"Look at the dangers threatening our dear native land—and the cause of Christ also—from vice and illiteracy, Popery and Mormonism, all ever on the increase from the rapid influx of undesirable immigrants—paupers, insane, anarchists, criminals. Ah how surely and speedily they will sweep away our liberties, both civil and religious, unless we rouse ourselves and put forth every energy to prevent it! Never a truer saying than that 'eternal vigilance is the price of liberty!' and nothing can secure it to us but the instruction and evangelization of these dangerous classes. Is it not so, mamma?"
"Yes," she assented; "I am satisfied that the gospel of Christ is the only remedy for those threatening evils, the only safeguard of our liberties, as well as the only salvation for a lost and ruined world.
"And, my dear boys, if you devote yourselves to that work it shall be your mother's part, your mother's joy, to provide the means for your support. I can not go into the work myself, so the sending of my sons and supporting them while they labor, must be my contribution to the cause.
"But I see no reason why you should give up the idea of studying medicine, since so many medical missionaries are needed. My plan would be to prepare you for both preaching and practising, if you have talent for both."
"We have thought of that," said Harold, "and as you approve, dearest mamma, we will hope to carry it out."
"I am so glad, mamma, that you have large means and the heart to use them in the work of spreading abroad the glad tidings of salvation through Christ," Herbert remarked.
"Yes," she said "it is both a responsibility and a privilege to be entrusted with so much of my Lord's money; pray for your mother, my dear boys, that she may have grace and wisdom to dispense it aright."
"We will, mamma, we do; and oh how often we rejoice in having a mother to whom we can confidently apply in behalf of a good object! You have many times given us the joy of relieving misery and providing instruction for the ignorant and depraved."
"It has been a joy to me to be able to do so," she said thoughtfully, "yet I fear I have not denied myself as I ought for the sake of giving largely."
"Mamma, you have always given largely since I have been old enough to understand anything about such matters," interrupted Harold warmly; "yes, very largely."
"If every one had given, and would give as largely in proportion to means," remarked Herbert, "the Lord's treasury would be full to overflowing. Is it not so, Harold?"
"Surely; and mamma has never been one to spend unnecessarily on herself," replied Harold, fondly caressing the hand he held.
"It has been my endeavor to be a faithful steward," she sighed, "and yet I might have given more than I have. I have been giving only of my income; I could give some of the principal; and I have a good many valuable jewels that might be turned into money for the Lord's treasury.
"I have thought a good deal about that of late and have talked with my daughters in regard to the matter; I thought it but right to consult with them, because the jewels would be a part of their inheritance, and I wish you two to have some say about it also, as fellow heirs with them."
She paused and both lads answered quickly that they thought the jewels should all go to their sisters.
"No; you and your future wives should have a share also," she replied smilingly; "that is if I retained them all. And that being understood, are you willing to have most of them disposed of and the proceeds used in aid of home and foreign missions?"
Both gave a hearty assent.
"Thank you, my dears," she said. "And now having already consulted with your grandfather and older brother, winning their consent and approval, I consider the matter settled.
"A few of my jewels, dear to me as mementoes of the past, I shall retain; also a few others which would not sell for nearly what they are really worth to us; but the rest I intend to have sold and the money used for the spread of the gospel in our own and heathen lands."
"I am convinced you could not make a better investment, mamma," Harold said, his eyes shining with pleasure.
"Yes, you are right," she returned, "it is an investment; one that can not possibly fail to give a grand return: for does He not say, 'He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth to the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again?'
"Who was it (Dean Swift if I remember aright) who preached a charity sermon from that text—'If you like the security, down with the dust'?"
"And you do like the security, mamma; you prefer it to any other, I am quite sure," said Herbert. "But what a fine specimen of a charity sermon that was! both powerful and brief. Doubtless many of the hearers were greatly relieved that they had not to listen to a long, dull harangue on the subject, and all the more disposed to give liberally on that account."
"Yes; do not forget to act upon that idea, when your turn comes to preach a sermon on that subject," Harold said, giving his younger brother a mischievous smile.
"And let us not forget the lesson of the text when the appeal comes to us," added their mother. "Oh my dear boys, what a privilege it is to be permitted to make such investments! and to be sowers of the good seed whether by personal effort or in providing the means for sending out others as laborers. Let us endeavor to be of the number of those who sow largely in both ways; for 'He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.'
"And the harvest is sure; at the end of the world; if not sooner. And whether we give in one way or the other, let us not do it 'grudgingly or of necessity,' but joyfully and with all our hearts, for God loveth a cheerful giver."
"Mamma," said Harold earnestly, "we do both feel it a great and blessed privilege to be permitted to be co-workers with God for the advancement of his cause and kingdom."
With that the conversation turned upon other themes, but presently the boys kissed the dear mother good night and withdrew lest they should rob her of needed rest.
"Home again, and it's nice to get home!" exclaimed Lulu, skipping up the steps of the veranda and across into the wide hall where all was light and warmth and beauty.
Violet and Grace had preceded her and her father was following with little Elsie in his arms.
"I am glad to hear you say that; glad my daughter appreciates her home," he said in a cheery tone.
"I'd be a queer girl, papa, if I didn't appreciate such a home as this is," she returned with warmth, and smiling up into his face. "Don't you say so, Max?" catching sight of her brother who, riding his pony, had arrived some minutes ahead of the carriage and was now petting and fondling his dog at the farther end of the hall.
"Yes, indeed!" he answered; "I think if we weren't happy and contented in this home we oughtn't to have any at all. Papa, Prince is a splendid fellow!" stroking and patting the dog's head as he spoke.
"So I think," said the captain.
"And I too," said Violet; "he is a very acceptable addition to the family. My dear, home does look exceedingly attractive to me, as well as to the children. But little Elsie's eyes are closing; mamma must see her babies to bed."
"I wonder where my pussy is?" Grace was saying, from the library door. "I thought she'd be lying on the rug before the fire here, like she was the other night; but she isn't."
"Oh, and my Polly!" cried Lulu. "Is she in there?"
"I will carry Elsie to the nursery, my love," said the captain. "Lulu and Gracie, you may perhaps find your pets in your own little sitting room."
"Oh yes!" they cried in chorus, and started up the stairs after their father and Violet.
Outside the night was cold, but within the house the atmosphere was that of summer; doors stood open, and in the halls, and the rooms used by the family, lights were burning; also the air was sweet and fragrant with a faint odor of roses, heliotrope and mignonette, coming from the conservatory and from vases of cut flowers placed here and there; all the result of Capt. Raymond's kind forethought for the comfort and pleasure of wife and children, and the careful carrying out of his orders by the faithful housekeeper Christine.
No wonder home looked so attractive to its returning occupants, even coming from a former one quite as beautiful and luxurious.
"Oh how sweet it does look here!" exclaimed both the little girls as they entered their little sitting-room.
"Oh! and there is my pussy lying on the rug all curled up like a soft round ball!" added Grace. "You are having a nice nap, pretty kitty, and I don't mean to wake you, but I must pet you just a little bit," dropping down beside her, and gently stroking the soft fur.
"And there's my Polly in her cage and fast asleep too, I do believe," said Lulu, "I want ever so much to hear her talk, but I'll be as good to her as you are to your pet, Gracie; I won't wake her.
"Now we must take off our things, Gracie, for you know papa always says we mustn't keep them on in the house, and that we must put them away in their places."
"Yes; but I'm so tired! Papa would let me wait a minute."
"Of course, you poor little weak thing! I'll take them off for you and put them away too; and you need hardly more," Lulu said, hastily throwing off her own coat and hat.
Then kneeling on the rug beside her sister, she began undoing the fastenings of her coat.
"Dear Lu, you're just as good to me as can be!" sighed Grace in tender, grateful accents. "I really don't know what I'd ever do without my nice big sister."
"Somebody else would take care of you," said Lulu, flushing with pleasure nevertheless. "There now, I'll go and put both our things in their right places."
When she came back she found Grace brimming over with delight because the kitten had waked, crept into her lap, and curled itself up there for another nap.
"O Lu, just see!" she cried. "I do believe she's fond of me. Isn't it nice?"
"Yes, very nice; but you're burning your face before that bright fire. Oh you do need your big sister to take care of you!" lifting a screen in between Grace and the glowing grate.
Then seating herself on a hassock, "Now put your head in my lap and stretch yourself out on the rug. You can rest nicely that way and we'll have a good talk. Such a nice, big, soft rug as this is! I should think it must have taken several big sheep skins to make it, and it was so good in papa to have it put here for us."
"Yes, indeed! our dear papa! how I do love him! he's always doing kind things to us."
"Yes, O Gracie, if I were only good like you and didn't ever do and say naughty things that make him feel sad!" sighed Lulu. "Oh do you know we are going to have a party on New Years? All the folks that were at Ion are to come; the grown up ones to be papa's and Mamma Vi's company, and the young ones your's and Maxie's and mine."
"Yes, I know. And we're all to go to Fairview to spend Monday."
"Won't it be nice?"
"Yes—" a rather doubtful yes—"but I—'most think I like being at home the best of all."
"Why? didn't you enjoy yourself at Ion?"
"Yes; but I believe I'm a little bit tired now."
"Yes; of being with so many folks. It's nice for a while, but after that it sort of wears me out; and I'm glad to get back to my own dear home where I can be just as quiet as ever I please."
"Oh, there is papa!" exclaimed Lulu, turning her head and seeing him standing in the open doorway.
He was smiling on his darlings, thinking what a pretty picture they made—the little slender figure on the rug with the kitten closely cuddled in its arms, the golden head lying in Lulu's lap, while her blooming face bent tenderly over it, one hand toying with its soft ringlets.
"Tired, Gracie, my pet?" he asked, coming forward and stooping to scan the small pale face in loving solicitude.
"Only a little, dear papa," she answered, with a patient smile up into his face. "I think I shall be quite rested by to-morrow morning, and I'm so glad we're at home again."
"Yes; and just now the best place in it for my weary little girl is her bed. Lulu and I will get you there as soon as we can."
"Mustn't I stay up for prayers?"
"No, darling, you are too tired and sleepy to get any good from the service. I see your eyes can hardly keep themselves open."
"I believe they can't, and I shall be so glad to go right to my nice bed," she returned sleepily, pushing the kitten gently from her.
So she was lifted to her father's knee and Lulu sent for her night dress.
In a few minutes she was resting peacefully in her bed, while the captain and Lulu went down hand in hand to the library, where they found Max sitting alone, reading.
He closed his book as they entered, rose and wheeled an easy chair nearer the fire for his father, who took it with a pleasant "Thank you, my son," and drew Lulu to a seat upon his knee. "What were you reading, Max?" he asked.
"'Story of United States Navy for Boys,'" answered the lad. "Papa would you be willing for me to go into the navy?"
"If you have a strong inclination for the life, my boy, I shall throw no obstacle in your way."
"Thank you, sir; I sometimes think I should like it, yet I'm not quite sure I'd rather be there than anywhere else."
"You must be quite sure of your inclination before we move in the matter," returned his father.
"Is there something you would prefer for me, papa?" asked Max.
"If I were quite sure you were called of God to the work, I should rather see you a preacher of the gospel, an ambassador for Christ, than anything else. Yet if you lack the talent, or consecration, you would better be out of the ministry than in it."
"I'm glad I'm not a boy and don't have to go away from home and papa," Lulu said, nestling closer in her father's arms.
"Home's a delightful place and nobody loves to be with papa more than I do," said Max, "but for all that I'm glad I'm going to be a man and able to do a man's work in the world."
"And I," said the captain, "am glad that God has given me both sons and daughters, and that you two are satisfied to be what God has made you."
For some moments no one spoke again, then Lulu remarked thoughtfully, "This is the last Saturday, and to-morrow will be the last Sunday of the old year. Papa, do you remember the talk we had together a year ago?"
"On the last Sunday of that year? yes, daughter, quite well. And now it is time for another retrospect, and fresh resolutions to try to live better, by the help of Him who is the Strength of His people, their Shield and Helper."
"It hasn't been nearly so good a year with me as I hoped it would be," sighed Lulu.
"Yet an improvement upon the one before it, I think," remarked her father in a tone of encouragement. "You have not, so far as I know, indulged, even once, in a fit of violent anger—and knowing my little girl as most truthful and very open with me—I certainly believe that if she had been in a passion she would have come to me with an honest confession of her fault."
"I'm sure Lu would," said Max; "and I do think she has improved very much."
"No; I haven't been in a passion, papa, and I hope if I had, I wouldn't have been deceitful enough to try to hide it from you. But oh I've been very, very naughty two or three times in other ways, you know; and you were so good to forgive me and keep on loving me in spite of it all."
"Dear child!" was all he said in reply, accompanying the words with a tender caress.
"I, too, have come a good deal short of my resolves," observed Max, with a regretful sigh. "Yet I suppose we have both done better than we should if we hadn't made good resolutions."
"No doubt of it," said his father. "I feel it to be so in my case, though I, too, have fallen far short of the standard I set myself. But shall we not try again, my children?"
"Oh yes, sir, yes!"
"And try, not only to make the new year better—if we are spared to see it—but also the three remaining days of the old?"
"Yes," sighed Lulu, "perhaps I may get into a dreadful passion yet before the year is out."
"I hope not, daughter," her father said; "but watch and pray, for only so can you be safe. There is One who is able to keep you from falling. Cling close to Him like the limpet to the rock."
"Oh I will!" she replied in an earnest tone. "But papa what is a limpet? I don't remember ever having heard of it before."
"It is a shell-fish of which there are numerous species exhibiting great variety of form and color. The common limpet is most abundant on the rocky coasts of Britain. They live on the rocks between low and high tide marks.
"They move about when the water covers them, but when the tide is out, remain firmly fixed to one spot; so firmly that unless surprised by a sudden seizure, it is almost impossible to drag or tear them from the rock without breaking the shell."
"How can they hold so tight?" asked Max.
"The animal has a round or oval muscular foot by which it clings, and its ability to do so is increased by a viscous or sticky secretion."
"Please tell some more about them, papa," requested Lulu, looking greatly interested. "Have they mouths? and do you know what they eat?"
"Yes, they have mouths and they live on seaweed, eating it by means of a long ribbon-like tongue covered with rows of hard teeth; the common limpet—which, as I have told you, lives on the British coast—has no fewer than one hundred and sixty rows, twelve teeth in a row. How many does that make, Max?"
"Nineteen hundred and twenty," answered the lad after a moment's thought.
"Right," said his father. "The tongue when not in use, lies folded deep in the interior of the limpet."
"Are their shells pretty, papa?" Lulu asked.
"Those of some of the limpets of warmer climates are very beautiful," he answered; "large too. I have seen them on the western coast of South America, a foot wide; so large that they are often used as basins."
"Oh I'd like to have one!" she exclaimed. "Is it for their shells people try to pull them off the rocks?"
"It may be so in some instances, but the limpet is used for food and also as bait, by the fisherman.
"Try, my children, to remember what I have been telling you about it; but most of all let your thoughts dwell upon the lesson to be drawn from its close clinging to the rock.
"God is often spoken of in the Scriptures as his people's rock, because he is their strength, their refuge, their asylum, as the rocks were in those places whither the children of Israel retired in case of an unexpected attack from their foes.
"David says; 'The Lord is my rock and my fortress.... Who is a rock save our God?'
"Jesus is the rock on which we must build our hope of salvation; any other foundation will be as the sand upon which the foolish man built his house; 'and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell; and great was the fall of it.'
"The limpet is wiser; it never trusts to the shifting sand, but holds firmly to the immovable rock. Be like it in resisting all attempts whether of human or spiritual foes, to drag you from your Rock."
"Papa," said Max, slowly and with some hesitation. "I wish to do so—I think it is my settled purpose—but I—I feel afraid that sometime I may let go. I'm a careless, heedless fellow you know, and—and I'm afraid I may forget to hold fast to Jesus, and be overcome by some sudden and great temptation."
"There is danger of that, my boy," the captain returned with feeling, "yet I should have greater fear for you if I heard you talk in a self-confident and boasting spirit. Trusting in ourselves we are not safe, but trusting in Jesus we are. We are safe only while we cling to our sure foundation, the Rock Christ Jesus; but our greatest security is in the joyful fact that he holds us fast and will never let us go; if we have indeed given ourselves to him.
"He says, 'My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.'"
"Such sweet words, papa, aren't they?" Lulu said softly.
"Yes, words that have been an untold comfort and support to many of God's dear children on their way Zionward. The sword of the Spirit with which they have fought Satan's lying assertion that they might yet be lost in spite of having fled for refuge to Him who died on Calvary."
"Is it those words the Bible means when it speaks of the sword of the Spirit, papa?" asked Max.
"Not those alone, but all the word of God. And in order to be prepared to wield that sword we must store our memories with the word, we must hide it in our hearts. David says, 'Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.'
"Christ is our pattern; we must strive to follow his example in all things; and it was with the sword of the Spirit he repelled every temptation of the devil there in the wilderness—beginning each reply to the evil suggestions with 'It is written.'"
"That is why you have us learn so many Bible verses, papa?"
"Yes; open the Bible lying on the table there, Max, and turn to the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy."
Max did so, then read, by his father's direction, the sixth and seventh verses.
"And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."
"I think you obey that command, papa," said Lulu; "indeed I think you try to obey every command in God's word."
"I do," he replied, "and I want my children to follow my example in that. In the eleventh chapter of the same book the command is repeated and these words are added, 'That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth.'
"Speaking of the law, the testimony, the statutes, the commandments of the Lord, the psalmist tells us that, 'in keeping of them there is great reward.'
"True happiness is known by none but those who are at peace with God; but living in the light of his countenance, one may be full of joy even in the midst of great earthly tribulation.
"Ah, my darlings, I can wish nothing better for you than that you may thus live!"
At that moment Violet joined them.
"The babies were unusually wakeful and troublesome to-night," she remarked, "but have at last fallen asleep and so released mamma from attendance upon them."
"To our great content," added her husband, gently putting Lulu off his knee and rising to give his wife a seat, while Max sprang up and gallantly placed a chair for her; selecting the most comfortable and placing it close beside his father's.
She thanked him with one of her sweetest smiles, the captain remarking, "Max was too quick for me that time."
"Like his father, he is extremely polite and attentive to ladies," said Violet. "How cosy you are here! and you two children have been having a pleasant time, no doubt, with papa all to yourselves."
"We have missed you, my dear," said her husband; "at least I may speak for myself."
"And would have been glad if you could have come to us sooner," added Max.
"Have you been laying plans for the entertainment of our expected guests who are to keep New Year's day with us?" she asked.
"No, my dear; your help will be needed in that," replied her husband.
"Can't we have some charades again?" asked Lulu.
"I see no objection," answered her father, "provided something new can be thought of."
"Misunderstand, I think might do for one," said Max.
"Yes, Max, I think that might be very good," Violet said; "and perhaps madman would do for another."
"We'll need several words for our charades, I think," said Lulu, "and a number for the sports at Fairview."
"But fortunately we are not responsible for the entertainment there," remarked Violet pleasantly.
"No," said the captain, "and I think we will dismiss thought for our own for the present. It is time now for evening worship. Max you may ring for the servants."
As usual the captain went into Lulu's room for a bit of good night chat with her, about the time she was ready for bed.
"Papa," she said, nestling close in his arms. "I have been thinking more about the kind of year this has been to me, and oh I think I must always remember it as a good one because in it I have learned to love Jesus! I know I have done some very wrong things even since I begun to try to be his servant," she went on, hanging her head in shame and contrition, "but O papa I do love him and want to serve him all my life! How glad I am that he is so loving and forgiving, and that he says he will never let any one pluck me out of his hand!"
"Yes, dear child, it is a most precious assurance and we may well rejoice in it;—you and I and all his people.
"But ever let us keep in mind and obey those other words of our blessed Master, 'Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.'
"Remember that we are to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ, and that we have a great battle to fight with the evil that is in our own hearts, the snares of the world, and the powers of darkness;—Satan and his hosts of wicked spirits whose great desire and aim is to ruin our souls and drag us down to the dreadful place prepared for them."
"Papa, sometimes I feel so afraid of them," she sighed, shuddering. "But Jesus is stronger than any of them, and will not let them hurt me if I trust in him?"
"Stronger than all of them put together, and will not let any, or all of them, pluck you out of his hand. We are safe there. In the eighth chapter of Romans we find these triumphant words,
"'I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!'"
In all the homes of the Dinsmore connection Sunday was always a peacefully quiet day—kept as a sacred time of rest from toil and worldly cares and pleasures.
The quiet and leisure for thought were particularly grateful to Grandma Elsie, in her pleasant home at Ion, on this last Sunday of the old year.
She had enjoyed having her friends about her and seeing the hilarity of the children and youth. She was still youthful in her feelings and full of an ever ready sympathy with the young, none of whom could know without loving her, while to all who could claim kin with her—especially her children and grandchildren, she was an object of devoted affection; affection fully reciprocated by her.
And so the frequent reunions at Ion were a source of delight to both her and them.
Yet there were times when her spirit craved exclusive companionship with her nearest and dearest; other seasons when she would be alone with Him whom her "soul desired above all earthly joy and earthly love."
An hour had been spent in secret communion with Him ere Rosie and Walter came for the half hour of Bible study and prayer in mamma's dressing room, before breakfast, to which they had been accustomed since their earliest recollection.
And not they only but their older brothers and sisters before them, every one of whom had very tender memories connected with that short service; memories that had been a safeguard to them in times of temptation, a comfort and support in the dark hours that sooner or later come to all the sons and daughters of Adam, and made them feel it even yet a privilege to participate, when circumstances would permit.
Sometimes Edward and Zoe joined the little circle, and Harold and Herbert seldom failed to do so when at home. They all did so this morning and with an enjoyment that made the allotted time seem far too short.
Their mother had always been able to interest her children in Bible lessons.
Breakfast and family worship followed; then attendance upon the morning service of the sanctuary.
After that Sunday school for the blacks in the school house on the estate, the mother and all her children acting as teachers.
The afternoon and evening were given to reading, conversation and music suited to the sacredness of the day; then all retired to peaceful slumbers, from which they rose in the morning rested and refreshed in body and mind, and ready to enter with zest upon the labors and pleasures of the new week.
According to the arrangements made the previous week the whole Ion family, and all who had been guests there at that time, repaired to Fairview at an early hour, where they spent the day together in social festivities similar to those with which they had enlivened their stay with Grandma Elsie.
Harold and Herbert gave a magic lantern exhibition, some charades were acted, and Cousin Ronald contrived to add not a little to the fun by timely efforts in his own peculiar line; the very little ones were delighted to hear their toy dogs bark, roosters crow, hens and geese cackle, ducks quack, horses neigh and donkeys bray.
They could hardly believe that the sounds which seemed to come from the mouths of the toy animals were really made by Cousin Ronald, and when assured that such was the case, thought him a most wonderful man.
Some of the guests departed that evening, but others remained over night; among them the Raymonds.
On Tuesday morning they went home to Woodburn taking Grandma Elsie, Rosie, Walter and Evelyn Leland with them.
Lulu had been sharing Evelyn's room at Fairview, and now was to have the pleasure of returning the hospitality.
There were some preparations to be made for the entertainment of to-morrow's guests, and the children were in a flutter of pleasurable excitement.
I could not tell you how much they enjoyed their share of the planning and arranging, and the consultations together and with the older people, or how kindly indulgent the captain was to their wishes and fancies, never saying them nay when it was within his power to grant their request.
Evelyn Leland loved to watch Lulu and Grace as they hung affectionately about their father, giving and receiving caresses and endearments; yet the sight often brought tears to her eyes—calling up tender memories of the past. She had not forgotten—she never could forget the dear parent who had been won't to lavish such caresses and endearments upon her, and at times her young heart ached with its longing to hear again the sound of his voice and feel the clasp of his arm, and his kisses upon cheek and lip and brow.
Yet life was gliding along very peacefully and happily with her, brightened by the love of kindred and friends, and she could join very heartily in the diversions and merriment of her companions.
Tea was over, the babies had had their romp with papa, brothers and sisters, and been carried off to the nursery, leaving the rest of the family—the guests included—in the pleasant library.
"Well, my dears, it has been a busy day with you," remarked Grandma Elsie, smiling pleasantly upon the group of children, "but I presume your preparations for to-morrow's sports are quite completed?"
"Yes, ma'am," said Lulu.
"And we have some very good charades, mamma," said Rosie, "and have arranged for some nice tableaux."
"New and old both," answered Rosie and Lulu together. "And oh, Grandma Elsie, we want another with you in it," added Lulu, with eager entreaty in her tones.
"And why with me, my dear?" asked Mrs. Travilla, with a pleased little laugh, "are there not more than enough younger people to take part?"
"Oh there are plenty of us such as we are!" laughed Evelyn, "but we want all the beautiful people, so that the pictures will be beautiful."
"You are coming out in a new character, Eva—that of an adroit flatterer," returned Grandma Elsie, with a look of amusement; "but I am not at all displeased, my dear child, because I credit it entirely to your affection, which I prize very highly," she hastened to add, seeing that her words had called up a blush of painful embarrassment on Eva's usually placid face.
"Grandma Elsie, we all love you dearly," said Lulu, "but you are beautiful. I'm sure everybody thinks so. Don't they, papa?"
"As far as my knowledge goes," he answered, smiling and pinching her cheek—for as usual she was close at his side—"and indeed I don't know how any one could think otherwise."
"Mamma will, I'm sure," said Walter, "because we want her to, and she's always kind."
"Will what?" asked Violet coming in at that moment.
"Be one in a tableau," replied Walter.
"Yes, of course," said Violet. "Oh we'll make a group with mamma, grandpa, Sister Elsie and her little Ned, and call it a picture of four generations. If dear old grandpa were with us still we could make it five."
"A very nice idea, my dear," the captain remarked with a glance of affectionate admiration at his young wife, as he rose and handed her a chair; "and I think we must have the group photographed."
"Oh yes, Lester can do it beautifully! We'll send him word to bring his apparatus with him."
"Yes," said her mother, "and we will ask him to take us all in family groups. The pictures will be pleasant mementoes of this holiday season."
"Mamma," said Walter, "I think if you would tell us all about all the New Years days you can remember, it would be a very interesting way of spending the evening."
"Yes, mamma, we would all be charmed to hear your story," said Violet, the others chiming in with, "Oh yes, mamma," "Yes, Grandma Elsie, please do tell it."
"Since you all seem to desire it, I will try," she answered kindly, "but I fear my reminiscences will hardly deserve the name of story.
"The first Christmas and New Years of which I retain a vivid remembrance, were those of the first winter after I had made the acquaintance of my dear father; for, as I believe you all know, I never saw him till I was eight years old.
"The occurrences of that Christmas are too familiar to most, if not all of you, to bear repetition."
"And you hadn't at all a nice New Year's that time, mamma," said Rosie, softly stroking and patting the hand she held, then lifting it to her lips; for she was sitting on a stool at her mother's feet, while the others had grouped themselves around her, "suffering so with that sprained ankle."
"Ah there you are mistaken, my child," Grandma Elsie answered with her own sweet smile, "for I had a most enjoyable day in spite of the injury that kept me a prisoner in my room; my father brought me a beautiful doll-baby, quite as large as some live ones that I have seen, and a quantity of pretty things to be used in its adornment. My little friends and I had a merry, happy time cutting out garments and making them up.
"The next Christmas and New Year's Day were spent in our sweet new home at the Oaks, which my papa had bought and furnished in the mean time.
"My Christmas gifts were beautiful; from papa books and a pearl necklace and bracelets—now the property of my daughter Rosie"—smiling down at Rosie as she spoke—"and a ring to match from him who was afterward my beloved husband; also books from his mother and my Aunt Adelaide. They were our guests at dinner that day.
"Between breakfast and dinner I had the pleasure of distributing gifts among the house servants and the negroes at the quarter; then a ride with papa; and the evening, till my early bedtime, was spent sitting on his knee."
"But you are going to tell us about that New Year's, too, mamma, aren't you?" asked Walter, as she paused in her narrative, sitting quietly with a pensive, far off look in her soft brown eyes.
"Yes," she said, rousing from her reverie, "I remember it was on the day after Christmas that papa asked me if I was going to make a New Year's present to each of my little friends.
"Of course I was delighted with the idea, especially as he allowed me great latitude in regard to the amount to be spent."
"And did he take you to the stores and let yon choose the presents, Grandma Elsie?" asked Lulu. "That would be half the fun, I think."
"My dear, indulgent father would have done so, had I been able to bear the fatigue," Grandma Elsie replied, "but at that time I was quite feeble from a severe illness. He did not think me strong enough to visit the stores, but ordered goods sent out to the Oaks for me to select from, which gave me nearly as much enjoyment us I could have found in going to the city in search of them."
"Did you find gifts to suit, mamma?" queried Walter. "And oh won't you tell us how many and what they were?"
"Beside the Roselands little people," replied his mother, "there were Lucy and Herbert Carrington, Carrie Howard, Isabel Carleton, Mary Leslie, and Flora Arnott to be remembered.
"For the last named, who was also the youngest, I selected a beautiful wax doll and a complete wardrobe of ready made clothes for it, all neatly packed in a tiny trunk.
"To Mary Leslie I gave a ring, and to each of the other girls a handsome bracelet; to Herbert, who was a great reader, a set of handsomely bound books.
"All these little friends of mine were spending the Christmas holidays at Pinegrove—the home of the Howards.
"Papa and I had been invited too, but had declined because of my feeble state. When my gifts were ready I asked him if they should be sent to Pinegrove.
"'We will see about it,' he answered; 'we have plenty of time; there are two days yet, and it will not take a messenger half an hour to travel from here to Pinegrove.'
"So I said no more, for I never was allowed to tease.
"But when New Year's morning came and the presents had not been sent, I began to feel decidedly uneasy, and papa evidently perceived it; though neither of us said a word on the subject that was uppermost in my mind.
"Papa had some beautiful books and pictures for me which he gave me before breakfast, saying he hoped they would help me pass the day pleasantly; he would be glad to make it the happiest New Year I had known yet.
"He smiled tenderly upon me as he said it, then held me close in his arms and kissed me over and over again; and I returned his kisses, putting my arms about his neck and hugging him as tight as I could.
"After that we had breakfast and family worship, and then he took me on his knee again and asked how I would like to spend the day?
"I answered that I would be glad to have a drive if he did not think it too cold. He said he thought it was not if I were well wrapped up.
"There was no snow to make sleighing, so the carriage was ordered, I was bundled up in furs, and we drove several miles.
"As we were about starting I ventured to ask, 'Papa, haven't you forgotten to send my presents to Pinegrove?' He smiled and said, 'No, my darling,' in a very pleasant tone, but that was all, and when we came back I noticed that the presents were still in a closet in my dressing room where they had lain ever since they were bought.
"I was quite puzzled to understand it, but I asked no questions.
"Mammy arranged my hair and dress, and I went back to the parlor where papa was sitting reading. He laid aside his book as soon as I entered the room, took me on his knee, and began telling me funny stories that kept me laughing till a carriage drove up to the door.
"'There, some one has come!' he said; 'it seems we are not to spend the day alone after all.'
"Then in another minute or two, the door opened and in came my six little friends for whom I had bought the presents."
Grace clapped her hands in delight. "Oh how nice! and didn't you have a good time, Grandma Elsie?"
"Yes, very; they had all come to spend the day; I had the pleasure of presenting my gifts in person and of seeing that they were fully appreciated; we played quiet games and papa told us lovely stories. There was no fretting or quarrelling, everybody was in high good humor, and when the time came to separate, my guests all bade good bye, saying, 'they had never had a more enjoyable day.'"
"Now please tell about the next Christmas and New Year's, mamma," urged Walter, as she paused, as though feeling that her tale was ended.
"Let mamma have time to breathe and to think what comes next, Walter," said Rosie. "Don't you see that's what she is doing?"
"I am thinking of those little friends of mine," sighed their mother; "asking myself 'Where are they now?' Ah what changes life brings! how short and hasty it is, and how soon it will be over! I mean the life in this world.
"It is likened in the Bible to a pilgrimage, a tale that is told, a flower that soon withers or is cut down by the mower's scythe, a dream, a sleep, a vapor, a shadow, a handbreadth; a thread cut by the weaver."
"Mamma, are those friends of yours all dead?" asked Walter.
"I will tell you about them," she answered. "Herbert Carrington died young—he was barely sixteen."
With the words a look of pain swept across the still fair, sweet face of the speaker, and she paused for a moment as if almost overcome by some sad recollection.
Violet, who had heard the story from Grandma Rose, understood it.
"Mamma, dear," she said softly, "what a happy thing it was for him—poor sufferer that he was—to be taken so early to the Father's house on high where pain and sin and sorrow are unknown!"
"Yes," returned her mother, furtively wiping away a tear, "and calling to mind the dreadful scenes of the war that followed some years later, and the sore trials that resulted in the Carrington family—I feel that he was taken away from the evil to come.
"Of the others forming that little company Flora Arnott too died young. Mary Leslie married and moved away, and I have lost sight of her for many years. Carrie Howard lived to become a wife and mother, but was called away from earth years ago. The same words would tell Isabel Carleton's story.
"Lucy Carrington and I are the only ones left, and she, like myself, has children and grandchildren. I hear from her now and then, and we meet occasionally when I go North or she pays a visit to the old home at Ashlands."
"Mrs. Ross," said Rosie half in assertion, half inquiringly.
"Yes, that is her married name."
"And Aunt Sophy who lives at Ashlands now, is—"
"The widow of Lucy's older brother Harry, and also your Grandma Rose's sister; as you all know."
"Mamma," said Walter, "you didn't mention Grandma Rose at all in telling your story of that Christmas and New Year's. Wasn't she there?"
"No, my son; my father—your grandpa—and I were living alone together at that time. The next summer we went North, and while there visited at Elmgrove, Mr. Allison's country seat, which gave papa and Miss Rose an opportunity to become quite well acquainted.
"I had known and loved Miss Rose before, and was very glad when papa told me she had consented to become his wife and my mother.
"They were married in the fall and when we returned to the Oaks she was with us.
"That made my next Christmas and New Year still happier than the last, and when yet another came round my treasures had been increased in number by the advent of a darling little brother."
"Uncle Horace," said Walter. "Mamma, were you very glad when God gave him to you?"
"Indeed I was!" she answered with a smile. "I had never had a brother or sister and had often been hungry for one.
"And he has always been a dear, loving brother to me," she went on, "and your Aunt Rose, who came to us while we were in Europe some eight years later, as sweet a sister as any one could desire."
"But about those holidays, mamma, the first when you had a brother?" persisted Walter; "aren't you going to tell about them?"
"Yes," she answered; "it was a particularly enjoyable time, for we had our cousins—Mildred and Annis Keith—with us. Mildred, though, had become Mrs. Landreth, and had her husband and baby boy with her.
"Annis was a dear, lovable little girl just about my own age. They spent the winter at the Oaks, Annis sharing both my studies and my sports. We had a Christmas party, our guests remaining through the rest of the week."
"Oh mamma, do please go on and tell the whole story of that Christmas, and all the good times you had that winter," pleaded Rosie. "I have always enjoyed it so much, and I'm sure Eva and Lulu and Gracie will."
Rosie's request was seconded by several other voices in the little crowd, and Grandma Elsie, ever willing to give pleasure, kindly complied.
But as my young readers have already had the story in Mildred's Married Life, I shall not repeat it here. Suffice it to say it seemed to greatly interest all her listeners, and Lulu gathered from it a far different impression of Mr. Dinsmore, as a father, from that she had derived from tales told her by some of the old servants in the family connection.
They had given her the idea that he was exceedingly stern and tyrannical, but his daughter painted him as a most loving and indulgent parent. Mayhap the truth lay somewhere between the two pictures, for as he himself had often said, Elsie was ever won't to look upon him through rose colored glasses.
"You did have a very nice time, Grandma Elsie! I could almost wish I'd been in your place," exclaimed Lulu, when the tale had come to an end. "But no I don't, either, for then I couldn't be my father's child," putting her arm round the captain's neck and laying her cheek to his, "and to belong to him is better than anything else!"
"My little Lulu being the judge," laughed the captain, tightening the clasp of his arm about her waist.
"Or any other of your children, papa," added Grace from her seat on his knee, affectionately stroking his face with her small white hand as she spoke. "Grandma Elsie, won't you please go on and tell about other Christmases that you remember?"
"I think, my dear, I have done my full share of story telling for one evening," replied Mrs. Travilla pleasantly. "It is your father's turn now, as the next in age. Captain, will you not favor us with some of your reminiscences of former holiday experiences? or of something else if you prefer. I know you are a famous story teller."
"Oh yes, captain!" "Oh yes, papa do, please," urged the others.
"Some other time, perhaps," he said. "Do you know how late it is? time to call the servants in to prayers, and then for the little folks to seek their nests. Max, my son, ring the bell."
"Then you don't mean to let us stay up to watch the old year out and the new year in, papa?" queried the lad, as he rose and obeyed the order.
"Hardly," his father answered with a slight smile; "You are all too young to be allowed to lose so large a portion of your night's rest. To do so would spoil all the anticipated pleasure of to-morrow."
"Then I am sure we don't want to, captain," said Evelyn, "for we are looking forward to a great deal of pleasure."
"My little Grace looks tired," the captain said, bending down and taking her in his arms as the little folks were bidding good night. "I shall carry you up stairs, darling, after the old custom."
"Thank you, papa; I'm very willing," replied Grace, clasping his neck with her small arms.
"Lulu, shall I say good night to you first?" he asked, smiling down at his eldest daughter, standing by his side; "as you have Eva with you, you will perhaps not care for the usual bit of good night chat with your father?"
"Yes, indeed I do care for it, papa!" cried Lulu. "Why, I sha'n't have another chance this year! I wouldn't miss it for anything!"
"Then you shall not," he said, looking both pleased and amused; "that sounds as though the next opportunity were far in the distance."
He passed out of the room as he spoke, and on up the wide stairway, Lulu and Eva following, each with an arm about the other's waist.
"Those talks must be so delightful," remarked the latter in a low tone, and with a slight sigh, "I'm very glad you don't let me hinder them, dear Lu."
"I knew you wouldn't want me to," said Lulu; "you are always so kind and thoughtful for others; and though papa sometimes gives me a quarter of an hour or more, when we have a great deal to say to each other, I think he won't stay more than a minute or two to-night! so that it won't keep me long away from you."
"Oh please don't hurry for my sake," said Eva, adding softly, "You know I, too, shall be glad of a few minutes alone with my best Friend. So if you like, I will go into the little tower room while your papa is with you."
"You can have both that and my bedroom to yourself, dear," returned Lulu, "for I shall receive papa in the little sitting room that is Gracie's and mine."
They had reached the upper hall. The captain passed into Gracie's bedroom, Lulu into her own, Eva with her.
"Such a sweet, pretty room!" Eva said, glancing around it; "I am always struck with that thought on coming into it, though I have seen it so often."
"Yes," returned Lulu, her face lighting up with pleasure, "I think it so myself. Our dear father is constantly adding pretty things here and there to our room, and doing oh so much to make his children happy! Yet, would you believe it, Eva? I am sometimes both ill-tempered and disobedient to him."
"Not now! not lately?" Evelyn said half in assertion, half inquiringly and with a look of surprise.
"Yes," Lulu replied in a low, remorseful tone, her eyes downcast, her face flushing painfully; "only last month, one day Max was teasing me and I was in very bad humor, so answered him very crossly. Papa happened to be in the next room and overheard it all, and called to us both to come to him. His voice sounded stern, and I felt angry and rebellious. Max, never does feel so, I believe, anyway he's always obedient, and he went at once, but I waited to be called a second time, and—O Eva, I'm dreadfully, dreadfully ashamed! but I feel as if I must tell you because I can't bear to have you think me so much better than I am."
"Dear Lu, don't tell it if it hurts you so. I'm sure if you were not a good girl you wouldn't feel so very sorry and ashamed," Evelyn interrupted, putting both arms round her friend and kissing her with warmth of affection.
"No, indeed, I'm not!" said Lulu; "and I'll tell it, if only to punish myself for my badness. Papa has never punished me for it, though I really did wish he would and asked him to over and over again."
"That seems very odd," Eva said, half smiling. "Most people are only too glad to escape punishment."
"Maybe I'm different from most folks," said Lulu, "but I always want to beat myself when I've been so hateful, and so if papa punishes me I always feel a good deal happier after it's over.
"But I must finish my story. Papa asked, 'Lulu, did you hear me bid you come to me?' and I answered, 'Yes, sir'; then muttered, 'but I'll not come a step till I get ready.'"
Evelyn seemed lost in astonishment. "Oh Lu! did you really say that? could you venture to speak so to your father—a man whom everybody respects so highly, and who is so dear and kind to you?"
"I did," acknowledged Lulu, her head hanging still lower and her cheek flushing more hotly. "You see when I lived with Aunt Beulah I got into the way of being very saucy to her, and I suppose that's how I came to speak so to papa. Oh don't you think I ought to be dreadfully ashamed, and that papa should have punished me very severely?"
"I suppose he is the best judge of that," Eva answered, doubtfully. "But what did he do? Surely he didn't pass it over as of no consequence? I think he couldn't feel it right to allow his own child to refuse obedience to his commands."
"No; of course not. The minute I'd said the words I could have bitten my tongue off for it. I hoped papa hadn't heard, but he had, and he rose from his chair and came toward me (very quietly; not at all as if he was in a passion), and I jumped up, saying 'I will, papa; I'm coming.'"
"Then he said in a tone as if he were grieved and astonished that his own little girl could talk so to him—'Tardy obedience following upon a most insolent refusal to obey,' and took my hand and led me to the side of his chair.
"Then he sat down and talked to Max a little, and sent him up to his room, and after Max had gone he talked to me.
"He said he must punish me, but he would try a new way, and for four days I shouldn't be his child at all—at least not be treated like it, but just as if I were only a little girl visitor; he wouldn't give me any orders, or advice, or direction, or instruction; and I mustn't take any liberty with him that I wouldn't feel free to take with a stranger gentleman.
"He said I must understand that he did not intend to subject me to any harsh treatment, but would be as polite and attentive to my wants as if I were a guest in the house."
"O Lu, did you like it? was it nice?"
"No, indeed! I thought they were the longest days I'd ever lived, and wondered how I could ever have thought I'd like to be my own mistress instead of having to obey papa.
"He didn't give me one cross word or even look, but he didn't invite me to sit on his knee, and I didn't dare do so; he didn't call me pet names and hug me up in his arms, as he so often does when I haven't been naughty, and I couldn't wait on him as I always love to do; he wouldn't let me do the least thing for him. I just felt as if I wasn't one of the family at all, and would ten times rather have had the hardest of whippings; at least so far as the pain was concerned."
"Yes, of course; it wouldn't have been half so hard to bear. At least I can imagine that to be made to feel yourself only a stranger in your father's house would be a great deal worse than having to endure quite severe bodily pain. So I think you may feel that you have been punished."
"Not so severely as I deserve," returned Lulu, shaking her head and sighing; "no not half. There, I can hear Gracie calling me to say good-night. Excuse me while I run into her room for a few minutes."
She found Grace alone and just getting into bed.
"Where's papa?" Lulu asked.
"Gone down stairs; but he said he'd be back in a few minutes to have his bit of chat with you in our sitting-room."
"Then I'll just kiss you good night and hurry back to get ready for him."
When the captain came he found Lulu ready and waiting for him, seated by the fire with her Bible open in her hand.
"I was learning my verse for to-morrow morning, papa," she said, closing the book and laying it aside, as she rose to give him the easy chair she had been occupying.
"That was right," he replied, sitting down and drawing her to his knee; "one could hardly end the old year, or begin the new, in a better way than by the study of God's word. Well, has my little daughter anything particular to say to her father to-night?"
"Only that I wish I'd been a better daughter to you, papa, and that I hope I shall be this—no next year: the year that's to begin in a few hours. I do hope that when its last night comes you can say, 'My daughter Lulu hasn't been once disobedient or in a passion for a whole year.'"
"It will be a very happy thing for me—for us both—if I can," he said, "and I am not without hope that it may be so. But my dear child, you will need constant watchfulness lest your besetting sins overcome you when you least expect it."
"I wish I could ever get done with the fight," she sighed. "It's such a hard one."
"Yes, I know, dear child, for I am engaged in the same conflict; but we must keep on resolutely till the dear Master calls us home.
"But we have the promise of His help all the way, and that we shall be 'more than conquerors through Him that loved us.' And the prize is eternal life at God's right hand."
"It will be always easy to be good when we get to heaven?"
"Yes; the last remains of the old evil nature will have been taken away, and we will have no more inclination to sin."
"I am very glad of that! and that God gave me such a good Christian father to help me in my hard fight! And, papa, I must tell you again that I am very, very sorry and ashamed because of my naughtiness last month."
"Dear child, my dear humble penitent little girl!" he said tenderly, "it was all long since fully and freely forgiven. Now good night, my darling; and good bye till next year," he added in playful tone, kissing her fondly over and over again, "unless something unforeseen should make you want your father before morning. In that case you will not have far to run to find him."
"Oh no; and it makes me glad always at night to remember that you are so near, and the doors all open between our rooms, so that you could hear me if I should call out to you, papa. I know you wouldn't be displeased at being wakened if I were in trouble and needed you."
"No, indeed, daughter; in that case I should be only too glad to be roused that I might hasten to your assistance.
"But let your greatest rejoicing be in the thought that you and I and all of us are under the care of Him who neither slumbers nor sleeps. 'It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.'"
Rosie in her mamma's room, which she shared at this time, as on a former occasion, was preparing for bed, Grandma Elsie quietly reading in an easy chair beside the fire.
Presently Rosie went to the side of the chair and dropping on her knees on the carpet, looked up smilingly into the sweet placid face bent over the book.
"Mamma, dear, I have come for my good night kiss before getting into bed," she said softly, adding sportively, "the last I shall solicit from you this year."
"And you are going to be satisfied with one?" her mother asked letting the book fall into her lap, while she laid one hand gently on her young daughter's head and gazed tenderly down into the blooming face; with a somewhat sad expression too, Rosie thought.
"I say, no to that, mamma," she returned, laying her head in her mother's lap and taking into her own the hand that had been resting on it, to press it again and again to her lips with ardent affection, "for I shall not be satisfied with less than half a dozen."
Elsie gave them in quick succession, gathering her child in her arms and making her rest her fair head on the maternal bosom, and Rosie felt a warm tear fall on her cheek.
"Mamma!" she exclaimed in concerned surprise, "you are crying! What can be the matter? have I said or done anything to grieve you, dear heart?" reaching up an arm to clasp her mother's neck, while she scanned the loved features with earnest, tender scrutiny.
For a minute or more there was no reply. Then Elsie said, in moved tones, softly smoothing the hair back from Rosie's temples as she spoke, and gazing tenderly down into her eyes, "My heart is sad for you, my darling, because, while another year is rapidly drawing to a close, I have yet no reason to hope that you have sought a refuge within the fold of the good Shepherd who gives to his sheep eternal life; the dear Saviour who has been all these years inviting you to come to him and be saved."
"Mamma, I am very young yet," murmured Rosie, hanging her head and blushing.
"Old enough to have become a disciple of Jesus years ago," her mother said in sorrowful tones. "O my darling, give him the best years of your life; the whole of your life, whether it be long or short. Is he not worthy of it?"
"Yes, mamma; surely there can be only one answer to that and I do mean to—to try to turn over a new leaf with the coming of the new year. But, mamma, I know of a number of good Christians who didn't begin to be such till they were many years older than I am. There is grandpa for one."
"Yes, my child," sighed her mother, "but he has always deeply regretted having so long delayed beginning the Christian course—entering the service of the dear Master whom now he loves better than wife or child or any created being. There are many reasons, my darling, why delay is both dangerous and unwise as well as basely ungrateful."
"You allude to the uncertainty of life, mamma?"
"Yes, and of the continuance of health and reason. How many have been suddenly overtaken by fatal illness that at once robbed them of the power to think, so that if preparation for the solemn realities of another world had not been already made, the opportunity for so doing was forever lost!
"There is also danger that God's Spirit may cease to strive with you, and without His help you can not come to Christ.
"Nor do we know how soon Jesus may come again in the clouds of heaven. He himself has told us that he will come as a thief in the night; that is when he is not expected.
"But, Rosie, my dear child, even if you could know certainly that delay will not cost you the loss of your soul, it will bring you other loss great and irreparable."
"What, mamma?" Rosie asked with a look of mingled surprise and alarm. "I can not think what you mean."
"While it is a precious truth that all who finally repent and accept of Christ as their only Saviour, will inherit eternal life—a life of holiness and unspeakable happiness at God's right hand," answered her mother, "yet there will be a difference in the portions of those who have spent many years in the faithful service of the Master—using their time and talents for the advancement of his cause and kingdom, and striving to win others to know and serve him, and themselves to grow in grace and conformity to his likeness and his will—and that of others who have been saved only at the last and so as by fire. All will be perfectly happy but some will have a greater capacity for happiness than others.
"According to the teachings of God's word sin is the greatest folly, the service of God the highest wisdom.
"'Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice?... Riches and honor are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver!
"'They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars forever and ever.'
"Rosie, my darling, it is the dearest wish of my heart to see you engaged in that work; but you cannot teach others what you do not know yourself; you must first give your heart to God and learn for yourself the sweetness of his love. Will you not do it now? at once? Oh listen to his gracious invitation, 'Give me thine heart.'"
For some moments a deep and solemn hush seemed to fill the room, Rosie still kneeling there with her head pillowed on her mother's breast, Elsie's heart going up in an almost agonizing petition for her child.
At length Rosie lifted her head looking up into her mother's face with dewy eyes and a very sweet smile.
"Mamma," she said in low tremulous tones, "I have tried to do it; I have asked the Lord to forgive all my sins, to cleanse me from mine iniquities, and to take me for his very own; and I think he has heard and granted my petition.
"You know when the leper came to him saying, 'Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean,' Jesus at once put forth his hand and touched him saying, 'I will; be thou clean'; and immediately the leprosy departed from him. Mamma, I have been praying the leper's prayer, and I think the dear Lord Jesus has said the same words to me."
"I am sure of it," Elsie said with emotion, "for he is the unchangeable God; 'Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever'; as ready to be moved with compassion for a sin-sick soul to-day, as he was for the leper when on earth. And he has said, 'Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.'"
Clasping her hands and looking upward, "Bless the Lord, O my soul," she exclaimed; "'and all that is within me, bless his holy name!'"
"Lu! Lu! five o'clock, time to get up!" called a harsh voice in loud, shrill tones.
"Who, who was calling?" asked Eva starting out of sleep.
"Only Polly," laughed Lulu.
"Get up, get up!" screamed the bird. "Time for breakfast. Polly wants her coffee. Polly wants a cracker."
"What a smart parrot! how plainly she talks," said Eva.
"Yes; but so loud. I'm afraid she will wake everybody in the house."
"How has she learned your name so soon?" asked Eva.
"I don't think she has," said Lulu. "Papa says there was a girl named Louisa in the place where Polly used to live, that everybody called Lu, and the parrot learned to call her so too."
"Happy New Year!" screamed Polly.
"Oh just hear her!" cried Lulu in delight. "Papa must have been teaching her that, or having somebody else do it, while we were away. I think she's going to make a great deal of fun for us all. Happy New Year to you, Eva dear," giving her friend a hug, as they lay side by side in the bed.
"The same to you, dear Lu," returned Eva. "How nice it is to be here with you lying on this easy couch with this down cover and these soft blankets over us. I never lay on a more delightful bed. Everything about it is beautiful and luxurious too."
"Papa was very particular to get the very best of springs and mattresses for all our beds," replied Lulu. "Oh but he is a dear, good father, always careful for the comfort and happiness of all his children!"
"And of his wife?"
"Oh yes indeed! I'm quite sure no man could take better care of his wife, or be more loving and kind to her, than papa is to Mamma Vi. And I'm pretty sure he was just the same to my mother; he says he loved her very dearly and loves his children—I mean Max and Gracie and me—because they were hers as well as because they are his very own."
"Lu! Lu! get up! Time for breakfast!" screamed Polly again.
"I suppose it is morning, or she wouldn't be making such a fuss," said Lulu.
"Yes," said Eva, "I see a little light coming in at the window."
"I'll light the gas in the sitting-room, and give her a cracker to stop her screaming," said Lulu, getting out of bed and feeling about for her warm slippers and dressing gown. "Then I'll run and catch papa and Gracie."
"Lulu," said the captain's voice from Gracie's room.
"I'm here, papa. Oh a happy New Year to you!"
"Thank you, dear child. I wish you the same; but I want you to give Polly a cracker as quickly as you can to stop her screaming; for I fear she will wake both guests and babies."
"Yes, sir; I will. I was just going to," replied the little girl. "Then shall I stay up?"
"I think you may as well go back to bed and try to take another nap," he answered. "It is very early yet."
Lulu hurried into the sitting-room where Polly's cage was hanging, and struck a light.
"What you 'bout? Where you been?" demanded the parrot.
"Sleeping in my bed as I have a right to, Miss Saucebox," returned Lulu, laughing as she opened a cupboard door and brought out a paper of crackers. "There, take that and see if you can hold your tongue till folks are ready to get up."
The bird took the offered cracker and began eating it, standing on one foot, on its perch, and holding the food in the claws of the other, while it bit off a little at a time, Lulu looking on with interest.
"You'll have to behave better than this, or you'll get banished to the attic, or the kitchen, or some other far-off place," she said, shaking her finger threateningly at Poll.
Then, after turning down the light, she ran back to bed.
"Are you asleep, Eva?" she asked in a whisper.
"No dear; wide awake."
"Then let's talk; for I'm as wide awake as I can be."
"But didn't your father say you were to try for another nap?"
"I understood him to mean only that I might if I chose, not that I must; but perhaps he meant that he wanted me to; so I'll keep quiet and try."
She did so, saying to herself, "I just know it's no use, for I was never wider awake in my life," but to her great astonishment the next thing she knew it was broad daylight and Eva up and brushing out her hair before the mirror over the bureau.
"Why, I've been asleep and I hadn't the least idea of such a thing!" cried Lulu springing out upon the floor and beginning to dress in all haste.
"Oh, you've had a nice nap and will feel the better for it all day, I'm sure," returned Eva laughing in a kindly way; "and that is your reward for trying to do as your papa probably wished you to. But need you hurry so? isn't it a good while to breakfast time?"
"Yes, but I have to dress and say my prayers; and I always like so much to have a little time to chat with papa before the bell rings."
"Lu! Lu!" screamed the parrot, "time for breakfast! Polly wants her coffee."
"Just hear Polly," exclaimed Lulu; "it does seem as if she must have sense. I suppose she does think it's time for breakfast."
"Does she drink coffee?" asked Eva.
"Yes; she is very fond of it. She gets a cup every morning."
"She's a very amusing pet, I think," remarked Evelyn. "What fun it will be to teach her to say all sorts of cute things!"
"Yes," sighed Lulu, "but papa says if she should hear angry, passionate, or willful words from my lips she may learn and repeat them to my shame and sorrow. But oh I hope I never shall let her hear such!"
"I don't believe you ever will say such words any more, dear Lu," Eva said with an affectionate look into her friend's face. "I don't believe you have ever been in a passion since—since the time that little Elsie had that sad fall."
"No, I have not been in a rage, but I have said some angry words a few times, and oh—as you must remember that I told you—some very rebellious and insolent ones to my dear papa—not so long ago. Oh dear, I'm afraid my tongue can never be tamed!
"Papa made me learn that third chapter of James that says 'the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity and that no man can tame it.' Then he talked to me so nicely and kindly about learning to rule my tongue and make it always speak as it ought—wise, kind, pleasant words. And he told me the only way to do it was by getting my heart right—by God's help—because, as the Bible tells us in another place, it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaketh."
"Your father takes a great deal of pains to teach and help you, dear Lu, doesn't he?" said Eva.
"Yes, yes, indeed!" returned Lulu, with warmth; "all his children, but especially me, I think, because I'm the naughtiest and have the hardest work trying to be good. I'm often surprised at papa's patience with me and the trouble he takes to help me in my hard fight with my passionate, wilful temper."
Just then Grace's voice was heard at the door, "Happy New Year, Eva and Lu! May I come in?"
"Yes, come. Happy New Year to you," cried both girls, Lulu running and taking her sister in her arms to hug and kiss her.
"You darling child! You look bright and well. Are you?"
"Yes, you old woman," laughed Gracie, returning the hug and kisses; "and I'm all ready for breakfast. Are you?"
"No, not quite."
"I am," said Eva. "Shall we go into the sitting-room, Gracie, and wait there for Lu?"
"Yes," answered Grace, leading the way; "and I'll be learning my Bible verse while we wait for her and papa and the breakfast bell."
Lulu and her father joined them at the same moment.
The captain kissed the little girls all around and presented each with a pretty little portemonnaie.
Eva thanked him with smiles, blushes and appreciative words; his own two with hugs and kisses in addition to the thanks given in words.
"Mine's ever so pretty, papa," Lulu said, turning it about in her hands.
"I am glad you are pleased with it," he said, smiling, "but are you going to be satisfied with looking at the outside? don't you want to examine the lining also?"
"Why, yes, sir?" opening it. "Oh, oh, it isn't empty!" she laughed, beginning to take out the contents—two clean, crisp one dollar notes, and a handful of bright new quarters, dimes and five cent pieces. "Papa, how kind and generous you are to me!"
Grace had her purse open by this time and found it lined in like manner with Lulu's. "Dear papa, thank you ever so much," she said, looking up into his face with eyes full of love and gratitude. "It's a great deal for me to have beside all the rest you gave me."
"You are both as welcome as possible, my darlings; only make good use of it, remembering that money is one of the talents for which we must give account to God at last," he answered to both.
"Eva, my dear," turning to her, "you will find the same in yours, and I hope will accept it from me as though you were one of my daughters. Do me the kindness to let me be in some respects, a father to you; since your own is absent in the happy home to which I trust we are all traveling."
She was standing near, the present he had given her in her hand. She had been looking from it to Lulu and Grace, thinking the while how good it was in the captain to treat her so much like one of his own, and now at these kind words spoken in tender fatherly tones, both heart and eyes grew full to overflowing.
He saw that she could not speak for emotion, and taking her hand, drew her to his knee and kissed her, saying, "Don't try to thank me in words, my dear; your speaking countenance tells me all you would say."
"What you 'bout?" screamed Polly at that instant, just as if she were calling the captain to account for his actions.
That made them all laugh; even Evelyn, who had been just ready to cry. Then the breakfast bell rang and everybody hastened to obey its summons.
Many a "Happy New Year," was exchanged among them as they gathered—a bright faced, cheerful set—in the pleasant breakfast-room and about its bountiful table.
Each had a gift to show, for all had been remembered in that way by either the captain or Violet, some by both, and each one had received or did now receive, something from Grandma Elsie—a book, toy or game.
The gifts seemed to give universal satisfaction and all were in gayest spirits.
Shortly after breakfast—almost before the children had done with comparing and talking about their presents—the other guests began to arrive, and by ten o'clock everybody who had been invited was there.
Then began the fun of arranging themselves in groups and having photographs taken; after that the acting of the charades.
The picture suggested by Violet was taken first. In it Grandma Elsie was seated between her father on one side, and her namesake daughter on the other, Mrs. Leland having her babe in her arms, while little Ned leaned confidingly against his great-grandfather's knee.
The captain and Violet, with their two little ones, made another pretty picture. Then the captain was taken again with his older three grouped about him. Then Grandma Elsie again with her son Edward and his Zoe, standing behind her, Rosie and Walter one on each side.
She thought this quite enough, but her college boys insisted on having her taken again, seated between them.
It was then proposed that the other members of the company should be taken in turn—singly or in groups;—but all declined, expressing a decided preference for spending the time in a more amusing manner, such as forming tableaux and acting charades.
The older people took possession of a large parlor and sat there conversing, while the younger ones consulted together and made their arrangements in the library.
Misconstrue was the first word chosen. Presently Evelyn walked into the parlor, followed almost immediately by Harold with a book in his hand.
"You are here, Miss?" he said glancing at Evelyn. "And you, Miss?" as Sydney Dinsmore came tripping in from the hall.
"Yes; and here comes another Miss;" she replied, as Lulu appeared in the open doorway.
"I too, am a miss; there are four of us here now," said Rosie, coming up behind Lulu.
"I am a miss," proclaimed Maud Dinsmore, stepping in after Rosie.
"And I am a miss," echoed Lora Howard, coming after her.
"Well, stand up in a row and let us see if you can say your lesson without a miss," said Harold.
"Oh it's a spelling school—all of girls!" remarked Grace in a low aside to her little friend Rosie Lacey; they two having chosen a place among the spectators rather than with the actors on this occasion.
"Yes," returned Rosie; "I wonder why they don't have some of the boys in the class too."
"When did Columbus discover America, Miss Maud?" asked Harold.
"In 1942," returned Maud with the air of one who is quite confident of the correctness of her reply.
"A miss for you," said Harold. "Next. When did Columbus discover America?"
"In 1620, just after the landing of the pilgrims," answered Sydney.
"Another miss," said Harold. "Next."
"Something happened in 1775," said Eva meditatively.
"Oh!" cried Rosie, "Columbus' discovery was long before that—somewhere about the year 1000, was it not, Mr. Travilla?"
"A miss for each of you," replied Harold, shaking his head. "What year was it, Lulu?"
"It must have been before I was born," she answered slowly, as if not entirely certain—"Yes, I'm quite sure it was, and I can't remember before I was born."
"A miss for you too," said Harold. "You have every one missed and will have to con your task over again."
At that each girl opened a book which she held in her hand, and for several minutes they all seemed to be studying diligently.
"Ah, ha! ah ha! um h'm! mis-con," murmured Cousin Ronald, half-aloud; "vara weel done, lads and lasses. What's the next syllable? strue? Ah ha, um h'm! we shall see presently," as the books were closed and the young actors vanished through the door into the hall.
They were hardly gone when Zoe entered, carrying a small basket filled with flowers which she began to strew here and there over the floor.
"Ah ha! ah ha! um h'm!" cried Cousin Ronald, "she strews the flowers; misconstrue is the word na doot."
"Ah Cousin Ronald, somebody must have told you," laughed Zoe, tripping from the room.
"Oh!" cried Rosie Lacey, "I see now why the boys didn't take part this time; because they couldn't be miss."
"Here they come now, boys and girls too," exclaimed Grace. "Why how they're laughing! I wonder what's the joke?"
They were all laughing as at something very amusing, and after entering the room did nothing but sit or stand about laughing all the time; fairly shaking with laughter, laughing, laughing till the tears came into their eyes, and the older people joined in without in the least knowing the exciting cause of so much mirth.
"Come, children, tell us the joke," said Mr. Dinsmore at length.
"O grandpa, can't you see?" asked Rosie Travilla, and they all hurried from the room, to return presently in a procession, each carrying something in his or her hand.
Harold had a log of wood, Herbert a post, Max a block, Frank the wooden part of an old musket, while Chester, though empty-handed, wore an old fashioned stock or cravat and held his head very stiffly.
Maud, dressed as a huckster, had a basket filled with apples, oranges, nuts and candies. Sydney, wearing an old cloak and straw hat, had a basket on her arm in which were needles, tapes, buttons, pins, and other small wares such as are often hawked about the streets.
Lulu and Eva brought up the rear, carrying the parrot and Gracie's kitten.
Maud and Sydney made the circuit of the room, the one crying, "Apples and Oranges! buy any apples and oranges?" the other asking, "Want any pins to-day? needles, buttons, shoe-strings?"
"No," said Grandma Rose, "Have you nothing else to offer?"
"No, ma'am, this is my whole stock in trade," replied Sydney.
"I laid in a fresh stock of fruit this morning, ma'am, and it's good enough for anybody," sniffed Maud, with indignant air.
"Do you call that a musket, sir?" asked Chester of Frank.
"No, sir; I called it the stock of one."
"Lulu and Eva, why bring those creatures in here?" asked Herbert, elevating his eyebrows as in astonishment.
"Because they're our live stock," replied Lulu.
Now Frank began to play the part of a clown or buffoon, acting in a very silly and stupid manner, while the others looked on laughing and pointing their fingers at him in derision.
"Frank, can't you behave yourself?" exclaimed Maud. "It mortifies me to see you making yourself the laughing-stock of the whole company."
"Laughing-stock—laughing-stock," said several voices among the spectators, the captain adding, "Very well done indeed!"
"Thank you, sir," said Harold. "If the company are not tired we will give them one more."
"Let us have it," said his grandfather.
Some of the girls now joined the spectators, while Harold drew out a little stand, and he, Chester, and Herbert seated themselves about it with paper and pencils before them, assuming a very business-like air.
Frank had stepped out to the hall. In a minute or two he returned and walked up to the others, hat in hand.
Bowing low, but awkwardly, "You're the school committee I understand, gents?" he remarked inquiringly.
"Yes," said Harold, "and we want a teacher for the school at Sharon. Have you come to apply for the situation?"
"Yes, sir; I heered tell ye was wantin' a superior kind o' male man to take the school fer the winter, and bein' as I was out o' a job, I thought I mout as well try my hand at that as enny thin' else."
"Take a seat and let us inquire into your qualifications," said Herbert, waving his hand in the direction of a vacant chair. "But first tell us your name and where you are from."
"My name, sir, is Peter Bones, and I come from the town o' Hardtack in the next county; jest beyant the hill yander. I've a good eddication o' me own, too, though I never rubbed my back agin a college," remarked the applicant, sitting down and tilting his chair back on its hind legs, retaining his balance by holding on to the one occupied by Herbert. "I kin spell the spellin' book right straight through, sir, from kiver to kiver."
"But spelling is not the only branch to be taught in the Sharon school," said Chester. "What else do you know."
"The three r's, sir; reading, 'ritin,' and 'rithmetic."
"You are acquainted with mathematics!"
"Well, no, not so much with Mathy as with his brother Bill; but I know him like a book; fact I might say like several books."
"Like several books, eh?" echoed Chester in a sarcastic tone; "but how well may you be acquainted with the books? What's the meaning of pathology?"
"The science of road making of course, sir; enny fool could answer such a question as that."
"Could he, indeed? Well you've made a miss, for your answer is wide of the mark."
"How wide is the Atlantic ocean?" asked Herbert.
"'Bout a thousand miles."
"Another miss; it's three thousand."
"I know it useter to be, years ago, but they've got to crossin' it so quick now that you needn't tell me it's more'n a thousand."
"In what year was the Declaration of Independence signed?" asked Harold.
"Wall now, I don't jist remember," returned the applicant, thrusting both hands deep into his pockets and gazing down meditatively at the carpet, "somewheres 'bout 1860, wuzn't it? no, come to think, I guess 'twas '63."
"No, no, no! you are thinking of the proclamation of emancipation. Another miss. We don't find you qualified for the situation; so wish you good day, sir."
"Ah, ah! ah, ah! um h'm, um h'm! so I should say," soliloquized Mr. Lilburn, leaning on his goldheaded cane and watching the four lads as they scattered and left the room; "and so this is the end of act the first, I suppose. Miss, miss, miss, ah that's the syllable that begins the new word."
Evelyn now came in with an umbrella in her hand, Grace and Rose Lacey walking a little in her rear. Evelyn raised the umbrella and turning to the little girls, said pleasantly, "Come under, children, I can't keep the rain off you unless you are under the umbrella." They accepted the invitation and the three moved slowly back and forth across the room several times.
"It's a nice sort of shelter to be under when it rains," remarked Rose Lacey.
"Yes, I like to be under it," said Grace.
"But it is wearisome to walk all the time; let us stand still for a little," proposed Evelyn.
"Yes; by that stand yonder," said Grace.
They went to it and stationed themselves there for a moment; then Grace stepped from under the umbrella and seated herself on the carpet under the stand.
"Look, look!" laughed Rose Lacey, "there's Miss Grace Raymond under the stand; a miss-under-stand."
A storm of applause, and cries of "Well done, little ones! Very prettily done indeed!" and Gracie, rosy with blushes, came out from her retreat and ran to hide her face on her father's shoulder, while he held her close with one arm, softly smoothing her curls with the other hand.
"Don't be disturbed, darling," he said; "it is only kind commendation of the way in which Rosie and you have acted your parts."
"Why you should feel proud and happy, Gracie," said Zoe, drawing near. "We are going to have that tableau now in which you are to be a little flower girl. So come, won't you? and let me help you dress."
Tableaux filled up the rest of the morning.
After dinner Harold and Herbert gave an exhibition of tricks of legerdemain, which even the older people found interesting and amusing. The little ones were particularly delighted with a marvellous shower of candy that ended the performance.
Some of Cousin Ronald's stories of the heroes of Scottish history and song made the evening pass delightfully.
But at an early hour the whole company, led by Grandpa Dinsmore, united in a short service of prayer, praise, and the reading of the scriptures, and at its close the guests bade good-bye and scattered to their homes.
"Well," said Max, following the rest of the family into the parlor, after they had seen the last guest depart, "I never had a pleasanter New Year's day."
"Nor I either," said Lulu; "and we had such a delightful time last year too, that I really don't know which I enjoyed the most."
"And we have good times all the time since we have a home of our own with our dear father in it," remarked Grace, taking his hand and carrying it to her lips, while her sweet azure eyes looked up lovingly into his face.
An emphatic endorsement of that sentiment from both Max and Lulu. Then the captain, smiling tenderly upon them, said, "I dearly love to give you pleasure, my darlings, my heart's desire is for my children's happiness in this world and the next; but life can not be all play; so lessons must be taken up again to-morrow morning, and I hope to find you all in an industrious and tractable mood."
"I should hope so indeed, papa," returned Max; "if we are not both obedient and industrious we will deserve to be called an ungrateful set."
The weather the next day was so mild and pleasant that Max and Lulu asked and obtained permission to take a ride of several miles on their ponies.
They went alone, their father and Violet having driven out in the family carriage, taking the three younger children with them.
On their return Max and his sister approached the house from a rear entrance to the grounds, passing through the bit of woods belonging to the estate, the garden and shrubbery, and across the lawn.
In traversing the wood they came upon a man leaning idly against a tree, in a lounging attitude, with his hands in his pockets, a half consumed cigar in his mouth.
He was a stranger to the children, and from, his shabby, soiled clothing, unkempt locks, and unshaven face, it was evident he belonged to the order of tramps.
He stood directly in the path the children were pursuing, just where it made a sudden turn, and Lulu's pony had almost trodden upon his foot before they were aware of his vicinity.
Fairy shied, snorting with fright, and almost unseated her young rider.
"Look out there, and don't ride a fellow down!" growled the man, catching hold of Fairy's bridle and scowling into the face of her rider.
Lulu did not seem to be frightened. Her quick temper rose at the man's insolence, and she exclaimed authoritatively, "Let go of my bridle this instant, and get out of the path."
"I will when I get ready, and no sooner," returned the man insolently.
"What are you doing in these grounds, sir?" demanded Max, adding, "You have no call to be here. Let go of that bridle and step out of the path at once."
"I'm not under your orders, bubby," said the tramp with a disagreeable, mocking laugh.
"These are my father's grounds," said Max, drawing himself up with a determined air, "and we don't allow tramps and loafers here; so if you don't let go of that bridle and be off I'll set my dog on you. Here, Prince, Prince!"
At the sound of the call, answered by a loud bark, and the sight of Prince's huge form making rapid bounds in his direction, the tramp released Fairy's bridle, and growling out an oath, turned and made his way with all celerity toward the public road, leaping the fence that separated it from Capt. Raymond's grounds, barely in time to escape Prince's teeth, as he made a dash to seize him by the leg.
"Oh," cried Lulu, drawing a long breath of relief, "what a happy thing that Prince came running out to meet us!"
"Yes," said Max, "and I hope he has given that fellow a fright that will keep him from ever coming into these grounds again. If he isn't a scoundrel his looks certainly belie him very much."
They had held their ponies in check while watching the race between man and dog, but now urged them forward in haste to reach the house; for the short winter day was fast closing in.
The captain was standing on the veranda as they rode up.
"You are a trifle late, children," he said, as he stepped to the side of Fairy and lifted Lulu from the saddle, but his tone was not stern.
"Yes, papa," said Max; "I'm afraid we went a little farther than we ought; at any rate it took us longer than we expected to reach home again; and we were detained a minute or two just now, out here in the grove, by a tramp that caught hold of Fairy's bridle and wouldn't let go till I called Prince and he showed his teeth."
"What! can it be possible?" cried the captain closing his fingers more firmly over the hand Lulu had slipped into his, and gazing down into her face with a look of mingled concern and relief. "It is well indeed that Lulu was not alone, and that Prince was at hand. Come into the library and tell me all about it."
He led Lulu in as he spoke, Max following, while a servant took the ponies to their stable.
Capt. Raymond sat down and drew Lulu to his side, putting an arm protectingly around her, while Max, standing near, went on to give the particulars of their encounter with the tramp, Lulu now and then putting in a word.
"Now, daughter," the captain said at the conclusion of the story, "I hope you are quite convinced of the wisdom and kindness of your father's prohibition of solitary rides and walks for you?"
"Yes, papa, I am, and do not intend ever to disobey you again by taking them. I wasn't much frightened, but I know it would have been very dangerous for me if I'd been alone."
"No doubt of it," he said, caressing her with grave tenderness, "it almost makes me shudder to think of what might have happened had you been without a protector."
"And I doubt if I could have protected her without Prince's help, papa," said Max. "I think he's a valuable fellow, and pays for his keep."
"Yes; I am very glad I selected him as a Christmas gift to you," said his father. "But now I must warn you both to say nothing to, or before Gracie, about this occurrence; for timid as she is, it would be apt to cause her much suffering from apprehension."
"We will try to keep it a secret from her, papa," replied both children.
"And in order to succeed in that you will have to be on your guard and give no hint of the matter in presence of any of the servants."
"We will try to remember, papa," they promised with evident intention to do so.
"That is right," he said. "I think I can trust you not to forget or disobey. I know you would be loath to have your little sister tortured with nervous terrors. Now go and get yourselves ready for tea."
Lulu was full of excitement over her adventure, and through the evening found it difficult to refrain from speaking of it before Grace; but equally desirous to obey her father and to save her little sister from needless suffering, she resolutely put a curb upon her tongue till she found herself alone with him at bedtime.