A Sequel to Elsie's Womanhood
MARTHA FINLEY (FARQUHARSON)
Author of The Story of Elsie, Casella, Wanted, a Pedigree, Old-Fashioned Boy, etc.
"Sweet is the image of the brooding dove! Holy as heaven a mother's tender love! The love of many prayers and many tears, Which changes not with dim declining years— The only love which, on this teeming earth, Asks no return for passion's wayward birth."
In compliance with the expressed desire of many of Elsie's friends and admirers, the story of her life is continued in this, the fifth volume of the series.
When about to undertake its preparation the suggestion was made to the author that to bring in the doings of the Ku Klux would add interest to the story, and at the same time give a truer picture of life in the South during the years 1867-68 in which its events take place.
The published reports of the Congressional Committee of Investigation were resorted to as the most reliable source of information, diligently examined, and care taken not to go beyond the facts there given as regards the proceedings of the Klan, the clemency and paternal acts of the Government, or the kindly, fraternal feelings and deeds of the people of the North toward their impoverished and suffering brethren of the South.
These things have become matters of history: vice and crime should be condemned wherever found; and naught has been set down in malice; for the author has a warm love for the South as part and parcel of the dear land of her birth.
May this child of her brain give pain to none, but prove pleasant and profitable to all who peruse its pages, and especially helpful to young parents,
"Meantime a smiling offspring rises round, And mingles both their graces. By degrees The human blossom blows, and every day, Soft as it rolls along, shows some new charm, The father's lustre, and the mother's bloom." —Thomson's Seasons
"Mamma! Papa too!" It was a glad shout of a chorus of young voices as four pairs of little feet came pattering up the avenue and into the veranda; then as many ruby lips were held up for the morning kiss from the children's dearly loved father.
They had already had their half hour with mamma, which made so sweet a beginning of each day, yet she too must have a liberal share of the eagerly bestowed caresses; while Bruno, a great Newfoundland, the pet, playfellow, and guardian of the little flock, testified his delight in the scene by leaping about among them, fawning upon one and another, wagging his tail, and uttering again and again a short, joyous bark.
Then followed a merry romp, cut short by the ringing of the breakfast bell, when all trooped into the house, Harold riding on papa's shoulder, mamma following with Elsie, Eddie and Vi; while Dinah, with Baby Herbert in her arms; brought up the rear.
The children had been very gay, full of laughter and sweet innocent prattle, but a sudden hush fell upon them when seated about the table in the bright, cheerful breakfast parlor; little hands were meekly folded and each young head bent reverently over the plate, while in a few simple words which all could understand, their father gave God thanks for their food and asked his blessing upon it.
The Ion children were never rude even in their play, and their table manners were almost perfect; made the constant companions of cultivated, refined parents—whose politeness springing from genuine unselfishness, was never laid aside, but shown on all occasions and to rich and poor, old and young alike—and governed with a wise mixture of indulgence and restraint, mildness and firmness, they imitated the copies set before them and were seldom other than gentle and amiable in their deportment, not only toward their superiors, but to equals and inferiors also.
They were never told that "children should be seen and not heard," but when no guests were present, were allowed to talk in moderation; a gentle word or look of reproof from papa or mamma being quite sufficient to check any tendency to boisterousness or undue loquacity.
"I think we should celebrate this anniversary, Elsie," remarked Mr. Travilla, stirring his coffee and gazing with fond admiration into the sweet face at the opposite end of the table.
"Yes, sir, though we are rather late in thinking of it," she answered smilingly, the rose deepening slightly on her cheek as delicately rounded and tinted as it had been ten years ago.
Little Elsie looked up inquiringly. "What is it, papa? I do not remember."
"Do you not? Ten years ago to-day there was a grand wedding at the Oaks, and your mamma and I were there."
"I too?" asked Eddie.
"Yes, course, Eddie," spoke up five year old Violet, "grandpa would 'vite you and all of us; and I b'lieve I 'member a little about it."
"Me too," piped the baby voice of Harold, "me sat on papa's knee."
There was a general laugh, the two little prattlers joining in right merrily.
"I really don't remember that part of it, Harold," said papa, while wee Elsie—as she was often called by way of distinguishing her from mamma, for whom she was named—shook her curly head at him with a merry "Oh, you dear little rogue, you don't know what you are talking about;" and mamma remarked, "Vi has perhaps a slight recollection of May Allison's wedding."
"But this one at the Oaks must have been before I was born," said Elsie, "because you said it was ten years ago, and I'm only nine. O, mamma, was it your wedding?"
"Yes, daughter. Shall we invite our friends for this evening, Edward?"
"Yes, wife; suppose we make it a family party, inviting only relatives, connections and very intimate friends."
After a little more discussion it was decided they would do so; also that the children should have a full holiday, and while their mother was giving orders and overseeing the necessary preparations for the entertainment, papa should take them all in the roomy family carriage and drive over to the Oaks, Roselands, Ashlands and Pinegrove to give the invitations. Beside these near friends only the minister and his wife were to be asked; but as Adelaide and her family were at this time paying a visit to Roselands, and Lucy Ross was doing the same at her old home, and all the younger generation except the mere babies, were to be included in the invitation, should all accept it would be by no means a small assemblage.
Early hours were named for the sake of the little ones; guests to come at six, refreshments to be served at eight, and the Ion children, if each would take a nap in the afternoon, to be allowed to stay up till nine.
How delighted they were: how the little eyes danced and sparkled, and how eagerly they engaged to fulfill the conditions, and not to fret or look cross when summoned at nine, to leave the drawing-room and be put to bed.
"O, mamma, won't you wear your wedding dress?" cried little Elsie; "do, dear mamma, so that we may all see just how you looked when you were married."
Elsie smiled, "You forget, daughter, that I am ten years older now, and the face cannot be quite the same."
"The years have robbed it of none of its beauty," said Mr. Travilla.
"Ah, love is blind," she returned with a blush and smile as charming as those of her girlhood's days. "And the dress is quite out of date."
"No matter for that. It would gratify me as well as the children to see you in it."
"Then it shall be worn, if it fits or can be altered in season."
"Veil and all, mamma," pleaded Elsie, "it is so beautiful—Mammy showed it to me only the other day and told me you looked so, so lovely; and she will put the orange blossoms in your hair and on your dress just as they were that night; for she remembers all about it."
The children, ready dressed for their drive, were gathered in a merry group on the veranda, Eddie astride of Bruno, waiting for papa and the carriage, when a horse came cantering up the avenue, and Mr. Horace Dinsmore alighted and stepped into their midst.
"Oh, grandpa, what you turn for?" cried Harold in a tone of disappointment, "we was dus doin to 'vite you!"
"Yes, grandpa, it's a 'versary to-day" explained Vi.
"And mamma's going to be married over again," said Eddie.
"No, no; only to have a party and wear her wedding dress," corrected Elsie.
"Papa, good morning," cried their mother, coming swiftly through, the hall, "I'm so glad, always so glad to see you."
"I know it," he said, pressing a fatherly kiss on the sweet lips, then holding her off for an instant to gaze fondly into the fair face. "And it is ten years to-day since I gave Travilla a share in my treasure. I was thinking of it as I rode over and that you should celebrate this anniversary at your father's house."
"No, no, Dinsmore, you must be our guest," said Travilla, coming out and shaking hands cordially with his old friend. "We have it all arranged,—a family gathering, and Elsie to gratify us by wearing her bridal robes. Do you not agree with me that she would make as lovely a bride to-day as she did ten years ago?"
"Quite. I relinquish my plan for yours; and don't let me detain you and these eager children."
"I thank you: I will go then, as the invitations will be late enough with all the haste we can make."
The carriage was at the door and in a trice grandpa and papa had helped the little ones in: not even Baby Herbert was left behind, but seated on his mammy's lap crowed and laughed as merrily as the rest.
"Ah, mamma, you come too!" pleaded the little voices, as their father took his place beside them. "Can't mammy and Aunt Dicey and the rest know what to do without you to tell them?"
"Not this time, dears; and you know I must make haste to try on the dress, to see if it fits."
"Oh, yes, mamma!" and throwing a shower of kisses, they drove off.
"A carriage load of precious jewels," Elsie said, looking after it as it rolled away: "how the ten years have added to my wealth, papa."
She stood by his side, her hand on his arm, and the soft sweet eyes lifted to his were full of a content and gladness beyond the power of words to express.
"I thank God every day for my darling's happiness," he said low and tenderly, and softly smoothing her shining hair.
"Ah, it is very great, and my father's dear love forms no small part of it. But come in, papa, I want to consult you about one or two little matters; Edward and I rely very much upon your taste and judgment."
"To Roselands first," was Mr. Travilla's order to the coachman.
The old home of the Dinsmores, though shorn of the glory of its grand old trees, was again a beautiful place: the new house was in every respect a finer one than its predecessor, of a higher style of architecture, more conveniently arranged, more tastefully and handsomely furnished; lawns, gardens and fields had become neat and trim as in the days before the war, and a double row of young, thrifty trees bordered the avenue.
Old Mr. Dinsmore now resided there and gave a home to his two widowed and impoverished daughters—Mrs. Louise Conly, and Mrs. Enna Johnson—and their families.
These two aunts loved Elsie no better than in earlier years: it was gall and wormwood to them to know that they owed all these comforts to her generosity; nor could they forgive her that she was more wealthy, beautiful, lovely and beloved than themselves. Enna was the more bitter and outspoken of the two, but even Louise seldom treated her niece to anything better than the most distant and frigid politeness.
In a truly Christian spirit Elsie returned them pity and compassion, because of their widowhood and straitened circumstances, invited them to her house, and when they came received them with kindness and cordiality.
Her grandfather had grown very fond of her and her children, was often at Ion, and for his sake she occasionally visited Roselands. Adelaide's presence had drawn her there more frequently of late. The invitation Mr. Travilla carried was to the grandfather, three aunts and all their children.
Adelaide and Enna were in the drawing-room when the Ion carriage drew up at the door.
"There's Travilla, the old scalawag: how I hate him! Elsie too, I presume," exclaimed the latter, glancing from the window; "I'll leave you to entertain them," and she hastily left the room.
Adelaide flashed an indignant look after her, and hurried out to meet and welcome the callers. Mr. Travilla had alighted and was coming up the steps of the veranda.
"How d'ye do. I'm very glad to see you," cried Adelaide, extending her hand, "but where is Elsie?"
"Left at home for once," he answered gayly, "but I come this morning merely as her ladyship's messenger."
"But won't you come in; you and the children?"
"Thanks, no, if you will permit me just to deliver my message and go; for I am in haste."
Mrs. Allison accepted the invitation for herself and children with evident pleasure, engaged that her sisters would do the same; then went to the carriage window for a moment's chat with the little ones, each of whom held a large place in her warm heart. "Aunt Addie," said Elsie in an undertone, "mamma's going to wear her wedding dress to-night, veil and all."
"Is she? why that's an excellent idea. But don't tell it anywhere else that you go; it will be such a nice surprise to the rest if we can keep it a secret."
"That was a good suggestion of Aunt Addie's," Mr. Travilla remarked as they drove down the avenue. "Suppose we carry it out. How many of you can refrain from telling what mamma is to wear to-night? how many can I trust to keep a secret?"
"All of us, papa!" "Me, papa, me, I won't tell," cried the little voices in chorus.
"Yes, I believe I can trust you all," he answered in his bright cheery way. "Now on to the Oaks, Solon, then to Pinegrove, Springbrook, and Ashlands. That will be the last place, children, and as our hurry will then be over, you shall get out of the carriage and have a little time to rest before we start for home."
Re-entering the house Mrs. Allison went to the family sitting-room where she found both her sisters and several of the younger members of the household. "So they have asked for us?" exclaimed Louise in a tone of vexation, "at such an unreasonable hour too. Well," with a sigh of resignation, "I suppose we must show ourselves or papa will be displeased: so wonderfully fond of Elsie as he has grown of late."
"As well he may," returned Adelaide pointedly; "but Elsie is not here nor has any one inquired for you."
"No, I presume not," interrupted Enna with a sneer, "we are not worth inquiring for."
Indignation kept Adelaide silent for a moment, she was sorely tempted to administer a severe and cutting rebuke. But Enna was no longer a child, and controlling herself she calmly delivered Mr. Travilla's message.
"Oh, delightful! Cousin Elsie always does give such splendid parties, such elegant refreshments!" cried Virginia and Isadore Conly, girls of ten and twelve, "mamma, you'll never think of declining?"
"No, your grandfather wouldn't like it," said Louise, as anxious as her daughters to enjoy the entertainment, yet glad to save her pride, by putting her acceptance on the score of pleasing her father.
"And you'll go too, and take us, mamma, won't you?" anxiously queried Molly Percival, who was between her cousins in age.
"Of course I'll go; we all want our share of the good things, and the pleasure of seeing and being seen," answered Enna, scorning Louise's subterfuge; "and if you and Dick will promise to make me no trouble, I'll take you along. But Bob and Betty may stay at home, I'm not going to be bothered with them,—babies of five and three. But what shall we wear, Lu? I do say it's real mean in them to give us so short a notice. But of course Elsie enjoys making me feel my changed circumstances. I've no such stock of jewels, silks and laces as she, nor the full purse that makes it an easy matter for her to order a fresh supply at a moment's warning."
"You have all, and more than the occasion calls for," remarked Adelaide quietly; "it is to be only a family gathering."
"Though fools spurn Hymen's gentle powers, We, who improve his golden hours, By sweet experience know That marriage, rightly understood, Gives to the tender and the good A paradise below." —Cotton
Mr. Allison had fully kept his promise to Sophie, and Ashlands was again the fine old place it had been prior to the war. The family, consisting of the elder Mrs. Carrington, a young man, named George Boyd, a nephew of hers who had taken charge of the plantation, Sophie and her four children, had now been in possession for over a year.
Sophie, still an almost inconsolable mourner for the husband of her youth, lived a very retired life, devoting herself to his mother and his orphaned little ones.
Mrs. Ross, expecting to spend the fall and winter with them, had brought all her children and a governess, Miss Fisk, who undertook the tuition of the little Carringtons also during her stay at Ashlands, thus leaving the mothers more at liberty for the enjoyment of each other's society.
It was in the midst of school-hours that the Ion carriage came driving up the avenue, and Philip Ross, lifting his head from the slate over which he had been bending for the last half hour, rose hastily, threw down his pencil and hurried from the room, paying no attention to Miss Fisk's query, "Where are you going, Philip?" or her command, "Come back instantly: it is quite contrary to rules for pupils to leave the school-room during the hours of recitation, without permission." Indeed he had reached the foot of the staircase before the last word had left her lips; she being very slow and precise in speech and action, while his movements were of the quickest.
"What now is to be done in this emergency?" soliloquized the governess, unconsciously thinking aloud. "Miss Gertrude Ross," turning to a girl of nine whose merry blue eyes were twinkling with fun, "follow your brother at once and inform him that I cannot permit any such act of insubordination; and he must return instantly to the performance of his duties."
"Yes ma'am," and Gertrude vanished; glad enough of the opportunity to see for herself who were the new arrivals. "Phil," she said, entering the drawing-room where the guests were already seated, "Miss Fisk says you're an insubordination and must come back instantly."
"Gertude," said her mother, laughing "come and speak to Mr. Travilla and your little friends. Why yes, Phil, to be sure; how came you here when you ought to be at your lessons?"
"Because I wanted to see Elsie Travilla," he answered nonchalantly.
"Yes, but you should have asked for permission. I ought to send you back."
"But you won't, ma, you know that as well as I do. I'll not go back a step while Elsie stays."
"Well, well, it seems you are bound to have your own way, as usual," Lucy answered, half laughing, half sighing, then resumed her talk with Mr. Travilla.
Seeing that the little Travillas had listened to this colloquy in blank amazement, she felt much mortified at Phil's behavior, and on receiving the invitation threatened to leave him at home as a punishment. But this only made matters worse: he insisted that go he would, and if she refused permission he should never, never love her again as long as he lived. And she weakly yielded.
"Lucy," said her mother, when the guests were gone, and the children had left the room, "you are ruining that boy."
"Well, I don't see how I can help it, mamma how could I bear to lose his affection?"
"You are taking the very course to bring that about; it is the weakly indulged, not the wisely controlled, children who lose, first respect, and then affection for their parents. Look at Elsie's little family for instance; where can you find children ruled with a firmer hand, or more devotedly attached to their parents?"
Eddie was at that moment saying to his father, "Papa, isn't Phil Ross a very, very naughty boy, to be so saucy and disobedient to his mamma?"
"My son," answered Mr. Travilla with gentle gravity, "when you have corrected all Eddie Travilla's faults it will be time enough to attend to those of others." And the child hung his head and blushed for shame.
It was Mr. and Mrs. Horace Dinsmore who did the honors at Ion early in the evening, receiving and welcoming each bevy of guests, and replying to the oft repeated inquiry for the master and mistress of the establishment, that they would make their appearance shortly.
Elsie's children, most sweetly and becomingly dressed, had gathered about "Aunt Rosie," in a corner of the drawing-room, and seemed to be waiting with a sort of intense but quiet eagerness for the coming of some expected event.
At length every invited guest had arrived. All being so thoroughly acquainted, nearly all related, there was an entire absence of stiffness and constraint, and much lively chat had been carried on; but a sudden hush fell upon them, and every eye turned toward the doors opening into the hall, expecting—they knew not what.
There were soft foot-falls, a slight rustle of silk, and Adelaide entered followed by Mr. Travilla with Elsie on his arm, in bridal attire. The shimmering satin, rich, soft lace and orange blossoms became her well; and never, even on that memorable night ten years ago, had she looked lovelier or more bride-like; never had her husband bent a prouder, fonder look upon her fair face than now as he led her to the centre of the room, where they paused in front of their pastor.
A low murmur of surprise and delight ran round the room, but was suddenly stilled, as the venerable man rose and began to speak.
"Ten years ago to-night, dear friends, I united you in marriage. Edward Travilla, you then vowed to love, honor and cherish till life's end the woman whom you now hold by the hand. Have you repented of that vow? and would you be released?"
"Not for worlds: there has been no repentance, but my love has grown deeper and stronger day by day."
"And you, Elsie Dinsmore Travilla, also vowed to love, honor and obey the man you hold by the hand. Have you repented?"
"Never, sir; never for one moment." The accents were low, sweet, clear, and full of pleasure.
"I pronounce you a faithful man and wife: and may God, in his good providence, grant you many returns of this happy anniversary."
Old Mr. Dinsmore stepped up, kissed the bride and shook hands with the groom. "Blessings on you for making her so happy," he said in quivering tones.
His son followed, then the others in their turn, and a merry scene ensued.
"Mamma, it was so pretty, so pretty," little Elsie said, clasping her arms about her mother's neck, "and now I just feel as if I'd been to your wedding. Thank you, dear mamma and papa."
"Mamma, you are so beautiful, I'll just marry you myself, when I'm a man," remarked Eddie, giving her a hearty kiss, then gazing into her face with his great dark eyes full of love and admiration.
"I too," chimed in Violet. "No, no, I forget, I shall be a lady myself: so I'll have to marry papa."
"No, Vi, oo tan't have my papa; he's dus' my papa always," objected Harold, climbing his father's knee.
"What a splendid idea, Elsie," Lucy Ross was saying to her friend, "you have made me regret, for the first time, not having kept my wedding dress; for I believe my Phil and I could go through that catechism quite as well as you and Mr. Travilla. The whole thing, I suppose, was quite original?"
"Among us: my namesake daughter proposed the wearing of the dress: and the ceremony," turning to the minister, "was your idea, Mr. Wood, was it not?"
"Partly, Mrs. Travilla; your father, Mrs. Dinsmore, and I planned it together."
"Your dress is as perfect a fit as when made, but I presume you had it altered," observed Lucy, making a critical examination of her friend's toilet.
"No, not in the least," answered Elsie, smiling.
The banquet to which the guests were presently summoned, though gotten up so hastily, more than fulfilled the expectation of the Misses Conly, who as well as their mother and Aunt Enna did it ample justice; there was a good deal of gormandizing done by the spoiled children present, spite of feeble protests from their parents; but Elsie's well trained little ones ate contentedly what was given them, nor even asked for the rich dainties on which others were feasting; knowing that papa and mamma loved them too dearly to deny them any real good.
"Holloa, Neddie and Vi, why you've been overlooked!" said Philip Ross, coming toward the two little ones with a plate heaped up with rich viands, "you've nothing but ice cream and plain sugar biscuit; here, take some of this pound cake and these bonbons. They're delicious, I tell you!"
"No, no, thank you: mamma says pound cake is much too rich for us, and would make us sick," said Eddie.
"'Specially at night," added Vi, "and we're to have some bonbons to-morrow."
"Goodest little tots ever I saw," returned Philip laughing. "Ma wanted me to let 'em alone, but I told her I'd risk the getting sick," he added with a pompous grown-up air.
"Phil, you certainly are an insubordination, as Miss Fisk said," remarked his sister Gertrude, standing near, "I believe you think you're 'most a man, but it's a great mistake."
"Pooh, Ger! people that live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. I heard you telling ma you wouldn't wear the dress she'd laid out for you. Elsie Travilla, allow me the pleasure of refilling your saucer."
"No, thank you, Phil, I've had all mamma thinks good for me."
"Time to go to bed, chillens," said mammy, approaching the little group, "de clock jes gwine strike nine. Here, Uncle Joe, take dese empty saucers."
Promptly and without a murmur the four little folks prepared to obey the summons, but cast wistful longing glances toward mamma, who was gayly chatting with her guests on the other side of the room. Just then the clock on the mantel struck, and excusing herself she came quickly toward them. "That is right, dears; come and say good-night to papa and our friends; then go with mammy and mamma will follow in a few moments."
"What dear sweet creatures they are! perfect little ladies and gentlemen," remarked Mrs. Wood, as, after a courteous good-night to all, they went cheerfully away with their mammy.
"I wish mine were half as good," said Mrs. Ross.
"Now ma, don't expose us," cried Phil. "I've often heard you say Mrs. Travilla was a far better little girl than you; so of course her children ought to be better than yours."
"Some children keep their good behavior for company," sneered Enna, "and I've no doubt these little paragons have their naughty fits as well as ours."
"It is quite true that they are not always good," Elsie said with patient sweetness. "And now I beg you will all excuse me for a few moments, as they never feel quite comfortable going to bed without a last word or two with mamma."
"Before I'd make myself such a slave to my children!" muttered Enna, looking after her as she glided from the room. "If they couldn't be content to be put to bed by their mammies, they might stay up all night."
"I think Mrs. Travilla is right," observed the pastor; "the responsibilities of parents are very great. God says to each one, 'Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages.'"
"Delightful task! to rear the tender thought, To teach the young idea how to shoot, To pour the fresh instruction o'er the mind, To breathe the enlivening spirit and to fix The generous purpose in the glowing breast!" —THOMSON'S SEASONS.
The Ion little folks were allowed an extra nap the next morning, their parents wisely considering plenty of sleep necessary to the healthful development of their mental and physical powers. They themselves, however, felt no necessity for a like indulgence, their guests having departed in season to admit of their retiring at the usual hour, and were early in the saddle, keenly enjoying a brisk canter of several miles before breakfast.
On their return Elsie went to the nursery, Mr. Travilla to the field where his men were at work. Half an hour later they and their children met at the breakfast table.
Solon came in for orders.
"You may leave Beppo saddled, Solon," said Mr. Travilla, "and have Prince and Princess at the door also, immediately after prayers."
The last named were a pair of pretty little grey ponies belonging respectively to Eddie and his sister Elsie. They were gentle and well trained for both saddle and harness.
Nearly every day the children rode them, one on each side of their father, mounted on Beppo, his beautiful bay; and occasionally they drove behind them in the phaeton with their mother or some older person; and one or the other of the children would often be allowed to hold the reins when on a straight and level road; for their father wished them to learn to both ride and drive with ease and skill.
Little Elsie's great ambition was "to be like mamma" in the ease and grace with which she sat her horse, as well as in every thing else; while Eddie was equally anxious to copy his father.
Violet and Harold ran out to the veranda to watch them mount and ride away.
"Papa," said Vi, "shall we, too, have ponies and ride with you, when we're as big as Elsie and Eddie?"
"I intend you shall, little daughter, and if you and Harold will be here with your hats on, all ready to start at once when we come back, I will give you each a short ride before the ponies are put away."
"Oh, thank you, papa! we'll be sure to be ready," they answered, and ran in to their mother to tell her of papa's kind promise, and to have their hats put on.
Elsie, who was in the sitting-room with Herbert on her lap, rejoiced in their joy, and bade Dinah prepare them at once for their ride.
"Bress dere little hearts! dey grows hansomer ebery day," exclaimed an elderly negress, who had just come in with a basket on her arm.
"Don't say such things before them, Aunt Sally," said her mistress in a tone of gentle reproof, "their young hearts are only too ready to be puffed up with vanity and pride. Now what is your report from the quarter."
"Well, missus, dere's lots ob miseries down dere dis mornin'; ole Lize she's took wid a misery in her side; an' Uncle Jack, he got um in his head; ole Aunt Delie's got de misery in de joints wid de rheumatiz, an' ole Uncle Mose he's 'plainin ob de misery in his back; can't stan' up straight no how: an' Hannah's baby got a mighty bad cold, can't hardly draw its breff; 'twas took dat way in de night; an' Silvy's boy tore his foot on a nail."
"Quite a list," said Elsie. And giving her babe to Aunt Chloe, she selected a key from a bright bunch lying in a little basket, held by a small dusky maid at her side, unlocked a closet door and looked over her medical store. "Here's a plaster for Uncle Mose to put on his back, and one for Lize's side," she said, handing each article in turn to Aunt Sally, who bestowed it in her basket. "This small bottle has some drops that will do Uncle Jack's head good; and this larger one is for Aunt Delia. Tell her to rub her joints with it. There is medicine for the baby, and Hannah must give it a warm bath. If it is not better directly we must send for the doctor. Now, here is a box of salve, excellent for cuts, burns and bruises; spread some on a bit of rag, and tie it on Silvy's boy's foot. There, I think that is all. I'll be down after a while, to see how they are all doing," and with some added directions concerning the use of each remedy, Aunt Sally was dismissed.
Then Aunt Dicey, the housekeeper, came for her orders for the day, and such supplies from pantry and storehouse as were needed in carrying them out.
In the meantime the riding party had returned, Harold and Violet had been treated to a ride about the grounds, the one in his father's arms, Beppo stepping carefully as if he knew he carried a tender babe, the other on one of the ponies close at papa's side and under his watchful eye.
It was a rosy merry group mamma found upon the veranda, chatting to each other and laughing gayly as they watched their father cantering down the avenue on his way to the fields to oversee the work going on there.
They did not hear their mother's step till she was close at hand asking in her own sweet, gentle tones, "My darlings, had you a pleasant time?"
"O, yes, mamma, so nice!" and they gathered about her, eager to claim her ever ready sympathy, interested in their joys no less than their sorrows.
They had been taught to notice the beauties of nature—the changing clouds, the bright autumn foliage, plants and flowers, insects, birds, stones; all the handiwork of God; and the elder ones now never returned from walk or ride without something to tell of what they had seen and enjoyed.
It was surprising how much they learned in this easy pleasant way, how much they gained almost imperceptibly in manners, correctness of speech, and general information, by this habit of their parents of keeping them always with themselves and patiently answering every proper question. They were encouraged not only to observe, but to think, to reason, and to repeat what they had learned; thus fixing it more firmly in their minds. They were not burdened with long tasks or many studies, but required to learn thoroughly such as were set them, and trained to a love for wholesome mental food; the books put into their hands being carefully chosen by their parents.
Though abundantly able to employ a governess, Elsie preferred teaching her darlings her self. There was a large, airy room set apart for the purpose, and furnished with every suitable appliance, books, maps, globes, pictures, an orrery, a piano, etc., etc. There were pretty rosewood desks and chairs, the floor was a mosaic of beautifully grained and polished woods, the walls, adorned with a few rare engravings, were of a delicate neutral tint, and tasteful curtains draped each window.
Thither mother and children now repaired, and spent two happy hours in giving and receiving instruction.
Harold had not yet quite mastered the alphabet. His task was, of course, soon done, and he was permitted to betake himself to the nursery or elsewhere, with his mammy to take care of him; or if he chose to submit to the restraint of the school-room rather than leave mamma and the others, he might do so.
Violet could already read fluently, in any book suited to her years, and was learning to spell, write and sew.
Eddie was somewhat further advanced, and Elsie had begun arithmetic, history and geography; music, also, and drawing; for both of which she already shown decided talent.
School over, she had a half hour of rest, then went to the piano for an hour's practice, her mamma sitting by to aid and encourage her.
Mr. Travilla came in, asking, "Where is Eddie?"
"Here, papa," and the boy came running in with face all aglow with delight. "O, are you going to teach me how to shoot? I saw you coming with that pistol in your hand, and I'm so glad."
"Yes," his father answered, smiling at the eager face. "You will not be anxious, little wife?" turning to her with a tender loving look.
"No, my husband; surely I can trust him with you, his own wise, careful, loving father;" she answered with a confiding smile.
"O papa, mayn't I go along with you? and won't you teach me too?" cried Violet, who was always ready for any excitement.
"Not to-day, daughter: only Eddie and I are going now; but sometime I will teach you all. It is well enough for even ladies to handle a pistol on occasion, and your mamma is quite a good shot."
Vi looked disappointed but did not fret, pout, or ask a second time; for such things were not allowed in the family by either parent.
"Mamma's good little girl," the mother said, drawing her caressingly to her side, as Mr. Travilla and Eddie left the room. "I am going to walk down to the quarter this afternoon and will take you and your brother and sister with me, if you care to go."
"O, mamma, thank you! yes indeed, I do want to go," cried the little one, her face growing bright as its wont. "May we be there when the bell rings? 'cause I do like to see the dogs." And she clapped her tiny hands with a laugh like the chiming of silver bells.
Her sister laughed too, saying, "O, yes, mamma, do let us."
The Ion negroes were paid liberal wages, and yet as kind and generously cared for as in the old days of slavery; even more so, for now Elsie might lawfully carry out her desire to educate and elevate them to a higher standard of intelligence and morality.
To this end Mr. Travilla had added to the quarter a neat school-house, where the children received instruction in the rudiments during the day, the adults in the evening, from one of their own race whose advantages had been such as to qualify him for the work. There, too, the master and mistress themselves held a Sunday school on Sabbath afternoons.
Aunt Sally, the nurse, also instructed the women in housewifely ways, and Dinah taught them sewing; Elsie encouraging and stimulating them to effort by bestowing prizes on the most diligent and proficient.
Eddie came in from his first lesson in the use of firearms, flushed and excited.
"Mamma, I did shoot," he cried exultingly, "I shooted many times, and papa says I'll make a good shot some day if I keep on trying."
"Ah! did you hit the mark?"
"Not quite this time, mamma," and the bright face clouded slightly.
"Not quite," laughed Mr. Travilla, drawing his boy caressingly toward him. "If you please, mamma, do not question us too closely; we expect to do better another time. He really did fairly well considering his age and that it was his first lesson."
"Papa," asked Vi, climbing his knee, "were you 'fraid Eddie would shoot us if we went along?"
"I thought it safer to leave you at home."
"Papa, mamma's going to take us walking down to the quarter this afternoon; we're to be there when the bell rings, so we can see those funny dogs."
"Ah, then I think I shall meet you there and walk home with you."
This announcement was received with a chorus of exclamations of delight; his loved companionship would double their enjoyment; it always did.
'Twas a pleasant, shady walk, not too long for the older children, and Harold's mammy would carry him when he grew weary. They called at the school-room, witnessed the closing exercises, then visited all the aged and ailing ones, Elsie inquiring tenderly concerning their "miseries," speaking words of sympathy and consolation and giving additional advice; remedies too, and some little delicacies to whet the sickly appetites (these last being contained in a basket, carried by a servant).
As they left the last cabin, in the near vicinity of the post where hung the bell, which summoned the men to their meals, and gave notice of the hour for quitting work, they saw the ringer hurrying toward it.
"Oh, mamma, we're just in time!" cried Vi, "how nice!"
"Yes," said her sister, "mamma always knows how to make things come out right."
Every negro family owned a cur, and at the first tap of the bell they always, with a united yelp, rushed for the spot, where they formed a ring round the post, each seated on his haunches and brushing the ground with his tail, with a rapid motion, from side to side, nose in the air, eyes fixed upon the bell, and throat sending out a prolonged howl so long as the ringing continued. The din was deafening, and far from musical, but it was a comical sight, vastly enjoyed by the young Travillas, who saw it only occasionally.
Mr. and Mrs. Travilla were walking slowly homeward, the children and Bruno frolicking, jumping, dancing, running on before. After a while the two little girls grew somewhat weary, and subsided into a soberer pace.
"Vi," said Elsie, "Don't you believe Aunt Delia might get better of those 'miseries' in her bones, if she had some nice new red flannel things to wear?"
"Yes; let's buy her some," and a pretty dimpled hand went into her pocket, and out came a dainty, silken purse, mamma's gift on her last birthday, when she began to have a weekly allowance, like Elsie and Eddie.
"Yes, if mamma approves."
"'Course we'll 'sult mamma 'bout it first, and she'll say yes; she always likes us to be kind and—char—char—"
"Charitable? yes, 'specially to Jesus' people, and I know Aunt Delia's one of his. How much money have you, Vi?"
"I don't know; mamma or papa will count when we get home."
"I have two dollars and fifty cents; maybe Eddie will give some if we haven't enough."
"Enough of what?" queried Eddie, over-hearing the last words as he and Bruno neared the others in their gambols.
Elsie explained, asking, "Would you like to help?"
"Yes, and I'm going to buy some 'baccy' as he calls it, for old Uncle Jack."
Mamma was duly consulted, approved of their plans, took them the next day to the nearest village, let them select the goods themselves, then helped them to cut out and make the garments. Eddie assisted by threading needles and sewing on buttons, saying "that would do for a boy because he had heard papa say he had sometimes sewed on a button for himself when he was away at college."
To be sure the work might have been given to the seamstress, but it was the desire of these parents to train their little ones to give time and effort as well as money.
"O, what a state is guilt! how wild! how wretched!" —HAVARD.
The war had wrought many changes in the neighborhood where our friends resided; some who had been reared in the lap of luxury were now in absolute want, having sacrificed almost their last dollar in the cause of secession; to which also in numerous instances, the husbands, sons and brothers had fallen victims.
Though through the clemency of the Government there had been no executions for treason, no confiscation of property, many plantations had changed hands because of the inability of the original owners to work them, for lack of means to pay the laborers.
Elsie's tender sympathies were strongly enlisted for these old friends and acquaintances, and their necessities often relieved by her bounty when they little guessed whence help had come. Her favors were doubled by the delicate kindness of the manner of their bestowal.
The ability to give largely was the greatest pleasure her wealth afforded her, and one in which she indulged to the extent of disposing yearly in that way, of the whole surplus of her ample income; not waiting to be importuned, but constantly seeking out worthy objects upon whom to bestow that of which she truly considered herself but a steward who must one day render a strict account unto her Lord.
It was she who had repaired the ravages of war in Springbrook, the residence of Mr. Wood, her pastor; she who, when the Fosters of Fairview, a plantation adjoining Ion, had been compelled to sell it, had bought a neat cottage in the vicinity and given them the use of it at a merely nominal rent. And in any another like deed had she done; always with the entire approval of her husband, who was scarcely less generous than herself.
The purchaser of Fairview was a Mr. Leland, a northern man who had been an officer in the Union army. Pleased with the southern climate and the appearance of that section of country, he felt inclined to settle there and assist in the development of its resources; he therefore returned some time after the conclusion of peace, bought this place, and removed his family thither.
They were people of refinement and culture, quiet and peaceable, steady attendants upon Mr. Wood's ministry, and in every way conducted themselves as good citizens.
Yet they were not popular: the Fosters, particularly Wilkins, the only son, hated them as their supplanters, and saw with bitter envy the rapid improvement of Fairview under Mr. Leland's careful cultivation. It was no fault of his that they had been compelled to part with it, and he had paid a fair price: but envy and jealousy are ever unreasonable; and their mildest term of reproach in speaking of him was "carpet-bagger."
Others found fault with Mr. Leland as paying too liberal wages to the negroes (including Mr. Horace Dinsmore and Mr. Travilla in the same charge), and hated him for his outspoken loyalty to the Government; for though he showed no disposition to seek for office or meddle in any way with the politics of others, he made no secret of his views when occasion seemed to call for their expression. It was not a prudent course under existing circumstances, but accorded well with the frank and fearless nature of the man.
Messrs. Dinsmore and Travilla, themselves strong Unionists, though the latter was more discreet in the utterance of his sentiments, found in him a kindred spirit. Rose and Elsie were equally pleased with Mrs. Leland, and pitying her loneliness, called frequently, inviting a return of their visits, until now the three families had become tolerably intimate.
This state of things was extremely displeasing to Louise and Enna; scarcely less so to their father; but the others, convinced that they were in the path of duty in thus extending kindness and sympathy to deserving strangers, who were also "of the household of faith," were not to be deterred by remonstrances or vituperation. "Scalawags"—a term of reproach applied by the Democrats of the South to the Republicans, who were natives of that section—was what Enna called her brother, his son-in-law and daughter, when out of hearing of her father, who though vexed at their notice of the Lelands, was too strongly attached to his only remaining son, and too sensible of the kindness he had received at the hands of Mr. Travilla and Elsie, to permit anything of that sort.
The Lelands had several young children, well-bred and of good principles, and it angered Louise and Enna that Elsie evidently preferred them to their own rude, deceitful, spoiled offspring as companions and playmates for her little ones.
Elsie and her husband were very desirous to live on good terms with these near relatives, but not to the extent of sacrificing their children's morals; therefore did not encourage a close intimacy with their Roselands cousins; yet ever treated them politely and kindly, and made a valuable present to each on every return of his or her birthday, and on Christmas; always managing to select something specially desired by the recipient of the favor.
Mr. and Mrs. Dinsmore pursued a similar course; Rosie was allowed to be as intimate as she chose at Ion, and with her Aunt Sophie's children, but never visited Roselands except with her parents or sister; nor were the Roseland cousins ever invited to make a lengthened stay at the Oaks.
One afternoon, several weeks subsequent to the events related in the last chapter, Mary and Archie Leland came over to Ion to spend an hour with their young friends.
The weather was delightful, and the children preferred playing out of doors; the girls took their dolls to a summer-house in the garden, while with kite, ball and marbles, the boys repaired to the avenue.
"Who are those?" asked Archie, as looking up at the sound of approaching footsteps he saw two boys, a good deal older than themselves, coming leisurely toward them.
"My cousins, Wal Conly and Dick Percival," answered Eddie. "I wish they hadn't come, they always tease me so."
"Hilloa!" cried Dick, "what! Ed Travilla, you play with carpet-baggers, eh? fie on you! I wouldn't be seen with one."
"That's not polite, Dick. Archie's a good boy; mamma and papa says so; and I like him for a playfellow."
"You do? ah, that's because you're a scalawag."
"What your father is and your grandfather too."
"Then I don't care; I want to be just like my papa."
"But it isn't nice," put in Walter, laughing, "a scalawag's the meanest thing alive."
"Then you shall not call papa that, nor grandpa!" and the child's great dark eyes flashed with anger.
"Whew! I'd like to see you hinder me. Look here, Ed," and Dick pulled out a pistol, "what d'ye think o' that? don't you wish you had one? don't you wish you could shoot?"
"I can," returned Eddie, proudly, "papa's been teaching me, and he's given me a better pistol than that."
"Hey! a likely story!" cried the two tormentors, with an incredulous laugh. "Let's see it now?"
"It's in the house, but papa said I should never touch it 'cept when he gives it to me; not till I grow a big boy."
"Nonsense!" cried Dick, "if 'twas there, you'd bring it out fast enough. I sha'n't believe a word of the story until I see the pistol."
"I'll show you if I'm not telling the truth;" exclaimed Eddie, flushing hotly, and turning about as if to go into the house.
But Archie laid a hand on his arm, and speaking for the first time since the others had joined them, "Don't, Eddie," he said persuasively, "don't disobey your father; I know you'll be sorry for it afterwards."
"Hold your tongue, you young carpet-bagger," said Dick. "Run and get it, Ed."
"No, never mind about his pistol, he can't shoot," said Walter, mockingly. "If he can, let him take yours and prove it."
Eddie remembered well that his father had also forbidden him to touch firearms at all, except when with him; but the boy was naturally proud and wilful, and spite of all the careful training of his parents, these faults would occasionally show themselves.
He did not like to have his word doubted, he was eager to prove his skill, which he conceived to be far greater than it was, and as his cousins continued to twit and tease him, daring him to show what he could do, he was sorely tempted to disobey.
They were slowly walking on farther from the house as they talked, and finally when Dick said, "why, Ed, you couldn't hit that big tree yonder, I dare you to try it," at the same time offering him the pistol, the little fellow's sense of duty suddenly gave way, and snatching the weapon from Dick's hand, he fired, not allowing himself time, in his haste and passion, to take proper aim.
In their excitement and pre-occupation, none of the boys had noticed Mr. Travilla riding into the avenue a moment before, closely followed by his body servant Ben. Almost simultaneously with the report of the pistol the former tumbled from the saddle and fell heavily to the ground.
With a cry, "O, Mass Edard's killed!" Ben sprang from his horse and bent over the prostrate form, wringing his hands in fright and grief. He was his master's foster-brother and devotedly attached to him.
The fall, the cry, the snorting and running of the frightened horses, instantly told the boys what had happened, and Eddie threw himself on the ground screaming in an agony of grief and remorse, "O, I've killed my father, my dear, dear father! O, papa, papa! what shall I do? what shall I do?"
Mr. Leland coming in search of his children, the men passing the gate returning from their work, all heard and rushed to the spot. The blacks crowded about the scene of the accident, sobbing like children at the sight of their loved master and friend lying there apparently lifeless.
Mr. Leland, his features working with emotion, at once assumed the direction of affairs.
"Catch the horses," he said, "and you, Ben, mount the fleetest and fly for the doctor. And you," turning to another, "take the other and hurry to the Oaks for Mr. Dinsmore. Now the rest of you help me to carry your master to the house. I will lift his head, there gently, gently, my good fellows, I think he still breathes. But Mrs. Travilla!" he added, looking toward the dwelling, "all seems quiet there; they have not heard, I think, and she should be warned. I wish—"
"I will go, I will tell mamma," interrupted a quivering child voice at his side.
Little Elsie had pushed her way through the crowd and dropping on her knees on the grass was raining kisses and tears upon the pale, unconscious face.
"You? poor child!" Mr. Leland began in piteous tones; but she had already sprung to her feet and was flying toward the house with the fleetness of the wind.
One moment she paused in the spacious entrance hall, to recover her breath, calm her features, and remove the traces of her tears. "Mamma, mamma," she was saying to herself, "O Lord Jesus give me the right words to speak to her."
She hardly knew to which apartment to direct her steps, but "Hark! there was the sound of the piano and mamma's sweet voice singing a song papa had brought home only the other day, and that he liked. Ah would she ever sing again now that he—"
But no, not even in thought could she say that dreadful word; but she knew now that mamma was in the music room; and earnestly repeating her silent petition for help, she hurried thither.
The door was open; with swift, noiseless steps she gained her mother's side; passing an arm about her neck, and half averting her own pale, agitated face, "Mamma," she said in low, tremulous tones, "'God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble!' Mamma, Jesus loves you, Jesus loves you! He will help you to bear—"
"My daughter, what is it?" asked the mother in a tone of forced calmness, a terrible pang shooting through her heart, "your father? Eddie? Vi?"—then starting up at a sound as of the feet of those who bore some heavy burden, she ran into the hail.
For a moment she stood as one transfixed with grief and horror.
"He breathes, he lives," Mr. Leland hastened to say.
Her lips moved but no words came from them. Silently motioning them to follow her, she led the way to his room and pointed to the bed. They laid him on it and at that instant consciousness returned.
"Dear wife, it is nothing," he faintly murmured, lifting his eyes to her face as she bent over him in speechless anguish.
She softly pressed her lips to his brow, her heart too full for utterance.
The words sent a thrill of gladness to the heart of little Elsie, who had crept in behind the men, and stood near the bed silently weeping; her father lived; and now Eddie's frantic screams seemed to ring in her ears (in her fear for her father she had scarcely noticed them before) and she must go and tell him the glad news. She was not needed here; mamma was not conscious of her presence, and she could do nothing for the dear injured father. She stole quietly from the room.
On the veranda she found Violet crying bitterly, while Mary Leland vainly tried to comfort her.
"Don't cry so, little sister," Elsie said, going to her and taking her in her arms in tender motherly fashion, "our dear papa is not killed; I saw him open his eyes, and heard him say to mamma, 'Dear wife, it is nothing.'"
Vi clung to her sister with a fresh burst of tears, but this time they were tears of joy. "O, I'm so glad! I thought I had no papa any more."
A few more soothing words and caresses and Elsie said, "Now I must go and tell poor Eddie. Do you know where he is?"
"Hark! don't you hear him crying way off in the grounds?" said Mary, "I think he's just where he was."
"O, yes, yes!" and Elsie hastened in the direction of the sounds.
She found him lying on the grass still crying in heart-broken accents, "Oh, I've killed my father, my dear, dear father! what shall I do! what shall I do!"
Dick and Walter were gone; like the guilty wretches they were, they had fled as soon as they saw what mischief they had caused. But Archie too kind-hearted and noble to forsake a friend in distress, was still there.
"You didn't mean to do it, Eddie," he was saying, as Elsie came within hearing.
"No, no," burst out the half distracted child, "I wouldn't hurt my dear papa one bit for all the world! but it was 'cause I disobeyed him. He told me never to touch firearms when he wasn't by to help me do it right. Oh, oh, oh, I didn't think I'd ever be such a wicked boy! I've killed my father, oh! oh!"
"No, Eddie, no, you haven't; papa opened his eyes and spoke to mamma," said his sister hurrying to his side.
"Did he? O Elsie, is he alive? Isn't he hurt much?" asked the child, ceasing his cries for the moment, and lifting his tear-swollen face to hers.
"I don't know, Eddie dear, but I hope not," she said, low and tremulously, the tears rolling fast down her own cheeks, while she took out her handkerchief and gently wiped them away from his.
He dropped his head again, with a bitter, wailing cry. "O, I'm afraid he is, and I shooted him! I shooted him!"
Fortunately Dr. Burton's residence was not far distant, and Ben urging Beppo to his utmost speed and finding the doctor at home, had him at Mr. Travilla's bedside in a wonderfully short space of time.
The doctor found the injury not nearly so great as he had feared: the ball had struck the side of the head and glanced off, making a mere scalp-wound, which, though causing insensibility for a time, would have no very serious or lasting consequences; the blood had been already sponged away, and the wound closed with sticking plaster.
But the fall had jarred the whole system and caused some bruises; so that altogether the patient was likely to have to keep his bed for some days, and the doctor said must be kept quiet and as free from excitement as possible.
Elsie, leaving Aunt Chloe at the bedside, followed the physician from the room.
"You need give yourself no anxiety, my dear Mrs. Travilla," he said cheerily, taking her hand in his for a moment, in his kind fatherly way—for he was an old man now, and had known her from her early childhood—"the injuries are not at all serious, and there is no reason why your husband should not be about again in a week or so. But how did it happen? What hand fired the shot?"
"Indeed I do not know, have not asked," she answered, with an emotion of surprise at herself for the omission. "It seems strange I should not, but I was so taken up with grief and fear for him, and anxiety to relieve his suffering that I had room for no other thought. Can you tell us, sir?" turning to Mr. Leland, who was standing near.
"I—did not see the shot," he replied with some hesitation.
"But you know; tell me, I beg of you."
"It was an accident, madam, entirely an accident: there can be no question about that."
"But tell me all you know," she entreated, growing very pale. "I see you fear to wound me, but it were far better I should know the whole truth."
"I suppose your little son must have been playing with a pistol," he answered, with evident reluctance. "I heard him screaming, 'O, I've killed my father, my dear, dear father!'"
"Eddie!" she groaned, staggering back against the wall, and putting her hand over her eyes.
"My dear madam!" "My dear Mrs. Travilla," the gentlemen exclaimed simultaneously, "do not let it distress you so, since it must have been the merest accident, and the consequences are not so serious as they might have been."
"But he was disobeying his father, and has nearly taken his life," she moaned low and tremulously, the big tears coursing down her cheeks. "Oh, my son, my son!"
The gentlemen looked uneasily at each other, scarcely knowing what consolation to offer; but a well known step approached, hastily, yet with caution, and the next instant Elsie was clasped in her father's arms.
"My darling, my poor darling!" he said with emotion, as she laid her head on his breast, with a burst of almost hysterical weeping.
He caressed her silently. How could he ask the question trembling on his lips? what meant this bitter weeping? His eye sought that of the physician, who promptly answered the unspoken query with the same cheering report he had just given her.
Mr. Dinsmore was intensely relieved. "Thank God that it is no worse!" he said in low, reverent tones. "Elsie, daughter, cheer up, he will soon be well again."
Mr. Leland, taking leave, offered to return and watch by the sick bed that night; but Mr. Dinsmore, while joining Elsie in cordial thanks, claimed it as his privilege.
"Ah, well, don't hesitate to call upon me whenever I can be of use," said Mr. Leland, and with a kindly "Good evening," he and the doctor retired, Mr. Dinsmore seeing them to the door.
Returning, he found Elsie still in the parlor where he had left her.
She was speaking to a servant, "Go, Prilla, look for the children, and bring them in. It is getting late for them to be out."
The girl went, and Elsie saying to her father that Prilla had brought word that Mr. Travilla was now sleeping, begged him to sit down and talk with her for a moment. The tears fell fast as she spoke. It was long since he had seen her so moved.
"Dear daughter, why distress yourself thus?" he said, folding her in his arms, and drawing her head to a resting place upon his breast; "your husband's injuries are not very serious. Dr. Burton is not one to deceive us with false hopes."
"No, papa, oh, how thankful I am to know he is not in danger; but—oh, papa, papa! to think that Eddie did it! that my own son should have so nearly taken his father's life! I grow sick with horror at the very thought!"
"Yet it must have been the merest accident, the child almost idolizes his father."
"I had thought so, but he must have been disobeying that father's positive command else this could not have happened. I could never have believed my son could be so disobedient, and it breaks my heart to think of it all."
"The best of us do not always resist temptation successfully, and doubtless in this case it has been very strong. And he is bitterly repenting; I heard him crying somewhere in the grounds as I rode up the avenue, but could not then take time to go to him, not knowing how much you and Travilla might be needing my assistance."
"My poor boy; he does love his father," she said, wiping her eyes.
"There can be no question about that, and this will be a life-long lesson to him."
"Papa, you always bring me comfort," she said gratefully. "And you will stay with us to-night?"
"Yes; I could not leave you at such a time. I shall send a note to Rose, to relieve her anxiety in regard to Edward's accident, and let her know that she need not expect me home till morning. Well, Prilla," as the girl reappeared, "what is it? why have you not brought the children as your mistress directed?"
"Please, sah, Massa Dinsmore, Mars Eddie won't come; he jes' lie on de ground an' scream an' cry, 'O, I've killed my fader, my dear, dear fader,' an Miss Elsie she comfortin' an' coaxin', an' pleadin', but he won't pay no pretention to nobody."
Elsie wept anew. "My poor child! my poor little son! what am I to do with him?"
"I will go to him; trust him to me," Mr. Dinsmore said, leaving the room with a quick firm step.
"If hearty sorrow Be a sufficient ransom for offence, I tender it here; I do as truly suffer, As e'er I did commit." —SHAKESPEARE.
"O Eddie, dear, do get up and come into the house!" entreated his sister. "I must leave you if you don't, for Prilla said mamma had sent for us; and you know we must obey."
"Oh I can't, I can't go in! I can't see mamma! she will never, never love me any more!"
"Yes, she will, Eddie; nothing will ever make her stop loving us; and if you're really sorry for having disobeyed poor, dear papa, you'll not go on and disobey her now."
"But oh I've been such a wicked, wicked boy. O Elsie, what shall I do? Jesus won't love me now, nor mamma nor anybody."
"O Eddie," sobbed his sister, "don't talk so. Jesus does love you and will forgive you, if you ask him; and so will mamma and papa; for they both love you and I love you dearly, dearly."
The two were alone, Archie having gone home with his father.
A step drew near, and Mr. Dinsmore's voice spoke close at hand in tones sterner and more peremptory than he really meant them to be.
"Edward, get up from that damp grass and come into the house immediately. Do you intend to add to your poor mother's troubles by your disobedience, and by making yourself sick?"
The child arose instantly. He was accustomed to yield to his grandfather's authority quite as readily as to that of his parents.
"O grandpa, please don't be hard to him! His heart's almost broken, and he wouldn't have hurt papa on purpose for all the world," pleaded little Elsie, hastening to Mr. Dinsmore's side, taking his hand in both hers, and lifting her tear-dimmed eyes beseechingly to his face.
"Yes, grandpa ought," sobbed Eddie, "I've been such a wicked, wicked boy, I deserve the dreadfulest whipping that ever was. And papa can't do it now!" he cried with a fresh burst of grief and remorse, "and mamma won't like to. Grandpa, it'll have to be you. Please do it quick, 'cause I want it over."
"And has all this distress been for fear of punishment?" asked Mr. Dinsmore, taking the child's hand, and bending down to look searchingly into his face.
"Oh no, no, no, grandpa! I'd rather be whipped any day than to know I've hurt my dear papa so. Grandpa, won't you do it quick?"
"No, my son, I am not fond of such business and shall not punish you unless requested to do so by your father or mother. The doctor hopes your father will be about again in a week or two, and he can then attend to your case himself."
"Oh then he won't die! he won't die, our dear, dear papa!" cried both children in a breath.
"No; God has been very good to us all in causing the ball to strike where it could do but little injury. And Edward, I hope this will be such a lesson to you all your life as will keep you from ever disobeying again."
They were passing up the avenue, Eddie moving submissively along by his grandfather's side, but with tottering steps; for the dreadful excitement of the last hour had exhausted him greatly. Perceiving this Mr. Dinsmore presently took him in his arms and carried him to the house.
Low pitiful sobs and sighs were the only sounds the little fellow made till set down in the veranda; but then clinging to his grandfather's hand, he burst out afresh, "O grandpa, I can't go in! I can't, I can't see mamma, for she can't love me any more."
The mother heard and came quickly out. The tears were coursing down her cheeks, her mother heart yearned over her guilty, miserable child: stooping down and stretching out her arms, "Eddie, my little son," she said in tender tremulous accents, "come to mother. If my boy is truly sorry for his sin, mamma has no reproaches for him: nothing but forgiveness and love."
He threw himself upon her bosom, "Mamma, mamma, I am sorry, oh, so sorry! I will never, never disobey papa or you again."
"God helping you, my son; if you trust in your own strength you will be sure to fall."
"Yes mamma; oh, mamma, I've been the wickedest boy! I disobeyed my father and shooted him; and oughtn't I to have a dreadful whipping? Shall grandpa do it?"
Mrs. Travilla lifted her full eyes inquiringly to her father's face.
"It is all his own idea," said Mr. Dinsmore with emotion, "I think he has already had a worse punishment by far in his grief and remorse."
Elsie heaved a sigh of relief. "I think his father would say so too; it shall be decided by him when he is able. Eddie, my son, papa is too ill now to say what shall be done with you. I think he does not even know of your disobedience. You will have to wait some days. The suspense will be hard to bear, I know, but my little boy must try to be patient, remembering that he has brought all this suffering on himself. And in the meantime he has mamma's forgiveness and love," she added folding him to her heart with a tender caress.
Sorely the children missed their precious half hour with mamma that night, and every night and morning of their papa's illness; she could leave him only long enough each time to give them a few loving words and a kiss all round, and they scarcely saw her through the day—were not admitted to their father's room at all.
But they were very good; lessons went on nearly as usual, little Elsie keeping order in the school-room, even wilful Eddie quietly submitting to her gentle sway, and grandpa kindly attending to the recitations. He rode out with them too, and he, Aunt Rosie or their mammies, took them for a pleasant walk every fine day.
Friends and neighbors were very kind and attentive, none more so than the Lelands. Archie told his father how, and by whom, poor Eddie had been teased, provoked and dared into firing the pistol; Mr. Leland told Mr. Dinsmore the story, and he repeated it to his father and sisters.
The old gentleman was sufficiently incensed against the two culprits to administer a severe castigation to each, while Elsie was thankful to learn that her son had not yielded readily to the temptation to disobedience. She pitied him deeply, as she noted how weary to him were these days of waiting, how his gay spirits had forsaken him, how anxious he was for his father's recovery; how he longed for the time when he should be permitted to go to him with his confession and petition for pardon.
At length that time came. Mr. Travilla was so much better that Dr. Burton said it would do him no harm to see his children, and to hear all the details of his accident.
The others were brought in first and allowed to spend a few minutes in giving and receiving caresses, their little tongues running very fast in their exuberant joy over their restored father.
"Elsie, Vi, Harold, baby—but where is Eddie?" he asked, looking a little anxiously at his wife; "not sick, I hope?"
"No, my dear, he will be in presently," she answered, the tears starting to her eyes, "no one of them all has found it harder to be kept away from you than he. But there is something he has begged me to tell you before he comes."
"Ah!" he said with a troubled look in his eyes, a suspicion of the truth dawning upon him. "Well, darlings, you may go now, and mamma will let you come in again before your bedtime."
They withdrew and Elsie told her story, dwelling more particularly upon the strength of the temptation and the child's agony of grief and remorse.
"Bring him here, wife," Mr. Travilla said, his eyes full, his voice husky with emotion.
There was a sound of sobs in the hall without as she opened the door. "Come, son," she said, taking his hand in hers, "papa knows it all now."
Half eagerly, half tremblingly he suffered her to lead him in.
"Papa," he burst out sobbingly, scarcely daring to lift his eyes from the floor, "I've been a very wicked, bad boy; I disobeyed you and—and—"
"Come here to me, my little son." How gentle and tender were the tones.
Eddie lifted his head and with one joyous bound was in his fathers arms, clinging about his neck and sobbing out upon his breast his grief, his joy, his penitence. "Papa, papa, can you forgive such a naughty disobedient boy? I'm so sorry I did it! I'm so glad you didn't die, dear, dear papa! so glad you love me yet."
"Love you, son? I think if you knew how much, you would never want to disobey again."
"I don't, papa, oh, I don't! I ask God earnestly every day to give me a new heart, and help me always to be good. But mustn't I be punished? mamma said it was for you to say, and grandpa didn't whip me and he won't 'less you ask him."
"And I shall not ask him, my son. I fully and freely forgive you, because I am sure you are very sorry and do not mean to disobey again."
How happy the child was that at last his father knew and had forgiven all.
Mr. Travilla improved the occasion for a short but very serious talk with him on the sin and danger of disobedience, and his words, so tenderly spoken, made a deep and lasting impression.
But Eddie was not yet done with the pain and mortification consequent upon his wrong doing. That afternoon the Ashland ladies called bringing with them the elder children of both families. While their mammas conversed in the drawing-room the little people gathered in the veranda.
All was harmony and good-will among them till Philip Ross, fixing his eyes on Eddie, said with a sneer, "So, Master Ed, though you told me one day you'd never talk to your mamma as I did to mine, you've done a good deal worse. I don't set up for a pattern good boy, but I'd die before I'd shoot my father."
Eddie's eyes sought the floor while his lips trembled and two great tears rolled down his burning cheeks.
"Phil Ross," cried Gertrude, "I'm ashamed of you! of course he didn't do it a-purpose."
"May be not; he didn't disobey on purpose? hadn't his father—"
But catching a reproachful, entreating look from Elsie's soft, brown eyes, he stopped short and turning away, began to whistle carelessly, while Vi, putting her small arms about Eddie's neck, said, "Phil Ross, you shouldn't 'sult my brother so, 'cause he wouldn't 'tend to hurt papa; no, not for all the world;" Harold chiming in, "'Course my Eddie wouldn't!" and Bruno, whom he was petting and stroking with his chubby hands, giving a short, sharp bark, as if he too had a word to say in defence of his young master.
"Is that your welcome to visitors, Bruno?" queried a young man of eighteen or twenty, alighting from his horse and coming up the steps into the veranda.
"You must please excuse him for being so ill-mannered, Cousin Cal," little Elsie said, coming forward and offering her hand with a graceful courtesy very like her mamma's. "Will you walk into the drawing-room? our mammas are all there."
"Presently, thank you," he said, bending down to snatch a kiss from the sweet lips.
She shrank from the caress almost with aversion.
"What's the use of being so shy with a cousin?" he asked, laughing, "why Molly Percival likes to kiss me."
"I think Molly would not be pleased if she knew you said that," remarked the little girl, in a quiet tone, and moving farther from him as she spoke.
"Holding a levee, eh?" he said, glancing about upon the group. "How d'ye, young ladies and gentlemen? Holloa, Ed! so you're the brave fellow that shot his father? Hope your grandfather dealt out justice to you in the same fashion that Wal and Dick's did to them."
Eddie could bear no more, but burst into an agony of tears and sobs.
"Calhoun Conly, do you think it very manly for a big fellow like you to torment such a little one as our Eddie?" queried Elsie, with rising indignation.
"No, I don't," he said frankly. "Never mind, Eddie, I take it all back, and own that the other two deserve the lion's share of the blame, and punishment too. Come, shake hands and let's make up."
Eddie gave his hand, saying in broken tones, "I was a naughty boy, but papa has forgiven me, and I don't mean ever to disobey him any more."
"So false is faction, and so smooth a liar, As that it never had a side entire." —DANIEL.
By the first of December Mr. Travilla had entirely recovered from the ill effects of his accident—which had occurred early in November—and life at Ion resumed its usual quiet, regular, but pleasant routine, varied only by frequent exchange of visits with the other families of the connection, and near neighbors, especially the Lelands.
Because of the presence among them of their northern relatives, this winter was made a gayer one than either of the last two, which had seen little mirth or jovialty among the older ones, subdued as they were by recent, repeated bereavements. Time had now somewhat assuaged their grief, and only the widowed ones still wore the garb of mourning.
A round of family parties for old and young filled up the holidays; and again just before the departure of the Rosses and Allisons in the early spring, they were all gathered at Ion for a farewell day together.
Some of the blacks in Mr. Leland's employ had been beaten and otherwise maltreated only the previous night by a band of armed and disguised men, and the conversation naturally turned upon that occurrence.
"So the Ku Klux outrages have begun in our neighborhood," remarked Mr. Horace Dinsmore, and went on to denounce their proceedings in unmeasured terms.
The faces of several of his auditors flushed angrily. Enna shot a fierce glance at him, muttering "scalawag," half under her breath, while his old father said testily, "Horace, you speak too strongly. I haven't a doubt the rascals deserved all they got. I'm told one of them at least, had insulted some lady, Mrs. Foster, I believe, and that the others had been robbing hen-roosts and smoke-houses."
"That may perhaps be so, but at all events every man has a right to a fair trial," replied his son, "and so long as there is no difficulty in bringing such matters before the civil courts, there is no excuse for Lynch law, which is apt to visit its penalties upon the innocent as well as the guilty."
At this, George Boyd, who, as the nephew of the elder Mrs. Carrington and a member of the Ashlands household, had been invited with the others, spoke warmly in defence of the organization, asserting that its main object was to defend the helpless, particularly in guarding against the danger of an insurrection of the blacks.
"There is not the slightest fear of that," remarked Mr. Travilla, "there may be some few turbulent spirits among them, but as a class they are quiet and inoffensive."
"Begging your pardon, sir," said Boyd, "I find them quite the reverse;—demanding their wages directly they are due, and not satisfied with what one chooses to give. And that reminds me that you, sir, and Mr. Horace Dinsmore, and that carpet-bagger of Fairview are entirely too liberal in the wages you pay."
"That is altogether our own affair, sir," returned Mr. Dinsmore, haughtily. "No man or set of men shall dictate to me as to how I spend my money. What do you say, Travilla?"
"I take the same position; shall submit to no such infringement of my liberty to do as I will with my own."
Elsie's eyes sparkled: she was proud of her husband and father. Rose, too, smiled approval.
"Sounds very fine," growled Boyd, "but I say you've no right to put up the price of labor."
"Papa," cried young Horace, straightening himself and casting a withering look upon Boyd, "I hope neither you nor Brother Edward will ever give in to them a single inch. Such insolence!"
"Let us change the subject," said old Mr. Dinsmore, "it is not an agreeable one."
It so happened that a few days after this Messrs. Dinsmore, Travilla and Leland were talking together just within the entrance to the avenue at Ion when Wilkins Foster, George Boyd and Calhoun Conly came riding by.
They brought their horses to a walk as they neared the gate, and Foster called out sneeringly, "Two scalawags and a carpet-bagger! fit company for each other."
"So we think, sir," returned Travilla coolly, "though we do not accept the epithets you so generously bestow upon us."
"It is an easy thing to call names; any fool is equal to that," said Mr. Leland, in a tone of unruffled good-nature.
"True; and the weapon of vituperation is generally used by those who lack brains for argument or are upon the wrong side," observed Mr. Dinsmore.
"Is that remark intended to apply to me sir?" asked Foster, drawing himself up with an air of hauteur and defiance.
"Not particularly: but if you wish to prove yourself skilled in the other and more manly weapon, we are ready to give you the opportunity."
"Yes; come in, gentlemen, and let us have a free and friendly discussion," said Mr. Travilla.
Boyd and Conly at once accepted the invitation, but Foster, reining in his horse in the shade of a tree at the gate, said, "No, thank you; I don't care to alight, can talk from the saddle as well as anyway. I call you scalawags, Messrs. Dinsmore and Travilla, because though natives of the South, you have turned against her."
"Altogether a mistake," observed Travilla.
"I deny the charge and call upon you to prove it," said Mr. Dinsmore.
"Easy task; you kept away and took no part in our struggle for independence."
"That is we (I speak for Travilla as well as myself) had no share in the effort to overthrow the best government in the world, the hope of the down-trodden and oppressed of all the earth a struggle which we foresaw would prove, as it has, the almost utter destruction of our beloved South. They who inaugurated secession were no true friends to her."
"Sir!" cried Boyd, with angry excitement, "ours was as righteous a cause as that of our Revolutionary fathers."
Mr. Dinsmore shook his head. "They fought against unbearable tyranny; and that after having exhausted every other means of obtaining a redress of their grievances; and we had suffered no oppression at the hands of the general government."
"Hadn't we?" interrupted Foster fiercely. "Were the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Law carried out by the North? didn't some of the Northern States pass laws in direct opposition to it? and didn't Yankee abolitionists come down here interfering with our institutions and enticing our negroes to run away, or something worse?"
"Those were the acts of private individuals, and individual states, entirely unsanctioned by the general government, which really had always rather favored us than otherwise."
"But uncle," said Conly, "there would have been no secession but for the election of Lincoln, an abolition candidate."
"And who elected him? who but the Democrats of the South? They made a division in the Democratic party, purposely to enable the Republicans to elect their man, that they might use his election as a pretext for secession."
A long and hot discussion followed, each one present taking more or less part in it. It was first the causes of the war, then the war itself; after that the reconstruction policy of Congress, which was bitterly denounced by Foster and Boyd.
"Never was a conquered people treated so shamefully!" cried the former, "it is a thing hitherto unheard of in the history of the world, that gentlemen should be put under the rule of their former slaves."
"Softly, softly, sir," said Leland, "surely you forget that the terms proposed by the fourteenth amendment, substantially left the power of the State governments in your hands, and enabled you to limit suffrage and office to the white race. But you rejected it, and refused to take part in the preliminary steps for reorganizing your State governments. So the blacks acquired the right to vote and hold office: they were, as a class, well meaning, but ignorant, and their old masters refusing to accept office at their hands, or advise them in regard to their new duties, they fell an easy prey to unscrupulous white men, whose only care was to enrich themselves by robbing the already impoverished states, through corrupt legislation.[A] Now, sir, who was it that really put you under the rule of your former slaves, if you are there?"
[Footnote A: See report of Congressional Committee of Investigation]
Foster attempted no reply, but merely reiterated his assertion that no conquered people had ever been so cruelly used; to which Messrs. Travilla, Dinsmore and Leland replied with a statement of facts, i.e., that before the war was fairly over, the Government began to feed, clothe, shelter and care for the destitute of both colors, and millions were distributed in supplies; that in 1865 a bureau was organized for this purpose, and expended in relief, education and aid to people of both colors, and all conditions, thirteen millions, two hundred and thirty thousand, three hundred and twenty-seven dollars, and forty cents; while millions more were given by charitable associations and citizens of the North: that the Government sold thousands of farm animals in the South, at low rates, and large quantities of clothing and supplies at merely nominal prices, that there had been no executions for treason, no confiscation of lands, but that some estates abandoned by the owners during the war, and taken possession of and cultivated by the Government, had been returned in better condition than they would have been in if permitted to lie idle; that the railroads of the South were worn out by the war, woodwork rotted, rails and machinery worn out; that the Government forces as they advanced, captured the lines, repaired the tracks, rebuilt bridges and restored and renewed the rolling stock; that at the close of the war the Government might have held all these lines, but instead turned them over to the stockholders, sold them the rolling stock at low rates, and on long time, and advanced millions of dollars to the southern railroads; that there were debts estimated, when the war began, at three hundred millions of dollars due the merchants of the North; that they compounded with their southern debtors, abating more than half their dues, and extending time for the payment of the remainder; that a bankrupt act was passed enabling those hopelessly involved to begin business anew. Sound institutions took the places of the old broken banks, and United States currency that of Confederate notes, etc. etc.[B]