Chapter XX. In the New Home.
 

The moving to Woodburn was not a formidable affair, there being little to carry from Ion besides the personal belongings of parents and children; and, indeed, nearly every thing, even of that kind, had been sent over beforehand.

Miss Elliott went one morning; and the Raymonds drove over scarcely an hour later, to find the greater part of the house in perfect order, a full staff of competent servants, and an excellent dinner in course of preparation.

Max and his sisters had been directed to stay away from the place ever since the day when their rooms were assigned them, and now a glad surprise awaited them.

"Come up-stairs," their father said, when they had made the circuit of the lower rooms. "My dear," to Violet, "will you please come too?"

"With all my heart," she returned gayly, and tripped lightly after him up the broad stairway, the children following.

He led them first to her apartments, and on through them into those of the little girls, greatly enjoying the exclamations of wonder and delight from her and the children.

They had all supposed the work of renovation and improvement was not to be begun till after the departure of Miss Elliott; but they found it not only begun, but finished; the new papers they had chosen were already on the walls, the carpets down, the curtains up, mirrors and pictures hung, and furniture in place.

Max's rooms, visited last, were found to be in like condition,--not at all inferior to those of his sisters in any respect.

Violet was greatly pleased; the children were wild with delight; every thing was so dainty and fresh, there was such an air of elegance and refinement about the appointments of each room, that all were charmed with the effect.

They were hardly yet satisfied with gazing and commenting, when the summons to dinner came.

They trooped down to the dining-room, the captain and Violet leading the way, and seated themselves at the table.

Here, too, all was new and handsome; the napery, china, glass and silver ware, such as would not have suffered by comparison with what they had been accustomed to at Ion and Viamede.

Lulu was beginning to express that opinion, when her father silenced her by a gesture.

All quieted down at once, while he reverently gave thanks for their food, and asked God's blessing upon it.

"May I talk now, papa?" she asked, a moment after he had finished.

"Yes, if you have any thing to say worth our hearing."

"I'm not sure about that," she said; "but I wanted to tell you how beautiful I think the china and glass and silver are."

"Ah!" he said, smiling, "I am glad they meet your approval."

"O papa! such a nice, nice home as you have made for us!" exclaimed Grace in her turn. "Isn't it, Maxie?" turning to her brother.

"Yes, indeed! and we'll have to be nice, nice children to fit the home, won't we, Gracie?"

"Yes, and to fit papa and mamma," she responded, sending a merry glance from one to the other.

Both smiled upon her in return.

"We are going to have a house-warming this evening, Gracie," said her father: "do you know what that is?"

"No, papa; but I think it's very nice and warm now in all the rooms. Don't you?"

"It is quite comfortable, I think; but the house-warming will be an assembling of our relatives and friends to celebrate our coming into it, by having a pleasant, social time with us."

"Oh, that will be nice!" she exclaimed. "How many are coming, papa? I s'pose you've 'vited grandma Elsie and all the rest of the folks from Ion, and all the folks at Fairview?"

"Yes, and from the Oaks, the Pines, the Laurels, Roselands, and Ashlands; and we hope they will all come."

She gave him a wistful look.

"Well," he said with a smile, "what is it?"

"Papa, you know I 'most always have to go to bed at eight o'clock. I'd like ever so much to stay up till nine to-night, if you are willing."

"If you will take a nap after dinner, you may," he replied in an indulgent tone. "Max and Lulu may stay up later than usual if they will do likewise."

They all accepted the condition with thanks, and at the conclusion of the meal retired to their respective rooms to fulfil it.

Violet also, having not yet entirely recovered from the ill effects of anxiety and nursing, consequent upon the baby's injury, retired to her apartments to rest and sleep.

Capt. Raymond went to the library to busy himself with some correspondence first, afterwards with books and papers. He had one of these last in his hand, a pile of them on the table before him, when, from the open doorway into the hall, Lulu's voice asked,--

"Papa, may I come in? are you very busy?"

"Not too busy to be glad of my little girl's company," he said, glancing up from his paper with a pleasant smile. "Come and sit on my knee."

She availed herself of the invitation with joyful haste.

"I thought you were taking a nap," he remarked, as he put his arm round her, and kissed the ruby lips she held up in mute request.

"So I was, papa; but you didn't intend me to sleep all the afternoon, did you?" she asked, with a gleeful laugh, and nestling closer to him.

"No, hardly," he returned, joining in her mirth: "so much sleep in the daytime would be apt to interfere with your night's rest. I want you all to have sufficient sleep in the twenty-four hours to keep you in health of body and mind, but should be very sorry to have you become sluggards,--so fond of your beds as to waste time in drowsing there, that should be spent in the exercise and training of body or mind. What have you been doing besides napping?"

"Enjoying my lovely, lovely rooms, papa, and examining the closets and wardrobe and bureau, to find out just where all my things have been put."

"That was well. Do you know any thing about housework,--sweeping, dusting, and keeping things neat and tidy?"

"Not very much, papa."

"That is to be a part of your education," he said. "I want my daughters to become thorough housekeepers, conversant with all the details of every branch of the business. Gracie is not old enough or strong enough to begin that part of her training yet, but you are; so you must take care of your rooms yourself, except when something more than sweeping, dusting, and bed-making is needed."

"I'd like well enough to do it sometimes, papa," she said, looking a little crestfallen; "but I don't like to be tied down to doing it every day, because some days I shall want to be busy at something else; and besides, it is so much like being a servant."

"My little girl, that isn't a right kind of pride; honest labor is no disgrace; and 'Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work,' is as much a command of God as the 'In it (the sabbath) thou shalt not do any work.'"

"Yes, papa: and I don't think I'm lazy; I like to be busy, and sometimes work for hours together at my fret-sawing."

"No, I have never thought you an indolent child," he said, smoothing her hair caressingly; "but I am afraid you are wilful, and inclined to think yourself wiser than your elders, even your father."

"Please, papa, don't think that," she said, blushing, and hanging her head: "I know you are much wiser than I am."

"Is it, then, that you doubt my affection for you?" he asked seriously.

"Why, papa, how could I, when you are so good to me, and often tell me that you love me dearly?"

"What, then, is the trouble? if you believe your father to be both wise and loving, and if you love him, and want to please him, how can you object to his plans and wishes for you?"

"But, papa, who is to teach me how to take care of my rooms? Not mamma Vi, I suppose? I never saw her do any such work; and--would you want me taught by one of the servants?" she queried, blushing vividly.

"No," he said: "I have a better plan than that. I have engaged Christine to be housekeeper here, and she will instruct you in all housewifely arts. She is a lady in education and manners, and you need feel it no degradation to be instructed by her."

"Oh, that will be nice! and I'll try to learn to do the work well, and to like it, too, to please you, my own, dear papa," she said, looking up lovingly into his face, her own growing very bright again.

"That is right, my dear little daughter," he returned, smiling kindly upon her.

"You asked just now," he went on, "if your mamma Vi would teach you these things. When I asked her to become my wife, I promised that she should have no care or responsibility in the matter of training and looking after the welfare of the three children I then had; because her mother objected, that she was too young for such a burden: so now that I can live at home with my children, and have no business that need interfere, I shall do my best to be father and mother both to them."

"How nice, papa!" she exclaimed joyfully. "Oh, I do think we ought to be the happiest children in the world, with such a dear, kind father, and such a lovely home! But"--her face clouded, and she sighed deeply.

"But what, my child?"

"I was thinking of that dreadful temper that is always getting the better of me. But you will help me to conquer it, papa?" she added, half inquiringly, half in assertion.

"I fully intend to do all in my power to that end," he said in a tender tone; "but, my beloved child, the hardest part of the battle must inevitably be your own. You must watch and pray against that, your besetting sin, never allowing yourself to be a moment off your guard."

"I mean to, papa; and you will watch me, and warn me when you see that I am forgetting?"

"I shall be constantly endeavoring to do so," he answered,--"trying to guard and guide all my children, looking carefully after their welfare, physical, mental, moral, and spiritual.

"To that end, I have just been examining some of the reading-matter which has been provided for them in my absence; and, so far as I have made myself acquainted with it, I decidedly approve it, as I expected I should; having all confidence in those who chose it for you,--grandpa Dinsmore and grandma Elsie.

"This little paper, 'The Youth's Companion,' strikes me as very entertaining and instructive, also of excellent moral tone. Do you like it?"

"Oh, yes, indeed, papa! we are all very fond of it, and find a great deal of useful information in it. I wouldn't be without it for a great deal, nor Max wouldn't either; and Gracie likes the part for the little folks ever so much."

"Then, we will continue to take it," he said; "also this magazine, 'St. Nicholas,' if you like it, as I can hardly doubt that you do."

"Indeed we do!" she exclaimed: "we wouldn't any of us like to do without that, either. Oh, I am glad you will let us go on with both that and the paper!

"Papa, where is the schoolroom? You haven't shown us that yet."

"No; and here come Max and Gracie," he said, as the two came hurrying in together. "I will show it to you now."

"What, papa?" asked Max.

"Oh! is there something more to see?" exclaimed Grace, running to her father, and putting her hand in his. "Oh, it's ever so nice to have such a beautiful home, and so many beautiful new things to look at!"

"It is only your schoolroom this time," her father said, closing his fingers lovingly over the little hand, and smiling down into the sweet blue eyes upraised so gratefully to his.

"Oh, yes, I want to see that! I'd 'most forgotten 'bout it," she said, skipping along by his side as he led the way, Max and Lulu following.

The room he had selected for the purpose was in a wing attached to the main building at the end farthest removed from Violet's apartments; for he did not want her to be disturbed by any noise the children might make, or them to feel constrained to keep very quiet when not engaged in study or recitation. There was a simultaneous burst of delight from the three, as he threw open the door, and ushered them in. Every thing had been done to render that as attractive as any other part of the mansion: the windows reached almost from floor to ceiling, some opening on to the veranda, one looking directly out upon lawn and flower-garden, with a glimpse of the wood and the brook beyond; a handsome rug covered the centre of the stained and polished floor. In an open fireplace a bright wood fire was blazing, an easy-chair on each side of it; and a sofa on the farther side of the room seemed to invite to repose: but the handsome writing-table, and three pretty rosewood desks, were suggestive of work to be done ere the occupants of the room might feel entitled to rest. The walls were tinted a delicate gray, an excellent background for the pictures that adorned them here and there: most of these were marine views,--that over the fireplace, a very large and fine one, of a storm at sea.

On the mantel-shelf were heaped sea-mosses, shells, and coral; but the tiles below it represented Scripture scenes. Blinds and curtains shaded the windows; and the broad, low sills were cushioned, making pleasant places to sit in.

"It will be just a pleasure to study in such a place as this," cried Max, rubbing his hands with satisfaction, and smiling all over his face.

"Indeed it will! especially with such a teacher as we are to have," chimed in Lulu.

"Oh, I'm just in ever such a hurry to begin!" said Grace. "Papa, which is my desk?"

"They are exactly alike," he said. "I thought of having yours made a trifle lower than the others, but concluded to give you a foot-rest instead, as you will soon grow tall enough to want it the height it now is. Max and Lulu, shall we give your little sister the first choice, as she is the youngest?"

"Yes, indeed, papa! yes, indeed!" they both answered with hearty good will, Max adding, "And Lu must have the next, if you please, papa."

That matter being speedily settled, the next question was when school was to begin. They were all three asking it.

"You may have your choice--we will put it to vote--whether we will begin to-morrow morning, or not till Monday," replied their father; "to-morrow, you will remember, is Thursday: we will begin school regularly at nine o'clock each morning; and it is to last four hours, not including five or ten minutes at the end of every hour for rest."

"That'll be ever so nice!" was Lulu's comment.

"That's so," said Max. "I see you are not going to be hard on a fellow, papa."

"Wait till you are sure," said his father: "there's to be no idling, no half attention to study, in those hours; you are to give your whole minds to your lessons, and I shall be very strict in exacting perfect recitations."

"Do you mean, sir, that we are to repeat the answers in the book, word for word?"

"No, not at all. I shall very much prefer to have you give the sense in your own words: then I shall know that you understand the meaning of the text, and are not repeating sounds merely like a parrot; that you have not been going over the words without trying to take in the ideas they are meant to express."

"But suppose we can't catch the writer's meaning?"

"If you fail to do so, after giving your best efforts to the task, your teacher will always be ready to explain to the best of his ability," was the smiling rejoinder. "But remember, all of you, that I intend you to use your own brains with as little assistance from other people's as possible. Mind as well as body grows strong by exercise."

"But we haven't decided when we are to begin," said Lulu.

"I vote for to-morrow," said Max: "afternoons will give us time enough to do any thing else we want to."

"Yes: I second the motion," she said.

"And I third it," added Grace. "Now, papa, you are laughing at me, and so is Max. Wasn't that the right way to say it?"

"It was 'most as right as Lu's," said Max.

"And both will do well enough," said their father.

"I was going to ask if I might have Eva here to visit me to-morrow, papa," said Lulu; "but she'll be busy with lessons in the morning too. May I ask her to come in the afternoon?"

"Yes: you can ask her this evening; she will be here with the rest.

"Now I have something else to show you. Come with me."

He took Gracie's hand again, and led them to a small, detached building, only a few yards distant,--a one-story frame, so prettily designed that it was quite an ornament to the grounds.

The children exclaimed in surprise; for, though it had been there on their former visit to Woodburn, it was so greatly changed that they failed to recognize it.

"It wasn't here before, papa, was it?" asked Grace. "I'm sure I didn't see it."

"Yes, it was here," he said, as he ushered them in, "but I have had it altered and fitted up expressly for my children's use: you see, it is a little away from the house, so that the noise of saws and hammers will not be likely to prove an annoyance to your mamma and visitors. See, this is a workroom furnished with fret and scroll saws, and every sort of tool that I know of which would be likely to prove useful to you, Max and Lulu."

"Papa, thank you! how good and kind you are to us!" they both exclaimed, glancing about them, then up into his face, with sparkling eyes.

"You must have spent a great deal of money on us, sir," added Max thoughtfully.

"Yes, indeed," chimed in Lulu with a slight look of uneasiness. "Papa, I do hope you won't have to go without any thing you want, because you've used up so much on these and other things for us."

"No, my dears; and if you are only good and obedient, and make the best use of what I have provided, I shall never regret any thing of what I have done for you.

"See here, Gracie."

He opened an inner door as he spoke, and showed a playroom as completely fitted up for its intended use as the room they were in. It was about the same size as the workroom, the two occupying the whole of the small building.

A pretty carpet covered the floor, a few pictures hung on the delicately tinted walls; there were chairs and a sofa of suitable size for the comfort of the intended occupants, and smaller ones on which Gracie's numerous dolls were seated; a cupboard with glass doors showed sets of toy china dishes, and all the accessories for dinner and tea table; there were also a bureau, wash-stand, and table corresponding in size with the rest of the furniture; and the captain, pulling open the drawers of the first named, showed them well stocked with material of various kinds, suitable for making into new garments for the dolls, and with all the necessary implements,--needles, thread, thimbles, scissors, etc.

The two little girls were almost breathless with astonishment and delight.

"Papa!" cried Gracie, "you haven't left one single thing for Santa Claus to bring us on Christmas!"

"Haven't I?" he returned, laughing, and pinching her round, rosy cheek. "Ah, well wouldn't you as soon have them as presents from your own papa?"

"Oh, yes, papa! I know he's just pretend, and it would be you or some of the folks that love me," she said, laying her cheek against his hand; "but I like to pretend it, 'cause it's such fun."

"There are a good many weeks yet to Christmas-time," remarked Lulu; "and perhaps our Santa Claus folks will think up something else for you, Gracie."

"Perhaps they may," said the captain, "if she is good: good children are not apt to be forgotten or neglected, and I hope mine are all going to be such."

"I'm quite sure we all intend to try hard, papa," Max said, "not hoping to gain more presents by it, but because you've been so good to us already."

"Indeed we do!" added his sisters.