ELSIE'S NEW RELATIONS
What They Did and How They Fared at Ion
A Sequel to Grandmother Elsie
A. L. Burt Company Publishers New York Chicago
"For wild, or calm, or far or near, I love thee still, thou glorious sea." —Mrs. Hemans.
"I bless thee for kind looks and words Shower'd on my path like dew, For all the love in those deep eyes, A gladness ever new." —Mrs. Hemans.
It is late in the afternoon of a delicious October day; the woods back of the two cottages where the Dinsmores, Travillas and Raymonds have spent the last three or four months are gorgeous with scarlet, crimson and gold; the air from the sea is more delightful than ever, but the summer visitors to the neighboring cottages and hotels have fled, and the beach is almost deserted, as Edward and his child-wife wander slowly along it, hand in hand, their attention divided between the splendors of a magnificent sunset and the changing beauty of the sea; yonder away in the distance it is pale gray; near at hand delicate green slowly changing to pink, each wave crested with snowy foam, and anon they all turn to burnished gold.
"Oh, how very beautiful!" cries Zoe, in an ecstasy of delight. "Edward, did you ever see anything finer?"
"Never! Let us go down this flight of steps and seat ourselves on the next to the lowest. We will then be quite near the waves and yet out of danger of being wet by them."
He led her down as he spoke, seated her comfortably and himself by her side with his arm around her.
"I've grown very fond of the sea," she remarked. "I shall be sorry to leave it. Will not you?"
"Yes and no," he answered, doubtfully. "I, too, am fond of old ocean, but eager to get to Ion and begin life in earnest. Isn't it time, seeing I have been a married man for nearly five months? But why that sigh, love?"
"O Edward, are you not sorry you are married? Are you not sometimes very much ashamed of me?" she asked, her cheek burning hotly and the downcast eyes filling with tears.
"Ashamed of you, Zoe? Why, darling, you are my heart's best treasure," he said, drawing her closer to his side, and touching his lips to her forehead. "What has put so absurd an idea into your head?"
"I know so little, so very little compared with your mother and sisters," she sighed. "I'm finding it out more and more every day, as I hear them talk among themselves and to other people."
"But you are younger than any of them, a very great deal younger than mamma, and will have time to catch up to them."
"But I'm a married woman and so can't go to school any more. Ah," with another and very heavy sigh, "I wish papa hadn't been quite so indulgent, or that I'd had sense enough not to take advantage of it to the neglect of my studies!"
"No, I suppose it would hardly do to send you to school, even if I could spare you—which I can't," he returned laughingly, "but there is a possibility of studying at home, under a governess or tutor. What do you say to offering yourself as a pupil to grandpa?"
"Oh, no, no! I'm sure he can be very stern upon occasion. I've seen it in his eyes when I've made a foolish remark that he didn't approve, and I should be too frightened to learn if he were my teacher."
"Then some one else must be thought of," Edward said, with a look of amusement. "How would I answer?"
"You? Oh, splendidly!"
"You are not afraid of me?"
"No, indeed!" she cried, with a merry laugh and a saucy look up into his face.
"And yet I'm the only person who has authority over you."
"Authority, indeed!" with a little contemptuous sniff.
"You promised to obey, you know."
"Did I? Well, maybe so, but that's just a form that doesn't really mean anything. Most any married woman will tell you that."
"Do you consider the whole of your marriage vow an unmeaning form, Zoe?" he asked, with sudden gravity and a look of doubt and pain in his eyes that she could not bear to see.
"No, no! I was only in jest," she said, dropping her eyes and blushing deeply. "But really, Edward, you don't think, do you, that wives are to obey like children?"
"No, love, I don't; and I think in a true marriage the two are so entirely one—so unselfishly desirous each to please the other—that there is little or no clashing of wills. Thus far ours has seemed such to me. How is it, do you think, little wife?"
"I hope so, Edward," she said, laying her head on his shoulder, "I know one thing—that there is nothing in this world I care so much for as to please you and be all and everything to you."
"And I can echo your words from my very heart, dearest," he said, caressing her. "I hope you are at home and happy among your new relatives."
"Yes, indeed, Edward, especially with mamma. She is the dearest, kindest mother in the world; to me as much as to her own children, and oh, so wise and good!"
"You are not sorry now that you and I are not to live alone?" he queried, with a pleased smile.
"No, oh, no! I'm ever so glad that she is to keep house at Ion and all of us to live together as one family."
"Except Lester and Elsie," he corrected; "they will be with us for a short time, then go to Fairview for the winter. And it will probably become their home after that, as mamma will buy it, if Mr. Leland—Lester's uncle, who owns the place—carries out his intention of removing to California. His children have settled there, and, of course, the father and mother want to be with them."
The sun had set, and all the bright hues had faded from the sea, leaving it a dull gray.
"What a deserted spot this seems!" remarked Zoe, "and only the other day it was gay with crowds of people. Nobody to be seen now but ourselves," glancing up and down the coast as she spoke. "Ah, yes! yonder is someone sitting on that piece of wreck."
"It is Lulu Raymond," Edward said, following the direction of her glance. "It is late for the child to be out so far from home; a full mile I should say. I'll go and invite her to walk back with us."
"No, you needn't," said Zoe, "for see, there is her father going to her. But let us go home, for I must change my dress before tea."
"And we want time to walk leisurely along," returned Edward, rising and giving her his hand to help her up the steps.
Lulu was reading, so absorbed in the story that she did not perceive her father's approach, and as he accosted her with, "It is late for you to be here alone, my child, you should have come in an hour ago," she gave a great start, and involuntarily tried to hide her book.
"What have you there? Evidently something you do not wish your father to see," he said, bending down and taking it from her unwilling hand.
"Ah, I don't wonder!" as he hurriedly turned over a few pages. "A dime novel! Where did you get this, Lulu?"
"It's Max's, papa, he lent it to me. O papa, what made you do that?" as with an energetic fling the captain suddenly sent it far out into the sea. "Max made me promise to take care of it and give it back to him, and besides I wanted to finish the story."
"Neither you nor Max shall ever read such poisonous stuff as that with my knowledge and consent," replied the captain in stern accents.
"Papa, I didn't think you'd be so unkind," grumbled Lulu, her face expressing extreme vexation and disappointment, "or that you would throw away other people's things."
"Unkind, my child?" he said, sitting down beside her and taking her hand in his. "Suppose you had gathered a quantity of beautiful, sweet-tasted berries that I knew to be poisonous, and were about to eat them; would it be unkind in me to snatch them out of your hand and throw them into the sea?"
"No, sir; because it would kill me to eat them, but that book couldn't kill me, or even make me sick."
"No, not your body, but it would injure your soul, which is worth far more. I'm afraid I have been too negligent in regard to the mental food of my children," he went on after a slight pause, rather as if thinking aloud than talking to Lulu, "and unfortunately I cannot take the oversight of it constantly in the future. But remember, Lulu," he added firmly, "I wholly forbid dime novels, and you are not to read anything without first obtaining the approval of your father or one of those under whose authority he has placed you."
Lulu's face was full of sullen discontent and anger. "Papa," she said, "I don't like to obey those people."
"If you are wise, you will try to like what has to be," he said.
"It wouldn't have to be if you would only say I needn't, papa."
"I shall not say that, Lucilla," he answered with grave displeasure. "You need guidance and control even more than most children of your age, and I should not be doing my duty if I left you without them."
"I don't like to obey people that are no relation to me!" she cried, viciously kicking away a little heap of sand.
"No, you don't even like to obey your father," he said with a sigh. "Max and Gracie together do not give me half the anxiety that you do by your wilful temper."
"Why, can't I do as I please as well as grown people?" she asked in a more subdued tone.
"Even grown people have to obey," said her father. "I am now expecting orders from the government, and must obey them when they come. I must obey my superior officers, and the officers and men under me must obey me. So must my children. God gave you to me and requires me to train you up in His fear and service to the best of my ability. I should not be doing that if I allowed you to read such hurtful trash as that I just took from you."
"It was Max's, papa, and I promised to give it back. What shall I say when he asks me for it?"
"Tell him to come to me about it."
"Well, what is it?" he asked, as she paused and hesitated.
"Please, papa, don't punish him. You never told him not to buy or read such things, did you?"
"No; and I think he would not have done so in defiance of a prohibition from me. So I shall not punish him. But I am pleased that you should plead for him. I am very glad that my children all love one another."
"Yes, indeed we do, papa!" she said, "And we all love you, and you love Max and Gracie very much, and——"
"And Lulu also," he said, putting his arm about her and drawing her closer to his side, as she paused with quivering lip and downcast eyes.
"As much as you do Max and Gracie?" she asked brokenly, hiding her face on his shoulder. "You said just now I was naughtier than both of them put together."
"Yet you are my own dear child, and it is precisely because I love you so dearly that I am so distressed over your quick temper and wilfulness. I fear that if not conquered they will cause great unhappiness to yourself as well as to your friends. I want you to promise me, daughter, that you will try to conquer them, asking God to help you."
"I will, papa," she said, with unwonted humility; "but, oh, I wish you were going to stay with us! It's easier to be good with you than with anybody else."
"I am sorry, indeed, that I cannot," he said, rising and taking her hand. "Come, we must go back to the house now."
They moved along in silence for a little, then Lulu said, with an affectionate look up into her father's face, "Papa, I do so like to walk this way!"
"How do you mean?" he asked, smiling kindly upon her.
"With my hand in yours, papa. You know I haven't often had the chance."
"No, my poor child," he sighed, "that is one of the deprivations to which a seaman and his family have to submit."
"Well," said the little girl, lifting his hand to her lips, "I'd rather have you for my father than anybody else, for all that."
At that he bent down and kissed her with a smile full of pleasure and fatherly affection.
"By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned."—Matt. 12:37.
As they drew near the house Max came to meet them.
"I've been to the post-office since the mail came in, papa," he said, "and there is no government letter for you yet. I'm so glad! I hope they're going to let us keep you a good deal longer."
"I'm not sorry to prolong my stay with wife and children," the captain responded, "but cannot hope to be permitted to do so very much longer."
"Grandpa Dinsmore has come back from taking Harold and Herbert to college," pursued Max, "and we're all to take tea in there, Mamma Vi says; because grandpa wants us all about him this first evening."
"That is kind," said the captain, opening the gate and looking smilingly at Violet, who, with little Grace, was waiting for him on the veranda. He stopped there to speak with them, while Lulu hurried on into the house and up to her own room, Max following.
"Where's my book, Lu?" he asked.
"O Max, I couldn't help it—but papa caught me reading it and took it away from me. And he told me when you asked me for it I should send you to him."
Max's face expressed both vexation and alarm. "I sha'n't do that," he said, "if I never get it. But was he very angry, Lu?"
"No; and you needn't be afraid to go to him, for he won't punish you; I asked him not to, and he said he wouldn't. But he threw the book into the sea, and said neither you nor I should ever read such poisonous stuff with his knowledge or consent."
"Then, where would be the use of my going to him for it? I'll not say a word about it."
He went out, closed the door and stood irresolutely in the hall, debating with himself whether to go up-stairs or down. Up-stairs in his room was another dime novel which he had been reading that afternoon; he had not quite finished it, and was eager to do so; he wanted very much to know how the story ended, and had meant to read the few remaining pages now before the call to tea. But his father's words, reported to him by Lulu, made it disobedience.
"It's a very little sin," whispered the tempter; "as having read so much, you might as well read the rest."
"But it will be disobeying wilfully the kind father who forgave a heedless act of disobedience not very long ago," said conscience; "the dear father who must soon leave you to be gone no one knows how long, perhaps never to come back."
Just then the captain came quickly up the stairs. "Ah, Max, are you there?" he said, in a cheery tone, then laying his hand affectionately on the boy's shoulder. "Come in here with me, my son, I want to have a little talk with you while I make my toilet."
"Yes, sir," said Max, following him into the dressing-room.
"What have you been reading to-day?" asked the captain, throwing off his coat, pouring water into the basin from the pitcher, and beginning his ablutions.
Max hung his head in silence till the question was repeated, then stammered out the title of the book, the perusal of which he was so desirous to finish.
"Where did you get it?" asked his father.
"I bought it at a news-stand, papa."
"You must not buy anything more of that kind, Max; you must not read any such trash."
"I will not again, papa; I should not this time if you had ever forbidden me before."
"No, I don't believe you would be guilty of wilful disobedience to any positive command of your father," the captain said in a grave but kindly tone; "and yet I think you suspected I would not approve, else why were you so unwilling to tell me what you had been reading?"
He was standing before the bureau now, hairbrush in hand, and as he spoke he paused in his work, and gazed searchingly at his son.
Max's face flushed hotly, and his eyes drooped for a moment, then looking up into his father's face he said frankly, "Yes, papa, I believe I was afraid you would take the book from me if you saw it. I deserve that you should be angry with me for that and for lending one to Lu."
"I am displeased with you on both accounts," the captain replied, "but I shall overlook it this time, my son, hoping there will be no repetition of either offence. Now go to your room, gather up all the doubtful reading matter you have, and bring it here to me. I shall not go with you, but trust to your honor to keep nothing back."
"Oh, thank you, papa, for trusting me!" cried Max, his countenance brightening wonderfully, and he hastened away to do his father's bidding.
"Just the dearest, kindest father that ever was!" he said to himself, as he bounded up the stairs. "I'll never do anything again to vex him, if I can help it."
He was down again in a moment with two dime novels and a story-paper of the same stamp.
The captain had finished his toilet. Seating himself he took what Max had brought, and glancing hastily over it, "How much of this trash have you read, Max?" he asked.
"The paper and most of one book, papa. I'll not read any more such, since you've forbidden me; but they're very interesting, papa."
"I dare say, to a boy of your age. But you don't think I would want to deprive you of any innocent pleasure, Max?"
"No, sir; oh, no! But may I know why you won't let me read such stories?"
"Yes; it is because they give false views of life, and thus lead to wrong and foolish actions. Why, Max, some boys have been made burglars and highwaymen by such stories. I want you to be a reader, but of good and wholesome literature; books that will give you useful information and good moral teachings; above all things, my son, I would have you a student of the Bible, 'the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ.' Do you read it often, Max?"
"Not very, papa. But you know I hear you read it every morning and evening."
"Yes; but I have sometimes been grieved to see that you paid very little attention."
Max colored at that. "Papa, I will try to do better," he said.
"I hope you will," said his father. "You will enjoy the same religious advantages at Ion, and, my boy, try to profit by them, remembering that we shall have to render an account at last of the use or abuse of all our privileges. I want you to promise me that you will read a few verses of the Bible every day, and commit at least one to memory."
"I will, papa. And what else shall I read? You will let me have some story-books, won't you?" Max said, entreatingly.
"Yes," said his father, "I have no objection to stories of the right sort. There are some very beautiful stories in the Bible; there are entertaining stories in history; and there are fictitious stories that will do you good and not harm. I shall take care in future that you have plenty of wholesome mental food, so that you will have no excuse for craving such stuff as this," he added, with a glance of disgust at what he held in his hand. "It may go into the kitchen fire."
"Mrs. Scrimp never burns the least little bit of paper, papa," said Max.
"Indeed! Why not?" asked his father, with an amused smile.
"She says it is wicked waste, because it is better than rags for the paper-makers."
"Ah! well, then, we will tear these into bits and let them go to the paper-makers."
Max was standing by his father's side. "Papa," he said, with a roguish look into his father's face, "don't you think you would enjoy reading them first?"
The captain laughed. "No, my son," he said; "I have not the slightest inclination to read them. Bring me that waste basket and you may help me tear them up."
They began the work of destruction, Max taking the paper, the captain the book his son had been reading. Presently something in it attracted his attention; he paused and glanced over several pages one after the other, till Max began to think he had become interested in the story. But no; at that instant he turned from it to him, and Max was half frightened at the sternness of his look.
"My son," he said, "I am astonished and deeply grieved that you could read and enjoy anything like this, for it is full of profanity; and reading or hearing such expressions is very likely to lead to the use of them. Max, do you ever say such words?"
Max trembled and grew red and pale by turns, but did not speak.
"Answer me," was his father's stern command.
"Not often, papa."
The captain barely caught the low breathed words. "Not often? sometimes, then?" he groaned, covering his face with his hand.
"O papa, don't be so grieved! I'll never do it again," Max said in a broken voice.
The captain sighed deeply. "Max," he said, "dearly as I love my only son, I would sooner lay him under the sod, knowing that his soul was in heaven, than have him live to be a profane swearer. Bring me that Bible from the table yonder."
The boy obeyed.
"Now turn to the twenty-fourth chapter of Leviticus, and read the sixteenth verse."
Max read in a trembling voice, "'And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him; as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death.'"
"Now the twenty-third," said his father.
"'And Moses spake to the children of Israel, that they should bring forth him that had cursed out of the camp, and stone him with stones; and the children of Israel did as the Lord commanded Moses.'"
Max had some difficulty in finishing the verse, and at the end quite broke down.
"Papa," he sobbed, "I didn't know that was in the Bible. I never thought about its being so dreadfully wicked to say bad words."
"What do you now think a boy deserves who has done it again and again? say as often as Max Raymond has?" asked his father.
"I suppose to be stoned to death like that man. But nobody is ever put to death for swearing nowadays?" the boy said, half inquiringly, not daring to look at his father as he spoke.
"No, Max, fortunately for you and many others. But suppose you were my father and I a boy of your age, and that I had been swearing, what would you think you ought to do about it?"
"Give you a sound flogging," he answered, in a low, reluctant tone.
"Well, Max, that is just what I shall have to do, if I ever know you to use a profane word again," said his father, in a grave, sad tone. "I should do it now, but for the hope that you are sorry enough for the past to carefully avoid that sin in the future."
"Indeed I will, papa," he said, very humbly.
"And, Max," resumed his father, "you are never to make a companion of, or go at all with anybody who uses such language, and never to read a book or story that has in it anything of that kind. And you are not to say by George or by anything. Our Saviour says, 'Let your communication be Yea, yea, Nay, nay, for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.' My son, have you asked God to forgive you for taking His holy name in vain?"
"Then go at once to your room and do it."
"I did, papa," Max said, when he came down again to find his father waiting for him.
"I trust the petition came from your heart, my son," was the grave but kind rejoinder. "I must have a little more talk with you on this subject, but not now, for it is time we followed the others into the next house, if we would not keep Grandma Rose's tea waiting."
"A kingdom is a nest of families, and a family is a small kingdom."—Tupper.
It was a bright and cheerful scene that greeted the eyes of Captain Raymond and his son as they entered the parlor of the adjacent cottage.
It was strictly a family gathering, yet the room was quite full. Mr. Dinsmore was there with his wife, his daughter Elsie and her children, Edward and Zoe, Elsie Leland with her husband and babe, Violet Raymond with her husband's two little girls, Lulu and Grace, and lastly Rosie and Walter.
Everybody had a kindly greeting for the captain, and Violet's bright face grew still brighter as she made room for him on the sofa by her side.
"We were beginning to wonder what was keeping you," she said.
"Yes, I'm afraid I am rather behind time," he returned. "I hope you have not delayed your tea for me, Mrs. Dinsmore."
"No; it is but just ready," she said. "Ah, there's the bell. Please, all of you walk out."
When the meal was over all returned to the parlor, where they spent the next hour in desultory chat.
Gracie claimed a seat on her father's knee. Lulu took possession of an ottoman and pushed it up as close to his side as she could; then seating herself on it leaned up against him.
He smiled and stroked her hair, then glanced about the room in search of Max.
The boy was sitting silently in a corner, but reading an invitation in his father's eyes, he rose and came to his other side.
The ladies were talking of the purchases they wished to make in Boston, New York or Philadelphia, on their homeward route.
"I must get winter hats for Lulu and Gracie," said Violet.
"I want a bird on mine, Mamma Vi," said Lulu; "a pretty one with gay feathers."
"Do you know, Lulu, that they skin the poor little birds alive in order to preserve the brilliancy of their plumage?" Violet said with a troubled look. "I will not wear them on that account, and as you are a kind-hearted little girl, I think you will not wish to do so either."
"But I do," persisted Lulu. "Of course I wouldn't have a bird killed on purpose, but after they are killed I might just as well have one."
"But do you not see," said Grandma Elsie, "that if every one would refuse to buy them, the cruel business of killing them would soon cease? and that it will go on as long as people continue to buy and wear them?"
"I don't care, I want one," pouted Lulu. "Papa, can't I have it?"
"No, you cannot," he said with grave displeasure. "I am sorry to see that you can be so heartless. You can have just whatever Grandma Elsie and Mamma Vi think best for you, and with that you must be content."
Lulu was silenced, but for the rest of the evening her face wore an ugly scowl.
"My little girl is growing sleepy," the captain said presently to Gracie. "Papa will carry you over home and put you to bed. Lulu, you may come too."
"I don't want to, papa, I——" she began; but he silenced her with a look.
"Bid good-night to our friends and come," he said. "You also, Max."
Max, though surprised at the order, obeyed with cheerful alacrity in strong contrast to Lulu's sullen and reluctant compliance, which said as plainly as words that she would rebel if she dared.
"I don't see why papa makes us come away so soon," she grumbled to her brother in an undertone, as they passed from one cottage to the other, their father a little in advance.
"He must have some good reason," said Max, "and I for one am willing enough to obey him, seeing it's such a little while I'll have the chance."
They had now reached the veranda of their own cottage.
"Come in quickly out of this cold wind, children," their father said; then as he closed the outer door after them, "Run into the parlor and get thoroughly warm before going up to your rooms."
He sat down by the stove with Grace on his knee, and bade the other two draw up close to it and him, one on each side. And when they had done so, "My three dear children," he said in tender tones, glancing from one to another, "no words can tell how much I love you. Will you all think very often of papa and follow him with your prayers when he is far away on the sea?"
"Oh, yes, yes, papa!" they all said with tears in their eyes, while Gracie put her small arms round his neck. Lulu rested her head on his shoulder, and Max took a hand and pressed it in both of his.
"Papa, you will think of us, too?" he said inquiringly.
"Yes, indeed, my darlings; you will never be long out of my mind, and nothing will make me happier than to hear that you are well and doing your duty faithfully."
"I shall try very hard, papa," Max said, with affectionate look and tone, "if it is only to please you and make your heart glad."
"Thank you, my son," his father replied, "but I hope a still stronger motive will be that you may please God and honor Him. Never forget, my children, that though your earthly father may be far away and know nothing of your conduct, God's all-seeing eye is ever upon you."
A half hour had passed very quickly and delightfully to the children, when at length, seeing Gracie's eyelids begin to droop, their father said it was time for him to carry her up to bed.
"Shall we stay here till you come down again, papa?" asked Max.
"No; you and Lulu may go to bed now."
"Then good-night, papa."
"No, you need not bid me good-night yet," the captain said. "I shall see you both in your rooms before you are asleep."
"Well, Lu, are you sorry now that papa made you come home so soon?" asked Max, as they went up-stairs together.
"No, indeed! Haven't we had a nice time, Max? Oh, if only we could keep papa all the time!"
"I wish we could," said Max. "But we won't have so hard a time as we've had for the last two years whenever he was away."
They had reached the door of Lulu's room. "Max," she said, turning to him as with a sudden thought, "what do you suppose papa is coming to our rooms for?"
"What do you suppose? have you done anything you ought to be punished for?" asked Max, a little mischievously. "I thought you looked very cross and rebellious about the hat and about having to come home so soon. I'm very sure, from what I've heard of Grandpa Dinsmore's strictness, that if you were his child you'd get a whipping for it."
Lulu looked frightened.
"But, Max, you don't think papa means to punish me for that, do you? He has been so kind and pleasant since," she said, with a slight tremble in her voice.
"You'll find out when he comes," laughed Max. "Good-night," and he hastened away to his own room.
A guilty conscience made Lulu very uneasy as she hurried through her preparations for bed, and as she heard her father's step approach the door she grew quite frightened.
He came in and closed it after him. Lulu was standing in her night-dress, just ready for bed. He caught up a heavy shawl, wrapped it about her, and seating himself lifted her to his knee.
"Why, how you are trembling!" he exclaimed. "What is the matter?"
"O papa! are you—are you going to punish me for being so naughty this evening?" she asked, hanging her head while her cheeks grew red.
"That was not my intention in coming in here," he said. "But, Lulu, your wilfulness is a cause of great anxiety to me. I hardly know what to do with you. I am very loath to burden our kind friends—Grandpa Dinsmore and Grandma Elsie—with so rebellious and unmanageable a child, for it will be painful to them to be severe with you, and yet I see that you will compel them to it."
"I won't be punished by anybody but you! Nobody else has a right!" burst out Lulu.
"Yes, my child, I have given them the right, and the only way for you to escape punishment is not to deserve it. And if you prove too troublesome for them, you are to be sent to a boarding-school, and that, you will understand, involves separation from Max and Gracie, and life among total strangers."
"Papa, you wouldn't, you couldn't be so cruel!" she said, bursting into tears and hiding her face on his breast.
"I hope you will not be so cruel to yourself as to make it necessary," he said. "I have fondly hoped you were improving, but your conduct to-night shows me that you are still a self-willed, rebellious child."
"Well, papa, I've wanted a bird on my hat for ever so long, and I believe you would have let me have it, too, if Mamma Vi and Grandma Elsie hadn't said that."
"I shouldn't let you have it, if they were both in favor of it," he said severely.
"Because of the cruelty it would encourage. And now, Lucilla, I want you to reflect how very kind it is in Grandpa Dinsmore and Grandma Elsie to be willing to take my children in and share with them their own delightful home. You have not the slightest claim upon their kindness, and very few people in their case would have made such an offer. I really feel almost ashamed to accept so much without being able to make some return, even if I knew my children would all behave as dutifully and gratefully as possible. And knowing how likely your conduct is to be the exact reverse of that, I can hardly reconcile it to my conscience to let you go with them to Ion. I am afraid I ought to place you in a boarding-school at once, before I am ordered away."
"O papa, don't!" she begged. "I'll try to behave better."
"You must promise more than that," he said; "promise me that you will yield to the authority of your mamma and her mother and grandfather as if it were mine; obeying their orders and submitting to any punishment they may see fit to inflict, just as if it were my act."
"Papa, have you said they might punish me?" she asked, with a look of wounded pride.
"Yes; I have full confidence in their wisdom and kindness. I know they will not abuse the authority I give them, and I have told them they may use any measures with my children that they would with their own in the same circumstances. Are you ready to give the promise I require?"
"Papa, it is too hard!"
"The choice is between that and being sent to boarding-school."
"Oh, it's so hard!" she sobbed.
"Not hard at all if you choose to be good," her father said. "In that case you will have a delightful life at Ion. Do you make the promise?"
"Yes, sir," she said, as if the words were wrung from her, then hid her face on his breast again and cried bitterly.
"My little daughter, these are tears of pride and stubbornness," sighed her father, passing his hand caressingly over her hair, "and you will never be happy until those evil passions are cast out of your heart. They are foes which you must fight and conquer by the help of Him who is mighty to save, or they will cost you the loss of your soul. Any sin unrepented of and unforsaken will drag you down to eternal death; for the Bible says, 'Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.'"
"Papa," she said, "you are the only person God commands me to obey, and I'm willing to do that."
"No, it seems not, when my command is that you obey some one else. My little girl, you need something that I cannot give you; and that is a change of heart. Go to Jesus for it, daughter; ask Him to wash away all your sins in His precious blood and to create in you a clean heart and renew a right spirit within you. He is able and willing to do it, for He says, 'Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.' We will kneel down and ask Him now."
"Papa, I do love you so, I love you dearly, and I will try to be a better girl," Lulu said, clasping her arms tightly about his neck, as, having laid her in her bed, he bent down to kiss her good-night.
"I hope so, my darling," he said; "nothing could make me happier than to know you to be a truly good child, trying to live right that you may please the dear Saviour who died that you might live."
Max, lying in his bed, was just saying to himself, "I wonder what keeps papa so long," when he heard his step on the stairs.
"Are you awake, Max?" the captain asked, as he opened the door and came in.
"Yes, sir," was the cheerful response; "it's early, you know, papa, and I'm not at all sleepy."
"That is well, for I want a little talk with you," said his father, sitting down on the side of the bed and taking Max's hand in his.
The talk was on the sin of profanity. Max was told to repeat the third commandment, then his father called his attention to the words, "The Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain."
"It is a dreadful and dangerous sin, my son," he said; "a most foolish sin, too, for there is absolutely nothing to be gained by it; and the meanest of sins, for what can be meaner than to abuse Him to whom we owe our being and every blessing we enjoy?"
"Yes, papa, and I—I've done it a good many times. Do you think God will ever forgive me?" Max asked in trembling tones.
"'He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.' 'I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions, for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins,'" quoted the captain.
"Yes, my son, if you are truly sorry for your sins because committed against God, and confess them with the determination to forsake them, asking forgiveness and help to overcome the evil of your nature, for Jesus' sake, it will be granted you. 'The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.'"
"No day discolored with domestic strife, No jealousy, but mutual truth believ'd, Secure repose and kindness undeceiv'd." —Dryden.
They were a bright and cheery company in the other house. They had divided into groups. Mrs. Elsie Travilla sat in a low rocking-chair, between her father and his wife, with her little grandson on her lap. She doated on the babe, and was often to be seen with it in her arms. She was now calling her father's attention to its beauty, and talking of the time when its mother was an infant, her own precious darling.
On a sofa on the farther side of the room the two sisters, Elsie and Violet, sat side by side, cosily chatting of things past and present, while a little removed from them Lester, Edward and Zoe formed another group.
The two gentlemen were in animated conversation, to which Zoe was a silent and absorbed listener, especially when her husband spoke; eagerly drinking in every word that fell from his lips; her face glowing, her eyes sparkling with proud delight.
"Look at Zoe; Ned certainly has one devoted admirer," remarked Elsie, regarding her young sister-in-law with a pleased yet half-amused smile.
"Yes," said Violet, "he is a perfect oracle in her esteem; and I believe everything she does is right in his eyes; indeed, their mutual devotion is a pretty thing to see. They are scarcely ever apart."
"Don't you think your husband an oracle?" asked Elsie, with a quizzical look.
"So you have found that out already, have you?" laughed Violet. "Yes, I do, but then he is wiser than our Ned, you know. Tell me now, don't you admire him? don't you think him worthy of all honor?"
"I do, indeed, and am proud to have him for a brother-in-law," Elsie said with earnest sincerity; "but," she added with a smile, "I prefer Lester for a husband."
"Yes, of course, but Levis is the best of husbands—of fathers, too."
"Rather more strict and stern than ours was, is he not?"
"Yes, but not more so than necessary with a child of Lulu's peculiar disposition."
"Ah, Vi, I pity you for being a stepmother," Elsie said, with a compassionate look at her sister.
"You needn't," returned Violet quickly.
"Lulu is the only one of the three that gives me any anxiety or trouble, and to be Captain Raymond's wife more than compensates for that."
"I suppose so. And Gracie is a dear little thing."
"Yes, she's a darling. And Max is a noble fellow. I hope he will make just such a man as his father. Don't you think he resembles the captain in looks?"
"Yes, and I notice he is very chivalrous in his manner toward his young stepmother."
"Yes," Violet said, with a happy smile, "and more or less to all ladies; but especially those of this family. He is like his father in that. Zoe is, I think, a particular favorite with him."
Evidently Zoe had overheard the remark, for she turned in their direction with a bright look and smile; then springing up came quickly toward them, and taking possession of a low chair near at hand, "Was it Max you were talking of, Violet?" she said. "Yes, indeed, I am fond of him. I think he's a splendid boy. But what was wrong with him to-night?"
"Nothing, so far as I know," said Violet "Why do you think there was?"
"Because he was so unusually quiet; and then his father took him away so early. Ah, here comes the captain now," as the door opened and Captain Raymond entered; "so I'll go away and let you have him to yourself."
"You needn't," said Violet, but Zoe was already by Edward's side again.
Elsie, too, rose and went to her mother to ask if she were not weary of holding the babe.
Violet looked up a little anxiously into her husband's face as she made room for him on the sofa by her side. "Is anything wrong with the children, Levis?" she asked in an undertone.
"No, love," he said; "I took them away early that I might have a little serious talk with the older two. You know I shall not long be afforded the opportunity."
"But you look troubled," she said, in tenderly sympathizing accents. "May I not share your care or sorrow, whatever it is?"
"I would rather share only joys and blessings with you, dearest, and keep the cares and burdens to myself," he answered, smiling lovingly upon her, and pressing with affectionate warmth the little hand she had placed in his.
"No, I can't consent to that," she said. "I consider it one of my precious privileges to be allowed to share your burdens and anxieties. Won't you tell me what troubles you?"
"It is nothing new, little wife," he answered cheerfully; "but I am doubting whether I do right to give your mother and grandfather so troublesome a charge as Lulu. She is almost certain to be wilful and rebellious occasionally, if not oftener."
Mrs. Travilla had resigned the babe to its mother, and was now standing near the sofa where the captain and Violet sat.
"Mamma," said the latter, turning to her, "my husband is making himself miserable with the fear that Lulu will prove too troublesome to you and grandpa."
"Please do not, captain," Elsie said brightly, accepting the easy-chair he hastened to bring forward for her. "Why should I not have a little trouble as well as other people? Lulu is an attractive child to me, very bright and original, a little headstrong, perhaps, but I shall lay siege to her heart and try to rule her through her affections."
"I think that will be the better plan," he said, the look of care lifting from his brow; "she is a warm-hearted child, and more easily led than driven. But she is sometimes very impertinent, and I would by no means have her indulged in that. I wish you would promise me never to let it pass without punishment. She must be taught respect for authority and for her superiors."
Elsie's face had grown very grave while he was speaking. "What punishment do you prescribe?" she asked. "The child is yours."
"That should depend upon the heinousness of the offence," he replied. "I can only say, please treat her exactly as if she were your own."
Mr. and Mrs. Dinsmore now joined them, and the question what studies the children should pursue during the coming winter was discussed and settled. Then the captain spoke of reading matter, asked advice in regard to suitable books and periodicals, and begged his friends to have a careful oversight of all the mental food of his children.
"You could not intrust that matter to a more wise and capable person than papa," Elsie said, with an affectionate, smiling look at her father. "I well remember how strict he was with me in my childhood; novels were coveted but forbidden sweets."
"You must have been glad when you were old enough to read them, mamma," remarked Zoe, joining the circle.
"You read far too many, my little woman," said Mr. Dinsmore, pinching her rosy cheek. "If I were Edward, I should curtail the supply, and try to cultivate a taste for something better."
"But I'm a married woman and sha'n't submit to being treated like a child, grandpa," she said, with a little pout and a toss of her pretty head.
"Not even by me?" asked Edward, leaning down over her as he stood behind her chair.
"No, not even by you," she returned saucily, looking up into his face with laughing eyes. "I'm your wife, sir, not your child."
"Both, I should say," laughed Edward. "I remember that I was considered a mere child at your age. And whatever you are you belong to me, don't you?"
"Yes; and you to me just as much," she retorted, and at that there was a general laugh.
The captain had said nothing of the objectionable reading matter found in his children's hands that day, but when alone with Violet in their own room, he told her all about it, blaming himself severely for not having been so watchful over them as he ought, and expressing his distress over the discovery that Max had sometimes been guilty of profanity.
"I do not know whether it has become a habit with him," he said, "but, my dear, I beg of you to watch him closely when I am away, and if he is ever known to offend in that way, see that he is properly punished."
"But how, Levis?" she asked, with a troubled look. "I don't know what I can do but talk seriously to him about the wickedness of it."
"I hope you will do that, my dear. I have no doubt it would have an excellent effect, for he loves and admires you greatly. But let him be punished by being separated, for at least a week, from the rest of the family, as unworthy to associate with them."
"Oh, that would be very hard, very humiliating for a proud, sensitive, affectionate boy like Max!" she exclaimed. "May we not be a little more lenient toward him?" and she looked up pleadingly into her husband's face.
"No," he said with decision; "but I strongly hope there will be no occasion for such punishment, as he seems sincerely penitent and quite determined not to offend in that way again. I really think my boy wants to do right, but he is a heedless, thoughtless fellow, often going wrong from mere carelessness and forgetfulness. But he must be taught to think and to remember."
"I wish he could have his father's constant care and control," sighed Violet.
"I wish he could indeed!" responded the captain; "but principally because I fear he will prove a care and trouble to your grandfather and mother, who, I am inclined to think, are more capable than I of giving him proper training. I shall go away feeling easier in regard to my children's welfare than I ever have before since they lost their mother."
"I am very glad of that, Levis," Violet said, her eyes shining with pleasure, "and I do believe they will have a happy life at Ion."
"It will certainly be their own fault if they do not," he replied.
* * * * *
Rose Travilla was somewhat less amiable in disposition than her mother and older sisters, and had been much disgusted with Lulu's exhibition of temper that evening.
Talking with her mother afterward in her dressing-room, "Mamma," she said, "I wish you hadn't offered to let Lulu Raymond live with us at Ion. I don't at all like the way she behaves, and I wish you and grandpa would tell her father to send her off to boarding-school."
"That is an unkind wish, Rose," said her mother. "Perhaps if you had had the same treatment Lulu has been subjected to since her mother's death, you might have shown as bad a temper as hers. Haven't you some pity for the little girl, when you reflect that she is motherless?"
"I don't think she could have a sweeter mother than our Vi," was the unexpected rejoinder. "But she doesn't appreciate her in the least," Rose went on, "but seems always on the watch against any effort on Vi's part to control her."
"She seems to be naturally impatient of control by whomsoever exerted," Mrs. Travilla said, "but we will hope to see her improve in that respect, and you must set her a good example, Rose.
"And I want you to think how sad it would be for her to be parted from the brother and sister she loves so dearly and sent away alone to boarding-school. I shall never forget how alarmed and distressed I was when your grandpa threatened me with one."
"Did he, mamma?" asked Rosie, opening her eyes very wide with surprise.
"Yes, he was very much displeased with me at the time," her mother said with a sigh. "But we will not talk about it; the recollection is very painful to me."
"No, mamma; but I cannot get over my astonishment, for I thought you were never naughty, even when you were a little child."
"Quite a mistake, Rosie; I had my naughty times as well as other children," Mrs. Travilla said, smiling at Rosie's bewildered look. "But now I want you to promise me, my child, that you will be kind and forbearing toward poor little motherless Lulu."
"Well, mamma, to please you I will; but I hope she won't try me too much by impertinence to you or Violet. I don't think I can stand it if she does.
"Try to win her love, Rosie, and then you may be able to influence her strongly for good."
"I don't know how to begin, mamma."
"Force your thoughts to dwell on the good points in her character, and think compassionately of the respects in which she is less fortunate than yourself, and you will soon find a feeling of love toward her springing up in your heart; and love begets love. Do her some kindness, daughter, and that will help you to love her and to gain her love."
"Well, mamma, I shall try if only to please you. But do tell me, did grandpa punish you very severely when you were naughty?"
"His punishment was seldom anything more severe than the gentle rebuke, 'I am not pleased with you,' but I think I felt it more than many a child would a whipping; I did so dearly love my father that his displeasure was terrible to me."
"Yes, I know you and he love each other dearly yet, and he often says you were a very good, conscientious little girl."
"But to return to Lulu," said Mrs. Travilla, "I had thought she would be a nice companion for you, and until this evening I have not seen her show any naughty temper since the first week she was here."
"No, mamma, she has been quite well-behaved, I believe, and perhaps she will prove a pleasant companion. I am sorry for her, too, because she hasn't a dear, wise, kind mother like mine," Rosie added, putting her arms about her mother's neck, "and because the father, I am sure she loves very much, must soon go away and leave her."
"Farewell, God knows when we shall meet again." —Shakespeare.
The next morning the captain and Max were out together on the beach before Violet and the little girls had left their rooms. The lad liked to be alone with his father sometimes. He had always been proud and fond of him, and the past few months of constant intercourse had greatly strengthened the bonds of affection between them. The boy's heart was sore at thought of the parting that must soon come, the captain's hardly less so. He talked very kindly with his son, urging him to make the best use of his time, talents and opportunities, and grow up to be a good, honorable and useful man.
"I want to be just such a man as you are, papa," Max said, with an admiring, affectionate look up into his father's face, and slipping his hand into his as he spoke.
The captain clasped the hand lovingly in his, and held it fast.
"I hope you will be a better and more talented man, my boy," he said, "but always remember my most ardent wish is to see you a truly good man, a Christian, serving God with all your powers."
At this moment a voice behind them said, "Good-mornin', cap'n. I'se got a lettah hyah for you, sah."
"Ah, good-morning, Ben, and thank you for bringing it," said the captain, turning round to receive it.
"You's bery welcom, sah," responded Ben, touching his hat respectfully, then walking away toward Mr. Dinsmore's cottage.
"From Washington," the captain remarked, more to himself than to Max, as he broke the seal.
Max watched him while he read, then asked, a little tremulously, "Must you go very soon, papa?"
"Within three days, my boy. But we won't say anything about it until after prayers, but let Mamma Vi and your sisters enjoy their breakfast in peace."
"Yes, sir. Papa, I wish I was going with you!"
"But think how your sisters would miss you, Max."
"Yes, sir, I suppose they would. I hadn't thought of that."
"Besides, I want you to take my place to Mamma Vi as nearly as you can," added his father, looking smilingly at him.
"O papa, thank you!" cried the boy, his face growing bright with pleased surprise. "I will try my very best and do all for her that I can."
"I don't doubt it, my son. And now let us go in, for it must be breakfast-time, I think."
Lulu and Grace ran out to the veranda to meet them with a glad, "Good-morning, papa," and holding up their faces for a kiss.
It was bestowed heartily, as he stooped and gathered them in his arms, saying in tender tones, "Good-morning, my dear little daughters."
The breakfast bell was ringing, and they hastened to obey its summons. They found Violet already in the dining-room, and looking sweet and fresh as a rose, in a pretty, becoming morning dress.
The captain chatted cheerfully with her and the children while he ate, seeming to enjoy his beefsteak, muffins and coffee; but Max scarcely spoke, and occasionally had some difficulty in swallowing his food because of the lump that would rise in his throat at the thought of the parting now drawing so near.
Directly after breakfast came family worship. Then as Violet and her husband stood together before the window looking out upon the sea, he gave her his Washington letter to read.
She glanced over it, while he put his arm about her waist.
"O Levis, so soon!" she said tremulously, looking up at him with eyes full of tears, then her head dropped upon his shoulder, and the tears began to fall.
He soothed her with caresses and low-breathed words of endearment; of hope, too, that the separation might not be a long one.
"What is it, Max?" whispered Lulu, "has papa got his orders?"
"Yes; and has to be off in less than three days," replied Max, in husky tones, and hastily brushing away a tear.
Lulu's eyes filled, but by a great effort she kept the tears from falling.
The captain turned toward them. "We are going into the other house, children," he said. "You can come with us if you wish."
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir," they said, and Grace ran to her father and put her hand in his.
They found the Dinsmore and Travilla family all assembled in the parlor, discussing plans for the day, all of which were upset by the captain's news.
His ship lay in Boston harbor, and it was promptly decided that they would all leave to-day for that city, only a few hours' distant.
As the cottages had been rented furnished, and all had for days past held themselves in readiness for sudden departure, this would afford ample time for the necessary packing and other arrangements.
All was presently bustle and activity in both houses. Zoe and Edward, with no painful parting in prospect, made themselves very merry over their packing. They were much like two children, and except when overcome by the recollection of her recent bereavement, Zoe was as playful and frolicsome as a kitten.
"Can I help, Mamma Vi?" asked Lulu, following Violet into her dressing-room.
Vi considered a moment. "You are a dear child to want to help," she said, smiling kindly upon the little girl. "I don't think you can pack your trunk, but you can be of use here by handing me things out of the bureau drawers and wardrobe. There are so many trunks to pack that I cannot think of leaving Agnes to do it all."
"My dear," said the captain, coming in at that moment, "you are not to do anything but sit in that easy-chair and give directions. I flatter myself that I am quite an expert in this line."
"Can you fold ladies' dresses so that they will carry without rumpling?" asked Violet, looking up at him with a saucy smile.
"Perhaps not. I can't say I ever tried that. Agnes may do that part of the work, and I will attend to the rest."
"And may I hand you the things, papa?" asked Lulu.
"Yes, daughter," he said, "I like to see you trying to be useful."
They set to work, Violet looking on with interest. "Why, you are an excellent packer, Levis," she remarked presently, "far better than I or Agnes either."
"Thank you," he said, "I am very glad to be able to save you the exertion."
"And you do it so rapidly," she said. "It would have taken me twice as long."
"That is partly because I am much stronger, and partly the result of a good deal of practice. And Lulu is quite a help," he added, with an affectionate look at her.
She flushed with pleasure. "Are you going to pack the other trunks, papa? Max's and Grade's and mine? And may I help you with them?" she asked.
"Yes, is my answer to both questions," he returned.
"Where are Max and Gracie?" asked Violet.
"I told Max to take his little sister to the beach, and take care of and amuse her," the captain said in answer to the question.
"Don't you want to be out at play, too, Lulu?" asked Violet. "I can help your papa."
"No, ma'am, thank you," the child answered in a quick, emphatic way. "I'd a great deal rather be with papa to-day than playing."
He gave her a pleased look and smile, and Violet said, "That is nice, Lulu; I am very glad his children love him so."
"Indeed we do, Mamma Vi! every one of us!" exclaimed Lulu. "Papa knows we do. Don't you, papa?"
"Yes, I am quite sure of it," he said. "And that my wife is fond of me also," with a smiling glance at her, "and altogether it makes me a very happy man."
"As you deserve to be," said Violet, gayly. "Please, sir, will you allow me to fold my dresses?"
"No, for here comes Agnes," as the maid entered the room, "who, I dare say, can do it better. Come, Lulu, we will go now to your room."
Violet stayed where she was to direct and assist Agnes, and Lulu was glad, because she wanted to be alone with her father for a while.
When her trunk was packed he turned to leave the room, but she detained him. "Papa," she said, clinging to his hand, "I—I want to speak to you."
He sat down and drew her to his side, putting an arm about her waist. "Well, daughter, what is it?" he asked kindly, stroking the hair back from her forehead with the other hand.
"Papa, I—I wanted to tell you that I'm sorry for——" she stammered, her eyes drooping, her cheeks growing crimson.
"Sorry for your former naughtiness and rebellion?" he asked gently, as she paused, leaving her sentence unfinished.
"Yes, papa, I couldn't bear to let you go away without telling you so again."
"Well, daughter, it was all forgiven long ago, and you have been a pretty good girl most of the time since that first sad week."
"Papa, I do want to be good," she said earnestly, "but somehow the badness will get the better of me."
"Yes; each one of us has an evil nature to fight against," he said, "and it will get the better of us unless we are very determined and battle with it, not in our own strength only, but crying mightily for assistance to Him who has said, 'In me is thine help.'
"We must watch and pray, my child. The Bible bids us keep our hearts with all diligence, and set a watch at the door of our lips that we sin not with our tongues. Also to pray without ceasing. We need to cry often to God for help to overcome the evil that is in our own hearts, and the snares of the world and the devil, 'who goeth about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.'"
"Papa," she said, looking up into his face, "do you find it hard to be good sometimes?"
"Yes, my child; I have the same battle to fight that you have, and I am the more sorry for you because I know by experience how difficult it sometimes is to do right."
"And you have to help me by punishing me when I'm naughty, and making me do as I ought?"
"Yes, and my battle is sometimes for patience with a naughty, disobedient child."
"I think you were very patient with me that time you kept me shut up so long in this room," she said. "If I'd been in your place I'd have got a good switch and whipped my little girl till I made her obey me at once."
"Do you think that would have been the better plan?"
"No, sir. I think you'd have had to 'most kill me before I'd have given up, but if I'd been in your place I couldn't have had patience to wait."
"You need to cultivate the grace of patience, then," he said gravely. "Now come with me to Max's room, and let us see if we can pack up his goods and chattels."
"Papa, I almost think I could pack it myself after watching you pack all these others."
"Possibly; but I shall do it more quickly, with you to help in getting all the things together."
Every one was ready in due season for departure, and that night the two cottages that for months past had been so full of light and life, were dark, silent and deserted.
Arriving in Boston, the whole party took rooms at one of the principal hotels. There they spent the night, but the greater part of the next day was passed on board the captain's vessel.
The day after the parting came; a very hard one for him, his young wife and children. Little feeble Gracie cried herself sick, and Violet found it necessary to put aside the indulgence of her own grief in order to comfort the nearly heart-broken child, who clung to her as she might have done to her own mother.
Max and Lulu made no loud lament, but their quiet, subdued manner and sad countenances told of deep and sincere sorrow, and, in truth, they often felt ready to join in Gracie's oft-repeated cry, "Oh, how can I do without my dear, dear papa?"
But they were with kind friends. Every one in the party showed them sympathy, pretty presents were made them, and they were taken to see all the sights of the city likely to interest them.
Grandma Elsie particularly endeared herself to them at this time by her motherly tenderness and care, treating them as if they were her own children.
Their father had given each two parting gifts, a handsome pocket Bible, with the injunction to commit at least one verse to memory every day, and a pretty purse with some spending money in it; for he knew they would enjoy making purchases for themselves when visiting the city stores with the older people.
So they did; and Lulu, who was generous to a fault, had soon spent her all in gifts for others; a lovely new doll for Gracie, some books for Max, a bottle of perfumery for "Mamma Vi," and a toy for Walter.
Violet was much pleased with the present to herself as an evidence of growing affection. She received it with warm thanks and a loving embrace. "My dear child, it was very kind in you to think of me!" she said. "It makes me hope you have really given me a little place in your heart, dear."
"Oh, yes, Mamma Vi, indeed I have!" cried the little girl, returning the embrace. "Surely we ought all to love you when you love our dear father so much, and he loves you, too."
"Certainly," said Max, who was standing by; "we couldn't help loving so sweet and pretty a lady if she was nothing at all to us and we lived in the same house with her, and how can we think she's any less nice and sweet just because she's married to our father?"
"And how can I help loving you because you are the children of my dear husband?" responded Violet, taking the boy's hand and pressing it warmly in hers.
Some hours later Violet accidentally overheard part of a conversation between her little sister Rose and Lulu.
"Yes," Rosie was saying, "mamma gives me fifty cents a week for spending money."
"Ah, how nice!" exclaimed Lulu. "Papa often gives us some money, but not regularly, and Max and I have often talked together about how much we would like to have a regular allowance. I'd be delighted, even if it wasn't more than ten cents."
Violet had been wishing to give the children something, and trying to find out what would be most acceptable, so was greatly pleased with the hint given her by this little speech of Lulu's.
The child came presently to her side to bid her good-night. Violet put an arm around her, and kissing her affectionately, said, "Lulu, I have been thinking you might like to have an allowance of pocket money, as Rosie has. Would you?"
"O Mamma Vi! I'd like it better than anything else I can think of!" cried the little girl, her face sparkling with delight.
"Then you shall have it and begin now," Violet said, taking out her purse and putting two bright silver quarters into Lulu's hand.
"Oh, thank you, mamma, how good and kind in you!" cried the child.
"Max shall have the same," said Violet, "and Gracie half as much for the present. When she is a little older it shall be doubled. Don't you want the pleasure of telling Max, and taking this to him?" she asked, putting another half dollar into Lulu's hand.
"Oh yes, ma'am! Thank you very much!"
Max was on the farther side of the room—a good-sized parlor of the hotel where they were staying—very much absorbed in a story-book; Lulu approached him softly, a gleeful smile on her lips and in her eyes, and laid his half dollar on the open page.
"What's that for?" he asked, looking round at her.
"For you; and you're to have as much every week, Mamma Vi says."
"O Lu! am I, really?"
"Yes; I too; and Gracie's to have a quarter."
"Oh, isn't it splendid!" he cried, and hurried to Violet to pour out his thanks.
Grandma Elsie, seated on the sofa by Violet's side, shared with her the pleasure of witnessing the children's delight.
Our friends had now spent several days in Boston, and the next morning they left for Philadelphia, where they paid a short visit to relatives. This was their last halt on the journey home to Ion.
"—to the guiltless heart, where'er we roam, No scenes delight us like our much-loved home." —Robert Hillhouse.
Elsie and her children had greatly enjoyed their summer at the North, but now were filled with content and happiness at the thought of soon seeing again their loved home at Ion, while Max and Lulu looked forward with pleasing anticipations and eager curiosity to their first sight of it, having heard various glowing descriptions of it from "Mamma Vi" and Rosie.
Their father, too, had spoken of it as a home so delightful that they ought to feel the liveliest gratitude for having been invited to share its blessings.
It was looking very beautiful, very inviting, on the arrival of our travellers late in the afternoon of a warm, bright October day.
The woods and the trees that bordered the avenue were in the height of their autumn glory, the gardens gay with many flowers of the most varied and brilliant hues, and the lengthening shadows slept on a still green and velvety lawn.
As their carriage turned into the avenue, Elsie bent an affectionate, smiling look upon Max and Lulu, and taking a hand of each, said in sweetest tones, "Welcome to your new home, my dears, and may it prove to you a very, very happy one."
"Thank you, ma'am," they both responded, Max adding, "I am very glad, Grandma Elsie, that I am to live with you and Mamma Vi."
"I, too," said Lulu; "and in such a pretty place. Oh, how lovely everything does look!"
The air was delightful, and doors and windows stood wide open. On the veranda a welcoming group was gathered. Elsie's brother and sister—Horace Dinsmore, Jr., of the Oaks, and Mrs. Rose Lacey from the Laurels—and her cousins Calhoun and Arthur Conly; while a little in the rear of them were the servants, all—from old Uncle Joe, now in his ninety-fifth year, down to Betty, his ten-year-old great-granddaughter—showing faces full of eager delight.
They stood back respectfully till greetings had been exchanged between relatives and friends, then pressed forward with their words of welcome, sure of a shake of the hand and kind word from each member of the family.
Mr. Dinsmore held little Gracie in his arms. She was much fatigued and exhausted by the long journey.
"Here is a patient for you, Arthur," he said, "and I am very glad you are here to attend to her."
"Yes," said Violet, "her father charged me to put her in your care."
"Then let her be put immediately to bed," said Arthur, after a moment's scrutiny of the child. "Give her to me, uncle, and I will carry her up-stairs."
"To my room," added Violet.
But the child shrunk from the stranger, and clung to Mr. Dinsmore.
"No, thank you, I will take her up myself," he said. "I am fully equal to it," and he moved on through the hall and up the broad stairway, Violet and the doctor following.
The others presently scattered to their rooms to rid themselves of the dust of travel and dress for the evening.
"Well, little wife, is it nice to be at home again?" Edward asked, with a smiling look at Zoe, as they entered their apartments.
"Yes, indeed!" she cried, sending a swift glance around the neat and tastefully furnished room, "especially such a home, and to be shared with such nice people; one in particular who shall be nameless," she added, with an arch look and smile.
"One who hopes you will never tire of his company, as he never expects to of yours," returned Edward, catching her in his arms and snatching a kiss from her full red lips.
"Now don't," she said, pushing him away, "just wait till I've washed the dust from my face. Here come our trunks," as two of the men servants brought them in, "and you must tell me what dress to put on."
"You look so lovely in any and every one of the dozen or more that I have small choice in the matter," laughed the young husband.
"What gross flattery!" she exclaimed. "Well, then, I suppose I'll have to choose for myself. But you mustn't complain if I do that some time when you don't want me to."
The two Elsies had lingered a little behind the others—the old servants had so many words of welcome to say to them—the younger one in especial, because she had been so far and so long away.
And the babe must be handed about from one to another, kissed and blessed and remarked upon as to his real or fancied resemblance to this or that older member of the family.
"It do 'pear pow'ful strange, Miss Elsie, dat you went away young lady and come back wid husband and baby," remarked Aunt Dicey. "And it don't seem but yistiday dat you was a little bit ob a gal."
"Yes, I have come back a great deal richer than I went," Elsie returned, with a glance of mingled love and joy, first at her husband, then at her infant son. "I have great reason to be thankful."
At that moment Mrs. Travilla became aware that Max and Lulu were lingering near, as if not knowing exactly what to do with themselves.
"Ah, my dears," she said, turning to them with a kind and pleasant look, "has no one attended to you? Come with me, and I will show you your rooms."
They followed her up the stairs, and each was shown into a very pleasant room furnished tastefully and with every comfort and convenience.
Lulu's had two doors, one opening into the hall, the other into her mamma's bedroom.
Elsie explained this, adding, "So, if you are in want of anything or should feel frightened or lonely in the night, you can run right in to the room where you will find your mamma and Gracie."
"Yes, ma'am, that is very nice; and oh, what a pretty room! How kind and good you are to me! and to my brother and sister, too!" cried Lulu, her eyes shining with gratitude and pleasure.
"I am very glad to be able to do it," Elsie said, taking the little girl's hand in one of hers and smoothing her hair caressingly with the other—for Lulu had taken off her hat. "I want to be a mother to you, dear child, and to your brother and sister, since my dear daughter is too young for so great care and responsibility. I love you all, and I want you to come freely to me with all your troubles and perplexities, your joys and sorrows, just as my own children have always done. I want you to feel that you have a right to do so, because I have invited you."
She bent down and kissed Lulu's lips, and the little girl threw her arms about her neck with impulsive warmth, saying, "Dear Grandma Elsie, I love you and thank you ever so much! And I mean to try ever so hard to be good," she added, with a blush and hanging her head shamefacedly. "I know I'm often very naughty; papa said I gave him more anxiety than Max and Gracie both put together; and I'm afraid I can't be good all the time, but I do mean to try hard."
"Well, dear, if you try with all your might, asking help from on high, you will succeed at last," Elsie said. "And now I will leave you to wash and dress. I see your trunk has been brought up and opened, so that you will have no difficulty."
With that she passed on into Violet's rooms to see how Gracie was. She found her sleeping sweetly in Violet's bed, the latter bending over her with a very tender, motherly look on her fair young face.
"Is she not a darling, mamma?" she whispered, turning her head at the sound of her mother's light footstep.
"She is a very engaging child," replied Elsie. "I think we are all fond of her, but you especially."
"Yes, mamma, I love her for herself—her gentle, affectionate disposition—but still more because she is my husband's child, his dear baby girl, as he so often called her."
"Ah, I can understand that," Elsie said, with a loving though rather sad look and smile into Violet's azure eyes, "for I have often felt just so in regard to my own children. What does Arthur say about her?"
"That she is more in need of rest and sleep than anything else at present. He will see her again to-morrow, and will probably be able then to give me full directions in regard to her diet and so forth."
"You will come down to supper? you will not think it necessary to stay with her yourself?" Elsie said inquiringly.
"Oh, no, mamma! I shall dress at once. I should not like to miss being with you all," Violet answered, moving away from the bedside. "Ah!" with sudden recollection, "I have been quite forgetting Max and Lulu."
"I have seen them to their rooms," her mother said, "and now I must go and attend to Rosie and Walter, and to my own toilet."
"Dear mamma, thank you!" Violet said heartily.
"My dear, I consider them quite as much my children, and therefore my especial charge, as yours, perhaps a trifle more," Elsie returned with sprightly look and tone as she left the room.
Agnes was in attendance on her young mistress, and was presently sent to ask if Lulu was in need of help, and to say that her mamma would like to see her before she went down-stairs.
"I don't need anything till I'm ready to have my sash tied," answered Lulu, "and then I'll come in to Mamma Vi and you to have it done. She was very good to send you, Agnes, and you to come."
"La! chile, it's jus' my business to mind Miss Wilet," returned Agnes. "An' she's good to eberybody, ob cose—always was."
"What did you want to see me for, Mamma Vi?" asked Lulu, as she presently entered her young stepmother's dressing-room.
"Just to make sure that your hair and dress are all right, dear. You know we have company to-night, and I am particularly anxious that my little Lulu shall look her very best."
The child's face flushed with pleasure. She liked to be well and becomingly dressed, and it was gratifying to have Mamma Vi care that she should be. Mrs. Scrimp was so different; she had never cared whether Lulu's attire was tasteful and becoming or quite the reverse, but always roused the child's indignation by telling her it was all sufficient if she were only neat and clean.
"Am I all right?" she asked.
"Pretty nearly; we will have you quite so in a minute," Violet answered. "Tie her sash Agnes, and smooth down the folds of her dress."
"Mamma Vi, is that strange lady any relation to you?" asked Lulu.
"Yes, she is my aunt, mamma's sister."
"She is pretty, but not nearly so pretty as Grandma Elsie."
"No; I have always thought no one else could be half so beautiful as mamma."
"Why, Mamma Vi, you are yourself!" exclaimed Lulu in a tone of honest sincerity that made Violet laugh.
"That is just your notion, little girl," she said, giving the child a kiss.
"Oh, I have eyes and can see! besides, papa thinks so, too, and Max and Gracie."
"Yes, my dear husband! he loves me, and love is very blind," murmured Vi, half to herself, with a sigh and a far-off look in the lovely azure eyes. Her thoughts were following him over the deep, wide, treacherous sea.
She stole on tiptoe into the next room for another peep at his sleeping baby girl, Lulu going with her; then hearing the tea-bell, they went down to the dining-room together.
They gathered about the table, a large cheerful party, the travellers full of satisfaction in being at home again, the others so glad to have them there once more.
Zoe was very merry and Rosie in almost wild spirits, but Max and Lulu, to whom all was new and strange, were quite quiet and subdued, scarcely speaking except when spoken to, "Mamma," Rosie said, when they had adjourned to the parlor, "it's lovely out of doors, bright moonlight and not a bit cold; mayn't I take Max and Lulu down to the lakelet?"
"Do you think the evening air would be injurious to them, Arthur?" Mrs. Travilla asked, turning to her cousin.
"I think there is malaria in it, and would advise them to stay within doors until after breakfast to-morrow morning," he answered, drawing Rose to a seat upon his knee.
"Then you'd better let us go," she said archly, "so you can have some more patients. Don't you like to have plenty of patients?"
"That's a leading question, little coz," he said laughingly, toying with her curls. "When people are sick I like to have an opportunity to exercise my skill in trying to relieve and cure them, but I hope I don't want them made sick in order to furnish me with employment."
"I want to show Lulu and Max the beauties of Ion, and don't know how to wait till to-morrow," she said.
"Then take them about from one room to another, and let them look out through the windows upon its moonlit lawn, alleys, gardens and lakelet."
"Oh, yes, yes! that will do!" she cried, leaving his knee in haste to carry out his suggestion.
Max and Lulu, nothing loath, accepted her invitation, and they ran in and out, up stairs and down, the young strangers delighted with the views thus obtained of their new home and its surroundings.
Rosie said she hoped they would not be required to begin lessons immediately, but would be allowed a few days in which to enjoy walks, rides, drives, and boating.
"I'll ask grandpa and mamma if we may," she added, as they re-entered the parlor. She hastened to present her petition, and it was granted; the children were told they should have a week in which to enjoy themselves and recover from the fatigue of their journey, and would be expected to show their appreciation of the indulgence by great industry afterward.
Lulu was standing a little apart from the rest, gazing out of the window upon the moonlit lawn, when a step drew near; then some one took her by the arm, and in a twinkling she found herself seated upon a gentleman's knee.
Looking up into his face, she saw that it was Mr. Horace Dinsmore who had thus taken possession of her.
"Well, my little dark-eyed lassie," he said, "no one has thought it worth while to introduce us, but we won't let that hinder our making acquaintance. Do you know who I am?"
"I heard Rosie call you Uncle Horace."
"Then suppose you follow Rosie's example. If you are as good as you are bonny, I shall be proud to claim you as my niece."
"But I'm not," she said frankly. Then hastily correcting herself, "I don't mean to say I'm bonny, but I'm not good. Aunt Beulah used to say I was the worst child she ever saw."
"Indeed! you are honest, at all events," he said, with a look of amusement. "And who is Aunt Beulah?"
"The person Gracie and I lived with before papa got married to Mamma Vi."
"Ah! well I shall not regard her opinion, but wait and form one for myself, and I shall certainly be much surprised if you don't turn out a pattern good girl, now that you are to live with my sweet sister Elsie. In the mean while, will it please you to call me Uncle Horace?"
"Yes, sir, since you ask me to," Lulu replied, looking much gratified.
At this moment the door opened, and Mr. Lacey walked in. He had come for his wife, and when he and the others had exchanged greetings, she rose to make ready for departure.
Calhoun Conly rose also, saying to his brother, "Well, Art, perhaps it would be as well for us to go, too; our friends must be tired after their long journey, and will want to get to bed early."
"Suppose you all delay a little and unite with us in evening family worship," said Mr. Dinsmore. "It is a good while since I have had all three of my children present with me at such a service."
All complied with his request, and immediately afterward took leave. Then with an exchange of affectionate good-nights the family separated and scattered to their rooms.
Lulu was not quite ready for bed when Violet came in, and putting her arm around her, asked, with a gentle kiss, "Do you feel strange and lonely in this new place, little girl?"
"Oh, no, Mamma Vi! it seems such a nice home that I am very glad to be in it."
"That is right," Violet said, repeating her caress. "I hope you will sleep well and wake refreshed. I shall leave the door open between your room and mine, so that you need not feel timid, and can run right in to me whenever you wish. Good-night, dear."
"Good-night, Mamma Vi. Thank you for being so good to me, and to Gracie and Max," Lulu said, clinging to her in an affectionate way.
"My child," returned Violet, "how could I be anything else to the children of my dear husband? Ah, I must go! Mamma calls me," she added, hurrying away as a soft, sweet voice was heard coming from the adjoining room.
Lulu finished undressing, said her prayers, and had just laid her head on her pillow, when some one glided noiselessly to the bedside and a soft hand passed caressingly over her hair.
The child opened her eyes, which had already closed in sleep, and saw by the moonlight a sweet and beautiful face bending lovingly over her.
"Grandma Elsie," she murmured sleepily.
"Yes, dear. Rosie and Walter never like to go to sleep without a good-night kiss from mamma, and you must have the same now, as you are to be one of my dear children."
Lulu, now wide awake, started up to put both arms round the neck of her visitor. "Oh, I do love you!" she said, "and I'll try hard to be a good child to you."
"I believe it, dear," Elsie said, pressing the child to her heart. "Will you join my children in their half-hour with mamma in her dressing-room before breakfast? I shall be glad to have you, but you must do just as you please about it."
"Thank you, ma'am; I'll come," said Lulu.
"That is right. Now lie down and go to sleep. You need a long night's rest."
"Her fancy followed him through foaming wares To distant shores." —Cowper.
Violet in her night-dress and with her beautiful hair unbound and hanging about her like a golden cloud, stood before her dressing-table, gazing through a mist of unshed tears upon a miniature which she held in her hand.
"Ah, where are you now, love?" she sighed half aloud.
Her mother's voice answered close at her side, in gentle, tender accents, "In God's keeping, my darling. He is the God of the sea as well as of the land."
"Yes, mamma, and his God as well as mine," Violet responded, looking up and smiling through her tears. "Ah, what comfort in both assurances, and in the precious promise, 'Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest.' It is his and it is mine."
"Yes, dearest. I feel for you in your loneliness," her mother said, putting her arms around her. "Elsie is very happy in her husband and baby, Edward in his wife; they need me but little, comparatively, but you and I must draw close together and be a comfort and support to each other; shall we not, my love?"
"Yes, indeed, dearest mamma. Oh, what a comfort and blessing you are to me, and always have been! And I am happier and less lonely for having my husband's children with me, especially my darling little Gracie. I feel that in caring for her and nursing her back to health I shall be adding to his happiness."
"As no doubt you will," her mother said. "It will be a pleasure to me to help you care for her, and the others also. Now, good-night, daughter; we both ought to be in bed."
Violet presently stretched herself beside the sleeping Gracie with a murmured word of endearment drew the child closer to her, and in another moment was sharing her slumbers.
When she awoke the sun was shining, and the first object her eyes rested upon was the little face by her side. The pallor and look of exhaustion it had worn the night before were quite gone, a faint tinge of pink had even stolen into the cheeks.
Violet noted the change with a feeling of relief and thankfulness, and raising herself upon her elbow, touched her lips lightly to the white forehead.
The child's eyes flew open and with a sweet engaging smile, she asked, "Have you been lying beside me all night, mamma?"
"Yes, Gracie. You have had a long sleep, dear; do you feel quite rested?"
"Yes, mamma, I feel very well. This is such a nice soft bed, and I like to sleep with you. May I always?"
"For all winter, I think, dear. I like to have your papa's baby girl by my side."
"I'm very much obliged to him for finding me such a sweet, pretty new mamma. I told him so one day," remarked the child innocently, putting an arm about Vi's neck.
"Did you?" Violet asked with an amused smile; "and what did he say?"
"Nothing; he just smiled and hugged me tight and kissed me ever so many times. Do you know what made him do that, mamma?"
"Because he likes to have us love one another. And so we will, won't we, dear?"
"Yes, indeed! Mamma, I feel a little hungry."
"I'm glad to hear it, for here comes Agnes with a glass of nice rich milk for you. And when you have drunk it she will wash and dress you. We will all have to hurry a little to be ready in good time for breakfast," she added, springing from the bed and beginning her toilet. "Grandpa Dinsmore never likes to have us late."
"Miss Rosie and Miss Lulu's up and dressed and gone into Miss Elsie's room, Miss Wilet," remarked Agnes, holding the tumbler she had brought to Gracie's lips.
"Ah, that is well," said Violet, with a pleased look. "Lulu has stolen a march on us, Gracie."
The week that followed their arrival at Ion was a delightful one to all, especially the children, who had scarce anything to do but enjoy themselves. The weather was all that could be desired, and they walked, rode, drove, boated, fished, and went nutting.
Mr. Dinsmore and Edward were every day more or less busied with the affairs of the plantation, but some one of the older people could always find time to be with the children, while Zoe never failed to make one of the party, and seemed almost as much a child as any of the younger ones.
Every nook on the plantation and in its neighborhood was explored, and visits were paid to Fairview, the Laurels, the Pines, the Oaks, Roselands and Ashlands; the dwellers at each place having first called upon the family at Ion.
Both Max and Lulu had long desired to learn to ride on horseback, and great was their delight on learning that now this wish could be gratified.
A pony was always at the service of each, and lessons in the art of sitting and managing it were given them, now by Mr. Dinsmore and now by Edward, who was a great admirer of his brother-in-law, Captain Raymond, had become much attached to him, and took a very kindly interest in his children.
Gracie was given a share in all the pleasures for which she was considered strong enough, and when not able to go with the others on their expeditions, was well entertained at home with toys and books filled with pictures and stories suited to her age.
Both Elsie and Violet watched over the little girl with true motherly love and care; she warmly returning the affection of both, but clinging especially to Violet, her "pretty new mamma."
Gracie was a docile little creature, and seemed very happy in her new life. She was deeply interested in the riding lessons of her brother and sister, and when, near the end of the week, Dr. Arthur, to whom she was becoming much attached, set her on the back of a Shetland pony and led it about the grounds for a few minutes, promising her longer rides as her strength increased, she was almost speechless with happiness.
With the second week lessons began for the children. Each task had its appointed hour, and they were required to be as systematic, punctual and well prepared for recitations as pupils in an ordinary school, but at the same time great care was taken that neither mind nor body should be overtaxed, and they enjoyed many liberties and indulgences which could not have been granted elsewhere than at home.
The mornings were spent by Rosie and Lulu in the school-room in study and recitation, under the supervision of either "Grandma Elsie" or "Mamma Vi."
Grace and Walter would be there also at the start, but their short and easy tasks having been attended to, they might stay and amuse themselves quietly, or if inclined for noisy sport, go to the nursery or play-room to enjoy it there.
Max conned his lessons alone in his own room, joining the others only when the hour arrived for reciting to Mr. Dinsmore, who took sole charge of his education, and of the two little girls, so far as concerned Latin and arithmetic. Rosie and Max were together in both these studies, but Lulu—because of being younger and not so far advanced—was alone in both, much to her dissatisfaction, for she was by no means desirous to have Mr. Dinsmore's attention concentrated upon herself for even a short space of time.
His keen dark eyes seemed to look her through and through, and though he had never shown her any sternness, she was quite sure he could and would if she gave him any occasion.
But for that there was no necessity, his requirements being always reasonable and only such as she was fully capable of meeting. She had a good mind, quick discernment and retentive memory, and she was quite resolved to be industrious and to keep her promise to her father to be a good girl in every way. Also her ambition was aroused to attempt to overtake her brother and Rosie.
She was moderately fond of study, but had a decided repugnance to plain sewing, therefore looked ill-pleased enough upon discovering that it was to be numbered among her daily tasks.