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Elsie's children
by Martha Finley
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"A thunder-storm at sea; how romantic!" said Virginia; "'twill be something to talk about all our lives."

"Silly child!" said her mother, "to hear you talk, one would think there was no such thing as danger."

"Pshaw, mamma! we're hardly out of sight of land—our own shores," she retorted.

"That would but increase our danger if the storm were coming from the opposite direction," said her uncle; "but fortunately, it is from a quarter to drive us out to sea."

"Do you think it will be a gust, grandpa?" asked Violet, a little anxiously.

"I fear so; the heat has become so oppressive, the breeze has entirely died down, and the clouds look threatening; but, my child, do not fear; our Father, God, rules upon the sea as well as the land; the stormy wind fulfilling his word."

The storm came up rapidly, bursting on them in its fury before they had left the tea-table; the lightning's flash and the crash and roll of the thunder followed in quick succession; the stentorian voices of the officers of the vessel, shouting their orders to the crew, the heavy hasty tramp of the men's feet, the whistling of the wind through the rigging, the creaking of the cordage, the booming of the sea, mingling with the terrific thunder claps and the down-pouring of the rain, combined in an uproar fit to cause the stoutest heart to quake.

Faces grew pale with fear; the women and children huddled together in frightened groups; the men looked anxiously at each other, and between the thunder peals, spoke in low tones of the danger of being driven out to sea, and asked each other of the captain's skill, on what part of the coast they were, and whether the vessel were strong enough to outride the tempest, should it continue long.

"Oh, this is dreadful! I'm afraid we shall all go to the bottom, if it keeps on much longer," Mrs. Conly was saying to her niece, when there came a crash as if the very sky were falling; as if it had come down upon them; a shock that threw some from their seats, while others caught at the furniture to save themselves; the vessel shivered from stem to stern, seemed to stand still for an instant, then rushed on again.

"It struck! we're lost!" cried a number of voices, while many women and children screamed, and some fainted.

"Courage, my friends!" cried Mr. Dinsmore in loud clear tones, that could be distinctly heard by all, above the storm. "All is not lost that is in danger; and the 'Lord's hand is not shortened that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy that it cannot hear.'"

"Yes, it is time to pray," said an excited, answering voice; "the lightning has struck and shivered the mast; and look how it has run along over our heads and down yon mirror; as you may see by the melting of the glass. It has doubtless continued on to the hold, and set fire to the cotton stored there," the speaker—a thin, nervous looking man, who was pushing his way through the throng—added in a whisper close to Mr. Dinsmore's ear.

"Be quiet, will you!" said the latter sternly; "these helpless women and children are sufficiently frightened already."

"Yes, yes and I don't want to scare 'em unnecessarily; but we'd better be prepared for the worst."

Elsie had overheard the whispers and her cheek paled, a look of keen distress coming into her face as she glanced from one to another of her loved ones, dearer far than her own life.

But she showed no other sign of agitation; her heart sent up one swift cry to him to whom "all power is given in heaven and in earth," and faith and love triumphed over fear. His love to her was infinite nor was there any limit to his power. She would trust him that all would be well whether in life or death.

"'Even the wind and the sea obey him,'" she whispered to Violet, who was asking with pale trembling lips, "Mamma, mamma, what will become of us?"

"But mamma they say the vessel is loaded with cotton, and that the lightning has probably set it on fire."

"Still, my darling, he is able to take care of us; 'it is nothing with him to help whether with many or with them that have no power;' he is the Lord our God."

Her father had come to her side. "Daughter, my dear, dear daughter!" he said with emotion, taking her in his arms as was his wont in her early years.

"O grandpa, take care of mamma, whatever becomes of us!" exclaimed Elsie and Vi together.

"No, no!" she said, "save my children and never mind me."

"Mamma, you must be our first care!" said Eddie hoarsely.

"Your sisters, my son, and your brothers. Leave me to the last," she answered firmly.

"We will hope to save you all," Mr. Dinsmore said, trying to speak cheerfully; "but, my child, if you perish, I perish with you."

"Horace, is it true? is it true that the vessel is on fire?" gasped Mrs. Conly, clutching his arm and staring him in the face with eyes wild with terror.

"Try to calm yourself, Louise," he said kindly. "We do not know certainly yet, though there is reason to fear it may be so."

"Horrible!" she cried, wringing her hands. "I can't die! I've never made any preparations for death. Oh save me, Horace, if you can! No, no save my girls, my poor dear girls, and never mind me."

"Louise, my poor sister," he said, deeply moved, "we will not despair yet of all being saved; but try to prepare for the worst, turn now to him who has said, Look unto me and be ye saved all ye ends of the earth."

Virginia had thrown herself upon a sofa, in strong hysterics, and Isadore stood over her with smelling salts and fan.

Mrs. Conly hurried back to them with tears rolling down her cheeks.

"Oh what is to be done?" she sighed, taking the fan from Isa's hand. "If Cal and Art were but here to look after us! Your uncle has his hands full with his daughter and her children."

"Mamma let us ask God for help; he and he only can give it," whispered Isadore.

"Yes, yes, ask him! you know how and he will hear you. Virgy, my child, try to calm yourself."

Isa knelt by her sister's side; there were many on their knees crying for succor in this hour of terrible danger.

The storm was abating, the rain had nearly ceased to fall, and the wind to lash the waves into fury; the flashes of lightning were fewer and fainter and the heavy claps of thunder had given place to distant mutterings; they would not be wrecked by the fury of the tempest, yet alas, there still remained the more fearful danger of devouring fire.

It was a night of terror; no one thought of retiring, and few but young children closed an eye.

Every preparation was made for taking to the water at a moment's warning; those who had life preservers—and all our party were supplied with them—brought them out and secured them to their persons; boats were made ready to launch, and those who retained sufficient presence of mind and forethought, selected, and kept close at hand, such valuables as it seemed possible they might be able to carry about them.

The Travillas kept together, Mr. Dinsmore with them, and young Leland also.

He was to them only an ordinary friend, but one of them he would have died to save, and almost he would have done it for the others for her sake.

Poor Molly had never felt her helplessness more than now; fastened to her chair as with bands of steel, there was less hope of escape for her than for others.

Her thoughts flew to Dick in that first moment of terror, to Dick who loved her better than any other earthly thing. Alas, he was far away; but there was One near, her Elder Brother, who would never leave nor forsake her. With that thought she grew calm and strong to wait and to endure.

But her uncle did not forget her; with his own hands he fastened a life preserver about her.

"My poor helpless child," he said low and tenderly, "do not fear that you will be forgotten should there be any chance for rescue."

"Thank you, dear, kind uncle," she said with tears in her eyes, "but leave me to the last, my life is worth so much less than theirs," glancing toward her cousins; "there would be only Dick to mourn its loss——"

"No, no, Molly, we all love you!" he interrupted.

She smiled a little sadly, but went on, "and it would be more difficult to save me than two others."

"Still, do not despair," he said, "I will not leave you to perish alone; and I have hope that in the good providence of God, we shall all be saved."

Gradually the screaming, sobbing, fainting, gave place to a dull despairing waiting, waiting, with a trembling, sickening dread, for the confirmation of their worst fears.

Rosie had fallen asleep upon a sofa with her head in her eldest sister's lap, Vi on an ottoman beside them, tightly clasping a hand of each.

Elsie had her babe in her arms; he was sleeping sweetly, and laying her head back, she closed her eyes while her thoughts flew to Ion, to the husband and father who would perhaps learn to-morrow of the loss of all his treasures.

Her heart bled for him, as she seemed to see him bowed down with heart-breaking sorrow.

Then arose the question "what should the end bring to them—herself and her beloved children?"

For herself she could say, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death; I will fear no evil; for thou art with me." Elsie, Vi and Eddie she had good reasons to hope were true Christians; but Harold and Herbert?—A pang shot through her heart. Good, obedient children though they were, she yet knew not that they had ever experienced that new birth without which none can enter heaven.

Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

"Mamma, what is it?" Eddie asked, seeing her glance anxiously from side to side.

"Your brothers! I do not see them. Where are they?"

"They went into their state-room a moment since;—right here, you know. Shall I call them?"

"Yes, yes; I must speak to them."

They came hand in hand, in answer to Eddie's summons.

Herbert's eyes were full of tears, not of terror or grief; there seemed a new happy light in each boyish face.

"Mamma," whispered Harold, putting his arm round her neck, his lips to her ear, "we went away to be alone, Herbie and I; we knew what made you look so sorry at us;—because you were afraid we didn't love Jesus; but we do, mamma, and we went away to give ourselves to him; and we mean to be his always, whether we live or die."

Glad tears rolled down her cheeks as she silently embraced first one, then the other.

And so slowly the night wore away, a reign of terror for hours, while every moment they were watching with despairing hearts for the smell of fire or the bursting out of flames from the hold; their fears gave way to a faint hope as time passed on and the catastrophe was still delayed; a hope that grew gradually stronger and brighter, till at last it was lost in glad certainty.

The electricity, it appeared, had scattered over the iron of the machinery, instead of running on down into the hold.

Some said, "What a lucky escape!" others, "What a kind providence."



CHAPTER TWENTY-THIRD.

"Sacred love is basely bought and sold; Wives are grown traffic, marriage is a trade." —RANDOLPH.

They came safely into port. A little crowd of eager, expectant friends stood waiting on the wharf; among them a tall, dark-eyed young man, with a bright, intellectual face, whom Molly, seated on the deck in the midst of the family group, recognized with almost a cry of delight.

The instant a plank was thrown out, he sprang on board, and in another moment she was in his arms, sobbing, "Oh, Dick, Dick. I thought I'd never see you again!"

"Why?" he said with a joyous laugh, "we've not been so long or so far apart that you need have been in despair of that."

Then as he turned to exchange greetings with the others, his ear caught the words, "We had an awful night, expecting every moment to see flames bursting out from the hold."

"What, what does it mean?" he asked, grasping his uncle's hand, while his cheek paled, and he glanced hastily from side to side.

"We have had a narrow escape," said Mr. Dinsmore.

The main facts were soon given, the details as they drove to their hotel, and Dick rejoiced with trembling, as he learned how, almost, he had lost these dear ones.

A few days were spent in Philadelphia, then Mr. Dinsmore and the Travillas sought their seaside homes, Dick going with them.

Their coming was hailed with joy by Mrs. Dinsmore and her daughter Rose, who had been occupying their cottage for a week or more.

The Conlys would linger some time longer in the city, laying in a stock of finery for the summer campaign, then, joined by Mrs. Delaford, they too would seek the seashore.

The cottages were quite out of the town, built facing the ocean, and as near it as consistent with safety and comfort.

The children hailed the first whiff of the salt sea breeze with eager delight, were down upon the beach within a few minutes of their arrival, and until bedtime left it only long enough to take their tea, finishing their day with a long moonlight drive along the shore.

They were given perfect liberty to enjoy themselves to the full; the only restrictions being that they were not to go into danger, or out of sight of the house, or to the water's edge unless accompanied by some older member of the family or a trusty servant.

The next morning they were all out again for a ramble before breakfast, and immediately after prayers Vi, Rosie, Harold and Herbert, with a man servant in attendance, returned to the beach.

The girls were collecting shells and seaweed, the two boys skipping stones on the water, Ben, the servant, watching the sport with keen interest, and occasionally joining in it.

Absorbed in their amusements, none of them noticed the approach of a young man in undress uniform.

He followed them for some moments in a careless way, as if he were but casually strolling in the same direction, yet was watching with close attention every movement of Vi's graceful figure.

She and Rosie were unconsciously widening the distance between their brothers and themselves, not noticing that the boys had become stationary.

Perceiving this, and that they were now out of earshot, the stranger quickened his pace, and coming up behind the lads, hailed them with, "So here you are, my fine fellows! I'm pleased to meet you again!"

"Oh," exclaimed Herbert, looking round, "it's the gentleman that tells such nice stories! Good-morning, sir. We're glad to see you, too."

"Yes, indeed," assented Harold offering his hand, which the stranger grasped and shook heartily. "We're having a splendid time skipping stones. Did you ever do it?"

"Many a time when I was a little chap like you, I used to be a famous hand at it. Let's see if I can equal you now."

He was soon apparently as completely engrossed with the sport as any of them, yet through it all was furtively watching Vi and Rosie as they strolled slowly onward, now stooping to pick up a shell or pausing a moment to gaze out over the wide expanse of waters, then sauntering on again in careless, aimless fashion, thoroughly enjoying the entire freedom from ordinary tasks and duties.

The boys knew nothing about their new companion except what they had seen of him on board the vessel; their mother had not understood who was their story-telling friend, and in the excitement of the storm and the hasty visit to the city, he had been quite forgotten by all three. Nor were any of the family aware of his vicinity; thus it happened that the lads had not been warned against him.

Vi, however, had seen him with Virginia and knew from what passed directly afterward between her grandfather and aunt (though she did not hear the conversation) that the stranger was not one whom Mr. Dinsmore approved.

Not many minutes had passed before she looked back, and seeing that she had left her brothers some distance behind, hastily began to retrace her footsteps, Rosie with her.

The instant they turned to do so, the captain, addressing Harold, artfully inquired, "Do you know that young lady?"

"I should think so! she's my own sister," said the boy proudly. "The little one too."

"Pretty girls, both of them. Won't you introduce me?"

"Yes, I suppose so," returned the boy a little doubtfully, and taking a more critical survey of his new acquaintance than he had thought necessary before; "you—you're a gentleman and a good man, aren't you?"

"Don't I look like it?" laughed the captain. "Would you take me for a rogue?"

"I—I don't believe you'd be a burglar or a thief, but——"

"Well?"

"Please don't think I mean to be rude, sir, but you broke the third commandment a minute ago."

"The third? which is that? for I really don't remember."

"I thought you'd forgotten it," said Herbert.

"It's the one that says, 'Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain,'" answered Harold, in low reverent tones.

"I own to being completely puzzled," said the captain. "I certainly haven't been swearing."

"No, not exactly; but you said, 'By George,' and 'By Heaven,' and mamma says such words are contrary to the spirit of the command, and that no one who is a thorough gentleman and Christian will ever use them."

"That's a very strict rule," he said, lifting his cap and bowing low to Violet, who was now close at hand.

She did not seem to notice it, or to see him at all.

"Boys," she said with gentle gravity, "let us go home now."

"What for, Vi? I'm not tired of the beach yet," objected Herbert.

"I have something to tell you; something else to propose. Won't you go with me?"

"Yes," and with a hasty "good-bye," to the captain, they joined their sisters, who were already moving slowly toward home.

"What have you to tell us, Vi?" asked Harold.

"That I know grandpa does not approve of that man, and I am quite sure mamma would not wish you to be with him. The sun is getting hot and there are Dick and Molly on the veranda; let's go and talk with them for a while. It's nearly time now for our drive."

"Miss Wi'let," said Ben, coming up behind, "dat fellah's mighty pow'ful mad; swored a big oath dat you's proud as Luficer."

"Oh, then we won't have anything more to do with him!" exclaimed the boys, Herbert adding, "but I do wish he was good, for he does tell such famous stories."

They kept their word and were so shy of the captain that he soon gave up trying to cultivate their acquaintance, or to make that of their sisters.

Mrs. Noyes and he were boarding at the same hotel, and from her he learned that Mrs. Delaford and the Conlys were expected shortly, having engaged rooms on the same floor with herself.

The information was agreeable, as, though he did not care particularly for Virginia, flirting with her would, he thought, be rather an enjoyable way of passing the time; all the more so that it would be in opposition to Mr. Dinsmore's wishes; for the captain knew very well why, and at whose suggestion, Virginia had been summoned away from his society on board the vessel, and had no love for the man who so highly disapproved of him.

The girl, too, resented her uncle's interference, and on her arrival, with the perversity of human nature, went farther in her encouragement of the young man's attentions than she, perhaps, would otherwise have done.

Her mother and aunt looked on with indifference, if not absolute approval.

Isadore was the only one who offered a remonstrance, and she was cut short with a polite request to "mind her own business."

"I think I am, Virgy," she answered pleasantly, "I'm afraid you're getting yourself into trouble; and surely I ought to try to save you from that."

"I won't submit to surveillance," returned her sister. "I wouldn't live in the same house with Uncle Horace for anything. And if mamma and Aunt Delaford don't find fault, you needn't."

Isadore, seriously concerned for Virginia's welfare, was questioning in her own mind whether she ought to mention the matter to her uncle, when her mother set that doubt at rest by forbidding her to do so.

Isa, who was trying to be a consistent Christian, would neither flirt nor dance, and the foolish, worldly-minded mother was more vexed at her behavior than at Virginia's.

Isa slipped away to the cottage homes of the Dinsmores and Travillas whenever she could. She enjoyed the quiet pleasures and the refined and intellectual society of her relatives and the privileged friends, both ladies and gentlemen, whom they gathered about them.

Lester Leland, who had taken up his abode temporarily in that vicinity, was a frequent visitor and sometimes brought a brother artist with him. Dick's cronies came too, and old friends of the family from far and near.

Elsie sent an early invitation to Lucy Ross to bring her daughters and spend some weeks at the cottage.

The reply was a hasty note from Lucy saying that she deeply regretted her inability to accept, but they were extremely busy making preparations to spend the season at Saratoga, had already engaged their rooms and could not draw back; beside that Gertrude and Kate had set their hearts on going. "However," she added, "she would send Phil in her place, he must have a little vacation and insisted he would rather visit their old friends the Travillas, than go anywhere else in the world; he would put up at a hotel (being a young man, he would of course prefer that) but hoped to spend a good deal of time at the cottage."

He did so, and attached himself almost exclusively to the younger Elsie, with an air of proprietorship which she did not at all relish.

She tried to let him see it without being rude; but the blindness of egotism and vast self-appreciation was upon him and he thought her only charmingly coy; probably with the intent to thus conceal her love and admiration.

He was egregiously mistaken. She found him, never the most interesting of companions at times an intolerable bore; and was constantly contrasting his conversation which ran upon trade and money making, stocks, bonds and mortgages, to the exclusion of nearly everything else except fulsome flatteries of herself—with that of Lester Leland, who spoke with enthusiasm of his art; who was a lover of Nature and Nature's God; whose thoughts dwelt among lofty themes, while at the same time he was entirely free from vanity, his manner as simple and unaffected as that of a little child.

He was a favorite with all the family; his society enjoyed especially by the ladies.

He devoted himself more particularly to sculpture, but also sketched finely from nature, as did both Elsie and Violet; the latter was beginning to show herself a genius in both that and music, Elsie had recently under Leland's instructions, done some very pretty wood carving and modeling in clay, and this similarity of tastes made them very congenial.

Philip's stay was happily not lengthened, business calling him back to New York.

Letters came now and then from Mrs. Ross, Gertrude or Kate, telling of their gay life at Saratoga.

The girls seemed to have no lack of gentlemen admirers; among whom was a Mr. Larrabee from St. Louis, who was particularly attentive to Gertrude.

At length it was announced that they were engaged.

It was now the last of August. The wedding was to take place about the middle of October, and as the intervening six weeks would barely afford time for the preparation of the trousseau, the ladies hurried home to New York.

Then Kate came down to spend a week with the Travillas.

She looked fagged and worn, complained of ennui, was already wearied of the life she had been leading, and had lost all taste for simple pleasures.

Her faded cheek and languid air, presented a strange contrast to the fresh, bright beauty and animation of Elsie and Violet, a contrast that pained the kind, motherly heart of Mrs. Travilla, who would have been glad to make all the world as happy as she and her children were.

Elsie and Vi felt a lively interest in Gertrude's prospects, and had many questions to ask about her betrothed;—"Was he young? was he handsome? was he a good man? But, oh that was of course."

"No, not of course at all," Kate answered, almost with impatience. "She supposed he was not a bad man; but he wasn't good in their sense of the word—not in the least religious—and he was neither young nor handsome."

A moment of disappointed silence followed this communication, then Elsie said, a little doubtfully, "Well, I suppose Gerty loves him, and is happy in the prospect of becoming his wife?"

"Happy?" returned Kate, with a contemptuous sniff. "Well, I suppose she ought to be; she is getting what she wanted—plenty of money and a splendid establishment; but as to loving Mr. Victor Larrabee—I could about as soon love a—snake; and so could she. He always makes me think of one."

"Oh, Kate! and will she marry him?" both exclaimed in horror.

"She's promised to and doesn't seem inclined to draw back," replied Kate with indifference. Then bursting into a laugh, "Girls," she said, "I've had an offer too, and mamma would have had me accept it, but it didn't suit my ideas. The man himself is well enough, I don't really dislike him; but such a name! Hogg! only think of it! I told mamma that I didn't want to live in a sty, if it was lined with gold."

"No, I don't believe I could feel willing to wear that name," said Violet laughing. "But if his name suited, would you marry him without loving him?"

"I suppose so; I like riches, and mamma says such wealthy men as Mr. Hogg and Mr. Larrabee are not to be picked up every day."

"But, oh, it wouldn't be right, Kate! because you have to promise to love."

"Oh, that's a mere form!" returned Kate with a yawn. "Gerty says she's marrying for love—not of the man but his money," and Kate laughed as if it was an excellent joke.

The other two looked grave and distressed, their mother had taught them that to give the hand without the heart was folly and sin.



CHAPTER TWENTY-FOURTH.

"There's many a slip Twixt the cup and the lip."

The Travillas were all invited to Gertrude's wedding; but as it was to be a very grand affair, the invitation was declined because of their recent bereavement.

Mr. Ross had not seen his intended son-in-law, nor did he know how mercenary were Gertrude's motives. He took it for granted that she would not, of her own free will, consent to marry a man who was not at least agreeable to her, though he certainly thought it odd that she should fancy one over forty years older than herself.

He made some inquiries relative to the man's character and circumstances, and learning that he was really very wealthy, and bore a respectable reputation, as the world goes, gave his consent to the match.

The preparations went on; dresses and jewels were ordered from Paris, invitations issued to several hundred guests, and the reception rooms of their city residence refurnished for the occasion; money was poured out without stint to provide the wedding feasts and flowers, rich and rare, for the adornment of the house, and the persons of the girls.

Gertrude did not seem unhappy, but was in a constant state of excitement, and would not allow herself a moment to think.

Ten days before that appointed for the ceremony, the bridegroom arrived in the city, and called upon the family.

Mr. Ross did not like his countenance, and wondered more than ever at his daughter's choice.

He waited till Mr. Larrabee was gone, then sent for her to come to him in the library.

She came, looking surprised and annoyed. "What is it, papa?" she said impatiently. "Please be as brief as you can; because I've a world of things to attend to."

"So many that you have not a moment to spare for the father you are going to leave so soon?" he said a little sadly.

"Oh, don't remind me of that!" she cried, a sudden change coming over her manner. "I can't bear to think of it!" and creeping up to him, she put her arms around his neck, while a tear trembled in her eye.

"Nor I," he said, caressing her; "not even if I knew you were going to be very happy so far away from me; and I fear you are not. Gertrude, do you love that man?"

"Why what a question coming from my practical father!" she said, forcing a laugh. "I am choosing for myself, marrying of my own free will; is not that sufficient?"

"I tell you candidly, Gertrude," he answered, "I do not like Mr. Larrabee's looks. I cannot think it possible that you can love him, and I beg of you if you do not, to draw back even now at this late hour."

"It is too late, papa," she returned, growing cold and hard; "and I do not wish it. Is this all you wanted to say to me?"

"Yes," he said, releasing her with a sigh.

She glided from the room and he spent the next half hour in pacing slowly back and forth with his head bowed upon his breast.

The door bell rang and the servant came in with a card.

Mr. Ross glanced at it, read the name with a look of pleased surprise, and said, "Show the gentleman in here."

The next moment the two were shaking hands and greeting each other as old and valued friends.

"I'm very glad to see you, Gordon!" exclaimed Mr. Ross; "but what happy chance brought you here? Are you not residing somewhere in the West?"

"Yes; in St. Louis; and it is not a happy chance, but a painful duty that has brought me to you to-night."

He spoke hurriedly, as if to be done with an unpleasant task, and Mr. Ross's pulses throbbed at the sudden recollection that Larrabee also was a resident of St. Louis.

He turned a quick, inquiring look upon his friend. "Out with it, man! I'm in no mood to wait, whether it be good news or ill."

Gordon glanced toward the door.

Mr. Ross stepped to it and turned the key; then coming back, seated himself close to his friend with the air of one who is ready for anything.

"Phil, my old chum," said Gordon, clapping him affectionately on the shoulder, "I heard the other day in St. Louis, that Larrabee was about to marry a daughter of yours, and I took the first eastern bound train and traveled night and day to get here in time to put a stop to the thing. I hope I'm not too late."

"What do you know of the man?" asked Mr. Ross steadily and looking Gordon full in the eye, but with a paling cheek.

"Know of him? that he made all his money by gambling; that he is a murderer."

The last word was spoken low and close to the listener's ear.

Mr. Ross started back—horrified—deadly pale.

"Gordon! do you know whereof you affirm?" he asked low and huskily.

"I do; I had the account from one who was an eye-witness of the affair. He is dead now, and I do not suppose it would be possible to prove the thing in a court of justice; but nevertheless I assure you it is true.

"It was thirty years ago, on a Mississippi steamer, running between St. Louis and New Orleans, that the deed was done.

"Larrabee, then a professional black-leg, was aboard, plying his trade. My informant, a man whose veracity I could not doubt, was one of a group of bystanders, who saw him (Larrabee) fleece a young man out of several thousand dollars—all he had in the world—then, enraged by some taunting words from his victim, pull out a pistol and shoot him through the heart, just as they sat there on opposite sides of the gaming table; then with his revolver still in his hand, threatening with terrible oaths and curses, to shoot down any man who should attempt to stop him, he rushed on deck, jumped into the river, swam ashore and disappeared in the woods."

"Horrible, horrible!" groaned Mr. Ross, hiding his face in his hands. "And this murderer, this fiend in human form, would have married my daughter!" he cried, starting up in strong excitement. "Why was he suffered to escape? Where is he now?"

"The whole thing passed so quickly, my informant said, that every one seemed stunned, paralyzed with horror and fright till the scoundrel had made good his escape; beside there were several others of the same stamp on board—desperate fellows, probably belonging to the same gang—who were evidently ready to make common cause with the ruffian.

"That part of our country was, you know, in those days, infested with desperadoes and outlaws."

"Yes, yes; but what is to be done now? I shall of course send a note to Larrabee, at his hotel, telling him that all is at an end between him and Gertrude, forbidding him the house, and intimating that the sooner he leaves the vicinity the better. But—Gordon, I can never thank you sufficiently for this kindness; will you add to it by keeping the thing to yourself for the present? I wouldn't for the world have the story get into the papers."

"Certainly, Ross!" returned his friend, grasping his hand in adieu. "I understand how you feel. There is but one person beside ourselves, who knows my errand here, and I can answer for his silence."

"Who is it?"

"Mr. Hogg, a friend of your wife and daughters."

The news brought by Mr. Gordon sent both Gertrude and her mother into violent hysterics, and Mr. Ross and an old nurse who had been in the family for years, had their hands full for the rest of the night. It was a sore wound to the pride of both mother and daughter.

"The scoundrel! the wretch! the villain!" cried Gertrude. "I can never hold up my head again; everybody will be talking about me, and those envious Miss Petitts and their mother will say, 'It's just good enough for her; serves her right for being so proud of the grand match she was going to make.' Oh dear, oh dear! why couldn't that Gordon have staid away and held his tongue!"

"Gertrude!" exclaimed her father, in anger and astonishment, "is this your gratitude to him for saving you from being the wife of a gambler and murderer? You might well be thankful to him and to a Higher Power, for your happy escape."

"Yes, of course," said Lucy. "But what are we to do? the invitations are all out. Oh dear, dear, was there ever such a wretched piece of business! Phil, it's real good in you not to reproach me."

"'Twould be useless now," he sighed, "and I think the reproaches of your own conscience must be sufficient. Not that I would put all the blame on you, though. A full share of it belongs to me."

By morning both ladies had recovered some degree of calmness, but Gertrude obstinately refused to leave her room, or to see any one who might call, even her most intimate friend.

"Tell them I'm sick," she said, "it'll be true enough, for I have an awful headache."

It was to her mother who had been urging her to come down to breakfast, that she was speaking.

"Well, I shall send up a cup of tea," said Mrs. Ross. "But, what is this?" as the maid entered with a note. "It's directed to you, Gertrude."

"From him, I presume," Gertrude said, as the girl went out and closed the door. "Throw it into the fire, mother, or no; I'll send it back unopened."

"It is not his hand," said Mrs. Ross, closely scrutinizing the address.

"Then give it to me, please;" and almost snatching it from her mother's hand, Gertrude tore it open, and glanced hastily over its contents.

"Yes, I'll see him! he'll be here directly; and I must look my best!" she exclaimed, jumping up and beginning to take down her crimps.

"See him? Gertrude, are you mad? Your father will never allow it."

"Mr. Hogg, mother."

"Oh!"

They exchanged glances and smiles. Mrs. Ross hurried down to breakfast, not to keep her husband waiting, and Gertrude presently followed in handsome morning toilet, and in apparently quite gay spirits; a trifle pale, but only enough so to make her interesting, her mother said.

Mr. Ross and Philip, Jr., had already gone away to their place of business, Sophie and the younger boys to school, and only Mrs. Ross and Kate were left, the latter of whom had little to say, but regarded her sister with a sort of contemptuous pity.

Gertrude had scarcely finished her meal, when the door-bell rang, and she was summoned to the drawing-room to receive her visitor.

The wedding came off at the appointed time. There was a change of bridegrooms, that was all; and few could decide whether the invitations had been a ruse, so far as he was concerned—or if that were not so, how the change had been brought about.

In a long letter to Violet Travilla, Kate Ross gave the details of the whole affair.

A strange, sad story it seemed to Vi and her sister. They could not in the least understand how Gertrude could feel or act as she had done, and feared she would find, as Kate expressed it, "even a gold lined sty, but a hard bed to lie in, with no love to soften it."

"Still," they said to each other, "it was better, a thousand times better, than marrying that dreadful Mr. Larrabee."

For Kate had assured them Mr. Hogg was "an honest, honorable man, and not ill-tempered; only an intolerable bore—so stupid and uninteresting."



CHAPTER TWENTY-FIFTH.

"Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." —GAL. vi. 7.

Elsie and her children returned home healthful and happy, with scarce any but pleasing recollections of the months that had just passed.

Not so with Mrs. Conly and Virginia. They seemed soured and disappointed; nothing had gone right with them; their finery was all spoiled, and they were worn out—with the journey they said, but in reality far more by late hours and dissipation of one sort and another.

The flirtation with Captain Brice had not ended in anything serious—except the establishing of a character for coquetry for Virginia—nor had several others which followed in quick succession.

The girl had much ado to conceal her chagrin; she had started out with bright hopes of securing a brilliant match, and now, though not yet twenty, began to be haunted with the terrible, boding fear of old maidenhood.

She confided her trouble to Isadore one day, when a fit of extreme depression had made her unusually communicative.

Isa could scarce forbear smiling, but checked the inclination.

"It is much too soon to despair, Virgy," she said; "but indeed, I do not think the prospect of living single need make one wretched."

"Perhaps not you, who are an heiress; but it's another thing for poor, penniless me."

Isadore acknowledged that that probably did make a difference.

"But," she added, "I hope neither of us will ever be so silly as to marry for money. I think it must be dreadful to live in such close connection with a man you do not love, even if he is rolling in wealth; but suppose he loses his money directly? There you are, tied to him for life without even riches to compensate you for your loss of liberty."

"Dear me, Isa, how tiresome! Where's the use of supposing he's going to lose his money?"

"Because it's something not at all unlikely to happen; riches do take wings and fly away. I do not feel certain that Aunt Delaford's money will ever come to me, or that, if it does, I may not lose it. So I intend to prepare to support myself if it should ever become necessary."

"How?"

"I intend to take up the English branches again, also the higher mathematics, and make myself thorough in them (which I am far from being now; they do not teach them thoroughly at the convent), so that I may be able to command a good position as a teacher.

"And let me advise you to do the same."

"Indeed, I've no fancy for such hard work," sneered Virginia. "I'd rather trust to luck. I'll be pretty sure to be taken care of somehow."

"I should think if any one might feel justified in doing that it would be Cousin Elsie," said Isadore; "but Uncle Horace educated her in a way to make her quite capable of earning her own living, and she is doing the same by every one of her children."

"Such nonsense!" muttered Virginia.

"Such prudence and forethought, I should say," laughed her sister.

A few days after this Isadore was calling at Ion and in the course of conversation Mrs. Travilla remarked, with concern, "Virginia looks really unhappy of late. Is her trouble anything it would be in my power to relieve?"

"No; unless she would listen to good counsel from you. It is really nothing serious; and yet I suppose it seems so to her. I'm almost ashamed to tell you, cousin, but as far as I can learn it is nothing in the world but the fear of old-maidenhood," Isa answered, half laughing.

Elsie smiled.

"Tell her from me that there is plenty of time yet. She is two or three years younger than I was when I married, and," she added with a bright, happy look, "I have never thought I lost anything by waiting."

"I'm sure you didn't, mamma," said Violet, who was present. "But how very odd of Virgy to trouble about that! I'm glad people don't have to marry, because I shall never, never be willing to leave my dear home, and my father and mother. Especially not to live with some stranger."

"I hope it may be some years before you change your mind in regard to that," her mother responded with a loving look.

Elsie was not bringing up her daughters to consider marriage the chief end of woman; she had, indeed, said scarcely anything on the subject till her eldest was of an age to begin to mix a little in general society; then she talked quietly and seriously to them of the duties and responsibilities of the married state and the vast importance of making a wise choice in selecting a partner for life.

In their childhood she had never allowed them to be teased about beaux. She could not prevent their hearing, occasionally, something of the kind, but she did her best to counteract the evil influence, and had succeeded so well in that, and in making home a delight, that her children one and all, shunned the thought of leaving it, and her girls were as easy and free from self-consciousness in the society of gentlemen as in that of ladies; never bold or forward; there was nothing in their manner that could give the slightest encouragement to undue familiarity.

And then both she and their father had so entwined themselves about the hearts of their offspring, that all shared the feeling expressed by Violet, and truly believed that nothing less than death could ever separate them from these beloved parents.

There was a good deal to bring the subject of marriage prominently before their minds just at present, for the event of the winter was the bringing home of a wife by their Uncle Horace, and "Aunt Rosie" was to be married in the ensuing spring.

The approaching Centennial was another topic of absorbing interest.

That they might reap the full benefit of the great Exhibition, they went North earlier than usual, the middle of May finding them in quiet occupancy of a large, handsome, elegantly furnished mansion in the vicinity of the Park.

Here they kept open house, entertaining a large circle of relatives and friends drawn thither, by a desire to see this great world's fair.

The Dalys were with them, husband and wife each in the same capacity as at Ion, which left Mr. and Mrs. Travilla free to come and go as they wished, either with or without their children.

They kept their own carriages and horses and when at home drove almost daily to the Exhibition.

Going there with parents and tutor, and being able to devote so much time to it, the young people gathered a great store of general information.

Poor Molly's inability to walk, shut her out from several of the buildings, but she gave the more time and careful study to those whose contents were brought within her reach by the rolling chairs.

Her cousins gave her glowing descriptions of the treasures of the Art building, Horticultural Hall, Women's Department, etc., and sincerely sympathized with her in her deprivation of the pleasure of examining them for herself.

But Molly was learning submission and contentment with her lot, and would smilingly reply that she considered herself highly favored in being able to see so much, since there were millions of people even in our own land, who could not visit the Exhibition at all.

One morning, early in the season, when as yet the crowd was not very great, the whole family had gone in a body to Machinery Hall to see the Corliss engine.

They were standing near it, silently gazing, when a voice was heard in the rear.

"Ah, ha! ah, ha! um h'm; ah, ha! what think ye o' that now, my lads? is it worth looking at?"

"That it is, sir!" responded a younger voice in manly tones, full of admiration, while at the same instant, Elsie turned quickly round with the exclamation, "Cousin Ronald!"

"Cousin Elsie," he responded, as hand grasped hand in cordial greeting.

"I'm so glad to see you!" she said. "But why did you not let us know you were coming? Did you not receive my invitation?"

"No, I did not, cousin, and thought to give you a surprise. Ah, Travilla, the sight of your pleasant face does one good like a medicine.

"And these bonny lads and lasses; can they be the little bairns of eight years ago? How they have grown and increased in number too?" he said, glancing around the little circle.

He shook hands with each, then introduced his sons, two tall, well built, comely young men, aged respectively twenty and twenty-two, whom he had brought with him over the sea.

Malcom was the name of the eldest, the other he called Hugh.

They had arrived in Philadelphia only the day before, and were putting up at the Continental.

"That will not do at all, Cousin Ronald," Elsie said when told this. "You must all come immediately to us, and make our house your home as long as you stay."

Mr. Travilla seconded her invitation, and after some urging, it was accepted.

It proved an agreeable arrangement for all concerned. "Cousin Ronald" was the same genial companion that he had been eight years before, and the two lads were worthy of their sire, intelligent and well-informed, frank, simple hearted and true.

The young people made acquaintance very rapidly. The Exposition was a theme of great and common interest, discussed at every meal, and on the days when they stayed at home to rest; for all found it necessary to do so occasionally, while some of the ladies and little ones could scarcely endure the fatigue of attending two days in succession.

Then through the months of July and August, they made excursions to various points of interest, spending usually several days at each; sometimes a week or two.

In this way they visited Niagara Falls, Lakes Ontario, George and Champlain, the White Mountains, and different seaside resorts.

At one of these last, they met Lester Leland again. The Travillas had not seen him for nearly a year, but had heard of his welfare through the Lelands of Fairview.

All seemed pleased to renew the old familiar intercourse; an easy matter, as they were staying at the same hotel.

Lester was introduced to the Scotch cousins, as an old friend of the family.

Mr. Lilburn and he exchanged a hearty greeting and chatted together very amicably, but Malcom and Hugh were only distantly polite to the newcomer and eyed him askance, jealous of the favor shown him by their young lady cousins, whose sweet society they would have been glad to monopolize.

But this they soon found was impossible even could they have banished Leland; for Herbert Carrington, Philip Ross, Dick Percival and his friends, and several others soon appeared upon the scene.

Elsie was now an acknowledged young lady; Violet in her own estimation and that of her parents', still a mere child; but her height, her graceful carriage and unaffected ease of manner—which last was the combined result of native refinement and constant association with the highly polished and educated, united to childlike simplicity of character and utter absence of self-consciousness—often led strangers into the mistake of supposing her several years older than she really was.

Her beauty, too, and her genius for music and painting added to her attractiveness, so that altogether, the gentlemen were quite as ready to pay court to her as to her sister, and had she been disposed to receive their attentions, or to push herself forward in the least, her parents would have found it difficult to prevent her entering society earlier than was for her good.

But like her mother before her, Vi was in no haste to assume the duties and responsibilities of womanhood. Only fifteen she was

"Standing with reluctant feet Where the brook and river meet, Womanhood and childhood fleet."

Hugh Lilburn and Herbert Carrington both regarded her with covetous eyes, and both asked permission of her father to pay their addresses, but received the same answer;—that she was too young yet to be approached on that subject.

"Well, Mr. Travilla, if you say that to every one, as no doubt you do, I'm willing to wait," said Herbert going off tolerably contented.

But Hugh, reddening with the sudden recollection that Violet was an heiress, and his portion a very moderate one, stammered out something about hoping he was not mistaken for a fortune hunter, and that he would make no effort to win her until he was in circumstances to do so with propriety.

"My dear fellow," said Mr. Travilla, "do not for a moment imagine that has anything to do with my refusal. I do not care to find rich husbands for my daughters, and were Violet of proper age, should have but one objection to you as a suitor; that you would be likely to carry her far away from us."

"No, no, sir, I wouldn't!" exclaimed the lad warmly. "I like America, and think I shall settle here. And sir, I thank you most heartily for your kind words. But, as I've said, I won't ask again till I can do so with propriety."

Leland, too, admired Violet extremely, and loved her with brotherly affection; but it was Elsie who had won his heart.

But he had never whispered a word of this to her, or to any human creature, for he was both poor and proud, and had firmly resolved not to seek her hand until his art should bring him fame and fortune to lay at her feet.

Similar considerations alone held Malcom Lilburn back, and each was tortured with the fear that the other would prove a successful rival.

Philip Ross, too, was waiting to grow rich, but feared no rival in the meantime; so satisfied was he that no one could be so attractive to Elsie as himself.

"She's waiting for me," he said to his mother, "and she will wait. She's just friendly and kind to those other fellows, but it's plain she doesn't care a pin for any of them."

"I'm not so sure of that, Phil," returned Mrs. Ross; "some one may cut you out. Have you spoken to her yet? Is there a regular engagement between you?"

"Oh, no! but we understand each other; always have since we were mere babies."

Mrs. Ross and her daughters had accompanied Philip to the shore, and it pleased Lucy greatly that they had been able to obtain rooms in the same house with their old friends, the Travillas.

Mr. Hogg was of the party also, and Elsie and Violet had now an opportunity to judge of the happiness of Gertrude's married life.

They were not greatly impressed with it; husband and wife seemed to have few interests in common, and to be rather bored with each other's society.

Mr. Hogg had a fine equipage, and drove out a great deal, sometimes with his wife, sometimes without; both dressed handsomely and spent money lavishly; but he did not look happy, and Gertrude, when off her guard, wore a discontented, care-worn expression.

Mrs. Ross was full of cares and anxieties, and one day she unburdened her heart to her childhood's friend.

They were sitting alone together on the veranda upon which Mrs. Travilla's room opened, waiting for the summons to the tea-table.

"I have no peace of my life, Elsie," Lucy said fretfully; "one can't help sympathizing with one's children, and my girls don't seem happy like yours.

"Kate's lively and pleasant enough in company, but at home she's dull and spiritless; and though Gertrude has made what is considered an excellent match, she doesn't seem to enjoy life; she's easily fretted, and wants change and excitement all the time."

"Perhaps matters may improve with her," Elsie said, longing to comfort Lucy. "Some couples have to learn to accommodate themselves to each other."

"Well, I hope it may be so," Lucy responded, sighing as though the hope were faint indeed.

"And Kate may grow happier, too; dear Lucy, if you could only lead her to Christ, I am sure she would," Elsie went on low and tenderly.

Mrs. Ross shook her head, tears trembling in her eyes.

"How can I? I have not found him myself yet. Ah, Elsie, I wish I'd begun as you did. You have some comfort in your children; I've none in mine.

"That is," she added, hastily correcting herself, "not as much as I ought to have, except in Phil; he's doing well; yet even he's not half so thoughtful and affectionate toward his father and mother as your boys are. But then of course he's of a different disposition."

"Your younger boys seem fine lads," Elsie said; "and Sophie has a winning way."

Lucy looked pleased, then sighed, "They are nice children, but so wilful; and the boys so venturesome. I've no peace when they are out of my sight, lest they should be in some danger."



CHAPTER TWENTY-SIXTH.

"Oh, Lord! methought what pain it was to drown!" —SHAKESPEARE.

Cousin Ronald was a great favorite with his young relatives. Harold and Herbert had long since voted him quite equal, if not superior to Captain Brice as a story-teller; his narratives were fully as interesting, and beside always contained a moral or some useful information.

There were tales of the sea, wild tales of the Highlands and of the Scottish Border; stories of William Wallace, of the Bruce and the Black Douglass, in all of which the children greatly delighted.

Mr. Lilburn's ventriloquial powers were used for their amusement also, and altogether they found him a very entertaining companion.

Rosie holding a shell to her ear one day, was sent into ecstasies of delight, by hearing low, sweet strains of music, apparently coming from the inside of it.

At another time, as she stooped to pick up a dead crab while wandering along the beach, she started back in dismay at hearing it scream out in a shrill, tiny voice, "Don't touch me! I'll pinch you, if you do."

The merry laugh of the boys told her that it was "only Cousin Ronald," but she let the crab alone, keeping at a respectful distance from its claws.

This was on the evening spoken of in our last chapter, and while her mamma and Aunt Lucy were chatting together in the veranda, waiting for the call to tea.

It sounded presently, and Cousin Ronald and the children started on a run for the house, trying who could get there first.

Harold showed himself the fleetest of foot, Herbert and Frank Daly were close at his heels, while Mr. Lilburn, with Rosie in one hand and little Walter in the other, came puffing and blowing not far behind.

"Won't you take us another walk, cousin?" asked Rosie when they came out again after the meal.

"Yes," he said, "this is a very pleasant time to be down on the beach. Come lads," to Harold and Herbert, "will you go along?"

They were only too glad to accept the invitation, and the four sauntered leisurely down to the water's edge, where they strolled along watching the incoming tide.

"I love the sea," said Rosie. "I wish we could take it home with us."

"We have a lake and must be content with that," said Herbert, picking up a stone and sending it far out, to fall with a splash in among the restless waves; "we can't have everything in one place."

"Did you ever see a mermaid, Rosie?" asked Mr. Lilburn.

"No, sir; what is it?"

"They're said to live in the sea, and to be half fish and half woman."

"Ugh! that's dreadful! I wouldn't like to be half of a fish. But I wish I could see one. Are there any in our sea here, Cousin Ronald?"

"They're said to have very long hair," he went on, not noticing her query, "and to come out of the water and sit on the rocks, sometimes, while they comb it out with their fingers and sing."

"Sing! Oh, I'd like to hear 'em! I wish one would come and sit on that big rock 'way out there."

"Look sharp now and see if there is one there. Hark! don't you hear her sing?"

Rosie and the boys stood still, listening intently, and in another moment strains of music seemed to come to them from over the water, from the direction of the rock.

"Oh, I do! I do!" screamed Rosie, in delight. "O, boys can you hear her, too? can you see her?"

"I hear singing," said Harold, smiling, "but I think the rock is bare."

"I hear the music too," remarked Herbert, "but I suppose Cousin Ronald makes it. A mermaid's only a fabled creature."

"Fabled? what's that?"

"Only pretend."

"Ah now, what a pity!"

At that instant a piercing scream seemed to come from the sea out beyond the surf, some yards higher up the coast. "Help! help! I'll drown, I'll drown!"

Instantly Harold was off like a shot, in the direction of the sound, tearing off his coat as he went, while Herbert screaming "somebody's drowning! The life boat! the life boat!" rushed away toward the hotel.

"Lads! lads!" cried Mr. Lilburn, putting himself to his utmost speed to overtake Harold in time to prevent him from plunging into the sea, "are ye mad? are ye daft? There's nobody there, lads; 'twas only Cousin Ronald at his old tricks again."

As he caught up to Harold, the boy's coat and vest lay on the ground, and he was down beside them, tugging at his boots and shouting "Hold on! I'm coming," while a great wave came rolling in and dashed over him, wetting him from head to foot.

"No, ye're not!" cried Mr. Lilburn, laying a tight grasp upon his arm; "there's nobody there; and if there was, what could a bit, frail laddie like you do to rescue him? You'd only be dragged under yourself."

"Nobody there? oh, I'm so glad!" cried Harold with a hearty laugh, as he jumped up, snatched his clothes from the ground and sprang hastily back just in time to escape the next wave. "But you gave us a real scare this time, Cousin Ronald."

"You gave me one," said Mr. Lilburn, joining in the laugh. "I thought you'd be in the sea and may be out of reach of help before I could catch up to you. You took no time to deliberate."

"Deliberate when somebody was drowning? There wouldn't have been a second to lose."

"You'd just have thrown your own life away, lad, if there had been anybody there. Don't you know it's an extremely hazardous thing for a man to attempt to rescue a drowning person? They're so apt to catch, and grip you in a way to deprive you of the power to help yourself and to drag you under with them.

"I honor you for your courage, but I wish, my boy, you'd promise me never to do the like again; at least not till you're grown up and have some strength."

"And leave a fellow-creature to perish!" cried the boy almost indignantly. "O cousin, could you ask me to be so selfish?"

"Not selfish, lad; only prudent. If you want to rescue a drowning man, throw him a rope, or reach him the end of a pole, or do anything else you can without putting yourself within reach of his hands."

Rosie, left behind by all her companions, looked this way and that in fright and perplexity, then ran after Herbert; as that was the direction to take her to her father and mother.

Mr. Travilla and Eddie had started toward the beach to join the others and were the first to hear Herbert's cry.

"Oh, it was Cousin Ronald," said the latter; "nobody goes in bathing at this hour."

"Probably," said his father, "yet—ah, there's the life boat out now and moving toward the spot."

With that they all ran in the same direction and came up to Mr. Lilburn and Harold just as the boy had resumed his coat and the gentleman concluded his exhortation.

They all saw at once that Eddie had been correct in his conjecture.

"Hallo! where's your drowning man?" he called. "Or, was it a woman?"

"Ask Cousin Ronald," said Harold laughing, "he's best acquainted with the person."

"A hoax was it?" asked Mr. Travilla. "Well, I'm glad things are no worse. Run home my son, and change your clothes; you're quite wet."

"I fear I owe you an apology, sir," said Mr. Lilburn; "but the fact is I'd a great desire to try the mettle of the lads, and I believe they're brave fellows, both, and not lacking in that very useful and commendable quality called presence of mind."

"Thank you, sir," Mr. Travilla said, turning upon his boys a glance of fatherly pride that sent a thrill of joy to their young hearts.



CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVENTH.

"Nursed by the virtues she hath been From childhood's hour." —HALLECK.

"Count all th' advantage prosperous vice attains, 'Tis but what virtue flies from and disdains; And grant the bad what happiness they would, One they must want—which is to pass for good." —POPE.

Mrs. Travilla was sitting on the veranda of the hotel, reading a letter her husband had handed her at the tea-table, when Violet came rushing toward her in wild affright.

"Mamma, mamma, something's wrong! something's happened! Herbie just came running up from the beach, calling for the life boat, and papa and Eddie have gone back with him running as fast as they can. Oh, I'm afraid Harold or Rosie has fallen into the water!" she added bursting into hysterical weeping.

Her mother rose hastily, thrusting the letter into her pocket, pale but calm.

"Daughter dear, we will not meet trouble half way. I do not think it could be they; for they are not disobedient or venturesome. But come." And together they hurried toward the beach.

In a moment they perceived that their fears were groundless, for they could see their dear ones coming to meet them.

Violet's tears were changed to laughter as Harold gave a humorous account of "Cousin Ronald's sell," as he called it, and the latter's praise of the boy's bravery and readiness to respond to the cry for help, brought proud, happy smiles to the lips and eyes of both mother and sisters.

Elsie had joined them; Mrs. Ross, too, and a handsome, richly dressed, middle-aged lady, whom she introduced as her friend, Mrs. Faude, from Kentucky.

They, as Lucy afterward told Elsie, had made acquaintance the year before at Saratoga, and were glad to meet again.

Mrs. Faude was much taken with Elsie and her daughters, pleased, indeed, with the whole family, and from that time forward sought their society very frequently.

Elsie found her an entertaining companion, polished in manners, refined, intelligent, highly educated and witty; but a mere worldling, caring for the pleasures and rewards of this life only.

She was a wealthy widow with but one child, a grown up son, of whom she talked a great deal.

"Clarence Augustus" was evidently, in his mother's eyes, the perfection of manly beauty and grace, a great genius, and indeed everything that could be desired.

"He is still single," she one day said significantly to the younger Elsie, "though I know plenty of lovely girls, desirable matches in every way, who would have been delighted with the offer of his hand. Yes, my dear, I am quite sure of it," she added, seeing a slight smile of incredulity on the young girl's face; "only wait till you have seen him. He will be here to-morrow."

Elsie was quite willing to wait, and no dreams of Mrs. Faude's idol disturbed either her sleeping or waking hours.

Clarence Augustus made his appearance duly the next day at the dinner table; a really handsome man, if regular features and fine coloring be all that is necessary to constitute good looks; but his face wore an expression of self-satisfaction and contempt for others, which was not attractive to our Ion friends.

But it soon became evident to them, that to most of the other ladies in the house, he was an object of admiration.

His mother seized an early opportunity to introduce him to the Misses Travilla, coming upon them as they stood talking together upon the veranda.

But they merely bowed and withdrew, having, fortunately, an engagement to drive, at that hour, with their parents and cousins, along the beach.

"What do you think of him?" asked Violet, when they had reached their room.

"He has good features, and a polished address."

"Yes; but do you like his looks?"

"No; I do not desire his acquaintance."

"Nor I; he's not the sort that papa and grandpa would wish us to know."

"No; so let us keep out of his way."

"But without seeming to do so?"

"Oh, yes; as far as we can. We don't wish to hurt his feelings or his mother's."

They carried out their plan of avoidance, and so skilfully that neither mother nor son was quite sure it was intended. In fact, it was difficult for them to believe that any girl could wish to shun the attentions of a young man so attractive in every way as was Clarence Augustus Faude.

"I should like you to marry one of those girls," the mother said to her son, chatting alone with him in her own room; "you could not do better, for they are beautiful, highly educated and accomplished, and will have large fortunes."

"Which?" he added sententiously, and with a smile that seemed to say, he was conscious that he had only to take his choice.

"I don't care; there's hardly a pin to choose between them."

"Just my opinion. Well, I think I shall go for the brown eyes; as you tell me the other is not yet out, and I hear the father refuses, on that plea, to allow any one to pay his addresses—though, between you and me, Mrs. F., I fancy he might make an exception in my favor."

"It would not surprise me, Clarence Augustus," she responded, regarding him with a proud, fond smile, "I fancy he must be aware that there's no better match in the Union. But you have no time to lose, they may leave here any day."

"True, but what's to hinder us from following? However, I will take your advice, and lose no time. Let me borrow your writing desk for a moment. I'll ask her to drive with me this morning, and while we're out secure her company for the boating party that's to come off to-morrow."

A few moments later the younger Elsie came into her mother's room with a note written in a manly hand, on delicately perfumed and tinted French paper.

"What shall I do about it, mamma?" she asked. "Will you answer it for me. Of course you know I do not wish to accept."

"I will, daughter," Mrs. Travilla said, "though if he were such a man as I could receive into my family on friendly terms, I should prefer to have you answer it yourself."

Mr. Faude's very handsome carriage and horses were at the door, a liveried servant holding the reins, while the gentleman himself waited in the parlor for the coming of the young lady, who, he doubted not, would be well pleased to accept his invitation. He was not kept waiting long; had, indeed, scarcely seated himself and taken up the morning paper, when Mr. Travilla's Ben appeared with a note, presented it in grave silence, and with a respectful bow, withdrew.

"Hold on! It may require an answer," Mr. Faude called after him.

"No, sah; Mrs. Travilla say dere's no answer," returned Ben, looking back for an instant from the doorway, then vanishing through it.

"All right!" muttered Clarence Augustus, opening the missive and glancing over the contents; an angry flush suffusing his face, as he read.

"What is it? She hasn't declined, surely?" Mrs. Faude asked in an undertone, close at his side.

"Just that; it's from the mother; thanks me for the invitation, but respectfully declines; not even vouchsafing a shadow of an excuse. What can it mean?"

"I don't know, I'm sure. But if they knew you had serious intentions—it might make a difference."

"Possibly. I'll soon bring it to the proof."

He rose and went out in search of Mr. Travilla, found him alone, and at once asked his permission to pay his addresses to Elsie.

The request was courteously, but decidedly and firmly refused.

"May I ask why?" queried the young man in anger and astonishment.

"Because, sir, it would not be agreeable to either my daughter herself, to her mother or to me."

"Then I must say, sir, that you are all three hard to please. But pray, sir, what is the objection?"

"Do you insist upon knowing?"

"I do, sir."

"Then let me answer your query with another. Would you pay your addresses to a young woman—however wealthy, beautiful or high-born—whose moral character was not better, whose life had been no purer than your own?"

"Of course not!" exclaimed Faude, coloring violently, "but who expects——"

"I do, sir; I expect the husbands of my daughters to be as pure and stainless as my sons' wives."

"I'm as good as the rest, sir. You'll not find one young fellow in five hundred who has sowed fewer wild oats than I."

"I fear that may be true enough, but it does not alter my decision," returned Mr. Travilla, intimating by a bow and a slight wave of the hand, that he considered the interview at an end.

Faude withdrew in anger, but with an intensified desire to secure the coveted prize; the more difficult of acquisition, the more desirable it seemed.

He persuaded his mother to become his advocate with Mrs. Travilla.

She at first flatly refused, but at length yielded to his entreaties, and undertook the difficult, and to her haughty spirit, humiliating mission.

Requesting a private interview with Elsie, she told her of the wishes of Clarence Augustus, and plead his cause with all the eloquence of which she was mistress.

"My boy would make your daughter a good husband," she said, "and indeed, I think any woman might feel highly honored by the offer of his hand. I do not understand how it is, Mrs. Travilla, that a lady of your sense fails to see that."

"I appreciate your feelings, my dear Mrs. Faude," said Elsie gently. "I am a mother too, you know, and have sons of my own."

"Yes, and what possible objection can you have to mine? Excuse my saying it, but the one your husband advanced, seems to me simply absurd."

"Nevertheless it is the only one; except that our child's heart is not enlisted; but either alone would be insuperable."

"She hardly knows him yet, and could not fail to learn to love him if she did. Be persuaded my dear Mrs. Travilla, to give him a chance to try. It is never well to be hasty, especially in declining a good offer, and this, let me tell you, is such an one as you will not meet with every day, lovely and attractive in every way, as your daughters are.

"Ours is an old, aristocratic family; none better to be found in our state, or in the Union; we have wealth too, and I flatter myself that Clarence Augustus is as handsome a man as you would find anywhere; amiable in disposition also, and would, as I said before, make an excellent husband. Will you not undertake his cause?"

"Believe me, it is painful to me to refuse, but I could not, in conscience."

"But why not?"

"Simply for the reason my husband gave. We both consider moral purity more essential than anything else in those we admit to even friendly intercourse with our children; especially our daughters."

"My son is not a bad man, Mrs. Travilla, very far from it!" Mrs. Faude exclaimed, in the tone of one who considers herself grossly insulted.

"Not, I am sure, as the world looks upon these things," said Elsie, "but the Bible is our standard; and guided by its teachings we desire above all things else, purity of heart and life in those who seek the friendship of our children; and very especially in those who are to become their partners for life, and the future fathers or mothers of their offspring, should it please God to give them any."

"That is certainly looking far ahead," returned Mrs. Faude, with a polite sneer.

"Not farther than is our duty, since after marriage it is too late to consider, to any profit, what kind of parent our already irrevocably chosen partner for life will probably make."

"Well, well, every one to her taste!" said Mrs. Faude, rising to go, "but had I a daughter, I should infinitely prefer for her husband, such a young man as my Clarence Augustus to such as that poor artist who is so attentive to Miss Travilla.

"Good-morning. I am sure I may trust you not to blazon this matter abroad?"

"You certainly may, Mrs. Faude," Elsie returned with sweet and gentle courtesy, "and believe me, it has been very painful to me to speak words that have given pain to you."

"What is it, little wife?" Mr. Travilla asked, coming in a moment after Mrs. Faude's departure and finding Elsie alone and seemingly sunk in a painful reverie.

She repeated what had just passed, adding, "I am very glad now that we decided to return to Philadelphia to-morrow. I could see that Mrs. Faude was deeply offended, and it would be unpleasant to both of us to remain longer in the same house; but as she and her son go with the boating party to-day, and we leave early in the morning, we are not likely to encounter each other again."

"Yes, it is all for the best," he said. "But I wish I could have shielded you from this trial."



CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHTH.

"The brave man is not he who feels no fear, For that were stupid and irrational; But he whose soul its fear subdues, And bravely dares the danger nature shrinks from." —BAILLIE.

The Travillas returned home to Ion in November and took up with new zest the old and loved routine of study, work and play.

Elsie was no longer a schoolgirl, but still devoted some hours of each day to the cultivation of her mind and the keeping up of her accomplishments; also pursued her art studies with renewed ardor under the tuition of Lester Leland, who, his health requiring during the winter, a warmer climate than that of his northern home, had come at the urgent request of his relatives, to spend the season at Fairview.

Elsie had a number of gentlemen friends, some of whom she highly esteemed, but Lester's society was preferred to that of any other.

Malcom Lilburn had grown very jealous of Lester, and found it difficult indeed to refrain from telling his love, but had gone away without breathing a word of it to any one.

Not to Scotland, however; he and his father were traveling through the West, visiting the principal points of interest, and had partly promised to take Ion in their way as they returned; which would probably not be before spring.

Mr. and Mrs. Travilla were not exempt from the cares and trials incident to our fallen state, but no happier parents could be found; they were already reaping as they had sowed; indeed it seemed to them that they had been reaping all the way along, so sweet was the return of affection from the little clinging, helpless ones, the care of whom had been no less a pleasure than a sacred, God-given duty; but with each passing year the harvest grew richer and more abundant; the eldest three had become very companionable and the intercourse between the two Elsies was more like that of sisters, than of mother and daughter; the young girl loved her mother's society above that of any other of her sex, and "mamma" was still, as she had ever been, her most intimate friend and confidante.

And was it not wise? who so tender, faithful and prudent a guide and counsellor as the mother to whom she was dearer than life.

It was the same with the others also—both sons and daughters; and they were scarcely less open with their wisely indulgent father.

Life was not at all sunshine; the children had their faults which would occasionally show themselves; but the parents, conscious of their own imperfections, were patient and forbearing. They were sometimes tried with sickness too, but it was borne with cheerful resignation; and no one could say what the future held in store for any of them; but God reigned, the God whom they had chosen as their portion, and their inheritance forever, and they left all with him, striving to obey the command to be without carefulness.

The winter passed quietly, almost without incident save one.

Eddie had been spending the afternoon with his cousins at Pinegrove (some of them were lads near his own age, and fine, intelligent, good boys), had stayed to tea and was riding home alone, except that he had an attendant in the person of a young negro boy, who rode some yards in his rear.

It was already dark when they started, but the stars shone down from a clear sky, although a keen, cold wind blew from the north.

Part of the way lay through a wood, in the midst of which stood a hut occupied by a family by the name of Smith, belonging to the class known as "poor whites"; shiftless, lazy, and consequently very poor indeed, they were. Many efforts had been put forth in their behalf, by the families of the Oaks and Ion, and by others also, but thus far with small results, for it is no easy matter to effectually help those who will not try to help themselves.

As Eddie entered the wood, he thought he smelt smoke, and presently a sudden turn in the road brought into view the dwelling of the Smiths all wrapped in flames.

Putting spurs to his horse, at the sight, Eddie flew along the road shouting at the top of his lungs, "Fire! fire! fire!" Jim, his attendant, following his example.

But there was no one within hearing, save the Smiths themselves.

The head of the family, half stupefied with rum, stood leaning against the fence, his hands in the pockets of his ragged coat, a pipe in his mouth, gazing in a dazed sort of way upon the work of destruction; while the wife and children ran hither and thither, screaming and wringing their hands with never a thought of an attempt to extinguish the flames or save any of their few poor possessions.

"Sam Smith," shouted Eddie, reining in his horse close to the individual addressed, "why don't you drop that old pipe, take your hands out of your pockets, and go to work to put out the fire!"

"Eh!" cried Sam, turning slowly round so as to face his interlocutor, "why—I—I—I couldn't do nothin'; it's bound to go—that house is; don't you see how the wind's a blowin'? Well, 'tain't much 'count nohow, and I wouldn't care, on'y she says she's left the baby in there; so she does."

"The baby?" and almost before the words had left his lips, Eddie had cleared the rough rail fence at a bound, and was rushing toward the burning house.

How the flames crackled and roared, seeming like demons greedily devouring all that came in their way.

"That horse blanket, Jim! bring it here quick, quick!" he shouted back to his servant. Then to the half-crazed woman, "Where is your baby? where did you leave it?"

"In there, in there on the bed, oh, oh, it's burnin' all up! I forgot it, an' I couldn't get back."

Eddie made one step backward, and ran his eye rapidly over the burning pile, calmly taking in the situation, considering whether the chances of success were sufficient to warrant the awful risk.

It was the work of an instant to do that, snatch the blanket from Jim, wrap it around his person, and plunge in among the flames, smoke, and falling firebrands, regardless of the boy's frightened protest, "Oh, Mr. Eddie don't; you'll be killed! you'll burn all up!"

He had looked into the cabin but a day or two before, and remembered in which corner stood the rude bed of the family, their only one. He groped his way to it, half suffocated by the heat and smoke, and in momentary dread of the falling in of the roof, reached it at last, and feeling about among the scanty coverings, laid hold of the child, which was either insensible or sound asleep.

Taking it in his young, strong arms, holding it underneath the blanket, which he drew closer about his person, he rushed back again, stepping from the door just as the roof fell in with a crash.

The woman snatched her babe, and its gallant rescuer fell fainting to the ground. A falling beam had grazed his head and struck him a heavy blow upon the shoulder.

With a cry Jim sprang forward, dragged his young master out of reach of the flying sparks, the overpowering heat, and suffocating smoke, and dropping, blubbering, down by his side, tried to loosen his cravat.

"Fetch some wattah!" he called, "quick dar, you ongrateful white trash! you gwine let young Marse Eddie die, when he done gone saved yo' baby from burnin' up?"

"Take the gourd and run to the spring Celestia Ann; quick, quick as you kin go," said the mother hugging up her rescued child, and wiping a tear from her eye with the corner of a very dirty apron.

"There ain't none," answered the child, "we uns ain't got nothin' left; it's all burnt up."

But a keen, fresh air was already reviving our hero.

"Take me home, Jim," he said faintly. "Stop that wagon," as one was heard rumbling down the road, still at some distance.

"Hollo dar! jes stop an' take a passenger aboard!" shouted Jim, springing to his feet and rushing into the road, waving his cap above his head.

"Hollo!" shouted back the other, "dat you Jim Yates? Burnin' down Smith's house. Dat's a plenepotentiary crime, dat is, sah!"

"Oh go 'long, you fool, Pete White!" retorted Jim, as the other drew rein close at his side, "you bet you don't catch dis niggah a burnin' no houses. Spect ole Smith set de fire goin' hisself wid dat ole pipe o' his'n!"

"An' it's clar burnt down to de ground," observed Pete, gazing with eager interest at the smouldering ruins. "What you s'pose dey's gwine to do for sheltah for dem po' chillen?"

"Dat ain't no concern ob mine," returned Jim indifferently. "Ise consarned 'bout getting young Marse Ed'ard safe home, an' don't care nuffin' for all de white trash in de country. Jes hitch yo' hoss an' help me lift him into de wagon."

"What's de mattah?" queried Pete, leisurely dismounting and slowly hitching his horse to a tree.

"Oh you hurry up, you ole darky!" returned Jim impatiently. "Mr. Ed'ard's lyin' dar in de cold; 'catch his diff if you's gwine to be all night 'bout gittin' to him."

"Ise got de rheumatiz, chile; ole folks can't turn roun' like young uns," returned Pete quickening his movements somewhat as he clambered over the fence and followed Jim to the spot where Eddie lay.

"Hurt, sah?" he asked.

"A little; I fear I can hardly sit my horse—for this faintness," Eddie answered, low and feebly. "Can you put me into your wagon and drive me to Ion?"

"Yes, sah; wid de greatest pleasah in life, sah. Mr. Travilla and de Ion ladies ben berry kind to me an' my ole woman and de chillen."

Mrs. Smith and her dirty ragged little troop had gathered round, still crying over their fright and their losses, curious too about the young gentleman who had saved the baby and was lying there on the ground so helpless.

"Are ye much hurt, Mr. Edward?" asked the woman. "Oh yer mother'll never forgive me fur lettin' ye risk yer life that away!"

"I don't think the injury is serious, Mrs. Smith, at least I hope not; and you were not to blame," he answered, "so make yourself easy. Now, Pete and Jim, give me an arm, each of you."

They helped him into the wagon and laid him down, putting the scorched horse blanket under his head for a pillow.

"Now drive a little carefully, Pete," he said, suppressing a groan, "and look out for the ruts, I'd rather not be jolted.

"And you, Sim, ride on ahead and lead Prince. I want you to get in before us, ask for my father and tell him I've had an accident; am not seriously hurt, but want my mother prepared. She must not be alarmed by seeing me brought in unexpectedly, in this state."

His orders were obeyed, Jim reached Ion some ten minutes ahead of the wagon and gave due warning of its approach. He met his master in the avenue and told his story in a tolerably straightforward manner.

"Where is Mr. Edward now?" asked Mr. Travilla.

"De wagon's jes down de road dar a piece, sah; be here in 'bout five minutes, sah."

"Then off for the doctor, Jim, as fast as you can go. Here, give me Prince's bridle. Now don't let the grass grow under your horse's feet. Either Dr. Barton, or Dr. Arthur; it doesn't matter which; only get him here speedily." And vaulting into the saddle Mr. Travilla rode back to the house, dismounted, throwing the bridle to Solon, and went in.

Opening the door of the drawing-room where the family were gathered:

"Wife," he said cheerfully, "will you please step here a moment?"

She came at once and followed him down the hall, asking, "What is it, Edward?" for her heart misgave her that something was wrong.

"Not much, I hope, dearest," he said, turning and taking her in his arms. "Our boy, Eddie, has done a brave deed and suffered some injury by it, but nothing serious, I trust. He will be here in a moment."

He felt her cling to him with a convulsive grasp, he heard her quick coming breath, the whispered words, "Oh, my son! Dear Lord, help!" then, as the rumble of the wagon wheels was heard nearing the door, she put her hand in his, calm and quiet, and went forth with him to meet their wounded child.

His father helped him to alight, and supported him up the veranda steps.

"Don't be alarmed, mother, I'm not badly hurt," he said, but staggered as he spoke, and would have fallen but for his father's sustaining arm, and by the light from the open door, she saw his eyes close and a deadly pallor overspread his face.

"He's fainting!" she exclaimed, springing to his other side. "Oh, my boy, this is no trifle!"

Servants were already crowding about them, and Eddie was quickly borne to his room, laid upon the bed, and restoratives administered.

"Fire!" his mother said with a start and shudder, pointing to his singed locks, "oh, where has the child been?"

Her husband told her in a few words.

"And he has saved a life!" she cried with tears of mingled joy and grief, proud of her brave son, though her tender mother heart ached for his suffering. "Thank God for that, if—if he has not sacrificed his own."

The door opened and Arthur Conly came in.

Consciousness was returning to the lad, and looking up at his cousin as he bent over him, "Tell mother," he murmured, "that I'm not much hurt."

"I have to find that out, first," said Arthur. "Do you feel any burns, bruises? whereabouts are you injured, do you think?"

"Something—a falling beam, I suppose, grazed my head and struck me on the shoulder; I think, too, that my hands and face are scorched."

"Yes, your face is; and your hands—scorched? why they are badly burned! And your collar bone's broken. That's all, I believe; enough to satisfy you, I hope?"

"Quite," Eddie returned with a faint smile. "Don't cry, mother dear, you see it's nothing but what can be made right in a few days or weeks."

"Yes," she said, kissing him and smiling through her tears; "and oh, let us thank God that it is no worse!"

Eddie's adventure created quite a stir in the family and among outside relatives and friends, he was dubbed the hero of the hour, and attentions were lavished upon him without stint.

He bore his honors meekly. "Mother," he said privately to her, "I don't deserve all these encomiums and they make me ashamed; for I am not really brave. In fact I'm afraid I'm an arrant coward; for do you know I was afraid to rush in among those flames; but I could not bear the thought of leaving that poor baby to burn up, and you had taught me that it was right and noble to risk my own life to save another's."

"That was not cowardice, my dear boy," she said, her eyes shining, "but the truest courage. I think you deserve far more credit for bravery, than you would if you had rushed in impulsively without a thought of the real danger you were encountering."

"Praise is very sweet from the lips of those I love; especially my mother's," he responded, with a glad smile. "And what a nurse you are, mother mine! it pays to be ill when one can be so tended."

"That is when one is not very seriously ill, I suppose?" she said playfully, stroking his hair. "By the way, it will take longer to restore these damaged locks, than to repair any of the other injuries caused by your escapade."

"Never mind," he said, "they'll grow again in time. What has become of the Smiths?"

"Your father has found temporary shelter for them at the quarter, and is rebuilding their hut."

"I knew he would; it is just like him—always so kind, so generous."



CHAPTER TWENTY-NINTH.

"Oh, gentle Romeo, If thou dost love, pronounce it faithfully. Or if thou think'st I'm too quickly won, I'll frown and be perverse, and say thee nay, So thou wilt woo; but else not for the world." —SHAKESPEARE.

One lovely morning in the ensuing spring, the younger Elsie wandered out alone into the grounds, and sauntering aimlessly along with a book in her hand, at length found herself standing on the shore of the lakelet.

It was a lovely spot, for the limpid waters reflected grassy banks sprinkled here and there with the wild violet, and shaded by beautiful trees.

A gentle breeze just ruffled the glassy surface of the pond, and rustic seats invited to rest. It seemed just the place and time for a reverie, and Elsie, with scarce a glance about her, sat down to that enjoyment. It was only of late that she had formed the habit, but it was growing upon her.

She sat for some time buried in thought, her cheek upon her hand, her eyes upon the ground, and smiles and blushes chasing each other over the fair sweet face.

The dip of an oar, followed instantly by a discordant laugh and a shrill voice asking, "What are you sittin' there for so still and quiet? Wouldn't you like to get in here with me!" caused her to start and spring to her feet with a cry of dismay.

About an hour before a little, oddly dressed woman, with grey hair hanging over her shoulders, a large doll in one arm and a sun umbrella in the other hand, might have been seen stealing along the road that led from Roselands to Ion, keeping close to the hedge that separated it from the fields, and now and then glancing over her shoulder as if fearing or expecting pursuit.

She kept up a constant gabble, now talking to herself, now to the doll, hugging and kissing it with a great show of affection.

"Got away safe this time, didn't we, Grizzy? And we're not going back in a hurry, are we, dear? We've had enough of being penned up in that old house this ever so long; and now we'll have a day in the woods, a picnic all to ourselves. Hark! what was that? did I hear wheels?" pausing a moment to listen. "No, they haven't found us out yet, Grizzy, so we'll walk on."

Reaching the gate leading into the avenue at Ion, she stood a moment peering in between the bars.

"Seems to me I've been here before; must have been a good while ago. Guess I won't go up to the house; they might catch me and send me back. But let us go in, Griselda, and look about. Yonder's a garden full of flowers. We'll pick what we want and nobody'll know it."

Putting down her umbrella and pushing the gate open just far enough to enable her to slip through, she stole cautiously in, crossed the avenue and the lawn, and entered the garden unobserved.

She wandered here and there about it, plucking remorselessly whatever seized her fancy, till she had an immense bouquet of the choicest blossoms.

At length leaving the garden she made a circuit through the shrubbery, and finally came out upon the shore of the little lake.

"Oh, this is nice!" she said. "Did I ever see this before? It's cool and shady here; we'll sit down and rest ourselves under one of these trees, Grizzy." Then catching sight of a pretty row-boat, moored to the shore, "No, we'll jump into this boat and take a ride!" and springing nimbly in, she laid the doll down on one of the seats, the bouquet beside it, saying, "I'm tired carrying you, Griselda, so you just lie there and rest," then quickly loosing the little craft from its moorings, and taking up the oars, pushed off into the deep water.

She laid down the oars presently, and amused herself with the flowers, picking them to pieces and scattering the petals in the water, leaning over the side of the boat, talking to the fishes, and bidding them eat what she gave them, "for it was good, much better and daintier than bread crumbs."

The breeze came from the direction to take her farther from the shore, and soon wafted her out to the middle of the lake, but she went on with her new diversion, taking no note of her whereabouts.

It was just about this time that Elsie reached the spot and sat down to her day dreams.

Enna, for she it was who occupied the boat, did not see her niece at first, but after a little, growing weary of her sport with the flowers, she threw them from her, took up an oar again, and glancing toward the land, as she dipped it in the water, her eye fell upon the graceful white-robed figure seated there underneath the trees, and she instantly called out to her as we have related.

Elsie was much alarmed; concerned for the safety of the poor lunatic. There was no knowing what mad freak might seize her at any moment; no one was within call, and that being the only boat there, there was no way of reaching her until she should return to the shore of her own accord; if indeed, she was capable of managing the boat so as to reach the land if she desired to do so.

Elsie did not lose her presence of mind, and she thought very rapidly. The breeze was wafting the boat farther from her, but nearer to the opposite shore; if let alone it would arrive there in the course of time, and Enna she perceived did not know how to propel it with the oars.

"Will you come?" she was asking again, "will you take a ride in this pretty boat with me?"

"I'll run round to the other side," Elsie called in reply. "I wouldn't bother with those great heavy oars, if I were you; just let them lie in the bottom of the boat, while you sit still and rest, and the wind will carry it to the land."

"All right!" Enna answered, laying them down. "Now you hurry up."

"I will," Elsie said, starting upon a run for the spot where she thought that the boat would be most likely to reach the shore.

She reached it first, and the boat being still several yards away floating upon very deep water, she watched it a moment anxiously.

Enna was sitting still in the bottom, hugging the doll to her bosom and singing a lullaby to it; but suddenly as Elsie stood waiting and watching in trembling suspense, she sprang up, tossed the doll from her, leaped over the side of the boat, and disappeared beneath the water.

Elsie tore off her sash, tied a pebble to one end, and as Enna rose to the surface, spluttering and struggling, threw it to her crying, "Catch hold and I will try to pull you out."

"Oh, don't! you will but sacrifice your own life!" cried a manly voice, in tones of almost agonized entreaty, and Lester Leland came dashing down the bank.

It was too late; Enna seized the ribbon with a jerk that threw Elsie also into the water, and they were struggling there together, both in imminent danger of drowning.

It was but an instant before Lester was there also; death with Elsie would be far preferable to life without her, and he would save or perish with her.

It was near being the last; would have been had not Bruno come to his aid, but with the good help of the faithful dog, he at length succeeded in rescuing both ladies, dragging them up the bank and laying them on the grass, both in a state of insensibility.

"Go to the house, Bruno, go and bring help," he said pantingly, for he was well-nigh overcome by his exertions, and the dog bounded away in the direction of the house.

"Lord, grant it may come speedily," ejaculated the young man, kneeling beside the apparently lifeless form of her he loved so well. "Oh, my darling, have those sweet eyes closed forever?" he cried in anguish, wiping the water from her face, and chafing her cold hands in his. "Elsie my love, my life, my all! oh! I would have died to save you!"

Enna had been missed almost immediately, and Calhoun, Arthur and several servants at once set out in different directions in search of her.

Arthur and Pomp got upon the right scent, followed her to Ion, and joined by Mr. Travilla, soon traced her through the garden and shrubbery down to the lake, coming upon the scene of the catastrophe, or rather of the rescue, but a moment after Bruno left.

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