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"Poor child; what is it?" Elsie asked compassionately, going to her and
taking the cold hand in hers, "anything that I can relieve or help you to

"Tom!" and Sally burst into almost hysterical weeping.

He had been arrested in Philadelphia for drunkenness and disorderly
conduct, fined and sent to prison till the amount should be paid.

Elsie did her best to comfort the poor sister, who was in an agony of
shame and grief. "Oh," she sobbed, "he is such a dear fellow if only he
could let drink alone! but it's been his ruin, his ruin! He must feel so
disgraced that all his self-respect is gone and he'll never hold up his
head again or have the heart to try to do better."

"Don't despair, poor child!" said Elsie, "he has not fallen too far for
the grace of God to reclaim him; 'Behold the Lord's hand is not shortened,
that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear.'"

"And oh, I cry day and night to him for my poor Tom, so weak, so beset
with temptations!" exclaimed the girl, "and will he not hear me at last?"

"He will if you ask in faith pleading the merits of his Son," returned her
friend in moved tones.

"He must be saved!" Mr. Travilla said with energy, when Elsie repeated to
him this conversation with Sally. "I shall take the next train for
Philadelphia and try to find him."

Tom was found, his fine paid, his release procured, his rags exchanged for
neat gentlemanly attire, hope of better things for this world and the next
set before him, and with self-respect and manhood partially restored by
all this and the kindly considerate, brotherly manner of his benefactor,
he was persuaded to go with the latter to share with Sally for a few
weeks, the hospitality of that pleasant seaside home.

He seemed scarcely able to lift his eyes from the ground as Mr. Travilla
led him into the veranda where the whole family were gathered eagerly
awaiting their coming; but in a moment Sally's arms were round his neck,
her kisses and tears warm on his cheek, as she sobbed out in excess of
joy, "O Tom, dear Tom, I'm so glad to see you!"

Then Mrs. Travilla's soft white hand grasped his in cordial greeting, and
her low sweet voice bade him welcome; and the children echoed her words,
apparently with no other thought of him than that he was Sally's brother
and it was perfectly natural he should be there with her.

So he was soon at ease among them; but felt very humble, kept close by
Sally and used his eyes and ears far more than his tongue.

His kind entertainers exerted themselves to keep him out of the way of
temptation and help him to conquer the thirst for intoxicating drink, Mrs.
Travilla giving Sally carte blanche to go into the kitchen and prepare him
a cup of strong coffee whenever she would.

"Sally," he said to his sister, one evening when they sat alone together
on the veranda, "what a place this is to be in! It's like a little heaven
below; there is so much of peace and love; the moral atmosphere is so
sweet and pure: I feel as though I had no business here, such a fallen
wretch as I am!" he concluded with a groan, hiding his face in his hands.

"Don't, Tom, dear Tom!" she whispered, putting her arms about his neck and
laying her head on his shoulder. "You've given up that dreadful habit?
you're never going back to it?"

"I don't want to! God knows I don't!" he cried as in an agony of fear,
"but that awful thirst - you don't know what it is! and I - I'm weak as
water. Oh if there was none of the accursed thing on the face of the
earth, I might hope for salvation! Sally, I'm afraid of myself, of the
demon that is in me!"

"O, Tom, fly to Jesus!" she said, clinging to him. "He says, 'In me is
thine help.' 'Fear not; I will help thee,' and he never yet turned a deaf
ear to any poor sinner that cried to him for help. Cast yourself wholly on
him and he will give you strength; for 'every one that asketh, receiveth;
and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be

There was a moment of silence, in which Sally's heart was going up in
earnest prayer for him; then Mr. Travilla joined them and addressing Tom
said, "My wife and I have been talking about your future; indeed Sally's
also; for we suppose you would like to keep together."

"That we should," they said.

"Well, how would you like to emigrate to Kansas and begin life anew; away
from all old associates? I need not add that if you decide to go the means
shall not be wanting."

"Thank you, sir; you have been the best of friends to us both, and to our
mother, you and Mrs. Travilla," said Tom, with emotion: "and this is just
what Sally and I have been wishing we could do. I understand something of
farming and should like to take up a claim out there in some good location
where land is given to those who will settle on it. And if you, sir, can
conveniently advance the few hundred dollars we shall need to carry us
there and give us a fair start, I shall gladly and thankfully accept it as
a loan; hoping to be able to return it in a year or two."

This was the arrangement made and preparations to carry it out were
immediately set on foot. In a few days the brother and sister bade
good-bye to their kind entertainers, their mother, now nearly recovered,
joined them in Philadelphia, and the three together turned their faces

In bidding adieu to Elsie, Sally whispered with tears of joy the good news
that Tom was trusting in a strength mightier than his own, and so, as
years rolled on, these friends were not surprised to hear of his steadfast
adherence to the practice of total abstinence from all intoxicating
drinks, and his growing prosperity.


"You may as well
Forbid the seas to obey the moon,
As, or by oath, remove, or counsel, shake
The fabric of her folly."

Scarcely had the Gibsons departed when their places were more than filled
by the unexpected arrival of a large party from Roselands, comprising old
Mr. Dinsmore, with his daughter Mrs. Conly and her entire family, with the
exception of Calhoun, who would follow shortly.

They were welcomed by their relatives with true southern hospitality and
assured that the two cottages could readily be made to accommodate them
all comfortably.

"What news of Molly?" was the first question after the greetings had been

Mrs. Conly shook her head and sighed, "Hasn't been able to set her foot on
the floor for weeks, and I don't believe she ever will. That's Dr.
Pancoast's opinion, and he's good authority. 'Twas her condition that
brought us North. We've left her and her mother at the Continental in

"There's to be a consultation to-morrow of all the best surgeons in the
city. Enna wanted me to stay with her till that was over, but I couldn't
think of it with all these children fretting and worrying to get down here
out of the heat. So I told her I'd leave Cal to take care of her and

"Dick's with them too. He's old enough to be useful now, and Molly clings
to him far more than to her mother."

"Isn't it dreadful," said Virginia, "to think that that fall down-stairs
has made her a cripple for life? though nobody thought she was much hurt
at first."

"Poor child! how does she bear it?" asked her uncle.

"She doesn't know how to bear it at all," said Mrs. Conly; "she nearly
cries her eyes out."

"No wonder," remarked the grandfather; "it's a terrible prospect she has
before her, to say nothing of the present suffering. And her mother has no
patience with her; pities herself instead of the child."

"No," said Mrs. Conly, "Enna was never known to have much patience with
anybody or anything."

"But Dick's good to her," remarked Isadore.

"Yes," said Arthur, "it's really beautiful to see his devotion to her and
how she clings to him. And it's doing the lad good; - making a man of

"Surely Enna must feel for her child!" Elsie said, thinking of her own
darlings and how her very heart would be torn with anguish at the sight of
one of them in so distressing a condition.

"Yes, of course, she cried bitterly over her when first the truth dawned
upon her that Molly was really so dreadfully injured; but of course that
couldn't last and she soon took to bewailing her own hard fate in having
such a burden on her hands, a daughter who must always live single and
could never be anything but a helpless invalid."

Elsie understood how it was; for had she not known Enna from a child? Her
heart ached for Molly, and as she told her own little ones of their poor
cousin's hopeless, helpless state, she mingled her tears with theirs.

"Mamma, won't you 'vite her to come here?" pleaded Harold.

"Yes, dear mamma, do," urged the others, "and let us all try to amuse and
comfort her."

"If I do, my dears, you may be called upon at times to give up your
pleasures for her. Do you think you will be willing to do so?"

At that the young faces grew very grave, and for a moment no one spoke.
Quick, impulsive Violet was the first to answer.

"Yes, mamma, I'm willing; I do feel so sorry for her I'd do anything to
help her bear her pain."

"Mamma," said Elsie, softly, "I'll ask Jesus to help me, and I'm sure he

"So am I, daughter; and I think Vi means to ask his help too?"

"Oh, yes, mamma, I do!"

"And I," "and I," "and I," responded the others.

So the invitation was sent, for Molly and her mother and brother to come
and pay as long a visit as they would.

A letter came in a few days, accepting it and giving the sorrowful news
that all the surgeons agreed in the opinion that the poor girl's spine had
been so injured that she would never again have any use of her lower

It was Mrs Conly who brought the letter to her niece, it having come in
one addressed to herself. She expressed strong sympathy for Molly, but was
much taken up with the contents of another letter received by the same

"I've just had a most generous offer from Mr. Conly's sister, Mrs.
Delaford," she said to her niece. "She has no children of her own, is a
widow and very wealthy, and she's very fond of my Isadore, who is her
godchild and namesake. She offers now to clothe and educate her, with the
view of making the child her heir; and also to pay for Virgy's tuition, if
I will send them both to the convent where she was herself educated."

"Aunt Louise, you will not think of it surely?" cried Elsie, looking much

"And why not, pray?" asked Mrs. Conly, drawing herself up, and speaking
in a tone of mingled hauteur, pique and annoyance.

"You would not wish them to become Romanists?"

"No, of course not; but that need not follow."

"It is very apt to follow."

"Nonsense! I should exact a promise that their faith would not be
interfered with."

"But would that avail, since, 'No faith with heretics,' has been for
centuries the motto of the 'infallible, unchangeable,' Church of Rome?"

"I think you are inclined to see danger where there is none," returned the
aunt. "I would not for the world be as anxious and fussy about my children
as you are about yours. Besides, I think it quite right to let their
father's relatives do for them when they are both able and willing."

"But Aunt Louise - - "

"There! don't let us talk any more about the matter to-day, if you
please," interrupted Mrs. Conly, rising, "I must go now and prepare for my
bath. I'll be in again this evening to see Enna and the others. They'll be
down by the afternoon train. Good-morning."

And she sailed away, leaving Elsie sad and anxious for the future of her
young cousins.

"What is it, daughter?" Mr. Dinsmore asked, coming in a moment later. "I
have seldom seen you look so disturbed."

Her face brightened, as was its wont under her father's greeting, but,
this time, only momentarily.

"I am troubled, papa," she said, making room for him on the sofa by her
side. "Here is a note from Enna. The doctors give Molly no hope that she
will ever walk again. One cannot help feeling very sad for her, poor
child! and besides something Aunt Louise has been telling me, makes me
anxious for Isadore and Virginia."

He was scarcely less concerned than she, when he heard what that was. "I
shall talk to Louise," he said, "it would be the height of folly to expose
her girls to such influences. It is true I once had some thoughts of
sending you to a convent school, under the false impression that the
accomplishments were more thoroughly taught there than in the Protestant
seminaries; but with the light I have since gained upon the subject, I
know that it would have been a fearful mistake."

"Dear papa," she said, putting her hand into his and looking at him with
loving eyes, "I am so thankful to you that you did not; so thankful that
you taught me yourself. The remembrance of the hours we spent together as
teacher and pupil, has always been very sweet to me."

"To me also," he answered with a smile.

The expected guests arrived at the appointed time, Enna looking worn,
faded and fretful, Dick sad and anxious, poor Molly, weary, exhausted,
despairing; as if life had lost all brightness to her.

Her proud spirit rebelled against her helplessness, against the curious,
even the pitying looks it attracted to her from strangers in the streets
and public conveyances.

The transit from one vehicle to another was made in the strong arms of a
stalwart negro whom they had brought with them from Roselands, Dick
following closely to guard his sister from accident, and shield her as
much as possible from observation, while Enna and Cal brought up the rear.

A room on the ground floor had been appropriated to Molly's use, and
thither she was carried at once, and gently laid upon a couch. Instantly
her cousin Elsie's arms were about her, her head pillowed upon the gentle
breast, while tears of loving sympathy fell fast upon her poor pale face,
mingled with tender caresses and whispered words of endearment.

It did the child good; the tears and sobs that came in response, relieved
her aching heart of half its load. But it vexed Enna.

"What folly, Elsie!" she said, "don't you see how you're making the child
cry? And I've been doing my best to get her to stop it; for of course it
does no good, and only injures her eyes."

"Forgive me, dear child, if I have hurt you," Elsie said low and tenderly,
as she laid Molly's head gently back against the pillows.

"You haven't! you've done me good!" cried the girl, flashing an indignant
glance at Enna. "Oh, mother, if you treated me so, it wouldn't be half so
hard to bear!"

"I've learned not to expect anything but ingratitude from my children,"
said Enna, coldly returning Elsie's kind greeting.

But Dick grasped his cousin's hand warmly, giving her a look of grateful
affection, and accepted with delight her offered kiss.

"Now, I will leave you to rest," she said to Molly, "and when you feel
like seeing your cousins, they will be glad to come in and speak to you.
They are anxious to do all they can for your entertainment while you are

"Yes, but I want to see grandpa and Uncle Horace now, please; they just
kissed me in the car, and that was all."

They came in at once, full of tender sympathy for the crippled, suffering

"They're so kind," sobbed Molly, as they left the room.

"Yes, you can appreciate everybody's kindness but your mother's," remarked
Enna in a piqued tone, "and everybody can be sorry for you, but my
feelings are lost sight of entirely."

"Oh, mother, don't!" sighed Molly. "I'm sure I've enough to bear without
your reproaches. I'd appreciate you fast enough, if you were such a mother
as Cousin Elsie."

"Or as Aunt Louise, why don't you say?" said Mrs. Conly, coming in, going
up to the couch, and kissing her. "How d'ye do, Enna?"

"Yes, even you are sorrier for me than mother is, I do believe!" returned
Molly, bursting into tears; "and if it was Isa or Virgy you'd be ever so
good to her, and not scold her as mother does me."

"Why, I'm just worn out and worried half to death about that girl," said
Enna, in answer to her sister's query. "She'll never walk a step
again - all the doctors say that." At these words Molly was almost
convulsed with sobs, but Enna went on relentlessly. "And when they asked
her how it happened, she up and told them her high-heeled shoes threw her
down, and that she didn't want to wear them, but I made her do it."

"And so you did, and I only told it because one of the doctors asked if I
didn't know they were dangerous; and when I said yes, he wanted to know
how I came to be so foolish as to wear them."

"And then he lectured me," Enna went on, "as if it was all my fault, when
of course it was her own carelessness; for if it wasn't, why haven't some
of the rest of us fallen down. Accidents happen when nobody's to blame."

"I came near falling the other day, myself," said Mrs. Conly, "and I'll
never wear a high, narrow heel again, nor let one of my girls do so. Now
I'm going out. You two ought to take a nap; Molly especially, poor child!
I'm very sorry for you; but don't cry any more now. It will only hurt
your eyes."

Mrs. Conly was to stay to tea and spend the evening. Stepping into the
parlor she found all the adult members of the family there.

"I want to have a talk with you, Louise," her brother said, seating her
comfortably on a sofa and drawing up a chair beside her.

"And I think I know what about," she returned with heightened color,
glancing toward Elsie, "but let me tell you beforehand, Horace, that you
may as well spare yourself the trouble. I have already accepted Mrs.
Delaford's offer."

"Louise! how could you be so hasty in so important a matter?"

"Permit me to answer that question with another," she retorted, drawing
herself up haughtily, "what right have you to call me to an account for so

"Only the right of an older brother to take a fraternal interest in your
welfare and that of his nieces."

"What is it, mother?" asked Calhoun.

She told him in a few words, and he turned to his uncle with the query why
he so seriously objected to her acceptance of what seemed so favorable an

"Because I think it would be putting in great jeopardy the welfare of your
sisters, temporal and spiritual"

"What nonsense, Horace!" exclaimed Mrs. Conly angrily. "Of course I shall
expressly stipulate that their faith is not to be interfered with."

"And just as much of course the promise will be given and systematically
broken without the slightest compunction; because in the creed of Rome the
end sanctifies the means and no end is esteemed higher or holier than that
of adding members to her communion."

"Well," said Louise, "I must say you judge them hardly. I'm sure there are
at least some pious ones among them and of course they wouldn't lie."

"You forget that the more pious they are, the more obedient they will be
to the teachings of their church, and when she tells them it is a pious
act to be false to their word or oath, for her advancement, or to burn,
kill and destroy, or to break any other commandment of the decalogue, they
will obey believing that thus they do God service.

"Really the folly and credulity of Protestant parents who commit their
children to the care of those who teach and put in practice, too, these
two maxims, so utterly destructive of all truth and honesty, all
confidence between man and man - 'The end sanctifies the means,' and 'No
faith with heretics,' - is to me perfectly astounding."

"So you consider me a fool," said Mrs. Conly, bridling, "thanks for the

"It is you who make the application, Louise," he answered. "I had no
thought of doing so, and still hope you will prove your wisdom by
reconsidering and letting Mrs. Delaford know that you revoke your

"Indeed I shall not; I consider that I have no right to throw away
Isadore's fortune."

"Have you then a greater right to imperil her soul's salvation?" he asked
with solemn earnestness.

"Pshaw! what a serious thing you make of it," she exclaimed, yet with an
uneasy and troubled look.

"Uncle!" cried Calhoun in surprise, "do you not think there have been and
are some real Christians in the Romish Church?"

"No doubt of it, Cal; some who, spite of her idolatrous teachings, worship
God alone and put their trust solely in the atoning blood and imputed
righteousness of Christ. Yet who can fail to see in the picture of Babylon
the Great so graphically drawn in Revelation, a faithful portraiture of
Rome? And the command is, 'Come out of her, my people, that ye be not
partaker of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.'"

Mr. Dinsmore paused, but no one seeming to have anything to say in reply,
went on to give his sister a number of instances which had come to his
knowledge, of the perversion of Protestant girls while being educated in

"Well," she said at last, "I'm not going to draw back now, but I shall be
on the watch and if they do begin to tamper with my girls' faith I'll
remove them at once. There now I hope you are satisfied!"

"Not quite, Louise," he said, "they are accomplished proselyters and may
have the foundations completely and irremediably undermined ere you
suspect that they have begun."


"Affliction is the wholesome soil of virtue;
Where patience, honor, sweet humanity,
Calm fortitude, take root, and strongly flourish."

A bath, a nap, and a dainty supper had refreshed Molly somewhat before the
children were admitted to her room, but they found her looking pale and
thin, and oh, so sorrowful! so different from the bright, merry, happy
"Cousin Molly" of six months ago.

Their little hearts swelled with sympathetic grief, and tears filled their
eyes as one after another they took her hand and kissed her lovingly.

"Poor child, I so solly for oo!" said Herbert, and Molly laughed
hysterically, then put her hands over her face, and sobbed as though her
heart would break. First, it was the oddity of being called "child" by
such a mere baby, then the thought that she had become an object of pity
to such an one.

"Don' ky," he said, pulling away her hand to kiss her cheek. "Herbie
didn't mean to make oo ky."

"Come, Herbie dear, let us go now; we mustn't tease poor sick cousin,"
whispered his sister Elsie, drawing him gently away.

"No, no! let him stay; let him love me," sobbed Molly. "He is a dear
little fellow," she added, returning his caresses, and wiping away her

"Herbie will love oo, poor old sing," he said, stroking her face, "and
mamma and papa, and all de folks will be ever so dood to oo."

Molly's laugh was more natural this time, and under its inspiring
influence, the little ones grew quite merry, really amusing her with their
prattle, till their mammy came to take them to bed.

Elsie was beginning to say good-night too, thinking there was danger of
wearying the invalid, but Molly said, "I don't wonder you want to leave
me; mother says nobody could like to stay with such a - - " she broke off
suddenly, again hid her face in her hands and wept bitterly.

"Oh, no, no! I was only afraid of tiring you," Elsie said, leaning over
her and stroking her hair with soft, gentle touch. "I should like to stay
and talk if you wish; to tell you all about our visit to the Crags, and
mamma's old governess, and - - "

"Oh, yes, do; anything to help me to forget, even for a few minutes. Oh, I
wish I was dead! I wish I was dead! I can't bear to live and be a

"Dear Molly, don't cry, don't feel so dreadfully about it!" Elsie said,
weeping with her. "Jesus will help you to bear it; he loves you, and is
sorrier for you than anybody else is; and he won't let you be sick or in
pain in heaven."

"No, he doesn't love me! I'm not good enough; and if he did, he wouldn't
have let me get such a dreadful fall."

Little Elsie was perplexed for the moment, and knew not what to answer.

"Couldn't he have kept me from falling?" demanded Molly, almost fiercely.

"Yes, he can do everything."

"Then I hate him for letting me fall!"

Elsie was inexpressibly shocked. "Oh, Molly!" in an awed, frightened tone,
was all that she could say.

"I'm awfully wicked, I know I am; but I can't help it. Why did he let me
fall? I couldn't bear to let a dog be so dreadfully hurt, if I could help

"Molly, the Bible says 'God is love.' And in another place, 'God so loved
the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in
him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' 'God commendeth his

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Online LibraryMartha FinleyElsie's children → online text (page 6 of 17)