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Title: Elsie's Widowhood - A Sequel to Elsie's Children
Author: Finley, Martha, 1828-1909
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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ELSIE'S WIDOWHOOD

A Sequel to "Elsie's Children"

by

MARTHA FINLEY

"Alone she wanders where with HIM she trod,
No arm to stay her, but she leans on God."
                                     --O. W. HOLMES



New York
Dodd, Mead and Company
Publishers

Copyright, 1880, by Dodd, Mead & Company.



PREFACE.


It was not in my heart to give to my favorite child, Elsie, the sorrows
of Widowhood. But the public made the title and demanded the book; and
the public, I am told, is autocratic. So what could I do but write the
story and try to show how the love of Christ in the heart can make life
happy even under sore bereavement? The apostle says, "I am filled with
comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation;" and since
trouble, trial and affliction are the lot of all in this world of sin
and sorrow, what greater kindness could I do you, dear reader, than to
show you where to go for relief and consolation? That this little book
may teach the sweet lesson to many a tried and burdened soul, is the
earnest prayer of your friend,

                             THE AUTHOR.



CONTENTS.


                      PAGE

    CHAPTER I            7

    CHAPTER II          18

    CHAPTER III         28

    CHAPTER IV          38

    CHAPTER V           47

    CHAPTER VI          59

    CHAPTER VII         68

    CHAPTER VIII        80

    CHAPTER IX          91

    CHAPTER X          101

    CHAPTER XI         114

    CHAPTER XII        127

    CHAPTER XIII       140

    CHAPTER XIV        151

    CHAPTER XV         165

    CHAPTER XVI        178

    CHAPTER XVII       194

    CHAPTER XVIII      207

    CHAPTER XIX        220

    CHAPTER XX         236

    CHAPTER XXI        247

    CHAPTER XXII       263

    CHAPTER XXIII      279

    CHAPTER XXIV       296

    CHAPTER XXV        323



ELSIE'S WIDOWHOOD.



CHAPTER I.

    "All love is sweet,
     Given or returned. Common as light is love,
     And its familiar voice wearies not ever."
                                      --_Shelley._


"Come in, Vi, darling," said Mrs. Travilla's sweet voice, "we will be
glad to have you with us."

Violet, finding the door of her mother's dressing-room ajar, had stepped
in, then drawn hastily back, fearing to intrude upon what seemed a
private interview between her and her namesake daughter; Elsie being
seated on a cushion at her mamma's feet, her face half hidden on her
lap, while mamma's soft white hand gently caressed her hair and cheek.

"I feared my presence might not be quite desirable just now, mamma,"
Violet said gayly, coming forward as she spoke. "But what is the
matter?" she asked in alarm, perceiving that tears were trembling in the
soft brown eyes that were lifted to hers. "Dear mamma, are you ill? or
is Elsie? is anything wrong with her?"

"She shall answer for herself," the mother said with a sort of tremulous
gayety of tone and manner. "Come, bonny lassie, lift your head and tell
your sister of the calamity that has befallen you."

There was a whispered word or two of reply, and Elsie rose hastily and
glided from the room.

"Mamma, is she sick?" asked Violet, surprised and troubled.

"No, dear child. It is--the old story:" and the mother sighed
involuntarily. "We cannot keep her always; some one wants to take her
from us."

"Some one! oh who, mamma? who would dare? But you and papa will never
allow it?"

"Ah, my child, we cannot refuse; and I understand now, as I never did
before, why my father looked so sad when yours asked him for his
daughter."

Light flashed upon Violet. "Ah mamma, is that it? and who--but I think I
know. It is Lester Leland, is it not?"

Her mother's smile told her that her conjecture was correct.

Violet sighed as she took the seat just vacated by her sister, folded
her arms on her mother's lap, and looked up with loving eyes into her
face.

"Dear mamma, I am so sorry for you! for papa too, and for myself. What
shall I do without my sister? How can you and papa do without her? How
_can_ she? I'm sure no one in the world can ever be so dear to _me_ as
my own precious father and mother. And I wish--I wish Lester Leland had
never seen her."

"No, darling, we should not wish that. These things must be; God in his
infinite wisdom and goodness has so ordered it. I am sad at the thought
of parting with my dear child, yet how could I be so selfish as to wish
her to miss the great happiness that I have found in the love of husband
and children?"

Violet answered with a doubtful "Yes, mamma, but--"

"Well, dear?" her mother asked with a smile, after waiting in vain for
the conclusion of the sentence.

"I am sure there is not another man in all the world like papa; not one
half so dear and good and kind and lovable."

"Ah, you may change your mind about that some day. It is precisely what
I used to think and say of my dear father, before I quite learned the
worth of yours."

"Ah, yes, I forgot grandpa! he is--almost as nice and dear as papa. But
there can't be another one, I'm very, every sure of that. Lester Leland
is not half so nice. Oh I don't see how Elsie _can_!"

"How Elsie can what?" asked her father, coming in at that moment, and
regarding her with a half quizzical look and smile.

"Leave you and mamma for somebody else, you dear, dear, dearest father!"
returned Vi, springing up and running to him to put her arms about his
neck and half smother him with kisses.

"Then we may hope to keep you for a good while yet?" he said
interrogatively, holding her close and returning her caresses in most
tender fatherly fashion, the mother watching them with beaming eyes.

"Yes, indeed; till you grow quite, quite tired of me, papa."

"And that will never be, my pet. Ah, little wife, how rich we are in our
children! Yet not rich enough to part with one without a pang of regret.
But we will not trouble about that yet, since the evil day is not very
near."

"Oh isn't it?" cried Violet joyously.

"No; Lester goes to Italy in a few weeks, and it will be one, two, or
maybe three years before he returns to claim his bride."

"Ah, then it is not time to begin to fret about it yet!" cried Vi,
gleefully, smiles chasing away the clouds from her brow.

At her age a year seems a long while in anticipation.

"No, daughter, nor ever will be," her father responded with gentle
gravity. "I hope my little girl will never allow herself to indulge in
so useless and sinful a thing as fretting over either what can or what
cannot be helped."

"Ah, you don't mean to let me fret at all, I see, you dear, wise old
papa," she returned with a merry laugh. "Now I must find Elsie and pass
the lesson over to her. For I shrewdly suspect she's fretting over
Lester's expected departure."

"Away with you then!" was the laughing rejoinder, and she went dancing
and singing from the room.

"The dear, merry, light-hearted child," her father said, looking after
her. "Would that I could keep her always thus."

"Would you if you could, my husband?" Mrs. Travilla asked with a tender
smile, a look of loving reverence, as he sat down by her side.

"No, sweet wife, I would not," he answered emphatically; "for, as
Rutherford says, 'grace groweth best in winter;' and the Master says,
'As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.'"

"Yes; and 'we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of
God.' Ah, we could never choose for our precious children exemption from
such trials and afflictions as He may see necessary to fit them for an
eternity of joy and bliss at His right hand!"

"No; nor for ourselves, nor for each other, my darling. But how well it
is that the choice is not for us! How could I ever choose a single pang
for you, beloved? vein of my heart, my life, my light, my joy!"

"Or I for you, my dear, dear husband!" she whispered, as he drew her
head to a resting place upon his breast and pressed a long kiss of
ardent affection on her pure white brow. "Ah, Edward, I sometimes fear
that I lean on you too much, love you too dearly! What could I ever do
without you--husband, friend, counsellor, guide--everything in one?"

Violet went very softly into her sister's dressing-room and stood for
several minutes watching her with a mixture of curiosity, interest and
amusement, before Elsie became aware of her presence.

She sat with her elbow on the window seat, her cheek in her hand, eyes
fixed on some distant point in the landscape, but evidently with
thoughts intent upon something quite foreign to it; for the color came
and went on the soft cheeks with every breath, and conscious smiles
played about the full red lips.

At last turning her head and catching her young sister's eye, she
crimsoned to the very forehead.

"O Elsie, don't mind me!" Violet said, springing to her side and putting
her arms around her. "Are you so very happy? You look so, and I am glad
for you; but--but I can't understand it."

"What, Vi?" Elsie asked, half hiding her blushing face on her sister's
shoulder.

"How you can love anybody better than our own dear, darling, precious
papa and mamma."

"Yes, I--I don't wonder, Vi," blushing more deeply than before, "but
they are not angry--dear, dear mamma and papa--it seems to me I never
loved them half so dearly before--and they say it is quite natural and
right."

"Then it must be, of course; but--I wish it was somebody else's sister
and not mine. I can't feel as if a stranger has as much right to my own
sister as I have; and I don't know how to do without you. O Elsie, can't
you be content to live on always in just the way we have ever since we
were little bits of things?"

Elsie answered with an ardent embrace and a murmured "Darling Vi, don't
be vexed with me. I'm sure you wouldn't if you knew how dearly, dearly I
love you."

"Well, I do suppose you can't help it!" sighed Violet, returning the
embrace.

"Can't help loving you? No, indeed; who could?" Elsie returned
laughingly. "You wouldn't wish it, surely? You value my affection?"

"Oh you dear old goose!" laughed Violet; "but that was a wilful
misunderstanding. None so stupid as those that won't comprehend. Now
I'll run away and leave you to your pleasant thoughts. May I tell
Molly?"

"Yes," Elsie answered with some hesitation, "she'll have to know soon.
Mamma thinks it should not be kept secret, though it must be so long
before--"

"Ah, that reminds me that I was to pass over to you the lesson papa just
gave me--that fretting is never wise or right. I leave you to make the
application," and she ran gayly away.

So joyous of heart, so full of youthful life and animation was she that
she seldom moved with sedateness and sobriety in the privacy of home,
but went tripping and dancing from room to room, often filling the house
with birdlike warblings or silvery laughter.

Molly Percival sat in her own cheery, pleasant room, pen in hand and
surrounded by books and papers over which she seemed very intent, though
now and then she lifted her head and sent a sweeping glance through the
open window, drinking in with delight the beauties of a panorama of hill
and dale, sparkling river, cultivated field and wild woodland, to which
the shifting lights and shadows, as now and again a fleecy, wind-swept
cloud partially obscured the brightness of the sun, lent the charm of
endless variety.

Molly's face was bright with intelligence and good humor. She enjoyed
her work and her increasing success. And she had still another happiness
in the change that had come over her mother.

Still feeble in intellect, Enna Johnson had become as remarkable for
gentleness and docility as she had formerly been for pride, arrogance
and self-will.

She had grown very fond of Molly, too, very proud of her attainments and
her growing fame, and asked no greater privilege than to sit in the room
with her, watching her at her work, and ever ready to wait upon and do
her errands.

And so she, too, had her home at Ion, made always welcome by its
large-hearted, generous master and mistress.

"Busy, as usual, I see," remarked Violet, as she came tripping in.
"Molly, you are the veriest bee, and richly deserve to have your hive
full of the finest honey. I'm the bearer of a bit of news very
interesting to Elsie and me, in fact I suppose I might say to all the
family. Have you time to hear it?"

"Yes, indeed, and to thank you for your kindness in bringing it," Molly
answered, laying down her pen and leaning back in a restful attitude.
"But sit down first, won't you?"

"Thank you, no; it's time to dress for dinner. I must just state the
fact and run away," said Violet, pulling out a tiny gold watch set with
brilliants. "It is that Elsie and Lester Leland are engaged."

"And your father and mother approve?" asked Molly in some surprise.

"Yes, of course; Elsie would never think of engaging herself to anybody
without their approval. But why should they be expected to object?"

"I don't know, only--he's poor, and most wealthy people would consider
that a very great objection."

Violet laughed lightly. "What an odd idea! If there is wealth on one
side, there's the less need of it on the other, I should think. And he
is intelligent, sensible, talented, amiable and good; rather handsome
too."

"And so you are pleased, Vi?"

"Yes, no, I don't know," and the bright face clouded slightly. "I
wish--but if people must marry, he'll do as well as another to rob me of
my sister, I suppose."

She tripped away, and Molly, dropping her head upon her folded arms on
the table, sighed profoundly.

Some one touched her on the shoulder, and her mother's voice asked,
"What's the matter, Molly? You don't envy her that poor artist fellow,
do you? You needn't: there'll be a better one coming along for you one
of these days."

"No, no; not for me! not for me!" gasped the girl. "I've nothing to do
with love or marriage, except to picture them for others. It's like
mixing delicious draughts for other lips, while I--I may not taste
them--may not have a single drop to cool my parched tongue, or quench my
burning thirst."

At the moment life seemed to stretch out before her as a dreary waste,
unbrightened by a single flower--a long, toilsome road to be trod in
loneliness and pain. Her heart uttered the old plaint: "They seem to
have everything and I nothing."

Then her cheek burned with shame, and penitent tears filled her eyes, as
better thoughts came crowding into her mind.

Had she not a better than an earthly love to cheer, comfort, and sustain
her on her way?--a love that would never fail, a Friend who would never
leave nor forsake her; whose sympathy was perfect; who was always
touched with the feeling of her infirmities, and into whose ear she
could ever whisper her every sorrow, perplexity, anxiety, certain of
help; for His love and power were infinite.

And the minor blessings of her lot were innumerable: the love of kindred
and friends, and the ability to do good and give pleasure by the
exercise of her God-given talents, not the least.



CHAPTER II.

    "Marriage is a matter of more worth
     Than to be dealt in by attorneyship."
                                  --_Shakespeare._


Lester Leland would sail in a few weeks for Europe. He was going to
Italy to study the great masters, and with the determination to spare no
effort to so perfect himself in his art that his fame as the first of
American sculptors should constitute a prize worthy to lay at the feet
of his peerless Elsie.

Their engagement was presently made known to all the connection, and
with no pledge or request of secrecy, her parents deeming such a course
wisest and kindest to all parties. Elsie had many suitors, and it was
but just to them to let it be understood that her selection was made.

The communication was by note to each family, which note contained also
an invitation to a family dinner at Ion, given in honor of the newly
affianced pair.

Of course the matter called forth more or less of discussion in each
household, every one feeling privileged to express an opinion in regard
to the suitableness of the proposed match.

It created some surprise at the Oaks, but as Lester was liked and his
genius admired by them all, there were no unfavorable comments.

At Ashlands the news was received in much the same way, Herbert
remarking, "Well, as it isn't Vi, I don't care a pin."

Everybody at Fairview was delighted. At Pinegrove it was pronounced "an
odd affair," but just like the Travillas; in choosing their friends and
associates they never seemed to look upon wealth as a recommendation, or
the want of it as an objection.

It was at breakfast-time that the note of invitation, addressed to old
Mr. Dinsmore, reached Roselands. He glanced over it, then read it aloud.

"My great-granddaughter engaged to be married!" he remarked, as he laid
it down. "I may well feel myself an aged patriarch! Though 'few and evil
have the days of the years of my life been,'" he added, low and
musingly, ending with a heavy sigh.

"No such thing, father!" said Mrs. Conly, in a quick, impatient tone.
"I'm not going to hear you talk so about yourself; you who have been
always an honorable, upright, polished gentleman."

"But what a wretched mésalliance is this!" she commented, with covert
delight, taking up the note and glancing over its contents. "A poor
artist, destitute of fame and money alike, to mate with an heiress to
hundreds of thousands! Why, poor as I and my children are, I should have
rejected overtures from him for one of my girls with scorn and
indignation."

"Which would have been a decided mistake, I think, mother," remarked
Calhoun, respectfully. "Leland is a fine fellow, of good family, and
very talented. He'll make his mark some day, and you may live to take
pride in saying that the wife of the famous sculptor Leland is a niece
of yours."

"A half grandniece," she corrected, bridling. "But I shall be an ancient
dame indeed before that comes to pass."

"I have found him a very gentlemanly and intelligent fellow," remarked
Arthur; "and as for money, Elsie is likely to have enough for both."

"So she is," said the grandfather.

"And he is thoroughly good, and will make a kind and appreciative
husband," added Isadore.

Virginia looked scornful and contemptuous. "He's too goody-goody for
me," she said, "but just like the Travillas in that, so will fit in
exactly, I presume. Well, if people like to make fools of themselves, I
don't see that we need be unhappy about it. We'll accept the invitation,
of course, mamma?" turning to her mother; "and the next question is,
what shall we wear?"

"We must make handsome dinner toilets, of course," was the reply; "for,
though none but relatives and connections are to be present, it will be
a large company."

"Yes, and I've no fancy for being outshone by anybody, and Aunt Rose is
sure to be very elegantly attired; Cousin Rose Lacey and Cousin Horace's
wife no less so. Talk of my fondness for dress! It's small compared to
theirs."

"It is principally the doing of the husbands," said Isadore. "Both--or I
might say all three, for Uncle Horace is no exception--are very fond of
seeing their wives well dressed."

"An excellent trait in a gentleman--the determination that his nearest
female relatives shall make a good appearance," remarked Mrs. Conly,
significantly, glancing from father to sons.

"But the ability to bring it about is not always commensurate with the
desire, mother," said Isadore.

"Thank you, Isa," said Calhoun, following her from the room, for she had
risen from the table with her last words; "my mother does not seem to
comprehend the difference between our circumstances and those of some of
our relatives, and I am sure has no idea of the pain her words sometimes
give to grandpa, Art, and myself."

"No, Cal, or she could never be so cruel," Isa answered, laying her hand
affectionately on his arm and looking lovingly into his eyes. "I know
that my brothers deny themselves many an innocent gratification for the
sake of their mother and sisters: and Cal, I do appreciate it."

"I know you do, Isa. Now tell me what you will want for this--"

"Nothing," she interrupted, with an arch smile up into his face. "Do you
suspect me of praising your generosity for a purpose? I have everything
I want for the occasion, I do assure you. But, Cal, what do you suppose
Uncle Horace will think of Elsie's choice?"

"He will not object on the score of Leland's lack of wealth, unless I am
greatly mistaken. But here he comes to speak for himself," he added, as
a horseman was seen coming up the avenue at a brisk canter.

They were standing in the hall, but now stepped out upon the veranda to
greet Mr. Dinsmore as he alighted, giving his horse in charge to a young
negro who came eagerly forward to do the service, quite sure that he
would be suitably rewarded.

It was the lad's firm conviction that "Massa Horace" possessed an
inexhaustible supply of small coin, some of which was very apt to be
transferred to the pockets of those who waited upon him.

Greetings were exchanged and Mr. Dinsmore said, "I am on my way to Ion.
Suppose you order your pony, Isa, and ride over with me. They will be
glad to see you. I want a few moments chat with my father, and that will
give you time to don your hat and habit."

Isadore was nothing loath, and within half an hour they were on their
way.

"You have heard the news?" her uncle remarked inquiringly.

"Of Elsie's engagement? Yes, sir. You were discussing it with grandpa
and mamma, were you not?"

"Yes," and he smiled slightly.

"You don't think as she does about it, uncle?"

"No, I am fully satisfied; that the young man is well-bred, good,
amiable, honest, intelligent, educated, talented and industrious seems
to me quite sufficient. My only objection is that the engagement seems
likely to be a long one. And yet that has the advantage of leaving the
dear child longer in her father's house."

"Of which I for one am very glad," said Isa. "What a sweet girl she is,
uncle!"

"Yes; she strongly resembles her mother in person and character; has
always seemed to me a sort of second edition of her."

They found the Travillas, old and young, all out on the veranda enjoying
a family chat before scattering to their various employments for the
day.

Grandpa, though seldom a day passed without a visit from him to Ion, was
welcomed with all the effusion and delight that might reasonably have
been expected if he had not been seen for a month. His daughter's eyes
shone with filial love and pleasure as they exchanged their accustomed
affectionate greeting, and, as he took possession of the comfortable
arm-chair Mr. Travilla hastened to offer, his grandchildren clustered
about him, the little ones climbing his knees with the freedom and
fearlessness of those who doubted neither their right nor their welcome.

But in the meantime Isadore was not forgotten or overlooked. She too was
quite at home at Ion and always made to feel that her visits were
esteemed a pleasure.

There was a slight timidity of manner, a sweet half shyness about the
younger Elsie this morning that was very charming. Her eyes drooped
under her grandfather's questioning look and smile and the color came
and went on her fair cheek.

He said nothing to her, however, until the younger ones had been
summoned away to their studies, then turned to her with the remark, "I
must congratulate Lester Leland when next I see him. Well, my dear
child, I trust you have not made a hasty choice?"

"I think not, grandpa; we have known each other quite intimately for
several years," she answered, casting down her eyes and blushing deeply.
"You do not disapprove?"

"I have no right to object if your parents are satisfied," he said. "But
there, do not look uncomfortable; I really think Lester a fine fellow,
and am quite willing to number him among my grandchildren."

She gave him a bright, grateful look; then she and Isa stole away
together for a little girlish confidence, leaving the older people to a
more business-like discussion of the matter.

On every subject of grave importance Mr. Dinsmore was taken into the
counsels of his daughter and her husband. His approval on this occasion,
though they had scarcely doubted it, was gratifying to both.

There were no declinations of the invitation to the family dinner-party,
and at the appointed time the whole connection gathered at Ion--a large
and goodly troop--the adults in drawing-room and parlors, the little
ones in the nursery.

There was the Roselands branch, consisting of the old grandfather, with
his daughter, Mrs. Conly, and her numerous progeny.

From the Oaks came Mr. Horace Dinsmore, Sr., and Mr. Horace Dinsmore,
Jr., with their wives and a bright, beautiful, rollicking year-old boy,
whom the proud young father styled Horace III.; also Molly's half
brother and sister, Bob and Betty Johnson, to whom their uncle and aunt
still gave a home and parental care and affection.

All the Howards, of Pinegrove, were there too--three generations, two of
the sons bringing wives and little ones with them.

The Carringtons, of Ashlands, were also present; for, though not
actually related to the Travillas, the old and close friendship, and the
fact that they were of Mrs. Rose Dinsmore's near kindred, seemed to
place them on the footing of relationship.

But we are forgetting Mrs. Travilla's sister Rose. She was now Mrs.
Lacey, of the Laurels--a handsome place some four miles from Ion--and
mother of a fine son, whom she and her husband brought with them to the
family gathering and exhibited to the assembled company with no little
joy and pride.

It remains only to mention Lester Leland and his relatives of Fairview,
who were all there, received and treated as honored guests by their
entertainers, with urbane politeness by all the others, except Mrs.
Conly and Virginia, who saw fit to appear almost oblivious of their
existence.

They, however, took a sensible view of the situation, and were quite
indifferent as to the opinions and behavior toward them of the two
haughty women.

No one else seemed to notice it; all was apparent harmony and good will,
and Lester felt himself welcomed into the family with at least a show of
cordiality from the most of the relatives of his betrothed.

She behaved very sweetly, conducting herself with a half shy, modest
grace that disarmed even Aunt Conly's criticism.

A few happy weeks followed, weeks rosy and blissful with love's young
dream, then Lester tore himself away and left his Elsie mourning; for
half the brightness and bloom of life seemed to have gone with him.

Father and mother were very patient with her, very tender and
sympathizing, very solicitous to amuse and entertain and help her to
renew her old zest for simple home pleasures and employments, the old
enjoyment of their love and that of her brothers and sisters.

Ah! in after days she recalled it all--especially the gentle, tender
persuasiveness of her father's looks and tones, the caressing touch of
his hand, the loving expression of his eye--with a strange mixture of
gladness and bitter sorrow, an unavailing, remorseful regret that she
had not responded more readily and heartily to these manifestations of
his strong fatherly affection. There came a time when a caress from him
was coveted far more than those of her absent lover.



CHAPTER III.

    "Faith is exceedingly charitable and believeth no evil of God."
                                                    --_Rutherford._


Delicious September days had come; the air was soft and balmy; a mellow
haze filled the woods, just beginning to show the touch of the Frost
King's fingers.

The children could not content themselves within doors, and the wisely
indulgent mother had given them a holiday and spent the morning with
them on the banks of the lakelet and floating over its bright surface in
their pretty pleasure-boat.

Returned to the house, she was now resting in her boudoir, lying back in
a large easy chair with a book in her hand. Suddenly it dropped into her
lap, she started up erect in her chair and seemed to listen intently.

Was that her husband's step coming slowly along the hall? It was like
and yet unlike it, lacking the firm, elastic tread.

The door opened and she sprang to her feet. "Edward! you are ill!" for
there was a deathly pallor on his face.

"Do not be alarmed, little wife; it is nothing--a strange pain, a sudden
faintness," he said, trying to smile, but tottered and would have
fallen had she not hastened to give him the support of her arm.

She helped him to a couch, placed a pillow beneath his head, rang for
assistance, brought him a glass of cold water, cologne and
smelling-salts from her dressing-table; doing all with a deft quickness
free from flurry, though her heart almost stood still with a terrible
fear and dread.

What meant this sudden seizure, this anguish so great that it had bowed
in a moment the strength of a strong man? She had never known him to be
seriously ill before. He had seemed in usual health when he left her for
his accustomed round over the plantation only a few hours ago, and now
he was nearly helpless with suffering.

Servants were instantly despatched in different directions: one to
Roselands to summon Dr. Arthur Conly, another to the Oaks for her
father, to whom she instinctively turned in every time of trouble, and
who was ever ready to obey the call.

Both arrived speedily, to find Mr. Travilla in an agony of pain, bearing
it without a murmur, almost without a moan or groan, but with cold beads
of perspiration standing on his brow; Elsie beside him, calm, quiet,
alert to anticipate every wish, but pale as a marble statue and with a
look of anguish in her beautiful eyes. It was so hard to stand by and
see the suffering endured by him who was dearer than her own life.

She watched Arthur's face as he examined and questioned his patient, and
saw it grow white to the very lips.

Was her husband's doom then sealed?

But Arthur drew her and Mr. Dinsmore aside.

"The case is a bad one, but not hopeless," he said. "I am unwilling to
take the responsibility alone, but must call in Dr. Barton and also send
to the city for the best advice to be had there."

"We have great confidence in your skill, Arthur," Elsie said, "but let
nothing be left undone. God alone can heal, but he works by means."

"And in the multitude of counsellors there is safety," added Mr.
Dinsmore. "Dear daughter, 'be strong and of a good courage;' there shall
no evil befall you, for your heavenly Father knows, and will do what is
best."

"Yes, papa, I know, I believe it," she answered with emotion. "Ah, pray
for me, that strength may be given me according to my day: and to him,
my dear, dear husband; no murmuring thoughts arise in either of our
hearts."

The news had flown through the house that its master and head had been
stricken down with sudden, severe illness. Great were the consternation
and distress among both children and servants, so beloved was he, so
strange a thing did it seem for him to be ill, for he had seldom had a
day's sickness in all the years that they had known him.

Elsie, Edward and Violet hastened to the door of the sick-room, begging
that they might be admitted, that they might share in the work of
nursing the dear invalid.

Their mamma came to them, her sweet face very pale but calm.

"No, darlings," she said in her gentle, tender tones, "it will not do to
have so many in the room while your dear father is suffering so much.
Your grandpa, mammy and I must be his only nurses for the present;
though after a time your services may be needed."

"O mamma, it is very hard to have to stay away from him," sobbed Violet.

"I know it, dearest," her mother said, "and my heart aches for you and
all my darlings; but I am sure you all love your dear father too well
not to willingly sacrifice your own feelings when to indulge them might
injure him or increase his pain."

"O mamma, yes, yes indeed!" they all cried.

"Well then, dears, go away now; look after the younger ones and the
servants--I trust them all to your care; and when the doctors say it
will do, you shall see and speak to your father, and do anything for him
that you can."

So with a loving, motherly caress bestowed upon each, she dismissed them
to the duties she had pointed out, and returned to her station beside
her husband's couch.

Mr. Dinsmore, Arthur Conly, and Aunt Chloe were gathered about it
engaged in efforts to relieve the torturing pain. His features were
convulsed with it, but his eyes wandered restlessly around the room as
if in search of something. As Elsie drew near they fixed themselves upon
her face, and his was lighted up with a faint smile.

"Darling, precious little wife," he murmured, drawing her down to him
till their lips met in a long loving kiss, "don't leave me for a moment.
Nothing helps me to bear this agony like the sight of your sweet face."

"Ah, beloved, if I might bear it for you!" she sighed, her eyes filling
with tears, while her soft white hand was laid tenderly upon his brow.

"No, no!" he said, "that were far worse, far worse!"

Her tears were falling fast.

"Ah, do not be so distressed; it is not unendurable," he hastened to say
with a loving, tender look and an effort to smile in the midst of his
agony. "And He, He is with me; the Lord my Saviour! 'I know that my
Redeemer liveth,' and the sense of His love is very sweet, never so
sweet before."

"Thank God that it is so! Ah, He is faithful to his promises!" she said.

Then kneeling by his side she repeated one sweet and precious promise
after another, the blessed words and loved tones seeming to have a
greater power to soothe and relieve than anything else.

The other physicians arrived, examined, consulted, used such remedies as
were known to them; everything was done that science and human skill
could do, but without avail; they could give temporary relief by the use
of opiates and anæsthetics, but were powerless to remove the disease
which was fast hurrying its victim to the grave.

Both Mr. Travilla and Elsie desired to know the truth, and it was not
concealed from them. On Mr. Dinsmore devolved the sad task of imparting
it.

It was in the afternoon of the second day. The doctors had held a final
consultation and communicated their verdict to him. Moved to his very
heart's core at the thought of parting with his lifelong bosom friend,
and more for the far sorer bereavement awaiting his almost idolized
child, he waited a little to recover his composure, then entered the
sick-room and drew silently near the bed.

Elsie sat close at her husband's side, one hand clasped in his, while
with the other she gently fanned him or wiped the death damp from his
brow. Did she know it was that? Her face was colorless, but quite calm.

Mr. Travilla was at that moment entirely conscious, and his eyes were
gazing full into hers with an expression of unutterable love and the
tenderest compassion.

At length they turned from her face for an instant and were uplifted to
that of her father, as he stood close beside her, regarding them both
with features working with emotion.

The dying man understood its cause. "Is it so, Dinsmore?" he said
feebly, but with perfect composure. "Elsie, little wife," and he drew
her to him, both tone and gesture full of exceeding tenderness. "O love,
darling, precious one, must we part? I go to the glory and bliss of
heaven, but you--" His voice broke.

Her heart seemed riven in twain; but she must comfort him. One bursting
sob as she hid her face upon his breast, one silent agonized cry to
Heaven for help, and lifting her head, she gave him a long look of love,
then laid her cheek to his, put her arm about his neck.

"My darling, my dear, dear husband," she said in her sweetest tones, "do
not fear for me, or for our children. The Lord, even Jesus, will be our
keeper. Do not let the thought of us disturb you now, or damp the glad
anticipation of the wondrous glory and bliss to which you go. Soon you
will be with Him, 'forever with the Lord.' And how glad our darling Lily
will be to see her beloved father; dear mother to recover her son; and
what a little, little while it will seem till we all shall join you
there, never, never to part again."

"And neither she, my dear daughter, nor her children, shall want for a
father's love and care while I live, my dear friend," said Mr. Dinsmore,
his voice tremulous with emotion.

"I know it, I know it, and God be thanked that I leave them in such good
and loving hands," Mr. Travilla answered, looking gratefully at his
friend.

"You trusted your darling child to me," he went on low and feebly and
with frequent pauses for breath, "and I give her back to you. Oh she has
been a dear, dear wife to me!" he exclaimed, softly stroking her hair.
"God bless you, my darling! God bless you for your faithful, unselfish
love! You have been the sunshine of my heart and home."

"And you, my beloved, oh what a husband you have been to me!" she
sobbed, covering his face with kisses; "never one unkind or impatient
word, or look, or tone, nothing but the tenderest love and care have I
had from you since the hour we gave ourselves to each other. And I
thought, oh I thought we had many more years to live and love together!
But God's will be done!"

"Yes," he said, "His will be done with me and mine. Darling, he will
never leave nor forsake you; and though I am almost done with time, we
shall have all the ages of eternity to live and love together."

Silent caresses were all that passed between them for some moments; then
Mr. Dinsmore inquired if his friend had any directions to give about his
affairs.

"No," he said, "all that was attended to long since. Elsie knows where
to find all my papers, and understands everything in regard to the
property and my business matters as well as I do.

"And my peace is made with God," he continued after a pause, speaking in
a sweetly solemn tone. "His presence is with me. I feel the everlasting
arms underneath and around me. All my hope and trust are in the blood
and righteousness of Christ, my crucified and risen Saviour. All is
peace. I am a sinner saved by grace.

"Let me see my children and give them a father's blessing, and I shall
have nothing more to do but fall asleep in Jesus."

Elsie and Vi were together in a room across the hall from that in which
their father lay, sitting clasped in each other's arms, waiting, hoping
for the promised summons to go to him when he should be sufficiently
relieved to bear their presence.

Ah, there was in each young heart an unspoken fear that he would never
rise from that couch of pain, for they had seemed to read his doom in
the grave, anxious faces of grandfather and physicians; but oh it was
too terrible a fear for either to put into words even to her own
consciousness! How could life go on without the father who had thus far
constituted so large a part of it to them!

A shuffling step drew near, and Aunt Chloe appeared before them, her
face swollen with weeping, her eyes filled with tears.

"You's to come now, chillens."

"Oh is papa better?" they cried, starting up in eager haste to obey the
summons.

The old nurse shook her head, tears bursting forth afresh. "He's mos'
dar, chillens, mos' dar, whar dey don' hab no mo' pain, no mo' sickness,
no mo' dyin'. I see de glory shinin' in his face; he's mos' dar."

Then as their sobs and tears burst forth, "Oh my mistis, my bressed
young mistis," she cried, throwing her apron over her head, "yo' ole
mammy'd die to keep massa here for yo' sake. But de Lord's will mus' be
done, an' He neber makes no mistakes."



CHAPTER IV.

    "Death is another life."
                   --_Bailey._


"Oh Elsie, Elsie, what shall we do! But it can't, it can't be true!"
sobbed Violet, clinging to her sister in a heart-breaking paroxysm of
grief. "Oh it will kill mamma, and we shall lose her too!"

"No, no, honey, not so," said Aunt Chloe; "my bressed young missus will
lib for yo' sake, for her chillens' sake. An' you ain't gwine to lose
massa: he's only gwine home a little while 'fore de rest."

"Dear Vi, we must try to be composed for both their sakes," whispered
Elsie, scarcely able to speak for weeping.

"Dear bressed Lord help dem, help dese po' chillens," ejaculated Aunt
Chloe. "Come, chillens, we's losin' precious time."

They wiped away their tears, checked their sobs by a determined effort,
and hand in hand followed her to the sick-room.

Perfect ease had taken the place of the agonizing pain which for many
hours had racked Mr. Travilla's frame, but it was the relief afforded
not by returning health, but by approaching dissolution; death's seal
was on his brow; even his children could read it as they gathered,
weeping, about his bed.

He had a few words of fatherly counsel, of tender, loving farewell for
each--Elsie, Violet, Edward:--to the last saying, "My son, I commit your
mother to your tender care. You have almost reached man's estate; take
your father's place, and let her lean on your young, vigorous arm; yet
fail not in filial reverence and obedience; be ever ready to yield to
her wise, gentle guidance."

"I will, father, I will," returned the lad in a choking voice.

"And may not I too, and Herbert, papa?" sobbed Harold.

"Yes, dear son, and all of you, love and cherish mamma and try to fill
my place to her. And love and obey your kind grandpa as you have always
loved and obeyed me."

One after another had received a last caress, a special parting word,
till it had come to the turn of the youngest darling of all--little
four-year-old Walter.

They lifted him on to the bed, and creeping close to his father, he
softly stroked the dying face, and kissing the lips, the cheeks, the
brow, cooed in sweet baby accents, "Me so glad to see my dear papa. Papa
doin' det well now. Isn't you, papa?"

"Yes, papa's dear pet; I'm going where sickness and pain can never
come. My little boy must love the dear Saviour and trust in him, and
then one day he shall follow me to that blessed land. Ah, little son,
you are too young to remember your father. He will soon be forgotten!"

"No, no, dearest," said his weeping wife, "not so; your pictured face
and our constant mention of you shall keep you in remembrance even with
him."

"Thanks, dearest," he said, turning a loving gaze on her, "it is a
pleasant thought that my name will not be a forgotten sound among the
dear ones left behind. We shall meet again, beloved wife, meet again
beyond the river. I shall be waiting for you on the farther shore. I am
passing through the waters, but He is with me, He who hath washed me
from my sins in His own blood. And you, dearest wife--does He sustain
you in this hour?"

"Yes," she said, "His grace is sufficient for me. Dear, dear husband, do
not fear to leave me to his care."

Tears were coursing down her white cheeks, but the low, sweet tones of
her voice were calm and even. She was resolutely putting aside all
thought of self and the sore bereavement that awaited her and her
children, that she might smooth his passage to the tomb; she would not
that he should be disturbed by one anxious thought of them.

He forgot none of his household. Molly and her mother were brought in
for a gentle, loving farewell word; then each of the servants.

He lingered still for some hours, but his wife never left him for an
instant; her hand was clasped in his when the messenger came; his last
look of love was for her, his last whisper, "Precious little wife,
eternity is ours!"

Friends carried him to his quiet resting place beside the little
daughter who had preceded him to the better land, and widow and children
returned without him to the home hitherto made so bright and happy by
his loved presence.

Elsie, leaning on her father's arm, slowly ascended the steps of the
veranda, but on the threshold drew back with a shudder and a low,
gasping sob.

Her father drew her to his breast.

"My darling, do not go in. Come with me to the Oaks; let me take you all
there for a time."

"No, dear papa; 'twould be but putting off the evil day--the trial that
must be borne sooner or later," she said in trembling, tearful tones.
"But--if you will stay with me--"

"Surely, dearest, as long as you will. I could not leave you now, my
poor stricken one! Let me assist you to your room. You are completely
worn out, and must take some rest."

"My poor children--" she faltered.

"For their sakes you must take care of yourself," he said. "Your mamma
is here. She and I will take charge of everything until you are able to
resume your duties as mother and mistress."

He led her to her apartments, made her lie down on a couch, darkened the
room, and sitting down beside her, took her hand in his.

"Papa, papa!" she cried, starting up in a sudden burst of grief, "take
me in your arms, take me in your arms and hold me close as you used to
do, as he has done every day that he lived since you gave me to him!"

"My poor darling, my poor darling!" he said, straining her to his
breast, "God comfort you! May He be the strength of your heart and your
portion forever! Remember that Jesus still lives, and that your beloved
one is with Him, rejoicing with joy unspeakable and full of glory."

"Yes, yes, but oh, the learning to live without him!" she moaned. "How
can I! how can I!"

"'When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through
the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the
fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon
thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour,'"
he repeated in low, moved tones. "'Behold I have refined thee, but not
with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.' Dear
daughter, my heart bleeds for you, and yet I know that He who has sent
this sorrow loves you far better than I do, and He means it for good.
'Faith is the better of the free air and of the sharp winter storm in
its face. Grace withereth without adversity.'"

"Yes, yes," she whispered, clinging to him. "Go on, dear papa, you bring
me comfort."

"What so comforting as the love of Christ!" he went on; "the assurance
that 'in all our afflictions He is afflicted!' My darling, 'the
weightiest end of the cross of Christ, which is laid upon you, lieth
upon your strong Saviour!'"

"And He will never let me sink," she said. "Oh what love is His! and how
unworthy am I!"

Never very strong, Elsie was, as her father plainly perceived, greatly
exhausted by the combined influence of the fatigue of nursing,
overwhelming sorrow and the constraint she had put upon herself to
control its manifestations while her husband lived.

She must have rest from every care and responsibility, must be shielded
from all annoyance, and as far as possible from every fresh reminder of
her loss.

For several days he watched over her with unceasing care and solicitude,
doing all in his power to soothe, to comfort and console, allowing only
short interviews with Rose and the children, and keeping every one else
away except her old mammy.

Never had father and daughter seemed nearer and dearer to each other
than in these sorrowful days. To lay her weary head upon his breast
while his arms folded her close to his heart, gave some relief--more
than could anything else--to the unutterable longing to feel the clasp
of those other arms whose loving embrace she could never know again on
earth.

But her nature was too unselfish and affectionate to allow of long
indulgence in this life of inactivity and nursing of her grief. She
could not resist the anxious, pleading looks of her children. She, their
only remaining parent, must now devote herself to them even more
entirely than had been her wont. Grandma Rose was kind as kind could be,
but mamma's place could be filled by no one but herself.

"Dear papa," she said when three days had passed, "I am rested now, and
you must please let me go back to my duties. My dear little ones need
me; the older ones too. I cannot deprive them of their mother any
longer."

"Would it not be well to give yourself one more day of rest?" he asked,
gazing sadly at the wan cheeks and the mournful eyes that looked so
unnaturally large. "I do not think you are strong enough yet for
anything like exertion."

"I think the sweet work of comforting and caring for my darlings--his
children as well as mine," she said with a tremble in her voice, "will
do me good."

"It is partly for their sakes that I want you to take care of yourself,"
he said, putting his arm about her, while her head dropped on his
shoulder. "Would it not have been _his_ wish? were you not always his
first care?"

She gave a silent assent, the tears coursing down her cheeks.

"And he gave you back to me, making you doubly mine--my own darling,
precious child! and your life, health and happiness must be my special
charge," he said, caressing her with exceeding tenderness.

"My happiness? Then, papa, you will not try to keep me from my darlings.
My dear, dear father, do not think I am ungrateful for your loving care.
Ah, it is very sweet and restful to lean upon you and feel the strong
tender clasp of your arm! but I must rouse myself and become a prop for
others to lean upon."

"Yes, to some extent--when you are quite rested. But you must bear no
burdens, dear daughter, that your father can bear for you."

She looked her gratitude out of tear-dimmed eyes.

"God has been very good to me, in sparing me, my father," she said. "And
my children, my seven darlings--all good and loving. How rich I ought
to feel! how rich I do feel, though so sorely bereaved."

The tears burst forth afresh.

"You will let me go to them?" she said when she could speak again.

"To-morrow, if you will try to rest and gain strength to-day. I am quite
sure it is what he would have wished--that you should rest a little
longer. The children can come to you for an hour or two to-day."

She yielded for that time, and the next day he withdrew his opposition
and himself led her down to the breakfast parlour, where all were
gathered to partake of the morning meal.



CHAPTER V.

    "Weep not for him that dieth,
     For he hath ceased from tears."
                        --_Mrs. Norton._


There was much unselfish love for their mamma and for each other
displayed by the young Travillas in those sad days immediately following
the death of their dearly loved father.

Every heart ached sorely with its own burden of grief--excepting that of
little Walter, who was too young to understand or realize his loss, yet
was most solicitous to assuage that of the brothers and sisters, but
especially to comfort and help "poor, dear, dear mamma."

They were filled with alarm as they saw their grandfather almost carry
her to her room, then close the door upon them.

"Oh," cried Violet, clinging to her older sister, and giving way to a
burst of terrified weeping, "I knew it would be so! mamma will die too.
Oh mamma, mamma!"

"Dear child, no!" said Rose, laying a caressing hand on the young
weeper's arm; "do not be alarmed; your dear mother is worn out with
grief and nursing--she has scarcely slept for several days and
nights--but is not ill otherwise, and I trust that rest and the
consolations of God will still restore her to her wonted health and
cheerfulness."

"O grandma," sobbed Elsie, "do you think mamma can ever be cheerful and
happy again? I am sure she can never forget papa."

"No, she will never forget him, never cease to miss the delight of his
companionship; but she can learn to be happy in the thought of his
eternal blessedness and the sure reunion that awaits them when God shall
call her home; and in the love of Jesus and of her dear children."

Rose had thrown one arm about Elsie's waist, the other round Violet, and
drawn them to a seat, while Edward and the younger children grouped
themselves about her, Rose and Walter leaning on her lap.

They all loved her, and now hung upon her words, finding comfort in
them, though listening with many tears and sobs.

She went on to speak at length of the glory and bliss of heaven, of the
joy of being with Christ and free from sin; done with sorrow and
sighing, pain and sickness and death; of the delight with which their
sister Lily, their Grandmother Travilla, and other dear ones gone
before, must have welcomed the coming of their father; and of the glad
greeting he would give to each of them when they too should reach the
gate of the Celestial City.

"Yes, grandma, papa told us all to come," said little Rosie.

"I know he did, dear child; and do you know the way?"

"Yes, grandma, Jesus said, 'I am the way.' He died to save sinners, and
He will save all who love Him and trust in Him alone, not thinking
anything they can do is going to help to save them."

"Save them from what, darling?"

"From their sins, grandma, and from going to live with Satan and his
wicked angels, and wicked people that die and go there."

"Yes, that is all so, and oh what love it was that led the dear Saviour
to suffer and die upon the cross that we might live! Dear children, it
was His death that bought eternal life for your beloved father and has
purchased it for us all if we will but take it as His free, unmerited
gift."

"But, grandma," sobbed Harold, "why didn't He let our dear papa stay
with us a little longer? Oh I don't know how we can ever, ever live
without him!"

This called forth a fresh burst of grief from all, even little Walter
crying piteously, "I want my papa! I want my own dear papa!"

Rose lifted him to her lap and caressed him tenderly, her tears falling
fast.

"Dear children," she said, as the storm of grief subsided a little, "we
must not be selfish in our sorrow; we must try to rejoice that your
beloved father is far, far happier than he could ever be here. I think
the dear Saviour took him home because He loved him so much that He
could no longer spare him out of heaven. And He, Jesus, will be your
Father now even more than He was before: 'A father of the fatherless and
a judge of the widows is God in his holy habitation.'"

"I'm very glad the Bible tells us that," remarked Herbert, checking his
sobs. "I have heard and read the words often, but they never seemed half
so sweet before."

"No," said Harold, putting an arm about him (the two were very strongly
attached and almost inseparable); "and we have grandpa too: papa said he
would be a father to us."

"And he will, dear children," said Rose. "I do not think he could love
you much more than he does if he were really your own father, as he is
your dear mamma's."

"And I am to try to fill papa's place," said Edward, with a strong but
vain effort to steady his voice. "I am far from competent, I know, but I
shall try to do my very best."

"And God will help you if you ask Him," said Rose; "help you to be a
great comfort and assistance to your mother and younger brothers and
sisters."

"Ah, if we might only go to mamma!" sighed Violet, when she and Elsie
had withdrawn to the privacy of their own apartment. "Do you think we
might venture now?"

"Not yet awhile, I think--I hope she is resting; and grandpa will let us
know when it will not disturb her to see us."

"O Elsie, can we ever be happy again?" cried Violet, throwing herself
into her sister's arms. "Where, where shall we go for comfort?"

"To Jesus and His word, dear Vi. Let us kneel down together and ask Him
to bless us all and help us to say with our hearts 'Thy will be done,'
all of us children and our dear precious mamma."

"Oh we can't pray for papa any more!" cried Vi, in an agony of grief.

"No, dear Vi, but he no longer needs our prayers. He is so close to the
Master, so happy in being forever with Him, that nothing could add to
his bliss."

Violet hushed her sobs, and with their arms about each other they knelt,
while in low, pleading tones Elsie poured out their grief and their
petitions into the ear of the ever compassionate, loving Saviour.

Fortunately for them in this hour of sore affliction, they were no
strangers to prayer or to the Scriptures, and knew where to turn to find
the many sweet and precious promises suited to their needs.

Some time was given to this, and then Elsie, mindful of the duty and
privilege of filling to the best of her ability her mother's place to
the little ones, went in search of them.

The tea hour brought them all together again--all the children--but
father and mother were missing. Oh this gathering about the table was
almost the hardest thing of all! It had been wont to be a time of glad,
free, cheerful, often mirthful intercourse between parents and children;
no rude and noisy hilarity, but the most enjoyable social converse and
interchange of thought and feeling, in which the young people, while
showing the most perfect respect and deference to their parents, and
unselfish consideration for each other, were yet under no galling
constraint, but might ask questions and give free expression to their
opinions, if they wished; and were indeed encouraged to do so.

But what a change had a few days brought! There was an empty chair that
would never again be filled by him to whom one and all had looked up
with the tenderest filial love and reverence. All eyes turned toward it,
then were suffused with tears, while one and another vainly strove to
suppress the bursting sobs.

They could not sit down to the table. They drew close together in a
little weeping group.

The grandparents came in, and Mr. Dinsmore, trying to gather them all
in his arms, caressed them in turn, saying in broken, tender tones, "My
dear children, my poor dear children! I will be a father to you. I
cannot supply his place, but will do so as nearly as I can. You know, my
darlings, my sweet Elsie's children, that I have a father's love for
you."

"Yes, grandpa, we know it," "Dear grandpa, we're glad we have you left
to us," sobbed one and another.

"And mamma, dear, precious mamma! O grandpa, is she sick?"

"Not exactly sick, my darlings," he said, "but very much worn out. We
must let her rest."

"Can't we see her? can't we go to her?"

"Not now, not to-night, I think. I left her sleeping, and hope she will
not wake for some hours."

At that the little ones seemed nearly heartbroken. "How could they go to
their beds without seeing mamma?"

But Elsie comforted them. She would help mammy to put them to bed; and
oh it was the best of news that dear mamma was sleeping! because if she
did not she would soon be quite ill.

Molly Percival, because of her crippled condition, making locomotion so
difficult, seldom joined the family at table, but took her meals in her
own room, a servant waiting upon her and her mother, who, in her new
devotion to poor Molly, preferred to eat with her.

The appointments of their table were quite as dainty as those of the
other, the fare never less luxurious.

A very tempting repast was spread before them to-night, but Molly could
not eat for weeping.

Her mother, tasting one dish after another with evident enjoyment, at
length thought fit to expostulate with her.

"Molly, why do you cry so? I do wish you would stop it and eat your
supper."

"I'm not hungry, mother."

"That's only because you're fretting so; and what's the use? Mr.
Travilla's better off; and besides he was nothing to you."

"Nothing to me! O mother! he was so good, so kind to me, to Dick, to
everybody about him. He treated me like a daughter, and I loved him as
well as if he had been my own father. He did not forget you or me when
he was dying, mother."

"No; and it was good of him. Still, crying doesn't do any good; and
you'll get weak and sick if you don't eat."

Molly's only answer was a burst of grief. "Oh poor, poor Cousin Elsie!
her heart must be quite broken, for she idolized her husband. And the
girls and all of them; how they did love their father!"

The servant came in with a plate of hot cakes, and a slender girlish
figure presently stole softly after, without knocking, for the door
stood open, and to the side of Molly's chair. It was Violet, looking, oh
so sad and sweet, so fair and spiritual in her deep mourning dress.

In an instant she and Molly were locked in each other's arms, mingling
their sobs and tears together.

"I'm afraid we have seemed to neglect you, Molly dear," Violet said when
she could speak, "but--"

"No, no, you have _never_ done that!" cried Molly, weeping afresh. "And
how could I expect you to think of me at such a time! O Vi, Vi!"

"Mamma cannot come up, for she is not--not able to leave her room,
and--and O Molly, I'm afraid she's going to be sick!"

Molly tried to comfort and reassure her. "Aunt Rose was in for a while
this afternoon," she said, "and she thinks it is not really sickness,
only that she needs rest and--and comfort. And, Vi, the Lord will
comfort her. Don't you remember those sweet words in Isaiah?--'As one
whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be
comforted.'"

Violet had come up to see Molly, lest the poor afflicted cousin should
feel neglected, while Elsie was engaged with the little ones--taking
mamma's place in seeing them to bed with a little loving talk on some
profitable theme.

To-night it was the glory and bliss of heaven; leaving in their young
minds, instead of gloomy and dreadful thoughts of death and the cold,
dark grave, bright visions of angelic choirs, of white robes and palms
of victory, of golden crowns and harps, of the river of the water of
life, and the beautiful trees on its banks bearing twelve manner of
fruits; of papa with sweet Lily by his side, both casting their crowns
at Jesus' feet and singing with glad voices, "Worthy is the Lamb that
was slain."

Leaving them at length to their slumbers, she joined Violet and Molly
for a few moments; then Edward came to say that their mother was awake
and grandpa had given permission for them to go to her and just bid her
good-night, if they could be quite composed.

They thought they could; they would try very earnestly.

She was in her dressing-room, reclining in an easy chair, looking, oh so
wan and sorrowful.

She embraced each in turn, holding them to her heart with a whispered
word or two of tender mother love. "God bless you, my dear, dear
children! He will be a father to the fatherless and never leave nor
forsake you."

Violet dared not trust herself to speak. Elsie only murmured, "Dear,
dearest mamma!" and Edward, "Darling, precious mother, don't grieve too
sorely."

"The consolations of God are not small! my dear son," was all she said
in reply, and they withdrew softly and silently as they had come.

The next morning and each following day they were all allowed a few
moments with her, until four days had passed.

On the fifth, as we have said, she came down to the breakfast room
leaning on her father's arm.

As they neared the door she paused, trembling like a leaf, and turning
to him a white, anguished face.

He knew what it meant. She had not been in that room, had not taken her
place at that table, since the morning of the day on which her husband
was taken ill. He was with her then, in apparently perfect health;
now--the places which had known him on earth would know him no more
forever.

Her head dropped on her father's shoulder, a low moan escaping her pale
lips.

"Dear child," he said, drawing her closer to him, and tenderly kissing
her brow, "think how perfectly happy, how blest he is. You would not
call him back?"

"Oh no, no!" came from the quivering lips. "'The spirit is willing, but
the flesh is weak!'"

"Lean on your strong Saviour," he said, "and His grace will be
sufficient for you."

She sent up a silent petition, then lifting her head, "I can bear it
now--He will help me," she said, and suffered him to lead her in.

Her children gathered about her with a joy that was as a cordial to her
fainting spirit; their love was very sweet.

But how her heart yearned over them because they were fatherless; all
the more so that she found her father's love so precious and sustaining
in this time of sorrow and bereavement.

He led her to her accustomed seat, bent over her with a whispered word
of love and encouragement, then took the one opposite--once her
husband's, now his no more.

Perhaps it was not quite so hard as to have seen it empty, but it cost a
heroic effort to restrain a burst of anguish.



CHAPTER VI.

                             "Happy he
    With such a mother! faith in womankind
    Beats with his blood, and trust in all things high
    Comes easy to him, and though he trip and fall
    He shall not blind his soul with clay."
                                               --_Tennyson._


Life at Ion moved on in its accustomed quiet course, Mr. Travilla's
removal seeming, to outsiders, to have made very little change except
that Mr. and Mrs. Dinsmore now took up their abode there for the greater
part of the time, leaving the younger Horace and his wife in charge at
the Oaks.

An arrangement for which Elsie was very thankful, for her father's
presence and his love were as balm to her wounded spirit.

Her strongest support in this, as in every trial of her life, was in her
almighty Saviour; on Him she leaned every hour with a simple childlike
faith and confidence in His unerring wisdom and infinite love; but it
was very sweet to lean somewhat upon the strength and wisdom of the
earthly father also, and to feel that the shield of his care and
protection was interposed between her and the cold world.

Both his and Rose's companionship had ever been delightful to her, and
were now a great solace and pleasure.

She gave no indulgence to a spirit of repining because her chief earthly
treasure had been taken from her for the remainder of her life in this
world, but was filled with gratitude for those blessings that were left,
ever deeming God's goodness to her far beyond her deserts.

And her own sorrow was often half forgotten in tender compassion for her
fatherless children. For their sakes, as well as because such was her
Christian duty, she strove after a constant abiding cheerfulness; and
not without success.

But it was not sought in forgetfulness of the dear one gone. They talked
freely and tenderly of him, his looks, his words, his ways; his present
happiness and the joy of the coming reunion with him. He was not dead to
them, but living in the blessed land where death could never enter, a
land that grew more real and attractive because he was there.

Elsie found great comfort in her children--dear as her own offspring,
and dearer still because they were his also. They were very good and
obedient, loving her so devotedly that the very thought of grieving her
was pain.

Her unselfish love seemed to call forth its counterpart in them: they
vied with each other in earnest efforts to make up to her the loss of
their father's love and ever watchful tender care.

They were very fond of their grandfather too, and always yielded a ready
obedience to his commands or directions.

He never had shown to them the sternness that had been one of the trials
of their mother's youthful days, but was patient and gentle, as well as
firm and decided. Mr. Travilla's example as a father had not been wasted
on him.

He was wont to say "he had three reasons for loving them--that they were
the children of his friend, Elsie's children, and his own
grandchildren."

It was very evident that they were very dear to him, and they loved him
dearly in return.

Mr. Travilla had left no debts, no entanglements in his affairs; his
will was short, plainly expressed, and its conditions such as there was
no difficulty in carrying out.

Elsie and her father were joint executors, and were associated in the
guardianship of the children also. The estate was left to her during her
natural life, to Edward after her death.

Hitherto the education of all the sons and daughters had been carried on
at home, but now Edward was to go to college.

It had been his father's decision, and his wishes and opinions were
sacred; so neither the lad nor any one else raised an objection, though
all felt the prospect of parting sorely just at this time.

There had been some talk of sending Harold and Herbert away also to a
preparatory school; but to save them and their mother the pain of
separation, Mr. Dinsmore offered to prepare them to enter college.

Elsie was in fact herself competent to the task, but gladly accepted her
father's offered assistance; desiring to increase as much as possible
his good influence over her boys, hoping that so they would learn to
emulate all that was admirable in his character.

They were of course leading a very quiet and retired life at Ion; but
with her household cares and the superintendence of the education of her
younger children to attend to in addition to other and less pressing
duties, Elsie was in no danger of finding time hanging heavy on her
hands.

One of the numerous demands upon her maternal responsibility and
affection was found in the call to cheer, comfort and console her
namesake daughter under the trial of separation from her betrothed,
delay in hearing from him, and a morbid remorse on account of having, as
she expressed it, "troubled poor, dear papa by grieving and fretting
over Lester's departure."

"Dear child," the mother said, "he sympathized with but did not blame
you, and would not have you blame yourself so severely now and embitter
your life with unavailing regrets. He loved you very, very dearly, and
has often said to me, 'Elsie has been nothing but a blessing to us since
the hour of her birth.'"

"O mamma, how sweet! Thank you for telling me," exclaimed the daughter,
tears of mingled joy and sorrow filling her eyes. "He said it once to
me, when I was quite a little girl--at the time grandpa--your
grandpa--and Aunt Enna were hurt, and you went to Roselands to nurse
her, leaving me at home to try to fill your place. Oh I shall never
forget how dear and kind he was when he came home from taking you there!
how he took me in his arms and kissed me and said those very words.
Mamma, I cannot recall one cross word ever spoken by him to me, or to
any one."

"No, daughter, nor can I; he was most kind, patient, forbearing, loving,
as husband, father, master--in all the relations of life. What a
privilege to have been his cherished wife for so many years!"

The sweet voice was very tremulous, and unbidden tears stole over the
fair cheeks that had not quite recovered their bloom; for scarce a month
had passed since the angel of death had come between her beloved and
herself.

"Dear mamma, you made him very happy," whispered Elsie, clasping her
close with loving caresses.

"Yes, we were as happy together, I believe, as it is possible for any
to be in this world of sin and sorrow. I bless God that he was spared to
me so long, and for the blessedness that now is his, and the sure hope
that this separation is but for a season."

"Mamma, it is that sweet hope that keeps you from sinking."

"Yes, dearest, that and the sweet love and sympathy of Jesus. My
father's and my dear children's love does greatly help me also. Ah how
great is the goodness of my heavenly Father in sparing me all these! And
keeping me from poverty too; how many a poor widow has the added pang of
seeing her children suffering sore privations or scattered among
strangers, because she lacks the ability to provide them with food and
clothing."

"Mamma, how dreadful!" cried Elsie. "I had never thought of that. How
thankful we ought to be that we do not have to be separated from you or
from each other. To be sure Edward is going away for a time," she added,
with a sigh and a tear, "but it is not to toil for a livelihood or
endure privations."

"No, but to avail himself of opportunities for mental culture for which
we should be grateful as still another of the many blessings God has
given us. He will be exposed to temptations such as would never assail
him at home: but these he must meet, and if he does so looking to God
for strength, he will overcome and be all the stronger for the conflict.
And we, daughter, must follow him constantly with our prayers. Thank God
that we can do that!"

To Edward himself she spoke in the same strain in a last private talk
had with him the night before he went away.

"I know that you have a very strong will of your own, my dear boy," she
added, "and are not easily led; and because I believe it to be your
earnest desire and purpose to walk in the way of God's commands, that is
a comfort to me."

"You are right in regard to both, mother," he said with emotion: "and oh
I could sooner cut off my right hand than do aught to grieve you, and
dishonor the memory of--of my sainted father!"

"I believe it, my son, but do not trust in your own strength. 'Be strong
in the Lord, and in the power of his might.'"

"Yes, mother, I know, I feel that otherwise I shall fail; but 'I can do
all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.' Mother," he added,
turning over the leaves of his Bible (they had been reading together),
"in storing my memory with the teachings of this blessed book, you have
given me the best possible preparation for meeting the temptations and
snares of life."

"Yes," she said, "'Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my
path;' 'Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellors.' Let
them ever be yours, my son; in doubt and perplexity go ever to them for
direction--not forgetting prayer for the teachings of the Holy
Spirit--and you cannot go far astray. Make the Bible your rule of faith
and practice, bring everything to the test of Scripture. 'To the law and
to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is
because there is no light in them.'"

"Mother," he said, "I think I have a pretty clear idea of some of the
temptations of college life: doubtless there are always a good many
idle, profane, drinking, dissolute fellows among the students, but it
does not seem possible that I shall ever find pleasure in the society of
such."

"I hope not indeed!" she answered with emphasis. "It would be a sore
grief to me. But I hardly fear it; I believe my boy is a Christian and
loves purity: loves study too for its own sake. What I most fear for you
is that the pride of intellect may lead you to listen to the arguments
of sceptics and to examine their works. My son, if you should, you will
probably regret it to your dying day. It can do you nothing but harm. If
you fill your mind with such things your spiritual foes will take
advantage of it to harass you with doubts and fears. 'Blessed is the man
that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way
of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.' He who would rob
you of your faith in God and His holy word is your greatest enemy. Study
the evidences of Christianity and be ever ready to give a reason for the
hope that is in you."

"Mother," he said, taking her hand in his, "I will heed your counsels,
but it seems to me that having seen Christianity so beautifully
exemplified in your life and my father's, I can never doubt its truth
and power."

Then after a pause in which tears of mingled joy and sorrow fell freely
from her eyes, "Dear mother, you have given me a very liberal allowance.
Can you spare it? I do not know, I have never known the amount of your
income."

"I can spare it perfectly well, my son," she answered, with a tender
smile, pleased at this proof of his thoughtful love. "It is the sum your
father thought best to give you--for we had consulted together about all
these matters. I do not wish you to feel stinted, but at the same time
would have you avoid waste and extravagance, remembering that they are
inconsistent with our Saviour's teachings, and that money is one of the
talents for whose use or abuse we must render an account at the last."



CHAPTER VII.

    "But O! for the touch of a vanished hand,
     And the sound of a voice that is still."
                                     --_Tennyson._


It was a chill November day, a day of lowering clouds, wind, rain, sleet
and snow.

Arthur Conly coming into the drawing-room at Ion and finding its
mistress there alone, remarked as he shook hands with her, "The
beginning of winter, Cousin Elsie! It is setting in early. It froze hard
last night, and the wind to-day is cutting."

"Yes," she said, "even papa and my two big, hardy boys found a short
walk quite sufficient to satisfy them to-day. But you poor doctors can
seldom consult your own comfort in regard to facing wind and storm. Take
this easy chair beside the fire."

"Thank you, no; I shall find it quite warm enough on the sofa beside
you. I am glad to have found you alone, for I want to have a little
semi-confidential chat."

She gave him an inquiring look.

"I am a little uneasy about grandpa," he went on: "he seems feeble and
has a troublesome cough, and I think should have a warmer climate
through the coming winter. I think too, cousin, that such a change
would be by no means hurtful to you or your children," he continued,
regarding her with a grave, professional air: "you are a trifle thin and
pale, and need something to rouse and stimulate you."

"What is it you wish, Arthur?" she asked, with a slight tremble in her
voice.

"I should be glad if you would go to Viamede for the winter and take our
grandfather with you."

He paused for an answer.

Her face was turned toward a window looking out upon the grounds; her
eyes rested with mournful gaze upon a low mound of earth within a little
enclosure not many rods away.

Arthur read her thoughts, and laying a gentle hand on hers, said in low
compassionate tones:

"He is not there, cousin, and his spirit will be as near you in your
Lily's birthplace, and your own, as here. Is not that home also full of
pleasant memories of him?"

She gave a silent assent.

"And you can take all your other dear ones with you."

"Except Edward."

"Yes, but in his case it will only involve a little delay in receiving
letters. Your father and Aunt Rose I am certain will go with you. And
our old grandpa--"

"Is a dear old grandpa, and must not suffer anything I can save him
from," she interrupted. "Yes, Arthur, I will go, if--if my father
approves and will accompany us, of which I have no doubt."

He thanked her warmly. "It may be the saving of grandpa's life," he
said.

"He is getting very old, Arthur."

"Yes, past eighty, but with care he may live to be a hundred; he has a
naturally vigorous constitution. And how he mellows with age, Elsie! He
has become a very lovely Christian, as humble and simple-hearted as a
little child."

"Yes," she said turning toward him eyes filled with glad tears, "and he
has become very dear to me. I think he loves us all--especially
papa--and that we shall have a happy winter together."

"I don't doubt it; in fact, I quite envy you the prospect."

"Oh could you not go with us to stay at least a few weeks? We should all
be so very glad to have you."

"Quite impossible," he said, shaking his head rather ruefully. "I'm
greatly obliged, and should be delighted to accept your invitation, but
it isn't often a busy doctor can venture to take such a holiday."

"I'm very sorry. But you think there is no doubt that grandpa will be
willing to go?"

"He'll not hesitate a moment if he hears Uncle Horace is to go. He
clings to him now more than to any other earthly creature."

"Papa is in the library; shall we join him and hear what he thinks of
your plan?" said Elsie, rising.

"By all means," returned Arthur, and they did so.

Mr. Dinsmore highly approved, as did Rose also on being called in to the
conference.

"How soon do you think of starting?" she asked, looking at Elsie, then
at her husband.

"Papa should decide that," Elsie answered, a slight tremble in her
voice, thinking of the absent one to whom that question should have been
referred were his dear presence still with them.

She caught a look of tenderest love and sympathy from her father. How
well he understood her! How ever thoughtful of her feelings he was!

"I think the decision should rest with you, daughter," he said; "though
I suppose the sooner the better."

"Yes," said Arthur; "for grandpa especially."

"I presume no great amount of preparation will be needful, since it is
but a change from one home to another," suggested Rose.

"No," said Elsie, "and I think a week will suffice for mine. Papa, can
business matters be arranged in that time?"

"Oh yes! so we will say this day week."

The door had opened very quietly a few moments before, admitting little
Rose and Walter, and stealing softly to their mother's side they were
now leaning on her lap, looking from one to another of their elders and
listening with some curiosity to their conversation.

"What is it, mamma?" asked Rosie.

"We are talking of going to Viamede, dear."

"Oh that will be nice!"

"But we tan't doe wis-out papa," prattled Walter; "tan we, mamma? I wish
my dear papa tum back quick."

Rosie saw the pain in mamma's dear face, the tears in her eyes as she
pressed a silent kiss on the brow of the innocent questioner, and with
ready, loving tact she seized the little fellow's hand, and, drawing him
away, "Come, Walter," she said, "let us go and tell the rest about it."

They ran away together, and Arthur rose to take leave.

"Am I imposing upon your unselfish kindness of heart, my dear cousin?"
he asked in an undertone, taking Elsie's hand in his; "is it too great a
sacrifice of your own feelings and inclinations?"

She answered with a text, as was not unusual with her, "'Even Christ
pleased not himself.'"

Mr. and Mrs. Dinsmore were conversing apart at the moment.

"Perhaps," returned Arthur musingly, "we might make some other
arrangement; grandpa might be willing to go without--"

"No, no," she interrupted, "I could not think of giving him the pain of
separation from papa, nor could I bear that myself. But do not trouble
about me; there will be much pleasure mingled with the pain--pleasure in
ministering to the comfort and happiness of the dear old grandpa, and in
seeing Viamede and the old servants. I have always loved both the place
and them."

Her father had caught a part of her words.

"Separation from me?" he said, turning toward her, "who talks of that?
It shall not be with my consent."

"No, papa, nor with mine, for either grandpa or myself," she said with a
look of affection and a slight smile. "Arthur, will you carry a message
from me to Isa?"

"With pleasure."

"Then tell her I should be very glad to have her spend the winter at
Viamede with us, if she feels that she would enjoy the trip and the
quiet life we shall lead there. There will, of course, be no gayeties to
tempt a young girl."

"Thank you," he said, his eyes shining; "I have not the slightest doubt
that she will be delighted to accept the invitation. And, now I think of
it, Aunt Enna and Molly will of course find a home with us at Roselands
while you are away."

"No, no, they will go with us," returned Elsie quickly, "unless indeed
they prefer to be left behind."

Arthur suggested that they would be a great charge, especially upon the
journey, but the objection was promptly overruled by Mr. Dinsmore, Rose
and Elsie.

Molly must go, they all said; she would be sure to enjoy the change
greatly: and the poor child had so few pleasures; and the same was true
of Enna also: she had never seen Viamede, and could not fail to be
delighted with its loveliness; nor would it do to part her from Molly,
who was now her chief happiness.

"I trust they will appreciate your kindness; Molly will, I am sure,"
Arthur said as he went away.

As the door closed on him, Elsie glided to the window and stood in a
pensive attitude gazing out upon that lowly mound, only faintly
discernible now in the gathering darkness, for night was closing in
early by reason of the heavy clouds that obscured the sky.

A yearning importunate cry was going up from her almost breaking heart.
"My husband, oh my husband, how can I live without you! Oh to hear once
more the sound of your voice, to feel once again the clasp of your arm,
the touch of your hand!"

A sense of utter loneliness was upon her.

But in another moment she felt herself enfolded in a strong yet tender
embrace, a gentle caressing hand smoothing her hair.

"My darling, my precious one, my own beloved child!" murmured her
father's voice in its most endearing accents, as he drew her head to a
resting place on his breast.

She let it lie there, her tears falling fast.

"I fear this going away is to be too great a trial to you," he said.

"No, papa, but I am very weak. Forgive my selfish indulgence of my
sorrow."

"My darling, I can sympathize in it, at least to some extent. I remember
even yet the anguish of the first months of my mourning for your
mother."

"Papa, I feel that my wound can never heal; it is too deep; deep as the
roots of my love for him, that had been striking farther and farther
into the soil with every one of the many days and years that we lived
and loved together."

"I fear it may be so," he answered with tenderest compassion; "yet time
will dull the edge of your sorrow; you will learn to dwell less upon the
pain of the separation, and more upon his present happiness and the
bliss of the reunion that will be drawing nearer and nearer with each
revolving day. Dear one, this aching pain will not last forever; as
Rutherford says, 'Sorrow and the saints are not married together; or
suppose it were so, Heaven would make a divorce.'"

"They are very sweet words," she murmured, "and sweeter still is the
assurance given us in the Scriptures that 'our light affliction, which
is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal
weight of glory.'"

"Yes," said Rose, coming to her other side and speaking in low, tender
tones, "dear Elsie, let those words comfort you; and these others also,
'Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he
receiveth.' But for that and similar texts I should wonder much that
trial of any kind was ever permitted to come nigh one who has been a
loving disciple of Jesus since her very early years."

"Was it that I loved my husband too well?" Elsie queried in tremulous
tones. "I do not think I made an idol of him; for inexpressibly dear as
he was, the Master was dearer still."

"If that be so you did not love him--your husband--too well," her father
answered.

"I hear my children's voices; I must not let them see their mother
giving way to grief like this," she said, lifting her head and wiping
away her tears.

They came in--the whole six--preceded by a servant bearing lights.

There was a subdued eagerness about the younger ones, as they hastened
to their mother asking, "Mamma, is it really so--that we are going to
Viamede?"

"Yes, dears, I believe it is quite settled. Grandpa approves, and I hope
you are all pleased."

"Oh yes, yes!"

"If you are, mamma," the older girls said, noticing with affectionate
concern the traces of tears on her face; "if not, we prefer to stay
here."

"Thank you, my darlings," she answered, smiling affectionately upon
them; "for several reasons I shall be glad to go, the principal being
that our poor old grandfather needs the warm climate he will find there;
and of course we could not think of letting him go alone."

"Oh no!" they said; "he could not do without grandpa, and neither could
we."

"And neither could grandpa do without his eldest daughter, or her
children," added Mr. Dinsmore playfully, sitting down and taking Walter
upon one knee, Rosie upon the other. "So we will all go together, and I
trust will have a happy time in that lovely land of fruits and flowers."

They had not seen it for several years, not since Walter was a babe and
Rosie so young that she remembered but little about it. Both were
delighted with the prospect before them, and plied their grandpa with
many eager questions, while their mother looked on with growing
cheerfulness, resolutely putting aside her grief that she might not mar
their pleasure.

The other four had gathered about her, Vi on a cushion at her feet,
Elsie seated close on one side, Herbert standing on the other, and
Harold at the back of her chair, leaning fondly over her, now touching
his lips to her cheek, now softly smoothing her shining hair.

"Dear mamma, how beautiful you are!" he whispered.

"You might as well say it out loud," remarked Herbert, overhearing the
words, "because everybody knows it and nobody would want to contradict
you."

"We are very apt to think those beautiful whom we love," their mother
said with a pleased smile, "and the love of my children is very sweet to
me."

"Yes, mamma, but you _are_ beautiful," insisted Harold; "it isn't only
my love that makes you look so to me, though I do love you
dearly--dearly."

"Mamma knows we all do," said Violet; "we should be monsters of
ingratitude if we did not."

"As I should be if I were not filled with thankfulness to God that he
has blessed me with such dutiful and affectionate children," added the
mother.

"Mamma, how soon will we go to Viamede?" asked Violet; and that
question being answered, another quickly followed. "We will not leave
Molly behind?"

"No, certainly not; nor Aunt Enna, if they will kindly consent to go
with us."

"Consent, mamma! I'm sure they cannot help being delighted to go. May I
run and tell them?"

"Yes, my child; I know you always enjoy being the bearer of pleasant
news."

Molly heard it with great pleasure and gratitude to her cousin; Enna
with even childish delight. Neither had a thought of declining.

Isadore Conly, also, was very much pleased, and sure she should vastly
enjoy the winter with her relations, spite of many an envious
prognostication to the contrary on the part of her mother and Virginia.
They would not go on any account, they averred, and were glad they had
been overlooked in the invitation--mean as it was in Elsie not to
include them--for life at Viamede could not fail to be a very dull
affair for that winter at least.

But Elsie, of course, heard none of these unkind remarks, and seeing the
happiness she was conferring not only upon more distant relations but
upon her children also, who showed increasing pleasure in the thought of
the expected visit to their lovely southern home as the time drew near,
she felt fully repaid for the sacrifice of feeling she was making.



CHAPTER VIII.

    "'Tis easier for the generous to forgive
    Than for offence to ask it."
                                      --_Thomson._


The only noteworthy incident of the journey of our friends took place at
New Orleans, where they halted for a few days of rest to all, and
sight-seeing on the part of the young people.

Mr. Horace Dinsmore, who had some business matters to attend to in
connection with Elsie's property in the city, was hurrying back to his
hotel one afternoon, when a beggar accosted him, asking for a little
help, holding out a very forlorn hat to receive it.

There seemed something familiar in the voice, and Mr. Dinsmore stopped
and looked earnestly at its owner.

A seamed, scarred face, thin, cadaverous, framed in with unkempt hair
and scraggy beard--an attenuated form clothed in rags--these were what
met his view, surely for the first time, for there was nothing familiar
about either.

No, not for the first time; for, with a start of recognition and a
muttered curse, the mendicant dropped his hat, then stooped, hastily
snatched it from the ground, and rushed away down an alley.

"Ah, I know you now!" cried Mr. Dinsmore, giving instant pursuit.

He could not be mistaken in the peculiarly maimed hand stretched out to
regain the hat.

Its owner fled as if for his life, but, weak from disease and famine,
could not distance his pursuer.

At last, finding the latter close at his heels, he stopped and faced
him, leaning, panting and trembling, against a wall.

"George Boyd, is it you? reduced to such a condition as this!" exclaimed
Mr. Dinsmore, eying him searchingly.

"You've mistaken your man, sir," panted the fugitive. "My name's
Brown--Sam Brown at your service."

"Then why did you run away from me?" coolly inquired the gentleman. "No,
I cannot mistake that hand," pointing to the maimed member.

"And you'd like to hang me, I suppose," returned the other bitterly.
"But I don't believe you could do it here. Beside, what's the use? I'll
not cumber the ground much longer, can't you see that? Travilla
himself," he added, with a fierce oath, "can hardly wish me anything
worse than I've come to. I'm literally starving--can hardly get enough
food to keep soul and body together from one day to another."

"Then come with me and I will feed you," Mr. Dinsmore said, his whole
soul moved with pity for the miserable wretch. "Yonder is a restaurant;
let us go there, and I will pay for all you can eat."

"You don't mean it?" cried Boyd in incredulous surprise.

"I do; every word of it. Will you come?"

"A strange question to ask a starving man. Of course I will; only too
gladly."

They crossed the street, entered the eating-house, and Mr. Dinsmore
ordered a substantial meal set before Boyd. He devoured it with wolfish
voracity, his entertainer watching him for a moment, then turning away
in pained disgust.

Time after time plate and cup were filled and emptied, but at last he
declared his appetite fully satisfied. Mr. Dinsmore paid the reckoning,
and they passed out into the street together.

"Well, sir," said Boyd, "I'm a thousand times obliged. Shall be more so
if you will accommodate me with a small loan--or gift if you like, for I
haven't a cent in the world."

"How much do you think you deserve at my hands?" asked Mr. Dinsmore
somewhat severely, for the request seemed to him a bold one under the
circumstances.

"I leave that to your generosity, sir," was the cool reply.

"Which you expect to be great enough to allow you to escape the justice
that should have been meted out to you years ago?"

"I've never harmed a hair of your head nor of any one belonging to you;
though I owe a heavy scare to both you and Travilla," was the insolent
rejoinder.

"No, your imprisonment was the due reward of your lawless and cruel
deeds."

"Whatever I may have done," retorted the wretch with savage ferocity,
"it was nothing compared to the injury inflicted upon me. I suffered
inconceivable torture. Look at me and judge if I do not speak the truth;
look at these fearful scars, these almost blinded eyes." He finished
with a torrent of oaths and curses directed at Travilla.

"Stop!" said Mr. Dinsmore authoritatively, "you are speaking against the
sainted dead, and he entirely innocent of the cause of your sufferings."

"What! is he dead? When? where? how did he die?"

"At Ion, scarce two months ago, calmly, peacefully, trusting with
undoubting faith in the atoning blood of Christ."

Boyd stood leaning against the outer wall of the restaurant; he was
evidently very weak; he seemed awe-struck, and did not speak again for
a moment; then, "I did not know it," he said in a subdued tone. "So he's
gone! And his wife? She was very fond of him."

"She was indeed. She is in this city with her family, on her way to
Viamede."

"I'm sorry for her; never had any grudge against her," said Boyd. "And
my aunt?"

"Is still living and in good health, but beginning to feel the
infirmities of age. She has long mourned for you as worse than dead. You
look ill able to stand; let me help you to your home."

"Home? I have none." There was a mixture of scorn and despair in the
tones.

"But you must have some lodging place?"

"Yes, sometimes it is a door-step, sometimes a pile of rotten straw in a
filthy cellar. On second thoughts, Dinsmore, I rather wish you'd have me
arrested and lodged in jail," he added with a bitter laugh. "I'd at
least have a bed to lay my weary limbs upon, and something to eat. And
before the trial was over I'd be beyond the reach of any heavier
penalty."

"Of human law," added Mr. Dinsmore significantly, "but do not forget
that after death comes the judgment. No, Boyd; I feel no resentment
toward you, and since your future career in this world is evidently very
short, I do not feel called upon to deliver you up to human justice.
Also, for your aunt's sake especially, I am inclined to give you some
assistance. I will therefore give you the means to pay for a decent
lodging to-night, and to-morrow will see what further can be done, if
you will let me know where to find you."

Time and place were fixed upon, money enough to pay for bed and
breakfast was given to Boyd, and they parted company, Mr. Dinsmore
hastening on his way to his hotel--the very best the city afforded--with
a light, free step, while Boyd slowly dragged himself to a very humble
lodging in a narrow, dirty street near at hand.

Mr. Dinsmore found his whole party gathered in their private parlor and
anxiously awaiting his coming. As he entered there was a general
exclamation of relief and pleasure on the part of the ladies and his
father, and a joyous shout from Rosie and Walter as each hastened to
claim a seat upon his knee.

"My dears, grandpa is tired," said their mother.

"Not too tired for this," he said, caressing them with all a father's
fondness.

"Are you not late, my dear?" asked his wife; "we were beginning to feel
a trifle anxious about you."

"Rather, I believe. I will explain the cause at another time," he said
pleasantly.

Tea was brought in, family worship followed the meal, and shortly after
that Elsie retired with her little ones to see them to bed; the others
drew round the table, each with book or work, Harold pushing Molly's
chair up near the light; and Mr. Dinsmore, seating himself beside his
wife, on a distant sofa, gave her in subdued tones an account of his
interview with Boyd.

"Poor wretch!" she sighed, "what can we do for him? It is too dreadful
to think of his dying as he has lived."

"It is, indeed! We will consult with Elsie as to what can be done."

"The very mention of his name must be a pain to her; can she not be
spared it?"

"I will consider that question. You know I would not willingly pain
her," he said, with a tenderly affectionate glance at his daughter as
she re-entered the room; then rising he paced the floor, as was his
habit when engaged in deep or perplexing thought.

Elsie watched him a little anxiously, but without remark until all the
others had retired, leaving her alone with him and Rose.

Then going to him where he sat, in a large easy chair beside the table,
looking over the evening paper, "Papa," she said, laying her hand
affectionately on his arm, "I fear you are finding my affairs
troublesome."

"No, my dear child, not at all," he answered, throwing down the paper
and drawing her to a seat upon his knee.

"It seems quite like old, old times," she said with a smile, gazing
lovingly into his eyes, then stealing an arm about his neck and laying
her cheek to his.

"Yes," he said, fondling her; "why should I not have you here as I used
to twenty odd years ago? You are no larger or heavier nor I a whit less
strong and vigorous than we were then."

"How thankful I am for that last," she returned, softly stroking his
face, "and it is very pleasant occasionally to imagine myself your own
little girl again. But something is giving you anxiety, my dear father.
Is it anything in which I can assist you?"

"Yes; but I fear I can hardly explain without calling up painful
memories."

He felt her start slightly, and a low-breathed sigh met his ear.

"Still say on, dear papa," she whispered tremulously.

"Can you bear it?" he asked; "not for me, but for another--an enemy."

"Yes, the Lord will give me strength. Of whom do you speak?"

"George Boyd."

"The would-be murderer of my husband!" she exclaimed, with a start and
shiver, while the tears coursed freely down her cheeks. "I thought him
long since dead."

"No, I met him this evening, but so worn and altered by disease and
famine, so seamed and scarred by Aunt Dicey's scalding shower, that I
recognized him only by the mutilated right hand. Elsie, the man is
reduced to the lowest depths of poverty and shame, and evidently very
near his end."

"Papa, what would you have me do?" she asked in quivering tones.

"Could you bear to have him removed to Viamede? could you endure his
presence there for the few weeks he has yet to live?"

She seemed to have a short struggle with herself, then the answer came
in low, agitated tones.

"Yes, if neither my children nor I need look upon him or hold any
communication with him."

"That would not be at all necessary," her father answered, holding her
close to his heart. "And indeed I could not consent to it myself. He is
a loathsome creature both morally and physically; yet for his aunt's
sake, and still more for His sake who bids us 'Love your enemies, bless
them that curse you, do good to them that hate you,' I shall gladly do
all in my power for the wretched prodigal. And who can tell but there
may yet be mercy in store for him? God's mercy and power are infinite,
and He has 'no pleasure in the death of him that dieth,' but would
rather that he turn from his evil way and live."

There was a little pause, then Elsie asked if her father had arranged
any plans in regard to Boyd's removal.

"Yes," he said, "subject of course to your approval. I have thought it
would be well to send him on at once and let him be settled in his
quarters before the arrival of our own party. You must decide what room
he is to occupy."

She named one situated in a wing of the mansion, and quite distant from
the apartments which would be used by the family.

"What more, papa?" she asked.

"He must have an attendant--a nurse. And shall we not write to his aunt,
inviting her to come and be with him while he lives? remain through the
winter with us, if she can find it convenient and agreeable to do so?"

"Yes, oh yes! poor dear Mrs. Carrington; it will be but a melancholy
pleasure to her. But I think if any one can do him good it will be she.
I will write at once."

"Not to-night; it is too late; you are looking weary, and I want you to
go at once to bed. To-morrow morning will be time enough for the
letter."

"What, sending me to bed, papa!" she said with a slightly amused smile.
"I must be indeed your little girl again. Well, I will obey as I used
to in the olden time, for I still believe you know what is best for me.
So good-night, my dear, dear father!"

"Good-night, my darling," he responded, caressing her with all the old,
fatherly tenderness. "May God bless and keep you and your dear
children."



CHAPTER IX.

    "She led me first to God;
    Her words and prayers were my young spirit's dew."
                                               --_Pierpont._


Elsie's letter to Mrs. Carrington was despatched by the first morning
mail, and directly after breakfast Mr. Dinsmore went in search of Boyd.

Hardened as the man was, he showed some sense of gratitude toward the
new-made widow of his intended victim, when informed of her kind
intentions toward himself; some remorse for his attempt to injure him
whom she had so dearly loved.

"It is really a great deal more than I had the least right to expect
even for my aunt's sake," he said. "Why, sir, it will be like getting
out of hell into heaven!"

"It is not for Mrs. Carrington's sake alone, or principally--strong as
is the tie of friendship between them," replied Mr. Dinsmore, "but
rather for the sake of the Master she loves and serves, and who bids His
followers return good for evil."

"Cant!" sneered Boyd to himself: then aloud, "Well, sir, I wish it were
in my power to make some suitable return to Mrs. Travilla; but that can
never be, and unfortunately I cannot even undo the past."

"No; and that is a thought which might well deter us from evil deeds.
Now the next thing is to provide you with a bath, decent clothing, and
suitable attendant, and get you and him aboard the boat, which leaves a
few hours hence."

All this was done and Mr. Dinsmore returned to his daughter with a
satisfactory report to that effect.

Their party remained a few days longer in the Crescent City, then
embarked for Viamede, where they arrived in due season, having met with
no accident or detention by the way.

As on former occasions, they were joyfully welcomed by the old servants;
but many tears mingled with the rejoicings, for Mr. Travilla had been
greatly beloved by all, and they wept for both their own loss and that
of their "dear bressed Missus," as they were wont to call her whom his
death had widowed.

She was much overcome at the first, memory vividly recalling former
arrivals when he--her dearest earthly friend--was by her side, giving
her the support of his loved presence and sharing her happiness.

Her thoughts dwelt particularly upon the glad days of their honeymoon;
and she seemed to see herself again a loved, loving, cherished bride,
now wandering with him through the beautiful orange groves or over the
velvety, flower-bespangled lawn, now seated by his side in the veranda,
the parlor, the library, or on some rustic seat under the grand old
trees, his arm encircling her waist, his eyes looking tenderly into
hers; or it might be gliding over the waters of the lakelet or galloping
or driving through the woods, everywhere and always the greatest delight
of each the love and companionship of the other.

Ah, how often she now caught herself listening for the sound of his
voice, his step, waiting, longing to feel the touch of his hand! Could
she ever cease to do so?--ever lose that weary homesickness of heart
that at times seemed almost more than mortal strength could endure?

But she had more than mortal strength to sustain her; the everlasting
arms were underneath and around her, the love that can never die, never
change, was her unfailing support and consolation.

She indulged in no spirit of repining, no nursing of her grief, but gave
herself with cheerful earnestness to every good work: the careful,
prayerful instruction and training of her children as her first duty;
then kindly attentions to her old grandfather, to parents and guests;
after that the care of house servants, field hands, and the outside poor
of the vicinity, neglecting neither their bodies nor their souls; also
helping the cause of Christ in both her own and foreign lands, with
untiring efforts, earnest, believing prayer, and liberal gifts, striving
to be a faithful steward of the ample means God had committed to her
trust, and rejoicing in the ability to relieve the wants of His people,
and to assist in spreading abroad the glad news of salvation through
faith in Christ.

There was no gayety at Viamede that winter, but the atmosphere of the
house was eminently cheerful, its walls often echoing to the blithe
voices and merry laughter of the children; never checked or reproved by
mamma; the days gliding peacefully by, in a varied round of useful and
pleasant employment and delightful recreation that left no room for
_ennui_--riding, driving, walking, boating for all, and healthful play
for the children.

Lester Leland had been heard from, was well, and wrote in so hopeful a
strain that the heart of his affianced grew light and joyous. She was
almost ashamed to find she could be so happy without the dear father so
lately removed.

Her mother reassured her on that point: it was right for her to be as
happy as she could; it was what her papa would have highly approved and
wished; and then in being so and allowing it to be perceived by those
around her, she would add to their enjoyment.

"We are told to 'rejoice in the Lord always,'" concluded the mother,
"and a Christian's heart should never be the abode of gloom and
sadness."

"Dear mamma, what an unfailing comfort and blessing you are to me and to
all your children," cried the young girl. "Oh, I do thank God every day
for my mother's dear love, my mother's wise counsels!"

It was very true, and to mamma each one of the six--or we might say
seven, for Edward did the same by letter--carried every trouble, great
or small, every doubt, fear, and perplexity.

No two of them were exactly alike in disposition--each required a little
different management from the others--but attentively studying each
character and asking wisdom from above, the mother succeeded wonderfully
well in guiding and controlling them.

In this her father assisted her, and she was most careful and decided in
upholding his authority, never in any emergency opposing hers to it.

"Mamma," said Harold, coming to her one day in her dressing-room,
"Herbie is in trouble with grandpa."

"I am very sorry," she said with a look of concern, "but if so it must
be by his own fault; your grandpa's commands are never unreasonable."

"No, I suppose not, mamma," Harold returned doubtfully, "but Herbie is
having a very hard time over his Latin lesson, and says he can't learn
it: it is too difficult. Mamma," with some hesitation, "if you would
speak to grandpa perhaps he would let him off this once."

"Do you think that would be a good plan?" she asked with a slight smile.
"Herbert's great fault is lack of perseverance; he is too easily
discouraged, too ready to give up and say 'I can't.' Do you think it
would be really kind to indulge him in doing so?"

"Perhaps not, mamma; but I feel very sorry to see him in such distress.
Grandpa has forbidden him to leave the school-room or to have anything
to eat but bread and milk till he can recite his lesson quite perfectly.
And we had planned to go fishing this afternoon, if you should give
permission, mamma."

"My son," she said with an affectionate look into the earnest face of
the pleader, "I am glad to see your sympathy and love for your brother,
but I think your grandpa loves him quite as well and knows far better
what is for his good, and I cannot interfere between them; my children
must all be as obedient and submissive to my father as they are to me."

"Yes, mamma, I know, and indeed we never disobey him. How could we when
papa bade us not? and made him our guardian, too?"

Mrs. Travilla sat thinking for a moment after Harold had gone, then
rose and went to the school-room.

Herbert sat there alone, idly drumming on his desk, the open book pushed
aside. His face was flushed and wore a very disconsolate and slightly
sullen expression.

He looked up as his mother came in, but dropped his eyes instantly,
blushing and ashamed.

"Mamma," he stammered, "I--I can't learn this lesson, it's so very hard,
and I'm so tired of being cooped up here. Mayn't I go out and have a
good run before I try any more?"

"If your grandpa gives permission; not otherwise."

"But he won't; and it's a hateful old lesson! and I _can't_ learn it!"
he cried with angry impatience.

"My boy, you are grieving your mother very much," she said, sitting down
beside him and laying her cool hand on his heated brow.

"O mamma, I didn't mean to do that!" he cried, throwing his arms about
her neck. "I do love you dearly, dearly."

"I believe it, my son," she said, returning his caress, "but I want you
to prove it by being obedient to your kind grandpa as well as to me, and
by trying to conquer your faults."

"Mamma, I haven't been naughty--only I can't learn such hard lessons as
grandpa gives."

"My son, I know you do not mean to be untruthful, but to say that you
cannot learn your lesson is really not the truth; the difficulty is not
so much in the ability as in the will. And are you not indulging a
naughty temper?"

"Mamma," he said, hanging his head, "you don't know how hard Latin is."

"Why, what do you mean, my son?" she asked in surprise; "you certainly
know that I have studied Latin."

"Yes, mamma, but wasn't it easier for you to learn than it is for me?"

"I think not," she said with a smile, "though I believe I had more real
love for study and was less easily conquered by difficulties; and
yet--shall I tell you a little secret?"

"Oh yes, ma'am, please do!" he answered, turning a bright, interested
face to hers.

"Well, I disliked Latin at first, and did not want to study it. I should
have coaxed very hard to be excused from doing so, but that I dared not,
because my papa had strictly forbidden me to coax or tease after he had
given his decision; and he had said Latin was to be one of my studies.
There was one day, though, that I cried over my lesson and insisted that
I could not learn it."

"And what did grandpa do to you?" he asked with great interest.

"Treated me just as he does you--told me I _must_ learn it, and that I
could not dine with him and mamma or leave my room until I knew it. And,
my boy, I see now that he was wise and kind, and I have often been
thankful since that he was so firm and decided with me."

"But did you learn it?"

"Yes; nor did it take me long when once I gave my mind to it with
determination. That is exactly what you need to do. The great fault of
your disposition is lack of energy and perseverance, a fault grandpa and
I must help you to conquer, or you will never be of much use in the
world."

"But, mamma, it seems to me I shall not need to do much when I'm a man,"
he remarked a little shamefacedly; "haven't you a great deal of money to
give us all?"

"It may be all gone before you are grown up," she said gravely. "I
shall be glad to lose it if its possession is to be the ruin of my sons.
But I do not intend to let any of you live in idleness, for that would
be a sin, because our talents must be improved to the utmost and used in
God's service, whether we have much or little money or none at all.
Therefore each of my boys must study a profession or learn some
handicraft by which he can earn his own living or make money to use in
doing good.

"Now I am going to leave you," she added, rising, "and if you do not
want to give me a sad heart you will set to work at that lesson with a
will, and soon have it ready to recite to your grandpa."

"Mamma, I will, to please you," he returned, drawing the book toward
him.

"Do it to please God, your kind heavenly Father, even more than to make
me happy," she answered, laying her hand caressingly on his head.

"Mamma, what is the text that says it will please Him?" he asked,
looking up inquiringly, for it had always been a habit with her to
enforce her teachings with a passage of Scripture.

"There are a great many that teach it more or less directly," she said;
"we are to be diligent in business, to improve our talents and use them
in God's service; children are to obey their parents; and both your
grandpa and I have directed you to learn that lesson."

"Mamma, I will do my very best," he said cheerfully, and she saw as she
left the room that he was really trying to redeem the promise.

An hour later he came to her with a very bright face, to say that
grandpa had pronounced his recitation quite perfect and released him
from confinement.

Her pleased look, her smile, her kiss were a sweet reward and a strong
incentive to continuance in well-doing.



CHAPTER X.

    "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according
     to this word, it is because there is no light in them."
                                                 --_Isaiah_ 8:20.


Some years before this Elsie had built a little church on the
plantation, entirely at her own expense, for the use of her dependents
and of her own family when sojourning at Viamede. The membership was
composed principally of blacks.

A few miles distant was another small church of the same denomination,
attended by the better class of whites; planters and their families.

To these two congregations conjointly Mr. Mason had ministered for a
long while, preaching to the one in the morning, to the other in the
afternoon of each Sabbath.

He had, however, been called to another field of labor, a few weeks
previous to the arrival of our friends, leaving the two congregations
pastorless, and the pretty cottage built for him at Viamede without a
tenant.

Still they were not entirely without the preaching of the word, now one
and now another coming to supply the pulpits for a Sunday or two.

At present they were filled by a young minister who came as a candidate,
and whose services had been engaged for several weeks.

Elsie and her family were paying no visits now in this time of mourning,
but nothing but sickness, or a very severe storm, ever kept them from
church. They attended both services, and in the evening the older ones
gathered about the table in the library with their Bibles, and, with
Cruden's Concordance and other helps at hand, spent an hour or more in
the study of the word.

"Mamma," said little Rosie, one Sunday as they were walking slowly
homeward from the nearer church, "why don't we have a minister that
believes the Bible?"

"My child, don't you think Mr. Jones believes it?"

"No, mamma," most emphatically, "because he contradicts it; he said
there's only one devil, and my Bible says Jesus cast out devils--seven
out of Mary Magdalen, and ever so many out of one man, besides other
ones out of other folks."

"And last Sunday, when he was preaching about Jonah, he said it was a
wicked and foolish practice to cast lots," remarked Harold, "while the
Bible tells us that the Lord commanded the Israelites to divide their
land by lot, and that the apostles cast lots to choose a successor to
Judas."

"Yes," said Violet, "and when Achan had sinned, didn't they cast lots to
find out who it was that troubled Israel?"

"And to choose a king in the days of the prophet Samuel," added their
older sister. "How strange that any one should say it was a foolish and
wicked practice!"

"I don't think his mother can have brought him up on the Bible as ours
does us," remarked Herbert.

"Mamma, which are we to believe," asked Rosie, "the minister or the
Bible?"

"Bring everything to the test of scripture," answered the mother's
gentle voice. "'To the law and the testimony: if they speak not
according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.' I want
you to have great respect for the ministry, yet never to receive any
man's teachings when you find them opposed to those of God's holy word."

When the Bibles were brought out that evening, Isa proposed that they
should take up the question of the correctness of that assertion of Mr.
Jones which had led Rosie to doubt his belief in the inspiration of the
Scriptures.

"Yes, let us do so," said her uncle. "It is an interesting subject."

"Yes, I think it is," said Molly; "but do you consider it a question of
any importance, uncle?"

"I do; no Bible truth can be unimportant. 'All scripture is by
inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for
correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may
be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.' And if we have
spiritual foes we surely need to know it, that we may be on our guard
against them."

"And we have not been left without warning against them," observed old
Mr. Dinsmore. "'Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to
stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh
and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the
rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in
high places.' How absurd the idea that principalities and powers can
mean but one creature!"

"David prays, 'Lead me in a plain path because of mine enemies'; and
again, 'Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies,
make thy way straight before my face,'" said Mrs. Travilla. "It seems
evident to me that it was spiritual foes he meant; that he feared to be
left a prey to their temptations, their deceit, the snares and traps
they would set for his soul."

"Undoubtedly," returned her father. "On any other supposition some of
the psalms would seem to be very bloodthirsty and unchristian."

"I rather took Mr. Jones to task about it as we came out of church,"
said old Mr. Dinsmore, "and he maintained that he was in the right on
the ground that the name devil comes from the Greek Diabolos, which is
applied only to the prince of the devils."

"And what of that?" said his son; "the Hebrew name, Satan, has the very
same signification--an adversary, an accuser, calumniator or
slanderer--and Christ called the devils he had just cast out, Satan:
'How can Satan cast out Satan? If Satan rise up against himself, and be
divided, he cannot stand.' If they are so like him, so entirely one with
him, as to be called himself--and that by Him who has all knowledge and
who is the Truth--I cannot see that there is any occasion to deny them
the name of devil, or anything to be gained by doing so; while on the
other hand there is danger of positive harm, as it seems to throw doubt
and discredit upon our English translation."

"A very serious responsibility to assume, since the vast majority of the
people must depend upon it," remarked Mrs. Travilla. "I think any one
who makes the assertion we are discussing should give a very full
explanation and strong warning against the lesser evil spirits we call
devils. 'If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?'"

"Yes," said her father, "and I have very strong faith in the learning,
wisdom and piety of the translators."

"Is Satan a real person? and were the devils whom Christ and his
disciples cast out, real persons?" asked Isadore. "I have heard people
talk of Satan as if he were an imaginary creature, a myth; and of the
others, with which persons were possessed in those days, as probably
nothing more than bad tempers."

"'To the law and to the testimony,'" replied her uncle, opening his
Bible. "We will consider your questions in the order in which they were
asked. 'Is Satan a real person?' There can be no difficulty in proving
it to any one who believes the Bible to be the inspired word of God; the
difficulty is rather in selecting from the multitude of texts that teach
it."

Some time was now spent in searching out, with the help of Bible Text
Book and Concordance, a very long list of texts bearing on the
question--giving the titles, the character and the doings of Satan;
showing that he sinned against God, was cast out of heaven; down to
hell; that he was the author of the fall; that he perverts scripture;
opposes God's work; hinders the Gospel; works lying wonders; that he
tempted Christ; is a liar and the father of lies; is a murderer; yet
appears as an angel of light.

"Here," said Mr. Dinsmore, "is a summing-up of what he is, by Cruden,
who was without question a thorough Bible scholar; and remember, as I
read it, that the description applies not to Satan alone, but also to
those wicked spirits under him. 'He is surprisingly subtile; his
strength is superior to ours, his malice is deadly; his activity and
diligence are equal to his malice; and he has a mighty number of
principalities and powers under his command!'"

"Yes," said old Mr. Dinsmore, meditatively, "'the rulers of the darkness
of this world,' the word is plural: it seems there must be several
orders of them, composing a mighty host."

"I find both my queries already fully answered," said Isa.

"Nevertheless, let us look a little farther into that second question,"
her uncle answered. "I will give the references as before, while the
rest of you turn to and read them."

When this had been done, "Now," said he, "let us sum up the evidence as
to their personality, character, works, and right to the name of devil."

"As to the first they sinned: hell is prepared for them: they believe
and tremble: they spoke: knew Christ and testified to his divinity,
'Jesus, thou son of God.' 'I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of
God.' Wicked tempers could not do any of these things. As to the second,
their character, they are called in the Bible 'unclean spirits,' foul
spirits; and since Christ called them Satan himself, the description of
his character, as I have before remarked, is a faithful description of
theirs also. This last proves also their right to the title of devil.
The scripture--Christ himself--calls them the devil's angels, his
messengers; for that is the meaning of angel, they do Satan's behests,
go on his errands and help him in the work of destroying souls and
tempting and tormenting those whom they cannot destroy.--Well, Vi, what
is it?" For she had given him a perplexed, troubled look.

"There is just one difficulty that I see, grandpa. Here in Jude we are
told, 'And the Angels which kept not their first estate, but left their
own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness
unto the judgment of the great day.' The apostle Peter says the same
thing. My difficulty is to reconcile this statement with the other
teaching--that they are going about the world on their wicked, cruel
errands."

"To the law and to the testimony," repeated Mr. Dinsmore. "Since the
infallible word of God makes both statements, we must believe both,
whether we can reconcile them or not; but I doubt not we shall be able
to do so if we diligently search the word with prayer for the teachings
of the Holy Spirit."

He then offered a short, fervent petition to that end; after which they
resumed their investigation.

"Let us remember," he said, "that the same word often has many
significations, and that hell may be a state or condition rather than a
place--I mean that the word may be sometimes used in that sense: so with
chains and with darkness."

"We use the expression, 'the chains of habit,'" suggested his daughter;
"a spirit could not be bound with a material chain; but in Proverbs we
are told, 'His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he
shall be holden with the cords of his sins.' Think of the awful
wickedness and utter despair of those lost spirits--no space for
repentance, no hope or possibility of salvation--and I think we have
chains on them of fearful weight and strength."

"The cords of sin are the consequences of crimes and bad habits. Sin
never goes unpunished, and the bad habits contracted are, as it were,
indissoluble bands from which it is impossible to get free," read Mr.
Dinsmore from the Concordance, adding, "and to those lost spirits it is
_utterly_ impossible; yes, here in their wicked tempers, malignant
desires and utter despair, we have, I think, the chains that bind them."

"But the darkness, grandpa?" queried Harold.

"We are coming to that. Cruden tells us here that darkness sometimes
signifies great distress, perplexity and calamity; as in Isa. 8:22, Joel
2:2. Sometimes sin or impurity, 1 John 1:5. The devil have all these;
how great is their sin, how great must be their distress and anguish in
the sure prospect of eternal destruction from the presence of God,
eternal torment! dense and fearful must it be beyond the power of words
to express! They are darkness, for our Saviour calls the exercise of
Satan's power 'the power of darkness.' 'This is your hour and the power
of darkness.' By the gates of hell, Matt. 16:18, is meant the power and
policy of the devil and his instruments. It would seem that they carry
their chains, their darkness, their hell with them wherever they go. And
now for the application, the lesson we should learn from all this: what
do you think it is, Harold?"

"That we should be constantly on our guard against the wiles of these
adversaries, is it not, sir?"

"Yes, and ever looking to the captain of our salvation for strength and
wisdom to do so effectually."

"Putting on the whole armor of God," added old Mr. Dinsmore; "the shield
of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the spirit which is the
word of God. What else, Herbert?"

"The breast-plate of righteousness, sir; and the loins are to be girt
about with truth, the feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of
peace."

"There is yet another lesson," said Mrs. Travilla, her face all aglow
with holy joy and love, "how it should quicken our zeal for the Master,
our gratitude, our joy and love, when we think of his salvation offered
to us as his free gift the purchase of his own blood, when he might
justly have left us in the same awful state of horror and despair that
is the portion of the angels that sinned. And how should we cling to him
who alone is able to keep us from falling into the traps and snares they
are constantly spreading for our unwary feet. Ah, my dear children,
there is no safety but in keeping close to Christ!"

"But there we are safe," added her father: "'he is able also to save
them to the uttermost that come unto God by him.' He says of his sheep,
'I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither
shall any man pluck them out of my hand.' He saves his people from sin,
from hell and destruction."

"Can't we find some texts about the good angels?" asked little Rosie,
who had been permitted to sit up beyond her usual bedtime to share in
the Bible lesson.

"Yes," said her grandpa, "we may be thankful for them, because they are
kind and good and loving, taking delight in our salvation and in
ministering to God's people, as they did to the Master when on earth.
Which of you can name some instances given in the Bible?"

"One fed Elijah when he fled from wicked Jezebel," answered Rosie,
promptly.

"They carried Lazarus to heaven," said Herbert.

"And stopped the lions' mouths when they would have eaten Daniel," added
Harold.

The others went on, "One comforted Paul when he was in danger of
shipwreck."

"One delivered Peter from prison."

"Now who can quote a promise or assurance that we, if the true children
of God, shall have help or protection from them?"

"'He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy
ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot
against a stone!'" repeated the younger Elsie, and her mother added in
low, sweet tones, full of joy and thankfulness, "'The angel of the Lord
encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.' Is it
not a sweet assurance?" she exclaimed: "he is not a transient visitor,
but encamps as intending to remain; and not upon one side alone, leaving
the others exposed to the enemy, but round about. Blessed are they who
have the Lord of hosts for their Keeper!"

They united in a song of praise, old Mr. Dinsmore led in prayer, then
with an exchange of affectionate good-nights they separated.

"Mamma," said the younger Elsie, lingering for a little in her mother's
boudoir, "to-night's study of the word has done me good. I want to live
nearer to Jesus, to love him more, to serve him better."

"I too," said Violet. "I want to give him the service of my whole heart
and life, time, talents, money, everything!"

"It rejoices my heart to hear it, my darlings," the mother answered,
folding them in her arms, while glad tears shone in her eyes; "it is
what I desire above all things for you, for all my dear ones, and for
myself."



CHAPTER XI.

    "'Tis not the whole of life to live,
    Nor all of death to die."
                                   --_Montgomery._


Mrs. Carrington obeyed with all speed the call to come to the aid of her
unworthy nephew, and her arrival was not delayed many days after that of
their kind entertainers.

She received a cordial welcome; but since that first day the ladies and
children of the family had seen very little of her, for Boyd had taken
to his bed, and she devoted herself to him.

The gentlemen frequently spent a little time in his room, induced
thereto by motives of kindness, but the others never approached it.

Elsie looked upon him as the would-be murderer of her husband, and could
scarcely think of him without a shudder.

She was willing, even anxious to give him every comfort that money could
buy, and that every effort should be made by her father and others to
lead him to repentance and faith in Christ to the saving of his soul;
but she shrank from seeing him, though she made kind inquiries, sent
messages, and offered many sincere and fervent prayers on his behalf.

Strolling about the grounds one afternoon with her little ones, she saw
her father coming towards her.

Something in the expression of his countenance as he drew rapidly nearer
startled her with a vague fear.

"What is it, papa?" she asked tremulously.

"Take my arm," he said, offering it. "I have something to say to you.
Rosie, do you and Walter go to your mammy."

The children obeyed, while he and their mother turned into another path.

Elsie's heart was beating very fast. "Papa, is--is anything wrong
with--"

"With any of your loved ones? No, daughter: they are all safe and well
so far as I know. But I have a message for you--a request which it will
not be easy or pleasant for you to grant, or to refuse. Boyd is drawing
very near his end, and with a mind full of horror and despair. He says
there is no hope, no mercy for him--nothing but the blackness of
darkness forever."

Elsie's eyes overflowed. "Poor, poor fellow! Papa, can nothing be done
for him?"

"Could you bear to go to him?" he asked tenderly. "Forgive me, dear
child, for paining you with such a suggestion; but the poor wretch
thinks he could die easier if he heard you say that you forgive him."

There was a shudder, a moment's struggle with herself; then she said,
very low and sadly, "Yes, papa, I will go at once. How selfish I have
been in staying away so long. But--O Edward! my husband, my husband!"

He soothed her very tenderly for a moment, then asked gently, "Would he
not have bidden you go?"

"Oh, yes, yes: he would have forgiven, he did forgive him with all his
great, generous heart. And, God helping me, so will I. I am ready to
go."

"Lost, lost, lost! no hope, no help, the blackness of darkness forever!"
were the words, uttered in piercing tones, full of anguish and despair,
that greeted Elsie's ears as her father softly opened the door of Boyd's
room and led her in.

At those sounds, at the sight that met her view--the wretched man with
the seal of death on his haggard, emaciated face, seamed and scarred
beyond all recognition, tossing restlessly from side to side, while he
rent the air with his cries--she turned so sick and faint that she
staggered, and but for the support of her father's arm would have fallen
to the floor.

"Call up all your courage, my dear child," he whispered, leaning over
her, "look to the Lord for strength, and who shall say you may not he
able to do the poor dying wretch some good?"

She struggled determinately with her faintness, and they drew near the
bed.

Boyd started up at sight of her, thrusting the maimed hand under the
bedclothes, and holding out the other with a ghastly smile.

"You're an angel, Mrs. Travilla!" he gasped, "an angel of mercy to a
miserable wretch whom you've a good right to hate."

"No," she said, taking the hand in a kindly grasp, "I have no right to
hate you, or any one--I whose sins against my Lord are far, far greater
than yours against me or mine. I forgive you, as I hope to be forgiven.
May God forgive you also."

"No, no, it is too late, too late for that!" he groaned. "I have sinned
against light and knowledge. He has called and I refused many, many
times; and now the door is shut."

"It is your adversary the devil who tells you that," she said, tears
streaming from her eyes; "he would destroy your soul: but the words of
Jesus are, 'Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out?'
'Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.'"

"Ah, but he also says, 'Because I have called and ye refused; I have
stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at naught
all my counsel, and would none of my reproof; I also will laugh at your
calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as
desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress
and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will
not answer.' Oh it's all true, every word of it!" he cried, with a look
of horror and despair that none who saw it could ever forget, "I feel it
in my inmost soul. There was a time when mercy's door was open to me,
but it's shut now, shut forever."

"O George, George!" sobbed his aunt, "the invitation is without
limit--'whosoever will;' if you have a will to come, it cannot be that
it is even now too late."

"But those words--those dreadful words," he said, turning eagerly toward
her, "Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer.'"

"Are addressed to those who desire deliverance, not from sin itself, but
only from its punishment," said Mr. Dinsmore. "If you have any desire to
be saved from your sins, to be cleansed from their pollution, to be made
holy, it is not too late--the 'whosoever will' is for you."

He shook his head sadly. "I don't know, I don't know, a death-bed is a
poor place to analyze one's feelings. Oh! warn men everywhere not to put
it off, not to put it off! Tell them it is running a fearful risk."

"We will, we will," said his aunt; "but, O George, think of yourself:
'cry to Jesus, he is able to save to the uttermost,' and he has no
pleasure in the death of any soul; he would have you turn now and live:
oh cry to him for mercy!"

"Too late, too late!" he muttered faintly, "the door is shut."

They knelt about his bed and poured out fervent prayers for him; they
repeated promise after promise, invitations and assurances from the
word, of God's willingness to save.

At last, "I'm going, going!" he gasped. "Oh God be merciful to me a
sinner!" And with the last word the spirit took its flight.

Mrs. Carrington sank, half fainting, into Elsie's arms, and Mr. Dinsmore
and the doctor bore her from the room.

It was Elsie's sad task to try to comfort and console where there was
little to build hope upon: she could but dwell upon God's great mercy,
his willingness to save, and the possibility that that last dying cry
came from a truly penitent heart.

"I must try to believe it, else my heart would break!" cried the old
lady. "O Elsie, my heart has bled for you, but your sorrow is not like
unto my sorrow! You can rest in the sure and certain hope of a blissful
reunion, you know that your beloved is rejoicing before the throne;
while I--alas, alas! I know not where my poor boy is. And I am tortured
with the fear that some of his blood may be found in my skirts--that I
did not guide and instruct, warn and entreat him as I might; that my
prayers were not frequent and fervent enough, my example all that it
should have been."

"My dear friend, 'who is sufficient for these things?'" Elsie answered,
weeping; "who has not reason for such self reproach? I think not you
more than the rest of us."

"Ah!" sighed the old lady, "I wish that were so: had I but been to him,
and to my own children, the mother you are to yours, my conscience would
not now trouble me as it does."

Mrs. Travilla had caused a room to be fitted up as a studio for her
older daughters, and here they were spending their afternoon--Vi
painting, Elsie modelling and thinking, the while, of her absent lover,
perchance busy in his studio with hammer and chisel.

"The sun is setting," exclaimed Violet at length, throwing down her
brush. "What can have become of mamma that she has not been in to watch
our progress?"

"I hope she has been taking a drive," Elsie answered, ceasing work also.
"Come, let us go and dress for tea, Vi; it is high time."

They hastened to do so, and had scarcely completed their toilet when
Harold rapped and asked if mamma were there.

"No? Where can she have gone?" he said. "Herbie and I came in from
fishing a little while ago, and we have hunted for her almost
everywhere."

"Except in the nursery," suggested Herbert. "Let's go and see if she's
there."

"The carriage is driving up," said Vi, glancing through the window;
"probably mamma is in it," and all four hurried down to the front
veranda eager to meet and welcome her.

Their old grandfather alighted, handed out Grandma Rose, Aunt Enna, Isa,
and then, with the help of one of the servant men, Molly.

The carriage door closed. Mamma was not there. Indeed their grandma and
Isa were asking for her as they came up the steps.

And childish voices were now heard in their rear making the same
inquiry--Rosie and Walter coming from the nursery in search of the
mother they never willingly lost sight of for an hour.

"Why, what can have become of mamma? Rosie, when did you see her last?"
asked Harold.

"Out on the lawn. She was walking with us, and grandpa came and took her
away."

"Where to?"

"I don't know," answered the child, bursting into tears.

"There, there, don't cry; dear mamma's sure to be safe along with
grandpa," Harold said, putting his arms around his little sister. "And
here he comes to tell us about her," he added joyously, as Mr. Dinsmore
was seen coming down the hall.

They crowded about him, the same question on every tongue.

"She is with Mrs. Carrington," he said, patting the heads of the weeping
Rosie and Walter. "Don't cry, my children. She may not be able to join
us at tea, but you shall see her before you go to your beds."

Then to the older ones, speaking in a subdued tone, "Boyd is gone, and
his aunt is much overcome."

"Gone, Horace!" exclaimed his wife, looking shocked and awe-struck: "how
did he die? was there any ground for hope?"

"Very little," he sighed, "that is the saddest part of it. The body will
be sent away to-night," he added, in answer to a question from his
father; "he is to be buried with the rest of his family. Mrs. Carrington
will not go with it, will probably remain here through the winter."

All felt it a relief that the burial was not to be near at hand, or the
corpse to remain many hours in the house--"a wicked man's corpse," as
Harold said with a shudder, but all were saddened and horror-struck at
the thought that he had gone leaving so little reason for hope of his
salvation.

They gathered at the supper-table a very quiet, solemn company; few
words were spoken; the little ones missed their mother and were glad to
get away to the nursery, where she presently came to them, looking sad
and with traces of recent tears about her eyes.

But she smiled very sweetly upon them, kissed them tenderly, and sitting
down, took Walter on her lap and put an arm round Rosie as she stood by
her side.

They were curious to know about Mr. Boyd, asking if he had gone to
heaven where dear papa and Lily were.

"I do not know, my darlings," she answered, the tears coming into her
eyes again; "he is there if he repented of his sins against God, and
trusted in Jesus."

Then she talked to them, as often before, of the dear Saviour--the great
love wherewith he loves his people, and the many mansions he is
preparing for them.

She spoke to them, too, of God's hatred of sin, and the need of
watchfulness and prayer.

"The devil hates us, my darlings," she said; "he goes about like a
roaring lion, seeking to kill our souls; but Jesus loves us, he is
stronger than Satan, and if we keep close to him we are safe."

Having seen them safe in bed, she went to her dressing-room, to find the
other four there waiting for her.

They gathered about her with glad, loving looks and words, each eager to
anticipate her wishes and to be the first to wait upon her.

"My dear children," she said, smiling through glistening tears, "your
love is very sweet to me!"

"And what do you think yours is to us, mamma?" exclaimed Violet,
kneeling at her mother's feet and clasping her arms about her waist,
while she lifted to hers a face glowing with ardent affection and
admiration.

"Just the same, I hope and believe;" and with the words the mother's
hand passed caressingly over the golden curls.

"Mamma, you have been crying very much," remarked Harold sorrowfully. "I
wish--"

"Well, my son?" as he paused, leaving his sentence unfinished.

"I wish I could make you so happy that you would never want to shed a
tear."

"When I get to heaven, my dear boy, it will be so with me. 'God shall
wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death,
neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.' And
that is where your dear papa is now. Oh how glad we ought to be for
him!" she said with mingled smiles and tears. "'Blessed are the dead
which die in the Lord:' but oh, it is not so, my children, with those
who have not chosen him for their portion! 'for to them is reserved the
blackness of darkness for ever.'"

There was a slight solemn pause, all thinking of the wretched man who
had passed away from earth that afternoon.

"Mamma," asked Harold at last, speaking in a subdued tone, "do you think
it is so with Mr. Boyd?"

"My son," she said gently, "that is a question we are not called upon to
decide; we can only leave him in the hands of God, in full confidence
that the Judge of all the earth will do right."

"Mamma, would you like to tell us about it?" asked Herbert.

"It is a painful subject," she sighed, "but--yes, I will tell you, that
it may be a warning to you all your lives."

They listened with awe-struck faces, and with tears of pity, as she went
on to give a graphic picture of that death scene so different from the
one they had witnessed a few short months ago.

"Oh my children," she said, "live not for time, but for eternity!
remembering that this life is but a preparation for another and endless
existence. 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.'
'Count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ
Jesus our Lord.' Choose his service now while youth and health are
yours, and when death comes you will have nothing to fear. 'The wicked
is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his
death.' 'Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man
soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh, shall
of the flesh reap corruption: but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of
the Spirit reap life everlasting.'"

"Yes, mamma," Elsie said in a half-whisper, the tears stealing down her
cheeks, "surely we have seen it fulfilled in these last few months. Our
beloved father sowed to the Spirit, and what a joyous reaping is his!
How calmly and sweetly he fell asleep in Jesus."

"Yes," the mother said, mingling her tears with theirs--for all were
weeping now--yet with a light shining in her eyes, "I am full of joy and
thankfulness to-night in the midst of my grief. Oh how should we love
and rejoice in this dear Saviour, who through his own death has given
eternal life to him and to us; and to as many as God has given him--to
all that will come to him for it."



CHAPTER XII.

    "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God."
                                          --_1 Peter_, 4:11.


"Mamma, can we--Elsie and I--have a little private talk with you?" asked
Violet as they left the dinner-table the next Sunday.

"Certainly, daughter, if it be suited to the sacredness of the day."

"Quite so, mamma," answered Elsie: "it is, at least in part, a question
of conscience."

"Then we shall want our Bibles to help us decide it. Let us take them
and go out upon the lawn, to the inviting shade of yonder group of
magnolias."

"Do you intend to be so selfish as to monopolize your mother's society?"
asked her father playfully.

"Just for a little while, grandpa," Vi answered with coaxing look and
tone. "Please, all of you, let us two have mamma quite to ourselves for
a few minutes."

"Well, daughters, what is it?" Mrs. Travilla asked, as she seated
herself under the trees with one on each side.

"Mamma," Elsie began, "you saw a young lady talking with us after
church? She is Miss Miriam Pettit. She says she and several other young
girls belonging to the church used to hold a weekly prayer-meeting in
Mrs. Mason's parlor. It is the most central place they can find, and she
will be very glad, very much obliged, if you will let them use it still.
She has understood that nearly all the furniture of the cottage belongs
to you and is still there."

"Yes, that is so; and they are very welcome to the use of any of the
rooms. But that is not all you and Vi had to say?"

"Oh no, mamma! she wants us to join them and take part in the
meetings--I mean not only to sing and read, but also to lead in prayer."

"Well, my dears, I should be glad to have you do so; and you surely
cannot doubt that it would be right?"

"No, mamma," Violet said in her sprightly way, "but we should like to
have you tell us--at least I should--that it would not be wrong to
refuse."

"My child, do you not believe in prayer as both a duty and a privilege?
social and public as well as private prayer?"

"O mamma, yes! but is it not enough for me to pray at home in my closet,
and to unite silently with the prayers offered by ministers and others
in public?"

"Are we not told to pray without ceasing?"

"Oh yes, mamma! and I did not mean to omit silent, ejaculatory prayer;
but is it my duty to lead the devotions of others?"

"Our Saviour gave a precious assurance to those who unite in presenting
their petitions at a throne of grace. 'Where two or three are gathered
together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.' Some one must
lead--there ought always to be several to do so--and why should you be
excused more than another?"

"Elsie is willing, mamma, and Miss Pettit too."

"I am glad to hear it," the mother said, with an affectionate look at
her eldest daughter. "I know it will be something of a trial to Elsie,
and doubtless it is to Miss Pettit too--it is to almost every one: but
what a light cross to bear for Jesus compared to that he bore for us--or
those borne by the martyrs of old; or even by the missionaries who leave
home and dear ones to go far away to teach the heathen! I had hoped my
Vi was ready to follow her Master wherever his providence called her:
that she would not keep back any part of the price, but give him all."

"Oh yes, yes, mamma!" she cried, the tears starting to her eyes, "I want
to be altogether his. I have given him all, and don't want to keep back
anything. I will try to do this if you think he calls me to it; though
it seems almost impossible."

"My child, he will help you if you ask him; will give his Holy Spirit to
teach you how to pray and what to pray for. Try to get your mind and
heart full of your own and others' needs, to forget their presence and
remember his: then words will come, and you will find that in trying to
do the Master's work and will, you have brought down a rich blessing
upon your own soul. And why should we feel it a trial to speak aloud to
our Father in the presence of others of his children, or of those who
are not?"

"I don't know, mamma; it does seem very strange that we should."

"I should like to attend your meetings, but hardly suppose I should be
welcome," Mrs. Travilla said with a smile.

"To us, mamma," both answered, "but perhaps not to the others. Miss
Pettit said there were to be none but young girls."

"Isa is invited, I presume?"

"Yes, mamma, and says she will attend; but can't promise anything more.
I think she will, though, if you will talk to her as you have to us,"
Violet added, as they rose to return to the veranda, where the rest of
the family still lingered.

And she was not mistaken. Isa was too true and earnest a Christian, too
full of love for the Master and zeal for the upbuilding of his cause
and kingdom, to refuse to do anything that she saw would tend to that,
however much it might cost her to attempt it.

"Well, cricket," Mr. Dinsmore said, giving Violet a pet name he had
bestowed upon her when she was a very little girl, "come sit on my knee
and tell me if we are all to be kept in the dark in regard to the object
of this secret conference with mamma?"

"Oh, grandpa," she said, taking the offered seat, and giving him a hug
and kiss, "gentlemen have no curiosity, you know. Still, now it's
settled, we don't care if you do hear all about it."

Both he and his wife highly approved, and the latter, seeing an
interested yet regretful look on poor Molly's face, asked, "Why should
we not have, in addition, a female prayer-meeting of our own? We have
more than twice the number necessary to claim the promise."

The suggestion was received with favor by all the ladies present, time
and place were fixed upon, and then, that they might be the better
prepared to engage in this new effort to serve the Master, they agreed
to take the subject of prayer for that evening's Bible study.

But once entered upon, they found it so interesting, comprehensive and
profitable a theme that they devoted several evenings to it.

The children as well as their elders were continually finding
discrepancies between the teachings of the Bible and those of Mr. Jones,
and Elsie was not a little relieved to learn that the time for which his
services had been engaged had now nearly expired. She hoped there was no
danger that he would be requested to remain.

One day as she was leaving the quarter, where she had been visiting the
sick, Uncle Ben, now very old and feeble, accosted her respectfully.

"Missus, I'se be bery thankful to hab a little conversation wid you when
it suits yo' convenience to talk to dis chile."

"What is it, Uncle Ben?" she asked.

"May I walk 'longside ob de Missus up to de house?" he returned.

"Certainly, Uncle Ben, if you feel strong enough to do so."

"Tank you, Missus; do dese ole limbs good to stretch 'em 'bout dat much.
It's 'bout Massa Jones I'se want to converse wid you, Missus. I hear
dey's talkin' 'bout invitin' him to stay, and I want to ascertain if you
intends to put him ober dis church."

"I, Uncle Ben!" she exclaimed, "I put a minister over your church? I
have no right and certainly no wish to do any such thing. It is for the
members to choose whom they will have."

"But you pays de money and provides de house for him, Missus."

"That is true; but it does not give me the right to say who he shall be.
Only if you should choose one whose teachings I could not approve--one
who was not careful to teach according to God's word--I should feel that
I could not take the responsibility of supporting him."

"I'se glad of dat, Missus," he said with a gleam of satisfaction in his
eyes; "'cause I'se want de Bible truff and nuffin else. And young Massa
Jones, he preach bery nice sometimes, but sometimes it 'pears like he
disremembers what's in de bressed book, and contradicts it wid some of
his own notions."

"Then you don't wish him to stay?"

"No, Missus, dat I don't! hopin' you won't be displeased wid me for
sayin' it."

"Not at all, Uncle Ben: I find the very same objection to him that you
do."

On reaching the house she bade the old man a kindly good-bye, and
directed him to go to the kitchen and tell the cook, from her, to give
him a good dinner, with plenty of hot, strong coffee.

Rosie and Walter were on the back veranda looking out for mamma.

"Oh we're so glad you've tum home, mamma!" cried Walter, running to meet
her and claim a kiss.

"Yes, mamma, it seemed so long to wait," said Rosie, "and now there is a
strange gentleman in the drawing-room, waiting to see you. He's been
here a good while, and both grandpas are out."

"Then I must go to him at once. But I think he is not likely to detain
me long away from you, darlings," the mother said.

She found the gentleman--a handsome man of middle age--looking not at
all annoyed or impatient, but seemingly well entertained by Isa and
Violet, who were there, chatting sociably together over some pretty
fancy work, when he was shown in by the servant.

They withdrew after Isa had introduced Mrs. Travilla and Mr. Embury.

The former thought it a little singular when she learned that her
caller's errand was the same with that of Uncle Ben, _i.e._, to talk
about Mr. Jones and the propriety of asking him to take permanent charge
of the two churches: yet with this difference--that he was personally
not unfavorable to the idea.

"I like him very well, though he is not by any means Mr. Mason's equal
as a preacher," he said, "and I think our little congregation can be
induced to give him a call; but we are too few to support him unless by
continuing the union with this church, so that the small salary we can
give will still be supplemented by the very generous one you pay, and
the use of the cottage you built for Mr. Mason. I am taking for
granted, my dear Madame, that you intend to go on doing for your
retainers here as you have hitherto."

"I do," she said, "in case they choose a minister whose teachings accord
with those of the inspired word. I cannot be responsible for any other."

"And do those of Mr. Jones not come up to the standard?"

"I regret to have to say that they do not; his preaching is far from
satisfactory to me; he makes nothing of the work of the Spirit, or the
danger of grieving Him away forever; nothing of the danger of
self-deception; instructing those who are in doubt about the genuineness
of their conversion that they must not be discouraged, instead of
advising them to go to Christ now and be saved, just as any other sinner
must. I fear his teaching may lead some to be content with a false hope.
Then he often speaks in a half hesitating way, which shows doubt and
uncertainty, on his part, of truths which are taught most plainly and
forcibly in scripture. In a word, his preaching leaves the impression
upon me that he has no very thorough acquaintance with the Bible, and no
very strong confidence in the infallibility of its teachings. Indeed so
glaring are his contradictions of scripture, that even my young children
have noticed them more than once or twice."

"Really, Mrs. Travilla, you make out a strong case against him,"
remarked her interlocutor, after a moment's thoughtful silence, "and
upon reflection I believe a true one. I am surprised at myself that I
have listened with so little realization of the important defects in his
system of theology. I was not ardently in favor of calling him before;
now I am decidedly opposed to it."

He was about to take leave, but, the two Mr. Dinsmores coming in at that
moment, resumed his seat, and the subject was reopened.

They soon learned that they were all of substantially the same opinion
in regard to it.

In the course of the conversation some account was given Mr. Embury of
the Sunday evening Bible study at Viamede.

He seemed much interested, and at length asked if he might be permitted
to join them occasionally.

"My boys are away at school," he said, "my two little girls go early to
bed, and my evenings are often lonely--since my dear Mary left me, now
two years ago," he added with a sigh. "May I come, Mrs. Travilla?"

"Yes," she said, reading approval in the eyes of her father and
grandfather, while her own tender heart sympathized with the bereaved
husband, though at the same time her sensitive nature shrank from the
invasion of their family circle by a stranger.

He read it all in her speaking countenance, but could not deny himself
the anticipated pleasure of making the acquaintance of so lovely a
family group--to say nothing of the intellectual or spiritual profit to
be expected from sharing in their searching of the scriptures.

Mr. Embury was a man of liberal education and much general
information--one who read and thought a good deal and talked well.

The conversation turned upon literature, and Mr. Dinsmore presently
carried him off to the library to show him some valuable books recently
purchased by himself and his daughter.

They were still there when the tea-bell rang, and being hospitably urged
to remain and partake of the meal with the family, Mr. Embury accepted
the invitation with unfeigned pleasure.

All were present even down to little Walter, and not excepting poor
Molly.

Her apartments at Viamede being on the same floor with dining-room,
library and parlors, she joined the family gatherings almost as
frequently as any one else--indeed whenever she preferred the society of
her relatives to the seclusion of her own room.

Mr. Embury had occasionally seen her at church. Her bright, intellectual
face and crippled condition had excited his interest and curiosity, and
in one way and another he had learned her story.

Truth to tell, one thing that had brought him to Viamede was the desire
to make her acquaintance--though Molly and the rest were far from
suspecting it at the time.

He had no definite motive for seeking to know her, except that his
large, generous heart was drawn out in pity for her physical infirmity,
and filled with admiration of her cheerfulness under it, and the energy
and determination she had shown in carving out a career for herself, and
steadily pursuing it spite of difficulties and discouragements that
would have daunted many a weaker spirit.

She had less of purely physical beauty than any other lady present, her
mother excepted, yet there was something in her face that would have
attracted attention anywhere; and her conversational powers were
enviable, as Mr. Embury discovered in the course of the evening, for so
delightful did he find the society of these new friends, both ladies and
gentlemen, that he lingered among them until nearly ten o'clock, quite
oblivious of the flight of time until reminded of it by the striking of
the clock.

"Really, Mrs. Travilla," he said, rising to take leave, "I owe you an
apology for this lengthened visit, which has somehow taken the place of
my intended call; but I must beg you to lay the blame where it should
fall, on the very great attractiveness of your family circle."

"The apology is quite out of proportion to the offence, sir," she
returned, with a kindly smile; "so we grant you pardon, and shall not
refuse it for a repetition of the misdeed."

"I wish," he said, glancing round from one to another, "that you would
all make me a return in kind. I will not say that Magnolia Hall is equal
to Viamede, but it is called a fine place, and I can assure you of at
least a hearty welcome to its hospitalities."



CHAPTER XIII.

    "I preached as never sure to preach again,
    And as a dying man to dying men."
                               --_Richard Baxter._


There was a stranger in the pulpit the next Sunday morning; one whose
countenance, though youthful, by its intellectuality, its earnest
thoughtfulness, and a nameless something that told of communion with God
and a strong sense of the solemn responsibility of thus standing as an
ambassador for Christ to expound his word and will to sinful, dying men,
gave promise of a discourse that should send empty away no attentive
hearer hungering and thirsting for the bread and the water of life.

Nor was the promise unfulfilled. Taking as his text the Master's own
words, "They hated me without a cause," he dwelt first upon the utter
helplessness, hopelessness and wretchedness of that estate of sin and
misery into which all mankind were plunged by Adam's fall; then upon
God's offered mercy through a Redeemer, even his only begotten and
well-beloved Son; upon the wondrous love of Christ "in offering himself
a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice and reconcile us to God," as shown
first in what he resigned--the joy and bliss of heaven, "the glory
which he had with the Father before the world was"--secondly in his
birth and life on earth, of which he gave a rapid but vivid sketch from
the manger to the cross--showing the meekness, patience, gentleness,
benevolence, self-denial, humility and resignation of Jesus--how true,
guileless, innocent, loving and compassionate he was; describing the
miracles he wrought--every one an act of kindness to some poor sufferer
from bereavement, accident, disease, or Satan's power; then the closing
scenes of that wondrous life--the agony in the garden, the cruel mockery
of a trial, the scourging, the crucifixion, the expiring agonies upon
the cross.

He paused; the audience almost held their breath for the next words, the
silent tears were stealing down many a cheek.

Leaning over the pulpit with outstretched hand, with features working
with emotion, "I have set before you," he said in tones thrilling with
pathos, "this Jesus in his life and in his death. He lived not for
himself, but for you; he died not for his own sins, but for yours and
mine: he offers you this salvation as a free gift purchased with his own
blood. Yea, risen again, and ever at the right hand of God, he maketh
intercession for you. If you hate him, is it not without a cause?"

The preacher had wholly forgotten himself in his subject; nor did self
intrude into the prayer that followed the sermon. Truly he seemed to
stand in the immediate presence of Him who died on Calvary and rose
again, as he poured out his confessions of sins, his gratitude for
redeeming love, his earnest petitions for perishing souls, blindly,
wickedly hating without a cause this matchless, this loving,
compassionate Saviour. And for Christ's own people, that their faith
might be strengthened, their love increased, that they might be very
zealous for the Master, abounding in gifts and prayers and labors for
the upbuilding of his cause and kingdom.

"The very man we should have here, if he can be induced to come," Mr.
Dinsmore said in a quiet aside to his daughter as the congregation began
to disperse, going out silently or conversing in subdued tones; for the
earnest, solemn discourse had made a deep impression.

"Yes, papa. Oh, I should rejoice to hear such preaching every Sabbath!"
was Elsie's answer.

"And I," Mr. Embury said, overhearing her remark. "But Mr. Keith gave us
expressly to understand that he did not come as a candidate; he is here
for his health or recreation, being worn out with study and pastoral
work, as I understand."

"Keith?" exclaimed Mr. Dinsmore. "I thought there was something
familiar in his face. Elsie, I think he must belong to our Keiths."

"We must find out, papa," she said. "Oh, I shall be glad if he does!"

"Shall I bring him up and introduce him?" Mr. Embury asked. "Ah, here he
is!" as, turning about, he perceived the young minister close at hand.

"Dinsmore! Travilla! those are family names with us!" the latter said,
with an earnest, interested look from one to the other as the
introductions were made.

"As Keith is with us," Mr. Dinsmore answered, grasping his hand. "I
opine that I am speaking to a grandson of my cousin Marcia Keith and her
husband, Stuart Keith, of Pleasant Plains, Indiana?"

"Yes, sir; I am the son of Cyril, their second son, and bear the same
name. And you, sir, are the Cousin Horace of whom I have so often heard
my grandmother and Aunt Mildred speak?"

"The same."

"And Mrs. Travilla is Cousin Elsie?" turning to her with a look of great
interest and pleasure mingled with admiration; but which quickly changed
to one of intense, sorrowful sympathy as he noticed her widow's weeds.
He had often heard of the strong attachment between herself and
husband, and this was the first intimation he had had of her
bereavement.

She read his look and gave him her hand silently, her heart too full for
speech.

"You will go home with us, of course," said Mr. Dinsmore, after
introducing his wife and the other ladies of the family.

"And stay as long as you possibly can," added Elsie, finding her voice.
"Papa and I shall have a great many questions to ask about our cousins."

"I shall be most happy to accept your kind invitation, if Mr. Embury
will excuse me from a prior engagement to dine and lodge with him,"
replied Mr. Keith, turning with a smile to the proprietor of Magnolia
Hall, who was still standing near in a waiting attitude.

"I am loath to do so," he said, pleasantly, "but relatives have the
first claim. I will waive mine for the present, in your favor, Mrs.
Travilla, if you will indemnify me by permission to call frequently at
Viamede while Mr. Keith stays; and afterward, if you don't find me a
bore. I might as well make large demands while I am about it."

"Being in a gracious mood, I grant them, large as they are," she
responded, in the same playful tone that he had used. "Come whenever it
suits your convenience and pleasure, Mr. February."

"Viamede!" said Mr. Keith, meditatively, as they drove homeward. "I
remember hearing Aunt Mildred talk of a visit she paid there many years
ago, when she was quite a young girl, and you, Cousin Elsie, were a mere
baby."

"Yes," said old Mr. Dinsmore. "It was I who brought her. Horace was away
in Europe at the time, and the death of Cameron, Elsie's guardian, made
it necessary for me to come on and attend to matters. Mildred was
visiting us at Roselands that winter, and I was very glad to secure her
as travelling companion. Do you remember anything about it, Elsie?"

"Not very much, grandpa," she said: "a little of Cousin Mildred's
kindness and affection; something of the pain of parting from my dear
home and the old servants. But I have a very vivid recollection of a
visit paid to Pleasant Plains with papa," and she turned to him with a
deeply affectionate look, "shortly before his marriage. I then saw Aunt
Marcia, as both she and papa bade me call her, and Cousin Mildred and
all the others, not forgetting Uncle Stewart. We had a delightful visit,
had we not, papa?"

"Yes, I remember we enjoyed it greatly."

"I was just then very happy in the prospect of a new mamma," Elsie went
on, with a smiling glance at her loved stepmother, "and papa was so very
good as to allow me to tell of my happiness to the cousins. Your father
was quite a tall lad at that time, Cousin Cyril, and very kind to his
little cousin, who considered him a very fine young gentleman."

"He is an elderly man now," remarked his son. "You have seen Aunt
Mildred and some others of the family since then?"

"Yes, several times; she and a good many of the others were with us at
different times during the Centennial. But why did you not let us know
of your coming, Cousin Cyril? why not come directly to us?"

"It was a sudden move on my part," he said, "and indeed I was not aware
that I was coming into the neighborhood of Viamede, or that you were
there. But I am delighted that it is so--that I have the opportunity to
become acquainted with you and to see the place, which Aunt Mildred
described as a paradise upon earth."

"We think it almost that, but you shall judge for yourself," she said,
with a pleased smile.

"Beautiful! enchanting! the half had not been told me!" he exclaimed in
delight, as, a few moments later, he stood upon the veranda gazing out
over the emerald velvet of the lawn, bespangled with its many hued and
lovely flowers, and dotted here and there with giant oaks, graceful
magnolias, and clusters of orange trees laden with their delicate,
sweet-scented blossoms and golden fruit, to the lakelet whose waters
glittered in the sunlight, and the fields, the groves and hills beyond.

"Ah, if earthly scenes are so lovely, what must heaven be!" he added,
turning to Elsie a face full of joyful anticipation.

"Yes," she responded in low, moved tones, "how great is their
blessedness who walk the streets of the Celestial City! How their eyes
must feast upon its beauties! And yet--ah, methinks it must be long ere
they can see them, for gazing upon the lovely face of Him whose blood
has purchased their right to enter there."

"Even so," he said. "Oh, for one glimpse of His face! Dear cousin," and
he took her hand in his, "let the thought of the 'exceeding and eternal
weight of glory' your loved one is now enjoying, and which you will one
day share with him, comfort you in your loneliness and sorrow."

"It does, it does!" she said tremulously, "that and the sweet sense of
His abiding love, and presence who can never die and never change. I am
far from unhappy, Cousin Cyril. I have found truth in those beautiful
words,

    'Then sorrow touched by Thee, grows bright
      With more than rapture's ray,
    As darkness shows us worlds of light
      We never saw by day.'"

They had been comparatively alone for the moment, no one near enough to
overhear the low-toned talk between them.

The young minister was greatly pleased with Viamede--the more so the
more he saw of it--and with his new-found relatives, the more and better
he became acquainted with them; while they found him all his earnest,
scriptural preaching had led them to expect.

His religion was not a mask, or a garment to be worn only in the pulpit
or on the Sabbath, but permeated his whole life and conversation; as was
the case with most if not all of those with whom he now sojourned; and
like them, he was a happy Christian; content with the allotments of
God's providence, walking joyously in the light of his countenance,
making it the one purpose and effort of his life to live to God's glory
and bring others to share in the blessed service.

He was strongly urged to spend the Winter at Viamede as his cousin's
guest, and preacher to the two churches.

He took a day or two to consider the matter, then, to the great
satisfaction of all concerned, consented to remain, thanking his cousins
warmly for their kindness in giving him so sweet a home; for they made
him feel that he was entirely one of themselves, always welcome in their
midst, yet at perfect liberty to withdraw into the seclusion of his own
apartments whenever duty or inclination called him to do so.

The well-stocked library supplied him with all needed books, there were
servants to wait upon him, horses at his disposal, in short, nothing
wanting for purposes of work or of recreation. Again and again he said
to himself, or in his letters to those in the home he had left, that
"the lines had fallen to him in pleasant places."

In the meantime Elsie found the truth as expounded by him from Sabbath
to Sabbath, and in the week-day evening service and the family worship,
most comforting and sustaining; while his intelligent, agreeable
conversation and cheerful companionship were most enjoyable at other
times.

"Cousin Cyril" soon became a great favorite with those who claimed the
right to call him so, and very much liked and looked up to by Isadore,
Molly, and the rest to whom he was simply Mr. Keith.

In common with all others who knew them, he admired his young cousins,
Elsie and Violet, extremely, and found their society delightful.

Molly's sad affliction called forth, from the first, his deepest
commiseration; her brave endurance of it, her uniform cheerfulness under
it, his strong admiration and respect.

Yet he presently discovered that Isadore Conly had stronger attractions
for him than any other woman he had ever met. It was not her beauty
alone, her refinement, her many accomplishments, but principally her
noble qualities of mind and heart, gradually opening themselves to his
view as day after day they met in the unrestrained familiar intercourse
of the home circle, or walked or rode out together, sometimes in the
company of others, sometimes alone.

Mr. Embury made good use of the permission Mrs. Travilla had granted
him, and occasionally forestalling Cyril's attentions, led the latter to
look upon him as a rival.

Molly watched it all, and though now one and now the other devoted an
hour to her, sitting by her side in the house doing his best to
entertain her with conversation, or pushing her wheeled chair about the
walks in the beautiful grounds, or taking her out for a drive, thought
both were in pursuit of Isa.

It was their pleasure to wait upon Isa, Elsie and Vi, while pity and
benevolence alone led them to bestow some time and effort upon
herself--a poor cripple whom no one could really enjoy taking about.

She had but a modest opinion of her own attractions, and would have
been surprised to learn how greatly she was really admired by both
gentlemen, for her good sense, her talent, energy and perseverance
in her chosen line of work, and her constant cheerfulness; how
brilliant and entertaining they often found her talk, pronouncing
it "bright, sparkling, witty;" how attractive her intellectual
countenance, and her bright, dark, expressive eyes.



CHAPTER XIV.

    "Something the heart must have to cherish,
       Must love and joy, and sorrow learn;
     Something with passion clasp or perish,
       And in itself to ashes burn."
                                   --_Longfellow._

"Molly, how you do work! a great deal too hard, I am sure," said the
younger Elsie, coming into her cousin's room, to find her at her writing
desk, pen in hand, as usual, an unfinished manuscript before her, and
books and papers scattered about.

Molly looked up with a forced smile: she was not in mirthful mood.

"It is because I am so slow that I must keep at it or I get nothing
done."

"Well, there's no need," said Elsie, "and really, Molly dear, I do
believe you would gain time by resting more and oftener than you do. Who
can work fast and well when brain and body are both weary? I have come
to ask if you will take a drive with our two grandpas, grandma and Mrs.
Carrington?"

"Thank you kindly, but I can't spare the time to-day."

"But don't you think you ought? Your health is of more importance than
that manuscript. I am sure, Molly, you need the rest. I have noticed
that you are growing thin and pale of late, and look tired almost all
the time."

"I was out for an hour this morning."

"An hour! and the weather is so delightful, everything out of doors
looking so lovely, that the rest of us find it next to impossible to
content ourselves within doors for an hour. Some of us are going to play
croquet. If you will not drive, won't you let one of the servants wheel
you out there--near enough to enable you to watch the game?"

"Please don't think me ungracious," Molly answered, coloring, "but I
really should prefer to stay here and work."

"I think Aunt Enna is going with us, and you will be left quite alone,
unless you will let me stay, or send a servant to sit with you," Elsie
suggested.

But Molly insisted that she would rather be alone. "And you know," she
added, pointing to a silver hand bell on the table before her, "I can
ring if I need anything."

So Elsie went rather sadly away, more than half suspecting that Molly
was grieving over her inability to move about as others did, and take
part in the active sports they found so enjoyable and healthful.

And indeed she had hardly closed the door between them when the tears
began to roll down Molly's cheeks. She wiped them away and tried to go
on with her work; but they came faster and faster, till throwing down
her pen she hid her face in her hands, and burst into passionate
weeping, sobs shaking her whole frame.

A longing so intense had come over her to leave that chair, to walk, to
run, to leap and dance, as she had delighted to do in the old days
before that terrible fall. She wanted to wander over the velvety lawn
beneath her windows, to pluck for herself the many-hued, sweet-scented
flowers, growing here and there in the grass. Kind hands were always
ready to gather and bring them to her, but it was not like walking about
among them, stooping down and plucking them with her own fingers.

Oh to feel her feet under her and wander at her own sweet will about the
beautiful grounds, over the hills and through the woods! Oh to feel that
she was a fit mate for some one who might some day love and cherish her
as Mr. Travilla had loved and cherished her whom he so fondly called his
"little wife!"

She pitied her cousin for her sad bereavement; her heart had often,
often bled for her because of her loss; but ah! it were "better to have
loved and lost, than never to have loved at all."

Never to love, never to be loved, that was the hardest part of it all.

There was Dick, to be sure, the dear fellow! how she did love him! and
she believed he loved her almost as well; but the time would come when
another would have the first place in his heart; perhaps it had already
come.

Her mother's affection was something, but it was the love of a stronger
nature than her own that she craved, a staff to lean upon, a guiding,
protecting love, a support such as is the strong, stately oak to the
delicate, clinging vine.

There were times when she keenly enjoyed her independence, perfect
liberty to control her own actions and choose her own work; her ability
to earn a livelihood for herself; but at this moment all that was as
nothing.

Usually she was submissive under her affliction; now her heart rebelled
fiercely against it. She called it a hard and cruel fate, to which she
could not, would not be resigned.

She was frightened at herself as she felt that she was so rebellious,
and that she was envying the happiness of the cousins who had for years
treated her with unvarying kindness; that her lot seemed the harder by
contrast with theirs.

And yet how well she knew that theirs was not perfect happiness--that
the death of the husband and father had been a sore trial to them all.

Through the open window she saw the handsome, easy-rolling family
carriage drive away and disappear among the trees on the farther side of
the lawn; then the croquet party setting out for the scene of their
proposed game, which was at some little distance from the mansion,
though within the grounds.

She noticed that Isa and Mr. Keith walked first--very close together,
and looking very like a pair of lovers, she thought--then Mr. Embury
with Violet's graceful, girlish figure by his side, she walking with a
free, springing step that once poor Molly might have emulated, as she
called to mind with a bitter groan and an almost frantic effort to rise
from her chair.

Ah, what was it that so sharpened the sting brought by the thought of
her own impotence, as she saw Vi's bright, beautiful face uplifted to
that of her companion? A sudden glimpse into her own heart sent a
crimson tide all over the poor girl's face.

"O Molly Percival, what a fool you are!" she exclaimed half aloud, then
burst into hysterical weeping; but calming herself almost instantly.
"No, I will not, will _not_ be so weak!" she said, turning resolutely
from the window. "I have been happy in my work, happy and content, and
so will I be again. No foolish impossible dreams for you, Molly
Percival! no dog in the manger feelings either; you shall not indulge
them."

But the thread of thought was broken and lost, and she tried in vain to
recover it; a distant hum of blithe voices came now and again to her ear
with disturbing influence.

She could not rise and go away from it.

Again the pen was laid aside, and lying back in her chair with her head
against its cushions, she closed her eyes with a weary sigh, a tear
trickling slowly down her cheek.

"I cannot work," she murmured. "Ah, if I could only stop thinking these
miserable, wicked thoughts!"

Mrs. Travilla, returning from a visit to the quarter, stopped a moment
to watch the croquet players.

"Where is Molly?" she asked of her eldest daughter; "did she go with
your grandpa and the others?"

"No, mamma, she is in her room, hard at work as usual, poor thing!"

"She is altogether too devoted to her work; she ought to be out enjoying
this delicious weather. Surely you did not neglect to invite her to join
you here, Elsie?"

"No, mamma, I did my best to persuade her. I can hardly bear to think
she is shut up there alone, while all the rest of us are having so
pleasant an afternoon."

"It is too bad," Mr. Embury remarked, "and I was strongly tempted to
venture into her sanctum and try my powers of persuasion; but refrained
lest I should but disturb the flow of thought and get myself into
disgrace without accomplishing my end. Have you the courage to attempt
the thing, Mrs. Travilla?"

"I think I must try," she answered, with a smile, as she turned away in
the direction of the house.

She found Molly at work, busied over a translation for which she had
laid aside the unfinished story interrupted by the younger Elsie's
visit.

She welcomed her cousin with a smile, but not a very bright or mirthful
one, and traces of tears about her eyes were very evident.

"My dear child," Elsie said, in tones as tender and compassionate as she
would have used to one of her own darlings, and laying her hand
affectionately on the young girl's shoulder, "I do not like to see you
so hard at work while every one else is out enjoying this delightful
weather. How can you resist the call of all the bloom and beauty you can
see from your window there?"

"It is attractive, cousin," Molly answered; "I could not resist it
if--if I could run about as others do," she added, with a tremble in her
voice.

"My poor, poor child!" Elsie said with emotion, bending down to press a
kiss on the girl's forehead.

Molly threw her arms about her, and burst into tears and sobs.

"Oh it is so hard, so hard! so cruel that I must sit here a helpless
cripple all my days! How can I bear it, for years and years, it may
be!"

"Dear child, 'sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.' Let us live
one day at a time, leaving the future with our heavenly Father, trusting
in His promise that as our day our strength shall be. Rutherford says,
'These many days I have had no morrow at all.' If it were so with all of
us, how the burdens would be lightened! for a very large part of them is
apprehension for the future. Is it not?"

"Yes, and I am ashamed of my weakness and cowardice."

"Dear child, I have often admired your strength and courage under a
trial I fear I should not bear half so well."

Molly lifted to her cousin's a face full of wonder, surprise and
gratitude; then it clouded again and tears trembled in her eyes and in
her voice, as she said, "But, Cousin Elsie, you must let me work; it is
my life, my happiness; the only kind I can ever hope for, ever have.
Others may busy themselves with household cares, may fill their hearts
with the sweet loves of kind husbands and dear little children; but
these things are not for me. O cousin, forgive me!" she cried, as she
saw the pained look in Elsie's face. "I did not mean--I did not
intend--"

"To remind me of the past," Elsie whispered, struggling with her tears.
"It is full of sweet memories, that I would not be without for anything.
Oh true indeed is it that

    'Tis better to have loved and lost,
    Than never to have loved at all."

"O Cousin Elsie, your faith and patience are beautiful!" cried Molly,
impulsively. "You never murmur at your cross, you are satisfied with all
God sends. I wish it were so with me, but--O cousin, cousin, my very
worst trouble is that I am afraid I am not a Christian! that I have been
deceiving myself all these years!" she ended with a burst of bitter
weeping.

"Molly dear," Elsie said, folding her in her arms and striving to soothe
her with caresses, "you surprise me very much, for I have long seen the
lovely fruit of the Spirit in your life and conversation. Do you not
love Jesus and trust in him alone for salvation?"

"I thought I did, and oh I cannot bear to think of not belonging to him!
it breaks my heart!"

"Then why should you think so?"

"Because I find so much of evil in myself. If you knew the rebellious
thoughts and feelings I have had this very day you would not think me a
Christian. I have hated myself because of them."

"You have struggled to cast them out, you have not encouraged or loved
them. Is that what they do who have no love to Christ? no desire after
conformity to his will? It is the child of God who hates sin and
struggles against it. But it is not necessary to decide whether you
have or have not been mistaken in your past experience, since you may
come to Jesus now just as if you had never come before: give yourself to
him and accept his offered salvation without stopping to ask whether it
is for the first or the ten thousandth time. Oh that is always my
comfort when assailed by doubts and fears! 'Behold, now is the accepted
time; behold, now is the day of salvation.' Jesus says, to-day and every
day, 'Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will
give you rest.' 'Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.'"

Glad tears glistened in Molly's eyes. "And he will pardon my iniquity
though it is so great," she murmured, with trembling lip and half
averted face: "he will forgive all my transgressions and my sins,
cleanse me from them and love me freely."

"Yes, dear child, he will. And now put away your work for the rest of
this day and come out into the pure, sweet air. If we weary our poor,
weak bodies too much, Satan is but too ready to take advantage of our
physical condition to assault us with temptations, doubts and fears."

"I will do as you think best, cousin," was the submissive reply.

Elsie at once summoned a servant, and in a few moments Molly's chair was
rolling along the gravelled walks, underneath the grand old trees, a
gentle breeze from the lakelet, laden with the scent of magnolias and
orange blossoms, gathered in its passage across the lawn, softly fanning
her cheek, her cousin walking by her side and entertaining her with
pleasant chat.

Rosie and Walter came running to meet them. They were glad to see Molly
out: they filled her lap with flowers and her ears with their sweet
innocent prattle, her heart growing lighter as she listened and drank in
beside all the sweet sights and scents and sounds of nature in her most
bountiful mood.

They made a partial circuit of the grounds that at last brought them to
the croquet players, who, one and all, greeted Molly's arrival with
expressions of satisfaction or delight.

Each brought an offering of bud or blossom, the loveliest and sweetest
of flowers were scattered so profusely on every hand.

Mr. Embury's was a half blown rose, and Elsie, furtively watching her
charge, noted the quick blush with which it was received, the care with
which it was stealthily treasured afterward.

A suspicion stirred in her breast, a fear that made her heart tremble
and ache for the poor girl.

Mr. Embury spent the evening at Viamede. Molly was in the parlor with
the rest, and the greater part of the time he was close at her side.

Both talked more than usual, often addressing each other, and seemed to
outdo themselves in sparkling wit and brilliant repartee.

Molly's cheeks glowed and her eyes shone: she had never been so handsome
or fascinating before, and Mr. Embury hung upon her words.

Elsie's heart sank as she saw it all. "My poor child!" she sighed to
herself. "I must warn him that her affections are not to be trifled
with. He may think her sad affliction is her shield--raising a barrier
that she herself must know to be impassable--but when was heart
controlled by reason?"

The next morning Enna, putting her head in at the door of the
dressing-room where her niece was busy with her little ones, said:
"Elsie, I wish you'd come and speak a word to Molly. She'll hear reason
from you, maybe, though she thinks I haven't sense enough to give her
any advice."

"What is it?" Elsie asked, obeying the summons at once, leaving Rosie
and Walter in Aunt Chloe's charge.

"Just come to her room, won't you?" Enna said, leading the way. "I don't
see what possesses the child to act so. He's handsome and rich and
everything a reasonable woman could ask. I want you to--But there! he's
gone, and it's too late!"

Elsie following her glance through a window they were passing, saw Mr.
Embury's carriage driving away.

"Did he ask Molly to go with him?" she inquired.

"Yes, and she wouldn't do it; though I did all I could to make her. Come
and speak to her though, so she'll know better next time."

Molly sat in an attitude of dejection, her face hidden in her hands, and
did not seem conscious of their entrance until Elsie's hand was softly
laid on her shoulder, while the pitying voice asked, "What is the
matter, Molly dear?"

Then the bowed head was lifted, and Elsie saw that her eyes were full of
tears, her cheeks wet with them.

"Oh, Cousin Elsie," she sobbed, "don't ask me to go with him. I must
not. I must try to keep away from him. Oh, why did we ever meet? Shall I
ever be rid of this weary pain in my heart?"

"Yes, dear child, it will pass away in time," her cousin whispered,
putting kind arms about her. "He must stay away, and you will learn to
be happy again in your work, and, better still, in the one love that can
never fail you in this world or the next."

"He is a good man, don't blame him," murmured the poor girl, hiding her
blushing face on her cousin's shoulder.

"I will try not; but such selfish thoughtlessness is almost
unpardonable. He must not come here any more."

"No, no: don't tell him that! don't let him suspect that I--care
whether he does or not. And he enjoys it so much, he is so lonely in his
own house."

"Do not fear that I will betray you, poor, dear, unselfish child," Elsie
said; "but I must protect you somehow. And, Molly dear, though I believe
married life is the happiest, where there is deep, true love, founded on
respect and perfect confidence, I am quite sure that it is possible for
a woman to be very happy though she live single all her days. There is
my dear old Aunt Wealthy, for example; she must be now nearly ninety. I
have known her for more than twenty years, and always as one of the
cheeriest and happiest people I ever saw."

"Did she ever meet any one she cared for?" Molly asked, still hiding her
face.

"Yes: she had a sore disappointment in her young days, as she told me
herself; but the wound healed in time."

Enna had seated herself in a low rocking-chair by a window, and with
hands folded in her lap was keenly eying her daughter and niece.

"What are you two saying to each other?" she demanded. "You talk so low
I can only catch a word now and then; but I don't believe, Elsie, that
you are coaxing Molly to behave as I want her to."

"Poor mother!" sighed Molly; "she can't understand it."



CHAPTER XV.

    "Man's love is of man's life a thing apart,
    'Tis woman's whole existence."
                                        --_Byron._


Finding her own thoughts full of Molly and her troubles to the exclusion
of everything else, Elsie presently dismissed her little ones to their
play, spent a few moments in consulting her best Friend, then went in
search of her father.

She would not betray Molly even to him, but it would be safe, helpful,
comforting to confide her own doubts, fears and anxieties.

She found him in the library, and alone. He was standing before a window
with his back toward her as she entered, and did not seem to hear her
light footsteps till she was close at his side; then turning hastily, he
caught her in his arms, strained her to his breast, and kissed her again
and again with passionate fondness.

"What is it, papa?" she asked in surprise, looking up into his face and
seeing it full of emotion that seemed a strange blending of pain and
pleasure.

"My darling, my darling!" he said in low, tremulous tones, holding her
close, and repeating his caresses, "how shall I ever make up to you for
the sorrows of your infancy? the culpable, heartless neglect with which
your father treated you then? I see I surprise you by referring to it
now, but I have been talking with one of the old servants who retains a
vivid remembrance of your babyhood here, and your heart-rending grief
when forced away from your home and almost all you had learned to love.
Such a picture of it has she given me that I fairly long to go back to
that time and take my baby girl to my heart and comfort her."

"Dear papa, I hardly remember it now," she said, laying her head down on
his breast; "and oh I have the sweetest memories of years and years of
the tenderest fatherly love and care!--love and care that surround me
still and form one of my best and dearest earthly blessings. If the Lord
will, may we long be spared to each other, my dear, dear father!"

His response was a fervent "Amen," and sitting down upon a sofa, he drew
her to a seat by his side.

"I have come to you for help and advice in a new difficulty, papa," she
said. "I fear I have made a sad mistake in allowing Mr. Embury's visits
here; and yet--I cannot exclude from my house gentlemen visitors of
unexceptionable character."

"No; and he appears to be all that, and more--a sincere, earnest
Christian. But what is it that you regret or fear? Elsie is engaged,
Violet very young, and for Isa--supposing there were any such
prospect--it would be a most suitable match."

"But Molly?"

"Molly!" he exclaimed with a start. "Poor child! she could never think
of marriage!"

"No, papa, but hearts don't reason and love comes unbidden."

"And you think she cares for him?"

"It would not be strange if she should; he is a very agreeable man,
and--Did you notice them last night? I thought his actions decidedly
loverlike, and there was something in her face that made me tremble for
the poor child's future peace of mind."

"Poor child!" he echoed; "poor, poor child! I am glad you called my
attention to it. I must give Embury a hint: he cannot, of course, be
thinking what he is about: for I am sure he is not the heartless wretch
he would be if he could wreck her happiness intentionally."

"Thank you, dear papa. You will know exactly how to do it without the
least compromise of the dear girl's womanly pride and delicacy of
feeling, or offending or hurting him.

"You spoke just now of Isa," she went on presently. "I should be glad if
she and Mr. Embury fancied each other; such a match would be very
pleasing to Aunt Louise on account of his wealth and social position,
little as she would like his piety, but--"

"Well, daughter?"

"Have you noticed how constantly Cyril seeks her companionship? how
naturally the others leave those two to pair off together? They sit and
read or chat together by the hour out yonder under the trees; scarce a
day passes without its long, lonely ramble or ride. He talks to her of
his work too, in which his whole heart is engaged; listens attentively
to all she says--turning in the most interested way to her for an
opinion, no matter what subject is broached; listens with delight to her
music too, and sometimes reads his sermons to her for the benefit of her
criticism, or consults her in regard to his choice of a text."

Mr. Dinsmore's countenance expressed extreme satisfaction. "I am glad of
it," he said; "they seem made for each other."

"But Aunt Louise, papa?"

"Will not fancy a poor clergyman for a son-in-law, yet will consider
even that better than not seeing her daughter married at all. And if the
two most intimately concerned are happy and content, what matter for the
rest?"

"Oh papa!" Elsie returned with a smile that had something of old-time
archness in it, "have not your opinions in regard to the rights of
parents and the duties of children changed somewhat since my early
girlhood?"

"Circumstances alter cases," he answered with a playful caress. "I
should never have objected to so wise a choice as Isa's--always
supposing that she has made the one we are talking of."

"And you will not mind if Aunt Louise blames you? or me?"

"I shall take all the blame and not mind it in the least."

Yes, Cyril Keith and Isadore Conly were made for each other, and had
become conscious of the fact, though no word of love had yet been
spoken.

To him she was the sweetest and loveliest of her sex, in whom he found a
stronger union of beauty, grace, accomplishments, sound sense and
earnest piety than in any other young lady of his acquaintance; while to
her he was the impersonation of all that was truly noble, manly and
Christian.

They were dreaming love's young dream, and found intense enjoyment each
in the other's society, especially amid all the loveliness of nature
that surrounded them.

Cyril's was a whole-hearted consecration to his divine Master and that
loved Master's work, but this human love interfered not in any way with
that, for it is of God's appointment.

"'And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I
will make him an help meet for him.' 'Whoso findeth a wife findeth a
good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord.'"

"How like you that is, papa dear," Elsie said; "but it would be easier
to me to bear blame myself than to have it heaped upon you. I suppose,
though, that it would be useless to attempt any interference with the
course of true love?"

"Yes; we will simply let them alone."

Mr. Dinsmore rode over to Magnolia Hall that afternoon to seek an
interview with its owner; but learned that he was not at home, and might
not be for a day or two. No one knew just when he would return. So the
only course now left seemed to be to wait till he should call again at
Viamede.

He had been an almost daily visitor of late, and often sent some token
of remembrance by a servant--fruit, flowers, game or fish, or it might
be a book from his library which was not found in theirs.

But now one, two, three days passed and nothing was seen or heard of
him.

Sad, wearisome days they were to Molly: mental labor was next to
impossible; she could not even read with any enjoyment; her heart was
heavy with grief and unsatisfied longing, intensified by her mother's
constant reiteration, "You've offended him, and he'll never come again;
you've thrown away the best chance a girl ever had; and you'll never
see another like it."

Then it was unusually long since she had heard from Dick; and she had
waited for news from a manuscript which had cost her months of hard
work, and on which great expectations were based, till her heart was
sick with hope deferred.

It was on the morning of the fourth day that Molly, having persuaded her
mother to go for a walk with her grandfather and Mrs. Carrington,
summoned a servant and desired to be taken out into the grounds.

She sat motionless in her chair gazing in mournful silence on all the
luxuriant beauty that surrounded her, while the man wheeled her up one
walk and down another.

At length, "That will do, Joe," she said; "you may stop the chair under
that magnolia yonder, and leave me there for an hour."

"I'se 'fraid you git tired, Miss Molly, and nobody roun' for to wait on
you," he remarked when he had placed her in the desired spot.

"No; I have the bell here, and it can be heard at the house. I have a
book, too, to amuse myself with: and the gardener yonder is within
sight. You need not fear to leave me."

He walked away and she opened her book. But she scarcely looked at it.
Her thoughts were busying themselves with something else, and her eyes
were full of tears.

A quick, manly step on the gravel walk behind her startled her and sent
a vivid color over face and neck.

"Good morning, Miss Percival; I am fortunate indeed in finding you here
alone," a voice said, close at her side.

"Good morning, Mr. Embury," she returned, with a vain effort to steady
her tones, and without looking up.

He took possession of a rustic seat close to which her chair was
standing. "Molly, my dear Miss Molly," he said, in some agitation, "I
fear I have unwittingly offended."

"No, no, no!" she answered, bursting into tears in spite of herself.
"There, what a baby I am!" dashing them angrily away. "I wish you
wouldn't come here and set me to crying."

"Let me tell you something, let me ask you one question; and then if you
bid me, I will go away and never come near you again," he said, taking
her hand and holding it fast. "Molly, I love you. I want you to be my
wife. Will you?"

"Oh you don't mean it! you can't mean it! no man in his senses would
want to marry me--a poor helpless cripple!" she cried, trying to pull
the hand away, "and it's a cruel, cruel jest! Oh how can you!" and
covering her face with the free hand, she sobbed as if her heart would
break.

"Don't, don't, dear Molly," he entreated. "I am not jesting, nor am I
rushing into this thing hastily or thoughtlessly. Your very helplessness
draws me to you and makes you doubly dear. I want to take care of you,
my poor child. I want to make up your loss to you as far as my love and
sympathy can; to make your life bright and happy in spite of your
terrible trial."

"You are the noblest, most unselfish man I ever heard of," she said,
wiping away her tears to give him a look of amazement and admiration;
"but I cannot be so selfish as to take all when I can give nothing in
return."

"Do you call yourself--with your sweet face, cheery disposition,
brilliant talents, and conversational powers that render you the most
entertaining and charming of companions--nothing? I think you a greater
prize than half the women who have the free use of all their limbs."

"You are very kind to say it."

"No, I am not, for it is the simple, unvarnished truth. Molly, if you
can love me, I should rather have you than any other woman on earth. How
your presence would brighten my home! I give all indeed! you will be
worth more to me than all I have to give in return. O Molly, have you no
love to bestow upon poor me?"

She had ceased the struggle to free her hand from the strong yet tender
clasp in which it was held, but her face was averted and tears were
falling fast. His words had sent a thrill of exquisite joy to her heart,
but instantly it changed to bitter sorrow.

"You cannot have counted the cost," she said. "I am poor; I have nothing
at all but the pittance I earn by my pen. And think: I can never walk by
your side: I cannot go about your house and see that your comfort is not
neglected, or your substance wasted. I cannot nurse you in sickness or
wait upon you in health as another woman might. Oh cannot you see that I
have nothing to give you in return for all you--in your wonderful
generosity--are offering to me?"

"Your love, dear girl, and the blessed privilege of taking care of you,
are all I ask, all I want--can you not give me these?"

"Oh, why do you tempt me so?" she cried.

"Tempt you? would it be a sin to love me? to give yourself to me when I
want you so much, so very much?"

"It seems to me it would be taking advantage of the most unheard-of
generosity. What woman's heart could stand out against it?"

"Ah, then you do love me!" he exclaimed, in accents of joy, and lifting
her hand to his lips. "You will be mine? my own dear wife? a sweet
mother to my darlings. I have brought them with me, that their beauty
and sweetness, their pretty innocent ways, may plead my cause with you,
for I know that you love little children." He was gone before she could
reply, and the next moment was at her side again, bearing in his arms
two lovely little creatures of three and five.

"These are my babies," he said, sitting down with one upon each knee.
"Corinna," to the eldest, "don't you want this sweet lady to come and
live with us and be your dear mamma?"

The child took a long, searching look into Molly's face before she
answered; then, with a bright, glad smile breaking like sunlight over
her own, "Yes, papa, I _do_!" she said, emphatically. "Won't you come,
pretty lady? Madie and I will be good children, and love you ever so
much." And she held up her rosebud mouth for a kiss.

Molly gave it very heartily.

"Me, too--you mustn't fordet to tiss Madie," the little one said.

Molly motioned the father to set the child in her lap, and, putting an
arm about Corinna, petted and fondled them both for a little, the mother
instinct stirring strongly within her the while.

"There, that will do, my pets; we must not tire the dear lady," Mr.
Embury said presently, lifting his youngest and setting her on her feet
beside her sister. "Go back now to your mammy. See, yonder she is,
waiting for you."

"What darlings they are," Molly said, following them with wistful,
longing eyes.

"Yes. Ah, can your heart resist their appeal?"

"How could I, chained to my chair, do a mother's part by them?" she
asked mournfully, and with a heavy sigh.

"Their physical needs are well attended to," he said, again taking her
hand, while his eyes sought hers with wistful, pleading tenderness; "it
is motherly counsels, sympathy, love they want. Is it not in your power
to give them all these? I would throw no burdens on you, love; I only
aim to show you that the giving need not necessarily be all on my side,
the receiving all on yours."

"How kind, how noble you are," she said, in moved tones. "But your
relatives? your other children? how would they feel to see you joined
for life to a--"

"Don't say it," he interrupted, in tones of tenderest compassion. "My
boys will be drawn to you by your helplessness, while they will be very
proud of your talents and your sweetness. I have no other near relatives
but two brothers, who have no right to concern themselves in the matter,
nor will be likely to care to do so. But, O, dearest girl, what shall I,
what can I say to convince you that you are my heart's desire? that I
want you, your love, your dear companionship, more than tongue can tell?
Will you refuse them to me?"

She answered only with a look, but it said all he wished.

"Bless you, darling!" he whispered, putting his arm about her, while her
head dropped upon his shoulder, "you have made me very happy."

Molly was silent, was weeping, but for very gladness; her heart sang for
joy; not that a beautiful home, wealth, and all the luxury and ease it
could purchase, would now be hers, but that she was loved by one so
noble and generous, so altogether worthy of her highest respect, her
warmest affection, the devotion of her whole life, which she inwardly
vowed should be his. She would strive to be to him such a wife as Elsie
had been to her husband, such a mother to his children as her sweet
cousin was to hers.



CHAPTER XVI.

            "I saw her, and I loved her--
             I sought her, and I won."

                 "Across the threshold led,
    And every tear kiss'd off as soon as shed,
    His house she enters, there to be a light
    Shining within, when all without is night;
    A guardian angel, o'er his life presiding,
    Doubling his pleasure, and his cares dividing."
                                                  --_Roger._


"You declined a drive with me the last time I asked you," Mr. Embury
remarked, breaking a momentary silence that had fallen between them,
"but will you not be more gracious to-day? My carriage is near at hand,
and I have a great desire to take you for an airing--you and the
babies."

Blushing deeply, Molly said, "Yes, if you wish it, and will bring me
back before I am missed."

"I shall take good care of you, as who would not of his own?" he said,
bending down to look into her face with a proud, fond smile; "yes, you
are mine now, dearest, and I shall never resign my claim. Ah," as he
lifted his head again, "here comes your uncle, and I fancy he eyes me
with distrust. Mr. Dinsmore," and he stepped forward with outstretched
hand, "how do you do, sir? What do you say to receiving me into the
family? I trust you will not object, for this dear girl intends to give
me the right to call you uncle."

Mr. Dinsmore grasped the hand, looking in silent astonishment from one
to the other. He read the story of their love in both faces--Molly's
downcast and blushing, yet happy; Mr. Embury's overflowing with
unfeigned delight.

"I assure you, sir," he went on, "I am fully aware that she is a prize
any man might be proud to win. Your niece is no ordinary woman: her
gifts and graces are many and great."

"She is all that you have said, and even more," her uncle returned,
finding his voice. "And yet--you are quite sure that this is not a
sudden impulse for which you may some day be sorry?"

He had stepped to Molly's other side and taken her hand in his, in a
protecting, fatherly way. "It would wreck her happiness," he added, in
moved tones, "and that is very dear to me."

"It cannot be dearer to you, sir, than it is to me," the lover answered;
"and rest assured your fears are groundless. It is no sudden impulse on
my part, but deliberate action taken after weeks of careful and
prayerful consideration. You seem to stand in the place of a father to
her; will you give her to me?"

"Mr. Embury, you are the noblest of men, and must forgive me that I had
some suspicion that you were thoughtlessly trifling with the child's
affections. I see you have won her heart, and may you be very happy
together."

Mr. Dinsmore was turning away, but Mr. Embury stopped him.

"Let me thank you, sir," he said, again holding out his hand. "We are
going for a little drive," he added, "and please let no one be anxious
about Miss Percival. I am responsible for her safe return."

Molly's chair rolled on with rapid, steady movement to the entrance to
the grounds, where Mr. Embury's carriage stood; then she felt herself
carefully, tenderly lifted from one to the other and comfortably
established on a softly cushioned seat.

How like a delightful dream it all seemed--the swift, pleasant motion
through the pure, sweet, fragrant air; beautiful scenery on every hand;
the prattle of infant voices and the whispers of love in her ear. Should
she not awake presently to its unreality? awake to find herself still
the lonely, unloved woman she was in her own esteem but an hour ago, and
who by reason of her sad infirmity could look forward to nothing else
through life?

They turned in at an open gateway, and Molly, suddenly rousing herself,
said, in surprise, "We are entering some one's private grounds, are we
not?"

"Yes," was the quiet reply, "but there is no objection. The owner and I
are on the most intimate terms. I admire the place very much, and want
you to see it, so we will drive all around the grounds." And he gave the
order to the coachman.

Molly looked and admired. "Charming! almost if not quite equal to
Viamede."

His eyes shone. "Your taste agrees with mine," he said. "Look this way.
We have a good view of the house from here. What do you think of it?"

"That it is just suited to its surroundings, and must be a delightful
residence."

"So it is; and I want to show you the inside too. There's no objection,"
as he read hesitation and disapproval in her face; "the master and
mistress are not there, and--in fact I have charge of the place just
now, and am quite at liberty to show it to strangers."

The next moment they drew up before the front entrance. Mr. Embury
hastily alighted and lifted out the little ones, saying in a low tone
something which Molly did not hear as he set them down.

They ran in at the open door, and turning to her again he took her in
his strong arms and bore her into a lordly entrance hall; then on
through, one spacious, elegantly furnished room after another--parlors,
library, dining and drawing-rooms--moving slowly that she might have
time so gaze and admire, and now and then setting her down for a few
moments in an easy chair or on a luxurious sofa, usually before a rare
painting or some other beautiful work of art which he thought she would
particularly enjoy.

The children had disappeared, and they were quite alone.

He had reserved a charming boudoir for the last. Open doors gave
tempting glimpses of dressing and bedrooms beyond.

"These," he said, placing her in a delightfully easy, velvet cushioned
chair, and standing by her side, "are the apartments of the mistress of
the mansion, as you have doubtless already conjectured. What do you
think of them?"

"That they are very beautiful, very luxurious. And oh what a lovely view
from yonder window!"

"And from this, is it not?" he said, stepping aside and turning her
chair a little that she might see, through a vista of grand old trees,
the lagoon beyond sparkling in the sunlight.

"Oh that is finer still!" she cried. "I should think one might almost be
content to live a close prisoner here."

"Then I may hope my dear wife will not be unhappy here? will not regret
leaving the beauties of Viamede and the charming society there for this
place and the companionship of its owner? Molly, dearest, this is
Magnolia Hall; you are its mistress, and these are your own rooms," he
said, kneeling by her side to fold her to his heart with tenderest
caresses.

"It is too much, oh you are too good to me!" she sobbed, as her head
dropped upon his shoulder.

On leaving Mr. Embury and Molly, Mr. Dinsmore hastened to join his wife
and daughter, who were sitting together on the lawn. The interview
between the lovers having taken place in a part of the grounds not
visible from where they sat, they had seen nothing of it.

"You look like the bearer of glad tidings, my dear," Rose remarked,
glancing inquiringly at her husband as he seated himself at her side.

"And so I am, wife," he answered joyously. "Elsie, you may spare
yourself any further regrets because of your kindness to Mr. Embury. He
is a noble, generous-hearted fellow, and very much in love with our
poor, dear Molly. They are engaged."

"Engaged?" echoed both ladies simultaneously, as much surprised and
pleased as he had hoped to see them.

"Yes," he said, and went on to repeat what had passed between himself
and the newly-affianced pair.

"Dear Molly," Elsie said with tears trembling in her eyes, "I trust
there are many very happy days in store for her. And how pleased Aunt
Enna will be, she was so desirous to bring about the match."

"Molly herself should have the pleasure of telling her."

"Yes, indeed, papa."

"There is something else," Mr. Dinsmore said. "At Mr. Embury's
suggestion I wrote to Dick two or three weeks ago, telling him that
there was a good opening for a physician here, and asking if he would
not like to come and settle if pleased with the country. His answer came
this morning, and he will be with us in a few days."

"How glad I am!" was Elsie's exclamation. "Molly's cup of happiness will
be full to overflowing."

Rose, too, was rejoiced; but she had heard before of the invitation to
Dick, and was less surprised at this news than Elsie was.

The ladies had their work, Mr. Dinsmore the morning paper, and the three
were still sitting there when Mr. Embury's carriage returned.

Molly's face was radiant with happiness; Mr. Embury's also; and the
faces of the friends who gathered about them in the library, whither he
carried her, seemed to reflect the glad light in theirs.

Everybody was rejoiced at Molly's good fortune, and pleased to receive
Mr. Embury into the family, for they all respected and liked him.

Enna's delight on hearing the news was unbounded; she half smothered her
daughter with kisses, and exclaimed over and over again, "I knew he
wanted you! And didn't I tell you there'd be somebody better worth
having than Elsie's lover coming after you some day? And I'm as glad as
can be that my girl's going to be married the first of all--before
Louise's girls, or Elsie's either!"

"I can't see that that makes the least difference, mother," Molly said,
laughing for very gladness. "But oh what a good and kind man he is! and
what a lovely home we are to have! for, mother, he says you are to live
with us always if you like."

"Now that is nice!" Enna said, much gratified. "And is it as pretty as
Viamede?"

"It is almost if not quite as beautiful as Viamede, though not quite so
large; both house and grounds are, I believe, a little smaller."

"How soon are you going to be married?"

"I don't know just when, mother; the day has not been set."

"I hope it will be soon, just as soon as we can get you ready."

This was a little private chat in Molly's room after Mr. Embury had
gone away. She had asked to have her chair wheeled in there, and to be
left alone with her mother while she told her the news of her
engagement.

"I must consult with uncle and aunt and Cousin Elsie about that," she
said in answer to her mother's last remark. "Will you please open the
door now and ask them to come in? I don't care if the rest come too."

"Well, Molly, when, where, and by whom is the knot to be tied?" asked
Mr. Dinsmore playfully, as he stood by her side looking down with a
kindly smile at her blushing, happy face.

"O uncle, so many questions at once!"

"Well, one at a time then: When?"

"That foolishly impatient man wanted me to say to-night," she answered,
laughing, "and when I told him how absurd an idea that was, he insisted
that a week was quite long enough for him to go on living alone."

"A week!" exclaimed her aunt. "You surely did not consent to that?"

"No," Aunt Rose, "but I believe I half consented to try to make my
preparations in two weeks. I doubt if we can quite settle that question
now."

"There must be time allowed for furnishing you with a handsome
trousseau, my dear child," Elsie said, "but possibly it can be
accomplished in a fortnight. As to the next question--where?--you
surely will let it be here, in my house?"

"Gladly, cousin, if pleasing to you," Molly answered with a grateful,
loving look. "And Mr. Keith shall officiate, if he will. Of course it
must be a very quiet affair; I should prefer that under any
circumstances."

"You will invite Dick, will you not?" her uncle asked with a twinkle in
his eye.

"Dick! oh the dear fellow! I ought to have him. I wonder if I could
persuade him to leave his practice long enough to come. Two weeks would
give him time to get here if I write at once."

"No need," her uncle replied. "Providence permitting, he will be here in
less than half that time."

Then the whole story came out in answer to Molly's look of astonished
inquiry, and her cup of happiness was indeed full to overflowing.

"Where did you drive, Molly?" asked Isa. "But I suppose you hardly know;
you could see nothing but--your companion?"

"Ah, Isa, do you judge of me by yourself?" queried Molly gleefully. "By
the way, though, I had three companions. But _don't_ I know where I
went?"

Then smiling, laughing, blushing, rosy and happy as they had never seen
her before, she described the darling baby girls and the beautiful
home.

But the sweet words of love that had been as music to her ear were too
sacred for any other.

She had quite a large and certainly very attentive and interested
audience, the whole family having gathered in the room. Enna and the
young girls were especially delighted with the tale she had to tell.

"It's just like a story--the very nicest kind of a story!" cried Vi,
clapping her hands in an ecstasy of delight when Molly came to that part
of her narrative where she learned that she herself was to be the
mistress of the lordly mansion she had entered as a stranger visitor,
with all its wealth of luxury and beauty.

The next two or three weeks were full of pleasant bustle and excitement,
preparations for the wedding being pushed forward with all possible
dispatch, Mr. Embury pleading his loneliness and that he wanted Molly's
relatives and friends to see her fairly settled in her new home before
they left Viamede for the North.

Mr. and Mrs. Dinsmore, with Enna, Isa, the younger Elsie and Violet,
took a trip to New Orleans and spent several days in shopping there,
laying in great store of rich, costly and beautiful things for Molly's
adornment.

Mr. Embury, too, paid a flying visit to the city, which resulted in an
elegant set of jewels for his bride and some new articles of furniture
for her apartments.

Dick arrived at about the expected time and was joyfully welcomed. His
surprise and delight in view of Molly's prospects were quite sufficient
to satisfy her, and so greatly was he pleased with the country that in a
few days he announced his purpose to remain.

Cyril had received a unanimous call from the two churches, and after
mature deliberation accepted it, upon which Elsie doubled the salary she
had formerly paid, and told him playfully and in private that if he
would get a wife whom she could approve she would repair, enlarge, and
refurnish the cottage.

"You are extremely kind and generous cousin," he stammered, coloring
deeply, "and I--I would be only too glad to follow out your suggestion."

"Well," she returned in the same playful tone, "what is there to
hinder?"

"The only woman I could fancy, could love, is so beautiful, fascinating,
accomplished, so altogether attractive in every way, that--I fear she
could hardly be expected to content herself with a poor minister."

"I cannot say how that is," Elsie answered with a smile, "but judging by
myself I should think she would give her hand wherever her heart has
gone; and if I were a man I should not despair until I had asked and
been refused. And, Cyril, though not rich in this world's goods, I
consider you a fit match for the highest--you who are a son of the
King."

"That sonship is more to me than all the world has to give," he said,
looking at her with glistening eyes, "but to others it may seem of
little worth."

"Not to any one who is of the right spirit to be truly an helpmeet to
you. I think I know where your affections are set, my dear cousin, and
that by her the true riches are esteemed as by you and me."

He thanked her warmly by word and look for her kind sympathy and
encouragement, and there the interview ended.

But that night, when Elsie was about retiring, Isa came to her, all
smiles, tears and blushes, to tell the story of love given and returned.
She and Cyril had spent the evening wandering about the grounds alone
together in the moonlight, and he had wooed and won his heart's choice.

"Dear Isa, I am very, very glad for you and for Cyril," Elsie whispered,
clasping her cousin close, and kissing again and again the blushing
cheek. "I cannot wish anything better for you than that you may be as
happy in your wedded life as my dear husband and I were."

"Nor could I ask a better wish," Isa returned with emotion; "but ah! I
fear I can never be the perfect wife you were! And, cousin, I can
hardly hope for mamma's approval of my choice."

"Do not trouble about that now; I think we shall find means to win her
consent."

"I think grandpa and uncle are sure to approve."

"Yes; and they will be powerful advocates with Aunt Louise; so I think
you need not hesitate to be as happy as you can," Elsie answered with a
smile. "Do you wish the matter kept secret?"

"Mr. Keith is with grandpa and uncle now," Isa said, blushing, "and I
don't care how soon Aunt Rose and the girls and Dick know it; but if you
please, the rest may wait until mamma is heard from."

Molly was delighted, though not greatly astonished, when Isa told her
the next morning.

"How nice that we shall be near neighbors," she exclaimed. "I wish you
would just decide to make it a double wedding."

"Thank you," laughed Isa; "do you forget that it is now just one week
from your appointed day? or do you think my trousseau could be gotten up
in a week, though it takes three for yours?"

"I really didn't stop to think," Molly acknowledged with a happy laugh;
"but, Isa, you are so beautiful that you need no finery to add to your
attractions, while my plainness requires a good deal."

"Molly," Isa said, standing before her and gazing fixedly and admiringly
into the glad, blooming face, "I think you have neglected your mirror of
late or you wouldn't talk so."

A great surprise came to Molly on the morning of her wedding day. Her
cousin Elsie gave her ten thousand dollars, and Mr. Embury settled fifty
thousand upon her, beside presenting her with the jewels he had
purchased--a set of diamonds and pearls.

Also she received many handsome presents from uncle, aunt, brother and
cousins, and from Mr. Embury's children.

He had sent for his two boys, fine manly fellows of ten and twelve, to
be present at the marriage, which was to take place in the evening, and
had brought them that morning for a short call upon his chosen bride.

She and they seemed mutually pleased, and Molly, who had been somewhat
apprehensive lest they should dislike the match, felt as if the last
stone were removed from her path.

She gratified Mr. Embury greatly by a request that the baby girls and
all the servants from Magnolia Hall might be present, and that he would
let Louis, his eldest son, stand up with them as third groomsman, Dick
and Harold Travilla being first and second.

Isa, the younger Elsie and Violet were the bridesmaids, all wearing
white for the occasion.

It was a very quiet wedding indeed, no one at all present but the
members of the two families, servants included--these last grouping
themselves about the open door into the hall.

Molly sat in her chair looking very sweet and pretty in white silk,
point lace, and abundance of orange blossoms freshly gathered from the
trees on the lawn.

The bridesmaids looked very lovely also; groom and groomsmen handsome
and happy.

Mr. Keith made the ceremony short but solemn and impressive. The usual
greetings and congratulations followed; Elsie's to the bride a whispered
hope, accompanied with tears and smiles, that every year might find
herself and husband nearer and dearer to each other.

An elegant banquet succeeded, and shortly after the happy bridegroom
bore his new-made wife away to her future home.



CHAPTER XVII.

    "But happy they! the happiest of their kind!
     Whom gentler stars unite, and in one fate
     Their hearts, their fortunes, and their beings blend.
     . . . . . for naught but love
     Can answer love, and render bliss secure."
                                      --_Thomson's Seasons._


As no invitations to the wedding were to be sent to relatives at a
distance, it was thought quite as well not to inform them of Molly's
engagement until after the marriage had taken place; beside, as the
preparations were so hurried, no one had much time for correspondence.

Isadore Conly did not once during the three weeks write to Roselands,
excusing herself on the double plea that her last letter remained
unanswered, and that she was particularly busy about the trousseau.

She found little time to spare from that which was not taken up in
walking or riding with Cyril.

He proposed writing to her mother immediately after declaring his love;
but she begged him to delay a little till her grandfather and uncle
should have time to consider how to bring their influence to bear upon
Mrs. Conly in the way most likely to win her approval of his suit.

The day after the wedding saw a number of letters directed to
Roselands, dropped into the Viamede mail-bag, and a few days later they
reached their destination.

The family--consisting of Mrs. Conly, Calhoun, Arthur, Virginia, Walter
(who was at home for a few days on a furlough, being now a lieutenant in
the U. S. Army), and several younger ones--were at breakfast when Pomp
came in with the mail-bag.

Calhoun opened it and distributed the contents.

"Letters from Viamede at last," he remarked; "three for you, mother,
from grandpa, uncle and--somebody else; one for Walter (Dick's
handwriting! I didn't know he was there) and one for Virginia."

"From Isa," Virginia said as she glanced at the superscription; then
tearing open the envelope, and glancing down the first page, "Molly is
married! to a rich planter, too! Will wonders never cease!"

A simultaneous exclamation of surprise from all present.

"Nonsense, Isa's hoaxing you," said Walter, stirring his coffee. "Here,
let me see the letter."

"No. Open your own."

"That's not in Isa's line," remarked Arthur, "but really it is very
astonishing news. What does Dick say, Wal? He went down there to attend
the wedding, I presume?"

"No; didn't know a word about it till he got there," Walter said, giving
a hasty perusal to the not very lengthy epistle; "went to settle; good
opening for a doctor; splendid country, everything lovely, likes
brother-in-law immensely, is overjoyed at Molly's good luck, says she's
as happy as a queen."

"Which may mean much or little," remarked Conly.

His mother cleared her throat emphatically, and all eyes turned to her.
She held an open letter in her hand, and her face looked flushed and
angry.

"Isa, too, it seems, has lost her heart," she said in a bitter,
sarcastic tone; "and with her usual good sense, has bestowed it upon a
poor clergyman. Doubtless he has heard of her Aunt Delaford's
intentions--Elsie perhaps has given him the hint, he being a relative of
hers--and thinks he is securing a fortune. But if Isa throws herself
away in such fashion, Sister Delaford may change her mind."

Calhoun and Arthur both repelled with warmth the insinuation against
Elsie; the latter adding that he thought Isa's personal charms were
quite sufficient of themselves to captivate a man who was not in pursuit
of wealth.

"And Isa," remarked Calhoun, "is so unworldly that wealth would be a
matter of small consideration to her where her heart was concerned."

"A fact that should make her friends the more careful how they encourage
her in taking a poor man," said the mother; "but my father and brother
are both strongly in favor of this adventurer's suit."

"Adventurer, mother! I thought you said he was a clergyman!"

"Well, Calhoun, I don't see any contradiction there. But his name is
Keith, and that explains it all, for my father was always very partial
to those relatives of his first wife. Horace, too, of course."

"But as Isa is a good deal more nearly related to them, they are very
fond of her, and, men not easily deceived or taken in, I think we may
safely trust to their judgment. You won't oppose what they so highly
approve, mother?"

"I don't know; must take time to think it over. Do you and Arthur come
with me to the library," she said, rising with the letter in her hand.
"I see you have both finished your breakfast."

They rose instantly, and followed her from the room, Walter looking
after them and muttering discontentedly, "I think mother might take me
into her counsels, too."

"You are too young and foolish," said Virginia.

"The first objection doesn't lie against you, though the second may," he
retorted. "You'd better look to your laurels. Isa and Molly are both
well ahead of you."

"What of that?" she said, reddening with vexation. "Isa's two years
older than I, and taking a poor minister whom I wouldn't look at."

"Sour grapes," suggested her brother, teasingly. "And Molly's not a year
older than you, and has married rich."

"A second-hand husband!" sneered Virginia; at which Walter laughed
uproariously.

"O Virgie, Virgie, those grapes are terribly sour!" he said. "But do let
us hear what Isa has to say about it."

"I haven't finished the letter; but there, take it; what do I care about
her fine dresses and presents, and the splendors of Magnolia Hall?"

"Well," he cried presently, "Cousin Elsie did the thing handsomely! and
he's a splendid fellow, if he is second-hand. No wonder Dick's pleased.
I only wish my sisters might all do as well."

In the library Calhoun was saying, as he laid down his uncle's letter,
which he had just read aloud, "Cousin Elsie is certainly the most
generous of women! Mother, you could not have read this when you uttered
that insinuation against her a few moments since?"

Mrs. Conly colored violently under her son's searching gaze.

"Twenty-five thousand is a mere trifle to her," she said, bridling, "and
you perceive she promises Isa that dower in the event of her marrying
that poor relation of her own."

"It is extremely generous, nevertheless!" exclaimed both her sons in a
breath.

"And I do not think it by any means a bad match for Isa," Arthur went
on--"a good man, of fine talent, receiving a very comfortable salary, a
lovely home rent free, very little expense except for clothing, seeing
they are--as uncle says--to have all the fruit, vegetables, nearly their
whole living, in fact, from the Viamede fields and orchards; use of
carriages and horses too, whenever they like."

"No, it isn't so bad," their mother acknowledged, "and if she gets her
Aunt Delaford's money, she will really be very far from poor. But I
dislike the thought of having her, with her beauty and talents, buried,
as one may say, in that out-of-the-way corner of the world."

"But she chooses for herself, and ought to be the best judge of what is
for her own happiness," Calhoun said. "So you will consent, mother?"

"Oh yes, yes, of course! But I'll take no blame from your Aunt Delaford;
nor from Isa either, if ever she sees cause to repent."

So a letter was sent that made glad the hearts of the lovers, spite of
some ungraciousness of tone.

Isa's letter, giving, as it did, a minute description of the trousseau,
the wedding, Magnolia Hall, Mr. Embury and his children, and telling of
the generous settlements upon the bride made by him and her cousin
Elsie, was read and re-read by Mrs. Conly and Virginia with great
interest, which was yet not altogether pleasurable.

They were glad that Molly had now a good home of her own, and
particularly that her mother was to share it--a home so far away from
Roselands that Enna was not likely to trouble them any more, for her
feebleness of intellect made her something of a mortification to them of
late years--yet the good fortune of the poor crippled niece and cousin
was too great, too strongly in contrast with their own rather straitened
circumstances, not to arouse some feelings of envy and jealousy in
persons of their haughty and overbearing disposition.

"Dear me, I wonder why some people have all the good fortune and others
none!" exclaimed Virginia angrily. "I should say fifty thousand was
quite enough for Molly--especially in addition to the rich husband and
loads of handsome presents--and that ten thousand would have been much
better bestowed upon you or me, mamma."

"You've only to get married, sis, and probably she'll do the same
handsome thing by you," remarked Walter, who happened to be within
hearing.

"Not she! I never had the good fortune to be one of her favorites."

"Well, Isa can't say that, for she's certainly doing the handsome thing
by her."

"What?"

"So mother hasn't told you? She's promised that the day Isa marries her
cousin, Cyril Keith, she'll hand over twenty-five thousand dollars to
them."

"That was to get mamma's consent. Mamma, I wouldn't be bought if I were
you," Virginia said scornfully.

"You wouldn't?" laughed Walter. "I tell you you'd sell yourself to-day
to any man worth half a million, or even something less."

"Walter, you are perfectly insulting," cried Virginia, her eyes flashing
and her cheek flushing hotly. "I wish your furlough ended to-day."

"Thank you, my very affectionate sister," he said, bowing low as he
stood before her. "Why don't you wish I'd get shot in the next fight
with the Indians? Well, I'll tell you what it is," he went on presently,
"if I were one of Cousin Elsie's children--Ed, for instance--I'd enter a
pretty strong protest against these wholesale acts of benevolence toward
poor relations."

"She can afford it," said his mother loftily, "and I must say I should
have a much higher appreciation of her generosity if she had given Isa
the money without any conditions attached."

"But Isa wouldn't, or I greatly mistake."

"Do you mean to say you think there has been a conspiracy between them?"
demanded his mother, growing very red and angry.

"No, no, mother, nothing of the kind! but Cousin Elsie is a woman of
keen observation, delicate tact and great discernment; and she had Isa's
happiness much at heart."

"Really," she sneered, "I have but just made the delightful discovery
that I have a Solomon among my sons!"

"I think it was mean not to invite us to the wedding," said Virginia.

"No; that was right enough," corrected her mother; "being in deep
mourning for her husband, she could not, of course, give Molly anything
but the quietest sort of wedding."

"Well, Isa will come home to be married?"

"Of course; and I shall insist upon time to have everything done
properly and without any one being hurried to death."

Immediately upon the reception of Mrs. Conly's letter giving consent to
the match between her daughter and Cyril Keith, the work of adding to,
repairing and improving the cottage destined to be the future home of
the young couple was begun.

It was a matter of great interest, not to Cyril and Isa alone, but to
the whole family of Dinsmores and Travillas; and their departure from
Viamede was delayed some weeks that Elsie and her father and grandfather
might oversee and direct the workmen.

It was going to be a really commodious and beautiful residence when
completed. Elsie determined that it should be prettily furnished, too,
and found great pleasure in planning for the comfort and enjoyment of
these cousins.

And Molly's happiness was a constant delight to her. There was daily
intercourse between Viamede and Magnolia Hall, Mr. Embury driving Molly
over almost every day to see her relatives, and Dick bringing his
mother, usually on horseback.

Dick was making his home with his sister for the present, at Mr.
Embury's urgent request, and was showing himself a good and affectionate
son to Enna.

The visits were returned, too, even Elsie going over frequently for a
short call, because she saw that Molly very keenly enjoyed being in a
position to extend hospitality to all her friends, and especially
herself, as one to whom she had long been indebted for a happy home.

"Oh, cousin," Molly said to her one day when they were alone together in
her beautiful boudoir, "I am so happy! my husband is so kind, so
affectionate! I cannot understand how it is that he is so fond and even
proud of me--helpless cripple that I am. But I have learned to be
thankful even for that," she added, tears springing to her eyes,
"because he says it was that that first drew his attention to me; and,
strangely enough, his pity soon turned to admiration and love. Oh he has
such a big, generous heart!"

"He has indeed!" Elsie said. "But, Molly dear, you underrate yourself. I
do not wonder that he admires and is proud of your brave, cheerful
courage under your hard trial, and of your talents and the name you are
making for yourself as both a translator and original writer; I hope you
will not give up your work entirely now that there is no pecuniary
necessity for it, for I think it is bringing a blessing to yourself and
to others."

"No, oh no; I shall not give it up while I can believe it is doing
something for the Master's cause. Louis does not wish me to while I
enjoy it, and I find he is just the critic I need to help me to improve.
I had a letter from Virgie yesterday," she went on with a happy laugh,
"congratulating me on being no longer compelled to work, yet pitying me
because I am a stepmother."

"That does not trouble you?" Elsie said, inquiringly.

"Oh no! The boys, Louis and Fred, are so much like their father--seeming
to love me all the better for my helplessness (by the way, Louis, my
husband, says it is a positive delight to him to take me in his arms and
lift me about)--and the baby girls are as lovely and dear as they can
be. I wouldn't for anything part with one of the whole four."

"Dear child!" Elsie said, embracing her with full heart and eyes, "I am
so glad, so happy for you that it is so! And how your mother and brother
seem to enjoy your good fortunes!"

"Yes; Dick is such a dear fellow! and mother--really it is just a
pleasure to see how she delights in it all. And I think she couldn't be
fonder of the children if she were their own grandmother."

"How glad, how thankful I am that we came to Viamede this winter," Elsie
said, after a moment's silent musing; "grandpa has so entirely recovered
his health in consequence, a favorable opening has been found for Dick,
and four other people are made happy in mutual love who might, perhaps,
never have met otherwise--all this, beside dear Mrs. Carrington having
the melancholy pleasure of nursing her poor nephew through his last
illness. How true is the promise, 'In all thy ways acknowledge him, and
he shall direct thy paths.'"

"You take a very unselfish delight in other people's happiness,
cousin," Molly remarked. "And Isa is very happy."

"Yes, and Cyril too," Elsie answered with a smile. "I sometimes think my
Elsie half envies them--thinking of Lester so far away. But her turn
will come too, I trust, poor, dear child!"

May was well advanced, the weather already very warm in the Teche
country when at last our friends set out upon their return to their more
northern homes.

Everything there was looking very lovely on their arrival. Friends,
kindred and servants rejoiced over their return, all in good health.

Elsie and her children took up again the old, quiet life at Ion, missing
Molly not a little, and feeling afresh, for a time, the absence of one
far nearer and dearer.

Mr. and Mrs. Dinsmore spent some weeks with their other children, then
again made their home at Ion, at Elsie's urgent solicitation. In the
loneliness of her widowhood she knew not how to do without her father.

In order to secure her cousin Elsie's presence at her wedding, Isa
insisted upon a very quiet one, only relatives and very intimate friends
to be invited to witness the ceremony; but to please her mother and
Virginia, there was afterward a brilliant reception. The marriage took
place the last of June, and the next two months were spent principally
among Cyril's relatives at the North.



CHAPTER XVIII.

    "The sea! the sea! the open sea!
    The blue, the fresh, the ever free!"
                                      --_Proctor._


The summer vacation brought Edward Travilla home just in time for his
cousin Isa's wedding. He had grown so manly and so like his father in
appearance that at sight of him his mother was much overcome.

His first, his warmest, tenderest greeting was for her. He held her to
his heart, his own too full for speech, while she wept upon his
shoulder.

But only for a moment; lifting her head, she gazed long and searchingly
into his face, then, with a sigh of relief, "Thank God," she whispered,
"that I can believe my boy has come back to me as pure and innocent as
he went!"

"I hope so, mother; your love, your teachings and my father's have been
my safeguard in many an hour of temptation," he answered with emotion.

"Did you not seek help from above, my son?" she asked gently.

"Yes, mother; you had taught me to do so, and I knew that you, too, were
daily seeking it for me."

"Yes, my dear boy; I think there was scarce a waking hour in which I did
not ask a blessing on my absent son."

The mother dried her tears; grandparents, brothers and sisters drew near
and embraced the lad, servants shook him by the hand, and Ion was filled
with rejoicing as never before since the removal of its master and head.

Tongues ran nimbly as they sat about the tea-table and on the veranda
afterward; so much had happened to the young collegian, so many changes
had taken place in the family connection since he went away, that there
was a great deal to tell and to hear on both sides.

The voices were blithe, and there was many a silvery peal of laughter
mingled with the pleasant, cheery talk.

Isa's and Molly's matches were discussed in a most kindly way, for
Edward was quite curious to hear all about them and the preparations for
the approaching wedding.

Cyril had arrived earlier in the day, was taking tea at Roselands, but
would pass the night at Ion, which Edward was glad to hear, as he wished
to make his acquaintance.

A summer at the sea-shore had been decided upon some weeks ago, and
Edward, to his great gratification, had been empowered to select a
cottage for the family to occupy during the season, his Aunt Adelaide
and her husband assisting him with their advice.

He announced with much satisfaction that he had secured one that he
thought would accommodate them well--several guests in addition, if
mamma cared to invite any of her friends--and please every one.

"It is large, convenient, well--even handsomely furnished--and but a few
yards from the shore," he said. "The country is pretty about there,
too--pleasant walks and drives through green lanes, fields and woods."

"But where is it, Edward?" asked Violet.

"Not far from Long Branch; and there are some half-dozen other sea-side
places within easy driving distance."

There were exclamations of delight and impatience to be there from the
younger ones, while the mother covered up with a smile and a few words
of commendation to Edward the pain in her heart at the thought that her
best beloved would not be with his wife and children beside the sea this
summer, as in former years.

Her father and Rose were thinking of that, too, with deep sympathy for
her.

In a moment the same thought presented itself to Edward and Violet, and
they drew closer to their mother with loving, caressing looks and words.
But memories of Lester, and their walks and talks together when last she
was at the sea-shore, were filling the mind of the younger Elsie with
emotions, half of pleasure, half of pain. When should they meet again?
Then the sudden silence that had fallen upon the group about her mother,
and a glance at that loved mother's face, reminded her also of the
father who would return no more, and whose companionship had been so
dear a delight to her and to them all.

It was Rosie who broke the silence at length; "Mamma, can we not go
pretty soon?"

"Yes, daughter, in about a week."

The journey was made without accident, the cottage and its vicinity
found to be all that Edward had represented.

They had brought some of their own servants with them, and had nothing
to do with hotel or boarding-house life. Elsie had always loved the
quiet and seclusion of home, and clung to it now, more than ever; yet
for her children's sake she would not shut out society entirely; both
Edward and his sisters were free to invite their young friends to
partake of the hospitalities of their mother's house, but without noise
or revelry, for which indeed, they themselves had no heart.

For a while the society of his mother and sisters was quite sufficient
for Edward and his for them--they were all so strongly attached to each
other and he had been so long away from home that it was very delightful
to be together once more.

Mr. and Mrs. Dinsmore were at that time visiting relatives in
Philadelphia and its vicinity, and his grandfather's absence gave Edward
the long coveted opportunity to try how nearly he could fill his
father's place as his mother's earthly prop. It was a dear delight to
have her lean upon his arm, rely upon his strength, consult him about
business or family matters.

He was very proud and fond of his lovely sisters; prouder and fonder
still of his sweet and beautiful mother. He quite longed to show her to
all his college friends, yet would not for the world have her grief
intruded upon by them with their thoughtless gayety.

During these weeks that they were entirely alone she gave herself up
wholly to her children, seeking to secure to them the greatest possible
amount of innocent enjoyment. No tasks were set, there was no attempt at
regular employment, and almost the whole day was spent in the open air;
together they sported in the surf, strolled on the beach, or sat in the
sand revelling in the delicious sea breeze and the sight of the ever
restless, ever changing, beautiful ocean, with its rolling, tumbling,
dashing waves. They were there early in the morning, sometimes in season
to watch the sun rise out of the water; and often again when the silvery
moonlight lent its witchery to the scene.

But there came a day when the rain poured down so continuously and
heavily that they were glad to take refuge from it in the house.

They gathered in a room overlooking the sea, the ladies with their fancy
work, Rosie with her doll, while Harold and Herbert helped little Walter
to build block houses, and Edward read aloud a story selected by the
mother, as entertaining and at the same time pure and wholesome.

She was careful in choosing their mental food; she would no sooner have
suffered her children's minds to be poisoned than their bodies.

As Edward closed the book upon the completion of the story, "Mamma,"
said the younger Elsie, "do you quite approve of all the teachings the
author has given there? or perhaps I should rather say the sentiments
she has expressed."

"Not quite, but what is it you do not approve?" the mother answered with
an affectionate and pleased look at the earnest face of the questioner.
"I am glad to see that you are not ready to be carried about with every
wind of doctrine."

"It is her comment upon her heroine's effort to escape from her trouble
by asking help from God. She speaks as if, had the girl been older and
wiser, she would have known that God had the welfare and happiness of
other people to consult as well as hers, and couldn't be expected to
sacrifice them for her sake."

"Well, daughter?"

"It seems to me to show a very low estimate of God's power and wisdom.
Since he is infinite in both, can he not so order events as to secure
the best good to all his creatures?"

"Yes, my child, I am sure he can, and we need never fear that he is not
able and willing to help his people in every time of trouble. 'The name
of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is
safe.' 'The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them
out of all their troubles.' He does not always answer just as we
desire, it is true, but often in a better way, for we, in our folly
and short-sightedness, sometimes ask what would prove in the end a
curse instead of a blessing."

"Mamma, how happy we should be if we had perfect faith and trust," said
Violet.

"Yes; if we fully believed the inspired assurance, 'We know that all
things work together for good to them that love God,' we should not fret
or grieve over losses, crosses or disappointments. Strive after such
faith, my children, and pray constantly for it, for it is the gift of
God."

There was a little pause, broken only by Walter's prattle, the plash of
the rain and the murmur of the sea.

Edward seemed in deep thought. Taking a low seat at his mother's knee,
"Mamma," he said, "I want to have a talk with you, and perhaps this is
as good a time as any."

"Well, my dear boy, what is it?"

"Do you think, mamma, that I ought to go into the ministry?"

"My son," she said, looking at him in some surprise, "that is not a
question to be decided in a moment, or without asking God's guidance."

"You would be willing, mother?"

"More than willing--glad and thankful--if I saw reason to believe that
you were called of God to that work. To be truly an ambassador of Christ
is, in my esteem, to stand higher than any of earth's potentates, yet if
your talents do not lie in that direction I would not have you there. It
is every man's duty to serve God to the utmost of his ability, but all
are not called to the ministry; some can do far better service in other
walks of life, and I should prefer to have a son of mine a good
carpenter, mason or shoemaker, rather than a poor preacher."

"You do not mean poor in purse, mamma?" queried Harold, joining the
little group.

"No; a poor sermonizer--one lacking the requisite talents, diligence or
piety to proclaim God's truth with faithfulness and power."

"How can one tell to what work he is called, mamma?" Edward asked, with
an anxious, perplexed look.

"By watching the leadings of God's providence and by earnest prayer for
his direction. Also I think if a lad has a decided bias for any one
profession or employment it is a pretty sure indication that that is
what he is called to; for we can almost always do best what we most
enjoy doing."

"Then I think I should study medicine," said Harold, "for I should very
greatly prefer that to anything else. And don't you think, mamma, that a
doctor may do really as much good as a minister?"

"Quite as much if he be a devoted, earnest Christian, ready to do good
as he has opportunity: therefore I entirely approve your choice."

"Thank you, mamma. So I consider it quite settled," Harold returned with
a look of great satisfaction. "Now, Ed and Herbie, what will you be?"

"As Herbert never likes to be separated from you, I presume he too will
choose medicine," the mother remarked, with a smiling glance at her
third son, as he too came and stood at her side.

"I don't know, mamma; it seems to me doctors have a dreadfully hard
life."

"Ah! I fancy a life of elegant leisure would suit you best, my laddie,"
laughed his eldest brother.

But the mother's look was grave and a little anxious.

Herbert saw it. "Don't be troubled about me, mamma dear," he said,
putting his arms round her neck and gazing lovingly into her eyes. "I do
mean to fight against my natural laziness. But do you think I ought to
choose so very hard a life as Harold means to?"

"Not if you have talent for something useful which would better suit
your inclinations. Can you think of any such thing?"

"Couldn't I be a lawyer?"

"You could never rise to eminence in that profession without a great
deal of hard work."

"An author then?"

"The same answer will fit again," his mother returned with a slight
smile. "Has not your Cousin Molly worked very hard for a number of
years?"

Herbert drew a long, deep sigh, then brightening, "I might be a
publisher," he said. "I don't suppose they work very hard, and they can
have all the new books to read."

"Oh, Herbie," said Violet, "think of the great number of letters they
must have to write, and manuscripts to read, beside many other things."

"No, my boy, you cannot do or be anything worth while without work, and
a good deal of it," said his mother. "So I hope you will make it your
earnest, constant prayer that you may have grace to overcome your
besetting sin of indolence, and to 'be not slothful in business;
fervent in spirit; serving the Lord'. The Bible bids us, 'Whatsoever thy
hand findeth to do, do it with thy might. Whatsoever ye do, do it
heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.'"

"Edward, you have not told us yet what you wish to be," said his sister
Elsie.

"My inclination," he answered in grave, earnest tones, "is to take my
father's place in every way possible, first in the care of my darling,
precious mother," taking her hand and lifting it to his lips, "after
that in cultivating the Ion plantation and making myself a good,
upright, useful church-member and citizen."

"A worthy ambition, my boy," the mother said with emotion; "my strong
desire is that you may follow as closely as possible in the footsteps of
your honored father. I never knew a better man, in the pulpit or out of
it. His was a truly Christian manhood, and, like his Master, he went
about doing good."

"Then, mother, with your approval my choice is made; and with your
permission I shall spend some time in an agricultural college, after
finishing the course where I am."

"You shall do as you wish; you shall have every advantage I can give
you. My other boys also, if they will improve them."

"Your girls, too, mamma?" asked Rosie.

"Yes, indeed," mamma answered, bestowing a smile and a kiss upon the
young questioner.

At that moment the tea-bell summoned them to their evening meal. Edward
took his father's seat at the table, his father's place in asking a
blessing upon the food.

As they left the table they perceived that the rain had ceased; the
clouds had broken away from the setting sun, and its red light streamed
over the dark waters like a pathway of fire.

They were all gathered on the porch, watching, as usual, the changing
beauty of the sea and the clouds, when a young man, in the undress
uniform of a lieutenant in the army, opened their gate, and came with a
brisk, manly step up the walk leading to the house.

As he drew near, he lifted his military cap, bowed low to the ladies,
then, stepping upon the porch, handed a card to Mrs. Travilla.

"Donald Keith," she read aloud, and holding out her hand with a sweet,
welcoming smile, "How do you do, cousin?" she said; "I am very glad to
see you. But to which branch do you belong?"

"I am a younger brother of the Reverend Cyril Keith, lately married to a
Miss Conly," the young officer answered, as he took the offered hand.
"He wrote me of your great kindness to him, and when I learned, a few
hours since, who were the occupants of this cottage, I felt that I must
come and thank you. I hope I do not intrude, cousin?"

"No, indeed; we are always ready to welcome relatives. Now let me
introduce these other cousins--my boys and girls."

The young man spent the whole evening in the company of these new-found
relatives, and went away highly delighted with them all.

He had several weeks' furlough, was staying at a hotel near by, and
promised himself great enjoyment in the society of the dwellers in the
cottage.

And they were pleased with him.

"He seems a very nice, clever fellow, mother," Edward remarked.

"Yes," she said, "he has very agreeable manners and talks well; and
knowing that he comes of a godly race, I hope we shall find him in all
respects a suitable companion for you and your sisters. I am glad of his
coming for your sakes, for I fear you may have felt the want of young
society."

"Oh, no, mamma," they all protested, "we could not have enjoyed
ourselves better. It has been so nice to have you quite to ourselves."



CHAPTER XIX.

    "A mother is a mother still,
     The holiest thing alive."
                          --_Coleridge._


The next morning's mail brought a letter from Mr. Dinsmore, announcing
his speedy coming with his wife, father, Mr. and Mrs. Edward Allison,
and several of their children.

"There's an end to our good times!" sighed Violet.

"Shall you be so very sorry to see your grandpa?" her mother asked with
a slight smile, knowing that her father was dearly loved by all her
children, and by none more than by Violet herself.

"Oh no, mamma; nor grandma, nor any of them," was the quick reply; "only
it was so nice to have you so entirely to ourselves."

"Haven't you enjoyed it too, mamma?" asked several voices, while every
face turned eagerly and inquiringly to hers.

"Yes, indeed, my darlings," she said; "and yet so dearly do I love my
father that my heart bounds at the very thought that he will be with me
again in a few hours."

"Then, mamma, we are all glad for you," Elsie said: Violet adding, "and
for ourselves, too; for it is nice to have grandpa and grandma with us;
and Aunt Adelaide also; she is always so kind."

"Very different from Aunt Louise," remarked Edward. "Who would ever
think they were sisters! Isa and Virginia are quite as unlike, too,
though they are sisters. I hope Aunt Louise and her old-maid daughter
won't visit us this summer!"

"Edward!" his mother said in a tone of reproof.

"Excuse me, mother," he said; "but if I dislike them, it is because they
have always treated you so badly."

"They have never done me any injury, my son," she answered, with gentle
gravity, "and I would not have you feel unkindly toward them; much less
am I willing to hear you speak of them as you did just now. Virginia is
not an old maid, and if she were I should be sorry to have you apply
that epithet to her."

"She is several years older than I am, mother," he said, blushing.

"About three; and you are only a boy."

Edward felt this as the most cutting rebuke his gentle mother had ever
administered to him, for he had begun to think of himself as a man, old
enough and strong enough to be his mother's stay and support, and a
guide to his younger brothers and sisters.

But sensible that he had deserved the reproof, he bore it in silence;
yet could not rest until seizing an opportunity to speak to her without
being overheard by others, "Dear mamma," he whispered, looking
beseechingly into her eyes, "will you not forgive my thoughtless,
uncharitable speech of this morning?"

"Certainly, my dear boy," she answered with one of her sweetest smiles,
"and I trust you will try to cultivate more kindly feelings toward your
grandpa's sister and niece, for his sake, and because it is a Christian
duty."

Mr. Dinsmore and his party arrived that afternoon, and the next day were
followed by Mrs. Conly and Virginia.

"We thought we would give you a surprise," was the greeting of the
former: "the heat and threats of yellow fever drove us North. I
scattered the younger children about among other relatives, leaving
several at your house, Adelaide, then came on here with Virgie, knowing
that Elsie would of course have room enough for us two."

"We will find room for you, Aunt Louise," Elsie said with pleasant
cordiality, and trying hard to feel rejoiced at their coming.

A very difficult task, as they never were at the slightest pains to make
themselves agreeable, and the house was already comfortably filled.

Edward waited only to shake hands hastily with his aunt and cousin,
then slipped away for a solitary stroll on the beach while he should
fight down his feelings of disgust and irritation at this unwelcome and
unwarrantable invasion of his mother's dwelling.

He had asked that morning if he might invite his college chum, Charlie
Perrine, to spend a week or two with him, and had received a prompt and
kind permission to do so. It seemed hard enough to have to entertain,
instead, these relatives, between whom and himself there had always been
a cordial dislike; for from early childhood he had perceived and
strongly resented the envy, jealousy and ill-will indulged in by them
toward his mother.

He paced hurriedly to and fro for some minutes, striving, with but
indifferent success, to recover his equanimity, then stood still, gazing
out to sea, half inclined to wish himself on board an outward-bound
vessel in the offing.

Presently a hand took quiet possession of his arm, and turning his head
he found his mother standing by his side.

"I am grieved to see my boy's face so clouded," she said in her sweet
and gentle tones.

"Then, mother, it shall not be so any longer," he answered, resolutely
forcing a smile. "I have been really trying to feel good-natured, but it
is not easy under the circumstances. Not to me, I mean. I wish I had
inherited your sweet disposition."

"Ah, you can judge only from outside appearances," she said with a sigh
and a smile; "no one knows what a battle his neighbor may be fighting in
his own heart, while outwardly calm and serene. I know you are
disappointed because you fear you must give up inviting your friend for
the present, but that will not be necessary, my dear boy. We can still
manage to make room for him by a little crowding which will hurt no one.
My room is so large that I can easily take Walter and all your sisters
in with me, and if necessary we will pitch a tent for the servants."

"Or for Charlie and me, mother," he exclaimed in delight; "we should not
mind it in the least; indeed it would be good fun to live so for a
while."

At this moment they were joined by Elsie and Violet, both full of
sympathy for Edward, and anxious to consult mamma as to the possibility
of still making room for the comfortable accommodation of his friend.

They listened with delight to her proposed arrangement: it would be a
great pleasure to them to share her room, if it would not inconvenience
her, and she assured them it would not.

"I was afraid," said Elsie, "that Aunt Adelaide might hurry away to make
room for the others, but now I hope she will not, for we all enjoy
having her with us."

"No," Mrs. Travilla said, "we will keep her as long as we can. Ah, here
come my father and grandfather. I think we shall astonish them with the
news of the arrival."

"Cousin Donald is with them too," remarked Elsie. "Mamma, I think
Virginia will be rather pleased to see so fine looking a gentleman
haunting the house."

"Her sister's brother-in-law," said Vi. "Perhaps she will claim him as
more nearly related to her than to us."

The young man had found favor with both Mr. Dinsmores, and the three
were just returning from a pretty long tramp together which had caused
them to miss seeing the arrival of Mrs. and Miss Conly.

The news seemed to give more surprise than pleasure.

"It was very thoughtless in Louise," the old gentleman said with some
vexation, "but it is just like her. I think we must find rooms for them
at one of the hotels, Elsie; for I don't see how your house is to
accommodate us all."

"I do, grandpa," was her smiling rejoinder, "so make yourself perfectly
easy on that score."

"I hope our excursion is not to be interfered with, cousin?" Donald said
inquiringly: for arrangements had been made for a long drive that
afternoon, taking in several of the neighboring sea-side resorts, and as
his three lady cousins had promised to be of the party, he was loath to
give it up.

"No," she said, "Aunt Adelaide and Aunt Louise will doubtless be well
pleased to be left alone together for a few hours, after a separation of
several years."

"Besides, both my aunt and cousin will need a long nap to refresh them
after the fatigue of their journey," remarked Edward.

The young people exchanged congratulatory glances. They were all eager
for the drive. It was just the day for it, they had all decided--the
roads in excellent condition after the late rain, a delicious sea-breeze
blowing, and light fleecy clouds tempering the heat of the July sun.

They set off directly after an early dinner--all the Dinsmores and
Travillas, Mr. Allison and his children and Mr. Keith--in two covered
carriages, and well provided with waterproofs for protection against a
possible shower.

They were a pleasant, congenial party, the older people cheerful and
companionable, the children full of life and spirits.

They had visited Seagirt, Spring Lake and Asbury Park, and were passing
through Ocean Beach, when Edward, catching sight of a young couple
sauntering leisurely along on the sidewalk, uttered an exclamation,
"Why, there's Charlie Perrine!" then calling to the driver to stop, he
sprang out and hurried toward them.

"His college chum--and how glad they are to meet," Violet said as the
two were seen shaking hands in the most cordial manner.

Then Perrine introduced Edward to his companion, and the lad's sisters
noticed that his face lighted up with pleased surprise as he grasped her
hand.

"Why, I know her!" cried Donald. "Excuse me one moment, ladies;" and he
too sprang out and hastened to join the little group on the sidewalk.

He and the lady met like very intimate friends, greeting each other as
"Donald" and "Mary:" then he led her to the side of the carriage and
introduced her. "My cousin Mary Keith, Uncle Donald's daughter; our
cousins, Miss Elsie and Miss Violet Travilla."

The girls shook hands and exchanged glances of mutual interest and
admiration. Mary had a very bright, pleasant face, dark eyes and hair,
plenty of color, lady-like manners, and a stylish figure well set off by
inexpensive but tasteful attire.

The other carriage, containing the older people, had now come up and
halted beside the first.

There were more introductions, then Mary was persuaded to take Edward's
place in the carriage with her young cousins, and drive with them to the
Colorado House, where she was staying, while he and his friend followed
on foot.

Here the whole party alighted, seated themselves on the porch and
chatted together for a half hour.

"How long do you stay here, Cousin Mary?" Mrs. Travilla asked.

"Another week, Cousin Elsie; I have engaged my room for that length of
time: and I wish you would let one of your girls stay with me, or both
if they will, though I'm afraid that would crowd them. I should be so
glad if you would. I want to become acquainted with them: and besides I
have just lost my roommate, and don't like to be left alone."

After a little consultation between the elders of the party, it was
decided that Violet should accept the invitation, her mother promising
to send her a trunk in the morning, and Mary agreeing to return the
visit later in the season, when her cousin's cottage would have parted
with some of its present occupants.

Edward, too, would remain and room with Charlie Perrine, on the same
floor with the girls, so that Violet would feel that she had a
protector.

"I hope it will be a pleasant change for you, dear child," the mother
whispered in parting from Violet, "and if you grow tired of it, you know
you can come home at any time. And Edward," she added, turning to him,
"I trust your sister to your care, particularly in bathing: don't let
her go in without you, and don't either of you venture far out or into
any dangerous spot."

"We will be very careful, mamma," they both replied, "so do not feel in
the least uneasy."

"I shall owe you a grudge for this." Donald was saying in a rueful aside
to Mary.

"Why, you needn't," she returned; "you can come too, if you wish, unless
you object to my society."

"That wouldn't mend matters," he answered, with a glance at the younger
Elsie.

"Nonsense! I've found out already that she's engaged. Didn't you know
it?"

"Not I. Well, it takes a woman to find out the secrets of her sex!"

"Then you own that a woman can keep a secret?" was her laughing
rejoinder. "But do tell me," in a still lower tone, "has cousin lost her
husband lately?"

"Within a year, and they were devotedly attached."

"Oh poor thing! But isn't she sweet?"

"Yes, indeed! it didn't take even me long to find that out."

The carriages rolled away amid much waving of handkerchiefs by the
travellers and the little party left behind; then Mary carried Violet
off to her room for a long talk before it should be time to dress for
tea, while the lads strolled away together along the beach, their
tongues quite as busy as the other two: for there were various college
matters to discuss, beside plans for fishing, boating, riding, and
driving.

And Edward must sound his mother's praises and learn whether Charlie did
not think her the very loveliest woman he ever saw.

"Yes," Charlie said with a sigh, "you are a lucky fellow, Ned. I hardly
remember my mother--was only five years old when she died."

"Then I pity you with all my heart!" Edward exclaimed; "for there's
nothing like a mother to love you and stand by you through thick and
thin."

He turned his head away to hide the tears that sprang unbidden to his
eyes, for along with his pity for his friend came a sudden recollection
of that dreadful event in his childhood when by an act of disobedience
he had come very near killing his dearly loved father. Ah, he should
never forget his agony of terror and remorse, his fear that his mother
could never love him again, or the tenderness with which she had
embraced him, assuring him of her forgiveness and continued affection.

Meantime Donald was speaking in glowing terms of Cousin Mary. "One of
the best girls in the world," he pronounced her--"so kind-hearted, so
helpful and industrious. Uncle's circumstances are moderate," he said;
"Aunt's health has been delicate for years, and Mary, as the eldest of
eight or nine children, has had her hands full. I am very glad she is
taking a rest now, for she needs it. A maiden sister of her mother's is
filling her place for a few weeks, she told me: else she could not have
been spared from home."

"You make me glad that I left Violet with her," Mrs. Travilla said, with
a look of pleased content.

Edward and his chum returned from their walk, made themselves neat, and
were waiting on the piazza before the open door, as Mary and Violet came
down at the call to tea.

The dining-room was furnished with small tables each accommodating eight
persons. Our four young friends found seats together. The other four
places at their table were occupied by two couples--a tall, gaunt,
sour-visaged elderly man in green spectacles, and his meek little wife,
and a small, thin, invalid old gentleman, who wore a look of patient
resignation, and his wife, taller than himself by half a head.

A fine head of beautiful grey hair was the only attractive thing about
her, her features were coarse and her countenance was fretful. She
occupied herself in filling and emptying her plate with astonishing
rapidity, and paid little or no attention to her husband, who was so
crippled by rheumatism as to be almost helpless, having entirely lost
the use of one hand, and so nearly that of his lower limbs that he could
not walk without assistance.

He had a nurse, a young German, who was with him constantly day and
night, helped him about and waited upon him, but in a very awkward
fashion. The man's clumsiness was, however, borne with patience by the
sufferer, and did not seem to trouble the wife.

She eyed Violet curiously between her immense mouthfuls, and whispered
to her husband, loud enough for the child to hear, "Isn't that a pretty
girl, William? such a handsome complexion! I reckon she paints."

The sudden crimsoning of Vi's cheek contradicted that suspicion
instantly, and the woman corrected herself. "No, she don't, I see. I
wonder who she is?"

"Hush, hush, Maria!" whispered her husband, "don't you see she hears
you?" and he gave the young girl such a fatherly look, gentle and
tender, that quick tears sprang to her eyes: it was so strong a reminder
of one whose look of parental love she should never meet again on earth.

People at other tables were noticing her too, remarking upon her beauty
and grace, and asking each other who she was.

"We'll soon find out, mamma; don't you see she is with Miss Keith? and
she will be sure to introduce her to us," said a nice looking girl about
Vi's age, addressing a sweet faced lady by whose side she sat.

They all met in the parlor shortly afterward, and Vi, Mrs. Perkins, her
daughter Susie, and her son Fred, a lad of nineteen or twenty, were
formally presented to each other.

"I don't want to get into a crowd; I don't care to make acquaintances,"
Vi had said, half tearfully.

Mary understood and respected the feeling, but answered, "Yes, dear
cousin, I know: but do let me introduce Mrs. Perkins and her children.
She is so sweet and lovely, a real Christian lady; and her son and
daughter are very nice. We have been together a great deal, and I feel
as if they were old friends."

Vi did not wonder at it after talking a little with Mrs. Perkins, who
had made room for her on the sofa by her side; her thought was, "She is
a little like mamma; not quite so sweet nor half so beautiful; though
she is very pretty."

Several other ladies had come in by this time, the invalid gentleman's
wife among the rest. "Mrs. Moses," Vi heard some one call her.

"How do you do, Miss?" she said, drawing forward an arm chair and
seating herself directly in front of Violet. "You're a new-comer,
ain't you?"

"I came this afternoon," Vi answered, and turned to Mrs. Perkins with a
remark about the changing beauty of the sea and clouds; for they were
near an open window that gave them a view of old ocean.

"Where are you from?" asked Mrs. Moses.

"The South, Madame."

"Ah! I should hardly have suspected it: you've such a lovely complexion,
and how beautiful your hair is! like spun gold."

The German servant-man appeared in the doorway.

"Mrs. Moshes, Herr wants to see you."

"Yes, I hear." Turning to Vi again, "Well, you must have had a long,
tiresome journey; and I suppose you didn't come all alone?"

Vi let the inquiry pass unnoticed, but the woman went on, "I've never
been South, but I'd like to go; perhaps I shall next winter. It might
help William's rheumatism."

"Your husband wants you, Mrs. Moses," remarked Mary Keith.

"Oh yes; he's always wanting me. I'll go presently."

"Cousin," said Mary, "shall we take a stroll on the beach?"

Violet caught at the suggestion with alacrity, and they went at once,
the rest of their party, and Mrs. Perkins and hers, accompanying them.

"That poor man!" sighed Mary. "I thought if we all left her, perhaps she
would go to him."

"Isn't it strange?" said Susie, "he seems to love her dearly, and she to
care nothing about him. And he is so nice and good and patient, and she
so disagreeable."

"A very poor sort of wife, I think," pursued Mary. "She will not even
sleep on the same floor with him, for fear of being disturbed when pain
keeps him awake. Day and night he is left to the care of that awkward,
blundering German. But there! I ought to be ashamed of myself for
talking about an absent neighbor."

"I don't think you are doing any harm, Cousin Mary," said Charlie, "for
we can all see how utterly selfish the woman is."

"What! are you two cousins?" asked Edward in surprise.

"First cousins, sir," returned Charlie, laughing, "sisters' children.
Can't you and I claim kin, seeing she's cousin to both of us?"

A sudden dash of rain prevented Edward's reply, and sent them all
scurrying into the house.



CHAPTER XX.

    "A little more than kin and a little less than kind."
                                            --_Shakespeare._


Our little party had scarcely seated themselves in the parlor, where a
number of the guests of the house were already gathered, when the
invalid gentleman was assisted in by his servant and took possession of
an easy chair which Mrs. Perkins hastened to offer him.

He thanked her courteously as he sank back in it with a slight sigh as
of one in pain.

Violet, close at his side, regarded him with pitying eyes. "I fear you
suffer a great deal, sir," she said, low and feelingly, when Mary, her
next neighbor, had introduced them.

"Yes, a good deal, but less than when I came."

"Then the sea air is doing you good, I hope."

"I'm thankful to say I think it is. There's an increase of pain
to-night, but that is always to be expected in rainy weather."

"You are very patient, Mr. Moses," Mary remarked.

"And why shouldn't I be patient?" he returned; "didn't Christ suffer far
more than I do?"

"And he comforts you in the midst of it all, does he not?" asked Mrs.
Perkins.

"He does, indeed, ma'am."

"I have always found him faithful to his promises," she said.

"And I," remarked another lady sitting near; "strength has always been
given me according to my day, in the past, and I am glad to leave the
future with him."

"Humph! it's plain to be seen that you two don't know what trouble is,"
put in Mrs. Moses, glancing fretfully at her crippled spouse; whereat
the poor man burst into tears.

Vi's tender heart ached for him, and the countenances of all within
hearing of the remark expressed sincere pity and sympathy.

A child began drumming on the piano, and Mr. Moses sent a helpless, half
despairing glance in that direction that spoke of tortured nerves.

Vi saw it, and, as he turned to her with, "Don't you play and sing, my
dear? You look like it, and I should be much gratified to hear you," she
rose and went at once to the instrument, thinking of nothing but trying
to bring help and comfort to the poor sufferer.

"Will you let me play a little?" she said to the child, with look and
tone of winning sweetness, and the piano-stool was promptly vacated.

Seating herself, she touched a few chords, and instantly a hush fell
upon the room.

She played a short prelude; then, in a voice full, rich and sweet,
sang--

    "'O Jesus! Friend unfailing,
       How dear art thou to me!
     And cares or fears assailing,
       I find my rest in thee!
     Why should my feet grow weary
       Of this my pilgrim way;
     Rough though the path and dreary
       It ends in perfect day.

    "'Naught, naught I count as treasure,
       Compared, O Christ, with thee;
     Thy sorrow without measure
       Earned peace and joy for me.
     I love to own, Lord Jesus,
       Thy claims o'er me and mine,
     Bought with thy blood most precious,
       Whose can I be but thine!

    "'For every tribulation,
       For every sore distress.
     In Christ I've full salvation,
       Sure help and quiet rest.
     No fear of foes prevailing,
       I triumph, Lord, in thee.
     O Jesus, Friend unfailing!
       How dear art thou to me!'"*

    * I know not who is the author of these beautiful lines.

Edward had made his way to her side as soon as he perceived her purpose.

"You have left out half," he whispered, leaning over her, "and the words
are all so sweet."

"Yes, I know, but I feared it was too long."

There were murmurs of admiration as he led her back to her seat. "How
well she plays! such an exquisite touch!" "What a sweet voice! highly
cultivated, and every word distinct." "Yes, and what a beauty she is!"

Some of these remarks reached Violet's ears and deepened the color on
her cheek, but she forgot them all in the delight of having given
pleasure to the invalid. He thanked her with tears in his eyes.

"The words are very sweet and comforting," he said. "Are they your own?"

"Oh no, sir!" she answered. "I do not know whose they are, but I have
found comfort in them, and hoped that you might also."

Edward and Mary were conversing in low, earnest tones.

"I am delighted!" Mary said.

"With what?"

"Words, music, voice, everything."

"The music is her own, composed expressly for the words, which she found
in a religious newspaper."

"Indeed! she is a genius then! the tune is lovely."

"Yes, she is thought to have a decided genius for both music and
painting; I must show you some of her pictures when you pay us that
promised visit."

Mr. Moses presently found himself in too much pain to remain where he
was, and summoning his servant, retired to his own room.

His wife, paying no regard to a wistful, longing look he gave her as he
moved painfully away, remained where she was and entertained the other
ladies with an account of the family pedigree.

"We are lineal descendants of Moses, the Hebrew Lawgiver," she
announced. "But don't suppose we are Jews, for we are not at all."

"Belong to the lost ten tribes, I suppose," remarked Charles Perrine
dryly.

The morning's sun shone brightly in a clear sky, and on leaving the
breakfast table our little party went down to the beach and sat in the
sand, watching the incoming tide, before which they were now and then
obliged to retreat, sometimes in scrambling haste that gave occasion for
much mirth and laughter.

Mrs. Moses came down presently and joined them, an uninvited and not
over-welcome companion, but of course the beach was as free to her as to
them.

"How is your husband this morning?" inquired Mrs. Perkins.

"Oh about as usual."

"I do believe it would do him good to sit here awhile with us, sunning
himself."

"Too damp."

"No; the dampness here is from the salt water, and will harm nobody."

"Where is he?" asked Fred, getting on his feet.

"On the porch yonder," the wife answered, in a tone of indifference.

"Come, boys, let's go and bring him!" said Fred, and at the word the
other two rose with alacrity, and all three hurried to the house.

They found the poor old gentleman sitting alone, save for the presence
of the uncouth servant standing in silence at the back of his chair, and
watching with wistful, longing eyes the merry groups moving hither and
thither, to and fro, between the houses and the ocean, some going down
to bathe, others coming dripping from the water, some sporting among the
waves, and others still, like our own party, sunning themselves on the
beach.

"We have come to ask you to join us, sir," Fred said in respectful but
hearty tones. "Won't you let us help you down to the beach? the ladies
are anxious to have you there."

The poor man's face lighted up with pleased surprise, then clouded
slightly. "I should like to go indeed," he said, "if I could do so
without troubling others; but that is impossible."

"We should not feel it any trouble, sir." the lads returned, "but a
pleasure rather, if you will let us help you there."

"I ought not to ask it of you: Jacob here can give me an arm."

"No," said Edward, "let Jacob take this opportunity for a bath, and we
will fill his place in waiting upon you."

The invalid yielded, and found himself moved with far more ease and
comfort than he had believed possible.

The ladies--his wife, perhaps, excepted, greeted him with smiles and
pleasant words of welcome. They had arranged a couch with their
waterproofs and shawls, far enough from the water's edge to be secure
from the waves, and here the lads laid him down with gentle carefulness.

Mrs. Perkins seated herself at his head and shaded his face from the sun
with her umbrella, while the others grouped themselves about, near
enough to carry on a somewhat disjointed conversation in spite of the
noise of the waters.

"I think a sunbath will really be good for you, Mr. Moses," said Miss
Keith.

"It's worth trying anyhow," he answered, with a patient smile. "And it's
a real treat to do so in such pleasant company. But don't any of you
lose your bath for me. I've seen a number go in, and I suppose this is
about the best time."

"Just as the ladies say," was the gallant rejoinder of the young men.

"I do not care to bathe to-day," Violet said with decision. "The rest of
you may go, and I will stay and take are of Mr. Moses."

"Well, I'll go then. He'll not be wanting anything." said his wife.
"Ain't the rest of you coming, ladies and gentlemen?"

After some discussion, all went but Mrs. Perkins and Violet, and they
were left alone with the invalid.

Vi had conceived a great pity for him, great disgust for the selfish,
unsympathizing wife.

"How different from mamma!" she said to herself. "She never would have
wearied of waiting upon papa if he had been so afflicted; she would have
wanted to be beside him, comforting him every moment. And how sweetly it
would have been done."

"Little lady," the old man said, with a longing look into the sweet
girlish face, "will you sing me that song again? It was the most
delightful, consoling thing I've heard for many a day."

"Yes, indeed, sir; I would do anything in my power to help you to forget
your pain," she said, coloring with pleasure.

She sang the whole of the one he had asked for, then perceiving how
greatly he enjoyed it, several others of like character.

He listened intently, sometimes with tears in his eyes, and thanking her
warmly again and again.

Finding that the old gentleman felt brighter and more free from pain
during the rest of the day, and thought he had received benefit from
his visit to the beach, the lads helped him there again the next day.

They set him down, then wandered away, leaving him in the care of the
same group of ladies who had gathered round him the day before.

Each one was anxious to do something for his relief or entertainment,
and he seemed both pleased with their society and grateful for their
attentions.

Mrs. Perkins suggested that the lame hand might be benefited by burying
it in the sand while he sat there.

"No harm in trying it, anyhow," he said. "Just turn me round a little,
Maria, if you please."

His wife complied promptly with the request, but in a way which the
other ladies thought rough and unfeeling, seizing him by the collar of
his coat and jerking him round to the desired position.

But he made no complaint.

"I think it does ease the pain," he said after a little. "I'm only sorry
I can't try it every day for a while."

"What is there to hinder?" asked Mrs. Perkins.

"Why, we're going to-morrow," replied Mrs. Moses, shortly.

"Oh, why not stay longer? You have been here but a week, and Mr. Moses
has improved quite a good deal in that time."

"Well, he can stay as long as he chooses, but I'm going to New York
to-morrow to visit my sister."

The ladies urged her to stay for her poor husband's sake, but she was
not to be persuaded, and he was unwilling to remain without her.

"Take some sand with you, then, to bury his hand in, won't you?" said
Mrs. Perkins.

"I haven't anything to carry it in," was the ungracious reply.

"Those newspapers."

"I want to read them."

"Well, if we find something to put it in, and get it all ready for you,
will you take it in your trunk?"

"Yes, I'll do that."

"I have a good sized paper box which will answer the purpose, I think,"
said Mary Keith. "I'll get it."

She hastened to the house, returned again in a few moments with the box,
and they proceeded to fill it, sifting the sand carefully through their
fingers to remove every pebble.

"You are taking a great deal of trouble for me, ladies," the old
gentleman remarked.

"No trouble at all, sir," said Mary; "it's a real pleasure to do
anything we can for you: especially remembering the Master's words,
'Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my
brethren, you have done it unto me.'"



CHAPTER XXI.

               "How happy they
    Who, from the toil and tumult of their lives,
    Steal to look down where nought but ocean strives."
                                                  --_Byron._


Violet was alone, lying on the bed, resting after her bath, not asleep,
but thinking dreamily of home and mother.

"Only one more day and my week here will be up," she was saying to
herself. "I've had a delightful time, but oh I want to see mamma and the
rest!"

Just then the door opened and Mary came in with a face all smiles. "O
Vi, I'm so glad!" she exclaimed, seating herself on the side of the bed.

"What about, cousin?" Violet asked, rousing herself, and with a keen
look of interest.

"I have just had the offer of a furnished cottage for two or three
weeks--to keep house in, you understand--and I can invite several
friends to stay with me, and it won't cost half so much as boarding
here, beside being great fun," Mary answered, talking very fast in her
excitement and delight. "Charlie will stay with me, I think, and I hope
you and Edward will, and I have two girl friends at home whom I shall
invite. One is an invalid, and needs the change, oh so badly; but
though they are not exactly poor people, not the kind one would dare
offer charity to, her father couldn't afford to give her even a week at
any of these hotels or boarding-houses: and she did look so wistful and
sad when I bade her good-bye. 'I can hardly help envying you, Mary,' she
said, 'though I am ever so glad you are going. But I have such a longing
to get away from home for a while--to go somewhere, anywhere, for a
change. I'm so weak and miserable, and it seems to me that if I could
only go away I should get well. I haven't been outside of this town for
years.'"

Violet's eyes filled with tears. "Poor thing!" she said. "I have always
travelled about so much, and enjoyed it greatly. I wonder why it is I
have so many more pleasures and blessings than other people."

"I hope they may never be fewer," Mary said, caressing her. "But isn't
it nice that now I can give poor Amy Fletcher--for that is her name--two
or three weeks here at the sea-shore?"

"Yes, indeed! But you haven't told me how it happens."

In reply to this Mary went on to say that a married friend who had
rented the cottage she had spoken of for the year, now found that he
must take his family away for a short time, mountain air being
recommended for his wife, who was in poor health, and as it would cost
no more to have the cottage occupied in their absence than to leave it
empty, he had offered her the use of it rent free.

"He saw father and mother last week," she added in conclusion, "and
talked it over with them, and they have written me to accept his offer
by all means, and stay as long at the shore as I can."

"But you are to visit us, you know."

"Yes, afterward, if that will do. I don't intend to miss that pleasure
if I can help it," Mary answered gleefully. "Now about my other friend,
Ella Neff. She is not an invalid, but she teaches for her support, and I
know such a change would do her a world of good. She wanted to come with
me, but couldn't afford it; yet I'm sure she can in this way: for beside
the difference of board there will not be the same necessity for fine
dress."

"I should never have thought of that," said Vi.

"No, of course not, you fortunate little lassie; you have never known
anything about the pinchings of poverty--or the pleasures of economy,"
she added merrily, "for I do assure you there is often real enjoyment in
finding how nicely you can contrive to make one dollar do the work of
two--or 'auld claes look amaist as weel's the new.' But oh, don't you
think it will be fun to keep house, do our own cooking and all?"

"Yes," Violet said; "yes, indeed."

"And you'll stay, won't you? Don't you think you'd enjoy it?"

"Oh, ever so much! but I don't believe I can wait any longer than till
to-morrow to see mamma. Besides, I don't know whether she would
approve."

"Well, if you should spend a day at home and get her consent to come
back; how would that do?"

Vi thought that plan might answer, if Edward were willing to make one of
the party at the cottage.

"We must consult the lads at once," said Mary. "Let me help you dress,
and we'll go in search of them."

Vi sprang up, and with her cousin's assistance made a rapid toilet.

They found Edward and Charlie in the summer-house, just across the road,
waiting for the call to dinner. Fortunately no one was within hearing,
and Mary quickly unfolded her plan.

It was heard with delight. "Splendid! Capital! Of course we'll be glad
to accept your invitation," they said: Edward, however, putting in the
provision, "If mamma sees no objection."

"Or grandpa," added Violet.

"All the same," said Edward; "mamma never approves of anything that he
does not."

"Where is the cottage? Can we look at it?" asked Charles.

"Yes; the family left this morning, and I have the key," Mary answered.
"We could take possession to-night if we chose; but I must lay in some
provisions first."

"Let's walk up (or down, whichever it is) after dinner and look at it."

"Yes, Charlie, if Edward and Vi are agreed. It is up, on this street,
about two blocks from here."

"Directly in front of the ocean? That's all right."

"Or the ocean directly in front of it," Mary returned laughingly.

"All the same; don't be too critical, Miss Keith," said Charlie.

They did not linger long over dinner or dessert, but made haste to the
cottage, eager to see what accommodations it afforded.

It was small, the rooms few in number, and mere boxes compared to those
Edward and Violet had been accustomed to at Ion and Viamede; and very
much more contracted than those of the cottage their mother was
occupying, yet all four were quite satisfied to take up their residence
in it for a season.

"Four bedrooms," remarked Mary reflectively: "two will do for the lads
and two for the lasses. Parlor and dining-room are not very spacious,
but will hold us all when necessary; I don't suppose we'll spend much of
the daytime within doors. By the way, I think we must add Don Keith to
our party--if he'll come."

The boys said "By all means," and Vi raised no objection.

"When do you expect Ella and Amy?" asked Charles, who was well
acquainted with both.

"I telegraphed to mother at once to invite them, and shall expect to see
them about day after to-morrow."

"What sort of provisions do you propose to lay in, Miss Keith?" inquired
Charlie. "I am personally interested in that."

"I do not doubt that in the least, Mr. Perrine," she answered demurely.
"I intend to buy some of the best flour and groceries that I can find."

"Flour? can't you buy bread here?"

"Yes, but perhaps I may choose to exhibit my skill in its manufacture;
also in that of cake and pastry."

"Ah! Well, no objection to that except that we don't want you shut up
in the kitchen when the rest of us are off pleasuring. What about other
supplies?"

"I see you have some idea of what is necessary in housekeeping, Charlie,
and I'll give you a good recommendation to--the first nice girl who asks
me if you'll make a good husband," Mary returned, looking at her cousin
with laughing eyes.

"Am I to have an answer to my question, Miss Keith?" he inquired with
dignity.

"Yes, when I see fit to give it. The Marstons were, of course, served
with butter, eggs, milk and cream, fish, flesh, and fowl, and Mr.
Marston told me he had spoken to the persons thus serving him and his to
do likewise by me and mine: does this explanation relieve your mind, Mr.
Perrine?"

"Entirely. I am satisfied that we are not invited to share starving
rations, which I am morally certain would give me the dyspepsia."

"I think we are very fortunate," Mary remarked, resuming her ordinary
tone; "they have left us bedding, table and kitchen furniture, and we
have nothing whatever to provide except our food, drink and clothing."

"I shall order a carriage for an early hour to-morrow morning," said
Edward, "and drive over to see my mother. Vi will, of course, go along,
and I wish, Cousin Mary, that you and Charlie would go too."

"Thank you very much," Mary said. "I should enjoy it extremely, but
there are some few arrangements to be made here. The girls may come
to-morrow evening, and I must be here and ready to receive them."

Then Charlie decided that he must stay and take care of Mary; so it was
finally arranged that Edward and Violet should go alone, and the former
attend to the ordering of the groceries, and anything else he could
think of that was desirable and did not require to be fresh.

When the carriage containing Edward and Violet drove up to their
mother's door, nearly all the family and their guests were out upon the
beach.

There was instantly a glad shout from Harold, Herbert and Walter, "There
they are!" and they, their sisters and grandfather started at once for
the house, while Mrs. Dinsmore and Mrs. Travilla, who were within,
hastened to the door.

Mrs. Conly and Virginia, slowly sauntering along within sight of the
cottage, looked after those who were hurrying towards it, with smiles of
contempt.

"Such a hugging and kissing as there will be now!" sneered Virginia;
"they will make as much fuss as if they hadn't seen each other for five
years."

"Yes," returned her mother, "and I don't wish to be a spectator of the
sickening scene. Thank fortune I'm not of the overly affectionate kind."

"Mamma, mamma!" cried Violet, springing into the dear arms so joyfully
opened to receive her, "oh, I am so glad, so glad to see you again!"

"Not more glad than mamma is, darling," Elsie said, clasping her close
with tender caresses.

"And you've come home a day sooner than you were expected! how good in
you!" the younger Elsie exclaimed, taking her turn.

"Yes, but not to stay; that is, I mean if mamma consents to--"

But the sentence remained unfinished for awhile, there were so many
claiming a hug and kiss from both herself and Edward; indeed I am afraid
Virginia was so far correct in her prediction that there was as much
embracing and rejoicing, perhaps even more, than there would have been
in the Conly family in receiving a brother and sister who had been
absent for years.

But when all that had been attended to, and the pleasant little
excitement began to subside, it did not take many minutes for mamma and
grandpa and grandma to learn all about the proposed essay in
housekeeping on the part of the young folks.

"What! does my Vi want to leave her mother again so soon?" Mrs. Travilla
said with half reproachful tenderness, putting an arm about the
slender, girlish waist, and pressing another kiss on the softly rounded,
blooming cheek.

"No, mamma dearest," Vi said, blushing and laying her head down on her
mother's shoulder, "but the house here is as full as ever, isn't it?"

"Yes, but that makes no difference; there is plenty of room."

"Well, mamma, I don't like to be away from you, or any of the dear ones,
but I do think it would be great fun for a little while. Don't you?
wouldn't you have liked it when you were my age?"

"Yes, I daresay I should, and I see no great objection, if you and
Edward wish to try it. What do you say, papa?"

"That I think their mother is the right person to decide the question,
and that I do not suppose they can come to any harm," Mr. Dinsmore
answered, with a kindly look and smile directed to Edward and Violet. "I
doubt if I should have allowed you to do such a thing at Vi's age,
Elsie," he added, "but I believe I grow more indulgent with advancing
years--perhaps more foolish."

"No, papa, I cannot think that," she said, lifting her soft eyes to his
with a world of filial tenderness and reverence in their brown depths;
"I lean very much upon the wisdom of your decisions. Well, dears, since
grandpa does not disapprove, you have my full consent to do as you
please in this matter."

They thanked her warmly.

"Cousin Mary would be delighted if Elsie would come too," said Violet,
looking wishfully at her sister, "and so would I. I don't suppose,
mamma, you could spare us both at once, but if Elsie would like to go, I
will stay, and not feel it the least bit of a hardship either," she
added, turning to her mother with a bright, affectionate smile.

"I should be lonely with both my older daughters away," the mother said,
"but I will not be selfish in my love. Elsie may go, too, if she
wishes."

"Dear, kind mamma, selfishness is no part of your nature," her namesake
daughter responded promptly, "but Elsie has not the slightest desire to
go. Yet I thank my sweet sister all the same for her very kind and
unselfish offer," she added, giving Violet a look of strong affection.

"But what is grandpa to do without his merry little cricket?" asked Mr.
Dinsmore, drawing Vi down upon his knee. "For how long is it? one, two,
or three weeks?"

"I don't know, grandpa; perhaps I shall grow tired and homesick, and
want to come back directly."

"Well, no one will be sorry to see you, come when you may."

"You will always be joyfully welcomed," added mamma; "nor Edward less
so. Now let us consider what you will need, and how best to provide it.
I claim the privilege of furnishing all the groceries and everything
else for the larder that need not be procured upon the spot."

"Oh, thank you, mamma!" said Edward; "but I knew you would."

Violet asked and obtained permission to sleep with her mother that
night, and all day long was scarcely absent from her side. Evidently the
child had a divided heart, and was at times more than half inclined to
stay at home.

But Edward urged that he would not half enjoy himself without her, that
she had promised to go if mamma did not withhold consent, and that Mary
would be sadly disappointed if she failed to return with him. Donald
Keith, too, who was still there, and had accepted Mary's invitation,
added his persuasions. "He was sure they would have a very pleasant
time, and if she grew homesick she could drive home any day in a couple
of hours; he would be glad to bring her over himself if she would let
him, or she could come in less time by the cars."

Then her mother came to her help. "I think it will be best for you to
go, dear, even if you should stay but a day or two," she said. "And if
your grandpa likes, he and I will drive over with you, and see your snug
little cottage, and whether there is anything we can do to add to the
comfort or enjoyment of those who are to occupy it for a season."

"A very good idea, daughter," Mr. Dinsmore said, and Vi's rather
troubled face grew bright.

"Oh how nice, mamma!" she exclaimed. "I will go without any more foolish
hesitation, although I do not think Edward is quite correct in saying I
promised."

"Foolish enough!" sneered Virginia, who prided herself on her audacity
in making disagreeable remarks. "I should be very much ashamed of myself
if I were half the mother baby you are."

"And I," remarked Mr. Dinsmore severely, irritated out of all patience
by the pained look in Vi's face, "should be more ashamed of my sweet
little granddaughter if she were as heartless and ready to wound the
feelings of others as a certain niece of mine seems to be."

"Will you come to my house-warming, Mrs. Perkins, you and Fred and
Susie?" asked Mary Keith as they left the breakfast-table of the
Colorado House the next morning. "I expect my cousins the Travillas
about dinner-time, and the morning train may bring the other guests. I
mean to be all ready for them at any rate. The dinner is to be prepared
with my own hands, and though it will be on a small scale compared with
those served here, you shall at least have a hearty welcome."

"Thank you, we would be delighted, but are already engaged for the
picnic," Mrs. Perkins said.

So they parted with mutual good wishes, each hoping the other would have
an enjoyable day.

Charles and Mary made themselves busy in seeing to the removal to the
cottage of their own and cousin's luggage, making some purchases at the
provision stores, and some rearrangements of furniture; then about the
dinner, Mary pressing Charlie into her service as sheller of peas,
husker of corn, and beater of eggs.

They had a very merry time over their work, though Charlie protested
vigorously against being set at such menial tasks, and declared that
"Ed" should be made to do a fair share of them in future.

Mary sent him to the train to meet the girls, while she stayed behind to
watch over the dinner.

He had scarcely gone when a carriage drew up at the door, and Mr. and
Mrs. Dinsmore, Mrs. Travilla, Edward and Violet, and Donald Keith
alighted therefrom and came trooping in, most of them laden with
parcels, while the driver brought up the rear, carrying a large hamper
that seemed to be well filled and heavy.

Mary's first emotion on seeing the arrival was delight, the second a
sudden fear that her dinner would not suffice for so many.

But that fear was relieved at sight of the hamper and a whisper from Vi,
who headed the procession, that it contained such store of provision as
would obviate the necessity of much cooking for several days to come.

"Oh how good and kind in your mother!" Mary exclaimed in a like low
tone, then hastened to welcome her guests with unmixed pleasure.

"O Cousin Elsie, how nice in you to come and to bring Edward and Violet!
You are going to let them stay, I am sure, and I am so glad. So glad to
see you, too, Cousin Rose and Cousin Horace: it seems as if I ought to
call you aunt and uncle, though."

"Then suppose you do," Mr. Dinsmore said, shaking hands with her, and
kissing her rosy cheek. "You have my permission."

"I shall, then, and thank you," she returned in her bright merry tones.
"O Don," turning to Mr. Keith with outstretched hands, "so here you are!
that's a good boy."

"Yes, and so good a boy must not be put off with less than others get,"
he said, following Mr. Dinsmore's example.

"Well, as you are only a cousin it doesn't matter," she remarked
indifferently. "Please all make yourselves at home. Oh there's the
stage stopping at the gate! the girls have come!" and she flew out to
welcome them.

The little parlor was quite inconveniently crowded, but that afforded
subject for mirth, as Mary introduced her friends and bustled about
trying to find seats for them all.

"We shall have to take dinner in relays or else set a table in here,
besides the one in the dining-room," she said, laughing.

"Let Amy and me go to our room and dress while your first set eat, and
give us our dinner afterwards," suggested Ella Neff.

"Yes, I should much prefer it," Miss Fletcher said, "for we are really
too dusty and dirty to sit down to your table now."

"And I shall act as waiter to the first table and eat with these ladies
at the second," said Charlie.

"Very well, I can manage to seat the rest," Mary said; and so it was
arranged.

The dinner proved very nice and very abundant with the help of the
contents of the hamper. Mary's cooking received many praises, in which
Charlie claimed a share, because, as he said, he had assisted largely.



CHAPTER XXII.

    "O spirits gay, and kindly heart!
    Precious the blessings ye impart!"
                               --_Joanna Baillie._


"Well, cricket, are we to carry you back with us?" Mr. Dinsmore asked,
with a smiling look at Violet. "If so, 'tis time to be tying on your
hat, for the carriage is at the door."

"No, grandpa, I am going to stay," she answered, holding up her face for
a parting kiss.

"I am well satisfied with your decision, dear child," her mother said
when bidding her good-bye, as they and Edward stood alone together for a
moment on the little porch. "I think these young people are all safe
associates for you and your brother," turning to him and taking a hand
of each, "and that you will enjoy yourselves very much with them. But,
my darlings, never forget in the midst of your mirth and gayety--or in
trouble, if that should come--that God's eye is upon you, and that you
have a Christian character to maintain before men. Let me give you a
parting text, 'Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do,
do all to the glory of God.' And yet another for your joy and comfort,
'The Lord God is a sun and shields the Lord will give grace and glory:
no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.'"

"Was there ever such another dear, good mother as ours?" Violet said to
her brother, as together they watched the carriage out of sight.

"I wish there were thousands like her," he answered. "Ever since I can
remember it has been plain to me that what she most desired for all her
children was that they might be real, true, earnest Christians. Vi, if
we are not all that, we can never lay the blame at our mother's door."

"Nor papa's either," Violet said with a sigh and a tear to his memory,
"for he was just as careful as she is to train us up for God and
heaven."

"Yes," Edward assented with emotion. "O Vi, if I could but be the man he
was!"

They went into the house. In the little parlor Amy Fletcher reclined on
a sofa gazing out through the open door upon the sea.

"I have had my first sight of old ocean to-day," she said, glancing up
at them as they came in, "and oh how beautiful it is! how delicious this
breeze coming from it! it surely must bring health and strength to any
one who is not very ill indeed!"

"I hope it will to you," Violet said, sitting down by her side.

"I hope so," she returned with a cheerful look and smile, "for the
doctors tell me I have no organic disease, and that nothing is more
likely to build me up than sea air and sea-bathing."

Amy was small and fragile in appearance, but not painfully thin; she had
large dark grey eyes, brown hair, a sweet patient expression, a clear
complexion, and though usually rather too pale and quiet, when excited
or greatly interested the color would come and go on her cheek, her eyes
shine, and her whole face light up in a way that made her decidedly
pretty.

She was weary now with her journey and a visit to the beach, though she
had only walked to a summer house near by and sat there while the rest
strolled about.

Merry sounds of jest and laughter were coming from the kitchen.

"The girls are washing the dishes," Amy said with a smile, "and the lads
helping or hindering, I don't know which."

"The dinner dishes?" asked Violet.

"Yes, Mary set them aside for the time, that she might enjoy the company
of your friends while they stayed."

"Do you think I could be of any assistance out there?" queried Edward,
with gravity.

"I have an idea that the place is quite full now," Amy said, with a
merry glance up into his face. "I wish there was room for us all, for
they seem to be having a great deal of sport. Just hark how they are
laughing! Well, our turn will come. Don't you think we are going to have
a jolly time here?"

The door opened and the two young men came in.

"You don't know what you've missed, Ed," said Charlie helping himself to
a chair near Amy's couch; "housework's jolly good fun."

"When you don't have too much of it," remarked Amy.

"And do it in pleasant company," added Donald.

"And under a capable and kind instructress," supplemented Mary, speaking
from the kitchen.

"What are your terms for tuition, Miss Keith?" inquired Edward, as she
and Ella Neff joined the circle in the parlor.

"Beginners get their board, which is sometimes more than they earn."

"Is that all?" said Donald. "Then I think I shall retire from the
service."

"I advise you to do no such thing," said Ella, "the knowledge you gain
may prove invaluable in some future emergency: some time when you find
yourself out on the plains or buried in the forests of the Far West,
with no gentle, loving woman at hand to prepare your meals."

"In that case there would doubtless be an ungentle and obedient
orderly to do so," rejoined Donald with gravity.

"Well, women are often lectured by newspaper writers and others on the
paramount duty of making themselves acquainted with the culinary art, as
well as everything else pertaining to housewifery, in order that they
may be fully capable of directing the labors of their servants, and I
see no reason why the rule shouldn't hold good for men," remarked Ella.

"There, sir, you're cornered, Donald!" laughed Charlie.

"Now that we are all here together, suppose we make such arrangements as
are necessary to constitute ourselves a tolerably orderly household,"
said Mary.

"I understood that you were commanding officer, and the rest of us had
nothing to do but obey orders," said Donald.

"Quite a mistake. This is not an army, but a democracy, in which the
majority rules. All important questions, therefore--"

"Such as the bill of fare for dinner," suggested Charlie. "Excuse the
hint, ma'am."

"Are to be put to vote," Mary went on, not deigning to notice the
interruption. "Mr. Keith, I propose that you, as the eldest of the
party, take the chair."

"Which?" he asked with serious air.

"That large, easy one, which each of us is politely leaving for somebody
else."

Donald promptly took possession. "Is the meeting ready for business?" he
asked.

"Ready!" responded Charles and Edward.

"Somebody make a motion, then."

"I move that Miss Mary Keith be elected housekeeper extraordinary and
cook plenipotentiary," said Ella.

"I second the motion," said Edward.

"You have all heard the motion, and to save useless repetition I put it
to vote. All in favor--"

A simultaneous "Aye!" from all present, Mary excepted.

"Who are to be my assistants?" she asked.

"All of us, I suppose," said Charles. "No, not Amy: she's the invalid,
and must be taken care of by the heartiest and strongest, which is
probably your humble servant, ladies and gentlemen."

"Doubtful that!" said Edward, with a downward glance at his own stout
limbs.

"I think we should all help in that and with the housework," remarked Vi
modestly. "Cousin Mary, I can make beds, sweep and dust very nicely,
mamma says. It was her wish that I should learn, and I did."

"So can I," said Ella, "and we'll undertake that part of the work
together, if you like, Miss--"

"Call me Violet or Vi."

"Yes," said Charlie. "I move that everybody be called by the Christian
name--or some abbreviation thereof--as a saving of trouble, and showing
a friendly disposition toward each other."

"Agreed," said Donald, "but let it be understood that there's no
objection to the prefix of cousin."

"At what hours shall we take our meals?" asked Mary.

"Make a motion," said Donald.

"Breakfast at eight, dinner at one, tea at six; will these hours suit
all? If not, let us have objections."

"Speak now, or forever hold your peace," said Charlie. "They suit me
well enough if the rule be not too rigidly enforced, so as to interfere
with pleasuring."

"I didn't mean they should do that," said Mary; "they are only to be a
general guide."

"And if anybody happens to indulge in an extra morning nap, what's to be
the penalty?"

"A cold and lonely breakfast, I suppose. Perhaps to wash his own dishes
besides."

"All in favor of the hours named for meals please signify it by saying
aye," said Donald.

"Aye!" from every tongue.

"Anything else, Miss Keith?" he asked.

"Just one thing more," she answered, speaking with a sudden seriousness,
and in a low, almost tremulous tone that sobered them all instantly.

She went on with an effort. "We all profess to be Christians: shall we
live together, even for the short space of two or three weeks, like
heathen or mere worldings?"

A moment's silence, then Donald said with quiet gravity, "Surely not,
Mary."

"We will not partake of the food God provides for our nourishment and
enjoyment without asking his blessing upon it, or begin or end the day
without prayer and praise, will we?" she asked.

"Oh no!" came softly from the lips of Amy and Violet, and was echoed by
the other voices.

"Then which of you, my three cousins, Don, Edward, and Charlie, will
take the lead in these acts of worship?"

A longer silence than before; then Vi turned a wistful, pleading look
upon her brother.

There was no mistaking its meaning; and his mother's parting words were
ringing in his ears.

"If no one else is willing," he said, "I will do it."

"Thank you, Edward," said Charlie, rising and grasping his hand; "but it
would be too selfish to leave you to do it alone; so I will take my
turn."

"I too," said Donald. "It should never be said of a soldier that he
refused to stand by his colors."

"Or of a follower of Christ that he was shamed of his Master's service,"
added Edward.

So it was arranged that they should take turns, day about, according to
their age.

"Five o'clock--just an hour to tea-time," Charlie said, consulting his
watch: "what shall we do with it? Amy, do you feel equal to a stroll on
the beach, with the support of my arm?"

"Thank you, it would be very nice, but I am tired enough to think it
still nicer just to lie here and look at the sea," she said. "I shall
not mind being left alone, though; so, please, all the rest of you go.
And to-morrow I shall be able to join you, I hope."

"Ah no, we won't leave you here all alone," said several voices.

"No," said Mary, "for I am going to stay with her. I am weary enough
just now to prefer resting in this easy chair to a ramble on the beach
or anywhere else; and beside, I want a chat with Amy."

"Secrets to tell, eh?" said Charlie, picking up his hat. "Good-bye,
then. Don't forget to speak well of the absent."

"Oh I am so glad to be alone with you for a little while, Mary," Amy
said, when the others had all gone. "I want to thank you for your
kindness in asking me to come here; such a blessed relief as it was!
for it seemed to me the very monotony of my life was killing me."

"The thanks hardly belong to me," Mary said, between a smile and a tear,
as she leaned over Amy, gently smoothing back the hair from her
forehead. "I think they should be given first to our heavenly Father,
and second to Mr. Marston."

"Yes, and third to you, Mary. I used to wonder over that text in
Isaiah--'He that believeth shall not make haste.' I didn't know what it
meant, but I believe I do now."

"Well, dear, what is your explanation?"

"I think it means he that is strong in faith will patiently and calmly
wait God's time for the fulfilment of his promises, and for relief from
trouble and trial. Oh if I could but do it always!"

"And I," sighed Mary; "but oh how often I am guilty of making haste for
myself or for others--my dear ones especially. There is poor mother so
often sick, and it is so hard to see her suffer, when she is so good,
too, so patient and cheerful and resigned."

"Yes, I know that must be far harder than suffering yourself."

"Amy," Mary said after a pause, "you must not forget that it is a very
great pleasure to me to have you here, and that if you and the others
had refused to come and stay with me I could not have accepted Mr.
Marston's offer."

"It is very generous in you to set it in that light," Amy answered, with
a grateful look and smile.

They found so much to talk about that time flew very fast, and they were
greatly surprised on seeing Ella and Violet coming up the path from the
gate to the house.

"Surely it is not six yet!" Mary exclaimed.

"No, only half-past five," Vi said, taking out her watch; "but you are
tired, and Ella and I want you to let us get the tea."

"Good girls!" returned Mary gayly. "I feel quite rested now, but you may
help if you like. I'm not going to cook much, though--only to make tea
and stew a few oysters."

Tea and the clearing up after it well over, they all gathered on the
porch, where they had the full benefit of the breeze and could get a
glimpse of the sea by the light of the stars, and listen to its
ceaseless murmur, while amusing themselves with cheerful chat and in
making arrangements for various pleasure excursions about the vicinity.

It was unanimously decided to reserve the long walks until Amy should
grow stronger, in order that she might share the enjoyment.

In the meanwhile they would fill up the time with bathing, lounging,
short strolls, driving, and boating.

They finished the evening with the singing of hymns, a chapter of the
Bible read aloud by Donald, and a short, earnest prayer, well suited to
their needs, offered by him.

The next day their plans were interfered with by a constant, steady
rainfall, but no one fretted or looked dull. Most of them took their
bath in spite of it, and there were books and games with which to while
away the time within doors.

The second day was bright and clear. Amy felt herself already so greatly
improved that she was eager for a proposed boating excursion on Shark
River. Breakfast was prepared, eaten, and cleared away in good season.
Mary was an excellent manager, working rapidly and well herself and
skilfully directing the labors of others.

They took the stage down to the river, hired a boat large enough to
carry the whole party, spent a couple of hours in rowing back and forth,
up and down, then returned home as they had come, reaching there in
season for their bath and the preparation of a good though not very
elaborate dinner, Mary pressing Ella and the lads into her service,
while Amy and Violet were ordered to lie down and rest after their bath.

"What's the programme for this afternoon?" asked Charlie, finishing his
dessert and pushing his plate aside.

"Dish-washing, a long lounge on beds and couches, then tea and a second
chapter of cleansing of utensils, followed by an evening stroll on the
beach," answered Mary.

"And what for to-morrow?" queried Donald.

"Ah, that reminds me," said Edward, "that Mrs. Perkins told me she
expects her husband by the evening train, and wants us to join them
to-morrow in getting up a fishing party. The plan is to drive over to
Manasquan, hire a boat there and go out on the ocean. What do you all
say about it?"

The young men were highly in favor of the trip; Amy would see how she
felt in the morning; Violet demurred, lest there might be danger in
going upon the ocean, and "because she could not see any pleasure in
catching fish; it seemed so cruel."

"But you eat them," reasoned her brother.

"Yes, I know, and I suppose it is very inconsistent to object to
catching them, but I do. I could not enjoy seeing them suffer."

"You can go with us without feeling obliged to share in that, can you
not?" asked Donald.

"Needn't even go out in the boat unless you choose," put in Charlie.
"We'll find a shady spot under the trees near the shore where you can
sit and watch us."

Violet thought that plan would do very well; she could take a book
along, and the time would not seem tedious.

"But Mary has not spoken," said Donald, turning to her.

"I see no objection to your going, any or all of you," she answered
brightly, "but I must be excused."

"But why?" they all asked in various tones of disappointment and
inquiry.

"Because to-morrow is Saturday, and the cook and housekeeper must make
ready for the Sabbath rest by doing two days' work in one."

"Can't we manage that somehow?" asked Donald.

Mary shook her head. "No; but I shan't mind it at all. Go and enjoy
yourselves, my children, and leave me to attend to my duties at home."

"The rest can go if they choose, but if you stay at home, cousin, I
shall stay with you," announced Violet with decision.

They rose from the table.

"Mary," said Charlie, "let the dishes stand a bit. I'm going to the
post-office," and seizing his hat he disappeared, followed by the
laughter of the others.

"Quick, now, lads and lasses, let's have them all out of the way before
he gets back," said Ella, beginning to clear the table in hot haste.

The heat of the sun was too great to allow of very fast walking, and
Charlie was gone a full half hour; when he returned he found them all
sitting at their ease in the parlor.

"I think we'll leave those dishes till the cool of the evening, Mary,"
he said, wiping the perspiration from his forehead.

"No, I can't consent to that--not on ordinary occasions," she answered
demurely.

"Then back to the post-office goes this letter!" he cried threateningly,
holding aloft one with her address upon it.

"Silly boy, the dishes are done without your help; give it to me!" she
cried, springing up and catching it out of his hand.

"A fortunate day; nobody neglected by Uncle Sam's messengers," he said,
pulling several more from his pocket and distributing them.

The tongues were silent for a moment; then Vi uttered a joyous
exclamation. "O Mary, you needn't stay at home to-morrow! mamma says she
will send a hamper by the evening train to-morrow, with provision to
last us over Sunday, so that you need not be troubled with Saturday
cooking."

Everybody was glad, everybody thankful.

"But to-morrow's dinner," said Mary, presently; "shall we get back in
time for me to cook it?"

"I don't know," said Edward; "but there are hotels where we can dine,
and I invite you all to be my guests at whichever one the party may
select. Now, Cousin Mary," as he read hesitation in her face, "I shall
be hurt if anybody refuses my invitation."

So no one ventured an objection.

The day proved auspicious. Amy was unusually well, everybody else in
good health and spirits, no excuse for staying at home: so all went and
spent the entire day, taking an early start and not returning till late
in the afternoon.



CHAPTER XXIII.

    "_Macbeth._        If we should fail--

    "_Lady M._                      We fail!
    But screw your courage to the sticking place,
    And we'll not fail."
                                            --_Shakespeare._


Sunday morning came and our young friends met at the breakfast table,
not in their usual jesting, mirthful mood, but with cheerful gravity of
demeanor, suited to the sacredness of the day.

"There is no preaching, no sort of religious service within our reach
to-day," Edward remarked.

"Then shall we not have one of our own?" asked Mary. "I have a book of
sermons: one might be read aloud; then we can have three prayers and as
many hymns as we please; we all sing."

"And we might have a Bible reading also," suggested Ella. "And suppose
we take up the International Sunday-school Lesson and study it."

All these propositions were received with favor and eventually carried
out.

They did not think it wrong to stroll quietly along the shore, or to sit
there watching the play of the billows, and thus they ended their
afternoon.

The evening was pleasantly spent in serious talk and the singing of
hymns on the front porch, where they could feel the breeze and see the
foam-crested waves by the light of a young moon.

They retired early, feeling that they had had an enjoyable, restful day,
and rose betimes, full of life and vigor--except Amy; and even she felt
equal to a longer stroll than she had yet taken.

The days flew by on swift wings, each bringing its duties and enjoyments
with it, and so pleasant was the gay, free life they led that at times
they half regretted that it must come to an end.

Yet there were other times when some, if not all of them, anticipated,
with real satisfaction, the return to the more serious business of life.

There was a very frequent exchange of visits between their party and the
one to which Edward and Violet more properly belonged; sometimes by way
of the cars, at others by riding or driving; so that Violet was never
many days without sight and speech of her mother and some of the other
dear ones at home; and that reconciled her to a longer absence from it.

At length the younger Elsie was persuaded to come and spend a few days
with Mary and her party, the mother consenting to spare both daughters
for that length of time. The sweet girl's presence added much to the
enjoyment of all, especially her sister, for their mutual attachment had
always been very strong.

One day there was a large fishing party, composed principally of guests
from other houses, which both Elsie and Violet declined to attend; but
Vi, fired with a laudable ambition to emulate her cousin Mary's skill in
the culinary art, volunteered to get dinner, and have it ready by the
time the others returned.

Each one of them offered to stay and assist, but she would not hear of
it; laughingly asserting that "she wanted all the honor and glory, and
wouldn't have anybody with her but Elsie, who knew nothing about
cooking, but would keep her from being 'lone and lorn,' and perhaps help
a little in those things which were so easy that even the lads could do
them," she concluded, with a merry glance from one to the other.

Edward was not there, some errand having taken him home by the morning
train.

"Can you stand that insinuation, Donald?" asked Charlie. "I vote that
you and I stay at home to-morrow and get dinner, just to prove our skill
in that line."

"Agreed," said Donald; "but what's to be done with the lasses in the
meantime? We can't let them go off pleasuring alone."

"Oh, Edward can take care of them all for once; he's to be back by
dinner-time to-day, you know, so will be on hand here to-morrow."

"Thank you," said Ella, laughing, and with a mock courtesy, "but we are
entirely capable of taking care of ourselves, as perhaps we may prove to
you one of these days. But here's the carriage at the gate. Come, Amy,
I'll help you in. Let us show these lords of creation that they are of
not quite so great importance as they are pleased to imagine."

She ran gayly out, Amy following a little more slowly, with a regretful
good-bye to the two who were to remain at home.

The lads hurried after, in season to forestall Ella in assisting Amy
into the vehicle, which the former had hastily entered unaided, before
they could reach it.

Mary lingered behind a moment to say to Elsie and Violet that she did
not in the least care to go, indeed would prefer to stay with them.

"No, no, cousin Mary," they both said, "we would not have you miss the
sport, or deprive the rest of the pleasure of your society."

"Besides," added Violet, with a merry look and smile, "if you were here
I know very well I should miss the opportunity to distinguish myself as
a capable and accomplished cook. So away with you, fair lady! See, the
lads are waiting to hand you into the carriage."

"Good-bye then, but don't attempt an elaborate dinner," Mary returned,
as she hastened away.

The sisters stood on the little porch watching the departure till the
carriage was out of sight.

Just then a boy carrying a large basket opened the gate and came in.

"That's right, you are just in good time," was Vi's greeting. "Please
carry them into the kitchen. Have you brought all I ordered?"

"Yes'm; potatoes, corn, beans, tomats, cabbage, lettuce, and young
beets. All right fresh and nice."

Violet paid him and he left.

"There, I shall have a sufficient variety of vegetables," she remarked,
viewing her purchase with satisfaction.

"O Vi," sighed Elsie, with a look of apprehension, "do you in the least
know what you are about?"

"Why of course, you dear old goosie! haven't I watched Cousin Mary's
cooking operations for over two weeks? Oh I assure you I'm going to have
a fine dinner! There's a chicken all ready for the oven--cousin showed
me how to make the stuffing and all that. I've engaged fresh fish and
oysters--they'll be coming in directly. I shall make an oyster pie and
broil the fish. I mean to make a boiled pudding and sauce for dessert,
and have bought nuts, raisins and almonds, oranges, bananas and candies
besides, and engaged ice cream and cake."

"Your bill of fare sounds very good, but what if you should fail in the
cooking?"

"Oh, no such word as fail for me!" laughed Vi. "I've screwed my courage
to the sticking place, and don't intend to fail. Now we must don our big
aprons and to work; you'll help me with the vegetables, I know."

"Willingly, if you'll show me how."

Violet felt very wise and important as she gave her older sister the
requested instruction, then went bustling about making her pudding and
pastry: for she decided to add tarts to her bill of fare, and the oyster
pie must have a very nice crust.

But as she proceeded with her preparations she discovered that her
knowledge was deficient in regard to many of the details of the business
in hand; she did not know exactly how much time to allow for the cooking
of each dish--how long it would take the chicken to roast, pie and tarts
to bake, pudding and vegetables to boil.

She grew anxious and nervous in her perplexity; there was no one to give
her the needed information, the cookery books did not supply it, and in
sheer desperation she filled her oven, her pots and kettles as fast as
possible, saying to Elsie it would surely be better to have food a
little overdone than not sufficiently cooked.

It proved an unfortunate decision, especially as the fishing party were
an hour later in returning than had been expected.

Poor Violet was too much mortified to eat when she discovered that there
was no sweetness left in the corn, that her potatoes were water-soaked,
her oysters tough as leather, the chicken scorched and very much
overdone, the fish burnt almost to a cinder, and--oh worst of all!
cooked with the scales on. She had forgotten they had any.

Her friends all comforted her, however, taking the blame on themselves.
"If they had not been so late, things would not have been so overdone;
it was their fault. And the lettuce, the cold-slaw, and bread and butter
were all very nice. The tarts too."

But as soon as she tasted them Violet knew she had forgotten the salt in
her crust and that it was tough compared to her Cousin Mary's.

And then the pudding! oh why did it turn out so heavy? Ah, she had made
it with sour milk and put in no soda.

"Oh what shall I do?" she said despairingly to Mary, who was helping her
to dish it up. "There's hardly anything fit to eat, and I know you are
all very hungry."

"Indeed, dear little coz, there is a great deal that's fit to eat,"
Mary said, glancing toward he table on which the last course was set
out--except the ice cream, which had not yet been taken out of the
freezer.

"Yes, those are nice, but the substantial of the meal--just what are
most needed--are all spoiled. Oh what's that?" with a sudden change of
tone as a man bearing a large hamper appeared at the open door;
"something from mamma, I do believe."

"Yes," said Edward, stepping in after the man as the latter set the
hamper down; "and as it's more than an hour past dinner time, I suppose
it's very well I didn't come empty handed."

"O Ned, Ned, you dear, good fellow!" cried Violet, springing to his side
and throwing her arms around his neck.

"Yes, you may well say that!" he returned, laughing, as he gave her a
kiss, then put her aside and stooped to open the basket, "for I told
mother what you were attempting to-day, and she said 'The poor, dear
child! she will surely fail, so I'll send some provisions with you when
you go.' And here they are, all of the best, of course, for mamma never
does anything by halves," he added, beginning to hand out the viands--a
pair of cold roast fowls, a boiled tongue, pickles, jellies, pies and
cakes in variety,--Mary and Vi receiving them with exclamations of
satisfaction, delight and thankfulness which quickly brought the others
upon the scene, just as the bearer of the hamper, who had gone out on
setting it down, re-entered with a basket of of beautiful, luscious
looking peaches and grapes.

"Hello!" exclaimed Charlie, in high glee, "what's all this? a second
dinner?"

"Yes," returned Violet, "my dear, good mother's atonement for her
conceited daughter's failure."

"No, no, we don't call it a failure, nor the cook conceited," cried a
chorus of voices; "some things are very nice, and others were spoiled by
our fault in coming home so late."

"Well, please come back to the table and we'll begin again," said
Violet, carrying the fowls into the dining-room, Mary following with the
tongue, Elsie and Ella with other edibles.

"Please, some of you, help me carry away dinner number one, to make room
for dinner number two," said Vi, replacing the dish containing her
unfortunate chicken with the one on which she had put the new arrivals.

Upon that everybody seized one or more of the dishes and hurried back to
the kitchen; and so with a great rushing to and fro and amid much
laughter and many merry jests they respread the board.

Violet's spirits and appetite had returned, and she joined the others in
making a hearty meal.

The next morning was cloudy and cool for the season. All agreed it was
just the day for a long stroll inland, and shortly after breakfast they
set out in a body--Mary, Ella and Edward leading the van, Donald and
Edward's two sisters coming next, Charlie and Amy bringing up the rear.

There seemed to be a tacit understanding that those two were always to
be together and no remark was ever made about it, but Charlie always
quietly took possession of the fragile little lady, just as if he had
entered into bonds to be her care-taker and entertainer, accommodating
his pace to hers, which was so much slower than that most natural to the
others that they often unintentionally left her far behind.

They presently met Mrs. Perkins, Fred and Susie, who were also starting
out for a walk, and the two parties joined their forces.

They passed through the village, and sat down for a little while on some
rustic benches under the trees on the river bank, to rest and enjoy the
pleasing prospect.

The village lay behind them; before, green slopes dotted here and there
with trees standing singly or in groups; then the sparkling river, to
the left, beyond the bridge, widening into a lake-like expanse, to the
right pouring its waters into the great ocean, on whose broad bosom many
ships, steamers and smaller craft could be seen, some near, others far
away in the distance.

The surface of the river too was enlivened by a number of small
sail-boats slowly moving before the wind, and skiffs that darted hither
and thither. On the further bank the scene was diversified by woods and
fields, with here and there a farm-house, then the sandy beach bordering
the wide blue sea.

"Are you quite tired out, Amy?" Charlie asked after a little.

"Oh no, I'm quite rested," she answered gayly, "and feel able to walk a
good deal farther. I am really surprised to find how strong and well I
am."

"The sea-shore's the place for you evidently," he said; then as she
sprang up nimbly to join the others as they rose and moved on again,
"But I don't know that it would be best to keep you here too long; you
might grow so strong as to feel capable of dispensing with any help from
other folks."

"Which would be very delightful indeed," she returned with an arch look
and smile as she accepted his offered arm.

They hastened on after the rest of their party, over a bridge and along
the roadside for some distance, then they all struck into a narrow
footpath on the farther side of the fence, the young men letting down
the bars to give the ladies easy ingress, and followed that through a
bit of woods, crossing a little stream by a broken bridge, where again
the lads had the pleasure of giving assistance to their companions of
the weaker sex; then across some cornfields; making a circuit that
brought them back to the river.

The path now ran along its bank, and still pursuing it they came at
length to a little inlet where was neither bridge nor boat.

There they stopped and held a consultation. No one wanted to go back by
the way they had come, it was too long and roundabout; if they could but
cross this inlet they could soon reach one of the life-saving stations
on the other side, and there probably find some one who would carry them
across the river in a boat, when a short walk along the beach would take
them to their temporary homes.

"The water is not deep, I think," said Donald. "I propose that we lads
strip off boots and stockings, wade through and carry the ladies over. I
will wade across first and try its depth."

He did so, spite of some protests from the more timid of the ladies, and
found it hardly knee-deep. All then agreed to his proposition.

"Edward and I will make a chair by clasping hands," he said gayly, "and
Fred and Charlie can do likewise if they will, and we will divide the
honor of carrying the ladies over dryshod."

Donald had a purpose in selecting Edward as his companion and helper in
the undertaking; feeling pretty certain that Elsie and Violet would
choose to be carried by their brother, which they did.

"I see through you, young man," Charlie said to Donald in a laughing
aside while making ready for the trip, "but I don't care very much, if
you leave Miss Fletcher for me."

"All right," returned Donald, "I intended to, for I see which way the
wind blows. She's light too, my lad, and will be the better suited to
your strength."

"Strength, man! I'm as able to lift and carry as Lieutenant Keith, if
I'm not greatly mistaken," Charlie said with pretended wrath, "and to
prove it I speak for the carrying of Mrs. Perkins and Miss Neff, who
must be a trifle heavier than any of the other ladies."

"All right; but fortunately there isn't one in the party heavy enough to
be any great burden to either of us."

So amid a good deal of mirth and laughter and some timidity and
shrinking on the part of the younger girls, the short journey was made,
and that without mishap or loss.

Then a short, though toilsome walk through the soft yielding sand
brought them to the life-saving station, a small two-story frame
building standing high on the sandy beach, the restless billows of old
ocean tossing and tumbling not many rods away.

They were courteously treated by the brave fellows who make this their
abode during eight months of the year, were shown the room on the lower
floor where they cook and eat, the two above where they sleep, and also
all the apparatus for saving the shipwrecked and any others who may be
in danger of drowning within reach of their aid.

Our friends were all greatly interested in looking at these things--the
colored lamps and flags for signalling, the life-boat, the breeches-buoy
and the life-car--this last especially: it was of metal, shaped like a
row-boat, but covered in over the top, except a square opening large
enough to admit one passenger at a time, and having a sliding door, the
closing of which, after the passengers are in, makes the car completely
water-tight.

"How many will it hold?" asked Edward.

"Six or seven grown folks, if they are not very large sized."

"Oh, I should think they would smother!" cried Violet.

"It is only about three or four minutes they'd have to stay in it," said
the exhibitor.

Then he showed them the thick, strong rope or hawser on which it
runs, and the mortar by means of which they send a line to the
distressed vessel with a tally-board attached on which are printed
directions--English on one side, French on the other--for the proper
securing of the hawser to the wreck.

"The other end is made fast on shore, I suppose?" said Amy inquiringly.

"Yes, Miss."

"And when they have made their end fast and got into the car--"

"Then we pull 'em ashore."

"Not a particularly pleasant ride to take, I imagine," remarked Donald.

"Not so very sir; she's apt to be tossed about pretty roughly by the big
waves; turn over several times, liker than not."

"Yes, I suppose so."

"Oh," cried Amy, with a shudder, "I think I'd almost rather drown."

"No, Miss," said the man, "I guess you'd find even that better'n
drowning."

Having fully satisfied their curiosity, our friends inquired if there
was anybody about there who would take them across the river.

"Yes, sir, I'll row you across, half of you at a time," answered the
man, addressing Donald, who had acted as spokesman for the party. "All
of you at once would be too big a load for the boat."

It was but a short walk to the river, a few minutes' row across it, and
soon they were all on the farther side and walking along the beach
toward home.

"Dinner time!" exclaimed Ella, looking at her watch. "What's to be done
about it?"

Her question seemed to be addressed to Mary.

"Don't ask me," was the demure reply. "It's none of my concern to-day.
Didn't you hear the agreement between Charlie and Don yesterday?"

"There! Mr. Charles Perrine, see the scrape you have got yourself and me
into!" exclaimed Donald with a perplexed and rueful look.

"What in the world are we to do!" cried Charlie, stopping short with his
hand upon the gate and turning so as to face the others.

"Get in out of the sun for the first thing," replied his cousin.

"Yes, yes, of course!" and he stepped back and held the gate open for
the ladies to pass in.

"We are all hungry as bears, I suppose," he said when they were fairly
in the house. "Come, Mary, be good and tell us what to do. Shall we go
to one of the hotels?"

"No, make the fire, set the table, and grind some coffee," she answered,
laughing. "I foresaw that I'd have to come to the rescue, and am
prepared. We'll have coffee, stewed oysters, cold fowl left from
yesterday, plenty of good bread, rolls and butter, fruits and cake, and
it won't take many minutes to get it ready."

"Mary, you're a jewel!" Charlie returned, catching her about the waist
and kissing her on both cheeks.

"Begone, you impertinent fellow!" she said laughingly as she released
herself and pushed him away. "Even a cousin shouldn't take such
liberties."



CHAPTER XXIV.

    "O pilot! 'tis a fearful night,
     There's danger on the deep."
                              --_Bayly._


Elsie had gone home, and in a few days our little party would break up
entirely, Ella and Amy return to their homes, Mary, Donald and Charlie
go with Edward and Violet to their mother's cottage to spend some time
as Mrs. Travilla's guests.

The Allisons had gone, and there was now abundance of room, though the
Conlys, mother and daughter, still lingered, loath to leave the
delightful sea breezes.

The quiet life led under her cousin Elsie's roof was not much to
Virginia's taste, but nothing better had offered as yet.

Breakfast was over, the morning tasks the girls had set themselves were
all done, and the whole four came trooping out upon the porch where the
three lads were standing apparently very intent upon some object out at
sea.

Edward was looking through a spy-glass, which he handed to Donald just
as the girls joined them, saying, "See if you can make out the name."

"Not quite, but she is certainly a yacht," was Donald's reply, after a
moment's steady gaze at one of the many vessels within sight; for they
had counted more than forty of various sorts and sizes, some outward
bound, others coming in. The one which so excited their interest was
drawing nearer.

"Let me look," said Mary. "I have the reputation of being very
far-sighted."

Donald handed her the glass and pointed out the vessel.

She sighted it, and in another moment said, "Yes, I can read the
name--'The Curlew.'"

"Ah, ha!" cried Edward in a very pleased tone, "I was correct; it is
Will Tallis's yacht."

"And really it looks as if he meant to call at Ocean Beach," added
Charlie. "Must have heard, Ned, that you and I are here."

"Doubtless," laughed Edward.

"Will Tallis?" repeated Violet inquiringly. "Is he a friend of yours,
Edward?"

"Why, yes; have you never heard me speak of him? He's a splendid fellow,
one whom I should very willingly introduce to my mother and sisters."

"And has a yacht of his own?"

"Yes; he's very rich, and delights in being on the sea. Inherits the
taste, I suppose; his father was a sea-captain. He told us--Charlie and
me--that he meant to go yachting this season, and wished he could
persuade us to go with him."

"And I, for one, should like nothing better," said Charlie. "Why, Ned,
he is coming ashore! See, they have dropped anchor and are putting off
from the yacht in a boat! Yes, here they come, pulling straight for this
beach. Where's my hat? Let's run down, boys, and meet them as they
land!" cried the lad, greatly excited.

Amy had found his hat and silently handed it to him. Edward and Donald
seized theirs, and all three rushed to the beach.

"Come, girls," said Ella, "let us go too; why should we miss the fun, if
there is to be any?"

They put on their hats, took their sun-umbrellas, and started. They
however went only as far as to the sidewalk in front of the Colorado
House--so many people were thronging the beach to witness the landing,
which was now evidently to take place just below there, and our modest,
refined young ladies did not like to be in a crowd.

Mrs. Perkins and Susie joined them. Fred was away; had gone over to New
York, expecting to return by the evening train.

"Not much to be seen by us but the waves and the crowd," remarked Ella,
a little impatiently. "Nor much to be heard but the murmur of their
voices."

"They must have landed, I think," Mrs. Perkins said. "Yes, here they
come; our lads, I mean, and a stranger with them. A very nice looking
fellow he is, too."

The four young men drew near, and Edward introduced "My friend, Mr.
Tallis," to the ladies.

He was very gentlemanly in appearance, and had a pleasant, open
countenance, a cordial, hearty manner as he shook hands with the
matronly married lady and lifted his hat to the younger ones.

"I am happy to make your acquaintance, ladies," he said, with a genial
smile and an admiring glance at Violet, "and have come to ask the
pleasure of your company on board my yacht. I am bound for Boston and
the coasts of New Hampshire and Maine--a short sea-voyage which I trust
you will find enjoyable if I can but persuade you to try it."

Mrs. Perkins declined, with thanks, for herself and Susie. Violet did
likewise. The other three hesitated, but finally yielded to the
persuasions of the lads.

"O Edward, you will not go, surely?" whispered Violet, drawing her
brother aside.

"And why not?" he returned with some impatience.

"Because you haven't mamma's consent, or grandpa's either."

"No, but that's only because they are not here to give it. I'm sure
there's nothing objectionable. Will's the very sort of fellow they would
approve, the vessel is new and strong, and the captain and crew
understand their business."

"But a storm might come up."

"Why, Vi, how silly! there's no appearance of a storm, and we are not
intending to go far out to sea. Besides, you might just as well bring
that objection to any trip by sea."

"Yes; but if you had mamma's consent it would be different."

"I don't see that. I'd ask it, of course, if I could--and be sure to get
it, too, I think--but there isn't time; they don't want to lose this
favorable wind and fine weather, and will be off again within an hour.
Come, make up your mind to go with us: I want you along, for I think it
will be a delightful little voyage."

"Thank you, brother, but I don't wish to go, and couldn't enjoy it if I
went without mamma's knowledge and consent: and I do wish you would not
go."

"Vi, I never knew you so absurd and unreasonable! But if you will not go
along, perhaps I ought to stay to take care of you. I had not thought of
that before. Mother left you in my charge, but I am sure she would not
want me to lose this pleasure, and it strikes me as a trifle selfish in
you to make it necessary for me to do so."

"I don't want you to stay on my account," she said, tears springing to
her eyes, "and I don't think you need. I can go home this afternoon by
the cars. Probably mamma would not mind my taking so short a ride
alone."

"I don't know: but I should enjoy the voyage far more with you along."

"What is the matter?" asked Mrs. Perkins, overhearing a part of the
talk. "I will take charge of your sister, Mr. Travilla, if she prefers
to stay behind."

"Thank you," Edward responded with brightening countenance. "But--Vi,
you will not care to bathe while we are gone?"

"No, Ned, I shall not go in without you, as mamma desired me not."

"And you are willing for me to go?"

"Not quite; I wish you wouldn't; only don't stay to take care of me."

Edward looked a good deal vexed and annoyed.

"Mrs. Perkins," he said, turning to her, "if Fred were here, would you
object to his going?"

"No, not at all. I should leave him to follow his own inclination. But,"
as Edward turned triumphantly to Violet, "I am not meaning to encourage
you to go, if your sister thinks your mother might object: all mothers
do not see alike, you know."

"Well," he said, "I imagine I am as competent a judge of that as Violet
is. I feel well-nigh certain that she would bid me go and enjoy myself.
She's not one of the fussy kind of mothers who are afraid to let their
children stir out of their sight."

"Then you will go?" said Mr. Tallis.

"Yes," Edward answered, resolutely avoiding Violet's pleading looks.

"I wish we could persuade your sister," Mr. Tallis said, turning to her.
"Are you timid about venturing on the sea, Miss Travilla?"

"Not particularly," she said, coloring slightly.

"Then do come with us! the more the merrier, you know, and I should be
so happy. I do not feel quite comfortable to carry off all the rest of
your party and leave you alone."

The girls joined their entreaties to his, but Violet was firm in her
resolution to remain on shore.

Then Mary offered to stay with her, but as Violet felt convinced that it
would involve a sacrifice on her cousin's part, she would not consent.

They now all hastened back to the cottage to make such preparations as
might be needful. It was not much to any of them, as they expected to
return the next day or the one following.

"Edward, can I be of any assistance to you?" Violet asked, going to the
door of his room.

"Yes, if you like to pack this valise. Maybe you would do it better than
I. I'm alone, so come in."

Violet accepted the invitation, and did the little service quite to his
satisfaction.

"You are a nice, handy girl, if I do say it that shouldn't," he remarked
laughingly. "But what's the matter?" as he saw that her eyes were full
of tears.

"O Edward, don't go away vexed with me!" she exclaimed, putting an arm
around his neck. "Suppose a storm should come up, and--and we should
never see each other again."

The last words came with an irrepressible burst of tears and sobs. The
loving young heart was sore from recent bereavement, and ready to fear
for all its dear ones.

"Come, don't fret about possibilities," he said, kindly. "I'm not vexed
now, and you must forgive me for calling you selfish."

"You don't think I am?"

"No, indeed! but just the darlingest little sister ever a fellow had. I
shouldn't like--if anything should happen--to have you remember that as
one of the last things I had said to you. No, I was the selfish one. Now
good-bye, and don't worry about me," he said, holding her close, and
kissing her several times; "you know, Vi dear, that we are under the
same protecting care on sea and on land."

"Yes," she whispered, but with some hesitation, and drawing a deep sigh.

"Ah!" he said, "you doubt whether I shall be taken care of because I'm
going without permission. Are you not forgetting that we have always
been trained to think and decide for ourselves in all cases where it is
right and proper for us to do so? And why should I need permission to go
on the sea in a yacht any more than in a fishing-boat? Can you answer me
that?" he concluded, half laughingly.

"No," she said, with a slight smile, "and I daresay you are in the right
about it."

"Then you won't change your mind ('tis a woman's privilege, you know)
and go along? It's not yet too late."

"No, thank you; I do not care to claim all the woman's privileges yet,"
she answered with playful look and tone.

"Hello, Ned! 'most ready?" shouted Charlie from below. "Time's about
up."

They went down at once.

The other girls were on the porch quite ready to start, Donald standing
with them. Mrs. Perkins and Susie could be descried down on the beach
waiting to see them off; Mr. Tallis too, chatting with the ladies.

The young men gathered up the ladies' satchels and their own. Charlie
offered his arm to Amy, but she declined it with a laughing assurance
that she was now strong enough to walk without support.

"Miss Neff," he sighed, turning to Ella, "I've lost my situation: will
you?"

"And you and the rest of us will, maybe, lose something else if we don't
hurry," she answered lightly. "'Time and tide wait for no man,' so let
us make haste before they fail us."

These three were very merry, the other three sober almost to absolute
quietness as they made their way to the waiting boat.

Edward kissed his sister again as he was about to step into it, and she
clung to his neck for a moment whispering, "Ah, I shall pray that you
may come back safely!"

"Don't borrow trouble, you dear little goose," he said, as he let her
go.

At the last moment it appeared that Donald was not going.

There were various exclamations of surprise and disappointment from the
voyagers when his purpose to remain behind became apparent, "They had
understood he was going--why did he change his mind?"

"Well," he said, with a quiet smile, "a man is not bound to give all his
reasons, but the fact is Mrs. Perkins has held out strong inducements to
me to stay where I am."

"And he couldn't be in better company, could he?" was her laughing
addition.

Violet was as much taken by surprise as the others, but in her secret
heart not at all sorry--"It would be so much less lonely with Cousin
Donald there."

They stood on the beach, waving their handkerchiefs to their departing
friends until the latter had reached the deck of the yacht. Nor did they
cease to watch the vessel so long as the smallest portion of it was
visible, as it faded quite out of sight.

Violet felt a strong inclination to indulge in a hearty cry, but putting
a determined restraint upon herself, chatted cheerfully instead. Yet her
friends perceived her depression and exerted themselves for her
entertainment.

"It seems to me," Donald said, with a glance at Violet, but addressing
Mrs. Perkins, as they went into a summer house near by and sat down,
"that this little lady has less of inquisitiveness than most people--(I
will not say most of her sex, for I think my own is by no means
deficient in the characteristic)--or she would have made some inquiry in
regard to the strong inducements I spoke of."

"What were they?" Violet asked. "You have roused my sleeping curiosity."

"Mrs. Perkins has kindly offered to come to the cottage and help us with
our housekeeping while the rest of the lads and lassies are away, and
to bring Miss Susie and her brother with her."

Vi's face lighted up with pleasure. "It is very kind," she said. "Now I
shall not mind the absence of the others half so much as I had expected.
I like my little room at the cottage, and do not fancy living in a crowd
as I must anywhere else."

"Then you will not go home?" Donald said, inquiringly.

"No; upon second thought I have decided against that plan, because if I
did go I must tell mamma how it happened, and then if a storm should
come up she would be tortured with useless anxiety about my brother."

"You are very thoughtful of your mother."

"As any one would be who had such a mother as ours, Cousin Donald."

"She is certainly very lovely and lovable," he said. "Now about our
meals, cousin. Do you object to taking them in a crowd? at one of the
public houses here?"

"No; I think it the least of two evils," she answered, with a smile,
"for I own to being somewhat tired of the fun of housework and cooking."

"Then we will settle upon that plan," Mrs. Perkins said; "sleep and live
at the cottage, breakfast, dine and sup elsewhere."

Mrs. Perkins was a very good talker, full of general information,
anecdote and entertaining reminiscences, a delightful companion even to
one as young as Violet.

Time passed swiftly to them all. Life at the cottage, because it took
them out of the crowd, was more enjoyable than that at the hotels, which
were all very full at this season, and as a consequence, very noisy.

The cottage seemed very peaceful and quiet by contrast. Indeed it was
far quieter now than it had been at any time in the past two or three
weeks, and Violet, who was beginning to weary of so much sport and
mirthfulness, really found the change agreeable.

By the middle of the afternoon of the next day they began to watch for
the reappearance of the Curlew; but night closed in again without the
sight.

There was a very fresh and stormy breeze from the north-east when they
went to bed. In the morning it blew almost a gale, and as Violet's eyes
turned seaward her face wore a very anxious expression.

"No sign of the Curlew yet," she sighed, as she stood at the parlor
window gazing out upon the wind-tossed billows, plunging, leaping,
roaring, foaming as if in furious passion.

"No; and we may well thank God that we do not," said Donald's voice
close at her side, "for the wind is just in the quarter to drive them
ashore: I hope they are giving the land a wide berth."

She looked up into his face with frightened eyes.

"Do not be alarmed," he said; "let us not anticipate evil. They may be
safe in port somewhere; and at all events we know who rules the winds
and waves."

"Yes," she murmured, in low tremulous tones, "the stormy wind fulfils
His word: and no real evil shall befall any of His children."

There was a moment of silence; then, "It is about breakfast time now,"
he said, "but you will not venture out in this gale, surely? Shall I not
have your meal sent in to you?"

"Thank you, but I prefer to make the effort to go," she said; "I want to
get a nearer view of the sea."

The others felt the same desire, and presently they all started out
together.

The ladies found it as much as they could do to keep their feet even
with the assistance of their stronger companions, and the great,
wind-driven waves sometimes swept across the sidewalk.

It was clearly dangerous, if not impossible, to approach nearer to the
surging waters. The gale was increasing every moment, the sky had grown
black with clouds and distant mutterings of thunder, and an occasional
lightning flash gave warning that the worst was yet to come. Evidently
it would be no day for outdoor exercise or amusement.

Regaining the cottage with difficulty, after eating their breakfast they
brought out books, games and fancy work, resolved to make the best of
circumstances. Yet anxious as they were for the fate of their friends,
the voyagers in the yacht, they did little but gaze out upon the sea,
looking for the Curlew, but glad that neither she nor any other vessel
was in sight.

The Curlew's cabin was comfortably, even luxuriously furnished, her
larder well supplied with all the delicacies of the season. Favored with
beautiful weather and propitious winds, our friends found their first
day out from Ocean Beach most enjoyable.

They passed the greater part of their time on deck, now promenading, now
reclining in extension chairs, chatting, laughing, singing to the
accompaniment of flute and violin; the one played by Edward, the other
by Charlie.

The yacht was a swift sailer, her motion easy, and until the afternoon
of the second day they were scarcely troubled with sea-sickness. Most of
the time they kept within sight of land, touching at Boston, Portsmouth,
and several other of the New England seaports, and continuing on their
course until the wind changed, when they turned, with the purpose of
going directly back to Ocean Beach.

For some hours all went well, a stiff breeze carrying them rapidly in
the desired direction; but it grew stronger and shifted to a dangerous
quarter, while the rough and unsteady motion of the vessel made all the
passengers so sea-sick that they began to heartily wish themselves safe
on land.

The ladies grew frightened, but the captain assured them there was as
yet little cause for alarm. He had shortened sail and put out to sea,
fearing the dangers of the coast.

But the wind increased constantly until by night it was blowing a gale,
and though every stitch of canvas had been taken in and furled, they
were being driven landward.

All night long the seamen fought against the storm, striving to keep out
to sea, but conscious that their efforts were nearly futile. There was
little sleep that night for passengers or crew.

Morning broke amid a heavy storm of rain, accompanied by thunder and
lightning, while the wind seemed to have redoubled its fury, blowing
directly toward the shore.

The girls, conscious that they were in peril of shipwreck, had gone to
their berths without undressing. Amy had been very sick all night, and
the other two, who stood it better, had done their best to wait upon
her, though it was little that could be done for her relief, and the
pitching and rolling of the vessel frequently threw them with violence
against each other or the furniture.

"It is morning," said Ella at length; "see, it grows light in spite of
the storm; and I hear voices in the saloon. Shall I open the door?"

"Yes," said Mary, "let us learn the worst, and try to be prepared for
it."

The three young men were in the saloon, and the girls joined them, Amy
looking like the ghost of herself.

Charlie, who had stationed himself near her door, instantly gave her the
support of his arm, putting it about her waist, while he held fast to
the furniture with the other hand, and her head dropped on his shoulder.

With death staring them in the face they did not care for the eyes of
their companions in peril: who, indeed, were too full of the danger and
solemnity of their own position to pay any attention to the matter.

"O darling," Charlie said hoarsely, "if I could only put you safe on
shore!"

"Never mind," she answered, looking lovingly into his eyes, "if we die,
we shall die together; and O Charlie, as we both trust in Jesus, it will
only be going home together to be 'forever with the Lord,' never, never
to part again!"

"Yes, there's comfort in that," he said; "and if you are to go, I'm glad
I'm here to go with you. But life is sweet, Amy, and we will not give up
hope yet."

Mary and Edward had clasped hands, each gazing silently into the sad and
anxious face of the other.

She was thinking of her invalid mother, her father, brothers and
sisters, and how they would miss her loving ministrations.

He too thought of his tender mother so lately widowed, her sorrow over
the loss of her first-born son; and of other dear ones, especially
Violet, away from all the rest, the only one conscious of his danger. He
was glad now that she had refused to come with them, but he knew the
terrible anxiety she must feel, the almost heart-breaking sorrow his
loss and the sight of their mother's grief would be to her.

"Mr. Tallis, I know we must be in great danger," Ella said, as he took
her hand to help her to a seat. "Is there any hope at all?"

"Oh surely, Miss Neff!" he replied; "we will not give up hope yet,
though we are indeed in fearful peril. The greatest danger is that we
shall be driven ashore; but we are still some distance off the coast,
and the wind may change or lull sufficiently for an anchor to hold when
we are in water shallow enough for trying that expedient. And even
should we be wrecked, there will be still a chance for us in the good
offices of the members of the life-saving service."

"Ah, yes," she said, a gleam of hope shining in her eyes, "the brave
fellows will not leave us to perish if they can help us."

"And we will put our trust in God," added Mary.

What a day it was to them all, the storm raging throughout the whole of
it with unabated fury, and their hope of escape from the dangers of the
deep growing less and less.

The patrolmen were out, and toward sundown one of them descried the
masts of a vessel far away in the distance. It was seen by others also,
for all day long many glasses had been, at frequent intervals, sweeping
the whole field of vision seaward.

The news spread like wildfire, creating a great excitement among the
multitude of people gathered in the hotels and boarding-houses, as well
as among the dwellers by the sea, not excepting the brave surfmen whose
aid was likely to be in speedy requisition.

Hundreds of pairs of eyes watched the vessel battling with the storm,
yet spite of every effort sweeping nearer and nearer the dreadful
breakers. She seemed doomed to destruction, but darkness fell while yet
she was too far away for recognition.

Violet and her companions had gazed upon her with fast beating hearts
from the time of her appearance until they could no longer catch the
faintest outline of her figure in the gathering gloom.

Donald had nearly satisfied himself of her identity, but would not for
any consideration have had Violet know that he believed her to be the
Curlew. Even without that confirmation of her fears, the anxiety of the
poor child was such that it was painful to witness.

It was indeed the Curlew, and about the time she was descried by those
on land the captain remarked aside to her owner, "The Jersey shore is in
sight, Mr. Tallis, and nothing short of a miracle can save us from
wreck, for we are driving right on to it in spite of all that can be
done. The Curlew is doomed, she has dragged her anchor, and will be in
the breakers before many hours."

"It will be a heavy loss to me, captain," was the reply, "but if all our
lives are saved I shall not grumble; shall on the contrary be filled
with thankfulness."

"Well, sir, we'll hope for the best," was the cheerful rejoinder.

Soon all on board knew the full extent of the danger, and our young
friends gave themselves to solemn preparation for eternity; also, in
view of the possibility of some being saved while others were lost,
made an exchange of parting messages to absent loved ones.

It was again a sleepless night to them; sleepless to our Ocean Beach
friends at the cottage also, and to many others whose hearts were filled
with sympathy for those in the doomed vessel.

About midnight the report of a signal gun of distress sent all rushing
to the beach. She had struck, not a quarter of a mile from the shore;
and as the clouds broke away the dark outline of her hull could be
distinctly discerned among the foam-tipped breakers.

The rain had ceased, and there was a slight lull in the tempest of wind,
so that it was possible to stand on the beach; but so furious still was
the action of the waves that the patrolman, having instantly answered
the gun by burning his signal-light, and now rushing in among his mates,
reported that the surf-boat could not be used.

So the mortar-car was ordered out.

There was not an instant's delay. Gallantly the men bent to their work,
dragged the car toilsomely over the low sand-hills to a spot directly
opposite the wreck, and by the light of a lantern placed it and every
part of the apparatus--the shot-line box, hauling lines and hawser for
running, with the breeches-buoy attached--in position, put the tackles
in place ready for hauling, and with pick and spade dug a trench for
the sand anchor.

Each man having his particular part of the work assigned him, and
knowing exactly what he was to do and how to do it, and all acting
simultaneously, the whole thing was accomplished in a short space of
time after reaching the desired spot.

An anxious, excited crowd was looking on. Apart from the throng and a
little higher up the beach were our friends, Fred in charge of his
mother and Susie, Donald with Violet under his protection.

She had begged so hard to come, "because it might be the Curlew, so how
could she stay away?" that he had no heart to resist her entreaties. And
he felt that she would be safe in his care, while Mrs. Perkins' presence
made it perfectly proper.

All being in readiness the gun was fired, and the shot flew through the
rigging of the ill-fated vessel.

Edward, now standing on her deck, understood just what was to be done,
and no time was lost. With a glad shout, heard by those on shore, the
line was seized by the sailors and rapidly hauled in.

Ere long the hawser was stretched straight and taut between the beach
and the wreck--the shore end being raised several feet in the air by
the erection of a wooden crotch--and the breeches-buoy was ready to be
drawn to and fro upon it.

"Will you try it first, sir?" the captain of the Curlew said to Mr.
Tallis.

"No, I should be the last man to leave the wreck."

"Go, go, Will!" cried Edward imperatively; "go and tell them to send the
life-car, for there are ladies to be saved."

"Yes, go sir; don't waste precious time in disputing," cried the
captain; and thus urged the young man went.

He reached the shore in safety, was welcomed with a glad shout, and
instantly the word circulated among the crowd, "The owner of the Curlew.
It is she."

Violet had nearly fallen fainting to the ground, but Donald, supporting
her with his arm said in her ear, "Courage, my brave lassie! and they
shall all be saved."

"Take care of my mother and sister for a moment, Keith!" exclaimed Fred,
and plunging into the crowd he quickly made his way to the side of the
rescued man.

"This way, if you please," he said, touching him on the shoulder; "a
lady, Miss Travilla, would be glad to speak to you."

"Oh, yes! I know!" and all dripping and panting as he was, but having
already delivered his message, and seen the men on the way for the
safety-car, he went to her.

"It is Mr. Tallis," Fred said; "Miss Travilla, my mother and sister, and
Mr. Keith," for it was too dark for a distinct view of each other's
faces.

"My brother?" faltered Violet, holding out her hand.

"Is uninjured thus far, my dear young lady, and I trust will be with you
in a few minutes. The vessel must, I presume, go to pieces finally, but
will undoubtedly hold together long enough for all on board to be
brought safely to shore."

Men from among the crowd had volunteered to assist in bringing the car,
and while awaiting its coming the breeches-buoy travelled back and
forth, bringing the sailors; for neither Edward nor Charlie would leave
the ladies, and the captain insisted that he should be the last man to
be rescued.

From the hour of their early morning meeting in the saloon the Curlew's
passengers were almost constantly together, a very sober, solemn, and
nearly silent company. Mary, in speaking of it afterward, said she felt
as if she were attending her own funeral and listening to the sighs and
sobs of her bereaved friends.

"And yet," she added with a bright, glad smile, "it was not all sadness
and gloom; for the consolations of God were not small with me, and the
thought of soon being with Christ in glory was at times very sweet."

When the vessel struck, Charlie started up with a sharp cry, "We are
lost!"

Then all immediately fell on their knees while Edward poured out a
fervent prayer, that they might be saved from a watery grave, if such
were the will of God, if not, prepared for death and a glorious
immortality; adding a final petition for the dear ones who would grieve
for their loss.

Just as they rose from their knees the signal gun was fired.

Then the captain came down the companionway and looking in upon them,
said. "Don't despair ladies and gentlemen; things are not quite so bad
as they might be; we have grounded very near the shore and a life-saving
station, and my signal gun was immediately replied to by the patrolman
with his red signal light. So we may feel assured that prompt and
efficient help is near at hand."

Hope revived in their breasts, as they listened; then Will Tallis and
Edward ventured upon deck, leaving the girls in Charlie's charge.

The warning lights on shore gave to the anxious watchers on the deck an
inkling of what was being done for their relief, and when the shot was
fired from the mortar and came whizzing through the rigging, Edward
cried out in delight. "The line, the line! Now we shall be helped
ashore!"

As the vessel was now without motion, save a shiver as now and again a
great wave struck her, the girls were pretty comfortable and in no
immediate danger, and as they urged it, Charlie, too, at length ventured
upon deck.

He soon returned with an encouraging report, the better understood by
the girls because of their late visit to the life-saving station. "The
sailors were hauling in the line," he said, and soon the work of
transporting them all to land would begin.

Amy shuddered at the thought of a ride in the life-car, yet, as the
surfman had predicted, felt that even that would be far preferable to
drowning.

The next report brought them was of Mr. Tallis's safe landing, and the
next that the life-car waited for them.

Edward, the captain, and two sailors helped Mary and Ella across the
wind-swept deck and into the car, Charlie and another sailor following
with Amy.

They put her in after the other two and Charlie stepped in next, calling
to Edward to come also.

"No," was the quiet reply. "I go by the breeches-buoy."

The sliding door was hastily shut, and Amy gasped for breath as she
felt the car gliding swiftly along the hawser, while the great waves
dashed over it, rocking it from side to side.

Charlie's arm was round her, holding her close, but she grew deathly
sick and fainted quite away.

The minutes seemed hours, but at last they heard, above the thunder of
the breaking waves, a great shout, and at the same instant felt the car
grate upon the sand.

The door was pushed open, Charlie, the nearest to it, stepped out, drew
Amy after him, apparently more dead than alive, and leaving it to others
to assist Mary and Ella, bore her in his arms, in almost frantic haste,
to the nearest house.

Mary was in Vi's arms almost before she knew that she had actually
reached shore; Vi kissing her with tears and sobs, and crying, "Edward,
Edward, where is he?"

"Coming," Mary said, "the brave, generous fellow would see us all safe
first."

It was not long now till Violet's anxiety was fully relieved and her
heart sending up glad thanksgivings as she found herself clasped to her
brother's breast, all dripping wet though he was.

And great was the joy of the young owner of the Curlew when he learned
that though she was a total wreck, not a single soul had been lost in
her.



CHAPTER XXV.

    "Those that he loved so long and sees no more,
     Loved and still loves,--not dead, but gone before,--
       He gathers round him."
                                                 --_Rogers._


The morning was but dull and dreary, for though the storm had spent
itself, the sky was obscured with clouds and the sea still wrought
tempestuously; but its sullen roar may, perchance, have been as
favorable to the prolonged slumbers of our worn-out friends, whom the
tempest had robbed of so many hours of their accustomed sleep, as the
lack of brightness in the sky and atmosphere.

However that may have been, most of them, retiring about dawn of day,
slept on till noon, or near it.

In Mrs. Travilla's cottage the family gathered round the breakfast table
at the usual hour.

The meal was nearly concluded when a servant brought in the morning
paper and handed it to Mr. Dinsmore.

"I fear that brings news of many disasters caused by the storm,
especially on the Atlantic seaboard," remarked his daughter as he took
it up.

"Altogether likely," was his rejoinder. Then as he ran his eye down the
long list of casualties, "Why, what is this?" he exclaimed, and went on
to read aloud.

"Went ashore last night at Ocean Beach, the Curlew, a pleasure yacht
belonging to W. V. Tallis; Captain Collins. She is a total wreck, but no
lives were lost, passengers and crew being taken off by the men of
Life-Saving Station No. --. List of passengers, Mr. W. V. Tallis, Mr.
Edward Travilla, Mr. Charles Perrine, Miss Mary Keith, Miss Amy
Fletcher, and Miss Ella Neff."

There was a moment of astonished silence, then "Violet!" gasped the
mother, turning deathly pale.

"She was evidently not on board," Mr. Dinsmore hastened to reply, "or
else her name was carelessly omitted in the list, for it says
distinctly, 'No lives were lost.'"

"I hope you are right, Horace," Mrs. Conly remarked, "but if she were my
child I shouldn't have any peace till I knew all about it."

"There isn't the least probability that if a life had been lost the
reporter would have failed to say so," returned Mr. Dinsmore with some
severity of tone.

"Of course you are in the right, Horace, you always are," she said,
bridling.

"Well," remarked Virginia, "I'm astonished, I must own, that such
pattern good children should go off on such an expedition without so
much as saying by your leave to either mother or guardian."

"I have just said that I am morally certain Violet did not go," said Mr.
Dinsmore.

"And I do not blame Edward that he did," added the mother in her sweet,
gentle tones; "he is old enough now to decide such matters for himself
in the absence of his natural guardians. Also he knows me well enough to
judge pretty correctly whether I would approve or not, and I should not
have objected had I been there."

"Shall we drive over and see about the children?" asked her father.

"Yes, papa, if you please, and let us start as soon as the necessary
arrangements can be made."

Violet had scarcely completed her morning toilet, though it was a little
past noon, when glancing from the window she saw a carriage at the gate
and her grandfather in the act of assisting her mother to alight from
it.

With a low, joyous exclamation, she flew to meet and welcome them.

"Mamma, mamma! I am so glad, so glad you have come!"

"My darling, my darling! Thank God that I have you safe in my arms!" the
mother said, holding her close with kisses and tears. "What is this I
hear of danger and shipwreck?"

"It is a long story, mamma; but we are all safe. Edward, Charlie, and
the girls are still sleeping, I believe, for they were worn out with
anxiety and the loss of two nights' rest."

"And you, dear child?"

"Was not with them, but of course slept but little last night--indeed
not at all until after daybreak, when they were all safe on shore--and
have only just risen."

"Then we will hear the story after you have breakfasted," her
grandfather said.

They did not get the whole of it, however, until Edward joined them, an
hour or two later. It was to them a deeply interesting and thrilling
account that he gave. He had also much to say in Violet's praise, but
was relieved and gratified to learn that neither mother nor grandfather
blamed him for the course he had taken. He brought in his friend Tallis
and introduced him, and was glad to see that the impression on both
sides was favorable.

Edward had already urged Tallis to pay him a visit, and Mr. Dinsmore and
Elsie repeated the invitation. But the young man declined it for the
present, on the plea that the loss of his vessel made it necessary for
him to give his attention to some pressing business matters.

Elsie proposed taking her son and daughter home with her, and they were
nothing loath. She would have had all the rest of the young party come
at once to her cottage and remain as long as they found it agreeable to
do so, but all declined with thanks however, except Donald, Mary and
Charlie, who promised to come in a few days. Amy was not quite able to
travel; they would stay with her until she was sufficiently recruited to
undertake the journey to her own home. Charlie would see her and Ella
safely there, and follow Mary to the cottage home of the Travillas.

Before leaving Ocean Beach, Elsie and her father visited the life-saving
station, and the latter insisted upon bestowing a generous reward upon
each of the brave surfmen. Also he contributed largely to the making
good their losses to the poor shipwrecked sailors.

Most joyously was the return of Edward and Violet welcomed by
grandmother, brothers and sisters. Edward was the hero of the hour,
especially with Harold and Herbert, who in fact quite envied him his
adventure now that it was safely over.

Violet found home and its beloved occupants dearer and more delightful
than ever. The presence there of her aunt and cousin seemed the only
drawback upon her felicity; yet that occasionally proved a serious one
to both herself and "Cousin Donald," with whom Virginia was determined
to get up a flirtation.

He did not admire her and would not fall in with her plans, perceiving
which she turned against him, became his bitter foe, and made him and
Violet both uncomfortable by sly hints that he was seeking her; and that
simply because she was an heiress.

Old Mr. Dinsmore had gone to visit his daughter Adeline and most
sincerely did Violet wish that "Aunt Louise" and Virginia would follow.

Mrs. Travilla was, as we have said, living a very retired life, not
mingling in general society at all, but an old friend of her husband and
father, who had been a frequent and welcome guest at the Oaks and Ion,
had taken up his temporary residence at a hotel near by, and now and
then joined their party on the beach or dropped in at the cottage for a
friendly chat with Mr. Dinsmore.

Sometimes Mrs. Travilla was present and took part in the conversation;
once or twice it had happened that they had been alone together for a
few moments. She neither avoided intercourse with the gentleman nor
sought it; though he was a widower and much admired by many of her sex.

Perhaps Mrs. Conly and Virginia were the only persons who had any
sinister thoughts in connection with the matter; but they, after the
manner of the human race, judged others by themselves.

One day Violet accidentally overheard a little talk between them that
struck her first with indignation and astonishment, then with grief and
dismay.

"What brings Mr. Ford here, do you suppose, mamma?" inquired Virginia,
in a sneering tone.

"What a question, Virginia, for a girl of your sense!" replied her
mother, "he's courting Elsie, of course. Isn't she a rich and beautiful
widow? I had almost added young, for she really looks hardly older than
her eldest daughter."

"Well, do you think he'll succeed?"

"Yes, I do; sooner or later. He is certainly a very attractive man, and
she can't be expected to live single all the rest of her days. But what
a foolish will that was of Travilla's--leaving everything in her hands!"

"Why, mamma?"

"Because Ford may get it all into his possession and make way with it by
some rash speculation. Men often do those things."

Violet was alone in a little summer-house in the garden, back of the
cottage, with a book. She had been very intent upon it until roused by
the sound of the voices of her aunt and cousin, who had been pacing up
and down the walk and now paused for an instant close to her, though a
thick growth of vines hid her from sight.

They moved on with Mrs. Conly's last word, and the young girl sprang to
her feet, her cheeks aflame, her eyes glittering, her small hand
clenched till the nails sank into the soft flesh. "How dare they talk so
of mamma! and papa too, dear, dear papa!" she exclaimed half aloud; then
her anger and grief found vent in a burst of bitter weeping as she cast
herself down upon the seat from which she had risen, and bowed her head
upon her hands.

The storm of feeling was so violent that she did not hear a light,
approaching footstep, did not know that any one was near until she felt
herself taken into loving arms that clasped her close, while her mamma's
sweet voice asked in tenderest tones, "my poor darling, what can have
caused you such distress?"

"Mamma, mamma, don't ask me! please don't ask me!" she cried, hiding her
blushing, tearful face on her mother's bosom.

"Has my dear Vi then secrets from her mother?" Elsie asked in tones of
half reproachful tenderness.

"Only because it would distress you to know, dearest mamma. Oh I could
not bear to hurt you so!" sobbed the poor girl.

"Still tell me, dearest" urged the mother. "Nothing could hurt me so
sorely as the loss of my child's confidence."

"Then mamma, I will; but oh don't think that I believe one word of it
all." Then with a little hesitation. "I think mamma, that I am not
doing wrong to tell you, though the words were not meant for my ear?"

"I think not, my dear child, since it seems it is something that
concerns both you and me."

The short colloquy had burnt itself into Violet's brain and she repeated
it verbatim.

It caused her loved listener a sharper pang than she knew or supposed.
Elsie was deeply hurt and for a moment her indignation waxed hot against
her ungrateful, heartless relations.

Then her heart sent up a strong cry for help to forgive even as she
would be forgiven.

But she must comfort Vi, and how vividly at this moment did memory
recall a little scene in her own early childhood when she was in like
sore distress from a similar fear, roused in very nearly the same
manner; and her father comforted her.

"Vi, darling," she said in quivering tones, and with a tender caress,
"it is altogether a mistake. And you need never fear anything of the
kind. Your beloved father is no more dead to me than though he were but
in the next room. His place is not now--can never be, vacant in either
my home or my heart. We are separated for time by 'the stream--the
narrow stream of death,' but when I, too, have crossed it, we shall be
together, never to part again."


THE END.



    A LIST OF THE ELSIE BOOKS AND OTHER POPULAR BOOKS
    BY MARTHA FINLEY

    _ELSIE DINSMORE._
      _ELSIE'S HOLIDAYS AT ROSELANDS._
        _ELSIE'S GIRLHOOD._
          _ELSIE'S WOMANHOOD._
            _ELSIE'S MOTHERHOOD._
              _ELSIE'S CHILDREN._
    _ELSIE'S WIDOWHOOD._
      _GRANDMOTHER ELSIE._
        _ELSIE'S NEW RELATIONS._
          _ELSIE AT NANTUCKET._
            _THE TWO ELSIES._
              _ELSIE'S KITH AND KIN._
    _ELSIE'S FRIENDS AT WOODBURN._
      _CHRISTMAS WITH GRANDMA ELSIE._
        _ELSIE AND THE RAYMONDS._
          _ELSIE YACHTING WITH THE RAYMONDS._
            _ELSIE'S VACATION._
              _ELSIE AT VIAMEDE._
    _ELSIE AT ION._
      _ELSIE AT THE WORLD'S FAIR._
        _ELSIE'S JOURNEY ON INLAND WATERS._
          _ELSIE AT HOME._
            _ELSIE ON THE HUDSON._
              _ELSIE IN THE SOUTH._
                _ELSIE'S YOUNG FOLKS._
                  _ELSIE'S WINTER TRIP._
                    _ELSIE AND HER LOVED ONES._

    _MILDRED KEITH._
      _MILDRED AT ROSELANDS._
        _MILDRED'S MARRIED LIFE._
          _MILDRED AND ELSIE._
            _MILDRED AT HOME._
              _MILDRED'S BOYS AND GIRLS._
                _MILDRED'S NEW DAUGHTER._

    _CASELLA._
      _SIGNING THE CONTRACT AND WHAT IT COST._
        _THE TRAGEDY OF WILD RIVER VALLEY._
          _OUR FRED._
            _AN OLD-FASHIONED BOY._
              _WANTED, A PEDIGREE._
                _THE THORN IN THE NEST._



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber's note:

Punctuation has been made consistent. Spelling, grammar and
hyphenation have been retained as they appear in the original
publication except as follows:

    Page 9
    here can't be another one, I'm very, evry _changed to_
    there can't be another one, I'm very, very

    Page 11
    so useful and sinful a thing _changed to_
    so useless and sinful a thing

    Page 15
    generous master and mistresss _changed to_
    generous master and mistress

    Page 55
    so fair and spirituel _changed to_
    so fair and spiritual

    Page 98
    pared not, because my papa _changed to_
    dared not, because my papa

    Page 102
    Crudens' Concordance and other _changed to_
    Cruden's Concordance and other

    Page 144
    strong attachment beween herself _changed to_
    strong attachment between herself

    Page 150
    countanence, and her bright _changed to_
    countenance, and her bright

    Page 213
    of the Lord is as trong _changed to_
    of the Lord is a strong

    Page 214
    embassador of Christ is _changed to_
    ambassador of Christ is

    Page 233
    gentlemen's wife among the rest _changed to_
    gentleman's wife among the rest

    Page 234
    aint you _changed to_
    ain't you

    Page 244
    enefit from his visit _changed to_
    benefit from his visit

    Page 264
    al together they watched _changed to_
    as together they watched

    Page 284
    Your bill of fair sounds _changed to_
    Your bill of fare sounds

    Page 285
    which had not yet been freezer _changed to_
    which had not yet been taken out of the freezer

    Page 286
    and as its more ... suppose its very _changed to_
    and as it's more ... suppose it's very





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