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child cannot live to maturity, and be always as happy and free from care,
as now."

Her mother's shrill voice recalled her to herself, "Why do you stand
there? What's that they gave you?"

"A note, mother. It's directed to me."

"Then make haste and read it."

"Shall I not give you your breakfast first?"

"No, no! do as I bid you."

So the girl read the missive aloud without delay.

It was from Mrs. Travilla, and stated that she had already written to
engage a room for Mrs. Gibson in a cottage in a quiet little seaside town;
a place recommended by Doctor Morton as very suitable; and that she would
secure a competent nurse to go with her.

"Why can't she send you, too, instead of hiring a stranger to go with me?"
here interrupted Mrs. Gibson, angrily.

"Wait, mother," said Sally in quivering tones, tears of joy and gratitude
filling her eyes.

She dashed them away and read on.

"I have another plan for you. Doctor Morton told you his opinion, - that
your case was hopeless. But do not despair; mistakes are often made even
by the most skilful men. A friend of mine, whose trouble was very similar
to yours - consulted a number of excellent oculists all of whom told her
the nerve of her eye was affected and there was no help for it, she would
certainly go blind; then as a last hope she went to Doctor Thomson of
Philadelphia, who succeeded in giving her entire relief. If you are
willing, I will send you to him. And now the first thing is to provide
your mother and yourself each with a suitable outfit. Come up to the Crags
as early this morning as you can, and we will make arrangements."


"When we see the flower seeds wafted,
From the nurturing mother tree,
Tell we can, wherever planted,
What the harvesting will be;
Never from the blasting thistle,
Was there gathered golden grain,
Thus the seal the child receiveth,
From its mother will remain."

For once Mrs. Gibson had the grace to feel a passing emotion of gratitude
to this kind benefactor, and shame that she herself had been so ready with
fault-finding instead of thanks.

As for Sally, she was completely overcome, and dropping into a chair, hid
her face and cried heartily.

"Come, don't be a fool," her mother said at last; "there's too much to be
done to waste time in crying, and besides you'll hurt your eyes."

Sally rose hastily, removed the traces of her tears, and began setting the
table for their morning meal.

"How soon are you going?" her mother asked at its conclusion.

"Just as soon as I can get the things cleared away and the dishes washed;
if you think you can spare me."

"Of course I can. I feel well enough this morning to help myself to
anything I'm likely to want."

There was still half an hour to spare before breakfast when, after a round
of five or six miles on their ponies, Philip and Elsie reached the Crags.

"What shall you do with yours?" asked Philip, remarking upon that fact.

"Read," she answered, looking back at him with a smile as she tripped
lightly up the stairs.

Dinah was in waiting to smooth her hair and help her change the pretty
riding hat and habit for a dress better suited to the house; then Elsie,
left alone, seated herself by a window with her Bible in her hand.

For a moment her eyes rested upon the blue distant mountains, softly
outlined against the deeper blue of the sky, watched the cloud shadows
floating over the nearer hills and valleys here richly wooded, there
covered with fields of waving grain her ear the while drinking in with
delight many a sweet rural sound, the songs of birds, the distant lowing
of cattle, and bleating of sheep - her heart swelling with ardent love and
thankfulness to him who had given her so much to enjoy.

Dinah had left the door open, that the fresh air might course freely
through the room, and Gertrude coming, some minutes later, in search of
her friend, stood watching Elsie for a little unperceived.

"Dear me!" she exclaimed at length, "how many times a day do you pore over
that book?"

Elsie looked up with a smile as sweet as the morning, "I am allowed to
read it as often as I please."

"Allowed? not compelled? not ordered?"

"No, only I must have a text ready for mamma every morning."

"Getting one ready for to-morrow?"

"No, just reading. I had time for only a verse or two before my ride."

"Well, that would be plenty for me. I can read it, too, as often as I
like, but a chapter or two on Sunday, generally does me for all the week.
There's the bell; come let's go down."

Vi met them at the door of the breakfast-room. "Oh, Elsie, did you have a
pleasant ride? Is Sally Gibson coming soon?"

"I don't know; mamma said I need not wait for an answer."

There was time for no more, and Vi must put a restraint upon herself,
repressing excitement and curiosity for the present, as mamma expected her
children to be very quiet and unobtrusive at table when away from home.

Vi was delighted when just as they were leaving the table, a servant
announced that a young person who called herself Miss Gibson, was asking
for Miss Travilla; for Vi never liked waiting, and was always eager to
carry out immediately any plan that had been set on foot.

Mrs. Gibson was not troubled with any delicacy of feeling about asking for
what she wanted, and had made out a list of things to be provided for
herself and Sally, which the girl was ashamed to show; so extravagant
seemed its demands.

When urged by her benefactress, she mentioned a few of the most necessary
articles, modestly adding that the generous gift Mrs. Travilla had already
bestowed, ought to be sufficient to supply all else that might be

Elsie, seating herself at her writing desk and taking out pen, ink and
paper, looked smilingly into the eager faces of her two little girls.

"What do you think about it, dears?"

"Oh, they must have more things; a good many more, and we want to help pay
for them with our money."

"You see, Miss Sally, they will be sadly disappointed if you refuse to
accept their gifts," Elsie said. "Now I'm going to make out a list and you
must all help me, lest something should be forgotten. Mrs. Ross has kindly
offered us the use of her carriage, and we will drive to the nearest town
and see what we can find there, the rest we will order from New York."

The list was made out amid much innocent jesting and merry laughter of
both mother and children, - Sally a deeply interested and delighted
spectator of their pleasing intercourse - the mother so sweet, gentle and
affectionate, the children so respectful and loving to her, so kind and
considerate to each other.

In fact, the girl was so occupied in watching them, that she was not aware
till Mrs. Travilla read it over aloud, that this new list was longer and
more extravagant than the one she had suppressed.

"Oh, it is too much, Mrs. Travilla!" she cried, the tears starting to her

"My dear child," returned Elsie, playfully, "I'm a wilful woman and will
have my own way. Come, the carriage is in waiting and we must go."

The shopping expedition was quite a frolic for the children, and a great
treat to poor, overworked Sally. "She looks so shabby; I'd be ashamed to
go with her to the stores or anywhere, or to have her ride in the carriage
with me," Gertrude had said to Vi as the little girls were having their
hats put on; but Vi answered indignantly, "She's clean and tidy, and she
isn't vulgar or rude, and I do believe she's good; and mamma says dress
and riches don't make the person."

And that seemed to be the feeling of all; Elsie, too, had purposely
dressed herself and her children as plainly as possible; so that Sally,
though at first painfully conscious of the deficiencies in her attire,
soon forgot all about them, and gave herself up to the thorough enjoyment
of the pleasures provided for her.

She felt that it would be very ungrateful did she not share the hearty
rejoicing of the children over "her pretty things" as they eagerly
selected and paid for them with their own pocket money, seeming fully to
realize the truth of the Master's declaration, "It is more blessed to give
than to receive."

Vi would have had the making of the new dresses begun at once, wanting
Sally to return with them to the Crags, and let Dinah fit her immediately,
but was overruled by her mamma.

"No, my dear, Sally must go home to her sick mother now, and Dinah shall
go to them after dinner."

"But mamma, I want to begin my part. You know you said I could hem nicely,
and might do some on the ruffles or something."

"Yes, daughter, and so you shall, but must rest awhile first."

Violet had often to be held back in starting upon some new enterprise, and
afterward encouraged or compelled to persevere, while Elsie was more
deliberate at first, more steadfast in carrying out what she had once
undertaken. Each had what the other lacked, both were very winsome and
lovable, and they were extremely fond of one another; scarcely less so of
their brothers and the darling baby sister.

"When may I begin, mamma?" asked Vi, somewhat impatiently.

"After breakfast to-morrow morning you may spend an hour at your needle."

"Only an hour, mamma? It would take all summer at that rate."

"Ah, what a doleful countenance, daughter mine!" Elsie said laughingly, as
she bent down and kissed the rosy cheek. "You must remember that my two
little girls are not to carry the heavy end of this, and the sewing will
be done in good season without overworking them. I could not permit that;
I must see to it that they have plenty of time for rest and for healthful
play. I appoint you one hour a day, and shall allow you to spend one more,
if you wish, but that must be all."

Violet had been trained to cheerful acquiescence in the decisions of her
parents, and now put it in practice, yet wished very much that mamma would
let her work all day for Sally, till her outfit was ready; she was sure
she should not tire of it; but she soon learned anew the lessons she had
learned a hundred times before - that mamma knew best.

The first day she would have been willing to sew a little longer after the
second hour's task was done; the next, two hours were fully sufficient to
satisfy her appetite for work: on the third, it was a weariness before the
end of the first hour; on the fourth, she would have been glad to beg off
entirely, but her mother said firmly, "No, dear; one hour's work is not
too much for you, and you know I allowed you to undertake it only on
condition that you would persevere to the end."

"Yes, mamma, but I am very tired, and I think I'll never undertake
anything again," and with a little sigh the child seated herself and began
her task.

Mamma smiled sympathizingly, softly smoothed the golden curls, and said in
her own gentle voice, "Let us not be weary in well-doing'! Do you remember
the rest of it?"

"Yes, mamma, 'for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.' And you
told us to faint was to get tired and stop. But mamma, what shall I reap
by keeping on with this?"

"A much needed lesson in perseverance, for one thing, I hope my little
daughter, and for another the promise given in the forty-first Psalm,
'Blessed is he that considereth the poor; the Lord will deliver him in
time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he
shall be blessed upon the earth; and thou wilt not deliver him unto the
will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of
languishing: thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness.'

"How would you like to hear a story while you sit here sewing by my side?"

"Oh, ever so much, mamma! A story! a story!" And all the little flock
clustered about mamma's chair, for they dearly loved her stories.

This was an old favorite, but the narrator added some new characters and
new scenes, spinning it out, yet keeping up the interest, till it and the
hour came to an end very nearly together.

Then the children, finding that was to be all for the present, scattered
to their play.

Mrs. Ross had come in a few minutes before, and signing to her friend to
proceed, had joined the group of listeners.

"Dear me, Elsie, how can you take so much trouble with your children?" she
said. "You seem to be always training and teaching them in the sweetest,
gentlest way; and of course they're good and obedient. I'm sure I love
mine dearly, but I could never have the patience to do all you do."

"My dear friend, how can I do less, when so much of their future welfare,
for time and for eternity, depends upon my faithfulness?"

"Yes," said Lucy slowly, "but the mystery to me is, how you can keep that
in mind all the time, and how you can contrive always to do the right

"I wish I did, but it is not so; I make many mistakes."

"I don't see it. You do wonderfully well anyhow, and I want to know how
you manage it."

"I devote most of my time and thoughts to it; I try to study the character
of each child, and above all, I pray a great deal for wisdom and for God's
blessing on my efforts; not always on my knees, for it is a blessed
truth, that we may lift our hearts to him at any time and in any place.
Oh, Lucy," she exclaimed with tearful earnestness, "if I can but train my
children for God and heaven, what a happy woman shall I be I the longing
desire of my heart for them is that expressed in the stanza of Watts's
Cradle Hymn:

'Mayst them live to know and fear him,
Trust and love him all thy days,
Then go dwell forever near him,
See his face and sing his praise!'"


"Beware the bowl! though rich and bright,
Its rubies flash upon the sight,
An adder coils its depths beneath,
Whose lure is woe, whose sting is death."

Mrs. Ross had found a nurse for Mrs. Gibson and a seamstress to help with
the sewing; a good many of the needed garments were ordered from New York
ready made, and in a few days the invalid was comfortably established in
the seaside cottage recommended by Dr. Morton.

In another week, Sally found herself in possession of a wardrobe that more
than satisfied her modest desires. She called at the Crags in her new
traveling dress, to say good-bye, looking very neat and lady-like; happy
too, in spite of anxiety in regard to her sight.

Not used to the world, timid and retiring, she had felt a good deal of
nervous apprehension about taking the journey alone; but business called
Mr. Ross to Philadelphia, and he offered to take charge of her and see her
safe in the quiet boarding-place already secured for her by Mrs. Edward
Allison, to whom Elsie had written on her behalf.

Adelaide had never felt either love or respect for the ill-tempered
governess of her younger brothers and sisters, but readily undertook to do
a kindness for her child.

"Have you the doctor's address?" Mr. Ross asked, when taking leave of the
girl in her new quarters.

"Yes, sir; Mrs. Travilla gave it to me on a card, and I have it safe. A
letter of introduction too, from Dr. Morton. He says he is not personally
acquainted with Dr. Thomson, but knows him well by reputation, and if
anybody can help me he can."

"That is encouraging, and I hope you will have no difficulty in finding
the place. It is in the next street and only a few squares from here."

Sally thought she could find it readily; Mrs. Travilla had given her very
careful directions about the streets and numbers in Philadelphia; besides,
she could inquire if she were at a loss.

When Mr. Ross returned home, he brought some one with him at sight of whom
the Ion children uttered a joyous cry, and who stepping from the carriage,
caught their mother in his arms and held her to his heart, as if he meant
never to let her go.

"Papa! papa!" cried the children, "we did not know you were coming; mamma
did not tell us. Mamma, did you know?"

"Yes, mamma had known; they saw it in her smiling eyes; and now they knew
why it was that she had watched and listened so eagerly for the coming of
the carriage; even more so than Aunt Lucy, who was expecting Uncle Philip,
and who was very fond of him too. But then he had left her only the other
day, and mamma and papa had been parted for weeks."

Mr. Travilla had rented a furnished cottage at Cape May and come to take
them all there. The doctors thought that would be best for Lily now.

The young folks were greatly pleased, and ready to start at once; they had
enjoyed their visit to the Crags, but had missed papa sadly, and now they
would have him with them all the time, grandpa and the whole family from
the Oaks, too; for they were occupying an adjoining cottage. And the
delicious salt sea breeze, oh, how pleasant it would be!

Mrs. Ross was sorry to part with her guests, had hoped to keep her friend
with her all summer, but a good deal comforted in her disappointment, by
the knowledge that her mother, Sophie and her children would soon take
their places.

As for young Philip he was greatly vexed and chagrined. "It is really too
bad!" he said seeking little Elsie out, and taking a seat by her side.

She was on the porch at some little distance from the others, and busied
in turning over the pages of a new book her papa had brought her.

"What is too bad, Phil?" she asked, closing it, and giving her full
attention to him.

"That you must be hurried away so soon. I've hardly been at home two
weeks, and we hadn't seen each other before for two years."

"Well a fortnight is a good while. And you will soon have your cousins
here - Herbert, Meta - - "

"Herbert!" he interrupted impatiently, "who cares for him? and Meta,
prying, meddling, tell-tale Meta's worse than nobody. But there! don't
look so shocked, as if I had said an awfully wicked thing. I really don't
hate her at all, though she got me into trouble more than once with
grandma and Aunt Sophie that winter we spent at Ashlands. Ah, a bright
thought strikes me!"

"Indeed! may I have the benefit of it?" asked the little girl, smiling

"That you may. It is that you might as well stay on another week, or as
long as you will."

"Thank you, but you must remember the doctor says we should go at once, on
baby's account."

"I know that, but I was speaking only of you personally. Baby doesn't need
you, and papa could take you to your father and mother after a while."

"Let them all go and leave me behind? Oh, Phil, I couldn't think of such a

The Travillas had been occupying their seaside cottage for two weeks, when
a letter came from Sally Gibson; the first she had written them, though
she had been notified at once of their change of address, told that they
would be glad to hear how she was and what Dr. Thomson thought of her
case, and a cordial invitation given her to come to them to rest and
recruit as soon as she was ready to leave her physician.

Elsie's face grew very bright as she read.

"What does she say?" asked her husband.

"There is first an apology for not answering sooner (her eyes were so full
of belladonna that she could not see to put pen to paper, and she had no
one to write for her), then a burst of joy and gratitude - to God, to the
doctor and to me, - 'success beyond anything she had dared to hope,' but
she will be with us to-morrow, and tell us all about it."

"And she won't be blind, mamma?" queried Violet, joyously.

"No, dear; I think that she must mean that her eyes are cured, or her
sight made good in some way."

"Oh, then, I'll just love that good doctor!" cried the child, clasping her
hands in delight.

The next day brought Sally, but they scarcely recognized her, she had
grown so plump and rosy, and there was so glad a light in the eyes that
looked curiously at them through glasses clear as crystal.

Mrs. Travilla took her by both hands and kissed her.

"Welcome, Sally; I am glad to see you, but should scarcely have known
you, had we met in a crowd; - you are looking so well and happy."

"And so I am, my dear kind friend," the girl answered with emotion; "and I
can see! see to read fine print that is all a blur to me without these
glasses; and all the pain is gone, the fear, the distress of body and
mind. Oh, the Lord has been good, good to me! and the doctor so kind and
interested! I shall be grateful to him and to you as long as I live!"

"Oh, did he make you those glasses? what did he do to you?" asked the
eager, curious children. "Tell us all about it, please."

But mamma said, "No, she is too tired now; she must go to her room and lie
down and rest till tea-time."

Little Elsie showed her the way, saw that nothing was wanting that could
contribute to her comfort, then left her to her repose.

It was needed after all the excitement and the hot dusty ride in the cars;
but she came down from it quite fresh, and as ready to pour out the whole
story of the experiences of the past two weeks as the children could

When tea was over, they clustered round her on the cool breezy veranda
overlooking the restless murmuring sea, and by her invitation, questioned
her to their heart's content.

"Is he a nice kind old man, like our doctor at Ion?" began little Harold.

"Quite as nice and kind I should think, but not very old."

"Did he hurt you very much?" asked Elsie, who had great sympathy for
suffering, whether mental or physical.

"Oh, no, not at all! He said directly that the eyes were not diseased; the
trouble was malformation and could be remedied by suitable glasses; and
oh, how glad I was to hear it!"

"I thought mamma read from your letter that he put medicine in your eyes."

"Yes, belladonna, but that was only to make them sick, so that he could
examine them thoroughly, and measure them for the glasses."

Turning to Mrs. Travilla, "He is very kind and pleasant to every one; so
far as I could see making no difference between rich and poor, but deeply
interested in each case in turn; always giving his undivided attention to
the one he has in hand at the moment; putting his whole heart and mind
into the work."

"Which is doubtless one great reason why he is so successful," remarked
Mrs. Travilla, adding, "Remember that, my children; half-hearted work
accomplishes little for this world or the next."

"Weren't you afraid the first time you went?" asked timid little Elsie.

"My heart beat pretty fast," said Sally smiling. "I am rather bashful you
see, and worse than that, I was afraid the doctor would say like the
others, that it was the nerve and I would have to go blind, or that some
dreadful operation would be necessary; but after I had seen him and found
out how kind and pleasant he was, and that I'd nothing painful or
dangerous to go through, and might hope for good sight at last, I didn't
mind going at all.

"It was a little tedious sitting there in the outer office among strangers
with no one to speak to, and nothing to do for hours at a time, but that
was nothing compared to what I was to gain by it."

Then the children wanted to know what the doctor measured eyes with, and
how he did it, and Sally amused them very much by telling how she had to
say her letters every day and look at the gaslight and tell what shape it
was, etc., etc.

"The doctor told me," she said, addressing Mrs. Travilla, "that I would
not like the glasses at first, hardly any one does; but I do, though not
so well, I dare say, as I shall after a while when I get used to them."

Mrs. Gibson's health was improving so that she was in a fair way to
recover and as she was well taken care of and did not need her daughter,
Sally felt at liberty to stay with these kind friends and enjoy herself.

She resolved to put away care and anxiety for the future, and take the
full benefit of her present advantages. Yet there was one trouble that
would intrude itself and rob her of half her enjoyment. Tom, her only and
dearly loved brother, was fast traveling the downward road, seeming wholly
given up to the dominion of the love of strong drink and kindred vices.

It was long since she had seen or heard from him and she knew not where he
was. He had been in the habit of leaving their poor home on the Hudson
without deigning to give her or his mother any information as to whither
he was bound or when he would return; sometimes coming back in a few
hours, and again staying away for days, weeks or months.

One day Elsie saw Sally turn suddenly pale while glancing over the morning
paper and there was keen distress in the eyes she lifted to hers as the
paper fell from her nerveless hand.

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Online LibraryMartha FinleyElsie's children → online text (page 5 of 17)