Martha Finley.

Elsie's Motherhood online

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As our party left the vessel a voice was heard from the hold, crying in
dolorous accents, and a rich Irish brogue, "Och captin dear, help me
out, help me out! I've got fast betwane these boxes here, bad cess to
'em! an' can't hilp mesilf at all, at all!"

"Help you out, you passage thief!" roared the captain in return, "yes
I'll help you out with a vengeance, and put you into the hands of the
police."

"Ah ha! um h'm ah ha, you'll have to catch him first," remarked Mr.
Lilburn with a quiet smile; stepping from the plank to the wharf as he
spoke.

"Ah, cousin, you are incorrigible!" said Elsie, laughingly.




Chapter Twenty-fourth.

"The fields did laugh, the flowers did freshly spring,
The trees did bud and early blossoms bear,
And all the quire of birds did sweetly sing,
And told that garden's pleasures in their caroling."
- SPENSER'S FAERY QUEEN


Nothing could be lovelier than was Viamede as they found it on their
arrival.

The children, one and all, were in an ecstasy of delight over the orange
orchard with its wealth of golden fruit, glossy leaves, and delicate
blossoms, the velvety lawn with its magnificent shade trees, the variety
and profusion of beautiful flowers, and the spacious lordly mansion.

They ran hither and thither jumping, dancing, clapping their hands and
calling to each other with shouts of glee.

The pleasure and admiration of the older people were scarcely less,
though shown after a soberer fashion. But no check was put upon the
demonstrations of joy of the younger ones: they were allowed to gambol,
frolic, and play, and to feast themselves upon the luscious fruit to
their hearts' content.

Nor was the gladness all on the side of the new arrivals: to the old
house servants, many of whom still remained, the coming of their beloved
young mistress and her children had been an event looked forward to with
longing for years.

They wept for joy as they gathered about her, kissed her hand and
clasped her little ones in their arms, fondling them and calling them by
every endearing name known to the negro vocabulary.

And the children, having heard a great deal, from both mamma and mammy,
about these old people and their love and loyalty to the family, were
neither surprised, nor displeased, but quite ready to receive and return
the affection lavished upon them.

The party from Lansdale arrived only a few days after the others, and
were welcomed with great rejoicings, in which even Bruno must have a
share: he jumped and gamboled about Harry and May, tried to kiss the
babies, and finally put his nose into Aunt Wealthy's lap, saying, "Ye're
a dear auld leddy, ma'am, and I'm glad ye've come!"

"Ah," she answered, patting his head and laughing her low, sweet silvery
laugh, "you betray your Scotch accent, my fine follow; and I'm too old a
chaff to be caught with a bird."

Mr. Mason was still chaplain at Viamede, and with his wife and children
occupied a pretty and commodious cottage which had been built on the
estate expressly for their use.

When he and Mr. Daly met they instantly and delightedly recognized each
other as former classmates and intimate friends, and the Dalys, by
urgent invitation, took up their abode for the winter in the cottage;
but Mr. and Mrs. Travilla were careful that it should still be entirely
at their expense.

A suite of apartments in the mansion was appropriated to each of the
other families, and it was unanimously agreed that each should feel at
perfect liberty to withdraw into the privacy of these, having their
meals served to them there, if they so desired; or at their pleasure to
mingle with the others in the breakfast parlor, dining-room,
drawing-rooms, library, etc.

The first fortnight was made a complete holiday to all, the days being
filled up with games, walks, rides, drives and excursions by land and
water.

In consequence of the changes occasioned by the war, they found but
little society in the neighborhood now, yet scarcely missed it; having
so much within themselves.

But at length even the children began to grow somewhat weary of constant
play. Harry Duncan and Horace Jr. announced their speedy departure to
attend to business, and the other adults of the party felt that it was
time to take up again the ordinary duties of life.

Mr. Daly, anxious to make some return for the kindness shown him,
offered to act as tutor to all the children who were old enough for
school duties; but Rosie put her arms about her father's neck and
looking beseechingly into his eyes, said she preferred her old
tutor; - at which he smiled, and stroking her hair, said she should keep
him then, for he would be quite as loth to give up his pupil, - and
Elsie's children, clinging about her, entreated that their lessons might
still be said to mamma.

"So they shall, my darlings," she answered, "for mamma loves to teach
you."

The young Carringtons too, and their mother preferred the old way.

So Mr. Daly's kind offer was declined with thanks: and perhaps he was
not sorry; being weak and languid and in no danger of suffering from
ennui with horses to ride and plenty of books at hand.

A school-room was prepared, but only the Travillas occupied it, Sophie
preferring to use her dressing-room, and Rosie studying in her own room,
and reciting to her papa in his or the library.

Elsie expected her children to find it a little hard to go back to the
old routine; but it was not so. They came to her with bright, happy
faces, were quiet and diligent and when the recitations were over,
gathered about her for a little chat before returning to their play.

"Mamma," said Eddie, "we've had a nice long holiday, and it's really
pleasant to get back to lessons again."

"So it is!" said Vi, "don't you think so, Elsie?"

"Yes, indeed! nice to get back to our books, but we've had lessons
almost every day, grandpa and papa and mamma teaching us so much about
the birds, insects, and all sorts of living things, and the flowers and
plants, trees, stones and oh, I don't know how many things that are
different here from what we have at home."

"At home! why this is home; isn't it, mamma?" exclaimed Eddie.

"Yes, my son, one of our homes."

"Yes, and so beautiful," said Vi; "but Ion 'pears the homest to me."

"Does it, darling?" asked mamma, giving her a smile and a kiss.

"Yes, mamma; and I love Ion dearly: Viamede 'most as well, though,
because you were born here, and your dear mamma."

"And because that dear grandma is buried here;" remarked her sister,
"and because of all those dear graves. Mamma, I do like those lessons I
was speaking of, and so do Eddie and Vi; but Herbert and Meta and Harry
don't; they say they think them very stupid and dull."

"I am glad, my children, that you love knowledge," their mother said,
"because it is useful; the more knowledge we have the more good we can
do if we will."

"And then it is a lasting pleasure. God's works are so wonderful that we
can never learn all about them while we live in this world, and I
suppose throughout the endless ages of eternity, we shall be ever
learning, yet always finding still more to learn."

"Mamma, how pleasant that will be," said Elsie thoughtfully.

"And oh, mamma!" cried Vi, "that reminds me that we've been out of doors
'most all the day-times, and haven't seen grandma's play-room and things
yet. Won't you show them to us?"

"Yes, we will go now."

"Me too, mamma?" asked Harold.

"Yes, all of you come. I want you all to see everything that I have that
once belonged to my dear mother."

"Aunt Rosie wants to see them too," said Vi.

"And Herbert and Meta and the others," added Elsie.

"They shall see them afterwards. I want no one but my own little
children now," replied mamma, taking Harold's hand, and leading the way.

She led them to the room, a large and very pleasant one, light and airy,
where flowers were blooming and birds singing, vines trailing over and
about the windows, lovely pictures on the walls, cosy chairs and
couches, work-tables, well supplied with all the implements for sewing,
others suited for drawing, writing or cutting out upon, standing here
and there, quantities of books, games and toys; nothing seemed to have
been forgotten that could give pleasant employment for their leisure
hours, or minister to their amusement.

There was a burst of united exclamations of wondering delight from the
children, as the door was thrown open and they entered. Now they
understood why mamma had put them off when several times they had asked
to be brought to this room: she was having it fitted up in a way to give
them a joyful surprise.

"Do you like it, my darlings?" she asked with a pleased smile.

"Oh, yes, yes! yes indeed!" they cried, jumping, dancing and clapping
their hands, "dear, dear mamma, how good, how good you are to us!" and
they nearly smothered her with caresses.

Releasing herself, she opened another door leading into an adjoining
room which, to Eddie's increased delight, was fitted up as a work-room
for boys, with every sort of tool used by carpenters and cabinet makers.
He had such at Ion and was somewhat acquainted with their use.

"Oh what nice times Herbert and Harry and I shall have!" he exclaimed.
"What pretty things we'll make! Mamma, I don't know how to thank you and
my dear father!" he added, catching her hand and pressing it to his lips
with passionate affection.

"Be good and obedient to us, kind and affectionate to your brothers,
sisters and playmates," she said, stroking his hair: "that is the kind
of thanks we want, my boy; we have no greater joy than to see our
children good and happy."

"If we don't be, it's just our own fault, and we're ever so wicked and
bad!" cried Vi, vehemently.

Mamma smiled at her little girl's impetuosity, then in grave, tender
tones, said, "And is there not some One else more deserving of love and
thanks than even papa and mamma?"

"God, our kind heavenly Father," murmured little Elsie, happy, grateful
tears shining in her soft eyes.

"Yes, it is from his kind hand all our blessings come."

"I love God," said Harold, "and so does Fank: Mamma, can Fank come up
here to play wis me?"

"Yes, indeed: Frank is a dear, good little boy, and I like to have you
together."

Mamma unlocked the door of a large light closet, as she spoke, and the
children, looking eagerly in, saw that its shelves were filled with
beautiful toys.

"Grandma's things!" they said softly.

"Yes, these are what my dear mother played with when she was a little
girl like Elsie and Vi" said mamma. "You may look at them."

There was a large babyhouse, beautifully furnished; there were many
dolls of various sizes, and little chests and trunks full of nicely made
clothes for them to wear - night-clothes, morning wrappers, gay silks and
lovely white dresses, bonnets and hats, shoes and stockings too, and
ribbons and laces, for the lady dolls; and for the gentlemen, coats,
hats, vests, cravats and everything that real grown-up men wear; and for
the baby dolls there were many suits of beautiful baby clothes; and all
made so that they could be easily taken off and put on again.

There were cradles to rock the babies in, and coaches for them to ride
in; there were dinner and tea-sets of the finest china and of solid
silver; indeed almost everything in the shape of toys that the childish
heart could desire.

The lonely little girl had not lacked for any pleasure that money could
procure: but she had hungered for that best earthly gift - the love of
father, mother, brothers and sisters - which can be neither bought nor
sold.

The children examined all these things with intense interest and a sort
of wondering awe, then begged their mother to tell them again about
"dear grandma."

They had heard the story - all that mamma and mammy could tell - many
times, but it never lost its charm.

"Yes, dears, I will: I love to think and speak of her," Elsie said,
sitting down in a low chair while they gathered closely round her, the
older two, one on each side, the others leaning upon her lap.

"Mamma, it is a sad story; but I love it," little Elsie said, drawing a
deep sigh, as the tale came to an end.

"Yes, poor little girl, playing up here all alone," said Eddie.

"'Cept mammy," corrected Vi.

"Yes, mammy to love her and take care of her, but no brother or sister
to play with, and no dear mamma or papa like ours."

"Yes, poor dear grandma!" sighed little Elsie. "And it was almost as
hard for you, mamma, when you were a little girl: didn't you feel very
sad?"

"Ah, daughter, I had Jesus to love me, and help me in all my childish
griefs and troubles," the mother answered, with a glad smile; "and mammy
to hug and kiss and love me just as she does you."

"But oh, didn't you want your mamma and papa?"

"Yes, sorely, sorely at times; but I think no little child could be
happier than I was when at last; my dear father came home, and I found
that he loved me dearly. Ah, I am so glad, so thankful that my darlings
have never suffered for lack of love."

"I too, mamma."

"And I."

"And I," they exclaimed, clinging about her and loading her with
caresses.

"Hark!" she said, "I hear your dear grandpa's step, and there, he is
knocking at the door."

Eddie ran to open it.

"Ah, I thought I should find you here, daughter," Mr. Dinsmore said,
coming in. "I, too, want to see these things; it is long since I looked
at them."

She gave him a pleased look and smile, and stepping to the closet he
stood for some moments silently gazing upon its treasures.

"You do well to preserve them with care as mementoes of your mother," he
remarked, coming back and seating himself by her side.

"O grandpa, you could tell us more about her, and dear mamma too, when
she was a little girl!" said little Elsie, seating herself upon his
knee, twining her arms about his neck, and looking coaxingly into his
face.

"Ah, what a dear little girl your mamma was at your age!" he said,
stroking her hair and gazing fondly first at her and then at her
mother, "the very joy of my heart and delight of my eyes! though not
dearer than she is now."

Elsie returned the loving glance and smile, while her namesake daughter
remarked, "Mamma couldn't be nicer or sweeter than she is now; nobody
could."

"No, no! no indeed!" chimed in the rest of the little flock. "But
grandpa please tell the story. You never did tell it to us."

"No," he said, half sighing, "but you shall have it now." Then went on
to relate how he had first met their mother's mother, then a very
beautiful girl of fifteen.

An acquaintance took him to call upon a young lady friend of his, to
whom Elsie Grayson was paying a visit, and the two were in the
drawing-room together when the young men entered.

"What did you think the first minute you saw her, grandpa?" asked Eddie.

"That she had the sweetest, most beautiful face and perfect form I had
ever laid eyes on, and that I would give all I was worth to have her for
my own."

"Love at first sight," his daughter remarked, with a smile, "and it was
mutual."

"Yes she told me afterward that she had loved me from the first; though
the longer I live the more I wonder it should have been so, for I was a
wild, wayward youth. But she, poor thing, had none to love or cherish
her but her mammy."

"Grandpa, I think you're very nice," put in little Vi, leaning on his
knee, and gazing affectionately into his face.

"I'm glad you do," he said, patting her soft round cheek.

"But to go on with my story. I could not keep away from my charmer, and
for the next few weeks we saw each other daily.

"I asked her to be my own little wife and she consented. Then early one
morning we went to a church and were married; no one being present
except the minister, the sexton, and her friend and mine, who were
engaged to each other, and her faithful mammy.

"Her guardian was away in a distant city and knew nothing about the
matter. He was taken sick there and did not return for three months, and
during that time Elsie and I lived together in a house she owned in New
Orleans.

"We thought that now that we were safely married, no one could ever
separate us, and we were very, very happy.

"But one evening her guardian came suddenly upon us, as we sat together
in her boudoir, and in a great passion ordered me out of the house.

"Elsie was terribly frightened and I said, 'I will go to-night for peace
sake; but Elsie is my wife, and to-morrow I shall come and claim her as
such, and I think you'll find I have the law on my side.' Elsie clung to
me and wept bitterly; but I comforted her with the assurance that the
parting was only for a few hours."

Mr. Dinsmore's voice faltered. He paused a moment, then went on in tones
husky with emotion.

"We never saw each other again. When I went back in the morning the
house was closed and quite deserted; not even a servant in it, and I
knew not where to look for my lost wife.

"I went back to my hotel and there found my father waiting for me in my
room. He was very angry about my marriage, the news of which had brought
him from home. He made me go back with him at once and sent me North to
college. I heard nothing of my wife for months, and then only that she
was dead and had left me a little daughter."

"And that was our mamma!" cried the children, once more crowding about
her to lavish caresses upon her.

They thanked their grandfather for his story, and Vi looking in at the
closet door again, said in her most coaxing tones, "Mamma, I should so,
_so_ like to play a little with some of those lovely things; and I would
be very careful not to spoil them."

"Not now, daughter, though perhaps I may allow it some day when you are
older. But see here! will not these do quite as well?"

And rising, Mrs. Travilla opened the door of another closet displaying
to the children's delighted eyes other toys as fine and in as great
profusion and variety as those she considered sacred to her mother's
memory.

"Oh, yes, yes, mamma! how lovely! how kind you are! are they for us?"
they exclaimed in joyous tones.

"Yes," she said, "I bought them for you while we were in New Orleans,
and you shall play with them whenever you like. And now we will lock the
doors and go down to dress for dinner. The first bell is ringing."

After dinner the play-room and the contents of the two closets were
shown to Mrs. Dinsmore, Rosie, and the Carringtons: then Mrs. Travilla
locked the door of the one that held the treasured relics of her
departed mother, and carried away the key.




Chapter Twenty-fifth.

"She'd lift the teapot lid
To peep at what was in it,
Or tilt the kettle if you did
But turn your back a minute."


Meta Carrington had many excellent traits of character; was frank,
generous, unselfish and sincere; but these good qualities were offset by
some very serious faults; she was prying and full of desire for whatever
was forbidden.

The other children played contentedly with the toys provided for them;
but Meta secretly nursed a great longing for those Mrs. Travilla had
chosen to withhold; and was constantly endeavoring to devise some plan
by which to get possession of them.

She attempted to pick the lock with a nail, then with a knife, but
failing in that, seized every opportunity of doing so unobserved, to try
the keys from other doors in different parts of the house, till at
length she found one that would answer her purpose; then she watched her
chance to use it in the absence of her mates.

At length such a time came. The ladies had all gone out for an airing,
the little ones, too, in charge of their nurses, Vi and the boys were
sporting on the lawn, and Elsie was at the piano practicing; certain,
faithful little worker that she was, not to leave it till the allotted
hour had expired.

Having satisfied herself of all this, Meta flew to the play-room, and
half trembling at her own temerity, admitted herself to the forbidden
treasures.

There was no hesitancy in regard to her further proceedings; for weeks
past, she had had them all carefully arranged in her mind; she would
have a tea-party, though, unfortunately, there could be no guests
present but the dolls; yet at all events, she could have the great
pleasure of handling that beautiful china and silver and seeing how a
table would look set out with them. A pleasure doubled by the fact that
she was enjoying it in opposition to the known wishes and commands of
her mother and the owner; for in Meta's esteem 'stolen waters were
sweet' indeed.

She selected a damask table cloth from a pile that lay on one of the
lower shelves, several napkins to match, slipping each of these last
into a silver ring taken from a little basket that stood alongside, and
proceeded with quiet glee, to deck a table with them, and the sets of
china and silver she most admired.

"Beautiful! beautiful! I never saw anything so pretty!" she exclaimed
half aloud, as, her task finished, she stood gazing in rapt delight at
the result of her labors. "Oh I think it's real mean in Aunt Elsie, to
say we sha'n't play with these, and to lock them up away from us. But
now for the company!" and running into the closet again, she brought out
several of the largest dolls.

"I'll dress them for dinner," she said, still talking to herself in an
undertone: "that'll be fun. What lots of lovely things I shall find in
these trunks; I'll look them over and select what I like best to have
them wear. I'll have time enough: it isn't at all likely anybody will
come to disturb me for an hour:" and as she opened the first trunk, she
glanced hastily at the clock on the mantel.

She was mistaken. Time flew away much faster than she was aware of, and
scarce half an hour had passed when a pair of little feet came dancing
along the hall, the door - which in her haste and pre-occupation Meta had
forgotten to lock - flew open, and Vi stood before her.

The great blue eyes turning toward the table opened wide with
astonishment. "Why, why, Meta!"

Meta's face flushed deeply for a moment, but thinking the best plan
would be to brave it out, "Isn't it pretty?" she asked, as unconcernedly
as she could.

"Yes, oh lovely! but - where did you - aren't they my grandma's things? O
Meta, how could you ever dare - "

"Pooh! I'm not going to hurt 'em. And why should you think they were
hers? can't other people have pretty things?"

"Yes, but I know they're grandma's, I rec - recog - recognize them. Oh
what shall we do? I wouldn't venture to touch 'em, even to put them
back."

"What a big word that was you used just now," said Meta, laughing, "It
'most choked you."

"Well when I'm bigger it won't," returned Vi, still gazing at the table.
"Oh how lovely they are! I do wish mamma would let us play with them."

"So do I: and these dolls too. It's just delightful to dress and undress
them. Here, Vi, help me put this one's shoes on."

The temptation to handle the tiny, dainty shoes and see how well they
fitted the feet of the pretty doll, was great, and not giving herself
time to think, Violet dropped down on the carpet by Meta's side and
complied with the request. "Just to slip on those lovely shoes, now that
they were there right before her, was not much," so said the tempter:
then, "Now having done a little, what difference if she did a little
more?"

Thoughtless and excitable, she presently forgot mamma and her commands,
and became as eagerly engaged as Meta herself in the fascinating
employment of looking over the contents of the trunks, and trying now
one, and now another suit upon the dollies.

"Now this one's dressed, and I'll set her up to the table," said Meta,
jumping up. "Oh my!"

Something fell with a little crash on the lid of the trunk by Vi's side,
and there at her feet lay one of the beautiful old china plates broken
into a dozen pieces.

The child started up perfectly aghast, the whole extent of her
delinquency flashing upon her in that instant. "Oh, oh! what have I
done! what a wicked, wicked girl I am! what will mamma say!" And she
burst into an agony of grief and remorse.

"You didn't do it, nor I either," said Meta; stooping to gather up the
fragments, "the doll kicked it off. There, Vi, don't cry so; I'll put
the things all back just as they were, and never, never touch one of
them again."

"But you can't; because this one's broken. Oh dear, oh dear! I wish you
had let them alone, Meta. I wish, I wish I'd been a good girl and obeyed
mamma!"

"Never mind: if she goes to whip you, I'll tell her it was 'most all my
fault. But she needn't know: it won't be a story to put them back and


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