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Elsie's children
by Martha Finley
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"I cannot say the same; you are much changed," Elsie said, going to the bedside and taking the thin feverish hand in hers.

"Yes, I've grown an old woman, while you are fresh and young; and no wonder, for your life has been all prosperity; mine nothing but trouble and trial from beginning to end."

"O, mother dear, we have had a great many mercies," said Sally; "and your life is not ended. I hope your good times are yet to come."

"Well, maybe so, if Mrs. Travilla can help us to the medical aid we need, and put us in the way of earning a good living afterward."

"I shall do my best for you in both respects," Elsie said kindly, accepting a chair Sally set for her near the bed.

"I knew you would; you were always generous," remarked her ci-devant governess; "prompt too in bestowing your favors. But it is easy to be generous with a large and well-filled purse."

"Very true," Elsie answered with a smile. "And now what can I do for you? Ah I had forgotten. Mrs. Ross, hearing you were ill, and knowing that to the sick something sent by a neighbor was often more relished than home food, however nice, put a basket of dainties into the phaeton."

Stepping to the door, she signed to the servant, who immediately brought in a hamper of provisions such as had not been seen under that roof for many months. Mrs. Gibson's eyes glistened at sight of a basket of fine fresh fruit and a bowl of delicious custard.

"I will go now and call again to-morrow," Elsie said, as the man carried away the empty hamper.

Grasping Sally's hand cordially in parting, she left something in it.

"Mother!" cried the girl, breathlessly, holding it up to view, "it's a check for a hundred dollars!"

"'Tisn't possible! let me see!" cried Mrs. Gibson laying down the spoon with which she was eating raspberries and custard, and holding out her hand for the check.

"Yes, so it is! what a godsend! I didn't think even she was so generous. But dear me, she's rolling in wealth, and it's no more to her, or even as much as ten cents would be to you or me."

"Oh, mother!" said Sally, reproachfully, "we have no claim on her; and if she has a good deal of money, she must have hundreds of calls for it."

"No claim on her? why people take care of old servants, and a governess ought to be considered of a good deal more account."

"Tom mustn't know about this, mother."

"No, indeed! the greater part of it would soon go for liquor or at the gambling table, if he did. Here give it to me, and I'll hide it under my pillow."

The saucer of berries was scarcely disposed of, before a second visitor arrived.

Dr. Morton was considered the most skilful practitioner in the neighborhood. Mrs. Travilla meeting him on the way in returning to the Crags, had begged him to take charge of Mrs. Gibson's case, and also to look at Sally's eyes; engaging to settle his bill herself.

On his way home he called at the Crags with his report. The mother, he said, was very much out of health, but not incurable; he had promised to send her some medicine. A month or two at the seashore would do her good; perhaps restore her entirely."

"Then she must go," said Elsie, "I will at once see what arrangements can be made. But now, what of the girl, doctor?"

"She seems in pretty good health."

"But her eyes?"

"The nerve is affected; there is no help for her."

"Are you quite sure?"

"Quite. I have paid a good deal of attention to the eye, and I assure you a case like hers is incurable."

"Then you decline to attempt to do anything for her?"

"I do, Mrs. Travilla, because there is absolutely nothing to be done."

"Poor girl, how sorry I am for her! blindness must be so terrible," Lucy remarked to her friend after the doctor had gone.

"Yes," Elsie answered thoughtfully, "but I do not give up hope for her yet."

"Dr. Morton is considered very skilful."

"Still he may be mistaken, and I shall not rest till I have made every effort to save her sight."

Little Elsie and her sister had already become deeply interested in poor Sally, and were laying plans to help her.

"What can we do, Elsie?" queried Vi, in an under tone, drawing her sister aside.

"She'll want clothes; she had on a very old faded calico dress."

"And not a bow or pin; just an old linen collar around her neck," remarked Gertrude, joining them; "and her dress was ever so old-fashioned and patched besides."

"Let's put our pocket money together, and buy her a new dress," proposed Vi.

"And make it for her," added Elsie; "it hurts her eyes to sew, and you know Dinah could fit it. Mamma had her taught the trade, and says she fits and sews very nicely."

"Oh, what's the use of giving our money?" exclaimed Gertrude, impatiently. "We want it ourselves, and your mamma has such loads and loads of money; hasn't she, Eddie?" turning to him, as he stood near.

"I don't know," he answered; "she never told us she had; she never talks much about money, except to tell us it all belongs to God, who only lends it to us."

"And that we must give it to the poor and needy," said Vi.

"Because 'it is more blessed to give than to receive,'" added Elsie.

"Well, I know she has," persisted Gertrude, "for my mamma often says so, and I'm sure she knows."

"But even if she has, mamma's money is not ours, and it's a duty and a very great pleasure to give of our own."

"Every one to their taste, I haven't a bit more money than I want myself," said Gertrude, walking away with her chin in the air.

"Gerty," said Elsie, running after her, "don't be vexed; we weren't meaning to ask you for anything; but only talking about our own duty."

"Oh, I can take a hint as well as other folks," said Gertrude, tossing her head.

"What's it all about?" asked Kate, coming up to them; but they paid no heed to her, and she went to Vi for the desired information.

"Why, I'll help, of course I will," she said; "I guess I've got some money, I'll look after tea; there's the bell now."

Elsie seized an opportunity to petition her mother for a longer talk than usual in her dressing-room that evening, and the most of it was taken up in the discussion and arranging of plans for helping Mrs. Gibson and her daughter.

"What an unconscionable time you've been upstairs, Elsie," Philip remarked in a bantering tone, coming to her side as she and her mother returned to the drawing-room. "I've been dying to speak to you, as the girls say."

"All girls don't talk so, Phil."

"You don't, I know. Would you like a gallop before breakfast to-morrow morning?"

"Yes, indeed!" she answered, her eyes sparkling, "it's what I'm used to at home. Papa rides with us almost every morning."

"Will I do for an escort?"

"Oh, yes, if mamma consents. Gert will go too, won't she?"

"No, she prefers her morning nap."

Philip was a manly boy, the neighborhood a safe one, and the pony Elsie would ride, well-broken and not too spirited, so mamma's consent was readily given, with the proviso that they should not go before sunrise, or choose a lonely road.

"By the way," she added, "I should like you to do an errand for me at Mrs. Gibson's."

As Sally Gibson was sweeping the doorstep early the next morning, a couple of ponies dashed up to the gate, in whose riders she instantly recognized Elsie Travilla and Philip Ross.

"Hallo!" shouted the latter, "this young lady has something for you."

"Good-morning," Elsie said, reaching out a little gloved hand, as the girl drew near, "mamma bade me bring you this note, and ask how your mother is to-day."

"A little better, thank you; it has done her a world of good to—to have her mind so relieved, and the doctor's medicine seems to have helped her too. How very, very kind Mrs. Travilla is," she added, with tears in her eyes, "and Mrs. Ross. Won't you come in?"

"Not this morning, thank you," and away they galloped. Sally looking after them with admiring eyes, and a murmured exclamation, "How pretty and sweet she is!"

It was not an envious sigh that accompanied the words, but born of mingled emotions,—the half-formed thought, "Shall I ever know such pleasures. Alas, they are not for me!" quickly succeeded by another,—"Ah, that sweet child cannot live to maturity, and be always as happy and free from care, as now."

Her mother's shrill voice recalled her to herself, "Why do you stand there? What's that they gave you?"

"A note, mother. It's directed to me."

"Then make haste and read it."

"Shall I not give you your breakfast first?"

"No, no! do as I bid you."

So the girl read the missive aloud without delay.

It was from Mrs. Travilla, and stated that she had already written to engage a room for Mrs. Gibson in a cottage in a quiet little seaside town; a place recommended by Doctor Morton as very suitable; and that she would secure a competent nurse to go with her.

"Why can't she send you, too, instead of hiring a stranger to go with me?" here interrupted Mrs. Gibson, angrily.

"Wait, mother," said Sally in quivering tones, tears of joy and gratitude filling her eyes.

She dashed them away and read on.

"I have another plan for you. Doctor Morton told you his opinion,—that your case was hopeless. But do not despair; mistakes are often made even by the most skilful men. A friend of mine, whose trouble was very similar to yours—consulted a number of excellent oculists all of whom told her the nerve of her eye was affected and there was no help for it, she would certainly go blind; then as a last hope she went to Doctor Thomson of Philadelphia, who succeeded in giving her entire relief. If you are willing, I will send you to him. And now the first thing is to provide your mother and yourself each with a suitable outfit. Come up to the Crags as early this morning as you can, and we will make arrangements."



CHAPTER TENTH.

"When we see the flower seeds wafted, From the nurturing mother tree, Tell we can, wherever planted, What the harvesting will be; Never from the blasting thistle, Was there gathered golden grain, Thus the seal the child receiveth, From its mother will remain." —MRS. HALE.

For once Mrs. Gibson had the grace to feel a passing emotion of gratitude to this kind benefactor, and shame that she herself had been so ready with fault-finding instead of thanks.

As for Sally, she was completely overcome, and dropping into a chair, hid her face and cried heartily.

"Come, don't be a fool," her mother said at last; "there's too much to be done to waste time in crying, and besides you'll hurt your eyes."

Sally rose hastily, removed the traces of her tears, and began setting the table for their morning meal.

"How soon are you going?" her mother asked at its conclusion.

"Just as soon as I can get the things cleared away and the dishes washed; if you think you can spare me."

"Of course I can. I feel well enough this morning to help myself to anything I'm likely to want."

There was still half an hour to spare before breakfast when, after a round of five or six miles on their ponies, Philip and Elsie reached the Crags.

"What shall you do with yours?" asked Philip, remarking upon that fact.

"Read," she answered, looking back at him with a smile as she tripped lightly up the stairs.

Dinah was in waiting to smooth her hair and help her change the pretty riding hat and habit for a dress better suited to the house; then Elsie, left alone, seated herself by a window with her Bible in her hand.

For a moment her eyes rested upon the blue distant mountains, softly outlined against the deeper blue of the sky, watched the cloud shadows floating over the nearer hills and valleys here richly wooded, there covered with fields of waving grain her ear the while drinking in with delight many a sweet rural sound, the songs of birds, the distant lowing of cattle, and bleating of sheep—her heart swelling with ardent love and thankfulness to him who had given her so much to enjoy.

Dinah had left the door open, that the fresh air might course freely through the room, and Gertrude coming, some minutes later, in search of her friend, stood watching Elsie for a little unperceived.

"Dear me!" she exclaimed at length, "how many times a day do you pore over that book?"

Elsie looked up with a smile as sweet as the morning, "I am allowed to read it as often as I please."

"Allowed? not compelled? not ordered?"

"No, only I must have a text ready for mamma every morning."

"Getting one ready for to-morrow?"

"No, just reading. I had time for only a verse or two before my ride."

"Well, that would be plenty for me. I can read it, too, as often as I like, but a chapter or two on Sunday, generally does me for all the week. There's the bell; come let's go down."

Vi met them at the door of the breakfast-room. "Oh, Elsie, did you have a pleasant ride? Is Sally Gibson coming soon?"

"I don't know; mamma said I need not wait for an answer."

There was time for no more, and Vi must put a restraint upon herself, repressing excitement and curiosity for the present, as mamma expected her children to be very quiet and unobtrusive at table when away from home.

Vi was delighted when just as they were leaving the table, a servant announced that a young person who called herself Miss Gibson, was asking for Miss Travilla; for Vi never liked waiting, and was always eager to carry out immediately any plan that had been set on foot.

Mrs. Gibson was not troubled with any delicacy of feeling about asking for what she wanted, and had made out a list of things to be provided for herself and Sally, which the girl was ashamed to show; so extravagant seemed its demands.

When urged by her benefactress, she mentioned a few of the most necessary articles, modestly adding that the generous gift Mrs. Travilla had already bestowed, ought to be sufficient to supply all else that might be required.

Elsie, seating herself at her writing desk and taking out pen, ink and paper, looked smilingly into the eager faces of her two little girls.

"What do you think about it, dears?"

"Oh, they must have more things; a good many more, and we want to help pay for them with our money."

"You see, Miss Sally, they will be sadly disappointed if you refuse to accept their gifts," Elsie said. "Now I'm going to make out a list and you must all help me, lest something should be forgotten. Mrs. Ross has kindly offered us the use of her carriage, and we will drive to the nearest town and see what we can find there, the rest we will order from New York."

The list was made out amid much innocent jesting and merry laughter of both mother and children,—Sally a deeply interested and delighted spectator of their pleasing intercourse—the mother so sweet, gentle and affectionate, the children so respectful and loving to her, so kind and considerate to each other.

In fact, the girl was so occupied in watching them, that she was not aware till Mrs. Travilla read it over aloud, that this new list was longer and more extravagant than the one she had suppressed.

"Oh, it is too much, Mrs. Travilla!" she cried, the tears starting to her eyes.

"My dear child," returned Elsie, playfully, "I'm a wilful woman and will have my own way. Come, the carriage is in waiting and we must go."

The shopping expedition was quite a frolic for the children, and a great treat to poor, overworked Sally. "She looks so shabby; I'd be ashamed to go with her to the stores or anywhere, or to have her ride in the carriage with me," Gertrude had said to Vi as the little girls were having their hats put on; but Vi answered indignantly, "She's clean and tidy, and she isn't vulgar or rude, and I do believe she's good; and mamma says dress and riches don't make the person."

And that seemed to be the feeling of all; Elsie, too, had purposely dressed herself and her children as plainly as possible; so that Sally, though at first painfully conscious of the deficiencies in her attire, soon forgot all about them, and gave herself up to the thorough enjoyment of the pleasures provided for her.

She felt that it would be very ungrateful did she not share the hearty rejoicing of the children over "her pretty things" as they eagerly selected and paid for them with their own pocket money, seeming fully to realize the truth of the Master's declaration, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."

Vi would have had the making of the new dresses begun at once, wanting Sally to return with them to the Crags, and let Dinah fit her immediately, but was overruled by her mamma.

"No, my dear, Sally must go home to her sick mother now, and Dinah shall go to them after dinner."

"But mamma, I want to begin my part. You know you said I could hem nicely, and might do some on the ruffles or something."

"Yes, daughter, and so you shall, but must rest awhile first."

Violet had often to be held back in starting upon some new enterprise, and afterward encouraged or compelled to persevere, while Elsie was more deliberate at first, more steadfast in carrying out what she had once undertaken. Each had what the other lacked, both were very winsome and lovable, and they were extremely fond of one another; scarcely less so of their brothers and the darling baby sister.

"When may I begin, mamma?" asked Vi, somewhat impatiently.

"After breakfast to-morrow morning you may spend an hour at your needle."

"Only an hour, mamma? It would take all summer at that rate."

"Ah, what a doleful countenance, daughter mine!" Elsie said laughingly, as she bent down and kissed the rosy cheek. "You must remember that my two little girls are not to carry the heavy end of this, and the sewing will be done in good season without overworking them. I could not permit that; I must see to it that they have plenty of time for rest and for healthful play. I appoint you one hour a day, and shall allow you to spend one more, if you wish, but that must be all."

Violet had been trained to cheerful acquiescence in the decisions of her parents, and now put it in practice, yet wished very much that mamma would let her work all day for Sally, till her outfit was ready; she was sure she should not tire of it; but she soon learned anew the lessons she had learned a hundred times before—that mamma knew best.

The first day she would have been willing to sew a little longer after the second hour's task was done; the next, two hours were fully sufficient to satisfy her appetite for work: on the third, it was a weariness before the end of the first hour; on the fourth, she would have been glad to beg off entirely, but her mother said firmly, "No, dear; one hour's work is not too much for you, and you know I allowed you to undertake it only on condition that you would persevere to the end."

"Yes, mamma, but I am very tired, and I think I'll never undertake anything again," and with a little sigh the child seated herself and began her task.

Mamma smiled sympathizingly, softly smoothed the golden curls, and said in her own gentle voice, "Let us not be weary in well-doing'! Do you remember the rest of it?"

"Yes, mamma, 'for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.' And you told us to faint was to get tired and stop. But mamma, what shall I reap by keeping on with this?"

"A much needed lesson in perseverance, for one thing, I hope my little daughter, and for another the promise given in the forty-first Psalm, 'Blessed is he that considereth the poor; the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth; and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness.'

"How would you like to hear a story while you sit here sewing by my side?"

"Oh, ever so much, mamma! A story! a story!" And all the little flock clustered about mamma's chair, for they dearly loved her stories.

This was an old favorite, but the narrator added some new characters and new scenes, spinning it out, yet keeping up the interest, till it and the hour came to an end very nearly together.

Then the children, finding that was to be all for the present, scattered to their play.

Mrs. Ross had come in a few minutes before, and signing to her friend to proceed, had joined the group of listeners.

"Dear me, Elsie, how can you take so much trouble with your children?" she said. "You seem to be always training and teaching them in the sweetest, gentlest way; and of course they're good and obedient. I'm sure I love mine dearly, but I could never have the patience to do all you do."

"My dear friend, how can I do less, when so much of their future welfare, for time and for eternity, depends upon my faithfulness?"

"Yes," said Lucy slowly, "but the mystery to me is, how you can keep that in mind all the time, and how you can contrive always to do the right thing?"

"I wish I did, but it is not so; I make many mistakes."

"I don't see it. You do wonderfully well anyhow, and I want to know how you manage it."

"I devote most of my time and thoughts to it; I try to study the character of each child, and above all, I pray a great deal for wisdom and for God's blessing on my efforts; not always on my knees, for it is a blessed truth, that we may lift our hearts to him at any time and in any place. Oh, Lucy," she exclaimed with tearful earnestness, "if I can but train my children for God and heaven, what a happy woman shall I be I the longing desire of my heart for them is that expressed in the stanza of Watts's Cradle Hymn:

'Mayst them live to know and fear him, Trust and love him all thy days, Then go dwell forever near him, See his face and sing his praise!'"



CHAPTER ELEVENTH.

"Beware the bowl! though rich and bright, Its rubies flash upon the sight, An adder coils its depths beneath, Whose lure is woe, whose sting is death." —STREET.

Mrs. Ross had found a nurse for Mrs. Gibson and a seamstress to help with the sewing; a good many of the needed garments were ordered from New York ready made, and in a few days the invalid was comfortably established in the seaside cottage recommended by Dr. Morton.

In another week, Sally found herself in possession of a wardrobe that more than satisfied her modest desires. She called at the Crags in her new traveling dress, to say good-bye, looking very neat and lady-like; happy too, in spite of anxiety in regard to her sight.

Not used to the world, timid and retiring, she had felt a good deal of nervous apprehension about taking the journey alone; but business called Mr. Ross to Philadelphia, and he offered to take charge of her and see her safe in the quiet boarding-place already secured for her by Mrs. Edward Allison, to whom Elsie had written on her behalf.

Adelaide had never felt either love or respect for the ill-tempered governess of her younger brothers and sisters, but readily undertook to do a kindness for her child.

"Have you the doctor's address?" Mr. Ross asked, when taking leave of the girl in her new quarters.

"Yes, sir; Mrs. Travilla gave it to me on a card, and I have it safe. A letter of introduction too, from Dr. Morton. He says he is not personally acquainted with Dr. Thomson, but knows him well by reputation, and if anybody can help me he can."

"That is encouraging, and I hope you will have no difficulty in finding the place. It is in the next street and only a few squares from here."

Sally thought she could find it readily; Mrs. Travilla had given her very careful directions about the streets and numbers in Philadelphia; besides, she could inquire if she were at a loss.

When Mr. Ross returned home, he brought some one with him at sight of whom the Ion children uttered a joyous cry, and who stepping from the carriage, caught their mother in his arms and held her to his heart, as if he meant never to let her go.

"Papa! papa!" cried the children, "we did not know you were coming; mamma did not tell us. Mamma, did you know?"

"Yes, mamma had known; they saw it in her smiling eyes; and now they knew why it was that she had watched and listened so eagerly for the coming of the carriage; even more so than Aunt Lucy, who was expecting Uncle Philip, and who was very fond of him too. But then he had left her only the other day, and mamma and papa had been parted for weeks."

Mr. Travilla had rented a furnished cottage at Cape May and come to take them all there. The doctors thought that would be best for Lily now.

The young folks were greatly pleased, and ready to start at once; they had enjoyed their visit to the Crags, but had missed papa sadly, and now they would have him with them all the time, grandpa and the whole family from the Oaks, too; for they were occupying an adjoining cottage. And the delicious salt sea breeze, oh, how pleasant it would be!

Mrs. Ross was sorry to part with her guests, had hoped to keep her friend with her all summer, but a good deal comforted in her disappointment, by the knowledge that her mother, Sophie and her children would soon take their places.

As for young Philip he was greatly vexed and chagrined. "It is really too bad!" he said seeking little Elsie out, and taking a seat by her side.

She was on the porch at some little distance from the others, and busied in turning over the pages of a new book her papa had brought her.

"What is too bad, Phil?" she asked, closing it, and giving her full attention to him.

"That you must be hurried away so soon. I've hardly been at home two weeks, and we hadn't seen each other before for two years."

"Well a fortnight is a good while. And you will soon have your cousins here—Herbert, Meta——"

"Herbert!" he interrupted impatiently, "who cares for him? and Meta, prying, meddling, tell-tale Meta's worse than nobody. But there! don't look so shocked, as if I had said an awfully wicked thing. I really don't hate her at all, though she got me into trouble more than once with grandma and Aunt Sophie that winter we spent at Ashlands. Ah, a bright thought strikes me!"

"Indeed! may I have the benefit of it?" asked the little girl, smiling archly.

"That you may. It is that you might as well stay on another week, or as long as you will."

"Thank you, but you must remember the doctor says we should go at once, on baby's account."

"I know that, but I was speaking only of you personally. Baby doesn't need you, and papa could take you to your father and mother after a while."

"Let them all go and leave me behind? Oh, Phil, I couldn't think of such a thing!"

The Travillas had been occupying their seaside cottage for two weeks, when a letter came from Sally Gibson; the first she had written them, though she had been notified at once of their change of address, told that they would be glad to hear how she was and what Dr. Thomson thought of her case, and a cordial invitation given her to come to them to rest and recruit as soon as she was ready to leave her physician.

Elsie's face grew very bright as she read.

"What does she say?" asked her husband.

"There is first an apology for not answering sooner (her eyes were so full of belladonna that she could not see to put pen to paper, and she had no one to write for her), then a burst of joy and gratitude—to God, to the doctor and to me,—'success beyond anything she had dared to hope,' but she will be with us to-morrow, and tell us all about it."

"And she won't be blind, mamma?" queried Violet, joyously.

"No, dear; I think that she must mean that her eyes are cured, or her sight made good in some way."

"Oh, then, I'll just love that good doctor!" cried the child, clasping her hands in delight.

The next day brought Sally, but they scarcely recognized her, she had grown so plump and rosy, and there was so glad a light in the eyes that looked curiously at them through glasses clear as crystal.

Mrs. Travilla took her by both hands and kissed her.

"Welcome, Sally; I am glad to see you, but should scarcely have known you, had we met in a crowd;—you are looking so well and happy."

"And so I am, my dear kind friend," the girl answered with emotion; "and I can see! see to read fine print that is all a blur to me without these glasses; and all the pain is gone, the fear, the distress of body and mind. Oh, the Lord has been good, good to me! and the doctor so kind and interested! I shall be grateful to him and to you as long as I live!"

"Oh, did he make you those glasses? what did he do to you?" asked the eager, curious children. "Tell us all about it, please."

But mamma said, "No, she is too tired now; she must go to her room and lie down and rest till tea-time."

Little Elsie showed her the way, saw that nothing was wanting that could contribute to her comfort, then left her to her repose.

It was needed after all the excitement and the hot dusty ride in the cars; but she came down from it quite fresh, and as ready to pour out the whole story of the experiences of the past two weeks as the children could desire.

When tea was over, they clustered round her on the cool breezy veranda overlooking the restless murmuring sea, and by her invitation, questioned her to their heart's content.

"Is he a nice kind old man, like our doctor at Ion?" began little Harold.

"Quite as nice and kind I should think, but not very old."

"Did he hurt you very much?" asked Elsie, who had great sympathy for suffering, whether mental or physical.

"Oh, no, not at all! He said directly that the eyes were not diseased; the trouble was malformation and could be remedied by suitable glasses; and oh, how glad I was to hear it!"

"I thought mamma read from your letter that he put medicine in your eyes."

"Yes, belladonna, but that was only to make them sick, so that he could examine them thoroughly, and measure them for the glasses."

Turning to Mrs. Travilla, "He is very kind and pleasant to every one; so far as I could see making no difference between rich and poor, but deeply interested in each case in turn; always giving his undivided attention to the one he has in hand at the moment; putting his whole heart and mind into the work."

"Which is doubtless one great reason why he is so successful," remarked Mrs. Travilla, adding, "Remember that, my children; half-hearted work accomplishes little for this world or the next."

"Weren't you afraid the first time you went?" asked timid little Elsie.

"My heart beat pretty fast," said Sally smiling. "I am rather bashful you see, and worse than that, I was afraid the doctor would say like the others, that it was the nerve and I would have to go blind, or that some dreadful operation would be necessary; but after I had seen him and found out how kind and pleasant he was, and that I'd nothing painful or dangerous to go through, and might hope for good sight at last, I didn't mind going at all.

"It was a little tedious sitting there in the outer office among strangers with no one to speak to, and nothing to do for hours at a time, but that was nothing compared to what I was to gain by it."

Then the children wanted to know what the doctor measured eyes with, and how he did it, and Sally amused them very much by telling how she had to say her letters every day and look at the gaslight and tell what shape it was, etc., etc.

"The doctor told me," she said, addressing Mrs. Travilla, "that I would not like the glasses at first, hardly any one does; but I do, though not so well, I dare say, as I shall after a while when I get used to them."

Mrs. Gibson's health was improving so that she was in a fair way to recover and as she was well taken care of and did not need her daughter, Sally felt at liberty to stay with these kind friends and enjoy herself.

She resolved to put away care and anxiety for the future, and take the full benefit of her present advantages. Yet there was one trouble that would intrude itself and rob her of half her enjoyment. Tom, her only and dearly loved brother, was fast traveling the downward road, seeming wholly given up to the dominion of the love of strong drink and kindred vices.

It was long since she had seen or heard from him and she knew not where he was. He had been in the habit of leaving their poor home on the Hudson without deigning to give her or his mother any information as to whither he was bound or when he would return; sometimes coming back in a few hours, and again staying away for days, weeks or months.

One day Elsie saw Sally turn suddenly pale while glancing over the morning paper and there was keen distress in the eyes she lifted to hers as the paper fell from her nerveless hand.

"Poor child; what is it?" Elsie asked compassionately, going to her and taking the cold hand in hers, "anything that I can relieve or help you to bear?"

"Tom!" and Sally burst into almost hysterical weeping.

He had been arrested in Philadelphia for drunkenness and disorderly conduct, fined and sent to prison till the amount should be paid.

Elsie did her best to comfort the poor sister, who was in an agony of shame and grief. "Oh," she sobbed, "he is such a dear fellow if only he could let drink alone! but it's been his ruin, his ruin! He must feel so disgraced that all his self-respect is gone and he'll never hold up his head again or have the heart to try to do better."

"Don't despair, poor child!" said Elsie, "he has not fallen too far for the grace of God to reclaim him; 'Behold the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear.'"

"And oh, I cry day and night to him for my poor Tom, so weak, so beset with temptations!" exclaimed the girl, "and will he not hear me at last?"

"He will if you ask in faith pleading the merits of his Son," returned her friend in moved tones.

"He must be saved!" Mr. Travilla said with energy, when Elsie repeated to him this conversation with Sally. "I shall take the next train for Philadelphia and try to find him."

Tom was found, his fine paid, his release procured, his rags exchanged for neat gentlemanly attire, hope of better things for this world and the next set before him, and with self-respect and manhood partially restored by all this and the kindly considerate, brotherly manner of his benefactor, he was persuaded to go with the latter to share with Sally for a few weeks, the hospitality of that pleasant seaside home.

He seemed scarcely able to lift his eyes from the ground as Mr. Travilla led him into the veranda where the whole family were gathered eagerly awaiting their coming; but in a moment Sally's arms were round his neck, her kisses and tears warm on his cheek, as she sobbed out in excess of joy, "O Tom, dear Tom, I'm so glad to see you!"

Then Mrs. Travilla's soft white hand grasped his in cordial greeting, and her low sweet voice bade him welcome; and the children echoed her words, apparently with no other thought of him than that he was Sally's brother and it was perfectly natural he should be there with her.

So he was soon at ease among them; but felt very humble, kept close by Sally and used his eyes and ears far more than his tongue.

His kind entertainers exerted themselves to keep him out of the way of temptation and help him to conquer the thirst for intoxicating drink, Mrs. Travilla giving Sally carte blanche to go into the kitchen and prepare him a cup of strong coffee whenever she would.

"Sally," he said to his sister, one evening when they sat alone together on the veranda, "what a place this is to be in! It's like a little heaven below; there is so much of peace and love; the moral atmosphere is so sweet and pure: I feel as though I had no business here, such a fallen wretch as I am!" he concluded with a groan, hiding his face in his hands.

"Don't, Tom, dear Tom!" she whispered, putting her arms about his neck and laying her head on his shoulder. "You've given up that dreadful habit? you're never going back to it?"

"I don't want to! God knows I don't!" he cried as in an agony of fear, "but that awful thirst—you don't know what it is! and I—I'm weak as water. Oh if there was none of the accursed thing on the face of the earth, I might hope for salvation! Sally, I'm afraid of myself, of the demon that is in me!"

"O, Tom, fly to Jesus!" she said, clinging to him. "He says, 'In me is thine help.' 'Fear not; I will help thee,' and he never yet turned a deaf ear to any poor sinner that cried to him for help. Cast yourself wholly on him and he will give you strength; for 'every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.'"

There was a moment of silence, in which Sally's heart was going up in earnest prayer for him; then Mr. Travilla joined them and addressing Tom said, "My wife and I have been talking about your future; indeed Sally's also; for we suppose you would like to keep together."

"That we should," they said.

"Well, how would you like to emigrate to Kansas and begin life anew; away from all old associates? I need not add that if you decide to go the means shall not be wanting."

"Thank you, sir; you have been the best of friends to us both, and to our mother, you and Mrs. Travilla," said Tom, with emotion: "and this is just what Sally and I have been wishing we could do. I understand something of farming and should like to take up a claim out there in some good location where land is given to those who will settle on it. And if you, sir, can conveniently advance the few hundred dollars we shall need to carry us there and give us a fair start, I shall gladly and thankfully accept it as a loan; hoping to be able to return it in a year or two."

This was the arrangement made and preparations to carry it out were immediately set on foot. In a few days the brother and sister bade good-bye to their kind entertainers, their mother, now nearly recovered, joined them in Philadelphia, and the three together turned their faces westward.

In bidding adieu to Elsie, Sally whispered with tears of joy the good news that Tom was trusting in a strength mightier than his own, and so, as years rolled on, these friends were not surprised to hear of his steadfast adherence to the practice of total abstinence from all intoxicating drinks, and his growing prosperity.



CHAPTER TWELFTH.

"You may as well Forbid the seas to obey the moon, As, or by oath, remove, or counsel, shake The fabric of her folly." —SHAKESPEARE.

Scarcely had the Gibsons departed when their places were more than filled by the unexpected arrival of a large party from Roselands, comprising old Mr. Dinsmore, with his daughter Mrs. Conly and her entire family, with the exception of Calhoun, who would follow shortly.

They were welcomed by their relatives with true southern hospitality and assured that the two cottages could readily be made to accommodate them all comfortably.

"What news of Molly?" was the first question after the greetings had been exchanged.

Mrs. Conly shook her head and sighed, "Hasn't been able to set her foot on the floor for weeks, and I don't believe she ever will. That's Dr. Pancoast's opinion, and he's good authority. 'Twas her condition that brought us North. We've left her and her mother at the Continental in Philadelphia.

"There's to be a consultation to-morrow of all the best surgeons in the city. Enna wanted me to stay with her till that was over, but I couldn't think of it with all these children fretting and worrying to get down here out of the heat. So I told her I'd leave Cal to take care of her and Molly.

"Dick's with them too. He's old enough to be useful now, and Molly clings to him far more than to her mother."

"Isn't it dreadful," said Virginia, "to think that that fall down-stairs has made her a cripple for life? though nobody thought she was much hurt at first."

"Poor child! how does she bear it?" asked her uncle.

"She doesn't know how to bear it at all," said Mrs. Conly; "she nearly cries her eyes out."

"No wonder," remarked the grandfather; "it's a terrible prospect she has before her, to say nothing of the present suffering. And her mother has no patience with her; pities herself instead of the child."

"No," said Mrs. Conly, "Enna was never known to have much patience with anybody or anything."

"But Dick's good to her," remarked Isadore.

"Yes," said Arthur, "it's really beautiful to see his devotion to her and how she clings to him. And it's doing the lad good;—making a man of him."

"Surely Enna must feel for her child!" Elsie said, thinking of her own darlings and how her very heart would be torn with anguish at the sight of one of them in so distressing a condition.

"Yes, of course, she cried bitterly over her when first the truth dawned upon her that Molly was really so dreadfully injured; but of course that couldn't last and she soon took to bewailing her own hard fate in having such a burden on her hands, a daughter who must always live single and could never be anything but a helpless invalid."

Elsie understood how it was; for had she not known Enna from a child? Her heart ached for Molly, and as she told her own little ones of their poor cousin's hopeless, helpless state, she mingled her tears with theirs.

"Mamma, won't you 'vite her to come here?" pleaded Harold.

"Yes, dear mamma, do," urged the others, "and let us all try to amuse and comfort her."

"If I do, my dears, you may be called upon at times to give up your pleasures for her. Do you think you will be willing to do so?"

At that the young faces grew very grave, and for a moment no one spoke. Quick, impulsive Violet was the first to answer.

"Yes, mamma, I'm willing; I do feel so sorry for her I'd do anything to help her bear her pain."

"Mamma," said Elsie, softly, "I'll ask Jesus to help me, and I'm sure he will."

"So am I, daughter; and I think Vi means to ask his help too?"

"Oh, yes, mamma, I do!"

"And I," "and I," "and I," responded the others.

So the invitation was sent, for Molly and her mother and brother to come and pay as long a visit as they would.

A letter came in a few days, accepting it and giving the sorrowful news that all the surgeons agreed in the opinion that the poor girl's spine had been so injured that she would never again have any use of her lower limbs.

It was Mrs Conly who brought the letter to her niece, it having come in one addressed to herself. She expressed strong sympathy for Molly, but was much taken up with the contents of another letter received by the same mail.

"I've just had a most generous offer from Mr. Conly's sister, Mrs. Delaford," she said to her niece. "She has no children of her own, is a widow and very wealthy, and she's very fond of my Isadore, who is her godchild and namesake. She offers now to clothe and educate her, with the view of making the child her heir; and also to pay for Virgy's tuition, if I will send them both to the convent where she was herself educated."

"Aunt Louise, you will not think of it surely?" cried Elsie, looking much disturbed.

"And why not, pray?" asked Mrs. Conly, drawing herself up, and speaking in a tone of mingled hauteur, pique and annoyance.

"You would not wish them to become Romanists?"

"No, of course not; but that need not follow."

"It is very apt to follow."

"Nonsense! I should exact a promise that their faith would not be interfered with."

"But would that avail, since, 'No faith with heretics,' has been for centuries the motto of the 'infallible, unchangeable,' Church of Rome?"

"I think you are inclined to see danger where there is none," returned the aunt. "I would not for the world be as anxious and fussy about my children as you are about yours. Besides, I think it quite right to let their father's relatives do for them when they are both able and willing."

"But Aunt Louise——"

"There! don't let us talk any more about the matter to-day, if you please," interrupted Mrs. Conly, rising, "I must go now and prepare for my bath. I'll be in again this evening to see Enna and the others. They'll be down by the afternoon train. Good-morning."

And she sailed away, leaving Elsie sad and anxious for the future of her young cousins.

"What is it, daughter?" Mr. Dinsmore asked, coming in a moment later. "I have seldom seen you look so disturbed."

Her face brightened, as was its wont under her father's greeting, but, this time, only momentarily.

"I am troubled, papa," she said, making room for him on the sofa by her side. "Here is a note from Enna. The doctors give Molly no hope that she will ever walk again. One cannot help feeling very sad for her, poor child! and besides something Aunt Louise has been telling me, makes me anxious for Isadore and Virginia."

He was scarcely less concerned than she, when he heard what that was. "I shall talk to Louise," he said, "it would be the height of folly to expose her girls to such influences. It is true I once had some thoughts of sending you to a convent school, under the false impression that the accomplishments were more thoroughly taught there than in the Protestant seminaries; but with the light I have since gained upon the subject, I know that it would have been a fearful mistake."

"Dear papa," she said, putting her hand into his and looking at him with loving eyes, "I am so thankful to you that you did not; so thankful that you taught me yourself. The remembrance of the hours we spent together as teacher and pupil, has always been very sweet to me."

"To me also," he answered with a smile.

The expected guests arrived at the appointed time, Enna looking worn, faded and fretful, Dick sad and anxious, poor Molly, weary, exhausted, despairing; as if life had lost all brightness to her.

Her proud spirit rebelled against her helplessness, against the curious, even the pitying looks it attracted to her from strangers in the streets and public conveyances.

The transit from one vehicle to another was made in the strong arms of a stalwart negro whom they had brought with them from Roselands, Dick following closely to guard his sister from accident, and shield her as much as possible from observation, while Enna and Cal brought up the rear.

A room on the ground floor had been appropriated to Molly's use, and thither she was carried at once, and gently laid upon a couch. Instantly her cousin Elsie's arms were about her, her head pillowed upon the gentle breast, while tears of loving sympathy fell fast upon her poor pale face, mingled with tender caresses and whispered words of endearment.

It did the child good; the tears and sobs that came in response, relieved her aching heart of half its load. But it vexed Enna.

"What folly, Elsie!" she said, "don't you see how you're making the child cry? And I've been doing my best to get her to stop it; for of course it does no good, and only injures her eyes."

"Forgive me, dear child, if I have hurt you," Elsie said low and tenderly, as she laid Molly's head gently back against the pillows.

"You haven't! you've done me good!" cried the girl, flashing an indignant glance at Enna. "Oh, mother, if you treated me so, it wouldn't be half so hard to bear!"

"I've learned not to expect anything but ingratitude from my children," said Enna, coldly returning Elsie's kind greeting.

But Dick grasped his cousin's hand warmly, giving her a look of grateful affection, and accepted with delight her offered kiss.

"Now, I will leave you to rest," she said to Molly, "and when you feel like seeing your cousins, they will be glad to come in and speak to you. They are anxious to do all they can for your entertainment while you are here."

"Yes, but I want to see grandpa and Uncle Horace now, please; they just kissed me in the car, and that was all."

They came in at once, full of tender sympathy for the crippled, suffering child.

"They're so kind," sobbed Molly, as they left the room.

"Yes, you can appreciate everybody's kindness but your mother's," remarked Enna in a piqued tone, "and everybody can be sorry for you, but my feelings are lost sight of entirely."

"Oh, mother, don't!" sighed Molly. "I'm sure I've enough to bear without your reproaches. I'd appreciate you fast enough, if you were such a mother as Cousin Elsie."

"Or as Aunt Louise, why don't you say?" said Mrs. Conly, coming in, going up to the couch, and kissing her. "How d'ye do, Enna?"

"Yes, even you are sorrier for me than mother is, I do believe!" returned Molly, bursting into tears; "and if it was Isa or Virgy you'd be ever so good to her, and not scold her as mother does me."

"Why, I'm just worn out and worried half to death about that girl," said Enna, in answer to her sister's query. "She'll never walk a step again—all the doctors say that." At these words Molly was almost convulsed with sobs, but Enna went on relentlessly. "And when they asked her how it happened, she up and told them her high-heeled shoes threw her down, and that she didn't want to wear them, but I made her do it."

"And so you did, and I only told it because one of the doctors asked if I didn't know they were dangerous; and when I said yes, he wanted to know how I came to be so foolish as to wear them."

"And then he lectured me," Enna went on, "as if it was all my fault, when of course it was her own carelessness; for if it wasn't, why haven't some of the rest of us fallen down. Accidents happen when nobody's to blame."

"I came near falling the other day, myself," said Mrs. Conly, "and I'll never wear a high, narrow heel again, nor let one of my girls do so. Now I'm going out. You two ought to take a nap; Molly especially, poor child! I'm very sorry for you; but don't cry any more now. It will only hurt your eyes."

Mrs. Conly was to stay to tea and spend the evening. Stepping into the parlor she found all the adult members of the family there.

"I want to have a talk with you, Louise," her brother said, seating her comfortably on a sofa and drawing up a chair beside her.

"And I think I know what about," she returned with heightened color, glancing toward Elsie, "but let me tell you beforehand, Horace, that you may as well spare yourself the trouble. I have already accepted Mrs. Delaford's offer."

"Louise! how could you be so hasty in so important a matter?"

"Permit me to answer that question with another," she retorted, drawing herself up haughtily, "what right have you to call me to an account for so doing?"

"Only the right of an older brother to take a fraternal interest in your welfare and that of his nieces."

"What is it, mother?" asked Calhoun.

She told him in a few words, and he turned to his uncle with the query why he so seriously objected to her acceptance of what seemed so favorable an offer.

"Because I think it would be putting in great jeopardy the welfare of your sisters, temporal and spiritual"

"What nonsense, Horace!" exclaimed Mrs. Conly angrily. "Of course I shall expressly stipulate that their faith is not to be interfered with."

"And just as much of course the promise will be given and systematically broken without the slightest compunction; because in the creed of Rome the end sanctifies the means and no end is esteemed higher or holier than that of adding members to her communion."

"Well," said Louise, "I must say you judge them hardly. I'm sure there are at least some pious ones among them and of course they wouldn't lie."

"You forget that the more pious they are, the more obedient they will be to the teachings of their church, and when she tells them it is a pious act to be false to their word or oath, for her advancement, or to burn, kill and destroy, or to break any other commandment of the decalogue, they will obey believing that thus they do God service.

"Really the folly and credulity of Protestant parents who commit their children to the care of those who teach and put in practice, too, these two maxims, so utterly destructive of all truth and honesty, all confidence between man and man—'The end sanctifies the means,' and 'No faith with heretics,'—is to me perfectly astounding."

"So you consider me a fool," said Mrs. Conly, bridling, "thanks for the compliment."

"It is you who make the application, Louise," he answered. "I had no thought of doing so, and still hope you will prove your wisdom by reconsidering and letting Mrs. Delaford know that you revoke your decision."

"Indeed I shall not; I consider that I have no right to throw away Isadore's fortune."

"Have you then a greater right to imperil her soul's salvation?" he asked with solemn earnestness.

"Pshaw! what a serious thing you make of it," she exclaimed, yet with an uneasy and troubled look.

"Uncle!" cried Calhoun in surprise, "do you not think there have been and are some real Christians in the Romish Church?"

"No doubt of it, Cal; some who, spite of her idolatrous teachings, worship God alone and put their trust solely in the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ. Yet who can fail to see in the picture of Babylon the Great so graphically drawn in Revelation, a faithful portraiture of Rome? And the command is, 'Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partaker of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.'"

Mr. Dinsmore paused, but no one seeming to have anything to say in reply, went on to give his sister a number of instances which had come to his knowledge, of the perversion of Protestant girls while being educated in convents.

"Well," she said at last, "I'm not going to draw back now, but I shall be on the watch and if they do begin to tamper with my girls' faith I'll remove them at once. There now I hope you are satisfied!"

"Not quite, Louise," he said, "they are accomplished proselyters and may have the foundations completely and irremediably undermined ere you suspect that they have begun."



CHAPTER THIRTEENTH.

"Affliction is the wholesome soil of virtue; Where patience, honor, sweet humanity, Calm fortitude, take root, and strongly flourish." —MALLET AND THOMSON'S ALFRED.

A bath, a nap, and a dainty supper had refreshed Molly somewhat before the children were admitted to her room, but they found her looking pale and thin, and oh, so sorrowful! so different from the bright, merry, happy "Cousin Molly" of six months ago.

Their little hearts swelled with sympathetic grief, and tears filled their eyes as one after another they took her hand and kissed her lovingly.

"Poor child, I so solly for oo!" said Herbert, and Molly laughed hysterically, then put her hands over her face, and sobbed as though her heart would break. First, it was the oddity of being called "child" by such a mere baby, then the thought that she had become an object of pity to such an one.

"Don' ky," he said, pulling away her hand to kiss her cheek. "Herbie didn't mean to make oo ky."

"Come, Herbie dear, let us go now; we mustn't tease poor sick cousin," whispered his sister Elsie, drawing him gently away.

"No, no! let him stay; let him love me," sobbed Molly. "He is a dear little fellow," she added, returning his caresses, and wiping away her tears.

"Herbie will love oo, poor old sing," he said, stroking her face, "and mamma and papa, and all de folks will be ever so dood to oo."

Molly's laugh was more natural this time, and under its inspiring influence, the little ones grew quite merry, really amusing her with their prattle, till their mammy came to take them to bed.

Elsie was beginning to say good-night too, thinking there was danger of wearying the invalid, but Molly said, "I don't wonder you want to leave me; mother says nobody could like to stay with such a——" she broke off suddenly, again hid her face in her hands and wept bitterly.

"Oh, no, no! I was only afraid of tiring you," Elsie said, leaning over her and stroking her hair with soft, gentle touch. "I should like to stay and talk if you wish; to tell you all about our visit to the Crags, and mamma's old governess, and——"

"Oh, yes, do; anything to help me to forget, even for a few minutes. Oh, I wish I was dead! I wish I was dead! I can't bear to live and be a cripple!"

"Dear Molly, don't cry, don't feel so dreadfully about it!" Elsie said, weeping with her. "Jesus will help you to bear it; he loves you, and is sorrier for you than anybody else is; and he won't let you be sick or in pain in heaven."

"No, he doesn't love me! I'm not good enough; and if he did, he wouldn't have let me get such a dreadful fall."

Little Elsie was perplexed for the moment, and knew not what to answer.

"Couldn't he have kept me from falling?" demanded Molly, almost fiercely.

"Yes, he can do everything."

"Then I hate him for letting me fall!"

Elsie was inexpressibly shocked. "Oh, Molly!" in an awed, frightened tone, was all that she could say.

"I'm awfully wicked, I know I am; but I can't help it. Why did he let me fall? I couldn't bear to let a dog be so dreadfully hurt, if I could help it!"

"Molly, the Bible says 'God is love.' And in another place, 'God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' 'God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.' He must have loved you, Molly, when he died that dreadful death to save you."

"Not me."

"Yes, if you will believe. 'Whosoever believeth.'"

"It was just for everybody in a lump," said Molly, sighing wearily. "Not for you or me, or anybody in particular; at least not anybody that's living now; because we weren't made then; so how could he?"

"But mamma says he knew he was going to make us, just the same as he does now; and that he thought of each one, and loved and died for each one just as much as if there was only one."

"Well, it's queer if he loved me so well as that, and yet would let me fall and be so awfully injured. What's this? You didn't have it before you came North," taking hold of the gold chain about Elsie's neck.

Out came the little watch and Elsie told about the aching tooth and the trip to New York to have it extracted.

"Seems to me," was Molly's comment, "you have all the good things: such a nice mother and everything else. Such a good father too, and mine was killed when I was a little bit of a thing; and mother's so cross.

"But Dick's good to me; dear old Dick," she added, looking up at him with glistening eyes as he came in and going up to her couch, asked how she was.

"You'd better go to sleep now," he said. "You've been talking quite awhile, haven't you?"

At that Elsie slipped quietly away and went in search of her mother.

She found her alone on the veranda looking out meditatively upon the restless moonlit waters of the sea.

"Mamma," said the child softly, "I should like a stroll on the beach with you. Can we go alone? I want to talk with you about something."

"Come then, daughter," and hand in hand they sought the beach, only a few yards distant.

It was a clear still night, the moon nearly at the full, and the cool salt breeze from the silver-tipped waves was exceedingly refreshing after the heat of the day; which had been one of the hottest of the season.

For a while they paced to and fro in silence; then little Elsie gave her mother the substance of her conversation with Molly in which the latter expressed her disbelief in God's love for her because he had not prevented her fall. "Mamma," she said in conclusion, "how I wished you were there to make her understand."

"Poor child!" said the mother, in low, moved tones, "only he who permitted this sore trial can convince her that it was sent in love."

"But you will talk to her, mamma?"

"Yes, when a suitable opportunity offers; but prayer can do more for her than any words of ours, addressed to her."

The presence of Molly and her mother proved a serious drawback to the enjoyment of our party during the remainder of their sojourn at the seashore. The burden fell heaviest upon Elsie and her children, as the principal entertainers, and the mother had often to counsel patience and forbearance, and to remind her darlings of their promise to be ready to do all they could for the comfort and happiness of the sufferer.

All made praiseworthy efforts to fulfil their engagement, and Elsie and Vi, particularly the former, as nearest to Molly in age, and therefore most desired by her as a companion, gave up many a pleasure excursion for her sake, staying at home to talk with and amuse her when all the rest were out driving or boating.



CHAPTER FOURTEENTH.

"Ah! who can say, however fair his view, Through what sad scenes his path may lie?"

Mrs. Conly adhered to her resolve in regard to the education of her daughters, and about the middle of September left with them and her younger children for a visit to Mrs. Delaford, at whose house the wardrobes of the two girls were to be made ready for their first school year at the convent chosen by their aunt.

Arthur went with them as their escort. A week later the rest of the Roselands party returned home, and early in October the Oaks and Ion rejoiced in the return of their families.

Baby Lily had been so benefited by the trip that Elsie felt warranted in resuming her loved employment as acting governess to her older children.

They fell into the old round of duties and pleasures, as loving and happy a family as one might wish to see; a striking and most pleasant contrast to the one at Roselands, that of Enna and her offspring—where the mother fretted and scolded, and the children, following her example were continually at war with one another.

Only between Dick and Molly there was peace and love. The poor girl led a weary life pinned to her couch or chair, wholly dependent upon others for the means of locomotion and for anything that was not within reach of her hand.

She had not yet learned submission under her trial, and her mother was far from being an assistance in bearing it. Molly was greatly depressed in spirits, and her mother's scolding and fretting were often almost beyond endurance.

Her younger brother and sister thought it a trouble to wait on her and usually kept out of her way, but Dick, when present, was her faithful slave; always ready to lift and carry her, or to bring her anything she wanted. But much of Dick's time was necessarily occupied with his studies, and in going to and from his school, which was two or three miles distant.

He was very thoughtful for her comfort, and it was through his suggestion, that their grandfather directed that one of the pleasantest rooms in the house, overlooking the avenue, so that all the coming and going could be seen from its windows, should be appropriated to Molly's use.

There Dick would seat her each morning, before starting for school, in an invalid's easy-chair presented to her by her Cousin Elsie, and there he would be pretty sure to find her on his return, unless, as occasionally happened, their grandfather, Uncle Horace, Mr. Travilla, or some one of the relatives, had taken her out for a drive.

One afternoon about the last of November, Molly, weary of sewing and reading, weary inexpressibly weary, of her confinement and enforced quietude, was gazing longingly down the avenue, wishing that some one would come to take her out for an airing, when the door opened and her mother came in dressed for the open air, in hat, cloak and furs.

"I want you to button my glove, Molly," she said, holding out her wrist, "Rachel's so busy on my new silk, and you have nothing to do. What a fortunate child you are to be able to take your ease all the time."

"My ease!" cried Molly bitterly, "I'd be gladder than words can tell to change places with you for awhile."

"Humph! you don't know what you're wishing; the way I have to worry over my sewing for four besides myself, is enough to try the patience of a saint. By the way, it's high time you began to make yourself useful in that line. With practice, you might soon learn to accomplish a great deal, having nothing to do but stick at it from morning to night."

Molly was in the act of buttoning the second glove. Tears sprang to her eyes at this evidence of her mother's heartlessness, and one bright drop fell on Enna's wrist.

"There you have stained my glove!" she exclaimed angrily. "What a baby you are! will you never have done with this continued crying?"

"It seems to be very easy for you to bear my troubles, mother," returned poor Molly, raising her head proudly, and dashing away the tears, "I will try to learn to bear them too, and never again appeal to my mother for sympathy."

"You get enough of that from Dick, he cares ten times as much for you as he does for me—his own mother."

At that moment Betty came running in. "Mother, the carriage is at the door, and grandpa's ready. Molly, grandpa says he'll take you too, if you want to go."

Molly's face brightened, but before she could speak, Enna answered for her. "No, she can't; there isn't time to get her ready."

Mrs. Johnson hurried from the room, Betty following close at her heels, and Molly was left alone in her grief and weariness.

She watched the carriage as it rolled down the avenue, then turning from the window, indulged in a hearty cry.

At length, exhausted by her emotion, she laid her head back and fell asleep in her chair.

How long she had slept she did not know; some unusual noise down-stairs woke her, and the next moment Betty rushed in screaming, "Oh, Molly, Molly, mother and grandfather's killed; both of 'em! Oh, dear! oh, dear!"

For an instant Molly seemed stunned, she scarcely comprehended Betty's words, then as the child repeated, "They're killed! they're both killed; the horses ran away and threw 'em out," she too uttered a cry of anguish, and grasping the arms of her chair, made desperate efforts to rise; but all in vain, and with a groan she sank back, and covering her face with her hands, shed the bitterest tears her impotence had ever yet cost her.

Betty had run away again, and she was all alone. Oh, how hard it was for her to be chained there in such an agony of doubt and distress! She forcibly restrained her groans and sobs, and listened intently.

The Conlys, except Cal, were still at the North; the house seemed strangely quiet, only now and then a stealthy step or a murmur of voices and occasionally a half smothered cry from Bob or Betty.

A horseman came dashing furiously up the avenue. It was her uncle, Mr. Horace Dinsmore. He threw himself from the saddle and hurried into the house, and the next minute two more followed at the same headlong pace.

These were Cal and Dr. Barton, and they also dismounted in hot haste and disappeared from her sight beneath the veranda. Certainly something very dreadful had happened. Oh would nobody come to tell her!

The minutes dragged their slow length along seeming like hours. She lay back in her chair in an agony of suspense, the perspiration standing in cold drops on her brow.

But the sound of wheels roused her and looking out she saw the Oaks and Ion carriages drive up, young Horace and Rosie alight from the one, Mr. Travilla and Elsie from the other.

"Oh!" thought Molly, "Cousin Elsie will be sure to think of me directly and I shall not be left much longer in this horrible suspense."

Her confidence was not misplaced. Not many minutes had elapsed when her door was softly opened, a light step crossed the floor and a sweet fair face, full of tender compassion, bent over the grief-stricken girl.

Molly tried to speak; her tongue refused its office, but Elsie quickly answered the mute questioning of the wild, frightened, anguished eyes.

"There is life," she said, taking the cold hands in hers, "life in both; and 'while there is life there is hope.' Our dear old grandfather has a broken leg and arm and a few slight cuts and bruises, but is restored to consciousness now, and able to speak. Your poor mother has fared still worse, we fear, as the principal injury is to the head, but we will hope for the best in her case also."

Molly dropped her head on her cousin's shoulder while a burst of weeping brought partial relief to the overburdened heart.

Elsie clasped her arms about her and strove to soothe and comfort her with caresses and endearing words.

"If I could only nurse mother now," sobbed the girl, "how glad I'd be to do it. O cousin, it most breaks my heart now to think how I've vexed and worried her since—since this dreadful trouble came to me. I'd give anything never to have said a cross or disrespectful word to her. And now I can do nothing for her! nothing, nothing!" and she wrung her hands in grief and despair.

"Yes, dear child; there is one thing you can do," Elsie answered, weeping with her.

"What, what is that?" asked Molly, half incredulously, half hopefully, "what can I do chained here?"

"Pray for her, Molly, plead for her with him unto whom belong the issues from death; to him who has all power in heaven and in earth and who is able to save to the uttermost."

"No, no, even that I can't do," sobbed Molly, "I've never learned to pray, and he isn't my friend as he is yours and your children's!"

"Then first of all make him your friend; oh, he is so kind and merciful and loving. He says, 'Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' 'Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.'"

"Oh, if I only knew how!" sighed Molly, "nobody needs such a friend more than I. I'd give all the world to have him for mine."

"But you cannot buy his friendship—his salvation; it is 'without money and without price.' What is it to come to him? Just to take him at his word, give yourself to him and believe his promise that he will not cast you out."

There was a tap at the door and Rosie came in, put her arms round Molly, kissed her and wept with her.

Then young Horace followed and after that his father. Both seemed to feel very much for Molly and to be anxious to do everything in their power to help and comfort her.

Mr. Dinsmore was evidently in deep grief and soon withdrew, Elsie going with him. They stood together for a few minute in the hall.

"My dear father, how I feel for you!" Elsie said, laying her hand on his arm and looking up at him through gathering tears.

"Thank you, my child; your sympathy is always very sweet to me," he said. "And you have mine; for I know this trial touches you also though somewhat less nearly than myself."

"Is grandpa suffering much?" she asked.

"Very much; and at his age—but I will not anticipate sorrow; we know that the event is in the hands of him who doeth all things well. Ah, if he were only a Christian! And Enna! poor Enna!"

Sobs and cries coming from the nursery broke in upon the momentary silence that followed the exclamation.

"Poor little Bob and Betty, I must go to them," Elsie said, gliding away in the direction of the sounds, while Mr. Dinsmore returned to the room where his father lay groaning with the pain of his wounds. Mr. Travilla, Calhoun and the doctor were with him, but he was asking for his son.

"Horace," he said, "can't you stay with me?"

"Yes, father, night and day while you want me."

"That's right! It's a good thing to have a good son. Dr. Barton, where are you going?"

"To your daughter, sir, Mrs. Johnson."

"Enna! is she much hurt?" asked the old man, starting up, but falling back instantly with almost a scream of pain.

"You must lie still, sir, indeed you must," said the doctor, coming back to the bed; "your life depends upon your keeping quiet and exciting yourself as little as possible."

"Yes, yes; but Enna?"

"Has no bones broken."

"Thank God for that! then she'll do. Go, doctor, but don't leave the house without seeing me again."

They were glad he was so easily satisfied, but knew he would not be if his mind were quite clear.

Dick had come home in strong excitement, rumors of the accident having met him on the way. The horses had taken fright at the sudden shriek of a locomotive, and the breaking of a defective bit had deprived the old gentleman of the power to control them. They ran madly down a steep embankment, wrecking the carriage and throwing both passengers out upon a bed of stones.

Pale and trembling the lad went straight to his mother's room where he found her lying moaning on the bed, recognizing no one, unconscious of anything that was going on about her.

He discovered that he loved her far more than he would have believed; he thought her dying, and his heart smote him, as memory recalled many a passionate, undutiful word he had spoken to her; often, it is true, under great provocation, but oh, what would he not now have given to recall them.

He had much ado to control his emotion sufficiently to ask the doctor what he thought of her case. He was somewhat comforted by the reply,

"The injury to the head is very serious, yet I by no means despair of her life."

"What can I do for her?" was the boy's next question in an imploring tone as though he would esteem it a boon to be permitted to do something for her relief.

"Nothing; we have plenty of help here, and you are too inexperienced for a nurse," Dr. Barton said, not unkindly. "But see to your sister Molly," he added. "Poor child! she will feel this sorely."

The admonition was quite superfluous; Dick was already hastening to her.

Another moment and she was weening out her sorrow and anxiety on his shoulder.

"O Dick," she sobbed, "I'm afraid I can never speak to her again, and—and my last words to her, just before she went, were a reproach. I said I'd never ask her for sympathy again; and now I never can. Oh isn't it dreadful, dreadful!" and she wept as if her very heart would break.

"Oh, don't, Molly!" he said hoarsely, pressing her closer to him and mingling his tears with hers, "who could blame you, you poor suffering thing! and I'm sure you must have been provoked to it. She hadn't been saying anything kind to you?"

Molly shook her head with a fresh burst of grief. "No, oh no! oh, if we'd parted like Cousin Elsie and her children always do!—with kind, loving words and caresses."

"But we're not that sort, you know," returned Dick with an awkward attempt at consolation, "and I'm worse than you, a great deal, for I've talked up to mother many a time and didn't have the same excuse."

There was sickness at Pinegrove. Mrs. Howard was slowly recovering from an attack of typhoid fever. This was why she had not hastened to Roselands to the assistance of her injured father and sister.

And Mrs. Rose Dinsmore was at Ashlands, helping Sophie nurse her children through the scarlet fever. And so, Mrs. Conly being still absent at the North, the burden of these new responsibilities must fall upon Mr. Horace Dinsmore and his children.

Mr. Dinsmore undertook the care of his father, Mr. Travilla and young Horace engaging to relieve him now and then, Elsie that of Enna; her children, except the baby, who with mammy must come to Roselands also, could do without her for a time. It would be hard for both her and them, she knew, but the lesson in self-denial for the sake of others, might prove more than a compensation; and Enna must not, in her critical state, be left to the care of servants.

Rosie volunteered to see that Molly was not neglected, and to exert herself for the poor girl's entertainment, and Bob and Betty were sent to the Oaks to be looked after by Mrs. Murray and their cousin Horace.

It would be no easy or agreeable task for the old lady, but she was sure not to object in view of the fact that quiet was essential to the recovery of the sufferers at Roselands.



CHAPTER FIFTEENTH.

"Great minds, like heaven, are pleased in doing good, Though the ungrateful subjects of their favors Are barren in return." —ROWE.

The short winter day was closing in. At Ion, five eager, expectant little faces were looking out upon the avenue, where slowly and softly, tiny snowflakes were falling, the only moving thing within range of their vision.

"Oh, dear, what does keep papa and mamma so long!" cried Vi, impatiently; "it seems most like a year since they started."

"Oh, no, Vi, not half a day yet!"

"I don't mean it is, Eddie, but it does seem like it to me. Elsie, do you think anything's happened?"

"One of the horses may have lost a shoe," Elsie said, trying to be very cheerful, and putting her arm round Violet as she spoke. "I remember that happened once a good while ago. But if mamma were here, don't you know what she would say, little sister?"

"Yes; 'don't fret; don't meet trouble half way, but trust in God, our Father, who loves us so dearly, that he will never let any real harm come to us.'"

"I think our mamma is very wise," remarked Eddie; "so very much wiser than Aunt Lucy, who gets frightened at every little thing."

"Oh, Eddie dear, would mamma or papa like that?" said Elsie softly.

"Well, it's true," he said reddening.

But they've both told us that unkind remarks should not be made even if true: unless it is quite necessary."

"Oh, why don't papa and mamma come?" "Oh, I wis dey would! I so tired watchin' for 'em!" burst out Harold and Herbert, nearly ready to cry.

"Look! look!" cried the others in chorus, "they are coming, the carriage is just turning in at the gate!"

But it was growing so dark now, and the tiny flakes were coming down so thick and fast, that none of them were quite sure the carriage was their own, until it drew up before the door, and two dear familiar forms alighted and came up the veranda steps.

They were greeted with as joyous a welcome as if they had been absent for weeks or months, and returned the sweet caresses as lovingly as they were bestowed, smiling tenderly upon each darling of their hearts.

But almost instantly little Elsie perceived something unusual in the sweet, fair face she loved so dearly, and was wont to study with such fond, tender scrutiny.

"Mamma, dear mamma, what is wrong?" she asked.

"A sad accident, daughter," Elsie answered, her voice faltering with emotion, "poor grandpa and Aunt Enna have been badly hurt."

"Our dear grandpa, mamma?" they all asked, lips and voices tremulous with grief.

"No, darlings, not my own dear father," the mother answered, with a heart full of gratitude that it was not he, "but our poor old grandfather who lives at Roselands."

"My dear little wife, you are too much overcome to talk any more just now," Mr. Travilla said, wheeling an easy-chair to the fire, seating her in it, and removing her hat and cloak, with all the tender gallantry of the days when he wooed and won his bride; "let me tell it." He took a seat near her side, lifted "bit Herbie" to his knee, and with the others gathered close about him, briefly told how the accident had happened, and that he and their mother had met a messenger coming to acquaint them with the disaster, and summon them to Roselands; then gave the children some idea of the present situation of their injured relations.

When he had finished, and his young hearers had expressed their sorrow and sympathy for the sufferers, a moment of silence ensued, broken by little Elsie.

"Mamma, who will take care of them?"

"God," said Herbert, "won't he, papa?"

"But I mean who will nurse them while they are sick," said Elsie.

"My father will take care of grandpa," Mrs. Travilla answered, "Uncle Horace and papa helping when needed."

"And Aunt Enna, mamma?"

"Well, daughter, who do you think should nurse her? Aunt Louise is away, Aunt Lora sick herself, grandma at Ashlands with Aunt Sophie and her sick children."

"Oh, mamma, it won't have to be you, will it?" the child asked almost imploringly.

"Oh, mamma, no; how could we do without you?" chimed in the others, Herbert adding tearfully, "Mamma stay wis us; we tan't do wisout you."

They left their father to cluster about and cling to her, with caresses and entreaties.

"My darlings," she said, returning their endearments, "can you not feel willing to spare your mother for a little while to poor, suffering Aunt Enna?"

"Mamma, they have plenty of servants"

"Yes, Vi, but she is so very ill that we cannot hope she will get well without more careful, tender nursing than any servant would give her."

"Mamma, it will be very hard to do without you."

"And very hard for me to stay away from my dear children; but what does the Bible say? Seek your own pleasure and profit, and let others take care of themselves?"

"Oh, mamma, no! 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.'"

"'Do good to them that hate you,'" quoted Eddie in an undertone.

"But we were not speaking of enemies, my son," his mother said in surprise.

"I think Aunt Enna is your enemy, mamma; I think she hates you," he said, with flashing eyes, "for I've many a time heard her say very hateful things to you. Mamma, don't look so sorry at me; how can I help being angry at people that say unkind things to you?"

"'Forgive, and you shall be forgiven,'" she said gently. "'Do good and lend.' Can't you lend your mother for a few weeks, dears?"

"Weeks, mamma! oh, so long!" they cried. "How can we? who will take care of us, and hear our lessons and teach us to be good?"

"Dinah will wash and dress you, Elsie help you little ones to learn your lessons, and I think papa," looking at him, "will hear you recite."

"Yes," he said, smiling on them, "we will do our best, so that dear mamma may not be anxious and troubled about us in addition to all the care and anxiety for the suffering ones at Roselands."

"Yes, papa," they answered, returning his smile half tearfully; then questioned their mother as to when she must go, and whether they should see her at all while Aunt Enna was sick.

"I can wait only long enough to take supper with you, and have our talk together afterward," she said, "because I am needed at Roselands. Perhaps papa will bring you there sometimes to see me for a little while if you will be very quiet. And it may be only for a few days that I shall be wanted there; we cannot tell about that yet."

She spoke cheerfully, but it cost her an effort because of the grieved, troubled looks on the dear little faces.

"But baby, mamma!" cried Vi, "baby can't do without you!"

"No, dear, she and mammy will have to go with me."

They were not the usual merry party at the tea-table, and a good many tears were shed during the talk with mamma afterward.

They all consented to her going, but the parting with her, and the thought of doing without her for "so long" were the greatest trials they had ever known.

She saw all the younger ones in bed, kissed each one good-night, and reminding them that their heavenly Father was always with them, and that she would not be too far away to come at once to them if needed, she left them to their sleep.

Elsie followed her mother to her dressing-room, watched for every opportunity to assist in her preparations for her absence. They were not many, and with some parting injunctions to this little daughter and the servants, she announced herself ready to go.

Elsie clung to her with tears at the last, as they stood together in the lower hall waiting for the others.

"Mamma, what shall I do without you? I've never been away from you a whole day in all my life."

"No, dearest, but be my brave, helpful little girl. You must try to fill mother's place to the little ones. I shall not be far away, you know, and your dear father will be here nearly all the time. And don't forget, darling, that your best Friend is always with you."

"No, mamma," said the child, smiling through her tears; "it is so sweet to know that; and please don't trouble about us at home. I'll do my best for papa and the children."

"That is right, daughter, you are a very great comfort to me now and always," the mother said, with a last caress, as her husband joined her and gave her his arm to lead her to the carriage.

"Don't come out in the cold, daughter," he said, seeing the child about to follow.

Mammy had just come down with the sleeping babe in her arms, warmly wrapped up to shield her from the cold.

Elsie sprang to her side, lifted the veil that covered the little face, and softly touched her lips to the delicate cheek. "Good-bye, baby darling. Oh, mammy, we'll miss her sadly and you too."

"Don't fret, honey, 'spect we all be comin' back soon," Aunt Chloe whispered, readjusting the veil, and hurrying after her mistress.

Elsie flew to the window, and watched the carriage roll away down the avenue, till lost to sight in the darkness, tears trembling in her eyes, but a thrill of joy mingling with her grief: "it was so sweet to be a comfort and help to dear mamma."

She set herself to considering how she might be the same to her father and brothers and sister; what she could do now.

She remembered that her father was very fond of music and that her mother often played and sang for him in the evenings. He had said he would probably return in an hour, and going to the piano she spent the intervening time in the diligent practice of a new piece of music he had brought her a day or two before.

At sound of the carriage wheels she ran to meet him, her face bright with welcoming smiles.

"My little sunbeam," he said taking her in his arms; "you have been nothing but a comfort and blessing to your mother and me, since the day you were born."

"Dear papa, how kind in you to tell me that!" she said, her cheek flushing and her eyes glistening with pleasure.

He kept her with him till after her usual hour for retiring, listening to, and praising her music and talking with her quite as if she were fit to be a companion for him.

Both the injured ones were very ill for some weeks, but by means of competent medical advice and careful nursing, their lives were saved; yet neither recovered entirely from the effects of the accident. Mr. Dinsmore was feeble and ailing, and walked with a limp for the rest of his days, and Enna, though her bodily health was quite restored, rose from her bed with an impaired intellect, her memory gone, her reasoning powers scarcely equal to those of an ordinary child of five or six.

She did not recognize her children, or indeed any one; she had everything to relearn and went back to childish amusements, dolls, baby-houses and other toys.

The sight was inexpressibly painful to Dick and Molly, far worse than following her to her grave.

She remained at her father's, a capable and kind woman being provided to take constant charge of her, while Bob and Betty stayed on at the Oaks, their uncle and aunt bringing them up with all the care and kindness bestowed upon their own children; and Dick and Molly made their home at Ion.

The latter was removed thither as soon as the danger to her mother's life was past, the change being considered only temporary at the time; though afterward it was decided to make it permanent, in accordance with the kind and generous invitation of Mr. and Mrs. Travilla to her and her brother, and their offer to become responsible for the education and present support of both.

Little Elsie, bravely and earnestly striving to fill her mother's place in the household, making herself companionable to her father, helping Eddie, Vi and Harold with their lessons, comforting Herbie when his baby heart ached so sorely with its longing for mamma, and in all his little griefs and troubles, and settling the slight differences that would sometimes arise between the children or the servants, found Molly an additional burden; for she too must be cheered and consoled and was often fretful, unreasonable and exacting.

Still the little girl struggled on, now feebly and almost ready to despair, now with renewed hope and courage gathered from an interview with her earthly or her heavenly Father.

Mr. Travilla was very proud of the womanly way in which she acquitted herself at this time, her diligence, utter unselfishness, patience, and thoughtfulness for others, and did not withhold the meed of well earned praise; this with his advice and sympathy did much to enable her to persevere to the end.

But oh what relief and joy when at last the dear mother was restored to them and the unaccustomed burden lifted from the young shoulders!

It would have been impossible to say who rejoiced most heartily in the reunion, father, mother or children. But every heart leaped lightly, every face was bright with smiles.

Mrs. Travilla knew she was adding greatly to her cares, and to the annoyances and petty trials of every day life, in taking Dick and especially Molly into her family, but she realized it more and more as the months and years rolled on; both had been so spoiled by Enna's unwise and capricious treatment, that it was a difficult thing to control them; and poor Molly's sad affliction caused her frequent fits of depression which rendered her a burden to herself and to others; also she inherited to some extent, her mother's infirmities of temper, and her envy, jealousy and unreasonableness made her presence in the family a trial to her young cousins.

The mother had to teach patience, meekness and forbearance by precept and example, ever holding up as the grand motive, love to Jesus, and a desire to please and honor him.

Such constant sowing of the good seed, such patient, careful weeding out of the tares, such watchfulness and prayerfulness as Elsie bestowed upon the children God had given her, could not fail of their reward from him who has said, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap"; and as the years rolled on she had the unspeakable joy of seeing her darlings one after another gathered into the fold of the Good Shepherd;—consecrating themselves in the dew of their youth to the service of him who had loved them and washed them from their sins in his own blood.

She was scarcely less earnest and persistent in her efforts to promote the welfare, temporal and spiritual, of Molly and Dick. She far more than supplied the place of the mother now almost worse than lost to them.

They had always liked and respected her; they soon learned to love her dearly and grew happier and more lovable under the refining, elevating influence of her conduct and conversation.

She and her husband gave to both the best advantages for education that money could procure, aroused in them the desire, and stimulated them to earnest efforts to become useful members of society.

Elsie soon discovered that one grand element of Molly's depression was the thought that she was cut off from all the activities of life and doomed, by her sad affliction, to be a useless burden upon others.

"My poor dear child!" she said clasping the weeping girl in her arms, "that would be a sad fate indeed, but it need not be yours; there are many walks of usefulness still open to you; literature, several of the arts and sciences, music, painting, authorship; to say nothing of needle work both plain and fancy. The first thing will be a good education in the ordinary acceptation of the term—and that you can take as easily as one who has use of all her limbs. Books and masters shall be at your command, and when you have decided to what employment you will especially devote yourself, every facility shall be given you for perfecting yourself in it."

"O Cousin Elsie," cried the girl, her eyes shining, "do you think I could ever write books, or paint pictures? I mean such as would be really worth the doing; such as would make Dick proud of me and perhaps give me money to help him with; because you know the poor fellow must make his own way in the world."

"I scarcely know how to answer that question," Elsie said, smiling at her sudden enthusiasm, "but I do know that patience and perseverance will do wonders, and if you practice them faithfully, it will not surprise me to see you some day turn out a great author or artist.

"But don't fret because Dick has not a fortune to begin with. Our very noblest and most successful men have been those who had to win their way by dint of hard and determined struggling with early disadvantages. 'Young trees root the faster for shaking!'" she added with a smile.

"Oh then Dick will succeed, I know, dear, noble fellow!" cried Molly flushing with sisterly pride.

From that time she took heart and though there were occasional returns of despondency and gloom she strove to banish them and was upon the whole, brave, cheerful and energetic in carrying out the plans her cousin had suggested.



CHAPTER SIXTEENTH.

"It is as if the night should shade noonday, Or that the sun was here, but forced away; And we were left, under that hemisphere, Where we must feel it dark for half a year." —BEN. JOHNSON.

Since the events recorded in our last chapter, six years have rolled their swift, though noiseless round, ere we look in upon our friends again; six years bringing such changes as they must;—growth and development to the very young, a richer maturity, a riper experience to those who had already attained to adult life, and to the aged, increasing infirmities, reminding them that their race is nearly run; it may be so with others; it must be so with them.

There have been gains and losses, sickness and other afflictions, but death has not yet entered any of their homes.

At Ion, the emerald, velvety lawn, the grand old trees, the sparkling lakelet, the flower gardens and conservatories gay with rich autumn hues, were looking their loveliest, in the light of a fair September morning.

The sun was scarcely an hour high, and except in the region of the kitchen and stables quiet reigned within and without the mansion; doors and windows stood wide open, and servants were busied here and there cleaning and setting in order for the day, but without noise or bustle. In the avenue before the front entrance, stood Solon with the pretty grey ponies, Prince and Princess, ready saddled and bridled, while on the veranda sat a tall, dark-eyed, handsome youth, a riding whip in one hand, the other gently stroking and patting the head of Bruno, as it rested on his knee; the dog receiving the caress with demonstrations of delight.

A light, springing step passed down the broad stairway, crossed the hall, and a slender fairy-like form appeared in the doorway. It was Violet, now thirteen, and already a woman in height; though the innocent childlike trust in the sweet fair face and azure eyes, told another tale.

"Good-morning, Eddie," she said. "I am sorry to have kept you waiting."

"Oh, good-morning," he cried, jumping up and turning toward her. "No need for apology, Vi, I've not been here over five minutes."

He handed her gallantly to the saddle, then mounted himself.

"Try to cheer up, little sister; one should not be sad such a lovely morning as this," he said, as they trotted down the avenue side by side.

"Oh, Eddie," she answered, with tears in her voice, "I do try, but I can't yet; it isn't like home without them."

"No; no indeed, Vi; how could it be? Mr. and Mrs. Daly are very kind, yet not in the least like our father and mother; but it would be impossible for any one to take their places in our hearts or home."

"The only way to feel at all reconciled, is to keep looking forward to the delight of seeing them return with our darling Lily well and strong," Vi said, struggling bravely with her tears; and Eddie answered, "I cannot help hoping that may be, in spite of all the discouraging things the doctors have said."

Lily, always frail and delicate, had drooped more and more during the past year, and only yesterday the parents had left with her for the North, intending to try the effect of different watering places, in the faint hope that the child might yet be restored to health, or her life at least be prolonged for a few years.

They had taken with them their eldest daughter, and infant son, and several servants.

Aunt Chloe and Uncle Joe were not of the party, increasing infirmities compelling them to stay behind.

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