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which all extraneous and trifling accomplishments were rigorously pared away by the terrible Uncle Hardman, who ruled over every part of the household, although not belonging to it. Sawyer's naturally weak and indulgent mind was much under his sway, and she followed his biddings implicitly. Under his supervision Lota was trained to eat the food "convenient for her" in a standing position, in order that she might have humility of mind; the luxuriant spirals of her brown curls were kept carefully cropped; he even presided in person over the shaping of her aprons and frocks to a pattern of his own devising, the most wonderful and fearful that ever disfigured the person of a child. All works of fiction, intimate friends, every thing, that savored of frivolity and vain amusement, were prohibited, and from earliest childhood the jingle of his heavy watch-chain was to Lota's ears as a knell which rang the defeat of all her small plans and wishes.
But neither plain food, strict routine, nor the lectures modelled like old-fashioned discourses, with many heads and the most personal of applications, with which she was from time to time favor ed, checked or dimmed the sweet luxuriant life which bloomed in that grim nursery. Her Indian birthplace rather than the New England parentage lit the warm glow in Lota's cheek, gave the alternate fire and dew to her wine-brown eyes and waved in the undulating grace of her light figure. Full of bright, sudden impulse, quick imaginations which no repression could chill, a warmth of affection which clung, inevitably, as a morning-glory, to the nearest support, she blossomed by the side of her guardians, a light and beauty in the house never known before. And one day Mrs. Sawyer waked up to the fact that here was her charge, almost a woman grown, getting prettier every day, and more necessary to her comfort; and yet it was a duty to send her away, to give her up to the vocation for which she was destined; and to make the new charm of her life a sacrifice to the cause
which claimed and deserved her. Lota must be a missionary!
The decision was precipitated by one of those small events on which Destiny hinges--the advent of M. Duroc, "from Paris," who announced to the inhabitants of B-that he would open classes for instruction in the polite art of dancing.
Most of the girls in school were to join. Lota, coming home in a glow of hope and anticipation, made her innocent request that she might do so too. A horrified council of war was at once held; the indications of mutiny on the part of the poor child were summarily put down by Uncle Hardman, who first silenced Lota, and then made her cry by insisting that her parents (whom he never saw) had uniformly wished her to be a missionary, and that dancing was a device of Satan to ruin souls. Finally, the child was peremptorily informed that in two weeks she would proceed to the famous seminary at Middlebrook, from which so many sainted sisters have gone forth to foreign lands.
The tradition of Lota's whole life had not been without effect. She loved her parents' memory; she was told that their lot ought to be her choice. The sensitive young conscience responded to what seemed the call of duty. At sixteen little Lota Page accepted the destiny prepared for her, and started for Middlebrook with the avowed purpose of fitting for a missionary life.
It was as a dream; the bustle of preparation; the new clothes to which a humid dressmaker imparted an air of cheerful worldliness infinitely grievous to Uncle Hardman when he came to reflect upon them afterward; the unwonted tenderness called forth in "aunt's" manner by the prospect of separation; and, as in a dream, she found herself driving up to the door of Middlebrook Seminary, a guardian on either side, and a sudden sinking of the heart within her, the like of which she had never experienced before in her life.
It was early dusk. Lights already glimmered in the windows of the large
building, square and bare, with the usual top-heavy cupola and disproportionate pillars supporting the slight piazza. From within came a jingle of pianos. They were admitted, led into a formal parlor, and in another minute confronted with Miss Usher, the principal of the school.
Small, slight, plain, with quiet gray eyes, and hair whose mingled brown and silver threads were quietly banded away from the thin face, there was nothing in either voice or aspect to explain the remarkable influence this woman had always exercised over her pupils. But those small gray eyes were full of a latent power; they could flash with generous indignation or more generous sympathy. And the flexible thin lips bore the lines of a will whose tempered strength had been tested against hundreds of plastic youthful natures, and rarely failed in the contest. There was kindness in the face; the voice was soft; but for all that Lota, as she looked at Miss Usher, felt herself more than ever in the grasp of destiny.
"I am glad to see you, my dear child," was her greeting. "I love all my girls; but dearest of all to me are those who, like you, come with the noblest purpose in the world in view. What particular field have you in contemplation?"
"I-I don't quite know." faltered Lota; but Uncle Hardman spared her the trouble of further explanation. With a majestic sweep of his hand he interposed:
"An object, madam, is indeed the first requisite for successful labor; but that object need not be specific. Charlotte has devoted herself to a great cause. We place her in your hands to be moulded and made fit for it. As wax in the hand of the potter" (this mixed metaphor seemed to give the old gentleman especial pleasure; he repeated it); 66 as wax in the hands of the potter, she comes to you. Take her; direct her energies, indicate her duty, suggest her path."
Miss Usher's eyes glowed with satisfaction. This was what she had wish
ed, but had not dared to hope. This young, intelligent being, given so utterly over into her keeping, seemed a Godsend almost too good to be true.
"Certainly, there is little good in working," she said, "without being sure of what you are working for, especially in this particular work. There is a language to be learned; and a difficult one like Hindostanee, Arabic, or Chinese takes time. If you leave the choice to me, I unhesitatingly pronounce for Chinese. The Chinese Mission is in need of reënforcement; a vast work remains to be done in that great empire; and I am fortunate enough to command the services of a competent teacher, the Reverend Mr. Garth, who is home on a three years' furlough on account of his health.”
"Admirable! my dear madam, admirable!" responded Uncle Hardman. Admirable," more gently Mrs. Sawyer. Lota said nothing.
"One question more," went on Miss Usher. "Is Miss Page engaged to be married?"
"Certainly not, madam; certainly not. Our effort has been to keep her from such things; and I trust the idea has never entered her head!"
"But," said Miss Usher, with some surprise, "you know a young girl cannot go alone to a foreign country to teach the gospel! I asked the question merely because some of my pupils come to me with their minds already led to a special field in connection with a special laborer. For the others--the Lord opens the way when the right time comes."
"What can she mean," thought poor Lota; she dared not ask. A kiss from Mrs. Sawyer, a majestic blessing from Mr. Hardman,—they are gone, and she is on her way up four long flights of stairs, to the room which is to represent for two years all her ideas of home.
It was the home of three other girls as well. The beds, bureaus, chairs, pegs for dresses were in such close neighborhood that Lota's mind reverted with sudden respect to the ample corner
among the tombs at home of which she had hitherto been occupant.
A girl was in the window, sitting with both elbows on the sill in an attitude of the deepest dejection. For some time after Miss Usher had departed she kept silence, eyeing Lota furtively from time to time, as she moved about, unpacking and arranging her possessions. At last she broke out suddenly with the question, "Ain't you homesick?"
"Homesick? No. I don't think I am." "Oh dear," said the girl, "I should think you'd be. I feel dreadfully. How can you help it?
"But how can I help it if I'm not ?" asked Lota, laughing.
"Dear," said the girl, "I think you're real hard-hearted;" and she gave vent to a series of sniffs, supposed to embody emotion.
"Now, Alice Gibbs, don't be a goose," exclaimed a bright voice at the door. "The idea of going on in that way to Miss Page before she has got her bonnet off even. I should think you would be ashamed. It is Miss Page, isn't it?" and with a smile the new-comer held out a hand.
"Yes. And you?"
"I'm room-mate No. 2, and my name is Hattie Russell. This disconsolate young person is Miss Alice Gibbs of Bloomsburg, room-mate No. 1, who, I am afraid, hasn't had the manners to introduce herself."
"And how about No. 3?" asked Lota, quite at her case again.
"Oh! her name is Gray," replied room-mate No. 2, with a queer twist to her mouth. "Rose Gray. She will be your intimate among us, I suppose; but I hope we shall be good friends for all that."
"But what makes you suppose so?" "Oh! she's one of your kind, you know. She is going to Ceylon, and is engaged to James Fairbanks, the missionary. He's had two wives already, and is coming home in the Spring for Rose."
"Oh!" said Lota. A shadow seemed to fall on her. She remembered Miss Usher's words. It was all a puzzle.
"I'll tell you what," remarked Miss Russell a week later, as she and Lota walked the long piazza in recreationtime, their arms about each other's waists; "you're not one bit like what I thought you were going to be." "Am I not? how?"
Why, you see, we had all heard about you--Miss Usher told some of the girls,—and how you were the child of a missionary, and from your cradle had been fetched up for the work—your pap made of old missionary heralds boiled to a pulp, or something like that. And of course I pictured you a meek mouse like Rose Gray, or else a grim creature like Miss Paul, and thought your talk would be all about the dimensions of the Great Wall of China, or the philosophy of-what's his name -you know who I mean-the great Chinese philosopher, and that sort of thing." "Good gracious! I don't wonder you were frightened. Well?"
Well, you are just the greatest darling in school, with your lovely brown eyes, and all. And the idea of your going on a mission to be eaten alive is the most burning shame that ever was." And half crying, Miss Russell showered her friend with kisses.
"Don't, Hattie, please," pleaded Lota. "The Chinese don't eat people; and it is a great thing to be able to go and teach them what is good. I haven't any father and mother, you know; and it seems only right that my life should be spent as theirs was;" and the brown eyes dilated for a moment with enthusiasm.
"Fiddlestick!" pursued the irrepressible Hattie. "Somebody else put that idea into your head; it isn't a bit natural for a young thing like you. You may say you like it, if you want to; but I shan't believe you. And there's one thing I know you won't like; and I wouldn't put up with it myself if I was twenty missionaries; and that's having a young man come here and try me on, and decide if I suit his plans, and then marry me as a matter of course and convenience. I never could stand that; and as for you, you are ten thousand
was no more alluded to, time passed quickly and cheerfully. The atmosphere of school was far more home-like than that of any home she had ever known.
times too pretty and sweet. You ought to be fallen in love with and courted like other girls. And it's a burning shame you can't." "What do you mean?" gasped poor Only twice during eighteen months did Lota.
"Why, don't you know? They send the young men who are going to be missionaries, up here to find their wives. Oh, it's such fun! And yet so dreadful! Then they sit at table, and Miss Usher points at this one or that with her fork and describes their qualifications-how they speak Coptic, or Persian, or what not. And the poor young men color so, and wriggle in their chairs. One time it was perfectly awful! A man came who wanted a wife to go to Bengal. And there was Miss Tibbitts, who spoke Hindosantee very well; and just because she had red hair and was homely as a hedge fence he wouldn't have her, and went away; and in the end Miss Tibbitts married Mr. Smith, who had had four wives before, and went to South Africa; so, of course, her Hindosantee wasn't of the least use in the world. Miss Usher was just as mad as could be about it. But what on earth is the matter, darling?" for Lota had sunk upon a bench, and was giving way to a passion of tears.
"Oh, I can't, I never can," she sobbed. Why did they never tell me about these dreadful things! I never can sit there and be pointed at with a fork! Oh!" And between laughter and crying she became half hysterical, while the repentant Hattie tried in vain to soothe her.
The shock was not lasting. Miss Usher had the gift of inspiring enthusiasm, and her nature was of that rich, strong sort which both commands and Fanatically zealous on one point, she had the powerful common sense of a man and the genuine tenderness of a woman on all others. Lota learned to love her dearly, and applied herself to study with an energy born of the new influence. Without exactly learning to "construe tea-pots," as Hattie called it, she made fair progress in Chinese; and as the "coming man
she visit B-, and she returned from each visit with a sense of relief and pleasure.
The bell had just rung for tea one evening, when up-stairs, two steps at a time, her cheeks blazing, her eyes full of angry tears, rushed Hattie Russell; and arresting Lota at the door, dragged her back into the room, sank down upon the bed, and began to sob and cry as if her heart was breaking.
"What's the matter, darling? what is it? do tell me," importuned Lota"; but for a moment only gulps and gasps replied; then,
"It's a shame, it's a shame," cried the impetuous girl, springing up and catching her friend by the neck; "but any way you shan't go down unprepared. He's come, Lota!"
"Mr. Ware, the missionary who is going to Shanghai in August; the man Miss Usher told us about the other day, don't you remember? I felt it in my bones then! I declare I did! and when I found out who it was in the parlor, I thought I should have dropped. The door was open, and I listened with all my might as I went through the hall-I defy any one to help it-and Miss Usher was saying, 'I am sorry Miss Page will not be able to finish her term; but as you say, there is six months' voyage to study in―' and just then somebody shut the docr. Oh, Lota! if you go away from me to China I shall die."
ed, one white and trembling, the other flushed and eager. A suppressed excitement could be felt in the air; every one guessed the object of the visit; and every eye, with more or less directness, was fixed on the visitor-all but Lota's. She could not look up; and a vision of the hand of destiny, armed with a fork, came between her and the food upon her plate! As if spell-bound, she sat with burning cheeks and ice-cold hands. Such twitches came into the points of her fingers. At last she could endure it no longer; with some wild idea of flight, she raised her eyes, but an astonishing vision at the head of the table arrested them, and whereas she had not dared to look before, she now could not for her life look away.
Two men were at table, one on either side of Miss Usher-two young men, each apparently about twenty-four; both gray-eyed and light-haired, and yet as curiously unlike as June is to November, or a funeral psalm to a merry madrigal.
From the thin, weary face of one, with its drained eyes and pinched, set lips, Lota's eyes turned upon the other. It was a face which suggested the very fulness and content of life, hearty, manly life. Life danced in the wavy brown hair; life brimmed the eyes with sunshine; but it was not careless, unreasoning life. Strength and sweetness clasped hands in the expression; it was a face which a child, a dog, would have turned to without hesitation, and which a woman's instinct could not be long in reading. With a sudden glow of heart, Lota felt that her future was by many degrees less burdensome than she had feared-if only-but how much lay folded in that "if."
Her senses seemed sharpened for the moment. From the very end of the long room, amid the clatter of fifty forks and spoons, she caught Miss Usher's voice distinctly: "Shall I give you another cup, Mr. Ware?"
Oh dear! How her heart sank; it was the wrong one. One moment later, and the suspense was renewed; for, turning to the other, Miss Usher pur
sued her hospitations: "Is yours quite agreeable, Dr. Ware?"
Which was it? Was ever riddle so horribly interesting before? Absorbed, her large eyes fixed upon the two, Lota had almost forgotten her own connection with the scene, when a gesture recalled her. Slight and rapid as it was, it sufficed to bring both pairs of gray eyes upon her, one with the cool scrutiny which bespoke a deliberate object, the other with a sudden glance of compassion and interest, which like lightning flashed conviction upon her soul. She knew her fate! Pale and trembling, she sat almost unconscious till the rustle of a general uprising showed the ending of the meal, and then, dragged up-stairs by the indignant and sympathizing Hattie, she found herself at last free to expend her excitement in tears.
Poor Lota! this was the beginning of woes. That evening, in private conference, and with many congratulations, Miss Usher broke the news of her good fortune. "Mr. Ware, my dear, the gentleman who drank tea with us, is to sail for Shanghai in August. His character and references are unexceptionable; he has been most thoroughly trained; in fact, I have rarely seen a young man who pleased me so much; his whole soul seems in his work. I confess I am sorry to have you lose the rest of your course with Dr. Garth; but Mr. Ware knows the language, and you will have every opportunity of study during the voyage, which is a long one."
"But, Miss Usher," faltered Lota, appalled by the finality of her tone, "I don't know Mr. Ware. Surely you don't mean that I must go with him, unless when we meet he likes me and I like him?"
"Oh no, dear child; of course, of course; but you are sure to like him; graduated at the head of his class! full of energy and right-mindedness; there'll be no difficulty of that sort. You noticed him at tea, did you not?"
"There were two gentlemen at tea, I think."
"Oh yes," indifferently. "Mr. Ware brought his cousin with him; a young