Martha Finley.

Elsie's children online

. (page 16 of 17)
Online LibraryMartha FinleyElsie's children → online text (page 16 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


"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.

"Why, what is this?" exclaimed Mr. Travilla in alarm, "is it Elsie? can
she have been in the water? Oh, my child, my darling!"

Instantly he was down upon the grass by her side, assisting Lester's
efforts to restore her to consciousness.

For a moment she engrossed the attention of all, to the utter exclusion
from their thoughts of poor Enna, for whom none of them entertained any
great amount of affection.

"She lives! her heart beats! she will soon recover!" Arthur said
presently, "see, a faint color is coming into her cheek. Run, Pomp, bring
blankets and more help; they must be carried at once to the house."

He turned to his aunt, leaving Mr. Travilla and Lester to attend to Elsie.

Enna seemed gone; he could not be sure that life was not extinct. Perhaps
it were better so, but he would not give up till every possible effort had
been made to restore her.

Both ladies were speedily conveyed to the house, Elsie, already conscious,
committed to the care of her mother and Aunt Chloe, while Arthur, Dr.
Barton and others, used every exertion for Enna's resuscitation. They were
at length successful in fanning to a flame the feeble spark of life that
yet remained, but fever supervened, and for weeks afterward she was very
ill.

Elsie kept her bed for a day, then took her place in the family again,
looking quite herself except a slight paleness. No; a close observer might
have detected another change; a sweet glad light in the beautiful brown
eyes that was not there before; full of peaceful content and quiet
happiness as her young life had been.

Lester's words of passionate love had reached the ear that seemed closed
to all earthly sounds; they were heard as in a dream, but afterward
recalled with a full apprehension of their reality and of all they meant
to her and to him.

Months ago she had read the same sweet story in his eyes, but how sweeter
far it was to have heard it from his lips.

She had sometimes wondered that he held his peace so long, and again had
doubted the language of his looks, but now those doubts were set at rest,
and their next interview was anticipated with a strange flutter of the
heart, a longing for, yet half shrinking from the words he might have to
speak.

But the day passed and he did not come; another and another, and no word
from him. How strange! he was still her preceptor in her art studies; did
he not know that she was well enough to resume them? If not, was it not
his place to inquire?

Perhaps he was ill. Oh, had he risked his health, perhaps his life in
saving hers? She did not ask; her lips refused to speak his name, and
would nobody tell her?

At last she overheard her father saying to Eddie, "What has become of
Lester Leland? It strikes me as a little ungallant that he has not been in
to inquire after the health of your aunt and sister."

"He has gone away," Eddie answered, "he left the morning after the
accident."

"Gone away," echoed Elsie's sinking heart. "Gone away, and so suddenly!
what could it mean?" She stole away to her own room to indulge, for a
brief space, in the luxury of tears, then, with a woman's instinctive
pride, carefully removed their traces, and rejoined the family with a face
all wreathed in smiles.




CHAPTER THIRTIETH.

"Love is not to be reasoned down or lost,
In high ambition, or a thirst for greatness;
'Tis second life, it grows into the soul,
Warms ev'ry vein, and beats in ev'ry pulse;
I feel it here; my resolution melts."
- ADDISON.


Enna lay at the point of death for weeks. Mrs. Travilla was her devoted
nurse, scarcely leaving her day or night, and only snatching a few hours
of rest occasionally, on a couch in an adjoining room whence she could be
summoned at a moment's notice.

Mr. Travilla at length remonstrated, "My darling, this is too much, you
are risking your own life and health, which are far more valuable than
hers."

"O Edward," she answered, the tears shining in her eyes, "I must save her
if I can. I am praying, praying that reason may come back and her life be
spared till she has learned to know him, whom to know aright is life
eternal."

"My precious, unselfish little wife!" he said, embracing her with emotion,
"I believe your petition will be granted; that the Master will give you
this soul for your hire, saying to you as to one of old, 'According to
your faith be it unto you.'

"But, dearest," he added, "you must allow others to share your labor,
others upon whom she certainly has a nearer claim. Where is Mrs. Conly?"

"Aunt Louise says she has no talent for nursing," Elsie answered with a
half smile, "and that Prilla, mammy and Dinah are quite capable and I am
very foolish to take the work off their hands."

"And I am partly of her opinion," he responded playfully; then more
seriously, "will you not, for my sake and for your children's, spare
yourself a little."

"And for your father's," added Mr. Dinsmore, whose quiet step as he
entered the room, they had not heard.

Elsie turned to him with both hands extended, a smile on her lips, a tear
in her eye, "My dear father, how are you?"

"Quite well, daughter," he said, taking the hands and kissing the rich red
lips, as beautiful and as sweet now, as in her childhood or youth, "but
troubled and anxious about you. Are you determined to be quite obstinate
in this thing?"

"No," she said, "I hope not; but what is it that you and my husband would
have me do?"

"Take your regular rest at night," answered the one, the other adding,
"And go out for a little air and exercise every day."

Arthur, coming in at that moment, from his morning visit to his patient,
who lay in the next room, joined his entreaties to theirs, and upon his
assurance that Enna was improving, Elsie consented to do as they desired.

Still the greater part of her time was spent at Enna's bedside, and her
family saw but little of her.

This was a trial to them all; but especially to the eldest, who was
longing for "mamma's" dear society; she fully appreciated Molly's and
Eddie's companionship, dearly loved that of her father, and esteemed Vi's
as very sweet, but no one could fill her mother's place.

Probably not even to her would she have unburdened her heart, she could
scarce bear to look into it herself, but the dear mother's very presence,
though she might only sit in silence by her side, would be as balm to her
troubled spirit.

She forced herself to be cheerful when with the others, and to take an
interest in what interested them, but when left alone would drop her book
or work and fall into a reverie, or wander out into the grounds, choosing
the most quiet and secluded parts; often the shady banks of the lakelet,
where she and Lester had passed many an hour together in days gone by.

She had gone there one morning, leaving the others at home busied with
their lessons. Seated on a rustic bench, her hands folded in her lap, her
eyes on the ground and a book lying unheeded in the grass at her feet, she
was startled by a sound as of some heavy body falling from a height and
crashing through the branches of a thick clump of trees on the other side
of the lake.

She sprang up and stood looking and listening with a palpitating heart.
She could see that a large branch had broken from a tall tree, and lay
upon the ground and - yes, something else lay beside or on it, half
concealed from her view by the green leaves and twigs; and - did she hear a
groan?

Perhaps it was only fancy, but it might be that some one was lying there
in pain and needing assistance.

Instantly she flew toward the spot, her heart beating wildly; she drew
near, started back and caught at a young sapling for support; yes, there
lay a motionless form among the fallen branches, that of a man, a
gentleman, as she discerned by what she could see of his clothing; her
heart told her the rest.

Another moment and she was kneeling at his side, gazing with unutterable
anguish into the still white face.

"He is dead, the fall has killed him." She had no hope of anything else at
the moment; there seemed no possibility of life in that rigid form and
death-like face; and she made no effort to give assistance or to call for
it. She was like one turned to stone by the sudden crushing blow. She
loved and she had lost - that was all she knew.

But at length this stony grief gave place to a sharper anguish, a low cry
burst from her lips, and hot scalding tears fell upon his face.

They brought him back to consciousness, and he heard her bitter sighs and
moans; he knew she thought him dead and mourned as for one who was very
dear.

He was in terrible pain, for he had fallen with his leg bent under him and
it was badly broken; but a thrill of joy shot through his whole frame. For
a moment more he was able to control himself and remain perfectly still,
then his eyelids quivered, and a groan burst from him.

At the sound Elsie started to her feet, then bending over him, "You're
hurt, Lester," she said, unconsciously addressing him for the first time
by his Christian name; "what can I do for you?"

"Have me carried to Fairview," he said faintly; "my leg is broken and I
cannot rise or help myself."

"Oh, what can I do," she cried, "how can I leave you alone in such pain?
Ah!" as steps were heard approaching, "here is grandpa coming up in search
of me."

She ran to meet him and told him what had happened.

He seemed much concerned. "Solon is here with the carriage," he said. "I
was going to ask your company for a drive, but we will have him take
Leland to Fairview first. Strange what could have taken him into that
tree!"

That broken limb kept Lester Leland on his back for six long weeks.

His aunt nursed him with the utmost kindness, but could not refrain from
teasing him about his accident, asking what took him into the tree, and
how he came to fall, till at last, in sheer desperation, he told her the
whole story of his love, his hopelessness on account of his poverty, his
determination not to go back to Ion to be thanked by Elsie and her parents
for saving her life, his inability to go or stay far away from her; and
finally owned that he had climbed the tree simply that he might be able to
watch her, himself unseen.

"Well, I must say you are a sensible young man!" laughed Mrs. Leland; "but
it was very unromantic to be so heavy as to break the limb and fall."

"True enough!" he said, half-laughing, half-sighing, while a deep flush
suffused his face.

"Well, what are you going to do next?"

"Go off to - Italy, I suppose."

"What for?"

"To try to make fame and money to lay at her feet."

"That is all very well, but I think - - "

"Well?"

"It just struck me that I was about to give unasked advice, which is
seldom relished by the recipient."

"Please go on. I should like to have it whether I make use of it or not."

"Well, I think the honest, straightforward, and therefore best course,
would be to seek an interview with the parents of the young lady, tell
them frankly your feelings toward her, your hopes and purposes, and leave
it with them to say whether you shall go without speaking to her."

"They will take me for a fortune-hunter, I fear," he said, the color
mounting to his very hair.

"I think not; but at all events, I should risk it. I do not pretend to
know Elsie's feelings, but if she cares for you at all, it would be
treating her very badly indeed, to go away without letting her know yours;
unless her parents forbid it.

"There, I've said my say, and will not mention the subject again till you
do, but leave you to consider my advice at your leisure."

Lester did so during the next week, which was the last of the six of
enforced quietude, and the more he pondered it, the more convinced was he
of the soundness of his aunt's advice, and at length he fully resolved to
follow it.

Mr. Travilla had called frequently at Fairview, since his accident, always
inquiring for him, sometimes coming up to his room, at others merely
leaving kind messages from himself, wife and family, or some dainty to
tempt the appetite of the invalid. Eddie had been there, too, on similar
errands; but there was never a word from her whose lovely image was ever
present to his imagination.

* * * * *

Enna was recovering; was now able to sit up and to walk about the room.
There was partial restoration of reason also. Elsie's prayer had been
granted, and though still feeble in intellect, Enna had sense enough to
comprehend the plan of salvation, and seemed to have entered into the
kingdom as a little child. She was gentle, patient and submissive; very
different, indeed, from the Enna of old. Elsie rejoiced over her with joy
akin to that of the angels "over one sinner that repenteth."

* * * * *

Elsie's children were full of content and happiness in having mamma again
at leisure to bestow upon them her wonted care and attention; her husband
also, in that he was no longer deprived of the large share of her sweet
society, which for weeks past had been bestowed upon Enna.

"Let us have a quiet walk together, little wife," he said to her one
lovely summer evening, as she joined him in the veranda on coming down
from seeing her little ones safe in their nest; "suppose we call on the
Lelands. Lester, I hear, is talking of going North soon, and I believe
contemplates a trip to Europe."

"And I have never seen him yet to thank him for saving our darling's life;
and Enna's too. Yes; let us go."

Lester and his aunt were alone in the drawing-room at Fairview, when their
visitors were announced.

There seemed a slight air of embarrassment about the young man at the
moment of their entrance; but it was quickly dispelled by the kindly
warmth of their greeting.

The four chatted together for some time on indifferent topics; then Mrs.
Lester found some excuse for leaving the room, and Mrs. Travilla seized
the opportunity to pour out her thanks to Elsie's rescuer from a watery
grave.

This made a favorable opening for Lester, and modestly disclaiming any
right to credit for what he had done, he frankly told the parents all that
was in his heart toward their daughter, why he had refrained from speaking
before, and his purpose not to seek to win her until he could bring fame
and fortune to lay at her feet.

He began in almost painful confusion, but something in the faces of his
listeners reassured him; for they expressed neither surprise nor
displeasure, though tears were trembling in the soft brown eyes of the
mother.

Lester had concluded, and for a moment there was silence, then Mr.
Travilla said - a slight huskiness in his voice, "Young man, I like your
straightforward dealing; but do you know the worth of the prize you
covet?"

"I know, sir, that her price is above rubies, and that I am not worthy of
her."

"Well, Mr. Leland, we will let her be the judge of that," the father
answered. "Shall we not, little wife?" turning to Elsie with a look that
had in it all the admiring homage of the lover, as well as the tender
devotion of the husband.

"Yes," she sighed, seeming already to feel the pang of parting with her
child.

"Do you mean that I may speak now?" Lester asked, half-incredulous of his
happiness.

"Yes," Mr. Travilla said; "though not willing to spare our child yet, we
would not have you part in doubt of each other's feelings. And," he added
with a kindly smile, "if you have won her heart, the want of wealth is not
much against you. 'Worth makes the man.'"

They walked home together - Elsie and her husband - sauntering along arm in
arm, by the silvery moonlight, like a pair of lovers.

There was something very lover-like in the gaze he bent upon the sweet,
fair face at his side, almost sad in its quietness.

"What is it, little wife?" he asked.

"Ah, Edward, how can we spare her - our darling, our first-born?"

"Perhaps we shall not be called upon to do so; he may not have won her
heart."

She shook her head with a faint smile.

"She has tried to hide it - dear innocent child! but I know the symptoms; I
have not forgotten." And she looked up into his face, blushing and happy
as in the days when he had wooed and won his bride.

"Yes, dearest; what a little while ago it seems! Ah, those were gladsome
days to us; were they not?"

"Gladsome? Ah, yes! their memory is sweet to this hour. Yet I do not sigh
for their return; I would not bring them back; a deeper, calmer
blessedness is mine. My dear husband,

"'I bless thee for the noble heart,
The tender and the true,
Where mine hath found the happiest rest
That e'er fond woman's knew;
I bless thee, faithful friend and guide,
For my own, my treasur'd share,
In the mournful secrets of thy soul,
In thy sorrow and thy care.'"

"Thank you, my darling," he said, lifting her hand to his lips, his eyes
shining. "Yes;

"We have lived and loved together,
Through many changing years,
We have shared each other's sorrows,
And we've wept each other's tears.

"Let us hope the future
As the past has been, may be,
I'll share with thee thy sorrows,
And thou my joys with me."


THE END


THE MERRY LYNN SERIES

By HARRIET PYNE GROVE

Cloth Bound. Jackets in Colors.

* * * * *

The charm of school and camp life, out-door sports and European travel is
found in these winning tales of Merilyn and her friends at boarding school
and college. These realistic stories of the everyday life, the fun, frolic
and special adventures of the Beechwood girls will be enjoyed by all girls
of high school age.

* * * * *


MERILYN ENTERS BEECHWOLD
MERILYN AT CAMP MEENAHGA
MERILYN TESTS LOYALTY
MERILYN'S NEW ADVENTURE
MERILYN FORRESTER, CO-ED.
THE "MERRY LYNN" MINE

* * * * *

A.L. BURT COMPANY, _Publishers_

114-120 EAST 23rd STREET NEW YORK

[Illustration]

=The Ann Sterling Series=

By HARRIET PYNE GROVE

Stories of Ranch Life and Adventure. For Girls 12 to 16 Years.

Handsome Cloth Binding with Attractive Jackets in Color


ANN STERLING
THE COURAGE OF ANN
ANN AND THE JOLLY SIX
ANN CROSSES A SECRET TRAIL
ANN'S SEARCH REWARDED
ANN'S AMBITIONS

For sale by all booksellers, or sent on receipt of price by the Publishers


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 16

Online LibraryMartha FinleyElsie's children → online text (page 16 of 17)