It chanced to be Mrs. Burnside herself who answered my ring at the door. In a few brief words I informed her of the circumstances which had caused me to leave Mrs. Leighton so suddenly; at the same time, asking her if she was willing to afford me a home for a short time, till I could obtain another situation?
“My dear Clara,” she replied, “to my home you are freely welcome for any length of time you may wish to remain. To-morrow we will talk further of the matter, but not another word to-night, for you look very much fatigued.”
The family consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Burnside, and an aunt of Mrs. Burnside’s, who resided with them. They had two daughters, but they had both married and removed a long distance from their early home. Mrs. Burnside offered to conduct me to my room, which offer I gladly accepted, for I wished to be alone. The excitement which had sustained me through the events of the past few hours had now subsided; and, when left alone in my room, I sat down to reflect calmly upon my situation. I could not but feel justified in the step I had taken; but I could not avoid a feeling of uneasiness when I reflected that I was now homeless. I did not wish to remain long with Mrs. Burnside, as I well knew they would accept of no compensation from me; and, for that reason, I felt the necessity of obtaining another situation as soon as possible; but I could come to no decision till after conversing with Mrs. Burnside upon the subject. After kneeling and imploring the protection and guidance of my Heavenly Father, I retired to rest, and, as I was worn out by the exciting events of the evening, sleep soon furnished a welcome relief from all anxious thoughts.
I was greeted kindly by Mr. and Mrs. Burnside the next morning, when we met at the breakfast table. The aunt, being somewhat of an invalid, did not usually take her morning meal with the family. The only allusion to my circumstances was made by Mr. Burnside, who said I had better defer any conversation upon the subject for the present, and that, in the meantime, he wished me to consider his house as my home.
About eleven o’clock that morning, as I was sitting in the room with Mrs. Russell, Mrs. Burnside’s aunt, the servant came up to inform me that a young gentleman was in the parlor, who wished to see me. Looking at the card which the girl handed me, I read the name of Willie Leighton. I was sorry to wound his feelings; but, when I left their dwelling, I firmly resolved that I would never intentionally meet with Willie again. I therefore requested the servant to inform Mr. Leighton that I was engaged. It was no easy matter for me to send this message to him; but my pride sustained me.
Two or three weeks passed quietly away. During this time, Birdie and Lewis twice came to see me, but whether by permission or by stealth I could not determine, and I would not enquire. Willie called repeatedly, but I never granted him an interview, as I deemed it best for both that we should not meet.