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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

"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

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

"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

"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

"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."


"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."

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

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'

"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

"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

"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

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

"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."


"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."

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

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

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.

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Online LibraryMartha FinleyElsie's children → online text (page 15 of 17)