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Elsie's children
by Martha Finley
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The separation from her idolized mistress, cost the former many tears, but she was much comforted by Elsie's assurance, that to have her at home to watch over the children there, would be a great comfort and relief from anxiety on their account.

It had seemed to Mr. and Mrs. Travilla, a very kind Providence that had sent them an excellent tutor and housekeeper, in the persons of Mr. and Mrs. Daly, their former guests at Viamede.

Since the winter spent together there, an occasional correspondence had been kept up between the two families, and learning from it, that Mr. Daly was again in need of a change of climate, and that, just as they were casting about for some suitable persons to take charge of their house and children during their contemplated absence from home, Elsie suggested to her husband that the situations should be offered to him and his wife.

Mr. Travilla approved, the offer was made at once, and promptly and thankfully accepted.

Frank Daly, now a fine lad of eleven, was invited to come with his parents, and to share his father's instructions.

They had now been in the house for more than a week, and seemed eminently suited to the duties they had undertaken; yet home was sadly changed to the children, deprived for the first time in their lives of the parents whom they so dearly loved, and who so thoroughly understood and sympathized with them.

Eddie was growing very manly, was well advanced in his studies, easy and polished in manner, and Vi and the younger ones looked up to him with pride and respect, as the big brother who knew a great deal, and in papa's absence would be their leader and protector.

He, on his part was fond and proud of them all, but more especially of Elsie and Vi, who grew daily in beauty and grace.

"You can't think how sorely I have missed Elsie this morning," Vi said, breaking a slight pause in their talk, "and yet I am glad she went too, she will be such a comfort to mamma and Lily; and she promised me to write every day; which of course mamma could not find time to do."

"Yes; and her absence will give you an opportunity for practice in that line, and in being motherly to Rosie," Eddie said with a smile.

"To Herbie too," she answered; "we are to meet in mamma's dressing-room every morning just as usual, only it will be a strange half hour without mamma; but we will say our texts to each other, talk them over and read together."

"Yes, I promised mamma that I would be with you. Which way now?" he asked, as they came to the crossroads.

"To the Oaks. I want to see grandpa. A caress, or even a word or smile from him, would do me good this morning."

"He may not be up."

"But I think he will; you know he likes to keep early hours."

Mr. Dinsmore was up and pacing the veranda thoughtfully to and fro, as the young riders came in sight.

He welcomed them with a smile, and lifting Vi from her pony, held her close to his heart as something very dear and precious.

"My darling," he said, "your face is sad this morning; and no wonder. Yet cheer up, we will hope to see our dear travelers at home again in a few weeks, our poor fading flower restored to bloom and beauty."

He made them sit down and regale themselves with some fine fresh oranges, which he summoned a servant to bring; their grandma, aunt and uncle joined them presently and they were urged to stay to breakfast, but declined. "The little ones must not be left alone this first morning without papa and mamma."

On their return Rosie, a merry, healthy, romping child of five, with a rich creamy complexion, dark hair and eyes, forming a strong contrast to Vi's blonde beauty, came bounding to meet them.

"O, Vi, I've been wanting you! you'll have to be mamma to us now, you know, till our real own mamma comes back. And, Eddie, you'll have to be the papa. Won't he, Vi? Come, let's all go to mamma's dress-room; my verse is ready."

"What is your text, Rosie?" Violet asked when they had reached the room, sitting down and drawing the child to her side.

"Take me on your lap like mamma does and I'll say it."

"Now then," Vi said, complying with the request.

"'When my father and my mother forsake me then the Lord will take me up.'"

"Who taught you that, pet?" asked Vi, with a slight tremble in her low sweet tones.

"Cousin Molly. I was crying for mamma and papa and she called me in there and told me I mustn't cry, 'cause Jesus loves me and will never, never go away from me."

"That's like my text," said Herbert. "Mamma gave it to me for to-day. 'I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.'"

"And mine," said Harold, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world,'"

"'This God is our God forever and ever; he will be our guide even unto death,'" repeated Vi feelingly.

"That's a nice one," said Rosie.

"Yes," said Eddie, "and this is a nice one for us to remember just now in connection with the dear ones on their journey, and for ourselves when we go away. Yes, now, and at all times. 'Behold I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land.'"

"Isn't the Bible the sweetest book!" exclaimed Vi, "the Book of books; it has a comforting word for everybody and every time of need."

The breakfast bell rang.

"Oh, dear!" cried Rosie clinging to Violet, her bosom heaving with sobs, "how can we go to the table and eat without papa and mamma!"

"Don't cry, little pet, don't cry; you know they want us to be cheerful and make it pleasant for Mr. and Mrs. Daly," the others said, and with a great effort the child swallowed her sobs; then wiping away her tears, suffered Vi to lead her down to the breakfast room.

Mrs. Daly met them there with a smiling face, and kind motherly greeting. Mr. Daly had a pleasant word for each, and talked so entertainingly all through the meal, that they had scarcely time for sad or lonely thoughts.

Family worship followed immediately after breakfast, as was the custom of the house. Mr. Daly's prayer was short, comforting them all, and simple enough for even little Rose to understand.

There was still time for a walk before school, but first Vi went to Molly to ask how she was, and to carry her a letter from Dick which had come by the morning mail.

Dick was in Philadelphia studying medicine. He and Molly corresponded regularly and she knew no greater treat than a letter from him. Vi was glad she could carry it to her this morning, it was so great a pleasure to be the bearer of anything so welcome.

There were no pleasanter or better furnished rooms in the house than those appropriated to the use of the poor, dependent crippled cousin. Molly herself tastefully and becomingly dressed, blooming, bright and cheerful, sat in an invalid chair by the open window. She was reading, and so absorbed in her book that she did not hear the light step of her young relative.

Vi paused in the doorway a moment, thinking what a pretty picture Molly made—with her intellectual countenance, clear complexion, rosy cheeks, bright eyes and glossy braids—framed in by the vine-wreathed window.

Molly looked up, and laying aside her book, "Ah, Vi, this is kind!" she said. "Come in, do; I'm ever so glad to see you."

"And what of this?" asked Vi, holding up the letter.

"Oh, delightful! dear old fellow, to write so soon. I was not expecting it till to-morrow."

"I knew you'd be glad," Vi said, putting it into her hand, "and now I'll just kiss you good-morning and run away, that you may enjoy it fully before lesson time."

Rosie's voice was summoning Vi. The children were in the veranda ready for their morning walk, waiting only for "Sister Vi."

"Let's go to the Oaks," said Rosie, slipping her hand into Vi's; "it's a nice shady walk, and I like to throw pebbles into the water. But I'll feed the fishes first. See what a bag full of crumbs mammy has given me."

Violet was very patient and indulgent toward the little pet sister, yet obliged to cut short her sport with the pebbles and the fishes, because the hour for lessons drew near.



CHAPTER SEVENTEENTH.

"The lilies faintly to the roses yield, As on thy lovely cheek they struggling vie, And thoughts are in thy speaking eyes revealed, Pure as the fount the prophet's rod unseal'd." —HOFFMAN.

"Dr. Arthur lef' dis for you, Miss Wi'let," said one of the maids, meeting her young mistress on the veranda and handing her a note.

"Cousin Arthur? was he here?"

"Yes, miss. He axed for you, but hadn't no time to stop, not even to see po' Miss Molly. 'Spect somebody's mighty sick."

Arthur Conly had entered the medical profession, and for the last two years had been practicing in partnership with Dr. Barton.

Vi glanced over the note and hastened to Eddie, whom she found in the schoolroom, its only occupant at the moment.

"Here's a note from Isa, asking me to bring Rosie and come to Roselands for the rest of the day, after lessons are done. She thinks I must feel lonely. It is very kind, but what shall I do about it? Rosie would enjoy going, but would it be kind to you or the boys, or Molly?"

"I might take the boys over to the Oaks, but I don't know—oh, I think Molly would probably prefer solitude, as I happen to know that she has some writing to do. Well, what now?" seeing a hesitating, perplexed look on Vi's face.

"I cannot ask permission of papa or mamma."

"No, of course not; we must go to Mr. Daly for that now."

"I don't like it," she answered coloring; "it does seem as if nobody has the right to control us except our father and mother, and our grandparents."

"Only that they have given him the right for the present."

Mr. Daly came in at that instant, and Vi, placing the note in his hand, said "Will you please to look at this, sir, and tell me if I may accept the invitation?"

"I see no objection," he said, returning it with a kindly smile, "provided your lessons are well recited."

Mr. Daly was an excellent teacher, thoroughly prepared for his work by education, native talent for imparting the knowledge he possessed, love for the employment and for the young creatures entrusted to his care.

The liking was mutual, and study hours were soon voted only less enjoyable than when mamma was their loved instructress.

Molly occupied her place in the schoolroom as regularly as the others. It adjoined her apartments, and her wheeled chair required a very slight exertion of strength on the part of friend or servant to propel it from room to room.

Molly had already made herself a very thorough French and German scholar, and was hoping to turn her ability to translate to good account in the way of earning her own support; for there was no pauper instinct in the girl's noble nature, and able and willing as her cousin was to support her, she greatly preferred to earn her own living, though at the cost of much wearisome labor of hand and brain.

She was not of those who seem to forget that the command, "Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work," is equally binding with that other, "In it (the seventh day) thou shalt not do any work," This lesson—that industry is commanded, idleness forbidden—was one which Elsie had ever been careful to instil into the minds of her children from their earliest infancy; nor was it enough, she taught them, that they should be doing something, they must be usefully employed, remembering that they were but stewards who must one day give an account to their Lord of all they had done with the talents entrusted to them.

"Is Dick well? was it a nice letter?" Violet asked, leaning over her cousin's chair when lessons were done.

"Oh very nice! he's well and doing famously, I must answer it this afternoon."

"Then you will not care for company?"

"Not particularly. Why?"

Vi told of her invitation.

"Go, by all means," said Molly. "You know Virgy has a friend with her, a Miss Reed. I want you to see her and tell me what she's like."

"I fear you'll have to see her yourself to find that out; I'm no portrait painter," Violet said with a smile as she ran lightly away to order the carriage and see to her own toilet and Rosie's.

They were simple enough; white dresses with blue sash and ribbons for Vi, ditto of pink for Rosie.

Miss Reed, dressed in a stiff silk and loaded with showy jewelry, sat in the drawing-room at Roselands in a bay-window overlooking the avenue. She was gazing eagerly toward its entrance, as though expecting some one.

"Yes, I've heard of the Travillas," she said in answer to a remark from Virginia Conly who stood by her side almost as showily attired as herself, "I've been told she was a great heiress."

"She was; and he was rich too; though I believe he lost a good deal during the war."

"They live splendidly, I suppose?"

"They've everything money can buy, but are nearly breaking their hearts just now, over one of their little girls who seems to have some incurable disease."

"Is that so? Well, they ought to have some trouble as well as other folks. I'm sorry though; for I'd set my heart on being invited there and seeing how they live."

"Oh they're all gone away except Vi and Rosie and the boys. But may be Vi will ask us there to dinner or tea. Ah here they come!"

"What splendid match horses! What an elegant carriage!" exclaimed Miss Reed, as a beautiful barouche, drawn by a pair of fine bays, came bowling up the avenue.

"Yes, they've come, it's the Ion carriage."

"But that's a young lady Pomp's handing out of it!" exclaimed Miss Reed the next moment, "and I thought you said it was only two children you expected."

"Yes, Vi's only thirteen," answered Virginia running to the door to meet her. "Vi, my dear, how good in you to come. How sweet you look!" kissing her. "Rosie too," bestowing a caress upon her also, "pink's so becoming to you, little pet, and blue equally so to Vi. This is my friend Miss Reed, Vi, I've been telling her about you."

Violet gave her hand, then drew back blushing and slightly disconcerted by the almost rude stare of the black eyes that seemed to be taking an inventory of her personal appearance and attire.

"Where is Isa?" she asked.

"Here, and very glad to see you, Vi," answered a silvery voice, and a tall, queenly looking girl of twenty, in rustling black silk and with roses in her hair and at her throat, took Violet's hands in hers and kissed her on both cheeks, then letting her go, saluted the little one in like manner.

"Why don't you do that to me? guess I like kisses as well as other folks, ha! ha!" cried a shrill voice, and a little withered up, faded woman with a large wax doll in her arms, came skipping into the room.

Her hair, plentifully sprinkled with grey, hung loosely about her neck, and she had bedizened herself with ribbons and faded artificial flowers of every hue.

"Well, Griselda," she continued, addressing the doll, which she dandled in her arms, regarding it with a look of fond admiration, "we don't care, do we, dear? We love and embrace one another, and that's enough."

"Oh, go back to your own room," said Virginia in a tone of annoyance, "we don't want you here."

"I'll go when I get ready, and not a minute sooner," was the rejoinder in a pettish tone. "Oh, here's visitors! what a pretty little girl! what's your name, little girl? Won't you come and play with me? I'll lend you Grimalkin, my other wax doll. She's a beauty; almost as pretty as Griselda. Now don't get mad at that, Grissy, dear," kissing the doll again and again.

Rose was frightened and clung to her sister, trying to hide behind her.

"It's Aunt Enna; she won't hurt you," whispered Vi; "she never hurts any one unless she is teased or worried into a passion."

"Won't she make me go with her! oh, don't let her, Vi."

"No, dear, you shall stay with me. And here is the nurse come to take her away," Violet answered, as the poor lunatic was led from the room by her attendant.

"Dear me!" exclaimed Miss Reed, who had not seen or heard of Enna before, turning to Virginia, "does she belong in the house? aren't you afraid of her?"

"Not at all; she is perfectly harmless. She is my mother's sister, and lost her reason some years ago, by an accidental injury to the head."

"I wonder you don't send her to an asylum."

"Perhaps it might be as well," returned Virginia indifferently, "but it's not my affair."

"Grandpa would never hear of such a thing!" said Isadore, indignantly.

"Mamma would not either, I am sure," said Violet. "Poor Aunt Enna! should she be sent away from all who love her, just because she is unfortunate?"

"Every one to their taste," remarked the visitor, shrugging her shoulders.

Vi inquired for her Aunt Louise and the younger members of the family, and was told that they and the grandfather were spending the day at Pinegrove.

"I was glad they decided to go to-day," said Isadore, seating Vi and herself comfortably on a sofa, then taking Rose on her lap and caressing her, "because I wanted you here, and to have you to myself. You see these two young ladies," glancing smilingly at her sister and guest, "are so fully taken up with each other, that for the most of the time I am quite detrop, and must look for entertainment elsewhere than in their society."

"Yes," said Virginia, with more candor than politeness, "Josie and I are all sufficient for each other; are we not, mon amie?"

"Very true, machere, yet I enjoy Isa's company, and am extremely delighted to have made the acquaintance of your charming cousin," remarked Miss Reed, with an insinuating bow directed to Violet.

"You do not know me yet," said Vi, modestly. "Though so tall, I am only a little girl and do not know enough to make an interesting companion for a young lady."

"Quite a mistake, Vi," said Isadore rising. "But there is the dinner-bell. Come let us try the soothing and exhilarating effect of food and drink upon our flagging spirits. We will not wait for Art; there's no knowing when he can leave his patients; and Cal's away on business."

On leaving the table, Isadore carried off her young cousins to her own apartments. Rose was persuaded to lie down and take a nap, while the older girls conversed together in an adjoining room.

"Isn't it delightful to be at home again, after all those years in the convent?" queried Vi.

"I enjoy home, certainly," replied Isa, "yet I deeply regretted leaving the sisters; for you cannot think how good and kind they were to me. Shall I tell you about it? about my life there?"

"Oh, do! I should so like to hear it."

Isadore smiled at the eager tone, the bright interested look, and at once began a long and minute description of the events of her school-days at the nunnery, ending with a eulogy upon convent life in general, and the nuns who had been her educators, in particular. "They lived such holy, devoted lives, were so kind, so good, so self-denying."

Violet listened attentively, making no remark, but Isadore read disapproval more than once in her speaking countenance.

"I wish your mamma would send you and Elsie there to finish," remarked Isa, breaking the pause which followed the conclusion of her narrative. "Should you not like to go?"

"No, oh no, no!"

"Why not?"

"Isa, I could never, never do some of those things you say they require—bow to images or pictures, or kneel before them, or join in prayers or hymns to the Virgin."

"I don't know how you could be so wicked as to refuse. She is the queen of Heaven and mother of God."

"Isa!" and Violet looked inexpressibly shocked.

"You can't deny it. Wasn't Jesus God?"

"Yes; he is God. 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.' 'And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.'"

"Ah! and was not the Virgin Mary his mother?'"

Vi looked perplexed for a moment, then brightening, "Ah, I know now,'" she said, "Jesus was God and man both.'"

"Well?"

"And—mamma told me—Mary was the mother of his human nature only, and it is blasphemous to call her the mother of God; and to do her homage is idolatry."

"So I thought before I went to the convent," said Isadore, "but the sisters convinced me of my error. Vi, I should like to show you something. Can you keep a secret?"

"I have never had a secret from mamma; I do not wish to have any."

"But you can't tell her everything now while she's away, and this concerns no one but myself. I know I can trust to your honor," and taking Vi's hand, she opened a door and drew her into a large closet, lighted by a small circular window quite high up in the wall. The place was fitted up as an oratory, with a picture of the Virgin and child, and a crucifix, standing on a little table with a prayer-book and rosary beside it.

Vi had never seen such things, but she had heard of them and knew what they signified. Glancing from the picture to the crucifix, she started back in horror, and without a word hastily retreated to the dressing-room, where she dropped into a chair, pale, trembling and distressed.

"Isadore, Isadore!" she cried, clasping her hands, and lifting her troubled eyes to her cousin's face, "have you—have you become a papist?"

"I am a member of the one true church," returned her cousin coldly. "How bigoted you are, Violet. I could not have believed it of so sweet and gentle a young thing as you. I trust you will not consider it your duty to betray me to mamma?"

"Betray you? can you think I would? So Aunt Louise does not know? Oh, Isa, can you think it right to hide it from her—your own mother?"

"Yes; because I was directed to do so by my father confessor, and because my motive is a good one, and 'the end sanctifies the means.'"

"Isa, mamma has taught me, and the Bible says it too, that it is never right to do evil that good may come."

"Perhaps you and your mamma do not always understand the real meaning of what the Bible says. It must be that many people misunderstand it, else why are there so many denominations of Protestants, teaching opposite doctrines, and all professing to get them from the Bible?"

Violet in her extreme youth and want of information and ability to argue, was not prepared with an answer.

"Does Virgy know?" she asked.

"About my change of views and my oratory? Yes."

"And does she——"

"Virgy is altogether worldly, and cares nothing for religion of any kind."

Vi's face was full of distress; "Isa," she said, "may I ask you a question?"

"What is it?"

"When you pray, do you kneel before that—that——"

"Crucifix? sometimes, at others before the Virgin and child."

Vi shuddered. "O Isa, have you forgotten the second commandment? 'Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters under the earth; thou shalt not bow down thyself to them nor serve them.'"

"I have not forgotten, but am content to do as the church directs," returned Isadore, coldly.

"Isa, didn't they promise Aunt Louise that they would not interfere with your religion?"

"Yes."

"And then broke their promise. How can you think they are good?"

"They did it to save my soul. Was not that a good and praiseworthy motive?"

"Yes; but if they thought it their duty to try to make you believe as they do, they should not have promised not to do so."

"But in that case I should never have been placed in the convent, and they would have had no opportunity to labor for my conversion."

Earnestly, constantly had Elsie endeavored to obey the command. "Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."

Thus Violet's memory was stored with texts, and these words from Isaiah suggested themselves as a fit comment upon Isadore's last remark. "Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil; that put darkness for light and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter."



CHAPTER EIGHTEENTH.

"But all's not true that supposition saith, Nor have the mightiest arguments most faith." —DRAYTON.

"Examples I could cite you more; But be contented with these four; For when one's proofs are aptly chosen, Four are as valid as four dozen." —PRIOR.

Isa's perversion, Isa's secret, weighed heavily upon the heart and conscience of poor Violet; the child had never been burdened with a secret before.

She thought Aunt Louise ought to know, yet was not at all clear that it was her duty to tell her. She wished it might be discovered in some way without her agency, for "it was a dreadful thing for Isa to be left to go on believing and doing as she did. Oh, if only she could be talked to by some one old enough and wise enough to convince her of her errors!"

Isadore with the zeal of a young convert, had set herself the task of bringing Vi over to her new faith. The opportunity afforded by the absence of the vigilant parents was too good to be lost, and should be improved to the utmost.

She made daily errands to Ion, some trifling gift to Molly often being the excuse, was sweet and gracious to all, but devoted herself especially to Violet, insisting on sharing her room when she staid over night, coaxing her out for long walks and drives, rowing with her on the lake, learning to handle the oars herself in order that they might go alone.

And all the time she was on the watch for every favorable opening to say something to undermine the child's faith, or bias her mind in favor of the tenets of the church of Rome.

Violet grew more and more troubled and perplexed and now not on Isa's account alone. She could not give up the faith of her fathers, the faith of the Bible (to that inspired word she clung as to the rock which must save her from being engulfed in the wild waters of doubt and difficulty that were surging around her) but neither could she answer all Isadore's questions and arguments, and there was no one to whom she might turn in her bewilderment, lest she should betray her cousin's secret.

She prayed for guidance and help, searching the Scriptures and "comparing spiritual things with spiritual," and thus was kept from the snares laid for her inexperienced feet; she stumbled and walked with uncertain step for a time, but did not fall.

Those about her, particularly Eddie and her old mammy, noticed the unwonted care and anxiety in her innocent face, but attributed it wholly to the unfavorable news in regard to Lily's condition, which reached them from time to time.

The dear invalid was reported as making little or no progress toward recovery, and the hearts of brothers and sisters were deeply saddened by the tidings.

Miss Reed was still at Roselands, and had been brought several times by Virginia for a call at Ion, and at length, Violet having written for and obtained permission of her parents, and consulted Mrs. Daly's convenience in reference to the matter, invited the three girls for a visit of several days, stipulating, however, that it was not to interfere with lessons.

To this the girls readily assented; "they would make themselves quite at home, and find their own amusement; it was what they should like above all things."

The plan worked well, except that under this constant association with Isadore, Vi grew daily more careworn and depressed. Even Mr. Daly noticed it, and spoke to her of Lily's state as hopefully as truth would permit.

"Do not be too much troubled, my dear child," he said, taking her hand in a kind fatherly manner. "She is in the hands of One who loves her even better than her parents, brothers and sisters do, and will let no real evil come nigh her. He may restore her to health, but if not—if he takes her from us, it will be to make her infinitely happier with himself; for we know that she has given her young heart to him."

Violet bowed a silent assent, then hurried from the room; her heart too full for speech. She was troubled, sorely troubled for her darling, suffering little sister, and with this added anxiety, her burden was hard indeed to bear.

Mr. Daly was reading in the library that afternoon, when Violet came running in as if in haste, a flush of excitement on her fair face.

"Ah, excuse me, sir! I fear I have disturbed you," she said, as he looked up from his book; "but oh, I'm glad to find you here! for I think you will help me. I came to look for a Bible and Concordance."

"They are both here on this table," he said. "I am glad you are wanting them, for we cannot study them too much. But in what can I help you, Vi? is it some theological discussion between your cousins and yourself?"

"Yes, sir; we were talking about a book—a story-book that Miss Reed admires—and I said mamma would not allow us to read it, because it teaches that Jesus Christ was only a good man; and Miss Reed said that was her belief; and yet she professes to believe the Bible, and I wish to show her, that it teaches that he was very God as well as man."

"That will not be difficult," he said; "for no words could state it more directly and clearly than these, 'Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen,'" And opening the Bible at the ninth chapter of Romans, he pointed to the latter clause of the fifth verse.

"Oh, let me show her that!" cried Vi.

"Suppose you invite them in here," he suggested, and she hastened to do so.

Miss Reed read the text as it was pointed out to her, "I don't remember noticing that before," was all she said.

Silently Mr. Daly turned over the leaves and pointed out the twentieth verse of the first Epistle of John, where it is said of Jesus Christ, "This is the true God and eternal life;" and then to Isaiah ix. 6. "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace," and several other passages equally strong and explicit in their declaration of the divinity of Christ.

"Well," said Miss Reed, "if he was God, why didn't he say so?"

"He did again and again," was the reply "Here John viii. 58—we read "Jesus said unto them, 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.'""

"I don't see it!" she said sneeringly.

"You do not? just compare it with this other passage Exodus iii. 14, 15. 'And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you; this is children of Israel, The Lord God of your fathers my name forever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.' The Jews who were present understood those words of Jesus as an assertion of his divinity and took up stones to cast at him."

Isadore seemed interested in the discussion, but Virginia showed evident impatience. "What's the use of bothering ourselves about it?" she exclaimed at length, "what difference does it make whether we believe in his divinity or deny it?"

"A vast deal of difference, my dear young lady," said Mr. Daly. "If Christ be not divine, it is idolatry to worship him. If he is divine, and we fail to acknowledge it and to trust in him for salvation, we must be eternally lost for 'neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.' 'But whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.'"

Virginia fidgeted uneasily and Miss Reed inquired with affected politeness, if that were all.

"No," he said, "far from it; yet if the Bible be—as I think we all acknowledge—the inspired word of God, one plain declaration of a truth is as authoritative as a dozen."

"Suppose I don't believe it is all inspired?" queried Miss Reed.

"Still, since Jesus asserts his own divinity, we must either accept him as God, or believe him to have been an impostor and therefore not even a good man. He must be to us everything or nothing; there is no neutral ground; he says, 'He that is not with me is against me.'"

"And there is only one true church," remarked Isadore, forgetting herself; "the holy Roman Church, and none without her pale can be saved."

Mr. Daly looked at her in astonishment. Violet was at first greatly startled, then inexpressibly relieved; since Isa's secret being one no longer, a heavy weight was removed from her heart and conscience.

Virginia was the first to speak. "There!" she said, "you've let it out yourself; I always knew you would sooner or later."

"Well," returned Isadore, drawing herself up haughtily, determined to put a brave face upon the matter, now that there was no retreat, "I'm not ashamed of my faith; nor afraid to attempt its defence against any who may see fit to attack it," she added with a defiant look at Mr. Daly.

He smiled a little sadly. "I am very sorry for you, Miss Conly," he said, "and do not feel at all belligerent toward you; but let me entreat you to rest your hopes of salvation only upon the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ."

"I must do good works also," she said.

"Yes as an evidence, but not as the ground of your faith; we must do good works not that we may be saved, but because we are saved. 'If a man love me, he will keep my words.' Well, my little Vi? what is it?" for she was looking at him with eager, questioning eyes.

"O, Mr. Daly, I want you to answer some things Isa has said to me. Isa, I have never mentioned it to any one before. I have kept your secret faithfully, till now that you have told it yourself."

"I don't blame you, Vi," she answered coloring. "I presume I shall be blamed for my efforts to bring you over to the true faith, but my conscience acquits me of any bad motive. I wanted to save your soul. Mr. Daly, I do not imagine you can answer all that I have to bring against the claims of Protestantism. Pray where was that church before the Reformation?"

There was something annoying to the girl in the smile with which he heard her question.

"Wherever the Bible was made the rule of faith and practice," he said, "there was Protestantism though existing under another name. All through the dark ages, when Popery was dominant almost all over the civilized world, the light of a pure gospel—the very same that the Reformation spread abroad over other parts of Europe—burned brightly among the secluded valleys of Piedmont; and twelve hundred years of bloody persecution on the part of apostate Rome could not quench it.

"I know that Popery lays great stress on her claims to antiquity, but Paganism is older still, and evangelical religion—which, as I have already said, is Protestantism under another name—is as old as the Christian Era; as the human nature of its founder, the Lord Jesus Christ."

"You are making assertions," said Isadore bridling, "but where are your proofs?"

"They are not wanting," he said. "Suppose we undertake the study of ecclesiastical history together, and see how Popery was the growth of centuries, as one error after another crept into the Christian church."

"I don't believe she was ever the persecutor you would make her out to have been," said Isadore.

"Popish historians bear witness to it as well as Protestant," he answered.

"Well, it's persecution to bring up those old stories against her now."

"Is it? when she will not disavow them, but maintains that she has always done right? and more than that, tells us she will do the same again if ever she has the power."

"I'm sure all Romanists are not so cruel as to wish to torture or kill their Protestant neighbors," cried Isadore indignantly.

"And I quite agree with you there," he said; "I have not the least doubt that many of them are very kind-hearted; but I was speaking, not of individuals, but of the Romish Church as such. She is essentially a persecuting power."

"Well, being the only true church, she has the right to compel conformity to her creed."

"Ah, you have already imbibed something of her spirit. But we contend that she is not the true church. 'To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.' Brought to the touch-stone of God's revealed word, she is proved to be reprobate silver; her creed spurious Christianity. In second Thessalonians, second chapter, we have a very clear description of her as that 'Wicked whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.' Also, in the seventeenth of Revelation, where she is spoken of as 'Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.'"

"How do you know she is meant there?" asked Isadore, growing red and angry.

"Because she, and she alone, answers to the description. It is computed that fifty millions of Protestants have been slain in her persecutions; may it not then be truly said of her that she is drunken with the blood of the saints?"

"I think what you have been saying shows that the priests are right in teaching that the Bible is a dangerous book in the hands of the ignorant, and should therefore be withheld from the laity," retorted Isadore hotly.

"But," returned Mr. Daly, "Jesus said, 'Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me.'"



CHAPTER NINETEENTH.

"Let us go back again mother, Oh, take me home to die."

"And so, Isa, my uncle's predictions that your popish teachers would violate their promise not to meddle with your faith, have proved only too true," said Calhoun Conly, stepping forward, as Mr. Daly finished his last quotation from the Scriptures.

In the heat of their discussion, neither the minister nor Isadore had noticed his entrance, but he had been standing there, an interested listener, long enough to learn the sad fact of his sister's perversion.

"They only did their duty, and I shall not have them blamed for it," she said, haughtily.

"They richly deserve blame, and you cannot prevent it from being given them," he answered firmly, and with flashing eyes. "I have come, by my mother's request, to take you and Virginia home, inviting Miss Reed to accompany us."

"I am ready," said Isadore, rising, the others doing likewise.

"But you will stay to tea?" Violet said. "Cal, you are not in too great haste for that?"

"I'm afraid I am, little cousin," he answered with a smile of acknowledgment of her hospitality. "I must meet a gentleman on business, half an hour from now."

Vi expressed her regrets, and ran after the girls, who had already left the room to prepare for their drive.

They seemed in haste to get away.

"We've had enough of Mr. Daly's prosing about religion," said Virginia.

"I'm sick of it," chimed in Miss Reed, "what difference does it make what you believe, if you're only sincere and live right?"

"'With the heart man believeth unto righteousness,'" said Violet; "and 'the just shall live by faith.'"

"You're an apt pupil," sneered Virginia.

"It is mamma's doing that my memory is stored with texts," returned the child, reddening.

Isadore was silent and gloomy, and took leave of her young cousin so coldly, as to quite sadden her sensitive spirit.

Violet had enjoyed being made much of by Isa, who was a beautiful and brilliant young lady, and this sudden change in her manner was far from pleasant. Still the pain it gave her was greatly overbalanced by the relief of having her perplexities removed, her doubts set at rest.

Standing on the veranda, she watched the carriage as it rolled away down the avenue, then hailed with delight a horseman who came galloping up, alighted and giving the bridle to Solon, turned to her with open arms, and a smile that proclaimed him the bearer of good tidings, before he uttered a word.

"Grandpa," she cried, springing to his embrace, "Oh, is Lily better?"

"Yes," he said, caressing her, then turning to greet Rosie and the boys, who had come running at the sound of his voice. "I have had a letter from your mother, in which she says the dear invalid seems decidedly better."

"Oh, joy! joy!" cried the children, Rosie hugging and kissing her grandfather, the boys capering about in a transport of gladness.

"And will they come home soon, grandpa?" asked Eddie.

"Nothing is said about that, I presume they will linger at the North till the weather begins to grow too cool for Lily," Mr. Dinsmore answered, shaking hands with Mr. Daly, who, hearing his voice on the veranda, stepped out to inquire for news of the absent ones.

While they talked together, Vi ran away in search of Aunt Chloe.

She found her on the back veranda, enjoying a chat with Aunt Dicey and Uncle Joe.

"Oh, mammy, good news! good news!" Vi cried, half breathless with haste and happiness; "grandpa had a letter from mamma, and our darling Lily is better, much better."

"Bress de Lord!" ejaculated her listeners in chorus.

"Bress his holy name, I hope de chile am gwine to discover her health agin," added Uncle Joe. "I'se been a prayin' pow'ful strong for her."

"'Spect der is been more'n you at dat business, Uncle Joe;" remarked Aunt Dicey, "'spect I knows one ole niggah dat didn't fail to disremember de little darlin' at de throne ob grace."

"De bressed lamb!" murmured Aunt Chloe, dropping a tear on Violet's golden curls as she clasped her to her breast, "she's de Lord's own, and he'll take de bes' care of her; in dis world and in de nex'; be sho' ob dat, honey. Ise mighty glad for her and my dear missus; and for you too Miss Wi'let. You's been frettin' yo' heart out 'bout Miss Lily."

"I've been very anxious about her, mammy; and something else has been troubling me too, but it's all right now," Violet answered with a glad look, then releasing herself, ran back to her grandfather.

She had seen less than usual of him for several weeks past, and wanted an opportunity to pour out all her heart to him.

He had gone up to Molly's sitting-room, and she followed him thither.

With Rosie on his knee, Harold and Herbert standing on either side, and Eddie sitting near, he was chatting gayly with his crippled niece, who was as bright and cheery as any of the group, all of whom were full of joy over the glad tidings he had brought.

"Grandpa," said Vi, joining them, "it seems a good while since you were here for more than a short call. Won't you stay now for the rest of the day?"

"Yes, and I propose that we drive down to the lake, Molly and all, and have a row. I think it would do you all good. The weather is delightful."

The motion was carried by acclamation, Molly's maid was summoned, Eddie went down to order the carriage, and the rest scattered to prepare for the expedition.

It was a lovely October day, the air balmy, the woods gorgeous in their richly colored autumn robes; gold, scarlet and crimson, russet and green mingled in gay profusion; the slanting beams of the descending sun fell athwart the lakelet, like a broad band of shimmering gold, and here and there lent an added glory to the trees. The boat glided swiftly over the rippling waters, now in sunshine, now in shadow, and the children hushed their merry clatter, silenced by the beauty and stillness of the scene.

Tea was waiting when they returned, and on leaving the table the younger ones bade good-night, and went away with Vi to be put to bed.

She had a story or some pleasant talk for them every night; doing her best to fill mamma's place.

Vi was glad to find her grandpa alone in the library when she came down again.

"Come, sit on my knee, as your dear mamma used to do at your age," he said, "and tell me what you have been doing these past weeks while I have seen so little of you."

"It is so nice," she said as she took the offered seat, and he passed his arm about her, "so nice to have a grandpa to pet me; especially when I've no father or mother at home to do it."

"So we are mutually satisfied," he said. "Now what have you to tell me? any questions to ask? any doubts or perplexities to be cleared away?"

"Grandpa, has anybody been telling you anything?" she asked.

"No, nothing about you."

"Then I'll just tell you all." And she gave him a history of Isadore's efforts to pervert her, and their effect upon her; also of the conversation of that afternoon, in which Mr. Daly had answered the questions of Isadore, that had most perplexed and troubled her.

Mr. Dinsmore was grieved and distressed by Isa's defection from the evangelical faith, and indignant at her attempt to lead Vi astray also.

"Are you fully satisfied now on all the points?" he asked.

"There are one or two things I should like to ask you about, grandpa," she said. "Isa thinks a convent life so beautiful and holy, so shut out from the world, with all its cares and wickedness, she says; so quiet and peaceful, so full of devotion and the self-denial the Lord Jesus taught when he said, 'If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'

"Do you think leaving one's dear home and father and mother, and brothers and sisters to be shut up for life with strangers, in a convent, was the cross he meant, grandpa?"

"No, I am perfectly sure it was not; the Bible teaches us to do our duty in the place where God puts us; it recognizes the family relationships; teaches the reciprocal duties of kinsmen, parents and children, husbands and wives, but has not a word to say to monks or nuns.

"It bids us take up the cross God lays upon us, and not one of our own invention; nor did one of the holy men and women it tells of live the life of an anchorite. Nor can peace and freedom from temptation and sin be found in a convent any more than elsewhere; because we carry our evil natures with us wherever we go."

"No; peace and happiness are to be found only in being 'followers of God as dear children,' doing our duty in that station in life where he has placed us; our motive love to him; leading us to desire above all things to live to his honor and glory."

Violet sat with downcast eyes, her face full of earnest thought. She was silent for a moment after Mr. Dinsmore had ceased speaking, then lifting her head and turning to him with a relieved look, "Thank you, grandpa," she said. "I am fully satisfied on that point. Now, there is just one more. Isa says the divisions among Protestants show that the Bible is not a book for common people to read for themselves. They cannot understand it right; if they did they would all believe alike."

Mr. Dinsmore smiled. "Who is to explain it?" he asked.

"Oh, Isa says that is for the priests to do; and they and the people must accept the decisions of the church."

"Well, my child, it would take too much time to tell you just how impossible it is to find out what are the authoritative decisions of the Romish Church on more than one important point;—how one council would contradict another—one pope affirm what his predecessors had denied, and vice versa; councils contradict popes, and popes councils.

"As to the duty of studying the Bible for ourselves—we have the master's own command, 'Search the Scriptures,' which settles the question at once for all his obedient disciples. And no one who sets himself to the work humbly and teachably, looking to the Holy Spirit for enlightenment, will fail to find the path to heaven. 'The way-faring men, though fools shall not err therein.' Jesus said 'The Comforter which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things.'

"And, my child, none of us is responsible for the interpretation that his neighbor puts upon God's word,—his letter addressed to us all; each of us must give account of himself to God."

Violet's doubts and perplexities had vanished like morning mist before the rising sun; her natural gayety of spirits returned, and she became again as was her wont, the sunshine of the house, full of life and hope, with a cheery word and sunny smile for every one, from Mr. Daly down to Rosie, and from Aunt Chloe to the youngest child at the quarter.

She had not been so happy since the departure of her parents.

Eddie, Molly and the younger ones, reflected in some measure her bright hopefulness, and the renewed ardor with which she pursued her studies, and for some days all went on prosperously at Ion.

Then came a change.

One evening, Vi, having seen Rosie in bed, and bade Harold and Herbert good-night also, returned to the schoolroom, where Eddie and their cousin were busied with their preparations for the morrow's recitations.

She had settled herself before her desk, and was taking out her books, when the sound of horses' hoofs coming swiftly up the avenue, caused her to spring up and run to the window.

"It is grandpa," she said. "He seldom comes so late, oh, Eddie!" and she dropped into a chair, her heart beating wildly.

"Don't be alarmed," Eddie said, rising and coming toward her, his own voice trembling with apprehension, "it may be good news again."

"Oh, do you think so? Can it be?" she asked.

"Surely, Vi, uncle would come as fast as possible if he had good news to bring," said Molly. "Perhaps it is that they are coming home; it is getting so late in the fall now, that I'm expecting every day to hear that."

"Let's go down to grandpa," said Vi, rising, while a faint color stole into her cheek, which had grown very pale at the thought that the little pet sister might be dead or dying. "No, no," as a step was heard on the stairs, "he is coming to us."

The door opened, and Mr. Dinsmore entered. One look into his grief-stricken face, and Violet threw herself into his arms, and wept upon his breast.

He soothed her with silent caresses; his heart almost too full for speech; but at length, "It is not the worst," he said in low, moved tones, "she lives, but has had a relapse, and they are bringing her home."

"Home to die!" echoed Violet's heart, and she clung about her grandfather's neck, weeping almost convulsively.

Tears coursed down Molly's cheeks also, and Eddie, hardly less overcome than his sister, asked tremulously, "How soon may we expect them, grandpa?"

"In about two days, I think; and my dear children, we must school ourselves to meet Lily with calmness and composure, lest we injure, by exciting and agitating her. We must be prepared to find her more feeble than when she went away, and much exhausted by the fatigue of the journey."

Worse than when she went away! and even then the doctors gave no hope! It was almost as if they already saw her lying lifeless before them.

They wept themselves to sleep that night, and in the morning it was as though death had already entered the house; a solemn stillness reigned in all its rooms, and the quiet tread, the sad, subdued tones, the oft falling tear, attested the warmth of affection in which the dear, dying child was held.

A parlor car was speeding southward; its occupants, a noble looking man, a lovely matron, a blooming, beautiful girl of seventeen, a rosy babe in his nurse's arms, and a pale, fragile, golden-haired, blue-eyed child of seven, lying now on a couch with her head in her mother's lap, now resting in her father's arms for a little.

She seemed the central figure of the group, all eyes turning ever and anon, upon her in tenderest solicitude, every ear attentive to her slightest plaint, every hand ready to minister to her wants.

She was very quiet, very patient, answering their anxious, questioning words and looks with many a sweet, affectionate smile or whisper of grateful appreciation of their ministry of love.

Sometimes she would beg to be lifted up for a moment that she might see the rising or setting sun, or gaze upon the autumnal glories of the woods, and as they drew near their journey's end she would ask, "Are we almost there, papa? shall I soon see my own sweet home, and dear brothers and sisters?"

At last the answer was, "Yes, my darling; in a few moments we shall leave the car for our own easy carriage, and one short stage will take us home to Ion."

Mr. Dinsmore, his son, and Arthur Conly met them at the station, and told how longingly their dear ones at home were looking for them.

The sun had set, and shadows began to creep over the landscape as the carriage stopped before the door and Lily was lifted out, borne into the house and gently laid upon her own little bed.

She was nearly fainting with fatigue and weakness, and dearly as the others were loved, father and mother had no eyes for any but her, no word of greeting, as the one bore her past, the other hastily followed, with the doctor and grandfather, to her room.

But Elsie and Vi were quickly locked in each other's arms, mingling their tears together, while Rosie and the boys gathered round, awaiting their turn.

"Oh!" sobbed Rosie, "mamma didn't speak to me; she didn't look at me; she doesn't love me any more; nor my papa either."

"Yes, they do, little pet," Elsie said, leaving Violet to embrace the little sister; "and sister Elsie loves you dearly, dearly. Harold and Herbert too; as well as our big oldest brother," smiling up at Eddie through her tears, as he stood by her side.

He bent down to kiss her sweet lips.

"Lily?" he said in a choking voice.

With a great effort Elsie controlled her emotion, and answered low and tremulously, "She is almost done with pain. She is very happy—no doubt, no fear, only gladness that soon she will be

'Safe in the arms of Jesus, Safe on his gentle breast'"

Eddie turned away with a broken sob. Vi uttered a low cry of anguish; and Rosie and the boys broke into a wail of sorrow.

Till that moment they had not given up hope that the dear one might even yet be restored.

In the sick-room the golden head lay on a snow white pillow, the blue eyes were closed, and the breath came pantingly from the pale, parted lips.

"Cousin Arthur" had his finger on the slender wrist, counting its pulsations, while father and grandfather stood looking on in anxious solicitude, and the mother bent over her fading flower, asking in tender whispered accents, "are you in pain, my darling?"

"No, mamma, only so tired; so tired!"

Only the mother's quick ear, placed close to the pale lips, could catch the low-breathed words.

The doctor administered a cordial, then a little nourishment was given, and the child fell asleep.

The mother sat watching her, lost to all else in the world. Arthur came to her side with a whispered word about her own need of rest and refreshment after her fatiguing journey.

"How long?" she asked in the same low tone, glancing first at the white face on the pillow, then at him.

"Some days, I hope; and she is likely now to sleep for hours. Let me take your place."

Elsie bent over the child, listening for a moment to her breathing, then accepting his offer, followed her husband and father from the room.

Rosie, waiting and watching in the hall without, sprang to her mother's embrace with a low, joyful cry, "Mamma, mamma! oh, you've been gone so long, so long! I thought you'd never come back."

"Mamma is very glad to be with you again," Elsie said, holding her close for a moment, then resigning her to her father, she sought the others, all near at hand, and waiting eagerly for a sight of her loved face, a word from her gentle lips.

They were all longing for one of the old confidential talks, Violet, perhaps, more than the others; but it could not be now, the mother could scarcely allow herself time for a little rest, ere she must return to her station by the side of the sick bed.

But Molly was not forgotten or neglected. Elsie went to her with kind inquiries, loving cheering words and a message from Dick, whom she had seen a few days before.

Molly sat thinking it over gratefully, after her cousin had left the room.

"How kind and thoughtful for others she is! how sweet and gentle, how patient and resigned. I will try to be more like her. How truly she obeys the command 'Be pitiful, be courteous.'

"But why should one so lovely, so devoted a Christian, be visited with so sore a trial? I can see why my trials were sent. I was so proud and worldly; and they were necessary to show me my need of Jesus; but she has loved and leaned upon him since she was a little child."



CHAPTER TWENTIETH.

"Let them die, Let them die now, thy children! so thy heart Shall wear their beautiful image all undimm'd Within it to the last." —MRS. HEMANS.

Lily seemed a little stronger in the morning, and the brothers and sisters were allowed to go in by turns and speak to her.

Violet chose to be the last, thinking that would, perhaps, secure a little longer interview.

Lily with mamma by her side, lay propped up with pillows—her eyes bright, a lovely color on her almost transparent cheek, her luxurious hair lying about her like heaps of shining gold, her red lips smiling a joyous welcome, as Vi stooped over her.

Could it be that she was dying?

"Oh, darling, you may get well even yet?" cried Vi, in tones tremulous with joy and hope.

Lily smiled, and stroked her sister's face lovingly with her little thin white hand.

Violet was startled by its scorching heat.

"You are burning up with fever!" she exclaimed, tears gushing from her eyes.

"Yes; but I shall soon be well," said the child clasping her sister close; "I'm going home to the happy land to be with Jesus, Vi; oh, don't you wish you were going too? Mamma I'm tired; please tell Vi my text."

"'And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick; the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity,'" the mother repeated in a low sweet voice.

"For Jesus' sake," softly added the dying one. "He has loved me and washed me from my sins in his own blood."

Vi fell on her knees by the bedside, and buried her face in the clothes, vainly trying to stifle her bursting sobs.

"Poor Vi," sighed Lily. "Mamma, comfort her."

Mamma drew the weeper to her bosom, and spoke tenderly to her of the loving Saviour and the home he has gone to prepare for his people.

"Our darling will be so safe and happy there," she said, "and she is glad to go, to rest in his bosom, and wait there for us, as, in his own good time, he shall call one after another to himself.

"'Tis there we'll meet, At Jesus' feet, When we meet to part no more.'"

Tears were coursing down the mother's cheeks as she spoke, but her manner was calm and quiet. To her, as to her child standing upon the very brink of Jordan, heaven seemed very near, very real, and while mourning that soon that beloved face and form would be seen no more on earth she rejoiced with joy unspeakable, for the blessedness that should be hers forever and forevermore.

There were no tears in Lily's eyes, "Mamma, I'm so happy," she said smiling. "Dear Vi, you must be glad for me and not cry so. I have no pain to-day; and I'll never have any more when I get home where the dear Saviour is. Mamma, please read about the beautiful city."

Elsie took up the Bible that lay beside the pillow, and opening at the Revelation, read its last two chapters—the twenty-first and twenty-second.

Lily lay intently listening, Violet's hand fast clasped in hers.

"Darling Vi," she whispered, "you love Jesus, don't you?"

Violet nodded assent: she could not speak.

"And you're willing to let him have me, aren't you, dear?"

"Yes, yes," but the tears fell fast, and "Oh, what shall I do without you?" she cried with a choking sob.

"It won't be long," said Lily. "Mamma says it will seem only a very little while when it is past."

Her voice sank with the last words, and she closed her eyes with a weary sigh.

"Go, dear daughter, go away for the present," the mother said to Violet, who instantly obeyed.

Lily lingered for several days, suffering little except from weakness, always patient and cheerful, talking so joyfully of "going home to Jesus," that death seemed robbed of all its gloom; for it was not of the grave they thought in connection with her, but of the glories of the upper sanctuary, the bliss of those who dwell forever with the Lord.

Father, brothers and sisters often gathered for a little while about her bed; for she dearly loved them all; but the mother scarcely left her day or night; the mother whose gentle teachings had guided her childish feet into the path that leads to God, whose ministry of love had made the short life bright and happy, spite of weakness and pain.

It was in the early morning that the end came.

She had been sleeping quietly for some hours, sleeping while darkness passed away till day had fully dawned and the east was flushing with crimson and gold.

Her mother sat by the bedside gazing with tender glistening eyes upon the little wan face, thinking how placid was its expression, what an almost unearthly beauty it wore, when suddenly the large azure eyes opened wide, gazing steadily into hers, while the sweetest smile played about the lips.

"Mamma, dear mamma, how good you've been to me! Jesus is here, he has come for me. I'm going now. Dear, darling mamma, kiss me good-bye."

"My darling! my darling!" Elsie cried, pressing a kiss of passionate love upon the sweet lips.

"Dear mamma," they faintly whispered—and were still.

Kneeling by the bedside, Elsie gathered the little wasted form in her arms, pillowing the beautiful golden head upon her bosom, while again and again she kissed the pale brow, the cheeks, the lips; then laying it down gently she stood gazing upon it with unutterable love and mingled joy and anguish.

"It was well with the child," and no rebellious thought arose in her heart, but ah, what an aching void was there! how empty were her arms, though so many of her darlings were still spared to her.

A quiet step drew near, a strong arm was passed about her waist, and a kind hand drew her head to a resting-place on her husband's breast.

"Is it so?" he said in moved tones, gazing through a mist of tears upon the quiet face of the young sleeper. "Ah, darling, our precious lamb is safely folded at last. He has gathered her in his arms and is carrying her in his bosom."

There was no bitterness in the tears that were shed to the memory of little Lily; her short life had been so full of suffering, her passing away was so joyful that they must rejoice for her even while they wept for their own heavy loss.

They laid her body in the family burialground and mamma and the children went very often to scatter flowers upon the graves, reserving the fairest and sweetest for the little mound that looked so fresh and new.

"But she is not here," Rosie would say, "she's gone to the dear home above where Jesus is. And she's so happy. She'll never be sick any more because it says, 'Neither shall there be any more pain.'"

Lily was never spoken of as lost or as dead; she had only gone before to the happy land whither they all were journeying, and where they should find her again blooming and beautiful; they spoke of her often and with cheerfulness, though tears would sometimes fall at the thought that the separation must be so long.

Elsie was much worn out with the long nursing, which she would not resign to other hands, and, as Mr. and Mrs. Daly were well pleased to have it so arranged, they still retained their posts in the household.

But the children again enjoyed the pleasant evening talks, and the prized morning half hour with mamma. They might go to her at other times also, and it was not long before Vi found an opportunity to unburden her mind by a full account of all the doubts and perplexities that had so troubled her, and the manner in which they had been removed, to her great comfort and peace.

It was in the afternoon of the second day after the funeral, the two older girls being alone with their mother in her boudoir.

Elsie was startled at the thought of the peril her child had been in.

"I blame myself," she said, "that I have not guarded you more carefully against these fearful errors. We will now take up the subject together, my children and I, and study it thoroughly; and we will invite Isa and Virgy to join with us in our search after truth."

"Molly also, mamma, if she is willing," suggested her namesake daughter.

"Certainly; but I count her among my children. Ah, I have not seen her for several days! I fear she has been feeling neglected. I will go to her now," she added, rising from the couch on which she had been reclining. "And you may both go with me, if you wish."

Isa had been with Molly for the last half hour.

"I came on that unpleasant business of making a call of condolence," she announced on her entrance, "but they told me Cousin Elsie was lying down to rest and her girls were with her—Elsie and Vi—so not wishing to disturb them, I'll visit with you first, if you like."

"I'm glad to see you," Molly said. "Please be seated."

Isadore seemed strangely embarrassed and sat for some moments without speaking.

"What is the matter, Isa?" Molly asked at length.

"I think it was really unkind in mamma to send me on this errand; it was her place to come, but she said Cousin Elsie was so bound up in that child that she would be overwhelmed with grief, and she (mamma) would not know what to say; she always found it the most awkward thing in the world to try to console people under such afflictions."

"It will not be at all necessary," returned Molly dryly. "Cousin Elsie has all the consolation she needs. She came to me for a few moments the very day Lily died, and though I could see plainly that she had been weeping, her face was perfectly calm and peaceful; and she told me that her heart sang for joy when she thought of her darling's blessedness."

Isa looked very thoughtful.

"I wish I were sure of it," she said half unconsciously; "she was such a dear little thing."

"Sure of what?" cried Molly indignantly; "can you doubt for a moment that that child is in heaven?"

"If she had only been baptized into the true church. But there, don't look so angry! how can I help wishing it when I know it's the only way to be saved?"

"But you don't know it! you can't know it, because it isn't so. O Isadore, how could you turn Papist and then try to turn Violet?"

"So you've heard about it? I supposed you had," said Isadore coloring. "I suppose too, that Cousin Elsie is very angry with me, and that was why I thought it so unkind in mamma to send me in her place, making an excuse of a headache; not a bad enough one to prevent her coming, I'm sure."

"I don't know how Cousin Elsie feels about it, or even whether she has heard it," said Molly; "though I presume she has, as Vi never conceals anything from her."

"Well I've only done my duty and can't feel that I'm deserving of blame," said Isadore. "But such a time as I've had of it since my conversion became known in the family!"

"Your perversion, you should say," interrupted Molly. "Was Aunt Louise angry?"

"Very; but principally, I could see, because she knew grandpa and Uncle Horace would reproach her for sending me to the convent."

"And did they?"

"Yes, grandpa was furious, and of course uncle said, 'I told you so.' He has only reasoned with me, though he let me know he was very much displeased about Vi. Cal and Art, too, have undertaken to convince me of my errors, while Virginia sneers and asks why I could not be content to remain a Protestant; and altogether I've had a sweet time of it for the last two weeks."

"There's a tap at the door; will you please open it?" said Molly.

It was Mrs. Travilla, Elsie and Violet whom Isadore admitted. She recognized them with a deep blush and an embarrassed, deprecating air; for the thought instantly struck her that Vi had probably just been telling her mother what had occurred during her absence.

"Ah, Isa, I did not know you were here," her cousin said taking her hand. "I am pleased to see you."

The tone was gentle and kind and there was not a trace of displeasure in look or manner.

"Thank you, cousin," Isa said, trying to recover her composure. "I came to—mamma has a headache, and sent me——"

"Yes; never mind, I know all you would say," Elsie answered, tears trembling in her soft brown eyes, but a look of perfect peace and resignation on her sweet face; "you feel for my sorrow, and I thank you for your sympathy. But Isa, the consolations of God are not small with me, and I know that my little one is safe with him.

"Molly, my child, how are you to-day?"

"Very well, thank you," Molly answered, clinging to the hand that was offered her, and looking up with dewy eyes into the calm, beautiful face bending over her. "How kind you are to think of me at such a time as this. Ah cousin, it puzzles me to understand why afflictions should be sent to one who already seems almost an angel in goodness."

Elsie shook her head. "You cannot see my heart, Molly; and the Master knows just how many strokes of his chisel are needed to fashion the soul in his image; he will not make one too many. Besides should I grudge him one of the many darlings he has given me? or her the bliss he has taken her to? Ah no, no! his will be done with me and mine."

She sat down upon a sofa, and making room for Isa, who had been exchanging greetings with her younger cousins, invited her to a seat by her side.

"I want to talk with you," she said gently, "Vi has been telling me everything. Ah, do not think I have any reproaches for you, though nothing could have grieved me more than your success in what you attempted."

She then went on to give, in her own gentle, kindly way, good and sufficient reasons for her dread and hatred of—not Papists—but Popery, and concluded by inviting Isa to join with them in a thorough investigation of its arrogant claims.

Isa consented, won by her cousin's generous forbearance and affectionate interest in her welfare, and arrangements were made to begin the very next day.

Molly's writing desk stood open on the table by her side, and Violet's bright eyes catching sight of the address on a letter lying there, "Oh, cousin, have you heard?" she exclaimed, "and is it good news?"

"Yes," replied Molly, a flush of pride and pleasure mantling her cheek. "I should have told you at once, if—under ordinary circumstances;—but—" and her eyes filled as she turned them upon Mrs. Travilla.

"Dear child, I am interested now and always in all your pains and pleasures," responded the latter, "and shall heartily rejoice in any good that has come to you."

Then Molly, blushing and happy, explained that she had been using her spare time for months past, in making a translation of a French story, had offered it for publication, and, after weeks of anxious waiting, had that morning received a letter announcing its acceptance, and enclosing a check for a hundred dollars.

"My dear child, I am proud of you—of the energy, patience and perseverance you have shown," her cousin said warmly, and with a look of great gratification. "Success, so gained, must be very sweet, and I offer you my hearty congratulations."

The younger cousins added theirs, Elsie and Vi rejoicing as at a great good to themselves, and Isa expressing extreme surprise at the discovery that Molly had attained to so much knowledge, and possessed sufficient talent for such an undertaking.



CHAPTER TWENTY-FIRST.

"Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, As to be hated needs but to be seen; Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, We first endure, then pity, then embrace." —POPE.

The winter and spring passed very quietly at Ion. At Roselands there was more gayety, the girls going out frequently, and receiving a good deal of company at home.

Virginia was seldom at Ion, but Isadore spent an hour there almost every day pursuing the investigation proposed by her Cousin Elsie.

She was an honest and earnest inquirer after truth, and at length acknowledged herself entirely convinced of the errors into which she had been led, entirely restored to the evangelical faith; and more than that, she became a sincere and devoted Christian; much to the disgust and chagrin of her worldly-minded mother and Aunt Delaford, who would have been far better pleased to see her a mere butterfly of fashion, as were her sister and most of her younger friends.

But to her brother Arthur, and at both the Oaks and Ion, the change in Isa was a source of deep joy and thankfulness.

Also it was the means of leading Calhoun, who had long been halting between two opinions, to come out decidedly upon the Lord's side.

Old Mr. Dinsmore had become quite infirm, and Cal now took entire charge of the plantation. Arthur was busy in his profession, and Walter was at West Point preparing to enter the army.

Herbert and Meta Carrington were at the North; the one attending college, the other at boarding-school. Old Mrs. Carrington was still living; making her home at Ashlands; and through her, the Rosses were frequently heard from.

They were still enjoying a large measure of worldly prosperity, Mr. Ross being a very successful merchant. He had taken his son Philip into partnership a year ago, and Lucy's letter spoke much of the lad as delighting his father and herself, by his business ability and shrewdness.

They had their city residence, as well as their country seat. Gertrude had made her debut into fashionable society in the fall, and spent a very gay winter, and the occasional letters she wrote to the younger Elsie, were filled with descriptions of the balls, parties, operas and theatricals she attended, the splendors of her own attire, and the elegant dresses worn by others.

It may be that at another time Elsie, so unaccustomed to worldly pleasures, would have found these subjects interesting from their very novelty; but now while the parting from Lily was so recent, when her happy death had brought the glories of heaven so near, how frivolous they seemed.

They had more attraction for excitable, excitement-loving Violet; yet even she, interested for the moment, presently forgot them again, as something reminded her of the dear little sister, who was not lost but gone before to the better land.

Vi had a warm, loving heart; no one could be fonder of home, parents, brothers and sisters than she, but as spring drew on, she began to have a restless longing for change of scene and employment. She had been growing fast, and felt weak and languid.

Both she and Elsie had attained their full height, Vi being a trifle the taller of the two; they grew daily in beauty and grace, and were not more lovely in person than in character and mind.

They were as open as the day with their gentle, tender mother, and their fond, proud father—proud of his lovely wife, and his sons and daughters, whose equals he truly believed were not to be found anywhere throughout the whole length and breadth of the land. So Vi was not slow in telling of her desire for change.

It was on a lovely evening in May, when the whole family were gathered in the veranda, serenely happy in each other's society, the babe in his mother's arms, Rosie on her father's knee, the others grouped about them, doing nothing but enjoy the rest and quiet after a busy day with books and work.

Molly in her wheeled chair, was there in their midst, feeling herself quite one of them and looking as contented and even blithesome as any of the rest. She was feeling very glad over her success in a second literary venture, thinking of Dick too, and how delightful it would be if she could only talk it all over with him.

He had told her in his last letter that she was making him proud of her, and what a thrill of delight the words had given her.

"Papa and mamma!" exclaimed Violet, breaking a pause in the conversation, "home is very dear and sweet, and yet—I'm afraid I ought to be ashamed to say it, but I do want to go away somewhere for awhile, to the seashore I think; that is if we can all go and be together."

"I see no objection if all would like it," her father said, with an indulgent smile. "What do you say to the plan, little wife?"

"I echo my husband's sentiments as a good wife should," she answered with something of the sportiveness of other days.

"And we echo yours, mother," said Edward. "Do we not?" appealing to the others.

"Oh yes, yes!" they cried, "a summer at the seashore, by all means."

"In a cottage home of our own; shall it not be, papa?" added Elsie.

"Your mamma decides all such questions," was his smiling rejoinder.

"I approve the suggestion. It is far preferable to hotel life," she said. "Molly, my child, you are the only one who has not spoken."

Molly's bright face had clouded a little. "I want you all to go and enjoy yourselves," she said, "though I shall miss you sadly."

"Miss us! do you then intend to decline going along?"

Molly colored and hesitated; "I'm such a troublesome piece of furniture to move," she said half jestingly, bravely trying to cover up the real pain that came with the thought.

"That is nothing," said Mr. Travilla, so gently and tenderly that happy, grateful tears sprang to her eyes; "you go, of course, with the rest of us; unless there is some more insuperable objection—such as a disinclination on your part, and even that should, perhaps, be overruled; for the change would do you good."

"O Molly you will not think of staying behind?"

"We should miss you sadly," said Elsie and Vi.

"And if you go you'll see Dick," suggested Eddie.

Molly's heart bounded at the thought. "Oh," she said, her eyes sparkling, "how delightful that would be! and since you are all so kind, I'll be glad, very glad to go."

"Here comes grandpa's carriage. I'm so glad!" exclaimed Herbert, the first to spy it as it turned in at the avenue gate. "Now I hope they'll say they'll all go too."

He had his wish; the carriage contained Mr. and Mrs. Dinsmore, their son and daughter, and it soon appeared that they had come to propose the very thing Herbert desired, viz., that adjacent cottages at the seashore should be engaged for the two families, and all spend the summer there together.

It was finally arranged that the Dinsmores should precede the others by two or three weeks, then Mr. Dinsmore return for his daughter and her family, and Mr. Travilla follow a little later in the season.

Also that the second party should make their journey by water; it would be easier for Molly, and newer to all than the land route which they had taken much oftener in going North.

"Dear me, how I wish we were rich!" exclaimed Virginia Conly when she heard of it the next morning at breakfast, from Cal, who had spent the evening at Ion. "I'd like nothing better than to go North for the summer; not to a dull, prosy life in a cottage though, but to some of the grand hotels where people dress splendidly and have hops and all sorts of gay times. If I had the means I'd go to the seashore for a few weeks, and then off to Saratoga for the rest of the season, Mamma, couldn't we manage it somehow? You ought to give Isa and me every advantage possible, if you want us to make good matches."

"I shouldn't need persuasion to gratify you, if I had the money, Virginia," she answered dryly, and with a significant glance at her father and sons.

There was no response from them; for none of them felt able to supply the coveted funds.

"I think it very likely Cousin Elsie will invite you to visit them," remarked Arthur at length, breaking the silence which had followed his mother's remark.

"I shall certainly accept if she does," said Isa; "for I should dearly like to spend the summer with her there."

"Making garments for the poor, reading good books and singing psalms and hymns," remarked Virginia with a contemptuous sniff.

"Very good employments, all of them," returned Arthur quietly, "though I feel safe in predicting that a good deal more time will be spent by the Travillas in bathing, riding, driving, boating and fishing. They are no ascetics, but the most cheerful, happy family I have ever come across."

"Yes, it's quite astonishing how easily they've taken the death of that child," said Mrs. Conly, ill-naturedly.

"Mother, how can you!" exclaimed Arthur, indignant at the insinuation.

"O mamma, no one could think for a moment it was from want of affection!" cried Isadore.

"I have not said so; but you didn't tell me, I suppose, how Molly assured you her cousin had no need of consolation?"

"Yes, mother, but it was that her grief was swallowed up in the realizing sense of the bliss of her dear departed child. Oh they all talk of her to this day with glad tears in their eyes,—sorrowing for themselves but rejoicing for her."

Elsie did give a cordial invitation to her aunt and the two girls to spend the summer with her and it was accepted at first, but declined afterward when a letter came from Mrs. Delaford, inviting them to join her in some weeks' sojourn, at her expense, first at Cape May and afterward at Saratoga.

It would be the gay life of dressing, dancing and flirting at great hotels, for which Virginia hungered, and was snatched at with great avidity by herself and her mother.

Isadore would have preferred to be with the Travillas, but Mrs. Conly would not hear of it.

"Aunt Delaford would be mortally offended. And then the idea of throwing away such a chance! Was Isa crazy? It would be well enough to accept Elsie's offer to pay their traveling expenses and provide each with a handsome outfit; but her cottage would be no place to spend the summer in, when they could do so much better; they would meet few gentlemen there; Elsie and Mr. Travilla were so absurdly particular as to whom they admitted to an acquaintance with their daughters; if there was the slightest suspicion against a man's moral character, he might as well wish for the moon as for the entree to their house; or so much as a bowing acquaintance with Elsie or Vi. It was really too absurd."

"But, mamma," expostulated Isadore, "surely you would not be willing that we should associate with any one who was not of irreproachable character?"

Mrs. Conly colored and looked annoyed.

"There is no use in being too particular, Isadore," she said, "one can't expect perfection; young men are very apt to be a little wild, and they often settle down afterward into very good husbands."

"Really, I don't think any the worse of a young fellow for sowing a few wild oats," remarked Virginia, with a toss of her head: "they're a great deal more interesting than your good young men."

"Such as Cal and Art," suggested Isa, smiling slightly. "Mamma, don't you wish they'd be a little wild?"

"Nonsense, Isadore! your brothers are just what I would have them! I don't prefer wild young men, but I hope I have sense enough not to expect everybody's sons to be as good as mine, and charity enough to overlook the imperfections of those who are not."

"Well, mamma," said Isadore with great seriousness, "I have talked this matter over with Cousin Elsie, and I think she takes the right view of it; that the rule should be as strict for men as for women; that the sin which makes a woman an outcast from decent society, should receive the same condemnation when committed by a man; that a woman should require as absolute moral purity in the man she marries, as men do in the women they choose for wives; and so long as we are content with anything less, so long as we smile on men whom we know to be immoral, we are in a measure responsible for their vices."

"I endorse that sentiment," said Arthur, coming in from an adjoining room; "it would be a great restraint upon men's vicious inclinations, if they knew that indulgence in vice would shut them out of ladies' society."

"A truce to the subject. I'm tired of it," said Virginia. "Is it decided, mamma, that we take passage in the steamer with the Travillas?"

"Yes; and now let us turn our attention to the much more agreeable topic of dress; there are a good many questions to settle in regard to it;—what we must have, what can be got here, and what after we reach Philadelphia."

"And how one dollar can be made to do the work of two," added Virginia; "for there are loads and loads of things I must have in order to make a respectable appearance at the watering-places."

"And we have just two weeks in which to make our arrangements," added her mother.



CHAPTER TWENTY-SECOND.

"Such sheets of fire, such bursts of horrid thunder, Such groans of roaring wind and rain, I never Remember to have heard." —SHAKESPEARE.

Early in the morning of a perfect June day, our numerous party arrived at the wharf where lay the steamer that was to carry them to Philadelphia.

The embarkation was made without accident. Molly had had a nervous dread of her share in it, but under her uncle's careful supervision, was conveyed safely on board.

The weather was very warm, the sea perfectly calm, but as they steamed out of the harbor a pleasant breeze sprang up, and the voyage began most prosperously.

There were a hundred lady passengers, and not more than a dozen gentlemen; but to Virginia's delight, one of these last was a gay dashing young army officer, with whom she had a slight acquaintance.

He caught sight of her directly, hastened to greet her, and they were soon promenading the deck together, engaged in an evident flirtation.

Mr. Dinsmore, seated at some little distance with his daughter and her children about him, watched his niece's proceedings with a deepening frown. He was not pleased with either her conduct or her companion.

At length, rising and approaching his sister, "Do you know that young man, Louise?" he asked.

"Not intimately," she returned, bridling. "He is Captain Brice of the army."

"Do you know his character?"

"I have heard that he belongs to a good family, and I can see that he is a gentleman. I hope you are satisfied."

"No, I am not, Louise. He is a wild, reckless fellow, fond of drink, gambles——"

"And what of it?" she interrupted. "I don't suppose he's going to teach Virginia to do either."

"He is no fit associate for her or for any lady. Will you interpose your authority——"

"No, I won't; I'm not going to insult a gentleman, and I'm satisfied that Virginia has sense enough to take care of herself."

"Waving the question whether a man of his character is a gentleman, let me remark that it is not necessary to insult him in order to put a stop to this. You can call your daughter to your side, keep her with you, take an early opportunity to inform her of the man's reputation, and bid her discourage his attentions. If you do not interfere," he added in his determined way, "I shall take the matter into my own hands."

"Isadore," said Mrs. Conly, "go and tell your sister I wish to speak to her."

Virginia was extremely vexed at the summons, but obeyed it promptly.

"What can mamma want? I was having such a splendid time," she said pettishly to her sister, when they were out of the captain's hearing.

"It is more Uncle Horace than mamma."

Virginia reddened. She knew her uncle's opinions, and she was not entirely ignorant of the reputation borne by Captain Brice.

She feigned ignorance however, listened with apparent surprise to her uncle's account of him and promised sweetly to treat him with the most distant politeness in future.

Mr. Dinsmore saw through her, but what more could he do, except keep a strict watch over both.

The captain, forsaken by Virginia, sauntered about the deck and presently approaching an elderly lady who sat somewhat apart from the rest, lifted his cap with a smiling "How do you do, Mrs. Noyes?" and taking an empty chair by her side entered into a desultory conversation.

"By the by," he said, "what an attractive family group is that over yonder," with a slight motion of the head in the direction of the Travillas. "The mother is my beau-ideal of a lovely matron, in appearance at least—I have not the happiness of her acquaintance—and the daughters are models of beauty and grace. They are from your neighborhood, I believe?"

"Yes; I have a calling acquaintance with Mrs. Travilla. She was a great heiress; has peculiar notions, rather puritanical; but is extremely agreeable for all that."

"Could you give me an introduction?"

She shook her head. "I must beg you to excuse me."

"But why?"

"Ah, captain, do you not know that you have the reputation of being a naughty man? not very; but then, as I have told you, the mother is very strict and puritanical in her ideas; the father is the same, and I should only offend them without doing you any good; the girls would not dare, or even so much as wish to look at or speak to you."

Growing red and angry, the captain stammered out something about being no worse than ninetenths of the rest of the world.

"Very true, no doubt," she said; "and please understand that you are not tabooed by me. I'm not so strict. But perhaps," she added laughing, "it may be because I've no daughters to be endangered by young fellows who are as handsome and fascinating as they are naughty." He bowed his acknowledgments, then, as a noble looking young man was seen to approach the group with the manner of one on a familiar footing inquired, "Who is that fellow that seems so much at home with them?"

"His name is Leland; Lester Leland. He's a nephew of the Leland who bought Fairview from the Fosters some years ago. He's an artist and poor—the nephew—he had to work his own way in the world; has to yet for that matter. I should wonder at the notice the Travillas take of him, only that I've heard he's one of the good sort. Then besides you know he may make a great reputation some day."

"A pious fortune-hunter, I presume," sneered Brice, rising to give his seat to a lady; then with a bow he turned and walked away.

Mr. Dinsmore was taking his grandsons over the vessel, showing them the engine and explaining its complicated machinery.

Edward, who had quite a mechanical turn, seemed to understand it nearly as well as his grandfather, and Harold and Herbert, bright, intelligent boys of ten and twelve, looked and examined with much interest, asking sensible questions and listening attentively to the replies.

They were active, manly little fellows, not fool-hardy or inclined to mischief; nor was their mother of the over-anxious kind; she could trust them, and when the tour of inspection with their grandpa was finished, they were allowed to roam about by themselves.

Captain Brice took advantage of this to make acquaintance with them, and win their hearts by thrilling stories of buffalo hunts and encounters with wolves, grizzly bears and Indians, in which he invariably figured as conquering hero.

He thought to make them stepping stones to an acquaintance with their sisters, and congratulated himself on his success when, on being summoned to return to their mother, they asked eagerly if he would not tell them more to-morrow.

"Just try me, my fine fellows," he answered, laughing.

"Mamma, what do you want with us?" they asked, running up to her. "A gentleman was telling us such nice stories."

"I think the call to supper will come very soon," she said, "and I want you to smooth your hair and wash your hands. Dinah will take you to your state-room and see that you have what you need."

"I'm afraid we're going to have a gust," remarked Isadore as the lads hurried away to do their mother's bidding; "see how the clouds are gathering yonder in the northwest."

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