Elsie at Nantucket by Martha Finley
"My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up." --Psalm 5:3.
It was early morning; Captain Raymond was pacing to and fro along the top of the cliffs, now sending a glance seaward, and now toward the door of the cottage which was his temporary home, as if expecting a companion in his ramble.
Presently the door opened and Lulu stepped out upon the porch. One eager look showed her father, and she bounded with joyful step to meet him.
"Good-morning, my dear papa," she cried, holding up her face for a kiss, which he gave with hearty affection.
"Good-morning, my dear little early bird," he responded. "Come, I will help you down the steps and we will pace the sands at the water's edge."
This was Lulu's time for having her father to herself, as she phrased it. He was sure to be out at this early hour, if the weather would permit, and she almost equally sure to join him: and as the others liked to lie a little longer in bed, there was seldom any one to share his society with her.
He led her down the long flights of stairs and across the level expanse of sand, close to where the booming waves dashed up their spray.
For some moments the two stood hand in hand silently gazing upon sea and sky, bright with the morning sunlight; then they turned and paced the beach for a time, and then the captain led his little girl to a seat in the porch of a bathing-house, from which they could still look far out over the sea.
"Papa," she said, nestling close to his side, "I am very fond of being down here all alone with you."
"Are you, daughter?" he said, bending down to caress her hair and cheek. "Well, I dearly love to have my little girl by my side. How long have you been up?"
"I can't tell exactly; because, you know, papa, there is no time-piece in my room. But I wasn't long dressing; for I didn't want to lose a minute of the time I might have out here with you."
"Did you do nothing but put on your clothes after leaving your bed?" he asked, gravely.
"I washed my hands and face and smoothed my hair."
"And was that all?"
She glanced up at him in surprise at the deep gravity of his tone; then suddenly comprehending what his questioning meant, hung her head, while her cheek flushed hotly. "Yes, papa," she replied, in a low, abashed tone.
"I am very, very sorry to hear it," he said. "If my little girl begins the day without a prayer to God for help to do right, without thanking Him for His kind care over her while she slept, she can hardly expect to escape sins and sorrows which will make it anything but a happy day."
"Papa, I do 'most always say my prayers in the morning and at night; but I didn't feel like doing it this time. Do you think people ought to pray when they don't feel like it?"
"Yes; I think that is the very time when they most need to pray; they need to ask God to take away the hardness of their hearts; the evil in them that is hiding His love and their own needs; so that they have no gratitude to express for all His great goodness and mercy to them, no petitions to offer up for strength to resist temptation and to walk steadily in His ways; no desire to confess their sins and plead for pardon for Jesus' sake. Ah! that is certainly the time when we have most urgent need to pray.
"Jesus taught that men (and in the Bible men stand for the whole human race) 'ought always to pray and not to faint.' And we are commanded to pray without ceasing."
"Papa, how can we do that?" she asked. "You know we have to be doing other things sometimes."
"It does not mean that we are to be always on our knees," he said; "but that we are to live so near to God, so loving Him, and so feeling our constant dependence upon Him, that our hearts will be very often going up to His throne in silent petition, praise or confession.
"And if we live in such union with Him we will highly prize the privilege of drawing especially near to Him at certain seasons; we will be glad to be alone with Him often, and will not forget or neglect to retire to our closets night and morning for a little season of close communion with our best and dearest Friend.
"You say you love to be alone with me, your earthly father; I trust the time will come when you will love far better to be alone with your heavenly Father. I must often be far away from you, but He is ever near; I may be powerless to help you, though close at your side, but He is almighty to save, to provide for, and to defend; and He never turns a deaf ear to the cry of His children."
"Yes, papa; but oh I wish that you were always near me too," she said, leaning her cheek affectionately against his arm. "I am very, very sorry that ever I have been a trouble to you and spoiled your enjoyment of your visits home."
"I know you are, daughter; but you have been very good of late. I have rejoiced to see that you were really trying to rule your own spirit. So far as I know, you have been entirely and cheerfully obedient to me, and have not indulged in a single fit of passion or sullenness."
"Yes, papa; but I have been nearly in a passion two or three times; but you gave me a look just in time to help me to resist it. But when you are gone I shall not have that help."
"Then, my child, you must remember that your heavenly Father is looking at you; that He bids you fight against the evil of your nature, and if you seek it of Him, will give you strength to overcome. Here is a text for you; I want you to remember it constantly; and to that end repeat it often to yourself, 'Thou, God, seest me.'
"And do not forget that He sees not only the outward conduct but the inmost thoughts and feelings of the heart."
A boy's glad shout and merry whistle mingled pleasantly with the sound of the dashing of the waves, and Max came bounding over the sands toward their sheltered nook.
"Good-morning, papa," he cried. "You too, Lulu. Ahead of me as usual, I see!"
"Yes," the captain said, reaching out a hand to grasp the lad's and gazing with fatherly affection and pride into the handsome young face glowing with health and happiness, "she is the earliest young bird in the family nest. However, she seeks her roost earlier than her brother does his."
"Yes; and I am not so very late, am I, sir?"
"No, my boy, I do not suppose you have taken any more sleep than you need for your health and growth; and I certainly would not have you do with less."
"I know you wouldn't, papa; such a good, kind father as you are," responded Max. "I wouldn't swap fathers with any other boy," he added, with a look of mingled fun and affection.
"Nor would I exchange my son for any other; not even a better one," returned the captain laughingly, tightening his clasp of the sturdy brown hand he held.
"I haven't heard yet the story of yesterday's success in boating and fishing; come sit down here by my side and let me have it."
Max obeyed, nothing loath, for he was becoming quite expert in both, and always found in his father an interested listener to the story of his exploits.
He and the other lads had returned from their camping at the time of the removal of the family party from 'Sconset to Nantucket Town.
On the conclusion of his narrative the captain pronounced it breakfast time, and they returned to the house.
After breakfast, as nearly the whole party were gathered upon the porch, discussing the question what should be the amusements of the day, a near neighbor with whom they had some acquaintance, ran in to ask if they would join a company who were going over to Shimmo to have a clam-bake.
"The name of the place is new to me," remarked Mr. Dinsmore. "Is it a town, Mrs. Atwood?"
"Oh, no," replied the lady, "there is only one dwelling; a farmhouse with its barns and other out-houses comprises the whole place. It is on the shore of the harbor some miles beyond Nantucket Town. It is a pleasant spot, and I think we shall have an enjoyable time; particularly if I can persuade you all to go."
"A regular New England clam-bake!" said Elsie, "I should really like to attend one, and am much obliged for your invitation, Mrs. Atwood; as we all are, I am sure."
No one felt disposed to decline the invitation, and it was soon settled that all would go.
The clam-bake was to occupy only the afternoon; so they would have time to make all necessary arrangements, and for the customary surf and still baths.
Mrs. Atwood had risen to take leave. "Ah," she said, "I was near forgetting something I meant to say: we never dress for these expeditions, but, on the contrary, wear the oldest and shabbiest dresses we have; considering them altogether the most suitable to the occasion, as then we need not be troubled if they should be wet with spray or soiled by contact with seaweed, grass, or anything else."
"A very sensible custom," Mrs. Dinsmore responded, "and one which we shall all probably follow."
Mrs. Atwood had hardly reached the gate when Lulu, turning to her father with a very discontented face, exclaimed, "I don't want to wear a shabby old dress! Must I, papa?"
"You will wear whatever your Grandma Elsie or mamma directs," he answered, giving her a warning look. Then motioning her to come close to his side, he whispered in her ear, "I see that you are inclined to be ill-tempered and rebellious again, as I feared you would, when I learned that you had begun the day without a prayer for help to do and feel right. Go, now, to your room and ask it."
"You needn't fret, Lu; you don't own a dress that any little girl ought to feel ashamed to wear," remarked Betty, as the child turned to obey.
"And we are all going to wear the very worst we have here with us, I presume," added Zoe; "at least such is my intention."
"Provided your husband approves," whispered Edward sportively.
"Anyhow," she answered, drawing herself up in pretended offence; "can't a woman do as she pleases even in such trifles?"
"Ah I but it is the privileges of a child-wife which are under discussion now,"
"Now, sir, after that you shall just have the trouble of telling me what to wear," said Zoe, rising from the couch where they had been sitting side by side; "come along and choose."
Lulu was in the room where she slept, obeying her father's order so far as outward actions went; but there was little more than lip-service in the prayer she offered, for her thoughts were wandering upon the subject of dress, and ways and means for obtaining permission to wear what she wished that afternoon.
By the time she had finished "saying her prayers," she had also reached a conclusion as to her best plan for securing the desired privilege.
Grandma Elsie was so very kind and gentle that there seemed more hope of moving her than any one else; so to her she went, and, delighted to find her comparatively alone, no one being near enough to overhear a low-toned conversation, began at once:
"Grandma Elsie, I want to wear a white dress to the clam-bake; and I think it would be suitable, because the weather is very warm, and white will wash, so that it would not matter if I did get it soiled."
"My dear child, it is your father's place to decide what concerns his children, when he is with them," Elsie said, drawing the little girl to her and smoothing her hair with soft, caressing touch.
"Yes, ma'am; but he says you and Mamma Vi are to decide this. So if you will only say I may wear the white dress, he will let me. Won't you, please?"
"If your father is satisfied with your choice I shall certainly raise no objection; nor will your mamma, I am quite sure."
"Oh, thank you, ma'am!" and Lulu ran off gleefully in search of her father.
She found him on the veranda, busied with the morning paper, and to her satisfaction, he too was alone.
"What is it, daughter?" he asked, glancing from his paper to her animated, eager face.
"About what I am to wear this afternoon, papa. I would like to wear the white dress I had on yesterday evening, and Grandma Elsie does not object, and says she knows Mamma Vi will not, if you say I may."
"Did she say she thought it a suitable dress?" he asked gravely.
Lulu hung her head. "No, sir; she didn't say that she did or she didn't."
"Go and ask her the question."
Lulu went back and asked it.
"No, my child, I do not," Elsie answered. "It is very unlikely that any one else will be in white or anything at all dressy, and you will look overdressed, which is in very bad taste; besides, though the weather seems warm enough for such thin material here on shore, it will be a great deal cooler on the water; and should the waves or spray come dashing over us, you would find your dress clinging to you like a wet rag--neither beauty nor comfort in it."
"I could wear a waterproof over it while we are sailing," said Lulu.
"Even that might not prove a perfect protection," Elsie replied. "I think, my dear, you will do well to content yourself to wear your travelling dress, which is of a light woollen material, neat without being too dressy, and of a color that will not show every little soil. And it is as good and handsome as the dress I shall wear or as Rosie, and probably any one else, will have on."
"But you can choose for yourself, Grandma Elsie, and I wish I could."
"That is one of the privileges of older years," Elsie answered pleasantly. "I was considerably older than you are before I was allowed to select my own attire. But I repeat that I shall not raise the slightest objection to your wearing anything your father is willing to see on you."
Lulu's hopes were almost gone, but she would make one more effort.
She went to her father, and putting her arms round his neck, begged in her most coaxing tones for the gratification of her wish.
"What did your Grandma Elsie say?" he asked.
Lulu faithfully, though with no little reluctance, repeated every word Elsie had said to her on the subject.
"I entirely agree with her," said the captain; "so entirely that even had she found no objection to urge against it, I should have forbidden you to wear the dress."
Lulu heard him with a clouded brow; in fact, the expression of her face was decidedly sullen. Her father observed it with sorrow and concern.
"Sit down here till I am ready to talk to you," he said, indicating a chair close at his side.
Lulu obeyed, sitting quietly there while he finished his paper. Throwing it aside at length, he took her hand and drew her in between his knees, putting an arm about her waist.
"My little daughter," he said, in his usual kind tone, "I am afraid you care too much for dress and finery. What I desire for you is that you may 'be clothed with humility,' and have 'the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is, in the sight of God, of great price.'"
"I never can have that, papa, for it isn't a bit like me," she said, with a sort of despairing impatience and disgust at herself.
"No, that is too true; it is not like you as you are by nature--the evil nature inherited from me; but God is able to change that, to give you a clean heart and renew within you a right spirit. Jesus is a Saviour from sin (He saves none in their sins), and He is able to save to the uttermost, able to take away the very last remains of the old corrupt nature with which we were born.
"Oh, my child, seek His help to fight against it and to overcome! It grieves me more than I can express to see you again showing an unlovely, wilful temper."
"Oh, papa, don't be grieved," she said, throwing her arms round his neck and pressing her lips to his cheek. "I will be good and wear whatever I'm told; look pleasant about it too, for indeed I do love you too well to want to grieve you and spoil your pleasure."
"Ah, that is my own dear little girl," he answered, returning her caresses.
The sullen expression had vanished from her face and it wore its brightest look, yet it clouded again the next moment, but with sorrow, not anger, as she sighed, "Oh! if you were always with us, papa, I think I might grow good at last; but I need your help so much, and you are gone more than half the time."
"Your heavenly Father is never gone, daughter, and will never turn a deaf ear to a cry for strength to resist temptation to sin. He says, 'In me is thine help.'
"And we are told, 'God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.'"
In the mean time Mrs. Dinsmore, who from choice took most of the housekeeping cares, was ordering an early dinner and various baskets of provisions for the picnic.
As the family sat down to the table, these last were being conveyed on board a yacht lying at the little pier near the bathing-place below the cliffs; and almost immediately upon finishing their meal, all, old and young, trooped down the stairways, across the sandy beach, and were themselves soon aboard the vessel.
Others of the company were already seated in it, and the rest following a few minutes later, and the last basket of provisions being safely stowed away in some safe corner of the craft, they set sail, dragging at their stern a dory in which was a large quantity of clams in the shell.
It was a bright day, and a favorable breeze sent the yacht skimming over the water at an exhilarating rate of speed. All hearts seemed light, every face was bright, not excepting Lulu's, though she was attired in the plain colored dress recommended by Grandma Elsie.
There was no greater display of finery than a knot of bright ribbon, on the part of even the gayest young girl present. Betty wore a black bunting--one of her school dresses--with a cardinal ribbon at the throat; Zoe the brown woollen that had for her such mingled associations of pain and pleasure, and looked wonderfully sweet and pretty in it, Edward thought.
They sat side by side, and Betty, watching them furtively, said to herself, "They are for all the world just like a pair of lovers yet, though they have been married over a year."
Then turning her attention first to Violet and Captain Raymond, then upon her Aunt and Uncle Dinsmore, she came to the same conclusion in regard to them also.
"And it was just so with cousin Elsie and her husband," she mused. "I can remember how devoted they were to each other. But she seems very happy now, and she well may be, with father, sons and daughters all so devoted to her. And she's so rich too; never has to consider how to make one dollar do the work of two; a problem I am so often called upon to solve. In fact, it is to her and uncle, Bob and I owe our education, and pretty much everything we have.
"I don't envy her her money, but I do the love that has surrounded her all her life. She never knew her own mother, to be sure, but her father petted and fondled her as a child, and was father and mother both to her, I've often heard her say; while mine died before I was born, and mother lost her reason when I was a little thing."
But Betty was not much given to melancholy musing, or indeed to musing of any kind; a passing sail presently attracted her attention and turned her thoughts into a new channel.
And soon, the wind and tide being favorable, the yacht drew near her destination.
There was no wharf, but the passengers were taken to the shore, a few at a time, in the dory. It also landed provision baskets and the clams.
Those ladies and gentlemen to whom clam-bakes were a new experience watched with interest the process of cooking the bivalves.
A pit of suitable size for the quantity to be prepared was made in the sand, the bottom covered with stones; it was then heated by a fire kindled in it, the brands were removed, seaweed spread over the stones, the clams poured in, abundance of seaweed piled over and about them, a piece of an old sail put over that, and they were left to bake or steam, while another fire was kindled near by, and a large tin bucket, filled with water, set on it to boil for making coffee.
While some busied themselves with these culinary operations, others repaired to the dwelling, which stood some little distance back from the beach, the ground sloping gently away from it to the water's edge.
The lady of the house met them at the door, and hospitably invited them to come in and rest themselves in her parlor, or sit on the porch; and understanding their errand to the locality, not only gave ready permission for their table to be spread in the shade of her house, but offered to lend anything they might require in the way of utensils.
Accepting her offer, they set to work, the men making a rough sort of impromptu table with some boards, and the ladies spreading upon it the contents of the provision baskets.
Mrs. Dinsmore, Elsie and the younger ladies of their party, offered to assist in these labors, but were told that they were considered guests, and must be content to look on or wander about and amuse themselves.
There was not much to be seen but grassy slopes destitute of tree or shrub, and the harbor and open sea beyond.
They seated themselves upon the porch of the dwelling-house, while Captain Raymond and the younger members of their family party wandered here and there about the place.
There seemed to be some sport going on among the cooks--those engaged in preparing the coffee.
Lulu hurried toward them to see what it was about, then came running back to her father, who stood a little farther up the slope, with Grace clinging to his hand.
"Oh!" she said with a face of disgust, "I don't mean to drink any of that coffee; why, would you believe it, they stirred it with a poker?"
"Did they?" laughed the captain; "they might have done worse. I presume that was used for lack of a long enough spoon. We must not be too particular on such occasions as this."
"But you won't drink any of it, will you, papa?"
"I think it altogether likely I shall."
"Why, papa! coffee that was stirred with a dirty poker?"
"We will suppose the poker was not very dirty," he said, with a good-humored smile; "probably there was nothing worse on it than a little ashes, which, diffused through so large a quantity of liquid, could harm no one."
"Must I drink it if they offer me a cup?"
"No; there need be no compulsion about it; indeed, I think it better for a child of your age not to take coffee at all."
"But you never said I shouldn't, papa."
"No; because you had formed the habit in my absence, and, as I am not sure that it is a positive injury to you, I have felt loath to deprive you of the pleasure."
"You are so kind, papa," she said, slipping her hand into his and looking up affectionately into his face. "But I will give up coffee if you want me to. I like it, but I can do without it."
"I think milk is far more wholesome for you," he said, with a smile of pleased approval. "I should like you to make that your ordinary beverage at meals, but I do not forbid an occasional cup of coffee."
"Thank you, papa," she returned. "Grandma Elsie once told me that when she was a little girl her father wouldn't allow her to drink coffee at all, or to eat any kind of hot cakes or rich sweet cake; and oh I don't know how many things that she liked he wouldn't let her have. I don't think he was half as nice a father as ours; do you, Gracie?"
"'Course I don't, Lu; I just think we've got the very best in the whole world," responded Grace, laying her cheek affectionately against the hand that held hers in its strong, loving clasp.
"That is only because he is your own, my darlings," the captain said, smiling down tenderly upon them.
A lady had drawn near, and now said, "Supper is ready, Captain Raymond; will you bring your little girls and come to the table?"
"Thank you; we will do so with pleasure," he said, following her as she led the way.
The table, covered with a snow-white cloth and heaped with tempting viands, presented a very attractive appearance.
The clams were brought on after the most of the company were seated, with their coffee and bread and butter before them. They were served hot from the fire and the shell, in neat paper trays, and eaten with melted butter. Eaten thus they make a dish fit for a king.
By the time that all appetites were satisfied, the sun was near his setting, and it was thought best to return without delay.
On repairing to the beach, they found the tide so low that even the dory could not come close to dry land; so the ladies and children were carried through the water to the yacht. This gave occasion for some merriment.
"You must carry me, Ned, if I've got to be carried," said Zoe; "I'm not going to let anybody else do it."
"No; nor am I," he returned, gayly, picking her up and striding forward. "I claim it as my especial privilege."
Mr. Dinsmore followed with his wife, then Captain Raymond with his.
"Get in, Mr. Dinsmore," said the captain, as they deposited their burdens; "there is no occasion for further exertion on your part; I'll bring mother."
"No, sir," said Edward, hurrying shoreward again, "that's my task; you have your children to take care of."
"Your mother is my child, Ned, and I think I shall take care of her," Mr. Dinsmore said, hastening back to the little crowd still at the water's edge.
"We will have to let her decide which of us shall have the honor," said the captain.
"That I won't," Mr. Dinsmore said, laughingly, stepping to his daughter's side and taking her in his arms.
"Now, you two may take care of the younger ones," he added, with a triumphant glance at his two rivals.
"Ah, Ned, we are completely outwitted," laughed the captain.
"Yes; with grandpa about one can't get half a chance to wait upon mother. Betty, shall I have the honor and pleasure of conveying you aboard of yonder vessel?"
"Yes, thank you; I see Harold and Herbert are taking Rosie and Walter," she said. "But I warn you that I am a good deal heavier than Zoe."
"Nevertheless, I think my strength will prove equal to the exertion," he returned, as he lifted her from the ground.
Lulu and Grace stood together, hand in hand, Max on Gracie's other side.
"Take Gracie first, please, papa," said Lulu; "she is frightened, I believe."
"Frightened?" he said, stooping to take her in his arms; "there is nothing to be afraid of, darling. Do you think papa would leave you behind or drop you into the water?"
"No; I know you wouldn't," she said, with a little nervous laugh, and clinging tightly about his neck.
"Mayn't I wade out, papa?" Max called after him.
"Yes; but stay with your sister till I come for her."
"Where's my baby, Levis?" asked Violet, laughingly, as he set Grace down by her side.
"The baby! Sure enough, where is it?" he exclaimed, with an anxious glance toward the shore.
"Ah, there stands the nurse with it in her arms. You shall have it in yours in a moment."
"Here's the baby, papa; please take her first; I don't mind waiting," said Lulu, as he stepped ashore again.
He gave her a pleased, approving look. "That is right; it will be but a minute or two," he said, as he took the babe and turned away with it.
In a few minutes more, all the passengers were aboard, and they set sail; but they had not gone far when it became evident that something was amiss; they were making no progress.
"What is the matter?" asked several voices, and Violet looked inquiringly at her husband.
"There is no cause for apprehension," he said; "we are aground, and may possibly have to wait here for the turn of the tide; that's all."
"It's the lowest tide I ever saw," remarked the captain of the yacht; "we'll have to lighten her; if some of the heaviest of you will get into the dory, it will help."
Quite a number immediately volunteered to do so, among them Edward and Zoe, Bob and Betty, Harold and Herbert. The dory was speedily filled, and then, with a little more exertion the yacht was set afloat.
They moved out into deep water, and a gentle breeze wafted them pleasantly toward their desired haven.
"Look at the sun, papa," Elsie said, gazing westward. "It has a very peculiar appearance."
"Yes," he said, "it looks a good deal like a balloon; it's redness obscured by that leaden-colored cloud. It is very near its setting; we shall not get in till after dark."
"But that will not matter?"
"Oh, no; our captain is so thoroughly acquainted with his vessel, the harbor and the wharf, that I have no doubt he would land us safely even were it much darker than it will be."
Zoe and Edward, in the dory, were talking with a Nantucket lady, a Mrs. Fry.
"How do you like our island, and particularly our town?" she asked.
"Oh, ever so much!" said Zoe. "We have visited a good many watering-places and sea-side resorts, but never one where there was so much to see and to do; so many delightful ways of passing the time. I think I shall vote for Nantucket again next year, when we are considering where to pass the hot months."
"And I," said Edward, "echo my wife's sentiments on the subject under discussion."
"Your wife" the lady exclaimed, with a look of surprise.
"I took her to be your sister; you are both so very young in appearance."
"We are not very old," laughed Edward; "Zoe is but sixteen, but we have been married a year."
"You have begun early; it is thought by some that early marriages are apt to be the happiest, and I should think them likely to be, provided the two are willing to conform their tastes and habits each to those of the other. I trust you two have a long life of happiness before you."
"Thank you," they both said, Edward adding, "I think we are disposed to accommodate ourselves to each other, and whether our lives be long or short, our trials many or few, I trust we shall always find great happiness in mutual sympathy, love and confidence."
The lady asked if they had seen all the places of interest on the island, and in reply they named those they had seen.
"Have you been to Mrs. Mack's?" she asked.
"No, madam, we have not so much as heard of her existence," returned Edward, sportively. "May I ask who and what she is?"
"Yes; she is the widow of a sea-captain, who has a collection of curiosities which she keeps on exhibition, devoting the proceeds, so she says, to benevolent purposes. She is an odd body; herself the greatest curiosity she has to show, I think. You should visit her museum by all means."
"We shall be happy to do so if you will kindly put us in the way of it," said Edward. "How shall we proceed in order to gain admittance?"
"If we can get up a party it will be easy enough; I shall then send her word, and she will appoint the hour when she will receive us; she likes to show her independence, and will not exhibit unless to a goodly number.
"I know of several visitors on the island who want to go, and if your party will join with them there will be no difficulty."
"I think I can promise that we will," said Edward. "I will let you know positively to-morrow morning."
"That will do nicely. Hark, they are singing aboard the yacht."
They listened in silence till the song was finished.
"I recognized most of the voices," Mrs. Fry remarked, "but two lovely sopranos were quite new to me. Do you know the owners?" turning smilingly to Edward.
"My mother and sister," he answered, with proud satisfaction.
"Naturally fine, and very highly cultivated," she said. "You must be proud of them."
"I am," Edward admitted, with a happy laugh.
The sun was down and twilight had fairly begun. Grace, seated on her father's knee, was gazing out over the harbor.
"See, papa, how many little lights close down to the water!" she said.
"Yes; they are lamps on the small boats that are sailing or rowing about; they show them for safety from running into each other."
"And they look so pretty."
"Yes, so they do; and it is a sight one may have every evening from the wharf. Shall I take you down there some evening and let you sit and watch them as they come and go?"
"Oh, yes, do, papa; I think it would be so nice! And you would take Max and Lulu too, wouldn't you?"
"If they should happen to want to go; there are benches on the wharf where we can sit and have a good view. I think we will try it to-morrow evening if nothing happens to prevent."
"Oh, I'm so glad! You are such a good, kind papa," she said, delightedly, giving him a hug.
"The very best you have ever had, I suppose," he responded, with a pleased laugh.
"Yes, indeed," she answered, naively, quite missing the point of his jest.
On reaching home Edward and Zoe reported their conversation with the lady in the dory, and asked, "Shall we not go?"
"I think so, by all means, since it is for benevolent objects," said Elsie.
"Or anyhow, since we feel in duty bound to see all that is to be seen on this island," said Captain Raymond.
No dissenting voice was raised, and when the next morning word came that Mrs. Mack would exhibit that afternoon if a party were made up to attend, they all agreed to go.
The distance was too great for ladies and children to walk, so carriages were ordered. Captain Raymond and his family filled one.
"This is the street that oldest house is on," remarked Lulu, as they turned a corner; "I mean that one we went to see; that has the big horse-shoe on its chimney."
"What do they have that for, papa?" asked Grace.
"In old times when many people were ignorant and superstitious, it was thought to be a protection from witches."
"Witches, papa? what are they?"
"I don't think there are any, really," he said, with a kindly smile into the eagerly inquiring little face; "but in old times it was a very common belief that there were people--generally some withered-up old women--who had dealings with Satan, and were given power by him to torment, or bring losses and various calamities upon any one whom they disliked.
"When you are a little older you shall hear more about it, and how that foolish belief led to great crimes and cruelties inflicted upon many innocent, harmless people. But now, while my Gracie is so young and timid, I do not want her to know too much about such horrors."
"Yes, papa," she responded; "I won't try to know till you think I'm quite old enough."
Several vehicles drew up at the same moment in front of Mrs. Mack's door, and greetings and some introductions were exchanged on the sidewalk and door-steps. Edward introduced his mother and Mrs. Fry to each other, and the latter presented to them a Mrs. Glenn, who, she said, was a native of Nantucket, but had only recently returned after an absence of many years.
"Mrs. Mack knew me as a young girl," Mrs. Glenn remarked, "and I am quite curious to see whether she will recognize me."
At that instant the door was opened in answer to their ring, and they were invited to enter and walk into the parlor.
They found it comfortably furnished and neat as wax. Seating themselves they waited patiently for some moments the coming of the lady of the house.
At length she made her appearance; a little old lady, neatly attired, and with a pleasant countenance.
Mrs. Fry saluted her with a good-afternoon, adding, "I have brought some friends with me to look at your curiosities. This lady," indicating Mrs. Glenn, "you ought to know, as you were acquainted with her in her girlhood."
"Do you know me, Mrs. Mack?" asked Mrs. Glenn, offering her hand.
"Yes, you look as natural as the pigs," was the rather startling reply; accompanied, however, by a smile and cordial shake of the offered hand.
"Now, we'll take the money first to make sure of it," was the next remark, addressed to the company in general.
"What is your admission fee?" asked Mr. Dinsmore, producing his pocketbook.
"Fifteen cents apiece."
"By no means exorbitant if your collection is worth seeing," he returned, good-humoredly. "Never mind your purses, Elsie, Raymond, Ned, I'll act as paymaster for the party."
The all-important business of collecting the entrance fees having been duly attended to, Mrs. Mack led the way to an upper room where minerals, shells, sharks' teeth, and various other curiosities and relics were spread out upon tables and shelves, ranged along the sides and in the centre of the apartment.
"Now," she said, "the first thing is to register your names. You must all register. You begin," handing the book to Mr. Dinsmore, "you seem to be the oldest."
"I presume I am," he said, dryly, taking the book and doing as he was bidden. "Now, you, Raymond," passing it on to the captain, "we'll take it for granted that you are next in age and importance."
"That's right, captain," laughed Betty, as he silently took the book and wrote his name, "it wouldn't be at all polite to seem to think yourself younger than any lady present."
"Of course not, Miss Betty; will you take your turn next?"
"Of course not, sir; do you mean to insinuate that I am older than Aunt Rose?" she asked, passing the book on to Mrs. Dinsmore.
"Don't be too particular about going according to ages," said Mrs. Mack, "it takes up too much time."
"You may write my name for me, Ned," said Zoe, when he took the book.
"Yes, write your sister's name for her; it'll do just as well," said Mrs. Mack.
"But I'm not his sister," said Zoe.
"What, then? is he your lover?"
"No," Edward said, laughing, "we're husband and wife."
"You've begun young," she remarked, taking the book and passing it on; "don't look as if you'd cut your wisdom teeth yet, either of you. When the ladies have all registered, some of you grown folks had better do it for the children."
Having seen all their names duly inscribed in her register, "Seat yourselves," she said, waving her hand toward some benches and chairs.
Then, with the help of a half-grown girl, she set out a small circular table, placed a box upon it, pushed up chairs and a bench or two, and said, "Now, as many of you as can, come and sit round this table; the others shall have their turn afterward."
When all the places were filled, she opened the box and took from it a number of beautifully carved articles--napkin-rings, spoons, etc.
"Now, all take your turns in looking at this lovely carved work, while I tell you its story," she said, "the story of how it came into my possession."
"You see, my husband was a sea-captain, and upon one occasion, when he was about setting sail for a long voyage, a young man, or lad--he was hardly old enough to be called a man--came and asked to be taken as one of the crew. He gave a name, but it wasn't his true name, inherited from his father, as my husband afterward discovered. But not suspecting anything wrong, he engaged the lad, and took him with him on the voyage.
"And the lad behaved well aboard the ship, and he used to carve wonderfully well--as you may see by looking at these articles--just with a jack-knife, and finally--keeping at it in his leisure moments--he made all these articles, carving them out of sharks' teeth.
"You can see he must have had genius; hadn't he? and yet he'd run away from home to go to sea, as my husband afterward had good reason to believe."
She made a long story of it, spinning out her yarn until the first set had examined the carved work to their satisfaction.
Then, "Reverse yourselves," she said, indicating by a wave of her hand, that they were to give place at the table to the rest of the company.
When all had had an opportunity to examine the specimens of the lad's skill, the young girl was ordered to restore them to the box, but first to count them.
That last clause brought an amused smile to nearly every face in the audience, but Lulu frowned, and muttered, "Just as if she thought we would steal them!"
Next, Mrs. Mack began the circuit of the room, carrying a long slender stick with which she pointed out those which she considered the most interesting of her specimens or articles of virtu.
One of these last was a very large, very old-fashioned back-comb, having a story with a moral attached, the latter recited in doggerel rhyme.
She had other stories, in connection with other articles, to tell in the same way. In fact, so many and so long were they, that the listeners grew weary and inattentive ere the exhibition was brought to a close.
The afternoon was waning when they left the house. As Captain Raymond and his family drove into the heart of the town on their way home, their attention was attracted by the loud ringing of a hand-bell, followed now and again by noisy vociferation, in a discordant, man's voice.
"So the evening boat is in," remarked the captain.
"How do you know, papa?" asked Grace.
"By hearing the town-crier calling his papers; which could not have come in any other way."
"What does he say, papa?" queried Lulu. "I have listened as intently as possible many a time, but I never can make out more than a word or two, sometimes not that."
"No more can I," he answered, with a smile; "it sounds to me like 'The first news is um mum, and the second news is mum um mum, and the third news is um um mum."
The children all laughed.
"Yonder he is, coming this way," said Max, leaning from the carriage window.
"Beckon to him," said the captain; "I want a paper."
Max obeyed; the carriage stopped, the crier drew near and handed up the paper asked for.
"How much?" inquired the captain.
"Five cents, sir."
"Why, how is that? You asked me but three for yesterday's edition of this same paper."
"More news in this one."
"Ah, you charge according to the amount of news, do you?" returned the captain, laughing, and handing him a nickel.
"Yes, sir; I guess that's about the fair way," said the crier, hastily regaining the sidewalk to renew the clang, clang of his bell and the "um mum mum" of his announcement.