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keeping their promises," followed their example.

"Come, sit down, my dears," Miss Fisk said, turning to Violet and her
brothers; "the tempest seems to have nearly subsided and I hope will not
resume its violence."

Herbie was clinging to Vi in a frightened way, sobbing "I want mamma!" and
Harold's eyes too were full of tears. It took coaxing and soothing to
restore their equanimity and then the breakfast proceeded, everybody
seeming to grow brighter and more good humored with the satisfying of the
appetite for food.

Vi was a merry little creature, a veritable bit of sunshine wherever she
went, and under the influence of her bright looks and ways, sweet rippling
laughter and amusing speeches, the whole party at length grew quite merry:
especially after Miss Fisk had announced that there were to be no lessons
that day but instead a picnic in the woods.




CHAPTER SIXTH.

"By sports like these are all their cares beguil'd,
The sports of children satisfy the child."
- GOLDSMITH.



"Good! good!" cried the children. "Oh, delightful! But where are we
going?"

"To the grove adjacent to the schoolhouse," replied the governess. "We
could not find a lovelier spot, and its proximity to the mansion renders
it most eligible."

"'Proximity, eligible, adjacent;' what do you mean by those words, Miss
Fisk?" asked Gertrude, a little contemptuously.

"I desire you to consult one of our standard lexicographers. You will then
be far more likely to retain the definitions in your memory," returned the
governess, ignoring the tone of her pupil.

Gertrude shrugged her shoulders, with impatience, muttering audibly, "I
wish you'd talk like other people, and not like a dictionary."

"You quarrel with my phraseology, because you do not understand it,"
observed Miss Fisk, nonchalantly, "which is very irrational, since were I
never to employ, in conversing with you, words beyond your comprehension,
you would lose the advantage of being induced to increase your stock of
information by a search for their meaning."

"If that's what you do it for, you may as well give it up at once,"
returned Gertrude, "for I don't care enough about your meaning to take
half that trouble."

"Miss Gertrude, permit me to remark that you are lacking in respect to
your instructress," returned Miss Fisk, reddening.

"Do you mean that it is convenient, because of being so near this house,
Miss Fisk?" asked Eddie respectfully.

"Yes, convenient and safe; on which account both Mrs. Travilla and Mrs.
Ross stipulated that our picnic for to-day should be held there."

"Well, let's go right away," said Gertrude, jumping up and pushing back
her chair.

"Immediately, Miss Ross," corrected the governess. "Right away is
exceedingly inelegant."

"How tiresome!" muttered Gertrude. Then aloud to Violet, as the governess
left the room, "I say, Vi, does your mamma reprove you for saying right
away?"

"I don't remember that I ever said it. Mamma - - "

"Said it?" interrupted Gertrude, with a twinkle of fun in her eye, "why
don't you say 'used the expression'? my dear," mimicking Miss Fisk's
tones, "you should never condescend to make use of a sixpenny word, when a
fifty cent one would express your sentiments fully as correctly, or
perchance even more so."

Vi could not help joining in the laugh with which Gertrude concluded,
though feeling rather ashamed of herself, as she seemed to see the grave
look of disapproval mamma would have given her if present.

"Oh, Gertrude," she said, "we oughtn't to - - "

"Yes, we ought," returned Gertrude, as they ran out of the room together;
"mamma always laughs when I take off old finikin Fisk. She wouldn't have
me talk like her for the world. Would your mamma wish you to?"

"No, but she never says - - "

"Right away? No, of course not; she says 'immediately' or 'at once' or
something that sounds nice. Well, so will I when I'm grown up."

Miss Fisk was on the porch taking an observation of the weather, the
children crowding about her, and clamoring to be allowed to set out
immediately for the grove. The day was fine, and there seemed every
indication that it would continue so.

"Yes," said the governess, "you may request your maids to see that you are
suitably arrayed for the occasion, and as promptly as possible, and we
will repair to the appointed place; taking our departure hence in
precisely thirty minutes."

The children were ready and impatiently waiting, when Miss Fisk came down
from her room, "suitably arrayed for the occasion."

They set out at once, the whole party in high good humor, the boys
carrying their balls, marbles, and fishing rods, the girls their dolls and
a set of toy dishes, to play tea-party with. Miss Fisk had a bit of fancy
work and a book, and two servants brought up the rear with camp-chairs, an
afghan and rugs to make a couch for the little ones when they should grow
sleepy. Luncheon was in course of preparation by the cook, and was to be
sent by the time the young picnickers were likely to feel an appetite for
it.

The boys took the lead, bounding on some distance ahead, with Ranger in
their midst. They were in no mood just then for sitting still, so
depositing their fishing tackle in the schoolhouse, went roving about in
search of more active amusement than that of catching trout.

"That'll be good fun when we want to sit down and rest," said Eddie.

"Oh, I see a bird's nest, and I'm going to have it!" exclaimed Archie,
beginning to climb a tree.

"Oh don't," cried Harold, "mamma says it's very cruel and wicked to rob
the poor little birds."

"Pooh! you're a baby!" answered Archie, half breathlessly, pulling himself
up higher and yet higher. "There, I'll have it in a minute," reaching out
his hand to lay hold of the branch that held the nest.

Ranger was barking loudly at the foot of the tree, Harry and Eddie were
calling to Archie to "Take care!" and he hardly knew how it was himself,
but he missed the branch, lost his hold of the tree, and fell, lighting
upon Ranger's back.

The boy gave a scream, the dog a yelp, and the rest of the party came
running to ask what was the matter.

Archie picked himself up, looking quite crestfallen, and the fright of the
others was turned to laughter, as they discovered that he had received no
damage beyond a slight scratch on his hand and a rent in his jacket.

Miss Fisk, making him promise not to repeat the experiment, went back to
her seat under the trees and the book she had brought from the house for
her own enjoyment.

The morning passed without any further incident worth recording, the
children amusing themselves with various quiet plays, the girls keeping
house, each under her own particular tree, and exchanging visits; the boys
catching trout, which they sent to the house to be cooked for dinner. They
wanted to make a fire and cook them themselves, but Miss Fisk wisely
forbade it.

She would have had the meal served in the schoolhouse, but yielded to the
clamor for an out-door repast. Several desks were brought out into the
shade of the trees, a dainty table-cloth spread over them and the party
presently sat down to a delightful collation, to which they brought keen
appetites.

Ranger had disappeared. They missed him as they were leaving the table.

"Where can he have gone?" Harry was saying, when Vi cried out, "Oh yonder
he is! and he has a dear little bird in his mouth! Oh you wicked, cruel
dog!" And running to him she tried to take it from him.

Be dropped it and snapped at her, Eddie jerking her back just in time to
save her from his teeth, while Archie, who was very fond of Vi, struck the
dog a blow with a stick, crying furiously, "You just do that again, sir,
and I'll kill you!"

Ranger then flew at him, but the boy avoided the attack by jumping nimbly
behind a tree.

The other children were screaming with fright, and a catastrophe appeared
imminent, but one of the maids came running with some tempting morsels for
Ranger which appeased his wrath, and the danger was averted.

Ranger's attention being absorbed with the satisfying of his appetite, the
children now looked about for the bird. It was not quite dead, but soon
breathed its last in Vi's lap with her tears dropping fast upon it.

"Oh don't, Vi!" said Archie, "I can't bear to see you feel so sorry. And
the bird isn't being hurt now, you know; 'twon't ever be hurt any more;
will it, Ed?"

"No," said Harry, "we might as well let the dog have it."

"No, no!" said Eddie, "it would just encourage him to catch another."

"So it would," said Gertrude, "let's make a grand funeral and bury it at
the foot of a tree. If we only knew now which one it used to live on."

The motion was about to be carried by acclamation, but Vi entered a
decided protest. "No, no, I want to keep it."

"But you can't, Vi," remonstrated Eddie, "dead things have to be buried,
you know."

"Not the skin and feathers, Eddie; they do stuff them sometimes and I'll
ask mamma to let me have this one done."

"Oh what's the use?" expostulated Gertrude; "it's only a common robin."

"But I love it; the poor dear little thing! and mamma will let me, I know
she will," returned Vi, wiping away her tears as though comforted by the
very thought.

The other children wandered off to their play leaving her sitting where
she was, on a fallen tree, fondling the bird; but Archie soon came back
and seated himself by her side.

"Such a pity; isn't it?" he said, "I hate that Ranger, don't you, Vi?"

"No-o I hope not, Archie," she answered doubtfully: "folks kill birds to
eat them and may be 'tain't any worse for dogs," she added, with a fresh
burst of tears. "Poor little birdie; and may be there are some young ones
in the nest that have no mamma now to feed or care for them."

"That old Ranger! and he snapped at you too. Here he comes again. I'll
kill him!" cried the boy, with vehemence. "Oh no, I know what I'll do!
Here Ranger! here Ranger!" and starting up he rushed away in a direction
to take him farther from the schoolhouse and the rest of his party.

He had spied in the distance a farmer's boy, a lad of fourteen, with whom
he had some slight acquaintance. "Hallo, Jared Bates!" he shouted.

"Well, what's wantin'?" and Jared stood still, drawing the lash of his
carter's whip slowly between his fingers. "Hurry up now, for I've got to
go back to my team. Whose dog's that?" as Ranger came running up and
saluted him with a sharp, "Bow, wow, wow!"

"Ours," said Archie, "and I'm mad at him 'cause he killed a bird and tried
to bite Vi Travilla, when she went to take it from him."

"Like enough," returned Jared, grinning. "But what about it?"

"I thought may be you'd like to have him."

"So I would, what'll you sell him for?"

"Ten cents."

"I hain't got but two."

"Haven't you, Jared? truly, now?"

"No, nary red, 'cept them," and diving into his pantaloons' pocket, Jared
produced a handful of odds and ends - a broken knife, a plug of tobacco,
some rusty nails, a bit of twine, etc., - from which he picked out two
nickels. "There, them's um, and they's all I got in the world," he said
gravely, passing them over to Archie.

"Well, it's very cheap," observed the latter, pocketing the cash, "but you
can have him. Good-bye," and away he ran back to the spot where he had
left Vi.

"You're a green 'un!" laughed Jared, looking after him; then whistling to
the dog to follow, he went on his way.




CHAPTER SEVENTH.

"But this I say, he which soweth sparingly shall reap also
sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also
bountifully."

- 2 COR. ix. 6.


All the children, Gertrude excepted, were gathered on the front porch, Vi
with the dead bird in her hands, when the carriage drove up with the
returning travelers.

There was a glad chorus of welcome, and most of the young faces were
bright and happy. Elsie's troop had nothing but smiles, caresses and
loving words for her, and tender, anxious inquiries about "Sister Elsie;
if the tooth were out?" "if the dentist hurt her much?"

"It was hard to bear," she said, "but the doctor was very kind, and tried
not to hurt her. And, oh, mamma had made her such a lovely present, for
being brave and willing to have her tooth out." And she took a beautiful
little gold watch and chain from her bosom, and held them up to their
admiring gaze.

"Oh, I'm so glad, so glad! Dear mamma, how good of you!" cried Vi, without
a touch of envy embracing first her sister, and then her mother.

Eddie and the two younger ones seemed equally pleased, and "sister Elsie"
allowed each in turn to closely inspect, her treasure.

In the meantime, Mr. and Mrs. Ross had been busy bestowing caresses and
small gifts upon their children, who received them with noisy glee mingled
with some reproaches because they had been left at home.

"Come, come, no complaints," said their father; "I think you have fared
well; - a holiday, a picnic, and these pretty presents. Where's Gertrude?"

"Sure enough, where is she?" asked Lucy, looking round from one to
another.

"She's mad because you did not take her along," remarked Harry, "she says
you didn't keep your promise."

"Dear me, I'd forgotten all about it!" exclaimed Mrs. Ross. "I should have
taken her though, but there wasn't time to get her up and dressed."

"Gertrude! Gertrude!" called Mr. Ross, in tones of authority, "Gertrude,
come here and show yourself."

At that the child came slowly out from the hall - whence she had been
watching the scene through the crack behind the door - looking red and
angry.

"What's the matter with you?" asked her father, with some displeasure in
his tones.

"Nothing, I'm not crying."

"Nor pouting either, I suppose? What's it all about."

"Mamma promised to take me along the next time she went to the city."

"Perhaps she will the next time."

"But this was the next time, because she promised it when she went before
and took Kate."

"Well, such promises are always conditional; she took no one this time
(but me), and there was a good reason why."

Gertrude smiled slightly, then laughed outright, as she glanced up into
his face, saying, "I thought it was you, papa, that took mamma."

"Oh! now, you begin to look something like the little girl I'm used to
hearing called Gertrude Ross; the one I like to buy presents for; the
other one that was here just a moment ago, gets nothing bought with my
money."

"See here," said her mother, and with a cry of delight Gertrude sprang
forward and caught from her hand a watch and chain very nearly the
counterparts of those little Elsie was displaying to her sister and
brothers.

"Oh, joy, joy!" she cried, dancing up and down, "thank you, mamma! Thank
you, papa! I'd rather have this than a dozen visits to New York. See,
Kate, isn't it a beauty?"

"Yes," returned her sister sullenly; "but I don't see why you should have
a watch and I only this ring; you're hardly more than a year older than I
am and not a bit better girl"

"Come, come, don't pout, Kitty," said her father, stroking her hair;
"your time will come. Harry's and Archie's too, and even little Sophie's,"
he added, catching the household pet up in his arms, to give her a hug and
kiss.

It was not until after tea that Mr. Ross missed his dog. "Where's Ranger?"
he asked of one of the servants.

"Dade, sir, I don't know," she answered. "Sure he went to the picnic wid
the rest of the childer, an' it's meself as hasn't seen him since."

"Harry," stepping out on the porch where the children, except the very
little ones, who had already been sent up to bed, were sitting listlessly
about, too weary with the day's sports to care for anymore active
amusement, "where's Ranger?"

"Ranger?" cried Harry with a start, "why sure enough, I haven't seen him
since he came home! and I don't think he came with us either."

"No, he didn't," said several young voices.

"I wonder where he can be," pursued Harry. "Shall I go and look for him,
papa?"

Mr. Ross was about to say yes, when his eye fell upon the face of his
youngest son who, he noticed, looked very red and somewhat troubled. "What
do you know about it, Archie?" he asked; "can you tell us what has become
of Ranger?"

"He behaved very bad indeed, papa," stammered the boy; "he killed a dear
little bird and tried to bite Vi, and me too - and I sold him."

The truth was out and Archie heaved a sigh of relief.

"Sold him?" repeated his father in a tone of mingled surprise and
displeasure.

"Yes, sir: to Jared Bates, for two cents. Here they are: I s'pose they
belong to you," said the little fellow tugging at his pocket.

"For two cents!" exclaimed Mr. Ross laughing in spite of himself. "You'll
never grow rich, my boy, making such bargains as that. But see here," he
added, growing grave again, "whose dog was it?"

"I - I thought it was ours, papa."

"Ours? Yours to play with, but only mine to sell or give away. You'll have
to go to Jared to-morrow, return his two cents, and tell him the dog is
mine, and you sold what did not belong to you."

"Oh where's my bird?" cried Violet, reminded of it by this little episode.
"I laid it down to look at Elsie's watch, and oh it's gone! Mamma, mamma,
I'm so sorry!"

"I am too, dear, for your sake," the mother said, putting an arm about her
and kissing the wet cheek, for the tears had begun to flow again. "Was it
the bird Ranger killed?"

"Yes, mamma, I was going to ask you to get it stuffed for me."

"Some cat has got it, no doubt," said Mr. Ross. "But don't cry: it
couldn't hurt it, you know, after it was dead."

"If it only had a heaven to go to," sobbed Vi

"Perhaps it has," said the gentleman kindly. "I really don't think,"
turning to Mrs. Travilla, "that the Bible says anything to the contrary;
it seems to me to simply leave the matter in doubt."

"I know," she answered thoughtfully, "that it is the generally accepted
belief that there is no hereafter for the lower animals; yet it has
occurred to me, too, that the Bible does not positively assert it; and
some of the poor creatures have such a suffering life in this world that
it makes my heart ache to think there is no other for them"

"Papa," asked Archie, "don't you think Ranger deserved to be sold for
killing that bird and trying to bite Vi?"

"That's a question you should have propounded before selling him, that and
another; 'May I sell him.'"

"I wish you'd let Phelim go and buy him back," remarked the boy, looking
very uncomfortable at the thought of having to do the errand himself.

"No, sir," returned the father decidedly, "the mischief you have done you
must undo yourself. Ah, Harry, go and ask if any letters came to-day."

"I asked," said Gertrude. "There was just one; from Phil," and she drew it
from her pocket and handed it to her father.

"What does he say?" Mrs. Ross inquired when he had glanced over it.

"Not much, except that he's to be here to-morrow, and wants the carriage
sent to the depot for him," he answered, handing it to her.

"Good!" said Gertrude, with much satisfaction. "We always have more fun
when Phil's at home."

"Except when he picks a quarrel with you or some of us," remarked Harry.

"For shame, Hal!" said his mother. "The quarrels, if there are any, are as
likely to be begun by you, as any one else."

Lucy was proud and fond of her first-born, and always ready to shield him
from blame. He was in his mother's eyes as the king, who could do no
wrong, but to others a spoiled child, a wilful, headstrong, domineering
boy.

Yet he was not without his good qualities, brave, frank, affectionate, and
generous to a fault, many hearts besides those of his doting parents were
drawn to him in sincere affection; Elsie's among the rest; yet she dreaded
exposing her little sons to Phil's influence; Edward especially as nearer
Phil's age, and because, though much improved by good training, his
natural disposition was very similar. But she had not seen Philip for two
years, and hoped he might have changed for the better.

It seemed so at first. He was a bright, handsome youth, and came home in
fine spirits, and with a manner full of affection for parents, brothers
and sisters. She did not wonder at Lucy's fond pride in her eldest son.

"Phil," said his mother, following him into his room that night, "you have
made a good impression, and I'm very anxious you shouldn't spoil it; so do
try to keep on your good behavior while the Travillas stay."

"I intend to, Mrs. Ross," he returned, with a laugh. Elsie, little Elsie's
been my little lady love since the first time my eyes lighted on her, and
I know that if I want to secure the prize, I've got to keep on the right
side of her father and mother."

Lucy laughed. "You are beginning early, Phil," she said. "I advise you not
to say a word of your hopes in their hearing, for ten years to come."

"Trust me for managing the thing, ma," he returned, nodding his head
wisely. "But do you s'pose now, they'd be so outrageously unreasonable as
to expect a fellow to be quite perfect?" he queried, striking a match and
lighting a cigar.

"Phil! Phil! throw that away!" she said, trying to snatch it from him.

He sprang nimbly aside, "No, you don't, ma! Why shouldn't I smoke as well
as my father? Ministers smoke too, and lots of good people."

"But you're too young to begin yet, and I know your Aunt Elsie would be
horrified. She'd think you a very fast boy and hurry away with her
children, lest they should be contaminated by your bad example."

"Well," he answered, puffing away, "I'll not let her or them know I ever
indulge. I'll only smoke up here and at night, and the smell will be all
off my breath by morning."

"I wish you'd give it up entirely. Where did you ever learn it?"

"Comes natural; guess I inherited the taste. But nearly all the fellows at
school do it - on the sly."

"Ah, Phil, I'm afraid you're a sad fellow!" Lucy said, shaking her head
reprovingly; but he could see the smile shining in her fond, admiring
eyes, and lurking about the corners of her mouth.

"Oh, come now, ma, I'm not so bad; not the worst fellow in the world. I
wouldn't do a mean thing."

"No, of course not," she said, kissing him good-night, and leaving him
with a parting, "Don't forget to say your prayers, Phil."

Mr. and Mrs. Ross were not Christian parents; careful and solicitous about
the temporal welfare of their children, they gave little thought to their
spiritual needs. Lucy taught them, in their infancy, to say their prayers
before lying down to rest at night, as they grew older sent them to
Sunday-school, took them to church on pleasant Sabbath mornings, when it
was convenient, and she felt inclined to go herself, and provided each
one with a copy of the Bible.

This was about the extent of the religious training they received; and it
was strongly counteracted by the worldly atmosphere of their home, the
worldly example set them by their parents, and the worldly maxims and
precepts constantly instilled into their young minds.

From these, they learned to look upon the riches, honors and pleasures of
earth as the things to be most earnestly coveted, most worthy of untiring
efforts to secure.

Life at the Crags was a strange puzzle to the Ion children: no blessing
asked at the table, no gathering of the family morning or evening for
prayer or praise or the reading of God's word.

"Mamma, what does it mean?" they asked; "why doesn't Uncle Ross do as papa
does?"

Elsie scarce knew how to answer them. "Don't let us talk about it, dears,"
she said: "but whatever others may do, let us serve God ourselves and seek
his favor above everything else; for 'in his favor is life' and his loving
kindness is better than life."




CHAPTER EIGHTH.

"To each his sufferings: all are men
Condemn'd alike to groan;
The tender for another's pain,
The unfeeling for his own."
- GRAY.


The weather was delightful: because of Phil's return the children were
excused altogether from lessons and nearly every day was taken up with
picnics, riding, driving and boating excursions up and down the river.

They were never allowed to go alone on the water or behind any horse but
"Old Nan," an old slow moving creature that Phil said "could not be
persuaded or forced out of a quiet even trot that was little better than a
walk, for five consecutive minutes."

The mothers were generally of the party; - Lily continuing so much better
that Elsie could leave her, without anxiety, in the faithful care of her
old mammy - and always one or two trusty servants were taken along.


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