Her Own People (1905)

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"Oh, yes, there is One," said Miss Channing gently. "God cares, Constance."

Constance gave a disagreeable little laugh.

"That sounds like Miss Williams—she is so religious. God doesn't mean anything to me, Miss Channing. I've just the same resentful feeling toward him that I have for all the world, if he exists at all. There, I've shocked you in good earnest now. You should have left me alone, Miss Channing."

"God means nothing to you because you've never had him translated to you through human love, Constance," said Miss Channing seriously. "No, you haven't shocked me—at least, not in the way you mean. I'm only terribly sorry."

"Oh, never mind me," said Constance, freezing up into her reserve again as if she regretted her confidences. "I'll get along all right. This is one of my off days, when everything looks black."

Miss Channing walked on in silence. She must help Constance, but Constance was not easily helped. When school reopened, she might be able to do something worthwhile for the girl, but just now the only thing to do was to put her in the way of a pleasant vacation.

"You spoke of boarding," she said, when Constance paused at the door of her boarding-house. "Have you any particular place in view? No? Well, I know a place which I am sure you would like. I was there two summers ago. It is a country place about a hundred miles from here. Pine Valley is its name. It's restful and homey, and the people are so nice. If you like, I'll give you the address of the family I boarded with."

"Thank you," said Constance indifferently. "I might as well go there as anywhere else."

"Yes, but listen to me, dear. Don't take your morbidness with you. Open your heart to the summer, and let its sunshine in, and when you come back in the fall, come prepared to let us all be your friends. We'd like to be, and while friendship doesn't take the place of the love of one's own people, still it is a good and beautiful thing. Besides, there are other unhappy people in the world—try to help them when you meet them, and you'll forget about yourself. Good-by for now, and I hope you'll have a pleasant vacation in spite of yourself."

Constance went to Pine Valley, but she took her evil spirit with her. Not even the beauty of the valley, with its great balmy pines, and the cheerful friendliness of its people could exorcise it.

Nevertheless, she liked the place and found a wholesome pleasure in the long tramps she took along the piney roads.

"I saw such a pretty spot in my ramble this afternoon," she told her landlady one evening. "It is about three miles from here at the end of the valley. Such a picturesque, low-eaved little house, all covered over with honeysuckle. It was set between a big orchard and an old-fashioned flower garden with great pines at the back."

"Heartsease Farm," said Mrs. Hewitt promptly. "Bless you, there's only one place around here of that description. Mr. and Mrs. Bruce, Uncle Charles and Aunt Flora, as we all call them, live there. They are the dearest old couple alive. You ought to go and see them, they'd be delighted. Aunt Flora just loves company. They're real lonesome by times."

"Haven't they any children?" asked Constance indifferently. Her interest was in the place, not in the people.

"No. They had a niece once, though. They brought her up and they just worshipped her. She ran away with a worthless fellow—I forget his name, if I ever knew it. He was handsome and smooth-tongued, but he was a scamp. She died soon after and it just broke their hearts. They don't even know where she was buried, and they never heard anything more about her husband. I've heard that Aunt Flora's hair turned snow-white in a month. I'll take you up to see her some day when I find time."

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