Chapter XXXIII. The Real Haven
 

Lois rose early that morning and attended to numerous household affairs. It was necessary for her to keep busy, as her mind was always calmer when her hands were employed. She had the feeling that the day would be an unusual one, and that much would happen before its close. She could not rid her mind of this idea, and she mentioned it to Margaret over the breakfast table.

"Do you believe in premonitions?" she asked.

"In a way I do," was the reply. "Strange things happen sometimes, you know. I, too, have a peculiar feeling this morning that we are to hear great news today. Everything is so still just now, with not a leaf nor a blade of grass aquiver. See how the fog rests upon the river through which the sun is trying to break. There will be a heavy wind this afternoon, mark my word. I have often noticed it to be so. It is the rule rather than the exception. And it may be the case with us. The quietness of the morning may give place to excitement before night."

"You are quite a philosopher," Lois laughingly remarked.

"Not at all, dear. I am merely an observer, and I notice that what happens in nature around us is often true in our own lives. The law which governs the waves of the ocean affects in a similar manner the ripples of a tiny pool. I am going to make a prophecy now."

"Let it be a good one."

"Certainly. I am going to predict that this afternoon will bring us the excitement of joy, and that there will be a happy company seated at this table for dinner. How is that for a prophecy?"

"I hope it will come true," Lois replied with a smile.

"Do you care for a walk this morning?" she asked.

"No, I think not. I have some needle-work to finish, and I do so like that shady corner of the verandah. But don't you stay in on my account."

"I'm afraid I couldn't content myself in any one place this morning," and Lois gazed thoughtfully out of the window. "I am so restless that I must be on the move. I shall visit the Haven first and then go for the mail. We should hear something from your father."

Lois enjoyed the walk up along the shaded lane, and when she was almost to the main highway she sat down under a large tree and looked out upon the river. The last trace of fog was slowly lifting and not a ripple disturbed the surface of the water. She longed to be out there in her boat and made up her mind to go for a row during the afternoon. She thought of the day Jasper had rescued her and Margaret. What was he doing now? she wondered. Perhaps he was sitting in his lonely cell thinking of her. The thought brought a flush to her cheeks and a sweet peace to her heart. No doubt he had received her letter, and that would tell him that she had not forgotten him.

She found the captain in his accustomed place upon the verandah.

"You are early this morning," was his salutation as he took the pipe from his mouth.

"Why shouldn't I be?" she asked, as she sat down by his side. "Wouldn't it be a pity to stay indoors a morning like this?"

"Sure it would. But you are lucky to be able to walk about. Look at me; nothing but a cripple who must stick to this one place with never a chance of moving around."

"But you don't need to, Captain. People come to see you, and you know all that is going on. You held quite a reception yesterday afternoon."

"Indeed I did. And I have been thinking very much about what I heard. It is wonderful. I do hope they have caught that rascal."

"Have you seen Betty lately?" Lois enquired.

"We expect her to-night. She is coming to stay a few days with us. It will be good to have her here again, for we miss her very much."

"Have you any idea what she is going to do?"

"Her mind is set upon being a nurse, so I understand. She'll make a good one, mark my word. The way she took to old David and looked after him was a marvel."

Mrs. Peterson now came from the house and joined in the conversation.

"You must excuse me, dear," she apologised, "but I haven't had time to dress up this morning. Betty is coming to-night, and I want to get some cakes and pies made."

"You won't have to work so hard when you get your money," Lois replied. "I suppose you have heard nothing more about it?"

"Only that we're to get a thousand a year. Isn't it wonderful! It seems that it must be all a dream. At first we couldn't understand where so much money was to come from. But after what Mr. Westcote told us it is all clear. Betty and her mother are to get the same amount each, so I believe. Poor old David! We little realised what he would do for us when we took him to board. I did hear that Mr. Jasper is to come in for a large share. I hope he does, anyway, for he deserves it."

"Have you heard who will get the balance of the money, property, or whatever it is?" Lois asked.

"Why, certainly. Don't you know?" Mrs. Peterson asked in astonishment.

"No, I have not the least idea."

"Well, isn't that strange! Why, the bulk of the property is to go to you and Mr. Jasper."

At these words Lois' eyes opened wide with amazement, and she felt that she had not heard aright.

"To me?" she gasped.

"So I understand. We didn't mention it to you, thinking that you knew all about it. But isn't it wonderful what strange things have happened in such a short time?"

Lois made no reply, for her mind was too much agitated. She wished to be by herself that she might think over this remarkable piece of news. Bidding the captain and his wife good-bye, she walked slowly down the road toward the store. Surely there had been some mistake, she reasoned. Why should anything have been left to her? What had she done to merit it? She wished that David had not done such a thing. It would mean a great responsibility, and she did not feel equal to the task.

Reaching the store, her attention was diverted for a time by the brief note she received from Mr. Westcote telling of the arrest of Sydney Bramshaw. This was very gratifying news, but she longed to hear some word about Jasper, and whether he would be released. This and what Mrs. Peterson had told her about the will occupied her mind all that afternoon. She was unusually silent, and Margaret was afraid that she was not well. She spent a couple of hours upon the river, but the water becoming rough she was unable to remain out any longer.

"Your prediction has come true, Margaret," she said when she had reached the house. "It is very rough out there now. You were quite right as regards the water, but I guess that is about as far as it goes. It is almost dinner time and here we are just as quiet as we were this morning."

"There is plenty of time yet," and Margaret looked up from her work with a smile. "I have had such a delightful day," she added. "See, I have done all this," and she held up a piece of needle-work for inspection.

"I wish that I could settle down to something definite," Lois sighed. "I have never been so restless in all my life as I have to-day. I have the feeling that something wonderful is about to happen, and that a great change is to take place in my life. If I were superstitious I should be quite uneasy."

"Is it a feeling of dread?" Margaret asked.

"No, not at all. I cannot explain it, for I never experienced anything like it before."

This conversation was suddenly interrupted by a long succession of raucous honks up the road, and in a few seconds a car swung around the corner of the house and stopped before the verandah.

Lois had risen and stepped forward. But she stopped short in amazement when she saw Jasper in the car, seated by Mr. Westcote's side. Her father and Dick were in the front seat, but she hardly noticed them. Jasper was free! That was the one idea which filled her mind. It seemed almost too good to be true. Just what happened next she was not altogether certain. She welcomed them all and listened to their voices, but she seemed to be living in a dream from which she would suddenly awaken. She took her place as usual at the head of the table, but made so many mistakes that Dick laughed at her.

"What's the matter, Lois?" he enquired. "You're surely strong on hot water. You've given me a cup of it instead of tea, and the rest you poured into the milk pitcher."

"Did I do that?" Lois asked in surprise. "Well, I guess I'm rattled, anyway. You have told me so many things during the last half hour that my brain is all in a whirl."

Jasper was as much excited as Lois, though outwardly he remained calm. He said very little, and let Mr. Westcote tell how their car had broken down and but for the timely arrival of Mr. Sinclair and Dick they would not have been able to reach their destination. He recalled his feeling of dismay when they were stalled, and he feared that he would not be able to see Lois that night. He did want to tell her how grateful he was for what she had done for him. But now he was near her and yet he had not told her. He had thought over the proper words he would say, but when he had taken her hand as she met him at the verandah steps, he did not utter them.

After dinner they all went out upon the verandah, and what a delightful time that was. It was a happy company, and for a while all cares were banished. It was a balmy evening, the wind of the afternoon having subsided, and all nature was hushed in repose as the shades of night began to steal over the land. It was the hour of enchantment, and while Mr. Sinclair and Mr. Westcote discussed matters relating to the work at the falls, Dick and Margaret strolled slowly down to the river.

Jasper and Lois thus found themselves sitting alone on the verandah steps.

"Suppose we pay a visit to the Haven," Jasper suggested. "It is a perfect night for a walk, and I know the captain and his wife will be glad to hear the news. Your father won't mind our leaving him, will he?"

"He won't realise that we have gone," Lois laughingly replied. "He is very happy just now."

Jasper and Lois were in no great hurry to reach the Haven. Their hearts were happy, and as they walked slowly along Jasper told Lois all that had happened to him since the day of his arrest.

"I can never thank you enough for sending me that letter of encouragement, and what you have done for me," he told her.

"Don't try to do so," Lois replied. "It was a joy to me to be able to do something."

They were standing beneath a big maple tree, and Lois was plucking at a wild flower she had just picked. Jasper suddenly reached out, caught both her hands in his and held them tight.

"Lois, Lois," he breathed, and his voice was intense with emotion, "I want you for my very own. I cannot live without you."

"Oh, look, you have crushed my flower," Lois remonstrated, while a nervous little laugh escaped her lips.

"That is too bad," and at once Jasper released her hands and placed his arms around her.

"Lois, I love you," he murmured. "I have loved you for years. Can you love me in return?"

In reply Lois lifted her flushed face to his and their lips met. The seal of their betrothal was set, and their young hearts were as one. Time to them was nothing now in the rapturous joy of their sweet pure love. Their past doubts, cares and trials were all ended. They had started forth to reach the Haven nestling on the hill and they found on the way the real Haven which they had long been seeking--the enchanted Haven of Love.