Elsie's Kith and Kin by Martha Finley
"Fortune is merry, And in this mood will give us any thing."
There was a sound of small, hurrying feet in the hall without, a tap at the door; and Max's voice asked, "May we come in?"
"Yes," said his father; and instantly the door was thrown wide. Evelyn came in with a quiet, lady-like step, and Max and Grace more boisterously.
The captain rose, shook hands with Eva, set her a chair, and sat down again, drawing Gracie to his arms, while Max stood at his side.
"Oh! what are those for?" he asked, catching sight of the blank-books.
"This is for you, this for Grace," the captain answered, bestowing them as he spoke, then went on to repeat substantially what he had just been saying to Lulu, and to replenish their purses as he had hers.
They were both delighted, both grateful.
Evelyn looked on, well pleased. "Now your allowance is just the same as mine, and I am so glad," she said to Lulu. "I have never kept an account; but I think it must be a good plan, and I mean to after this."
"There is another thing, children," said the captain: "any money that we have, is only lent to us by our heavenly Father; and it is our duty to set aside a certain portion for giving to his cause."
"How much, papa?" asked Max.
"People have different ideas about that," was the reply. "In Old-Testament times, the rule was one-tenth of all; and I think most people should not give less now: many are able to give a great deal more. I hope each of you will be glad to give as much as that."
He opened Lulu's Bible, lying on the table, and read aloud, "'He who soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly; and he who soweth bountifully, shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver.'"
"I'll give a tenth of all," said Lulu. "I mean to buy a little purse on purpose to keep my tenth in, and I'll put two of these dimes in it. That will be the tenth of the two dollars you've given me, won't it, papa?"
"Yes," he said.
"And I'll do the same," said Max.
"I too," added Gracie.
"It is just what my papa taught me to do," remarked Evelyn modestly.
"Would you children all like to take a drive with me this afternoon?" asked the captain.
There was a simultaneous and joyful assent from his own three: then Evelyn said, "Thank you, sir. I should like it extremely, if I can get permission. Aunt Elsie expects me home to dinner; but I will go now to the telephone, and ask if I may stay and accept your invitation."
"And while you are doing that, I will go to my wife, and try to persuade her to join our party," the captain said, leaving the room.
Evelyn had no difficulty in gaining permission to stay at Ion for the rest of the day, or go anywhere Capt. Raymond might propose to take her; and he found but little difficulty in persuading Violet to accompany him in a drive that would take her from her baby for an hour or two, the little one being so much better that she did not fear to leave it in charge of her mother and the nurse, thinking it might die before her return.
"The carriage will be at the door in ten or fifteen minutes after we leave the dinner-table," the captain told them all; and each one promised to be ready to start at once.
The children all came down the stairs and out upon the veranda together, and only a little in advance of the captain and Violet.
There was a simultaneous exclamation of surprise as they saw, not the Ion family carriage, but a new and very handsome one, with a pair of fine match-horses, which none of them had ever seen before, drawn up at the foot of the veranda-steps, while, a few feet beyond, a servant held the bridle of a beautiful, spirited pony, whose long mane, gracefully arched neck, and glossy coat, struck them all with admiration.
The carriage-horses were no less handsome or spirited: they were tossing their manes, and pawing the ground, with impatience to be off.
Violet turned a bright, inquiring look upon her husband, while all three of his children were asking in eager, excited tones, "Papa, papa, whose carriage and horses are these?"
"Ours," he said, handing Violet to a seat in the vehicle; then, as he helped Evelyn in, "Max, my son, if you will ride that pony, there will be more room here for the rest of us."
"O papa! may I?" cried the boy in tones of delight. "Did you hire it for me?"
"No: I only bought it for you. Mount, and let me see how well you can manage him--how well you have improved your opportunities for learning to ride."
Max needed no second invitation, but had vaulted into the saddle before his father was done speaking.
"Now put him through his paces," was the next order.
Max wheeled about, dashed down the avenue at a rapid gallop, turned, and came back at an easy canter; his father and sisters, Violet also, watching him in proud delight, he was so handsome, and sat his pony so well.
"Ah! that will do," his father said when the lad was within easy hearing-distance: "these fellows," glancing at the horses attached to the carriage, "are getting too restless to stand any longer; so you may finish your exhibition at another time. I have seen enough to feel that you are quite equal to the management of your pony."
"O papa! he's just splendid!" Max burst out, bending down to pat and stroke the neck of his steed; "and I can never thank you enough for such a gift."
"Enjoy him, and use him kindly: that is all I ask," the captain said, entering the carriage, where he had already placed his two little girls. "Drive on, Scipio. Max, you may ride along-side."
"I 'spect I know where we're going," remarked Grace gleefully, and with an arch smile up into her father's face, as she noticed the direction they were taking on turning out of the avenue into the high-road.
"Do you?" he said. "Well, wait a little, and you will find out how good a guess you have made."
"To Woodburn, papa?" queried Lulu eagerly.
"Have patience, and you will see presently," he answered with a smile.
"Mamma Vi, do you know?" she asked.
"It is your father's secret," said Violet. "I should not presume to tell you when he declines doing so."
"We shall know in a very few minutes, Lu," said Evelyn: "it is only a short drive to Woodburn."
"I was thinking about that name," said Grace. "Papa, why do they call it Woodburn? There's woods,--do they burn them sometimes? They don't look as if they'd ever been burned."
"I don't think they have," he said, "except such parts of them as dry twigs and fallen branches, that could be picked up from the ground, or now and then a tree that it was thought best to cut down, or that fell of itself. But you know, there is a pretty little brook running across the estate, and in Scotland such a stream is called a burn; so, having a wood and a burn, Woodburn is a very appropriate name."
"Yes, papa, I think it is, and a pretty name too. Thank you for explaining it, and not laughing at my mistake."
"Even papa doesn't know nearly every thing, little daughter," he said, stroking and patting the small hand she had laid on his knee, "so it would be quite out of place for him to laugh at you for asking a sensible question. We should never be ashamed to ask for information that we need. It is much wiser than to remain in ignorance for fear of being laughed at."
"And her father always gives information so kindly and patiently," remarked Violet.
"And I think he knows 'most every thing," said Grace. "Oh, I did guess right! for here we are at Woodburn."
They drove and walked about the grounds, admiring, criticising, planning improvements; then called on Miss Elliott, and, with her readily accorded permission, went over the house.
Violet and the captain selected a suite of rooms for their own occupation, and he decided which the children should use.
A bedroom opening from their own was selected for Grace, the adjoining room beyond for Lulu; and another, into which both these latter opened, they were told should be their own little sitting-room.
Besides these, a tiny apartment in a tower, communicating with Lulu's bedroom, was given to her. The sitting-room opened into the hall also, so that it was not necessary to pass through one bedroom to reach the other.
They were all bright, cheerful rooms, with a pleasant outlook from every window: in the sitting-room there were French windows opening upon a balcony.
The little girls were almost speechless with delight when told by their father that these four apartments were to be appropriated solely to their use.
Lulu caught his hand, and kissed it, tears of mingled joy and penitence springing to her eyes.
He smiled down at her, and laid his other hand tenderly on her head for an instant.
Then turning to Max, "Now, my boy," he said, "we must settle where you are to lodge. Have you any choice?"
"Is it to be more than one room for me, papa?" he asked, with an arch smile. "I believe boys don't usually fare quite so well as girls in such things."
"My boy does," returned his father: "you shall have two or three rooms if you want them, and quite as well furnished as those of your sisters."
"Then, if you please, papa, I'll take those over Lu's, and thank you very much. But as you have already given me several things that my sisters haven't got,--a gun, a watch, and that splendid pony,--I think it would be quite fair that they should have better and prettier furniture in their rooms than I in mine."
"That makes no difference, Max," his father answered with a pleased laugh. "I should hardly want the girls to have guns, but watches and ponies they shall have by the time they are as old as you are now."
At that the two little girls, standing near, exchanged glances of delight. They had been unselfishly glad for Max, and now they rejoiced each for herself and for the other.
Though, in common with all the rest, deeply interested in the new home, Max was not sorry when his father and Violet decided that it was time to return to Ion; for he was eager to show his pony to grandma Elsie, Zoe, and Rosie, who had not yet seen it.
"Papa, do you require me to keep along-side of the carriage?" he asked, as he remounted.
"No: if you wish, you may act as our avant-courier," was the smiling reply. "I quite understand that you are in haste to display your new treasure."
"Yes, sir: that was why I asked. Thank you, sir;" and away the lad flew, urging his pony to a rapid gallop.
He reached Ion some minutes in advance of the carriage, found nearly all of the family who had remained at home on the veranda, and greatly enjoyed their exclamations of surprise and admiration at sight of his steed.
As he drew rein at the foot of the steps, and lifted his hat to the ladies, Zoe and Rosie came hurriedly forward to get a nearer view. The first exclaimed,--
"What a beautiful pony! Where did he come from, Max?"
Rosie asking, "Whose is he?"
"Mine; a present from papa," replied Max, sitting proudly erect, and patting the pony's neck; "but I don't know where he came from, aunt Zoe. You'll have to ask papa if you want to know."
"You're in luck, Maxie," she said lightly.
"Yes, indeed. I was born in luck when I was born my father's son."
"Of course you were," she returned, laughing. "Where are the others? Oh, here they come!" as she caught sight of the captain's new carriage just turning in at the avenue-gates.
Those who were in it were a gay and happy party, who, all the way as they came, had been discussing plans for making the new home more convenient, comfortable, and beautiful, and for the life they were to live in it.
Woodburn was the principal theme of conversation in the evening also, the entire family being gathered together in the parlor, and no visitors present.
"Tell us about your nursery, Vi," said her mother: "where is it to be?"
"Next to our sleeping-room, mamma, on the other side from Gracie's: you may be sure we want our little ones near us."
"But is it a pleasant room?"
"None brighter or cheerier in the house, mamma; it is of good size too; and we mean to have it furnished with every comfort, and in a way to make it as attractive as possible."
"Pleasantly suggestive pictures among other things?"
"Yes, mamma. I know, from my own happy experience, that they have a great deal to do with educating a child."
"In both morals and art?" said the captain, looking smilingly at her. "I should think so, judging from what my wife is; and surely, it is reasonable to expect a child to be, to some extent, a reflection of its surroundings; refined or vulgar, according to the style of faces--living or pictured--it is constantly gazing upon, etc. But, however that may be, we will try to keep upon the safe side, furnishing only what must have a good influence, so far as it has any at all."
Lulu was there, sitting as close to her father as she could well get. She had a feeling that it was the only safe place for her.
"Shall I have some pictures on my walls, papa?" she asked in a low aside.
"Yes: we will go some day soon to the city, and choose some fine engravings for your rooms, Max's and Gracie's; furniture, too, carpets, curtains, and new paper for the walls."
"Oh, but that will be delightful!" she exclaimed. "Papa, you are just too good and kind for any thing."
Max, who was near at hand, had overheard. "That's so!" he said. "I suppose you mean that I am to go too, papa?"
"Yes; Gracie also. My dear," to Violet, "when will it suit you to accompany us?--to-morrow?"
"To-morrow is Saturday," she said reflectively. "Suppose we say Monday? I hope baby will be so much better by that time, that I shall feel easy in leaving her for a long day's shopping."
"Very well," he said: "we will go Monday morning if nothing happens to prevent."
"Lulu looks as if she did not know how to wait so long," Violet said, smiling kindly on the little girl. "Can't you take her and Max and Gracie to-morrow, and again on Monday? Surely, they can select some things for their own rooms, with you to help them."
"No. I want your taste as well as my own and theirs, and Lulu must learn to wait: it is a lesson she needs," he added, looking down at her with grave kindliness, and pressing affectionately the hand she had slipped into his.
She flushed, and cast down her eyes.
"Yes, papa," she murmured, "I will try to be good and patient. I'm sure I ought to be when you are so very good to me."
"Now, captain, if my taste and judgment were considered equal to Vi's, and Lulu might be spared that lesson," remarked Zoe laughingly, "I'd offer to go in her place,--Vi's, I mean. I think it would be great fun to help choose pictures, carpets, and furniture."
"Thank you, Zoe; that is a kind offer," said Violet: "and if mamma thinks it an enjoyable errand, and will consent to supplement your taste and judgment with hers, they will be a good deal more than equal to mine," she concluded, with a smiling glance at her mother.
"I am quite of Zoe's opinion as to the pleasantness of the object of the expedition, Vi," Elsie said, "and quite at the service of the captain and yourself, to go, or to take your place in watching over baby while you go; and I think you will find it necessary to spend more than one or two days in the work of selecting what you will want for the furnishing of your home."
"I dare say you are right about that, mother," said the captain; "and as it seems to be the desire of all parties that the work should be begun to-morrow, I think I will take the children and as many of you ladies as may like to accompany us."
"Papa, mayn't we drive to the city in the new carriage?" pleaded Lulu. "I'd like it ever so much better than going in the cars; and then we can drive from one store to another, without having to take the street-cars or a hack."
"It shall be as the ladies who decide to go with us may wish," he said.
"I think Lulu's plan a very good one," said grandma Elsie, kindly desirous to see the child gratified.
"And I would greatly prefer it, if I should be one of the party," added Zoe.
"As I trust you will," returned the captain gallantly. "Gracie, daughter, it is time little ones like you were in their nests. Bid good-night, and go."
The child obeyed instantly and cheerfully.
"And I must go back to my baby," Violet remarked, as she rose and left the room along with the little girl.
"You may go to your room, Lulu," the captain said, in a quiet aside; "but you need not say good-night to me now: I shall step in to look at you before I go to mine."
"Yes, papa," she returned, with a glad look, and followed Grace's example.
"Max, what do you say to a promenade on the veranda with your father?" Capt. Raymond asked, with a smiling glance at his son.
Max jumped up with alacrity. "That I'd like nothing better, sir," he said; and they went out together.
"You are pleased with your pony, Max?" the captain said inquiringly, striking a match and lighting a cigar as he spoke.
"Yes, indeed, papa!" was the enthusiastic reply. "I feel very rich owning him."
"And mean to be a kind master to him, I trust?"
"Yes, sir; oh, yes, indeed! I don't intend ever to speak a cross word to him, much less give him a blow."
"He has always been used to kind treatment, I was told, and has nothing vicious in his disposition," the captain continued, puffing at his cigar, and pacing the veranda with measured tread, Max keeping close at his side: "so I think he will always give you satisfaction, if you are gentle and kind, never ill-treating him in any way."
"I mean to make quite a pet of him, sir," Max said.
Then, with an arch look up into his father's face,--a full moon making it light enough for each to see the other's countenance quite distinctly,--"Papa, you are very generous to me, but you never offer me a cigar."
The captain stopped short in his walk, and faced his son with some sternness of look and tone. "Max, you haven't learned to smoke? tell me: have you ever smoked a cigar? or tobacco in any shape?"
"Yes, sir; but"--
"Don't do it again: I utterly and positively forbid it."
"Yes, sir: I'll obey; and, in fact, I have no desire to smoke again: it was just one cigar I tried; and it made me so deathly sick, that I've never wanted another. I wouldn't have done it, papa, if you had ever forbidden me; but--but you had never said any thing to me on the subject, and I'd seen"--Max hesitated, and left his sentence unfinished.
"You had seen your father smoke, and naturally thought you might follow his example?"
"Well, my son, I can hardly blame you for that; but there are some things a man may do with impunity, that a boy may not. Tobacco is said to be far more injurious to one who has not attained his growth, than to an adult. But it is not seldom injurious to the latter also: some seem to use it with no bad effect, but it has wrought horrible suffering for many. I am sorry I ever formed the habit, and I would save you from the same regret, or something worse: indeed, so anxious am I to do so, that I would much rather hand you a thousand dollars than a cigar, if I thought you would smoke it."
"Papa, I promise you I will never try the thing again; never touch tobacco in any shape," Max said earnestly.
"Thank you, my son; and I will give up the habit for your sake," returned his father, grasping the lad's hand with one of his, and, with the other, flinging his cigar far down the avenue.
"Oh, no, papa! don't do it for my sake," said Max. "Cousin Arthur told me that when a man had smoked for years, it cost him a good deal of suffering to give it up; and I couldn't bear to see you suffer so. I'll refrain all the same, without your stopping."
"I don't doubt that you would, my dear boy; and I fully appreciate the affection for me that prompts you to talk in that way," the captain said: "but I have set a bad example quite long enough, not to my own son alone, but to other people's; and whatever I may have to endure in breaking off from the bad habit, will be no more than I deserve for contracting it. I should be very sorry, Max, to have you feel that you have a coward for a father,--a man who would shrink from the course he felt to be right, rather than endure pain, mental or physical."
"A coward! O papa! I could never think that of you!" cried the boy, flushing hotly; "and if ever any fellow should dare to hint such a thing in my hearing, I'd knock him down as quick as a flash."
The corners of the captain's lips twitched; but his tones were grave enough as he said, "I don't want you to do any fighting on my account, Max; and if anybody slanders me, I shall try to live it down.
"There is another thing I want to talk to you about," he went on presently, "and that is the danger of tampering with intoxicating drinks. The only safe plan is to let them entirely alone. I am thankful to be able to say that I have not set you a bad example in that direction. My good mother taught me to 'touch not, taste not, handle not;' and I have never taken so much as a glass of wine; though there have been times, my boy, when it required some moral courage to stand out against the persuasions, and especially the ridicule, of my companions."
Max's eyes sparkled. "I know it must, papa," he said; "and when I am tried in the same way, I'll remember my father's example, and try to act as bravely as he did."