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One day Philip got permission to take old Nan and the phaeton and drive
out with the two older girls, Gertrude and Elsie.

They were gone several hours and on their return, while still some miles
from home were overtaken by a heavy shower, from which they took refuge in
a small log-house standing a few yards back from the road.

It was a rude structure built in a wild spot among the rocks and trees,
and evidently the abode of pinching poverty; but everything was clean and
neat, and the occupants, an elderly woman reclining in a high-backed
wooden rocking-chair with her feet propped up on a rude bench, and a young
girl who sat sewing by a window overlooking the road, wore an air of
refinement, and spoke English more correctly and with a purer accent than
sometimes is heard in the abodes of wealth and fashion.

The door stood wide open and the moment Philip drew rein, the girl at the
window called to them to come in out of the wet, and directed the lad to
shelter his horse and phaeton underneath a shed at the side of the house.

Gertrude ran lightly in with a laugh and jest, Elsie following close at
her heels.

The girl rose and setting out two unpainted wooden chairs, invited them to
be seated, remarking as she resumed her work, that the shower had come up
very suddenly, but she hoped they were not wet.

"Not enough to hurt us," said Gertrude.

"Hardly at all, thank you," I said Elsie. "I hope our mammas will not be
alarmed about us, Gerty."

"I don't think they need be so long as there's no thunder and lightning,"
answered Gertrude. "Ah, see how it is pouring over yonder on the mountain,

The pale face of the woman in the rocking-chair, evidently an invalid, had
grown still paler and her features worked with emotion.

"Child! child!" she cried, fixing her wild eyes on Elsie, "who - who are

"They're the young ladies from the Crags, mother," said the girl

"I know that, Sally," she answered peevishly, "but one's a visitor, and
the other one called her Elsie, she's just the age and very image
of - child, what is your family name?"

"Travilla, madam," the little girl replied, with a look of surprise.

"Oh, you're her daughter; yes, of course I might have known it. And so she
married him, her father's friend and so many years older."

The words were spoken as if to herself and she finished with a deep drawn

This woman had loved Travilla - all unsuspected by him, for he was not a
conceited man - and there had been a time when she would have almost given
her hopes of heaven for a return of her affection.

"Is it my mother you mean? did you know her when she was a little girl?"
asked Elsie, rising and drawing near the woman's chair.

"Yes; if she was Elsie Dinsmore, and lived at Roselands - how many years
ago? let me see; it was a good many; long before I was married to John

"That was mamma's name and that was where she lived; with her grandpa,
while her papa was away in Europe so many years," returned the little
Elsie; then asked with eager interest, "But how did you happen to know
her? did you live near Roselands?"

"I lived there; but I was a person of no consequence; only a poor
governess," remarked the woman in a bitter tone; an expression of angry
discontent settling down upon her features.

"Are you Miss Day?" asked Elsie, retreating a step or two with a look as
if she had seen a serpent.

Her mother had seldom mentioned Miss Day to her, but from her Aunts
Adelaide and Lora she had heard of her many acts of cruelty and injustice
to the little motherless girl committed to her care.

"I was Miss Day; I'm Mrs. Gibson now. I was a little hard on your mother
sometimes, as I see you've been told; but I'd a great deal to bear; for
they were a proud, haughty family - those Dinsmores. I was not treated as
one of themselves, but as a sort of upper servant, though a lady by
birth, breeding and education," the woman remarked, her tone growing more
and more bitter as she proceeded.

"But was it right? was it just and generous to vent your anger upon a poor
little innocent girl who had no mother and no father there to defend her?"
asked the child, her soft eyes rilling with tears.

"Well maybe not; but it's the way people generally do. Your mother was a
good little thing, provokingly good sometimes; pretty too, and heiress,
they said, to an immense fortune. Is she rich still? or did she lose it
all by the war?"

"She did not lose it all, I know," said Elsie, "but how rich she is I do
not know; mamma and papa seldom talk of any but the true riches."

"Just like her, for all the world!" muttered the woman. Then aloud and
sneeringly, "Pray what do you mean by the true riches?"

"Those which can never be taken from us; treasure laid up in heaven where
neither moth nor rust doth corrupt and thieves break not through to

The sweet child voice ceased and silence reigned in the room for a moment,
while the splashing of the rain upon the roof could be distinctly heard.

Mrs. Gibson was the first to speak again. "Well I'd like to have that
kind, but I'd like wonderfully well to try the other a while first."

Elsie looked at the thin, sallow face with its hollow cheeks and sunken
eyes, and wished mamma were there to talk of Jesus to this poor woman, who
surely had but little time to prepare for another world.

"Is your mother at the Crags?" asked Mrs. Gibson turning to her again.

Elsie answered in the affirmative, adding that they had been there for
some time and would probably remain a week or two longer.

"Do you think she would be willing to come here to see me?" was the next
question, almost eagerly put.

"Mamma is very kind and I am sure she will come if you wish to see her,"
answered the child.

"Then tell her I do; tell her I, her old governess, am sick and poor and
in great trouble."

Tears rolled down her cheeks and for a moment her eyes rested upon her
daughter's face with an expression of keen anguish. "She's going blind,"
she whispered in Elsie's ear, drawing the child toward her, and nodding in
the direction of Sally, stitching away at the window.

"Blind! oh how dreadful!" exclaimed the little girl in low moved tones,
the tears springing to her eyes. "I wish she could go to Doctor Thomson."

"Doctor Thomson! who is he?"

"An oculist: he lives in Philadelphia. A friend of mamma's had something
growing over her eyes so that she was nearly blind, and he cut it off and
she can see now as well as anybody."

"I don't think that is the trouble with Sally's; though of course I can't
tell. But she's always had poor sight, and now that she has to support the
family with her needle, her eyes are nearly worn out."

Sally had been for several minutes making vain attempts to thread a

Elsie sprang to her side with a kindly, eager, "Let me do it, won't you?"

It was done in a trice and the girl thanked her with lips and eyes.

"It often takes me full five or ten minutes," she said, "and sometimes I
have to get mother to do it for me."

"What a pity! it must be a great hindrance to your work."

"Yes, indeed, and my eyes ache so that I can seldom sew or read for more
than an hour or two at a time. Ah, I'm afraid I'm going to lose my sight

The tone was inexpressibly mournful, and Elsie's eyes filled again.

"Don't fret about it," she said, "I think - I hope you can be cured."

The rain had nearly ceased, and Philip, saying the worst was over, and
they were in danger of being late at dinner, hurried the girls into the

"What was that woman whispering to you?" asked Gertrude, as soon as they
were fairly off.

Elsie looked uncomfortable. "It was something I was to tell mamma," she

"But what is it?"

"I'm afraid she wanted to keep it a secret from you, Gerty, or she would
have spoken out loud."

"I think you're very mean and disobliging," retorted Gertrude, beginning
to pout.

"No, she isn't," said Philip pompously, "she's honorable, and one of the
few females who can keep a secret. But I overheard it, Elsie, and feel
pretty sure that the reason she whispered it, was to keep the poor girl
from hearing. It's very natural she shouldn't want her to know she's
afraid her sight's leaving her."

"Oh, yes; I suppose that was it!" returned Elsie. "But you were very wise
to think of it, Phil."

"Don't flatter him," said Gertrude; "he thinks a great deal too much of
himself, already."

Dinner was just ready when they reached home, and their mammas were on the
porch looking for them.

"So there you are at last! what detained you so long?" said Mrs. Ross.

"Went further than we intended; and then the rain, you know," said

"And, oh, we had an adventure!" cried the girls, and hastened to tell it.

Mrs. Travilla had not forgotten her old governess, and though no pleasant
recollection of her lingered in her memory, neither was there any dislike
or revengeful feeling there. She heard of her sorrows with commiseration
and rejoiced in the ability to alleviate them.

"That Mrs. Gibson!" exclaimed Lucy, "I've seen her many a time at the door
or window, in driving past, and have often thought there was something
familiar in her face, but never dreamed who she was. That hateful Miss
Day! as I used to call her; Elsie, I wouldn't do a thing for her, if I
were you. Why she treated you with absolute cruelty."

"She was sometimes unjust and unkind," said Mrs. Travilla, smiling at her
friend's vehemence, "but probably my sensitiveness, timidity and
stupidity, were often very trying."

"No such thing! - if you will excuse me for contradicting you - everybody
that knew you then, would testify that you were the sweetest, dearest,
most patient, industrious little thing that ever was made."

Elsie laughed and shook her head, "Ah, Lucy, you always flattered me;
never were jealous even when I was held up to you as a pattern an evidence
that yours was a remarkably sweet disposition. Now, tell me, please, if
you know anything about these Gibsons?"

"Not much; they came to that hut years ago, evidently very poor, and quite
as evidently - so report says - having seen better days. The husband and
father drank deeply, and the wife earned a scanty support for the family
by sewing and knitting; that is about all I know of them, except that
several of their children died of scarlet fever within a few days of each
other, soon after they came to the neighborhood, and that a year ago last
winter, the man, coming home very drunk, fell into a snow-drift, and next
day was found frozen to death. I was told at that time they had only two
children - a son who was following in his father's footsteps, and this

"Poor woman!" sighed Elsie, "she is sorely tried and afflicted. I must go
to her at once."

"Do, mamma, and get a doctor for her," said little Elsie; "she looked so
sick and miserable."

Mrs. Ross offered her carriage, and the shower having cooled the air,
Elsie went, shortly after the conclusion of the meal.


"I'll not chide thee;
Let shame come when it will, I do not call it."

"I never saw such a likeness in my life!" said Mrs. Gibson looking after
the phaeton as it drove away; "she's the very image of her mother. I could
just have believed it was the very little Elsie Dinsmore I used to teach
more than twenty years ago."

"She's lovely!" exclaimed Sally with enthusiasm. "Mother, did you see what
a pretty watch she had?"

"Yes," gloomily; "some folks seem to have nothing but prosperity, and
others nothing but poverty and losses and crosses. They're as rich as
Croesus and we have hardly enough to keep us from starving."

"Better times may come," said Sally, trying to speak hopefully, "Tom may
reform and go to work. I do think, mother, if you'd try to - - "

"Hush! I'm a great deal better to him than he deserves."

It was some moments before Sally spoke again, then it was only to ask,
"Will you have your dinner now, mother?"

"No; there's nothing in the house but bread and potatoes, and I couldn't
swallow either. Dear me what a table they used to set at Roselands! enough
to tempt the appetite of an epicure."

"I must rest my eyes a little. I can't see any longer," said the girl,
laying down her work and going to the door.

"It's just dreadful," sighed her mother, "but don't get out of heart;
these people will help us and it is possible some skilful oculist may
understand your case and be able to help you."

The girl's eyes were fixed upon the distant mountain-tops where, through a
rift in the clouds the sun shone suddenly out for a moment. "'I will lift
up mine eyes unto the hills whence cometh my help,'" she murmured softly
to herself. Then from a full heart went up a strong cry, "O God, my
Father, save me, I beseech thee, from this bitter trial that I so dread!
Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. Oh, help me to be content
with whatsoever thou shalt send!"

"Sally, you're standing there a long time." It was the mother's querulous
voice again.

The girl turned toward her, answering in a patient tone. "Yes, mother, it
rests my eyes to look at the sky and the mountains or any distant object."

"You'd better get yourself something to eat. It must be six or eight hours
at least since breakfast."

An hour later Sally, again busied with her sewing, by the window, lifted
her head at the sound of wheels and exclaimed in a low tone, "There is the
same carriage again! It has stopped and a lady is getting out of it."

But turning her head she perceived that her mother, who was now lying on
the bed, had fallen asleep. Dropping her work, she stepped quickly to the
door in time to prevent a rap.

She recognized the lady at once from her likeness to her namesake
daughter, and holding out her hand with a joyful admiring smile said,
"Mrs. Travilla, is it not? Thank you for coming. I am so glad, and mother
will be so delighted to see you; but she is sleeping just now."

She had spoken softly, and Elsie answered in the same subdued tone, as she
took the offered hand, then stepped in and sat down in a chair the girl
hastened to set for her, "That is well; we must not wake her."

A long talk followed in which Elsie by her ready tact and sweet sympathy,
free from the slightest approach to patronage, drew from the girl the
story of their sorrows, privations and fears for the future.

Her mother had been gradually failing for some time, though she really did
not know what was the nature of the disease. For a while they had
contrived by their united efforts to make the two ends meet, but now that
all depended upon her, with her poor sight, it was no longer possible.

"How are your eyes affected?" asked Elsie.

"The sight is dim; I can scarcely see to set my stitches: I have great
difficulty in threading a needle: I always had. I could never read fine
print, never read through a long sentence without shutting my eyes for an
instant or looking off the book. It has always been an effort to see, and
now I am forced to use my eyes so constantly they grow worse and pain me
very much. At times a mist comes over them so that I cannot see at all
until I rest them a little. Indeed I often seem to be going blind and I'm
afraid I shall," she added, with a tremble in her tones, a tear rolling
down her cheek. But she hastily wiped it away.

"My poor child, I hope not," Elsie said, laying a hand softly on hers;
"there have been wonderful cures of diseased eyes. You must go to an

"The expense would be far beyond our means."

"You must let me assume that. No, don't shake your head. I have abundant
means. The Lord has given me far more of this world's goods than I ought
to use for myself or my family and I know it is because he would have me
be his almoner."

The girl wept for joy and thankfulness.

"Oh, how kind you are!" she cried. "I believe the Lord sent you and that
my sight will be spared; for I have prayed so that it might; - that he
would send me help somehow. But mother, how can she do without me?"

"I will see that she has medical advice, nursing, everything she needs."

Sally tried to speak her thanks but tears and sobs came instead.

The sound woke Mrs. Gibson. "Elsie Dinsmore!" she cried in feeble but
excited tones, with difficulty raising herself to a sitting posture. "I
should have known you anywhere."

"I cannot say the same; you are much changed," Elsie said, going to the
bedside and taking the thin feverish hand in hers.

"Yes, I've grown an old woman, while you are fresh and young; and no
wonder, for your life has been all prosperity; mine nothing but trouble
and trial from beginning to end."

"O, mother dear, we have had a great many mercies," said Sally; "and your
life is not ended. I hope your good times are yet to come."

"Well, maybe so, if Mrs. Travilla can help us to the medical aid we need,
and put us in the way of earning a good living afterward."

"I shall do my best for you in both respects," Elsie said kindly,
accepting a chair Sally set for her near the bed.

"I knew you would; you were always generous," remarked her ci-devant
governess; "prompt too in bestowing your favors. But it is easy to be
generous with a large and well-filled purse."

"Very true," Elsie answered with a smile. "And now what can I do for you?
Ah I had forgotten. Mrs. Ross, hearing you were ill, and knowing that to
the sick something sent by a neighbor was often more relished than home
food, however nice, put a basket of dainties into the phaeton."

Stepping to the door, she signed to the servant, who immediately brought
in a hamper of provisions such as had not been seen under that roof for
many months. Mrs. Gibson's eyes glistened at sight of a basket of fine
fresh fruit and a bowl of delicious custard.

"I will go now and call again to-morrow," Elsie said, as the man carried
away the empty hamper.

Grasping Sally's hand cordially in parting, she left something in it.

"Mother!" cried the girl, breathlessly, holding it up to view, "it's a
check for a hundred dollars!"

"'Tisn't possible! let me see!" cried Mrs. Gibson laying down the spoon
with which she was eating raspberries and custard, and holding out her
hand for the check.

"Yes, so it is! what a godsend! I didn't think even she was so generous.
But dear me, she's rolling in wealth, and it's no more to her, or even as
much as ten cents would be to you or me."

"Oh, mother!" said Sally, reproachfully, "we have no claim on her; and if
she has a good deal of money, she must have hundreds of calls for it."

"No claim on her? why people take care of old servants, and a governess
ought to be considered of a good deal more account."

"Tom mustn't know about this, mother."

"No, indeed! the greater part of it would soon go for liquor or at the
gambling table, if he did. Here give it to me, and I'll hide it under my

The saucer of berries was scarcely disposed of, before a second visitor

Dr. Morton was considered the most skilful practitioner in the
neighborhood. Mrs. Travilla meeting him on the way in returning to the
Crags, had begged him to take charge of Mrs. Gibson's case, and also to
look at Sally's eyes; engaging to settle his bill herself.

On his way home he called at the Crags with his report. The mother, he
said, was very much out of health, but not incurable; he had promised to
send her some medicine. A month or two at the seashore would do her good;
perhaps restore her entirely."

"Then she must go," said Elsie, "I will at once see what arrangements can
be made. But now, what of the girl, doctor?"

"She seems in pretty good health."

"But her eyes?"

"The nerve is affected; there is no help for her."

"Are you quite sure?"

"Quite. I have paid a good deal of attention to the eye, and I assure you
a case like hers is incurable."

"Then you decline to attempt to do anything for her?"

"I do, Mrs. Travilla, because there is absolutely nothing to be done."

"Poor girl, how sorry I am for her! blindness must be so terrible," Lucy
remarked to her friend after the doctor had gone.

"Yes," Elsie answered thoughtfully, "but I do not give up hope for her

"Dr. Morton is considered very skilful."

"Still he may be mistaken, and I shall not rest till I have made every
effort to save her sight."

Little Elsie and her sister had already become deeply interested in poor
Sally, and were laying plans to help her.

"What can we do, Elsie?" queried Vi, in an under tone, drawing her sister

"She'll want clothes; she had on a very old faded calico dress."

"And not a bow or pin; just an old linen collar around her neck," remarked
Gertrude, joining them; "and her dress was ever so old-fashioned and
patched besides."

"Let's put our pocket money together, and buy her a new dress," proposed

"And make it for her," added Elsie; "it hurts her eyes to sew, and you
know Dinah could fit it. Mamma had her taught the trade, and says she fits
and sews very nicely."

"Oh, what's the use of giving our money?" exclaimed Gertrude, impatiently.
"We want it ourselves, and your mamma has such loads and loads of money;
hasn't she, Eddie?" turning to him, as he stood near.

"I don't know," he answered; "she never told us she had; she never talks
much about money, except to tell us it all belongs to God, who only lends
it to us."

"And that we must give it to the poor and needy," said Vi.

"Because 'it is more blessed to give than to receive,'" added Elsie.

"Well, I know she has," persisted Gertrude, "for my mamma often says so,
and I'm sure she knows."

"But even if she has, mamma's money is not ours, and it's a duty and a
very great pleasure to give of our own."

"Every one to their taste, I haven't a bit more money than I want myself,"
said Gertrude, walking away with her chin in the air.

"Gerty," said Elsie, running after her, "don't be vexed; we weren't
meaning to ask you for anything; but only talking about our own duty."

"Oh, I can take a hint as well as other folks," said Gertrude, tossing her

"What's it all about?" asked Kate, coming up to them; but they paid no
heed to her, and she went to Vi for the desired information.

"Why, I'll help, of course I will," she said; "I guess I've got some
money, I'll look after tea; there's the bell now."

Elsie seized an opportunity to petition her mother for a longer talk than
usual in her dressing-room that evening, and the most of it was taken up
in the discussion and arranging of plans for helping Mrs. Gibson and her

"What an unconscionable time you've been upstairs, Elsie," Philip remarked
in a bantering tone, coming to her side as she and her mother returned to
the drawing-room. "I've been dying to speak to you, as the girls say."

"All girls don't talk so, Phil."

"You don't, I know. Would you like a gallop before breakfast to-morrow

"Yes, indeed!" she answered, her eyes sparkling, "it's what I'm used to at
home. Papa rides with us almost every morning."

"Will I do for an escort?"

"Oh, yes, if mamma consents. Gert will go too, won't she?"

"No, she prefers her morning nap."

Philip was a manly boy, the neighborhood a safe one, and the pony Elsie
would ride, well-broken and not too spirited, so mamma's consent was
readily given, with the proviso that they should not go before sunrise, or
choose a lonely road.

"By the way," she added, "I should like you to do an errand for me at Mrs.

As Sally Gibson was sweeping the doorstep early the next morning, a couple
of ponies dashed up to the gate, in whose riders she instantly recognized
Elsie Travilla and Philip Ross.

"Hallo!" shouted the latter, "this young lady has something for you."

"Good-morning," Elsie said, reaching out a little gloved hand, as the girl
drew near, "mamma bade me bring you this note, and ask how your mother is

"A little better, thank you; it has done her a world of good to - to have
her mind so relieved, and the doctor's medicine seems to have helped her
too. How very, very kind Mrs. Travilla is," she added, with tears in her
eyes, "and Mrs. Ross. Won't you come in?"

"Not this morning, thank you," and away they galloped. Sally looking after
them with admiring eyes, and a murmured exclamation, "How pretty and sweet
she is!"

It was not an envious sigh that accompanied the words, but born of mingled
emotions, - the half-formed thought, "Shall I ever know such pleasures.
Alas, they are not for me!" quickly succeeded by another, - "Ah, that sweet

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Online LibraryMartha FinleyElsie's children → online text (page 4 of 17)