Lucy did not forget to visit Nelly’s stepmother, whose circumstances remained much the same as in former times. She did not seem much gratified by Lucy’s praises of Nelly’s good conduct. She had always predicted that Nelly would “come to no good,” and she did not like to have her opinions in such matters proved fallacious. Lucy, however, rather enjoyed dilating upon Nelly’s industry and usefulness, that Mrs. Connor might feel the mistake she had made, even in a worldly point of view, by her heartless conduct.
When the heat of the summer was subsiding into the coolness of September, Lucy and Stella prepared to return home,—not, however, without having revisited all the spots which had been the scenes of former excursions, and, in particular, the scene of the “strawberry picnic,” where every little event of the happy summer afternoon, now so long past, was eagerly recalled.
“And do you remember, Lucy,” asked Stella, “how hateful I was about poor Nelly, when we discovered her here? Oh, how wicked and heartless I used to be in those days! And I don’t believe I should ever have been any better if you hadn’t come to live with us!”
Her physical health had been very much benefited by her sojourn in the country, under the kind, motherly care of Mrs. Ford, who had fed her with cream and new milk till she declared she had grown quite fat. That, however, was only a relative expression. She was still very far from being the plump, blooming Stella of former times.
But the chief benefit she had gained was not to be discerned by the outward eye. It lay deep in her heart—the “pearl of great price,” which her wandering spirit had at last sought and found.
A Farewell Chapter.
“Come near and bless
us when we wake.
Ere through the world our way we take,
Till in the ocean of Thy love
We lose ourselves in heaven above.”
Though Mr. and Mrs. Brooke marked with much delight the improved appearance of their darling Stella, her medical attendant was far from considering the improvement a radical one, and strongly advised that she should be removed to a warmer climate for the winter. On her account, therefore, as well as on that of Sophy, who very much needed change of scene, it was decided that the family should spend the winter months in the south. Stella was anxious that her cousin should accompany them; but just at this time Lucy received a summons—by no means unwelcome—in another direction, in a letter from Mrs. Steele.
Her aunt had been feeling her strength fail very much during the past year, and expressed a very strong desire that her niece should come to her again, for a time at least. Lucy owed her aunt almost a daughter’s affection; and as she had not seen her brother Harry for nearly two years, and as her lessons at school must necessarily be discontinued, it seemed the best arrangement that she should accede to Mrs. Steele’s request, and go to the West under the escort which had been proposed for her,—that of a friend of Alick who had come eastward for his wife, and was soon to return to his prairie home.