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than when mamma was their loved instructress.

Molly occupied her place in the schoolroom as regularly as the others. It
adjoined her apartments, and her wheeled chair required a very slight
exertion of strength on the part of friend or servant to propel it from
room to room.

Molly had already made herself a very thorough French and German scholar,
and was hoping to turn her ability to translate to good account in the way
of earning her own support; for there was no pauper instinct in the girl's
noble nature, and able and willing as her cousin was to support her, she
greatly preferred to earn her own living, though at the cost of much
wearisome labor of hand and brain.

She was not of those who seem to forget that the command, "Six days shalt
thou labor and do all thy work," is equally binding with that other, "In
it (the seventh day) thou shalt not do any work," This lesson - that
industry is commanded, idleness forbidden - was one which Elsie had ever
been careful to instil into the minds of her children from their earliest
infancy; nor was it enough, she taught them, that they should be doing
something, they must be usefully employed, remembering that they were but
stewards who must one day give an account to their Lord of all they had
done with the talents entrusted to them.

"Is Dick well? was it a nice letter?" Violet asked, leaning over her
cousin's chair when lessons were done.

"Oh very nice! he's well and doing famously, I must answer it this

"Then you will not care for company?"

"Not particularly. Why?"

Vi told of her invitation.

"Go, by all means," said Molly. "You know Virgy has a friend with her, a
Miss Reed. I want you to see her and tell me what she's like."

"I fear you'll have to see her yourself to find that out; I'm no portrait
painter," Violet said with a smile as she ran lightly away to order the
carriage and see to her own toilet and Rosie's.

They were simple enough; white dresses with blue sash and ribbons for Vi,
ditto of pink for Rosie.

Miss Reed, dressed in a stiff silk and loaded with showy jewelry, sat in
the drawing-room at Roselands in a bay-window overlooking the avenue. She
was gazing eagerly toward its entrance, as though expecting some one.

"Yes, I've heard of the Travillas," she said in answer to a remark from
Virginia Conly who stood by her side almost as showily attired as herself,
"I've been told she was a great heiress."

"She was; and he was rich too; though I believe he lost a good deal during
the war."

"They live splendidly, I suppose?"

"They've everything money can buy, but are nearly breaking their hearts
just now, over one of their little girls who seems to have some incurable

"Is that so? Well, they ought to have some trouble as well as other
folks. I'm sorry though; for I'd set my heart on being invited there and
seeing how they live."

"Oh they're all gone away except Vi and Rosie and the boys. But may be Vi
will ask us there to dinner or tea. Ah here they come!"

"What splendid match horses! What an elegant carriage!" exclaimed Miss
Reed, as a beautiful barouche, drawn by a pair of fine bays, came bowling
up the avenue.

"Yes, they've come, it's the Ion carriage."

"But that's a young lady Pomp's handing out of it!" exclaimed Miss Reed
the next moment, "and I thought you said it was only two children you

"Yes, Vi's only thirteen," answered Virginia running to the door to meet
her. "Vi, my dear, how good in you to come. How sweet you look!" kissing
her. "Rosie too," bestowing a caress upon her also, "pink's so becoming to
you, little pet, and blue equally so to Vi. This is my friend Miss Reed,
Vi, I've been telling her about you."

Violet gave her hand, then drew back blushing and slightly disconcerted by
the almost rude stare of the black eyes that seemed to be taking an
inventory of her personal appearance and attire.

"Where is Isa?" she asked.

"Here, and very glad to see you, Vi," answered a silvery voice, and a
tall, queenly looking girl of twenty, in rustling black silk and with
roses in her hair and at her throat, took Violet's hands in hers and
kissed her on both cheeks, then letting her go, saluted the little one in
like manner.

"Why don't you do that to me? guess I like kisses as well as other folks,
ha! ha!" cried a shrill voice, and a little withered up, faded woman with
a large wax doll in her arms, came skipping into the room.

Her hair, plentifully sprinkled with grey, hung loosely about her neck,
and she had bedizened herself with ribbons and faded artificial flowers of
every hue.

"Well, Griselda," she continued, addressing the doll, which she dandled in
her arms, regarding it with a look of fond admiration, "we don't care, do
we, dear? We love and embrace one another, and that's enough."

"Oh, go back to your own room," said Virginia in a tone of annoyance, "we
don't want you here."

"I'll go when I get ready, and not a minute sooner," was the rejoinder in
a pettish tone. "Oh, here's visitors! what a pretty little girl! what's
your name, little girl? Won't you come and play with me? I'll lend you
Grimalkin, my other wax doll. She's a beauty; almost as pretty as
Griselda. Now don't get mad at that, Grissy, dear," kissing the doll again
and again.

Rose was frightened and clung to her sister, trying to hide behind her.

"It's Aunt Enna; she won't hurt you," whispered Vi; "she never hurts any
one unless she is teased or worried into a passion."

"Won't she make me go with her! oh, don't let her, Vi."

"No, dear, you shall stay with me. And here is the nurse come to take her
away," Violet answered, as the poor lunatic was led from the room by her

"Dear me!" exclaimed Miss Reed, who had not seen or heard of Enna before,
turning to Virginia, "does she belong in the house? aren't you afraid of

"Not at all; she is perfectly harmless. She is my mother's sister, and
lost her reason some years ago, by an accidental injury to the head."

"I wonder you don't send her to an asylum."

"Perhaps it might be as well," returned Virginia indifferently, "but it's
not my affair."

"Grandpa would never hear of such a thing!" said Isadore, indignantly.

"Mamma would not either, I am sure," said Violet. "Poor Aunt Enna! should
she be sent away from all who love her, just because she is unfortunate?"

"Every one to their taste," remarked the visitor, shrugging her shoulders.

Vi inquired for her Aunt Louise and the younger members of the family, and
was told that they and the grandfather were spending the day at

"I was glad they decided to go to-day," said Isadore, seating Vi and
herself comfortably on a sofa, then taking Rose on her lap and caressing
her, "because I wanted you here, and to have you to myself. You see these
two young ladies," glancing smilingly at her sister and guest, "are so
fully taken up with each other, that for the most of the time I am quite
_detrop_, and must look for entertainment elsewhere than in their

"Yes," said Virginia, with more candor than politeness, "Josie and I are
all sufficient for each other; are we not, _mon amie_?"

"Very true, _machère_, yet I enjoy Isa's company, and am extremely
delighted to have made the acquaintance of your charming cousin," remarked
Miss Reed, with an insinuating bow directed to Violet.

"You do not know me yet," said Vi, modestly. "Though so tall, I am only a
little girl and do not know enough to make an interesting companion for a
young lady."

"Quite a mistake, Vi," said Isadore rising. "But there is the dinner-bell.
Come let us try the soothing and exhilarating effect of food and drink
upon our flagging spirits. We will not wait for Art; there's no knowing
when he can leave his patients; and Cal's away on business."

On leaving the table, Isadore carried off her young cousins to her own
apartments. Rose was persuaded to lie down and take a nap, while the
older girls conversed together in an adjoining room.

"Isn't it delightful to be at home again, after all those years in the
convent?" queried Vi.

"I enjoy home, certainly," replied Isa, "yet I deeply regretted leaving
the sisters; for you cannot think how good and kind they were to me. Shall
I tell you about it? about my life there?"

"Oh, do! I should so like to hear it."

Isadore smiled at the eager tone, the bright interested look, and at once
began a long and minute description of the events of her school-days at
the nunnery, ending with a eulogy upon convent life in general, and the
nuns who had been her educators, in particular. "They lived such holy,
devoted lives, were so kind, so good, so self-denying."

Violet listened attentively, making no remark, but Isadore read
disapproval more than once in her speaking countenance.

"I wish your mamma would send you and Elsie there to finish," remarked
Isa, breaking the pause which followed the conclusion of her narrative.
"Should you not like to go?"

"No, oh no, no!"

"Why not?"

"Isa, I could never, _never_ do some of those things you say they
require - bow to images or pictures, or kneel before them, or join in
prayers or hymns to the Virgin."

"I don't know how you could be so wicked as to refuse. She is the queen
of Heaven and mother of God."

"Isa!" and Violet looked inexpressibly shocked.

"You can't deny it. Wasn't Jesus God?"

"Yes; he is God. 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with
God, and the Word was God.' 'And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among

"Ah! and was not the Virgin Mary his mother?'"

Vi looked perplexed for a moment, then brightening, "Ah, I know now,'" she
said, "Jesus was God and man both.'"


"And - mamma told me - Mary was the mother of his human nature only, and it
is blasphemous to call her the mother of God; and to do her homage is

"So I thought before I went to the convent," said Isadore, "but the
sisters convinced me of my error. Vi, I should like to show you something.
Can you keep a secret?"

"I have never had a secret from mamma; I do not wish to have any."

"But you can't tell her everything now while she's away, and this concerns
no one but myself. I know I can trust to your honor," and taking Vi's
hand, she opened a door and drew her into a large closet, lighted by a
small circular window quite high up in the wall. The place was fitted up
as an oratory, with a picture of the Virgin and child, and a crucifix,
standing on a little table with a prayer-book and rosary beside it.

Vi had never seen such things, but she had heard of them and knew what
they signified. Glancing from the picture to the crucifix, she started
back in horror, and without a word hastily retreated to the dressing-room,
where she dropped into a chair, pale, trembling and distressed.

"Isadore, Isadore!" she cried, clasping her hands, and lifting her
troubled eyes to her cousin's face, "have you - have you become a papist?"

"I am a member of the one true church," returned her cousin coldly. "How
bigoted you are, Violet. I could not have believed it of so sweet and
gentle a young thing as you. I trust you will not consider it your duty to
betray me to mamma?"

"Betray you? can you think I would? So Aunt Louise does not know? Oh, Isa,
can you think it right to hide it from her - your own mother?"

"Yes; because I was directed to do so by my father confessor, and because
my motive is a good one, and 'the end sanctifies the means.'"

"Isa, mamma has taught me, and the Bible says it too, that it is never
right to do evil that good may come."

"Perhaps you and your mamma do not always understand the real meaning of
what the Bible says. It must be that many people misunderstand it, else
why are there so many denominations of Protestants, teaching opposite
doctrines, and all professing to get them from the Bible?"

Violet in her extreme youth and want of information and ability to argue,
was not prepared with an answer.

"Does Virgy know?" she asked.

"About my change of views and my oratory? Yes."

"And does she - - "

"Virgy is altogether worldly, and cares nothing for religion of any kind."

Vi's face was full of distress; "Isa," she said, "may I ask you a

"What is it?"

"When you pray, do you kneel before that - that - - "

"Crucifix? sometimes, at others before the Virgin and child."

Vi shuddered. "O Isa, have you forgotten the second commandment? 'Thou
shalt not make unto thee any graven image or any likeness of anything that
is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the
waters under the earth; thou shalt not bow down thyself to them nor serve

"I have not forgotten, but am content to do as the church directs,"
returned Isadore, coldly.

"Isa, didn't they promise Aunt Louise that they would not interfere with
your religion?"


"And then broke their promise. How can you think they are good?"

"They did it to save my soul. Was not that a good and praiseworthy

"Yes; but if they thought it their duty to try to make you believe as they
do, they should not have promised not to do so."

"But in that case I should never have been placed in the convent, and they
would have had no opportunity to labor for my conversion."

Earnestly, constantly had Elsie endeavored to obey the command. "Therefore
shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind
them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your
eyes. And ye shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when thou
sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest
down, and when thou risest up."

Thus Violet's memory was stored with texts, and these words from Isaiah
suggested themselves as a fit comment upon Isadore's last remark. "Woe
unto them that call evil good and good evil; that put darkness for light
and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter."


"But all's not true that supposition saith,
Nor have the mightiest arguments most faith."

"Examples I could cite you more;
But be contented with these four;
For when one's proofs are aptly chosen,
Four are as valid as four dozen."

Isa's perversion, Isa's secret, weighed heavily upon the heart and
conscience of poor Violet; the child had never been burdened with a secret

She thought Aunt Louise ought to know, yet was not at all clear that it
was her duty to tell her. She wished it might be discovered in some way
without her agency, for "it was a dreadful thing for Isa to be left to go
on believing and doing as she did. Oh, if only she could be talked to by
some one old enough and wise enough to convince her of her errors!"

Isadore with the zeal of a young convert, had set herself the task of
bringing Vi over to her new faith. The opportunity afforded by the absence
of the vigilant parents was too good to be lost, and should be improved to
the utmost.

She made daily errands to Ion, some trifling gift to Molly often being the
excuse, was sweet and gracious to all, but devoted herself especially to
Violet, insisting on sharing her room when she staid over night, coaxing
her out for long walks and drives, rowing with her on the lake, learning
to handle the oars herself in order that they might go alone.

And all the time she was on the watch for every favorable opening to say
something to undermine the child's faith, or bias her mind in favor of the
tenets of the church of Rome.

Violet grew more and more troubled and perplexed and now not on Isa's
account alone. She could not give up the faith of her fathers, the faith
of the Bible (to that inspired word she clung as to the rock which must
save her from being engulfed in the wild waters of doubt and difficulty
that were surging around her) but neither could she answer all Isadore's
questions and arguments, and there was no one to whom she might turn in
her bewilderment, lest she should betray her cousin's secret.

She prayed for guidance and help, searching the Scriptures and "comparing
spiritual things with spiritual," and thus was kept from the snares laid
for her inexperienced feet; she stumbled and walked with uncertain step
for a time, but did not fall.

Those about her, particularly Eddie and her old mammy, noticed the
unwonted care and anxiety in her innocent face, but attributed it wholly
to the unfavorable news in regard to Lily's condition, which reached them
from time to time.

The dear invalid was reported as making little or no progress toward
recovery, and the hearts of brothers and sisters were deeply saddened by
the tidings.

Miss Reed was still at Roselands, and had been brought several times by
Virginia for a call at Ion, and at length, Violet having written for and
obtained permission of her parents, and consulted Mrs. Daly's convenience
in reference to the matter, invited the three girls for a visit of several
days, stipulating, however, that it was not to interfere with lessons.

To this the girls readily assented; "they would make themselves quite at
home, and find their own amusement; it was what they should like above all

The plan worked well, except that under this constant association with
Isadore, Vi grew daily more careworn and depressed. Even Mr. Daly noticed
it, and spoke to her of Lily's state as hopefully as truth would permit.

"Do not be too much troubled, my dear child," he said, taking her hand in
a kind fatherly manner. "She is in the hands of One who loves her even
better than her parents, brothers and sisters do, and will let no real
evil come nigh her. He may restore her to health, but if not - if he takes
her from us, it will be to make her infinitely happier with himself; for
we know that she has given her young heart to him."

Violet bowed a silent assent, then hurried from the room; her heart too
full for speech. She was troubled, sorely troubled for her darling,
suffering little sister, and with this added anxiety, her burden was hard
indeed to bear.

Mr. Daly was reading in the library that afternoon, when Violet came
running in as if in haste, a flush of excitement on her fair face.

"Ah, excuse me, sir! I fear I have disturbed you," she said, as he looked
up from his book; "but oh, I'm glad to find you here! for I think you will
help me. I came to look for a Bible and Concordance."

"They are both here on this table," he said. "I am glad you are wanting
them, for we cannot study them too much. But in what can I help you, Vi?
is it some theological discussion between your cousins and yourself?"

"Yes, sir; we were talking about a book - a story-book that Miss Reed
admires - and I said mamma would not allow us to read it, because it
teaches that Jesus Christ was only a good man; and Miss Reed said that was
her belief; and yet she professes to believe the Bible, and I wish to show
her, that it teaches that he was very God as well as man."

"That will not be difficult," he said; "for no words could state it more
directly and clearly than these, 'Christ, who is over all, God blessed
forever. Amen,'" And opening the Bible at the ninth chapter of Romans, he
pointed to the latter clause of the fifth verse.

"Oh, let me show her that!" cried Vi.

"Suppose you invite them in here," he suggested, and she hastened to do

Miss Reed read the text as it was pointed out to her, "I don't remember
noticing that before," was all she said.

Silently Mr. Daly turned over the leaves and pointed out the twentieth
verse of the first Epistle of John, where it is said of Jesus Christ,
"This is the true God and eternal life;" and then to Isaiah ix. 6. "For
unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall
be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor,
the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace," and several
other passages equally strong and explicit in their declaration of the
divinity of Christ.

"Well," said Miss Reed, "if he was God, why didn't he say so?"

"He did again and again," was the reply "Here John viii. 58 - we read
"Jesus said unto them, 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham
was, I am.'""

"I don't see it!" she said sneeringly.

"You do not? just compare it with this other passage Exodus iii. 14, 15.
'And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say
unto the children of Israel, I AM _hath sent me unto you_. And God said
moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the, the God of Abraham, the
God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you; this is
children of Israel, The Lord God of your fathers my name forever, and this
is my memorial unto all generations.' The Jews who were present understood
those words of Jesus as an assertion of his divinity and took up stones to
cast at him."

Isadore seemed interested in the discussion, but Virginia showed evident
impatience. "What's the use of bothering ourselves about it?" she
exclaimed at length, "what difference does it make whether we believe in
his divinity or deny it?"

"A vast deal of difference, my dear young lady," said Mr. Daly. "If Christ
be not divine, it is idolatry to worship him. If he is divine, and we fail
to acknowledge it and to trust in him for salvation, we must be eternally
lost for 'neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other
name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.' 'But
whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.'"

Virginia fidgeted uneasily and Miss Reed inquired with affected
politeness, if that were all.

"No," he said, "far from it; yet if the Bible be - as I think we all
acknowledge - the inspired word of God, one plain declaration of a truth
is as authoritative as a dozen."

"Suppose I don't believe it is all inspired?" queried Miss Reed.

"Still, since Jesus asserts his own divinity, we must either accept him as
God, or believe him to have been an impostor and therefore not even a good
man. He must be to us everything or nothing; there is no neutral ground;
he says, 'He that is not with me is against me.'"

"And there is only one true church," remarked Isadore, forgetting herself;
"the holy Roman Church, and none without her pale can be saved."

Mr. Daly looked at her in astonishment. Violet was at first greatly
startled, then inexpressibly relieved; since Isa's secret being one no
longer, a heavy weight was removed from her heart and conscience.

Virginia was the first to speak. "There!" she said, "you've let it out
yourself; I always knew you would sooner or later."

"Well," returned Isadore, drawing herself up haughtily, determined to put
a brave face upon the matter, now that there was no retreat, "I'm not
ashamed of my faith; nor afraid to attempt its defence against any who may
see fit to attack it," she added with a defiant look at Mr. Daly.

He smiled a little sadly. "I am very sorry for you, Miss Conly," he said,
"and do not feel at all belligerent toward you; but let me entreat you to
rest your hopes of salvation only upon the atoning blood and imputed
righteousness of Jesus Christ."

"I must do good works also," she said.

"Yes as an evidence, but not as the ground of your faith; we must do good
works not that we may be saved, but because we are saved. 'If a man love
me, he will keep my words.' Well, my little Vi? what is it?" for she was
looking at him with eager, questioning eyes.

"O, Mr. Daly, I want you to answer some things Isa has said to me. Isa, I
have never mentioned it to any one before. I have kept your secret
faithfully, till now that you have told it yourself."

"I don't blame you, Vi," she answered coloring. "I presume I shall be
blamed for my efforts to bring you over to the true faith, but my
conscience acquits me of any bad motive. I wanted to save your soul. Mr.
Daly, I do not imagine you can answer all that I have to bring against the
claims of Protestantism. Pray where was that church before the

There was something annoying to the girl in the smile with which he heard
her question.

"Wherever the Bible was made the rule of faith and practice," he said,
"there was Protestantism though existing under another name. All through
the dark ages, when Popery was dominant almost all over the civilized
world, the light of a pure gospel - the very same that the Reformation
spread abroad over other parts of Europe - burned brightly among the
secluded valleys of Piedmont; and twelve hundred years of bloody

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Online LibraryMartha FinleyElsie's children → online text (page 9 of 17)