HotFreeBooks.com
Christmas with Grandma Elsie
by Martha Finley
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Then she must needs go over the whole scene again, and seeing that it was a relief to her excitement, he let her run on about it to her heart's content.

"Has it made you feel at all timid to-night, daughter?" he asked kindly.

"No, papa," she answered promptly; "I don't think the man could get into the house; do you?"

"I think it most probable he has walked on till he is miles away from here by this time," the captain answered. "But even did we know him to be prowling round outside, we might rest and sleep in peace and security, assured that nothing can harm us without the will of our heavenly Father who loves us more than any earthly parent loves his child."

He drew her very close to his heart and imprinted a tender kiss upon her lips as he spoke.

"Yes, papa, it makes me feel very safe to remember that, thinking how dearly you love me; so that I know you would never let anything harm me if you could help it," she returned, putting an arm round his neck and hugging him tight. "Oh I am so glad that the Bible tells us that about God's love to us!"

"So am I; and that my children have early learned to love and trust in him.

"'Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.' That is not a promise that God's faithful followers shall be rich in this world's goods, but faith in God's loving care makes life happy even in the midst of poverty and pain. Riches have not the power to make us happy, but the love of God has.

"And those who begin to serve God in the morning of life and press onward and upward all their days, keeping near to Jesus and growing more and more like him, will be happier in heaven—because of their greater capacity for the enjoyment of God and holiness—than the saved ones who sought him late in life, or were less earnest in their endeavors to live in constant communion with him, and to bear more and more resemblance to him.

"The Bible speaks of some who are 'scarcely saved,' and of others to whom 'an entrance shall be ministered abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.'"

"Papa," said Lulu earnestly, "I want to be one of those; I want to live near to Jesus and grow every day more like him. (Oh I am so little like him now; sometimes I fear not at all). Won't you help me all you can?"

"I will, my darling," he replied, speaking with emotion. "Every day I ask wisdom from on high for that very work;—the work of helping you and all my dear children to be earnest, faithful servants of God."

The talk with her father had done much to quiet Lulu's excitement, and she fell asleep very soon after laying her head on her pillow.

It was still night when she awoke suddenly with the feeling that something unusual was going on in the house.

She sat up in the bed and listened. She thought she heard a faint sound coming from the room below, and slipping from the bed she stole softly across the floor to the chimney, where there was a hot air flue beside the open fireplace.

Dropping down on her hands and knees, she put her ear close to the register and listened again, almost holding her breath in the effort to hear.

The chimney ran up between her bedroom and the little tower room opening into it; the library was under her bedroom, and opening from it was the ground floor room of the tower, which was very strongly built, had only the one door and very narrow slits of windows set high up in the thick stone walls.

In a safe in that small room were kept the family plate, jewelry, and money; though no very great amount of the last named, as the captain considered it far wiser to deposit it in the nearest bank.

The door of the strong room, as it was called, was of thick oak plank crossed with iron bars, and had a ponderous bolt and stout lock whose key was carried up stairs every night by the captain.

Listening with bated breath, Lulu's ear presently caught again a faint sound as of a file moving cautiously to and fro on metal.

"Burglars! I do believe it's burglars trying to steal the money and silver and Mamma Vi's jewelry that are in the safe," she said to herself with a thrill of mingled fear and excitement.

With that she crept into the tower room, softly opened the register there, and applied her ear to it. The sound of the file seemed a trifle louder and presently she was sure she heard gruff voices, though she could not distinguish the words.

Her first impulse was to hurry to her father and tell him of her discovery; the second thought, "If I do, papa will go down there and maybe they'll kill him; and that would be a great, great deal worse than if they should carry off everything in the house. I wish I could catch them myself and lock them in there before I wake papa. Why couldn't I?" starting to her feet in extreme excitement; "they're in the strong room, the bolt's on the library side of the door, and probably they've left the key there, too, in the lock. If I'm going to try to do it, the sooner the better. I'll ask God to show me how and help me."

She knelt on the carpet for a moment, sending up her petition in a few earnest words, then rising, stood for an instant thinking very fast.

She could gain the library by a door opening into a back hall and very near that into the strong room, whose door, if open, would be in a position to conceal her approach from the burglars till she could step behind it; so that her scheme seemed not impracticable.

She hastily put on a dark dressing-gown over her white night dress, and thick felt slippers on her feet.

Her heart beat very fast as the thought occurred to her that there might be an accomplice in the library or hall, or that the door from the one into the other might creak and bring the miscreants rushing out upon her before she could accomplish the task she had set herself.

"Well what if they should, Lulu Raymond?" she asked, shutting her teeth hard together, "'twouldn't be half so bad as if they should harm your father. You could be very well spared, but he couldn't; Mamma Vi, Max and Gracie would break their hearts if anything dreadful happened to him, and so would you too; I'll try, trusting to God to take care of me."

With swift, noiseless steps she passed out of her room, down a back stairway into the hall just spoken of, and gained the library door, finding it, to her great joy, wide enough open for her to slip in without touching it.

She could see nothing there; the room was quite dark; but the sounds she had heard were still going in the strong room, seeming a little louder now. The men must be in there at work on the safe; with the door ajar, for a streak of light at the back between it and the jamb, told her it was not quite shut.

She crept to it and peeping in at that crack, saw a man down on his knees working at the lock of the safe, while another stood close beside him, holding a dark lantern, open, so that the rays of light fell full and strongly upon the lock his confederate was trying to break.

Lulu could not see the face of the latter, his back being toward her, but as the other bent forward for a moment, to watch the progress of the work, the light fell on his face, and she instantly recognized him as the tramp who had seized Fairy's bridle in the wood.

Trembling like a leaf she put up her hand and cautiously felt for the bolt; holding tight to it and exerting all her strength, she suddenly slammed the door to and shot it into its socket. She heard the villains drop their tools, spring toward and try the door with muttered oaths and curses; but she waited to feel for the key and turn it in the lock; even to pull it out and thrust it into the pocket of her gown, as a swift thought came to her, that there might be an accomplice lurking about who would release them if she left it there.

Then she ran as fast as her feet could carry her, through the library and hall, up the stairs and on through the rooms, never stopping until she stood panting for breath beside her sleeping father.

She could not speak for a moment, but laid her face on the pillow beside his and put her arm round his neck.

The touch roused him and he asked, "Who is it? you, Lulu?"

"Yes, papa," she panted; "I—I've locked some burglars into the strong room and—"

"You? you have locked them in there?" he exclaimed in astonishment starting up and drawing her into his arms. "Surely, my child, you have been dreaming."

"No, papa, not a bit; I've locked them in there and here's the key," putting it into his hand. "I slammed the door to on them. I shot the bolt too, and I don't think they can get out. But what will we do? Papa, can you get somebody to help you take them to jail?"

"Yes; I shall telephone at once to the sheriff at Union."

"Who is it? What's the matter?" asked Violet waking.

"I can not wait at this moment to explain matters my love," the captain said hastily picking up Lulu and putting her in the place in the bed which he had just vacated. "I must act, leaving Lulu to tell you her story."

With the last word he hurried from the room and the next moment they heard the telephone bell.



CHAPTER XV.

"What is it, Lu?" Violet asked in trepidation. "Oh what is the meaning of those sounds coming from below? Are burglars trying to break in?"

"No, Mamma Vi," returned Lulu with a little nervous laugh, "they are trying to break out."

"Break out? what can you mean, child?"

"They are locked into the strong room, Mamma Vi, and papa is calling for help to take them to jail. Hark! don't you hear him?"

They sat up in the bed, listening intently.

"Hello!" the captain called: then in another moment, "Capt. Raymond of Woodburn, wants the sheriff," they heard him say. "Ah are you there Mr. Wright? Burglars in the house. Burglars here. We have them fast, locked into the room with the safe they were trying to break open. Send a constable and several men to help him, as promptly as you can."

The reply was of course inaudible to the listeners in the bedroom, but the next moment the captain spoke again.

"Yes, I can hold them till you can get here; unless some outside accomplice should come to their aid."

He seemed to listen to a response, then a tinkle of his bell told that the conversation was at an end.

He turned at once to a private telephone connecting the dwelling house with the outside cabins in which his men-servants lodged, and called them to come to his assistance.

Then back he went to his bedroom to reassure Violet and send Lulu to Grace, who had waked and was calling in affright to know what was the matter.

"Do not be alarmed, my dear," he said, as he hastily threw on his clothes: "I really think there is no cause for apprehension, but I must hurry down to admit the servants (whether the burglars have left a door open or not, I do not know), see in what condition things are in the lower rooms, and keep guard over my prisoners till the sheriff or constable and his men arrive."

"What can I do?" asked Violet.

"Stay here out of harm's way, and ready to soothe and quiet the children should they wake in affright," he answered as he again hastened away.

Violet sprang from the bed and went with swift, noiseless steps into the nursery. All was quiet there, children and nurse soundly sleeping. She retraced her steps and went on into Grace's room, where the two little girls were lying together in the bed, locked in each other's arms. Grace trembling with fear, Lulu bravely struggling with her own excitement and trying to calm and soothe her little sister.

"O Mamma Vi, I'm so glad you've come!" she exclaimed, as Violet drew near, then seated herself on the side of the bed, and bent down to kiss first the one and then the other, "for Gracie is so frightened."

"I'm so afraid those wicked men will hurt papa," sobbed Grace.

"God will take care of him, dear child," Violet said, repeating her caress. "Beside your papa just told me he thought there was no cause for apprehension.

"But, Lulu, I have not heard yet how the burglars came to be locked into the strong room. Tell me about it."

"Something waked me, Mamma Vi, and I heard them, and by listening a little I made sure where they were. At first I thought I'd run and call papa; but then I thought there are two of them if not more and papa is only one, so he would hardly have a chance in trying to fight them; but if I should slip quietly down and slam the door to and lock them in, it would save risking papa's life; and if they should catch me and kill me it wouldn't be half so bad as if they hurt papa.

"So I asked God to help me and take care of me. Then I ran down the back stairs to the library.

"The door into the back hall was far enough open to let me slip in without touching it, so that I did so without making any noise to attract their attention; then seeing by the light coming from the crack at the back of the strong room door, that they were in there, I crept close up and peeped in, and there they were; one down on his knees working at the lock of the safe, the other holding a lantern to give him light.

"When I had watched them for a minute, I asked God again to help me; then I felt for the bolt and kept my hand on it while I, all of a sudden, pushed against the door with all my might and slammed it to, and shot the bolt in.

"I'd hardly done it when I heard the men drop their tools and run to the door and try to get it open; saying dreadful words too, that frightened me. So I only waited to lock the door also before I started to run upstairs and on through the rooms till I got to papa.

"He was asleep and I was so out of breath, and my heart beating so fast I couldn't speak for a minute. But I put my arm round his neck and my cheek on the pillow close to his and he woke."

"And it was you who locked the burglars in?" exclaimed Violet in astonishment. "I've heard before now of women doing such things, but never of a little girl like you attempting it. You dear, brave, unselfish child! I am very, very proud of you!" and she bent down again and kissed Lulu several times.

The burglars, quite aware that their presence in the house was known, were making desperate efforts to escape, trying to force the lock or break down the door, at the same time cursing, and swearing in tones of concentrated fury.

The captain drew near and spoke to them.

"Men," he said sternly, "you are caught in a trap you have laid for yourselves, and escape is impossible; both lock and door are strong enough to resist your utmost efforts; therefore you may as well take matters quietly."

"That we won't. Let us out or it'll be the worse for you!" growled one of the villians, grinding his teeth with rage.

"Have a little patience," returned the captain; "you shall be taken out presently, and off the premises; you are by no means desirable inmates in the home of any honest, law-abiding citizen."

The response to that was a threat of vengeance to be taken sooner or later, should he dare to deliver them up to justice.

Finding their threats disregarded, they tried persuasion, appeals to his compassion—asserting that it was their first attempt to rob, and that they were driven to it by necessity—they and their families being in sore straits from extreme poverty—and promises to lead honest lives in future.

One voice the captain recognized as that of the groom he had dismissed some months before because of his cruelty to Thunderer.

"Ajax," he said sternly, "you are lying to me! I know that your family are not in distress, and that you can make an honest living if you choose to be industrious and faithful to your employers. You were well paid here but lost your situation by inexcusable cruelty to dumb animals.

"Since discharging you I have more than once supplied the wants of your wife and children; and this is your grateful return;—coming to rob me, bringing with you another, and perhaps more desperate villain than yourself."

The men-servants had followed their master into the library and stood listening to the colloquy in open-mouthed astonishment.

"How dey git locked up in dar, cap'in?" asked one.

"Miss Lulu slammed the door to on them and locked and bolted it," he replied, his eyes shining at thought of the unselfish bravery of his child.

"Ki, cap'n! you's jokin', fo' shuah, dat little Miss Lu lock up de bugglars? how she gwine do dat? she one small chile an' dey two big men?"

"She undoubtedly did it," returned the captain, smiling at the man's evident amazement. "She heard them at work with their tools, on the safe door, came softly down into this room, peeped at them through the crack behind the door there, and before they were aware of her vicinity, slammed it to and bolted and locked it on them."

"Hurrah for little Miss Lu!" cried the men; one of them adding, "Dey mus' hab her fo' a kunnel in de nex' wah."

"No, sah; higher'n dat; fo' brigandine gineral at de berry leas'!" said another.

Seeing no hope of escape, the prisoners had ceased their efforts and awaited their fate in sullen silence.

They did not know who had been their captor, and in telling the story of Lulu's exploit the captain purposely so lowered his tones that scarce a word reached their ears.

At this moment Max appeared at the door opening from the library into the front hall; only half dressed and asking in much excitement, what was the matter? what was the meaning of the lights and the noises that had waked him?

His father explained in a few words, and as he finished a loud knocking at the front entrance told of the arrival of the sheriff and his posse.

They were promptly admitted, filed into the library and formed a semi-circle about the door of the strong room—each man with a revolver in his hand, cocked and ready for instant use.

The door was then unfastened and the burglars stepped out only to be immediately handcuffed and carried away to prison, sullenly submitting to their arrest because they saw that resistance was useless.

But before being taken from the house they were searched and the captain's watch found upon Ajax. He had evidently visited the dressing-room of his late master to obtain the key to the strong room door, and appropriated the watch at the same time.

The lock of the safe was also examined and found but little injured. The scoundrels had not succeeded in getting at the valuables there.

They had collected together some from other parts of the house and made them into bundles ready to carry away, but they were uninjured and had only to be restored to their places.

Max was greatly excited. "Papa," he said, when the sheriff had departed with his prisoners, and doors and windows were again secured, "we have had a narrow escape from serious loss; perhaps worse than that; for who knows but those fellows meant to murder us in our beds?"

"I think not, my son," replied the captain. "I presume their only object was plunder, and that if they had succeeded in rifling the safe without discovery, they would have gone quietly away with their booty.

"Had they desired to kill any of us, they would have been likely to attempt it when upstairs in search of the key to the strong room."

"And it was Lu who spoiled their plans! Just think of it! I'd like to have had her chance. Papa, I think Lu's splendid!"

"She has certainly shown herself very brave and unselfish on this, and several other occasions," the captain said with a happy look in his eyes.

"But come, we will do well now to go back to our beds, for it is scarcely four o'clock," he added, consulting his recovered watch.

The men servants had returned to their quarters, and father and son were alone.

Violet, in dressing-gown and slippers, met them at the head of the stairway.

"You have not been able to sleep, my love?" the captain said with a glance of concern at her pale, excited face. "But of course that was not to be expected."

"No; we have all been too much excited to close an eye," she answered." They are gone? Do tell me all about it!"

"O papa, please come in here and tell it where Gracie and I can hear," called Lulu entreatingly, from the inner room, and the bed where they still lay clasped in each other's arms.

"I will; I think you deserve the indulgence," he said going to them, Violet and Max following, the latter asking, "May I come in too, papa?"

"Yes," replied his father, placing a chair for Violet. "I presume it will be a relief to you all to talk the matter over together with your mamma and me, and you will perhaps be more inclined for sleep afterward."

"Papa, won't you sit down and take me on your knee, and hug me up close, while you tell it?" entreated Grace.

"I will," he said, doing as she requested. Then catching a longing look in Lulu's eyes, "You may come too, daughter," he said. "Slip on your dressing-gown and stand here by my side. I have an arm for you as well as one for Gracie."

Lulu promptly and joyfully availed herself of the permission.

"Lu," said Max, "you're a real heroine! brave as a lion! I'm proud to own you for my sister. I'm afraid I mightn't have been half so brave."

"Oh yes, Max, I'm sure you would have done just the same," she returned, blushing with pleasure. "And you see I preferred to do it, because I thought they might kill papa, and that would have been oh so much worse than being killed myself!" clinging lovingly to her father, and hiding her face on his shoulder as she spoke.

"Dear child!" he said in moved tones and clasping her close, "you have a very strong and unselfish love for me."

"Papa, it would have broken my heart, and Mamma Vi's, and Max's and Gracie's too, if anything dreadful had happened to you."

"And what about papa's heart if he should lose his dear little daughter Lulu, or anything dreadful should happen to her?"

"I didn't have time to think about that, papa. I know you love me very much, and would be sorry to lose me—naughty as I often am—but you have other children, and I have only one father; so of course it would be a great deal worse for me to lose you, and all the rest to lose you too."

"The worst thing that could befall us," said Violet; "but Lulu, dear, we all love you and would feel it a terrible thing to have you killed or badly injured in any way."

"Indeed we would!" exclaimed Max, with a slight tremble in his voice.

"Oh I couldn't ever, ever bear it!" sobbed Gracie, throwing an arm round her sister's neck.

"Well," said the captain cheerfully, hugging both at once, "we have escaped all the evils we have been talking of; our heavenly Father has taken care of us and has not suffered us to even lose our worldly goods, much less our lives; and we may well trust Him for the future and not fear what man can do unto us."

"Yes," said Violet, "we know that He has all power in heaven and earth and will never suffer any real evil to befall one of His people.

"'He will not suffer thy foot to be moved; he, that keepth thee will not slumber.'

"Levis, did you know those men?"

"One of them is Ajax."

"Is it possible?" she exclaimed. "What a return for all the kindness you have shown to him and his!"

"Ajax! There, I was sure I heard Ajax's voice in the hall while the sheriff was here," cried Lulu. "He must have been the one who was down on his knees trying to break the safe lock when I peeped in at the crack. I didn't see his face; but the other was a white man."

"Yes," said Max; "a man we'd seen before."

"The tramp you saw when out riding?" asked his father.

"Yes, sir."

"I recognized him too," said Lulu. "Papa, what will be done with him and Ajax?"

"They will have to be tried for burglary and if convicted, will be sent to the penitentiary for a term of years."

"Papa, will we have to appear as witnesses on the trial?" asked Max.

"Yes."

"The men did not attempt any resistance to the arrest?" Violet said inquiringly.

"No; they saw it would be quite useless."

After a little more talk the captain said, "Now I think it will be best for us all to go to our beds again and try to sleep till the usual hour for rising."

"Papa, I feel so afraid," said Grace, holding tight to him as he would have laid her in the bed.

"My darling, try not to feel so," he said, caressing her; "try to believe that God will take care of you."

"Please ask him again, papa," she pleaded.

Then they all knelt while the captain asked in a few simple, earnest words that He who neither slumbers nor sleeps would be their shield, defending them from all evil, and that trusting in His protecting care they might be able to banish every fear and lay them down in peace and sleep.

"I am not afraid now, papa," Grace said, as they rose from their knees. "You may please put me in my bed, and I think I'll go to sleep directly, for I'm very tired."

"You will allow them to sleep past the usual hour, my dear, will you not?" asked Violet.

"Yes," he said, "I wish you, children, to sleep on as long as you can, and if possible make up all you have lost by the visit of the burglars; it will not matter if you take your breakfast later than usual by even so much as an hour or two."

"But that will make us late for lessons, papa," suggested Max.

"Which I will excuse for once," returned his father with an indulgent smile.



CHAPTER XVI.

Day had fully dawned before the Woodburn household was astir, and it was long past his accustomed hour when the captain paid his usual morning visit to his little daughters.

He found them up and dressed and ready with a glad greeting.

"Were you able to sleep, my darlings?" he asked, caressing them in turn.

"Oh yes, indeed, papa, we slept nicely," they answered.

"And feel refreshed and well this morning?"

"Yes, papa; thank you very much for letting us sleep so long."

"I allowed myself the same privilege," he said pleasantly. "We will have no school to-day, I have already been notified that there will be a preliminary examination of the prisoners, before the magistrate this morning, and that you, Lulu, and Max and I must attend as witnesses."

"I'd rather not go, papa; please don't make me," pleaded Lulu.

"My child, it is not I, but the law that insists," he said; "but you need not feel disturbed over the matter; you have only to tell a straightforward story of what you heard and saw and did in connection with the attempted robbery.

"I am very glad, very thankful," he went on, "that I have always found my little daughter perfectly truthful."

"Max too, papa."

"Yes, Max too; and when you give your testimony I want you to remember that God—the God of truth, who abhors deceit and the deceitful, and who knows all things—hears every word you say."

Taking up her Bible and opening it at the twenty-fourth psalm, he read, "He that hath clean hands and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully, he shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation."

Then turning to the twenty-first chapter of Revelation, "All liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone."

Closing the book and laying it aside, "My dear children," he said earnestly and with grave tenderness, "you see how God hates lying and deceit; how sorely he will punish them if not repented of and forsaken. Speak the truth always though at the risk of torture and death; never tell a lie though it should be no more than to assert that two and two do not make four.

"Be courteous to all so far as you can without deceit, but never, never allow your desire to be polite to betray you into words or acts that are not strictly truthful."

The children were evidently giving very earnest heed to their father's words.

"Papa," said Grace, sighing and hiding her blushing face on his shoulder, "you know I did once say what was not true; but I'm very, very sorry. I've asked God many times to forgive me for Jesus' sake and I believe he has."

"No doubt of it, my darling," returned her father; "for, 'if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.'"

"I don't believe Lu ever did," said Grace. "She's a great deal better girl than I am."

"No, it is not that I am better than you," was Lulu's emphatic dissent from that. "It's only that I am not timid like you; if I had been, it's very likely I'd have told many an untruth to hide my faults and keep from being punished."

"The telephone bell is ringing, papa," announced Max, looking in at the door.

The call was from Ion; a vague report of last night's doings at Woodburn having just reached the family there, they were anxious to learn the exact truth.

The captain gave the facts briefly and suggested that some of the Ion friends drive over and hear them in detail.

It was replied that several of them would do so shortly; Grandma Elsie among them, and that she would spend the day, keeping Violet company during her husband's absence at Union, if, as she supposed, Vi's preference should be for remaining at home.

"Of course it will," said Violet, who was standing near. "Please tell mamma I'll be delighted to have her company."

The captain delivered the message, then all hurried down to breakfast.

"Everything is in usual order, I see," Violet remarked, glancing about the hall, and in at the library door as they passed it; "really the events of last night seem more like an unpleasant dream than actual occurrences."

"Christine has been up for several hours and busied in having everything set to rights," the captain said in reply.

As usual family worship followed directly upon breakfast, and it was scarcely over when the Ion carriage drove up with Grandma Elsie; Harold and Herbert accompanying it on horseback.

"Captain, I am greatly interested in this affair," said Harold, shaking hands with his brother-in-law; "indeed we all are for that matter, and Herbert and I propose going over to Union to be present at the examination of the prisoners.

"Is your strong room on exhibition? I own to a feeling of curiosity in regard to it."

"You are privileged to examine it at any time," returned Capt. Raymond, with a good-humored laugh, "I will take you there at once if you wish, for we will have to be setting off on our ride presently.

"Mother, would you like to see it also?"

"Yes; and to hear the story of the capture while looking upon its scene."

The captain led the way, all the rest following, except Lulu, who stole quietly away to her room to get herself ready for the trip to town.

She shrank a little from the thought of facing the two desperados and testifying against them, but kept up her courage by thinking that both her heavenly Father and her earthly one would be with her to protect and help her; also by the remembrance of her papa's assurance that she need not feel disturbed; that all she had to do was to tell a plain straightforward, story:—"the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth."

"I can do that," she said to herself; "it will be quite easy; for I remember perfectly all about it. Those wicked men threatened papa that if he had them sent to jail they'd kill him some day when they are let out again, and I suppose they'll want to kill me too, for telling about it in court; but I know they can't do us any harm while God takes care of us. That must be the meaning of that verse in Proverbs I learned the other day.

"'There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord.'

"And the next verse says, 'safety is of the Lord.' So I'm sure we needn't be afraid of them."

Capt. Raymond opened the door of the strong room and called attention to the marks of the burglars' tools on the lock of the safe.

"It was Lulu who first became aware of their presence in the house," he said; "and she—why where is the child?" as he turned to look for her, and perceived that she had disappeared.

"I think she has gone upstairs to put on her hat and coat," Violet said.

"Ah yes, I suppose so! leaving me to tell the story of her bravery and presence of mind, myself."

He proceeded to do so, and was well satisfied with the encomiums upon his child which it called forth from Grandma Elsie and her sons.

"I congratulate you, captain, upon being the father of a little girl who can show such unselfish courage," Grandma Elsie said with enthusiasm, her eyes shining with pleasure, "I am proud of her myself; the dear, brave child!"

"And so am I," said Violet; "but of course," with a mischievous laughing glance into her husband's face, "her father is not, but considers her a very ordinary specimen of childhood. Is not that so, my dear?"

"Ah, my love, don't question me too closely," he returned with a smile in his eyes that said more plainly than words that he was a proud, fond father to the child whose conduct was under discussion.

But at that moment the carriage was announced. Lulu came running down ready for her trip, her father handed her in, then seated himself and put his arm round her looking down into her face with a tenderly affectionate smile.

"You will not find it a very severe ordeal, daughter," he said.

"You're not afraid, Lu, are you?" asked Max.

"No; not with papa close by to take care of me and tell me what to do," she answered, nestling closer to her father.

"No," said Max; "and the burglars wouldn't be allowed to hurt you anyhow. The magistrate and the sheriff, and the rest would take care of that you know."

"I suppose so," returned Lulu, "but for all that it would be dreadful to have to go there without papa. You wouldn't want to yourself, Max."

"I'd a great deal rather have papa along, of course; anybody would want his intimate friend with him on such an occasion, and papa is my most intimate friend," replied the lad with a laughing, but most affectionate look into his father's face.

"That's right, my boy; I trust you will always let me be that to you," the captain said, grasping his son's hand and holding it for a moment in a warm affectionate clasp.

"You are mine, too, papa; my best and dearest earthly friend," Lulu said, lifting to his, eyes shining with filial love. "Papa, aren't you afraid those bad men will try to harm you some day, if they ever get out of prison?"

"We are always safe in the path of duty," he replied, "and it is a duty we owe the community to bring such lawless men to justice, for the protection of those they would prey upon. No, I do not fear them, because I am under the protection of Him 'in whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.'

"'The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?'

"No, daughter, one who fears God need fear nothing else; neither men nor devils, for our God is stronger than Satan and all his hosts."

"And wicked men are Satan's servants, aren't they, papa?"

"Yes; for they do his will; obey his behests."

"It seems to me Christians ought to be very happy, always," remarked Max.

"Yes, they ought," said his father; "the command is, 'Rejoice in the Lord always,' and it is only lack of faith that prevents any of us from doing so."

Arrived at their destination they found a little crowd of idlers gathered about the door of the magistrate's office whither the two prisoners had been taken a few moments before. As the Woodburn carriage drove up, and the captain and his children alighted from it, the crowd parted to let them pass in, several of the men lifting their hats with a respectful, "Good morning, sir," to the captain. "Good morning, Master Max."

Their salutations were politely returned, and the captain stepped into the office, holding Lulu by the hand, and closely followed by Max.

Harold and Herbert had arrived a little in advance, and were among the spectators who, with the officers and their prisoners, nearly filled the small room.

The children behaved very well indeed, showing by their manner when taking the oath to tell "the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth," that they were duly impressed with the solemnity of the act, and the responsibility they were assuming.

Lulu was of course the principal witness, and her modest, self possessed bearing, equally free from boldness and forwardness on the one hand, and bashfulness and timidity on the other, pleased her father extremely and won the admiration of all present; as did also her simple, straightforward way of telling her story.

The evidence was so full and clear that the magistrate had no hesitation in committing the accused for trial at the approaching spring term of court. In default of bail they were sent back to prison.

"Take me to the nursery, Vi," Grandma Elsie said, when the departure of the party destined for the magistrate's office, had left them alone together. "I feel that an hour with my little grandchildren will be quite refreshing. The darlings are scarcely less dear to me than were their mother and her brothers and sisters in their infancy."

"And they are so fond of you, mamma," responded Violet, leading the way.

Little Elsie set up a glad shout at sight of her grandmother. "I so glad, I so glad! P'ease take Elsie on your lap, g'amma, and tell pitty 'tories."

"Oh don't begin teazing for stories the very first minute," said Violet. "You tire poor, dear grandma."

"No, mamma, Elsie won't tease, 'cause papa says it's naughty. But dear g'amma likes to tell Elsie 'tories; don't you, g'amma?"—climbing into her grandma's lap.

"Yes, dear; grandma enjoys making her little girl happy," Mrs. Travilla replied, fondly caressing the little prattler. "What story shall it be this time?"

"'Bout Adam and Eve eatin' dat apple."

Grandma kindly complied, telling the old story of the fall in simple language suited to the infant comprehension of the baby girl, who listened with as deep an interest as though it were a new tale to her, instead of an oft repeated one.

On its conclusion she sat for a moment as if in profound thought, then looking up into her grandmother's face,

"Where is dey now?" she asked.

"In heaven, I trust."

"Elsie's goin' to ask dem 'bout dat when Elsie gets to heaven."

"About what, darling?"

"'Bout eatin' dat apple; what dey do it for."

"It was very wicked for them to take it, because God had forbidden them to do so."

"Yes, g'amma; Elsie wouldn't take apple if papa say no."

"No, I hope not; it is very naughty for children to disobey their papa or mamma. And we must all obey God our heavenly Father."

"G'amma, p'ease tell Elsie 'bout heaven."

"Yes, darling, I will. It is a beautiful place; with streets of gold, a beautiful river, and trees with delicious fruits; it is never dark, for there is no night there; because Jesus our dear Saviour is there and is the light thereof, so that they do not need the sun or moon.

"Nobody is ever sick, or sorry, hungry, or in pain. Nobody is ever naughty; they all love God and one another. There is very sweet music there. They wear white robes and have crowns of gold on their heads and golden harps in their hands."

"To make sweet music?"

"Yes."

"Dey wear white dess?" "Yes."

"Do dey button up behind like Elsie's dress?"

Violet laughed at that question. "She is very desirous to have her dresses fasten in front like mamma's," she explained in reply to her mother's look of surprised inquiry.

"Do dey, g'amma? do dey button up in de back?"

"I don't know how they are made, dearie," her grandma answered. "I never was there to see them."

"Elsie's never dere."

"No, people don't go there till they die."

"Elsie's never dere 'cept when Elsie's gettin' made. Wasn't Elsie dere den? didn't Dod make Elsie up in heaven?"

"No, darling, you were never there, but if you love Jesus he will take you there some day."

"Mamma, how nicely you answer or parry her questions," said Violet. "As her father says, she can ask some that a very wise man could not answer."

"Yes, she has an inquiring mind, and I would not discourage her desire to learn by asking questions," Grandma Elsie said, adding with a smile, "I can remember that her mother used to ask me some very puzzling ones twenty years ago."

"And I never received a rebuff, but was always answered to the best of your ability, dear mamma. I think of that now when tempted to impatience with my little girl's sometimes wearisome questioning, and resolve to try to be as good a mother to her as you were to me; and still are," she added with a loving smile. "And now that she has gone back to her play and baby Ned is sleeping, I want a quiet chat with you."

"Then let us go to your boudoir and have it," her mother answered, rising and moving toward the door.

"Mamma, I have not heretofore been timid about burglars," Violet said, when they were seated in the boudoir, each busied with a bit of needlework, "but I fear that I shall be in future; for only think, mamma, how near they were to my husband and myself while we lay sleeping soundly in our own room! How easily they might have murdered us both before we were even aware of their presence in the house."

"Could they? had you then no wakeful guardian at hand?"

"O mamma, yes! 'Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world,' and 'He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep'; and yet—haven't even Christians sometimes been murdered by burglars?"

"I can not assert that they have not," replied her mother. "'According to your faith be it unto you,' and even true Christians are sometimes lacking in faith—putting their trust in their own defences, or some earthly helper, instead of the Keeper of Israel; or they are fearful and doubtful, refusing to take God at his word and rest in his protecting care.

"I do not see that we have anything to do with the question you propounded just now; we have only to take God's promises, believe them fully and be without carefulness in regard to that, as well as other things. I am perfectly sure he will suffer no real evil to befall any who thus trust in him.

"Death by violence may sometimes be a shorter, easier passage home than death from disease; and come in whatever shape it may, death can be no calamity to the Christian."

"Solomon tells us that the day of death is better than the day of one's birth. 'Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.'

"My dear Vi, I think one who can claim all the promises of God to his children, should be utterly free from the fear that hath torment; should be afraid of nothing whatever but displeasing and dishonoring God."

"Yes, mamma, I see that it is so; and that all I lack to make me perfectly courageous and easy in mind, is stronger faith.

"I think my husband has a faith which lifts him above every fear, and that he is perfectly content to leave all future events to the ordering of his heavenly Father."

Grandma Elsie's eyes shone. "You are blest in having such a husband, my dear Vi," she said. "I trust you will help each other on in the heavenly way, and be fellow-helpers to your children and his."

Violet looked up brightly. "I trust we shall, mamma; we both earnestly desire to be, and I think his three all give good evidence that they have already begun to walk in the straight and narrow way; and no wonder, considering what a faithful, loving, Christian father he is—so constant in prayer and effort on their behalf."

"Ah," as the sound of wheels was heard on the driveway, "they have returned; and now we shall have a report of all that was done in the magistrate's office. It must have been quite an ordeal to Max and Lulu."



CHAPTER XVII.

Capt. Raymond was met at the door by the youngest two of his daughters.

"Papa, I'se been yaisin' seeds," announced little Elsie, running into his arms.

"Yaisin' seeds," he echoed; "what can that mean?"

"She means seeding raisins, papa," explained Grace, with a merry laugh. "We've been in the kitchen helping the cook. At least pretending to help her. Perhaps we hindered more than we helped.'"

"I dare say," he responded; "but I hope Elsie didn't eat the raisins, nor you either; they are quite too indigestible for your young stomachs."

"We each had one, papa; that was all. I told Elsie we wouldn't eat any more till we asked leave, and she was a good little girl and didn't tease for more."

"That was right; but for your own sakes I must say that is all you can have."

He had paused for a moment in the hall to pet and fondle the two. Max and Lulu stood looking on; Harold and Herbert were taking off their overcoats near by.

"You're a funny talker, Elsie," laughed Max.

"Your English is not of the purest, little woman," said her Uncle Harold.

"Tell Uncle Harold he must not expect perfection in a beginner," said her father. "Where are grandma and mamma?"

"In the parlor I believe," said Grace. "Oh no! see, they are just coming down the stairs."

"Yes, here we are," said Violet; "anxious, for a report of the morning's proceedings in the magistrate's office. Won't you walk into the parlor, gentlemen, and let us have it?"

"Certainly, we will be very happy to gratify your very excusable curiosity," returned her husband laughingly, as she came to his side, and he stooped his tall form to give her the kiss with which he never failed to greet her after even a brief separation.

The older people all repaired to the parlor, but the children did not follow.

"I must go and look over my lessons," said Max.

"And I'm going to my room," said Lulu. "Gracie, if you will come with me, I'll tell you all about the trial—if that's what they call it."

"O yes, do!" responded Grace, as the two started up the stairs together. "Were you scared, Lu?"

"No; I didn't feel frightened, for I'm not timid you know, and papa was near me all the time; and he'd told me all I had to do was to tell a straightforward, truthful story.

"I did hate to take the oath, but I knew I had to, and that it wasn't wrong, though it does seem a dreadful thing to do."

"It isn't like other swearing," remarked Max, who was moving on up the stairs, somewhat ahead of his sisters. "There must be a right kind, because in the psalms, where David is describing a good man, he says of him, 'He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.'"

"Yes, I know," said Lulu, "I can see the difference; and this must be the right kind or papa would never have let us do it."

"How do they do it?" asked Grace. "How did you do it, Lu?"

"A man said over the words for me—a promise to 'tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth'—and I promised by kissing the Bible; that was all."

"That wasn't very hard to do," said Grace, "but oh I'd have been so frightened to have to tell something with so many people listening!"

"Of course; because you're such a weak, timid little thing; but I'm big and strong and not afraid of anybody or anything.

"There were a good many people there; the room was quite full; but I felt that that did not make much difference, when I thought about God hearing every word I said and knowing if it was really the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

"Ajax's wife was there; crying fit to break her heart too; specially when they took him back to jail.

"Papa stopped and spoke to her before we got into the carriage to come home. He said he was very sorry for her, but if she continued to be honest and industrious, he would see that she did not want; and he hoped her husband would some day come out of prison a better man."

"Did she seem thankful to papa?" asked Grace.

"Yes; and she said she didn't see how Ajax could be so bad and ungrateful as to try to steal papa's money after he'd been so kind to her and the children."

"Yes, and I pity 'Liza for being his wife, and the children because they have such a bad father.

"Lu, let's ask papa if we mayn't buy some calico and other things, with some of our benevolence money, and make clothes for them."

"I wouldn't mind giving the money," said Lulu, "but I hate to sew on such things. You know I never did like plain sewing. I'll see about it though."

"You'd do it to please the dear Lord Jesus, even though you don't like it?" said Grace softly.

"Yes, that I will, if papa approves," returned Lulu warmly, her eyes shining. "Gracie, it's good—a real pleasure, I mean—to make yourself do distasteful things, for Jesus' sake.

"I'll put my hat and coat in their proper places and smooth my hair, so I'll be neat for dinner, and we'll go and talk to papa about it at once. He's sure to approve, and I don't want to give myself any chance to change my mind and give the thing up."

"And we won't mind Grandma Elsie hearing," added Grace; "perhaps she'll know what they need the most, and maybe she'll tell Rosie and Eva and they'll offer to do something for the poor things too."

"Oh yes: perhaps we can form ourselves into a Dorcas society. That's what they call societies that make garments for the poor you know, because of Dorcas in the Bible who made coats and garments for the poor where she lived."

"Yes, Lu; but there's the dinner bell, and we'll have to wait awhile before we can talk to papa about it; for you know he says we mustn't talk a great deal at the table when there's company."

"And I have to smooth my hair yet, and that will make me late. I'm so sorry, because it vexes papa to have us unpunctual. Don't wait for me, Gracie, for that will make you late too."

"I'd rather wait for you, but I 'spose I ought to go at once," Gracie said, looking regretfully back as she left the room.

The blessing had been asked and the captain was carving the turkey when Lulu took her seat at the table, which was close at his right hand.

He gave her a grave look.

"I'm very sorry I'm late, papa," she said in a low tone, and casting down her eyes. "I'd been so busy talking with Gracie that I hadn't my hair smoothed when the bell rang."

"It has been a very exciting morning for you, daughter, and I'll excuse you this time," he returned, speaking kindly and in as low a key as her own; "it is not often I find you unpunctual."

Lulu heaved a sigh of relief, her countenance brightened, and her eyes were lifted to her father's face with a grateful, loving look that brought a smile to his lips and eyes.

She was very quiet during the meal, speaking only when spoken to, but her father kept an eye on her plate and saw that her wants were abundantly supplied.

On leaving the table all repaired to the parlor and Lulu and Grace, seizing the first opportunity offered them by a pause in the talk of their elders, told of their plan, and asked permission to carry it out.

It was received with entire approval by all present, their father included.

"I have no doubt that Rosie and Evelyn will be glad to join you in forming a Dorcas society," said Grandma Elsie, "and if you like I shall be happy to cut out garments for you to work upon, and to teach you how to do it for yourselves."

"Oh thank you, ma'am!" responded the little girls; "we were sure you would and it will be ever so nice."

"Taridge tumin'! two taridge tumin'!" cried little Elsie, who had climbed on a chair, and was gazing out of a window looking upon the drive.

They proved to be the Ion and Fairview carriages, bringing the whole family of the latter place and all of the other who were not already present.

"We have come in a body, as you see, to learn all about the strange occurrences of last night and the consequent doings in the magistrate's office this morning," Grandpa Dinsmore remarked, as he shook hands with the captain and kissed Violet, first on one cheek, then on the other.

"Tiss Elsie too, danpa," cried the little one toddling up to him; "oo mustn't fordet to tiss oor 'ittle dirl."

"Certainly not," he said, taking her into his arms to kiss her several times, then sitting down with her on his knee. "Do you know that you are my great-granddaughter?"

"Ess, Elsie knows dat," she answered, nodding her curly head wisely.

Meantime greetings had been exchanged among the others, and the four little girls had got into a corner by themselves.

"O Lu, do tell us all about it!" cried Rosie. "I never did hear of such a brave girl as you! Why I'd have been scared to death, and never have thought of such a thing as going down where the burglars were."

"Oh I think you would if you'd been in my place," returned Lulu modestly. "You see I was afraid if I waited to tell papa about them, they might come out and see him ready to fight them, and kill him; but I thought if I could get the door shut and fastened on them before they knew anybody was there, nobody would be hurt."

"And that's the way it was," said Evelyn. "But you were a brave girl and there's no use in your denying it."

"Yes, indeed, you were," said Rosie. "But come now do tell us the whole story; we want to hear it fresh from your lips."

"And what went on in the magistrate's office too," added Eva. "Oh didn't you dislike having to go there and testify?"

"Yes; I begged papa not to make me, but he said it was the law, and not he, that insisted."

"Yes I know, and of course those things have to be done in such cases; but I hope my turn will never come. Now, Lu, please begin. You'll have at least two very attentive listeners."

"More than that, I think," said Rosie, as other voices were heard in the hall, quickly followed by the entrance of the relatives from the Oaks, the Pines and Roselands.

And greetings were scarcely exchanged with these when the families from Ashlands and the Laurels joined the circle; so that quite a large surprise party had gathered there unexpectedly to themselves as well as to their hosts. The same desire—to learn the full particulars of what had reached them as little more than a vague report—had brought them all.

These were given, and Lulu received so much commendation, and was so lauded for her bravery, that her father began to fear she would be puffed up with vanity and conceit.

But at length that subject was dropped and the one of the proposed Dorcas society taken up.

Evelyn seemed quietly pleased and interested, Zoe, Lora and Rosie ready to enter into the work with enthusiasm, while the Dinsmore girls gave a rather languid attention to the discussion.

But when it had been decided to organize a society on the spot, and the business of electing officers was taken up, they roused themselves to a new interest, and Maud was evidently gratified when Evelyn nominated her for the secretaryship.

Lulu seconded the motion and Maud was unanimously elected.

Zoe had already been made president; Lora was chosen treasurer. These were all the officers considered necessary, but Sydney, Evelyn and Lulu were appointed a committee to visit the poor families in the neighborhood and learn what articles of clothing were most needed by them.

It was decided that the society should meet once a fortnight at one or the other of the homes of its members, taking them in turn; that at these meetings reports should be given in as to the state of the finances, work done, and articles needed; finished garments would also be brought in, examined and pronounced upon as well or ill done; the members would busy themselves in cutting and basting new garments while together, and each carry home with her one or more to be made in the interval between that and the next meeting.

Also each member was to consider herself under appointment to invite her young girl, or young lady friends, from other families to join with them in the good work.

"Now I think that is all," said Grandma Elsie; "you are fully organized and I invite you to hold your first meeting at Ion, next Wednesday afternoon. That will give time for ascertaining the needs of some of those we wish to assist, and the purchase of materials."

"But how are your funds to be raised?" asked her father.

"By a tax on the members, and contributions from their friends, which will be thankfully accepted," she said with a pleased smile as he took out his pocket-book and handed her a five dollar bill. "We are very much obliged, sir."

The captain and other gentlemen present—some of the ladies also—immediately followed Mr. Dinsmore's example.

Then the question of the amount of tax on the members was discussed and settled.

After that the captain said he had a suggestion to make; namely that it would be well for the little girls to be accompanied by an older person when making their visits to their proposed beneficiaries.

"It will require some wisdom and tact to make the necessary investigations without wounding the feelings of those they desire to benefit, or injuring their commendable pride of independence," he said in conclusion.

"Thank you for the advice, captain," Grandma Elsie replied; "I think it most wise. What have the members of the society to say about it?"

All responded promptly that they would prefer to have an older person with them on those occasions.

"And we'd better begin that business to-morrow," said Zoe, "that whoever is to do the buying of materials to be cut and basted at the first meeting, may have the needed information in season."

"I hope Grandma Elsie will buy the things," said Lulu. "Don't you all vote for that, girls?"

"Yes; yes, indeed; if she will," they all answered, and were pleased that she at once consented to do so.

"Are we boys to be shut out of all this?" asked Max. "I don't see why we shouldn't take hold of such work as well as the girls. I'm conceited enough to think I could wield a pair of shears and cut out garments, by a pattern or under instruction; and I know I can run a sewing machine, for I've tried it."

"And certainly we could all help with the financial part," said Chester Dinsmore.

"Let's take them in," said Sydney. "We want all the money we can get."

"Of course we do," said Lora; "the more money we have the more good we may hope to do."

The others seemed to see the force of the argument and voted unanimously for the admission of the lads.

"What about home and foreign missionary societies?" asked Evelyn. "I thought we had decided to have one of each just among ourselves. Was it the girls only? or will the boys take part in them too?"

"Of course we will, if you'll let us," replied Max; "and you can't have too much money for them, seeing there are millions upon millions of heathen to be taught and furnished with Bibles."

"Yes," said the captain, "boys should be as much interested in mission work as girls, and I see no reason why you young relatives and friends should not work together.

"But with your studies and other duties to attend to, you have hardly time for such a multiplication of societies, and as the work is one, the field the world, I propose that you form only one more society, which shall be for both home and foreign missions."

"A very good plan, I think," commented Grandpa Dinsmore.

"And I propose that we proceed at once to organize such a society," said Zoe.

"And shouldn't we have gentlemen officers?" asked Lulu. "I think Uncle Harold would make a good president."

"Thank you," said he, smiling pleasantly on her, "but I could not serve; because I must be off to college directly."

"And the same objection applies to all of us except Max and little Walter," added Chester Dinsmore. "We older lads can only pay our dues and perhaps meet with you occasionally when at home on a vacation."

"Working for the good cause in the meantime, in whatever place we are," added Harold.

"Shall we proceed to organize?" asked Zoe.

"Yes, if Grandma Elsie will help us as she did with the Dorcas," said Lulu.

The others joined in the request, and Grandma Elsie kindly complied.

Eva was chosen president, Rosie treasurer, and they would have made Lulu secretary but that she strenuously declined, insisting that she was not ready enough with her pen to find time for that in addition to all the sewing and other things she was undertaking.

"Then I nominate Max," said Rosie, giving him a bright look and smile.

"And I second the motion," said Evelyn.

Max made no objection and seemed gratified when he was pronounced unanimously elected.

They then settled the amount of their yearly subscription to each cause and the time of meeting, deciding that it should be on the same day and hour as the meeting of the other society, but on the alternate week.

"And what will we do at our meetings?" asked Sydney.

"What other people do at missionary meetings, I presume," answered Zoe; "read the Bible, sing hymns, pray for the missionaries and the heathen at home and abroad."

"Pay in our dues too," said Max; "and I suppose each one will try to find some interesting article to take to the meeting to be read aloud to the others."

"Yes; of course we must all do that if we want to have very enjoyable meetings," said Zoe.

"And we older people must see to it that you are well supplied with literature bearing on the subject," said the captain.

He was rejoiced to perceive that the interest of these new enterprises was taking his children's thoughts from the unpleasant occurrences of the previous night. Almost all their talk with him that evening when the guests had gone and the babies were being put to bed, was of the work they hoped to do in connection with their missionary and Dorcas societies.

To Lulu had been assigned the duty of visiting the family of Ajax, for the purpose of learning what were their most pressing needs in the line of clothing.

Speaking of it, she asked, "Ought I not to go to-morrow, papa? and will you go with me?"

"I say yes to both questions," he replied. "You may be ready for your call directly we are done with school duties; that will give us time to go and return in good season for dinner."

"Yes, sir; I'll be ready. Thank you very much for promising to take me."

"Liza must feel lonesome to-night, thinking about Ajax in jail," remarked Grace thoughtfully; "but I'm glad he's there so that he can't be trying to break into anybody's house. Papa, could he get out and come here again?"

"It is hardly possible," answered her father, looking tenderly down into her face, and smoothing her curls with caressing hand; "and he would not want to hurt you if he could come into the house. I don't see how any one could wish to harm my gentle, kindhearted little Grace."

"Papa, shall I sleep in her bed with her to-night?" asked Lulu.

"Certainly, if she would like it."

"Oh I should!" Grace exclaimed. "I know our heavenly Father will take care of me, but it's good to feel Lu's arms round me too."

"Then you shall," said Lulu, giving her an affectionate pat, "your big sister likes to take care of you."



CHAPTER XVIII.

"O Lu, tell me all about it!" exclaimed Grace when Lulu came home the next day, from her visit to Eliza. "Are they very, very poor and needy?"

"'Liza and her children? Well, not so very; because papa has been seeing to them for quite a while. They had a good fire ('Liza was ironing for somebody) and pretty good clothes; but the children are growing too big for some of their things and have torn or worn holes in others. So papa says he thinks we should make them some new ones. I'm going to ask Grandma Elsie to buy some flannel with some of my money, and let me make a skirt for the baby."

"I'd like to make an apron for one of the little girls," said Grace.

"Well I suppose you can. There are two girls and a boy besides the baby. Just think what a lot of trouble it must be to keep them all clothed and fed!"

"And poor 'Liza will have to do it all herself while Ajax is in jail."

"I don't believe he was much help anyhow," said Lulu, with a scornful little toss of her head; "she says he didn't work half the time and was always getting drunk and beating her and the children. I should think she'd want him kept in jail as long as he lives."

"But maybe he'll grow good, and be kind and helpful to her when he gets out."

"Papa will do all he can to make him good," said Lulu; "he's gone now to the jail to talk to him. Just think of his taking so much trouble for such an ungrateful wretch."

"It's very good in him," responded Grace; "and it's being like the dear Lord Jesus to take trouble to do good to ungrateful wretches."

"Yes; so it is, and nobody can be acquainted with papa without seeing that he tries always to be like Jesus."

The captain's motive for visiting the jail that day was certainly most kind and Christian; a desire to reason with the two prisoners on the sin and folly of their evil courses, and persuade them to repentance and reformation.

He did not approach them in a self-righteous spirit, for the thought in his heart was, "It is only the grace of God that maketh us to differ; and with the same heredity, and like surroundings and influences I might have been even a greater criminal than they;" but he found them sullen and defiant and by no means grateful for his kindly interest in their welfare.

Still he continued his efforts, visiting them frequently while they lay in the county jail awaiting trial.

Lulu looked forward to the trial with some apprehension, dreading to be placed on the witness-stand before the judges, jurymen, lawyers, and the crowd of spectators likely to be present on the occasion.

"It'll be a great, great deal worse than that time in the magistrate's office," she said to herself again and again. But by her father's advice she tried to put away the thought of it and give her mind to other things.

She was interested in her studies, amusements, in the books and periodicals furnished for the profit and entertainment of herself and brother and sister, and in the young people's societies just started in the connection.

These prospered and grew by the addition of new members from among the young folks who, though of the neighborhood, were yet outside of the connection.

Under Grandma Elsie's wise and kindly instruction several of the older members soon became quite expert in preparing work for themselves and the others; also in gathering up information on the subject of missions, and in regard to the needy of their own vicinity.

Thus their meetings were made interesting, were well attended and looked forward to with pleasure, while quite an amount of good was accomplished through their means.

The Woodburn children were never willing to miss a meeting, and took pride and pleasure in doing their full share of the sewing undertaken by the Dorcas society.

That was a more congenial task to Grace than to Lulu, but the latter—partly from pride, partly from a real desire to be useful—insisted each time on carrying home at least as much work as Gracie did.

And for some weeks she was very faithful with her self-imposed task; but after that her interest in that particular work began to flag and she delayed doing it, giving her time and thoughts to other matters, till at last Gracie reminded her that there was but a day left in which to do it, if the garment were to be ready for handing in at the next meeting of the society.

"Oh dear!" cried Lulu, "I forgot the time was so short, and how I'm ever to finish it so soon I don't see! I'll have to take all my play time for it."

"I wish I could help you," Gracie said, with a very sympathizing look, "but you know papa said I mustn't do any more than my own."

"Of course not," returned Lulu emphatically; "your own is too much for such a feeble little thing as you; and don't you worry about me, I'll manage it somehow."

"But how can you? You have that composition to write, and two lessons to learn to recite to papa in the morning. I should think they would take all your afternoon except what has to be given to exercise; and it's dinner time now."

"I'll study hard and try to get the lessons and composition all done before dark, and then I'll sew as fast as I can all the evening while papa is reading or talking to mamma Vi and us."

"I'm afraid it's more than you can do," returned Grace, with a doubtful shake of the head; "and perhaps somebody may come in to interrupt us too."

"If they do I'll just go on with the sewing, not stopping even if there are games to be played, and I'm asked to take part."

"It's very nice in you to be so determined," commented Grace, giving her sister an admiring affectionate look.

"It's about time I was determined to do that sewing," said Lulu, laughing a little, "for I've put it off over and over again because I wanted to indulge myself in playing games or reading a story."

The ringing of the dinner bell put a stop to their talk.

At the table the captain said to his wife that business called him to the city, he must start directly the meal was over, and would not be able to get home till late, long after the usual bedtime; but he did not want any one to sit up for him, as he could let himself in with his latch key.

"O papa," cried Lulu, "I'd like to sit up for you, if I may!"

"No, my child," he said with his pleasant smile, "I quite appreciate the kind feeling that prompts that offer, but I want you to go to your bed at the usual hour."

"Papa," observed Max insinuatingly, and with an arch look, "it wouldn't hurt a boy to sit up and wait for his father."

"I'm not so sure of that," laughed the captain; "boys need sleep as well as girls, and should not be deprived of their regular allowance, when there is no necessity."

"How about wives?" asked Violet with a twinkle of fun in her eye.

"Wives are of course not under orders," he returned gallantly, "but are free to do as they please; but I should be loath to have mine miss her beauty sleep."

"Then I suppose she should try to take it for your sake," laughed Violet.

"Papa, I wish you didn't ever have to go away," sighed Grace; "we shall miss so much the fun with the babies, and the nice talk with you while they are being put to bed, and then the reading afterwards."

"I have not said anything about taking the babies with me, and really have no thought of doing so; as they would not be likely to prove of assistance in transacting my business," returned her father gravely.

At that everybody laughed and Violet said to Gracie, "So you see, dearie, you need not despair of some fun with the babies."

"Maybe not, mamma, but it won't be just the same as when papa is with us, and while you are away putting them to bed we'll miss papa ever so much."

"I hope so," he said, smiling on her; "it is pleasant to feel that one's absence is regretted. But, my dear little daughter, we can't expect to have all our enjoyments every day."

"No, sir;" said Lulu; "and we'll miss you when Mamma Vi comes back and you are not there to read to us."

"Of course we will," said Violet, "but though your papa is unquestionably the finest reader among us, the rest of us can read intelligibly, and some of us can read aloud to the others; perhaps we may take turns."

"A very good plan," said the captain. "But, my dear, I can not endorse that statement of yours in regard to our relative ability as readers. I consider my wife as fine a reader as I ever listened to."

"Mamma Vi does read beautifully," remarked Max, with an affectionate, admiring glance at her.

"I think so too," assented Lulu, adding "and if she will read to us it will be a great favor, and I am sure will make the time pass quickly and very pleasantly."

"No doubt," said the captain, "and I am glad you are ready to appreciate such an effort on your mamma's part; but she may have other plans for the evening."

Violet had intended to spend it in writing to her absent brothers, but instantly decided to sacrifice her own wishes to those of the children.

"I am sure I shall enjoy reading to so appreciative an audience," she said laughingly, "and feel myself highly honored in filling my husband's place."

"Max and Lulu," said the captain, "don't forget the tasks set for this afternoon; you can easily accomplish them before tea and have an hour or more for exercise beside."

Both replied with a promise not to forget or neglect his requirements, and immediately upon bidding her father good-bye and seeing him out of sight, Lulu went to her room and applied herself to the study of her lessons first, then to the writing of her composition.

She did her work hurriedly, however, with the thought of the sewing for which she now had so little time, ever present with her; consequently the lessons took small hold upon her memory and the remaining task was very indifferently performed.

She was in the act of wiping her pen when Max called to her and Grace that the ponies were at the door and they three and Mamma Vi were to have a ride together.

"Oh how nice!" cried both little girls, and hastened to don riding hats and habits.

They had grown exceedingly fond of their young step-mother; and as she did not very often find it convenient to share their rides, to have her do so was considered quite a treat.

On their return Lulu, hardly waiting to remove her out door garments and make herself presentable for the evening, went at the sewing with all the activity and determination of her very energetic nature.

"It's got to be done if I have to work like a steam engine!" she exclaimed to Grace, thrusting in and drawing out her needle with a rapidity that surprised her little sister.

"I never saw you sew so fast, Lu," she said. "I couldn't do it; I'd have to take more time to be sure my stitches were nice and even."

"Oh it's for poor folks and so it's strong, it won't make much difference about the looks," returned Lulu, working away at the same headlong pace.

"But Grandma Elsie is particular about the stitches," said Grace; "don't you remember she told us she was, for our own sakes more than the poor folks'; because it would be a sad thing for us to fall into slovenly habits of working?"

"Yes, I do remember now you speak of it; and I'll try to make the work neat as well as to do it fast."

Lulu worked on not allowing herself a moment's rest or relaxation, till the tea bell rang.

Violet invited them all to spend the evening in her boudoir.

Lulu carried her sewing there directly after leaving the table, and Violet more than once spoke admiringly of the diligence and energy she displayed in working steadily on till it was time for them to separate for the night.

"It isn't done yet; dear me how many stitches it does take to make a garment!" sighed Lulu to Grace when they had retired to the room of the latter.

"So it does," said Grace, "but papa says having to take so many of them, one right after another, is a good lesson in patience and perseverance."

"Kind of lessons I'm not fond of," laughed Lulu.

"And you've worked so hard all the evening! you must be very tired."

"Yes, I'm tired; but I'd sit up and work an hour or two longer if it wouldn't be disobedience to papa.

"Well I'll see how much I can do before breakfast to-morrow morning. Perhaps I can finish; I hope I can."

She carried out her resolution, and when their father came in for the customary bit of chat with his little daughters before breakfast, he found her sewing diligently.

He commended her industry, particularly when Grace had told how much of it had been shown the previous evening, but added that he hoped the tasks he had set her had been first properly attended to.

"Yes, sir; I learned my lessons and wrote my composition yesterday, before I began the sewing," she replied.

"That is well," he said, "I am glad to see you willing to use some of your leisure time in working for the poor, but your education—which is to fit you for greater usefulness in the future—must not be neglected for that or anything else."

Lulu blushed with a sudden half conviction that her tasks had not been so faithfully attended to as they should have been. But it was now too late to remedy the failure, as the school hour would come very soon after breakfast and family worship.

She wished she had learned her lessons more thoroughly and spent more time and pains upon her composition, but hoped she might be able to acquit her herself better, on being called to recite, than she feared.

However, it proved a vain hope; she hesitated and gave incorrect answers several times in the first recitation, and when it came to the second showed herself almost entirely unacquainted with the lesson.

Her father looked very grave but only said, as he handed back her book, "These are the poorest recitations I have ever heard from you."

Then taking up her composition, which he had found lying on his desk and had already examined, "And this, I am sorry to have to say, is a piece of work that does no credit to my daughter; the writing is slovenly, the sentences are badly constructed, and the spelling is very faulty. It must be re-written this afternoon, and both lessons learned so that you can recite them creditably to me before I can allow you any recreation."

"I don't care," she said with a pout and a frown, "I just have too much to do, and that's all there is about it."

"My child, are you speaking quite as respectfully as you ought in addressing your father?" he asked in grave, reproving accents.

She hung her head in sullen silence.

He waited a moment, then said with some sternness, "When I ask you a question, Lucilla, I expect an answer, and it must be given."

"No, sir; it wasn't respectful," she replied penitently. "But please forgive me, papa, I hope I'll never speak so again."

He drew her to him and kissed her tenderly. "I do, dear child. But now I must know what you mean by saying that you have too much to do."

"It's that sewing for the Dorcas society, papa, beside all my lessons and practising, and other things that you bid me do every day."

"Then you must undertake less of it, or none at all; for as I have said before, your lessons are of much more importance. I can pay some one to work for the poor, but my little girl's stock of knowledge must be increased, and her mind improved by her own efforts."

"I don't want to give it up, papa; because it would be mortifying to have it said I couldn't do as much as the other girls."

"You seem to be doing charitable work from a very poor motive," he remarked in a tone of grave concern.

"Papa, that isn't my only motive," she replied, hanging her head and blushing. "I do want to please the Lord Jesus and to be kind and helpful to the poor."

"I am glad to hear it; but you must be willing to undertake less if you can not do so much without neglecting other, and more important duties. Did you bring home an extra quantity of work from the last meeting of your society?"

"No, sir," and she blushed again as she spoke, "but I—I kept putting off doing it because there was always something else I wanted to do—a story to read, or a game to play, or a bit of carving, or something pleasanter than sewing—till Grace reminded me there was only one day left, and then I hurried over my lessons and composition and worked as hard and fast as I could at the sewing."

"Ah," he said, "it is an old and very true saying that 'Procrastination is the thief of time.' The only way to accomplish much in this world is to have a time for each duty, and always attend to it at that set time.

"If you want to go on with this Dorcas work you must set apart some particular time for it, when it will not interfere with other duties, and resolve not to allow yourself to use that time for anything else."

"Unless my father orders me?" she said half inquiringly, half in assertion, and with an arch look and smile.

"Yes; there may be exceptions to the rule," he replied returning the smile.

"Now we have talked long enough on this subject and must begin to put in practice the rule I have just laid down."

"Yes, sir; I have my ciphering to do now. But, papa, must I learn the lessons over and rewrite the composition this afternoon? If you say I must, I'll have to miss the meeting of our society. I'd be very sorry for that and ashamed to have to tell why I wasn't there. Please, papa, won't you let me go, and do my work over after I get back? There'll be an hour, or more before tea and then all the evening."

He did not answer immediately, and she added, with a wistful, pleading look, "I know I don't deserve to be let go, but you've often been a great deal better to me than I deserved."

"As I well may be, considering how far beyond my deserts are my blessings," he said with a tender smile and another kiss. "Yes, daughter, you may attend the meeting and I shall hope to hear some excellent recitations from you before you go to your bed to-night."

"Oh thank you, dear papa! I'll try my very hardest," she exclaimed joyously, giving him a vigorous hug.

The society met at Ion that day. The captain and Violet drove over with the children, and leaving them there while they went on some miles farther, called for them again on their return at the close of the hour appropriated to its exercises.

Grandma Elsie's face hardly expressed approval as she examined Lulu's work, but she let it pass, only saying in a low aside to the little girl, "It is not quite so well done as the last garment you brought in, my child, but I will overlook the partial failure, hoping the next bit of work will be an improvement upon both."

Lulu blushed and was silent; once she would have made an angry retort, but she was slowly learning patience and humility.

On arriving at home she set immediately to work at her tasks, nor left off till the tea bell rang. The time had been too short for her to make much progress, and it was quite a trial to have to spend the whole evening in her own room while the others were enjoying the usual pleasant hours of relaxation together;—the sport with the babies, the familiar chat, and interesting reading; but that too she bore with patience.

It was not till the call to evening worship that she joined the family. When the service was over she drew near her father.

"Papa, I have re-written that composition and hope you will find it a great deal better, I have studied my lessons too, till I think I can recite them creditably."

"Ah, that is well," he said, laying a hand tenderly on her head and smiling affectionately down into the eyes upraised to his. "I will go with you presently to hear the lessons and examine your little essay."

When he had done so, "I am very glad indeed, daughter," he said, "to be able to bestow hearty praise on you this time; you have greatly improved your composition, and your recitations were quite perfect."

He drew her to his knee as he spoke, she blushing with pleasure at his words.

"I missed my eldest daughter, from the family circle this evening," he went on smoothing her hair caressingly; "indeed I think we all missed her. I hope we will not be deprived of her company in the same way again."

"I hope not, papa; I do mean to be more faithful in preparing my lessons. I'm sure I ought when I have such a kind, kind teacher," she added looking lovingly into his eyes. "Dear papa," putting her arm round his neck and laying her cheek to his, "I do love you so, so much!"

"My darling," he responded, "your love is very precious to me, and I don't think it can be greater than mine for you. My daughter's worth to her fond father—could not be computed in dollars and cents," he added with a happy laugh.

"I hope Grandma Elsie found your sewing well done?"

"Not so very, papa," she replied, her tone expressing some mortification; "she said it was not so nicely done as the last."

"That is a pity; it will hardly do to keep on so—going backward instead of forward as regards improvement in that line of work."

"No, papa, I don't mean to; I didn't bring home quite so much this time, though some of the girls did look as if they thought I was growing lazy—and it was dreadfully mortifying to have them think so—and I'm going to try Eva's plan. She says she divides her work into as many portions as there are days to do it in, and won't let herself miss doing at least one portion each day. She says she gets it done quite easily in that way, often finished before the day when it is to be handed in."

"But it can't be that she puts it off for story-reading, games and what not?"

"No, sir; and I don't mean to any more. I'll put that sewing first after what you say are more important duties, and not let myself have any play till it's done. I think I can 'most always do it before breakfast, now that you don't require me to sweep or dust my own rooms. I'm very much obliged to you, papa, for saying I needn't do those things any more while I have so many lessons."

"I want my daughters to understand all kinds of housework so that they may be competent to direct servants, if they have them, or be independent of them if they have not," he said; "but now that you have learned how to sweep and dust, I do not think it necessary for you to make use of that knowledge while your time can be better employed, and I am able to pay a servant for doing the work."



CHAPTER XIX.

One morning at breakfast, Max asked, "Papa, have you told Lu yet?"

"No," replied the captain, "I wished her to eat her meal first in peace and comfort; therefore I am sorry you spoke, as I see you have roused her curiosity."

"Yes, papa; mayn't I know what you are talking about?" asked Lulu, giving him a disturbed, rather apprehensive look. "Oh does the court meet to-day?"

"It's been meeting for several days," returned Max, "and the trial of our burglars comes up to-day."

"And we'll have to attend as witnesses?"

"Yes; but you needn't be alarmed; you ought to be quite used to it since your experience in the magistrate's office," answered Max sportively.

"I don't think I'd ever get used to it, and I just wish there was some way to keep out of it!" sighed Lulu.

"But as there isn't, my little girl will make up her mind to go through with it bravely," the captain said, giving her an encouraging smile.

"I'll try, papa," she answered, but with a sigh that sounded rather hopeless.

Violet and Grace both expressed their sympathy, but were sure Lulu would do herself credit, as she had on the former occasion.

Lulu brightened a little and went on with her meal. "How soon do we have to go papa?" she asked.

"In about half an hour after breakfast," he answered. "That will take us to the town for the opening of to-day's session of the court. We may not be called on for our testimony for hours, but must be at hand in case we are wanted."

Lulu wasted no more breath in vain wishes or objections, but her usual flow of spirits had deserted her. As they drove toward the town her father noticed that she was very quiet and that her face wore a look of patient resignation and fortitude as if she had made up her mind to go courageously through a difficult and trying ordeal.

"Don't be anxious and troubled, dear child," he said, taking her hand and pressing it affectionately in his; "you are not going alone into that crowded court room."

"No, papa; and I'm ever so glad you will be with me."

"And not only I, dear, but a nearer, dearer, more powerful Friend. Jesus says, 'Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the World.' He says it to every one of his disciples, and that always must include this time that you are dreading.

"He will be close beside you and you can ask him at any instant for the help you need to know exactly what to say and do; the help to be calm and collected, and to answer clearly and perfectly truthfully every question put to you."

"Papa, it's so nice to think of that!" she exclaimed, looking up brightly and with glad tears shinning in her eyes; "thank you so very much for reminding me of it. Now I shall not be at all afraid, even if the lawyers do ask me hard, puzzling questions, as I've read in the papers, that they do to witnesses, sometimes."

"No, you need not be afraid; I am not afraid for you; for I am sure you will be helped to say just what you ought; and if—as I believe will happen—you are enabled to acquit yourself well, remember, when people commend you for it, that having done so by help from on high, the honor is not fairly due to you, and you have no reason to be conceited and vain in consequence."

"I hope I'll be kept from being that, papa," she returned. "I don't think that for anybody with as good a memory as mine, having told a straightforward truthful story is anything to be puffed up about."

"No, certainly not."

The wealth and standing in the community of Captain Raymond and his wife's relatives; caused a widespread interest in the case about to be tried; especially in connection with the fact that he and two of his children were to be placed upon the witness stand to testify to the identity of the burglars and their attempt to rob his house.

The Court House was crowded, and there were very many of the better class of people among the spectators, including members of the families residing at the Oaks, the Laurels, the Pines, Ion, Fairview and Roselands.

Dr. Conly, Mr. and Mrs. Edward Travilla and Mr. Leland were there when the Woodburn party arrived; and presently Grandpa Dinsmore and his wife, and Cousin Ronald, who was still staying at Ion, followed.

These all sat near together, and Lulu felt it a comfort to find herself in the midst of such a company of friends.

Greetings were exchanged, some kind, encouraging words spoken to her and Max, then their father and the other gentlemen fell into conversation.

The children had never been in a court-room before, and were interested in looking about and observing what was going on. They were early; in season to see the judges come in and take their seats on the bench, and the opening of the court.

Some lesser matters occupied its attention for a time, then there was a little stir of excitement in the crowd as the sheriff and his deputy entered with Ajax and his fellow burglar, but it quieted down in a moment as the prisoners took their places at the bar, and the voice of the presiding judge sounded distinctly through the room, "Commonwealth against Perry Davis and Ajax Stone. Burglary. Are you ready for trial?"

"We are, your Honor," replied the district attorney.

"Very well," said the judge, "arraign the prisoners."

Then the two prisoners were told to stand up while the district attorney read the indictment, which charged them with "burglariously breaking and entering into the mansion-house of Captain Raymond of Woodburn, on the second day of January last passed," and while there attempting to break into and rob his safe and to carry off articles of value from other parts of the dwelling.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse