Martha Finley.

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Saviour is. Mamma, please read about the beautiful city."

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

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

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

Violet nodded assent: she could not speak.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was in the early morning that the end came.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isa had been with Molly for the last half hour.

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

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

Isadore seemed strangely embarrassed and sat for some moments without

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

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

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

Isa looked very thoughtful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And did they?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs. Conly colored and looked annoyed.

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

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

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

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

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

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Online LibraryMartha FinleyElsie's children → online text (page 11 of 17)