down on the grass pulled Charlotte to his side.

"Ah! don't speak," he said, and he put his arms round her neck.

She found the feel of the little arms strangely comforting, and when a moment or two afterwards the others discovered them and came close with peals of merry laughter, she yielded at once to Harold's eager request.

"May they go for a walk for half an hour, and may I stay with you, pretty lady?"

"Yes," she answered, stooping down to kiss him.

Anne promised to return at the right time, and Charlotte and Harold were alone. The boy, nestling close to her side, began to chatter confidentially.

"I'm _so glad I came across you," he said; "you looked very dull when I came up, and it must be nice for you to have me to talk to, and 'tis very nice for me too, for I am fond of you."

"I am glad of that, Harold," said Charlotte.

"But I don't think you are quite such a pretty lady as you were," continued the boy, raising his eyes to her face and examining her critically. "Mr. Hinton and I used to think you were perfectly lovely! You were so _bright_--yes, bright is the word. Something like a dear pretty cherry, or like my little canary when he's singing his very, very best. But you ain't a bit like my canary to-day; you have no sing in you to-day; ain't you happy, my pretty lady?"

"I have had some trouble since I saw you last, Harold," said Charlotte.

"Dear, dear!" sighed Harold, "everybody seems to have lots of trouble. I wonder why. No; I don't think Mr. Hinton would think you pretty to-day. But," as a sudden thought and memory came over him--"I suppose you are married by this time? Aren't you married to my Mr. Hinton by this time?"

"No, dear," answered Charlotte.

"But why?" questioned the inquisitive boy.

"I am afraid I cannot tell you that, Harold."

Harold was silent for about half a minute. He was sitting down on the grass close to Charlotte, and his head was leaning against her shoulder. After a moment he continued with a sigh,--

"I guess _he's very sorry. He and I used to talk about you so at night when I had the fever. I knew then he was fond of you, nearly as fond as I am myself."

"I am glad little Harold Home loves me," said Charlotte, soothed by the pretty boy's talk, and again she stooped down to kiss him.

"But everybody does," said the boy. "There's father and mother, and my Mr. Hinton and me, myself, and above all, the blessed Jesus."

A strange feeling, half pleasure, half surprise, came over Charlotte.

"How do you know about that last?" she whispered.

"Of course I know," replied Harold. "I know quite well. I heard father and mother say it; I heard them say it quite plainly one day; 'She's one of those blessed ones whom Jesus Christ loves very much.' Oh dear! I wish the children weren't back so dreadfully soon."

Yes, the children and Anne had returned, and Harold had to say good-bye, and Charlotte herself had to retrace her steps homewards. But her walk had not been for nothing, and there was a new peace, a new quiet, and a new hope in her heart. The fact was, she just simply, without doubt or difficulty, believed the child. Little Harold Home had brought her some news. The news was strange, new, and wonderful; she did not doubt it. Faithful, and therefore full of faith, was this simple and upright nature. There was no difficulty in her believing a fact. What Harold said was a fact. She was one of those whom Jesus loved. Straight did this troubled soul fly to the God of consolation. Her religion, from being a dead thing, began to live. She was not friendless, she was not alone, she had a friend who, knowing absolutely all, still loved. At that moment Charlotte Harman put her hand into the hand of Christ.

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