Elsie's Motherhood by Martha Finley
"If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst give him drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." --ROMANS XII. 20, 21.
"Splendid!" cried Dick, wheeling about toward home, now half a mile away, "but we must hurry back or grandpa will be mad. I say Wal, what do you s'pose makes Travilla and Cousin Elsie so different from us? I mean all of us at Roselands."
"I don't know," returned Walter reflectively; "maybe because they're Christians. You know it says in the Bible we're to return good for evil."
"Yes, and so heap coals of fire on our enemies' heads. And, Wal, I feel 'em burn now. I'd give anything not to have coaxed and teased Ed into shooting that time, and not to have scared him and the others with those frightful disguises."
"So would I: and we'll never do the like again, Dick, never; will we?"
"I reckon not: and we must ride over to Ion after breakfast, and tell 'em so, and thank 'em for these beauties and the other things."
"Yes; didn't the note invite us to spend the day there?"
"Why so it did! But I'd forgot; the sight of the ponies knocked it all out of my head."
So great was the delight of the lads in their new acquisitions, that not even the repeated assertions of their mothers and other members of the family--seconded by the reproaches of their own consciences--that they did not deserve it, could materially damp their joy.
An ungracious permission to accept the invitation to Ion, was granted them with the remark that Calhoun and Arthur, who were included in it, would be there to keep them in order, and also to report upon their conduct.
Calhoun, troubled and mortified by the suspicions which he imagined must have been entertained against him at both the Oaks and Ion since the escapade of Dick and Walter, had kept himself closely at home during the past week, and studiously avoided meeting either his uncle or Travilla: but this invitation, as the holding out of the olive branch of peace, was joyfully accepted.
The four rode over to Ion together, directly after breakfast, and found themselves greeted with the greatest kindness and cordiality by Mr. Travilla, Elsie and the children, all gathered in the veranda awaiting their coming.
The two culprits, shame-faced in view of their ill-deserts, yet overflowing with delight in their ponies, poured out mingled thanks and apologies, and promises for the future.
"Never mind, my lads, we'll say nothing more about it," Mr. Travilla said in his kind, cheery way, Elsie adding, "You are very welcome, and we are sure you do not intend ever again to try to alarm our darlings, or tempt them to do wrong."
She led the way to her beautiful summer parlor, a large, lofty apartment, with frescoed walls and ceiling; the floor a mosaic of various colored marbles; a bubbling fountain in the centre, gold and silver fish swimming in its basin, windows draped with vines, and at the farther end a lovely grotto, where a second fountain threw showers of spray over moss-grown rocks and pieces of exquisite statuary.
Here they were presently joined by their Cousin Horace. Ices and fruits were served, and the morning passed in a most agreeable manner, enlivened by music, conversation, and a variety of quiet games; Mr. and Mrs. Travilla laying themselves out for the entertainment of their guests.
Their children had been excused from lessons in honor of the day, and with their sweet prattle, and merry pretty ways, contributed not a little to the enjoyment of their elders.
Mr. Dinsmore came to dinner. Calhoun fancied his manner rather cool toward him, while Dick and Walter were left in no doubt of his stern disapproval of them, until their Cousin Elsie said a few words to him in a quiet aside, after which there was a decided change for the better.
Calhoun watched his cousin furtively, as he had of late formed a habit of doing: and as he studied her character, his respect, admiration, and affection grew apace; he found her so utterly unselfish and sincere, so patient and forbearing, yet firm for the right, so unaffectedly gay and happy.
Something of this he remarked to her when for a few moments they chanced to be alone together.
"Ah," she said smiling and blushing, "it is not lover love alone that is blind; you have been looking at me through rose colored spectacles, as so many of my relatives and friends do."
"But are you not really happy, cousin?"
"Happy? Ah yes, indeed! Have I not everything to make me so? the best of husbands and fathers, five darling children; comparative youth, health, wealth that enables me to prove in my own sweet experience the truth of those words of the Lord Jesus, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive'; and the best of all" she added low and reverently, the soft eyes shining through glad tears, "His love and tender care surrounding me. His strong arm to lean upon; His blood to wash away my sins. His perfect righteousness put upon me. These, cousin, are more than all the rest, and you and every one may have them if you will; for His own words are, 'Ask, and ye shall receive; seek and ye shall find.' 'Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.'"
"You give me a new view of religion," he said after a moment's surprised, thoughtful silence. "I have been accustomed to look upon it as something suitable, perhaps desirable, for old age, and certainly very necessary for a death bed; but too great a restraint upon youthful pleasures."
"Sinful pleasures must indeed be given up by those who would follow Christ; but they are like apples of Sodom,--beautiful in appearance, but bitter and nauseous to the taste; while the joys that he gives are pure, sweet, abundant and satisfying. 'Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.' 'They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.' Ah, Cal, if one might safely die without the Christian's faith and hope, I should still want them to sweeten life's journey."
Another thoughtful pause; then the young man said, frankly, "Cousin Elsie, I'm afraid I'm very stupid, but it's a fact that I never have been quite able to understand exactly what it is to be a Christian, or how to become one."
She considered a moment, her heart going up in silent prayer for help to make the matter plain to him, and for a blessing on her words; for well she knew that without the influence of the Holy Spirit they would avail nothing.
"To be a Christian," she said, "is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, receiving and resting upon him alone for salvation. 'He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.' 'God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' Do not these texts answer both your queries? We have broken God's holy law, but Jesus, the God man, has borne the penalty in our stead; 'all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags'; we dare not appear before the King clothed in them; but Jesus offers to each of us the pure and spotless robe of his righteousness, and we have only to accept it as a free gift; we can have it on no other terms. It is believe and be saved; look and live."
"But there is something beside for us to do surely? we must live right."
"Yes, true faith will bring forth the fruits of holy living; but good works are the proofs and effects of our faith, not the ground of the true Christian's hope; having nothing whatever to do with our justification."
The entrance of Arthur and young Horace put an end to the conversation.
Horace was not less devoted to his elder sister now than in childhood's days; Arthur, distant and reserved with most people, had of late learned to be very frank and open with her, sure of an attentive hearing, of sympathy, and that his confidence would never be betrayed.
She never sneered, never laughed in contempt, nor ever seemed to think herself better or wiser, than others. Her advice, when asked, was given with sweet simplicity and humility, as of one not qualified, in her own estimation, to teach, or desirous to usurp authority over others: yet she had a clear intellect and sound judgment, she opened her mouth with wisdom and in her tongue was the law of kindness. There seemed a sort of magnetism about her, the attraction of a loving, sympathetic nature, that always drew to her the young of both sexes, and the large majority of older people also.
The three young men gathered round her, hanging upon her sweet looks, her words, her smiles, as ardent lovers do upon those of their mistress.
Somehow the conversation presently turned upon love and marriage, and she lectured them, half-playfully, half seriously, upon the duties of husbands.
She bade them be careful in their choice, remembering that it was for life, and looking for worth rather than beauty or wealth; then after marriage not to be afraid of spoiling the wife with too much care and thoughtfulness for her comfort, and happiness, or the keeping up of the little attentions so pleasant to give and receive, and so lavishly bestowed in the days of courtship.
"Ah, Elsie, you are thinking of your own husband, and holding him up as a model to us," said Horace laughingly.
"Yes," she answered, with a blush and smile, a tender light shining in the soft brown eyes, "that is true. Ah, the world would be full of happy wives if all the husbands would copy his example! He is as much a lover now as the day he asked me to be his wife; more indeed, for we grow dearer and dearer to each other as the years roll on. Never a day passes that he does not tell me of his love by word and deed, and the story is as sweet to me now, as when first I heard it."
"Ah, good wives make good husbands," said Mr. Travilla, who had entered unobserved, just in time to hear the eulogy upon him. "Boys, let each of you get a wife like mine, and you can not fail to be good husbands."
"Good husbands make good wives," she retorted, looking up into his face with a fond smile as he came to her side.
"The trouble is to find such," remarked Horace, regarding his sister with tender admiration.
"True enough," said Travilla, "I know not of her like in all the length and breadth of the land."
Catching sight of Mr. Dinsmore pacing the veranda alone, Calhoun slipped quietly away from the rest and joined him.
"Uncle," he said, coloring and dropping his eyes, "I think you doubt me."
"Have I not reason, Calhoun?" Mr. Dinsmore asked, looking searchingly into the lad's face.
"Yes, sir, I own that appearances are strongly against me, and I can not disprove the tale they tell; but--oh, if you could trust me still, uncle!"
He lifted his head, and gazed fearlessly into the keen dark eyes still bent searchingly upon him.
Mr. Dinsmore held out his hand, and cordially grasped the one Calhoun placed in it.
"Well, my boy, I will try: it is far pleasanter than to doubt you. But there is some one at Roselands who is disposed to aid and abet the Ku Klux in their lawless proceedings."
"I can not deny that," said the nephew, "yet it would ill become me to say who it is; and I think, sir, since grandpa has set down his foot so decidedly in opposition, there will be no more of it. Travilla and Cousin Elsie have given me their confidence again, and I assure you, sir, I am deeply grateful to you all."