Martha Finley.

Elsie's children online

. (page 14 of 17)
Online LibraryMartha FinleyElsie's children → online text (page 14 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

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

"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

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

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

"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

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

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

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

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

"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

"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

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."


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

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

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

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

"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

"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.


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

"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."

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

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

"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

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

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

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

"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

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

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 14 16 17

Online LibraryMartha FinleyElsie's children → online text (page 14 of 17)