"Ah! that is well," said Ruth. "I've heard," she added, "that Hannah Stanwood is sick. John was up there, last night, — I must go there tomorrow."
"John can come in here to his meals, if thee needs to stay all day," suggested Rachel.
"Thank thee, Rachel; will see, tomorrow; but, here comes Simeon."
Simeon Halliday, a tall, straight, muscular man, in drab coat and pantaloons, and broad-brimmed hat, now entered.
"How is thee, Ruth?" he said, warmly, as he spread his broad open hand for her little fat palm; "and how is John?"
"O! John is well, and all the rest of our folks," said Ruth, cheerily.
"Any news, father?" said Rachel, as she was putting her biscuits into the oven.
"Peter Stebbins told me that they should be along tonight, with friends," said Simeon, significantly, as he was washing his hands at a neat sink, in a little back porch.
"Indeed!" said Rachel, looking thoughtfully, and glancing at Eliza.
"Did thee say thy name was Harris?" said Simeon to Eliza, as he reentered.
Rachel glanced quickly at her husband, as Eliza tremulously answered "yes;" her fears, ever uppermost, suggesting that possibly there might be advertisements out for her.
"Mother!" said Simeon, standing in the porch, and calling Rachel out.
"What does thee want, father?" said Rachel, rubbing her floury hands, as she went into the porch.
"This child's husband is in the settlement, and will be here tonight," said Simeon.
"Now, thee doesn't say that, father?" said Rachel, all her face radiant with joy.
"It's really true. Peter was down yesterday, with the wagon, to the other stand, and there he found an old woman and two men; and one said his name was George Harris; and from what he told of his history, I am certain who he is. He is a bright, likely fellow, too."
"Shall we tell her now?" said Simeon.
"Let's tell Ruth," said Rachel. "Here, Ruth, — come here."
Ruth laid down her knitting-work, and was in the back porch in a moment.
"Ruth, what does thee think?" said Rachel. "Father says Eliza's husband is in the last company, and will be here tonight."
A burst of joy from the little Quakeress interrupted the speech. She gave such a bound from the floor, as she clapped her little hands, that two stray curls fell from under her Quaker cap, and lay brightly on her white neckerchief.
"Hush thee, dear!" said Rachel, gently; "hush, Ruth! Tell us, shall we tell her now?"
"Now! to be sure, — this very minute. Why, now, suppose 't was my John, how should I feel? Do tell her, right off."
"Thee uses thyself only to learn how to love thy neighbor, Ruth," said Simeon, looking, with a beaming face, on Ruth.
"To be sure. Isn't it what we are made for? If I didn't love John and the baby, I should not know how to feel for her. Come, now do tell her, — do!" and she laid her hands persuasively on Rachel's arm. "Take her into thy bed-room, there, and let me fry the chicken while thee does it."
Rachel came out into the kitchen, where Eliza was sewing, and opening the door of a small bed-room, said, gently, "Come in here with me, my daughter; I have news to tell thee."
The blood flushed in Eliza's pale face; she rose, trembling with nervous anxiety, and looked towards her boy.
"No, no," said little Ruth, darting up, and seizing her hands. "Never thee fear; it's good news, Eliza, — go in, go in!" And she gently pushed her to the door which closed after her; and then, turning round, she caught little Harry in her arms, and began kissing him.
"Thee'll see thy father, little one. Does thee know it? Thy father is coming," she said, over and over again, as the boy looked wonderingly at her.
Meanwhile, within the door, another scene was going on. Rachel Halliday drew Eliza toward her, and said, "The Lord hath had mercy on thee, daughter; thy husband hath escaped from the house of bondage."
The blood flushed to Eliza's cheek in a sudden glow, and went back to her heart with as sudden a rush. She sat down, pale and faint.
"Have courage, child," said Rachel, laying her hand on her head. "He is among friends, who will bring him here tonight."
"Tonight!" Eliza repeated, "tonight!" The words lost all meaning to her; her head was dreamy and confused; all was mist for a moment.
When she awoke, she found herself snugly tucked up on the bed, with a blanket over her, and little Ruth rubbing her hands with camphor. She opened her eyes in a state of dreamy, delicious languor, such as one who has long been bearing a heavy load, and now feels it gone, and would rest. The tension of the nerves, which had never ceased a moment since the first hour of her flight, had given way, and a strange feeling of security and rest came over her; and as she lay, with her large, dark eyes open, she followed, as in a quiet dream, the motions of those about her. She saw the door open into the other room; saw the supper-table, with its snowy cloth; heard the dreamy murmur of the singing tea-kettle; saw Ruth tripping backward and forward, with plates of cake and saucers of preserves, and ever and anon stopping to put a cake into Harry's hand, or pat his head, or twine his long curls round her snowy fingers. She saw the ample, motherly form of Rachel, as she ever and anon came to the bedside, and smoothed and arranged something about the bedclothes, and gave a tuck here and there, by way of expressing her good-will; and was conscious of a kind of sunshine beaming down upon her from her large, clear, brown eyes. She saw Ruth's husband come in, — saw her fly up to him, and commence whispering very earnestly, ever and anon, with impressive gesture, pointing her little finger toward the room. She saw her, with the baby in her arms, sitting down to tea; she saw them all at table, and little Harry in a high chair, under the shadow of Rachel's ample wing; there were low murmurs of talk, gentle tinkling of tea-spoons, and musical clatter of cups and saucers, and all mingled in a delightful dream of rest; and Eliza slept, as she had not slept before, since the fearful midnight hour when she had taken her child and fled through the frosty starlight.
She dreamed of a beautiful country, — a land, it seemed to her, of rest, — green shores, pleasant islands, and beautifully glittering water; and there, in a house which kind voices told her was a home, she saw her boy playing, free and happy child. She heard her husband's footsteps; she felt him coming nearer; his arms were around her, his tears falling on her face, and she awoke! It was no dream. The daylight had long faded; her child lay calmly sleeping by her side; a candle was burning dimly on the stand, and her husband was sobbing by her pillow.