Elsie's Motherhood by Martha Finley
"Humble love, And not proud reason, keeps the door of heaven; Love finds admission, where proud science fails." --Young
Elsie was on the veranda looking for her husband's return to breakfast; for it was already past the usual hour.
"All alone, little wife?" he asked as he dismounted and came up the steps.
"Not now," she answered, putting her arms about his neck and looking up at him with her own fond, beautiful smile. "But your face is sad, my husband! What news?"
"Sad enough, my little friend; poor old Uncle Mose has been so barbarously handled that he cannot live through the day, Dr. Barton says: and two of the others are suffering very much."
Elsie's eyes were full. "Does Uncle Mose know it?" she asked.
"Yes, I told him, as tenderly as I could, and asked if he was ready to go. 'Yes, Mars Edard,' he said, with a triumphant smile, 'for I'se got fast hold ob Jesus.'"
Elsie's head was laid on her husband's shoulder, the bright drops were coming fast down her cheeks.
"I have sent word to Mr. Wood," he went on, "the poor old fellow is anxious to see him; and you also."
"Yes, yes, I will go down directly after prayers," she said.
Then he told her of the coffin laid at the door of Fairview, and the threatening words on its lid.
She heard it with a shudder and a sigh. "Oh poor Mr. Leland! Edward, don't you think it would be wise in him to leave for the present?"
"Perhaps so. I fear they will really attempt his life if he stays; but all his means being invested in Fairview makes it very hard. Where are our children?"
"They went to deck the corpse of Baby Ben with flowers. Ah, here they come, the darlings!" as little feet came pattering through the hall.
They hastened to their father for their usual morning kiss, and hung about him with tender loving caresses; but their manner was subdued, and Vi and Harold told with a sort of wondering awe of the poor little dead baby so still and cold.
"Are you going out, mamma?" asked little Elsie an hour later, as Mrs. Travilla appeared, dressed in walking costume, in the midst of the group of children and nurses gathered under a tree on the shady side of the house.
"Yes, daughter, I am going down to the quarter to see poor old Uncle Mose who is very ill; and I want you to be mother to the little ones while I am away."
"O mamma, mayn't we go with you?" cried Eddie and Vi in a breath, Harold chiming in, "And me too, mamma, me too!"
"No, dears, not to-day, but some other time you shall," the mother answered, giving each a good-bye kiss.
"Mamma, stay wis us; I'se 'f'aid de Kluxes get 'oo!" said Harold coaxingly, clinging about her neck with his chubby arms, while the big tears gathered in his great dark eyes.
"No, dear, they don't come in the day-time. And God will take care of me. Papa is down at the quarter, too; and Uncle Joe and mammy will go with me;" and with another tender caress, she gently released herself from his hold and turned away.
The children gazed wistfully after her graceful figure as it disappeared among the trees, Uncle Joe holding a great umbrella over her to shield her from the sun, while mammy and Aunt Sally followed, each with a basket on her arm.
Uncle Mose was rapidly nearing that bourne whence no traveler returns. As his mistress laid her soft white hand on his, she felt that the chill of death was there.
"You are almost home, Uncle Mose," she said, bending over him, her sweet face full of tender sympathy.
"Yes, my dear young Missus, I'se in de valley," he answered, speaking slowly and with difficulty, "but bress de Lord, it's not dark!"
"Jesus is with you?"
"Yes, Missus, he is my strength and my song: de riber's deep, but he'll neber let me sink. De pain in dis ole body's dreffle, but I'll neber hab no mo', bress de Lord!"
"Do your good works give you this comfortable assurance that you are going to heaven, Uncle Mose?"
"Bress yo' heart, honey, I ain't neber done none; but de bressed Lord Jesus covers me all ober wid his goodness, and God de Fader 'cepts me for his sake."
"Yes, that is it, 'He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.' 'There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved;' and 'he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.'"
"Yes, honey, dose de words ob de good book. Now will you please sing de twenty-third Psalm, an' den ask de Lord Jesus keep fas' hold dis ole niggah, till Jordan am past, an' de gate into de city."
The request was granted; the sweet voice that had thrilled the hearts of many of the rich and noble of earth, freely poured forth its richest strains to soothe the dying throes of agony of a poor old negro.
Then kneeling by the humble couch, in a few simple, touching words she commended the departing spirit to the almighty love and care of Him who had shed His blood to redeem it, earnestly pleading that the dying one might be enabled to cast himself wholly on Jesus, and in doing so be granted a speedy and abundant entrance into His kingdom and glory.
The fervent "Amen!" of Uncle Mose joined in with hers; then low and feebly he added, "De good--Lord--bress you--my dear--young--Missus."
A shadow had fallen on Elsie, and as she rose from her knees, she turned her head to find her father standing at her side.
He drew her to him and pressed his lips tenderly to her forehead. "You must go now; the heat of the sun is already too great for you to be out with safety."
The low quiet tone was one of authority as of old.
He only waited for her good-bye to Uncle Mose, and to speak a few kindly words of farewell himself, then led her out and placed her in his carriage, which stood at the door.
Mr. Travilla rode up at that instant. "That's right," he said. "Little wife, I am loth to have you exposed to the heat of this sultry day."
"And you, Edward? can you not come home now?" she asked.
"Not yet, wife; there are several matters I must attend to first, and I want to speak to Mr. Wood, who, I see, is just coming."
He kissed his hand to her with the gallantry of the days of their courtship, and cantered off, while the carriage rolled on its way toward the mansion.
"Daughter, if you must visit the quarter during this sultry weather, can you not choose an earlier hour?" asked Mr. Dinsmore.
"I think I can after this, papa;" and she went on to explain how her time had been taken up before breakfast that morning. "Do you know about Mr. Leland?" she asked in conclusion.
"Yes; their next outrage will, I fear, be an attack upon him."
"Then upon you and Edward!" she said, her cheek growing very pale, and her eyes filling. "Papa I am becoming very anxious."
"'I would have you without carefulness,'" he answered taking her hand in his. "They can have no power at all against us except it be given them from above. My child, God reigns, and if God be for us, who can be against us?"
"Yes, dear papa, and with David let us say, 'In the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.'"
Mr. Dinsmore was still with his daughter when Mr. Travilla returned with the news that Uncle Mose's sufferings were over, and it had been arranged that he and Baby Ben should be buried that evening at dusk.
The children begged to be permitted to attend the double funeral; but their parents judged it best to deny them, fearing an onslaught by the Ku Klux; of which there was certainly a possibility.
"I have been talking with Leland," Mr. Travilla remarked aside to his friend, "and he proposes that we accompany the procession as a mounted guard."
"Good!" said Mr. Dinsmore, "Horace and I will join you: and let us all go armed to the teeth."
"Certainly, and I accept your offer with thanks. Some of the boys themselves are pretty fair marksmen but they were all robbed of their arms last night."
"Let us supply them again, Edward," exclaimed Elsie, with energy "and have them practice shooting at a mark."
Her husband assented with a smile. "You are growing warlike in your feelings," he said.
"Yes, I believe in the privilege and duty of self-defence."
Toward evening Mr. Dinsmore rode back to the Oaks, returning to Ion with his son, shortly before the appointed hour for the obsequies.
Elsie saw them and her husband ride away in the direction of the quarter, not without some fluttering of the heart, and with a silent prayer for their safety, retired with her children, to the observatory at the top of the house, from whence a full view might be obtained of the whole route from the cabin of Uncle Mose to the somewhat distant place of sepulture; the spot chosen for that purpose in accommodation to the superstitious feelings of the blacks, which led them to prefer to lay their dead at a distance from their own habitations.
The children watched with deep interest as the procession formed, each man carrying a blazing pine-knot, passed down the one street of the quarter, and wound its slow way along the road that skirted two sides of the plantation, then half way up a little hill, where it gathered in a circle about the open grave.
Twilight was past, thick clouds hid the moon and the torches shone out like stars in the darkness.
"Mamma, what dey doin' now?" asked Harold.
"Listen! perhaps you may hear something," she answered, and as they almost held their breath to hear, a wild, sweet negro melody came floating upon the still night air.
"They're singing," whispered Vi, "singing Canaan, 'cause Uncle Mose, and little Baby Ben have got safe there."
No one spoke again till the strains had ceased with the ending of the hymn.
"Now Mr. Wood is talking, I suppose," remarked Eddie, in a subdued tone, "telling them we must all die, and which is the way to get to heaven."
"Else praying," said Vi.
"Mamma, what is die?" asked Harold leaning on her lap.
"If we love Jesus, darling, it is going home to be with him, and oh, so happy."
"But Baby Ben die, and me saw him in Aunt Dicey's house."
"That was only his body, son; the soul--the part that thinks and feels and loves--has gone away to heaven, and after a while God will take the body there too."
For obvious reasons the services at the grave were made very short, and in another moment they could see the line of torches drawing rapidly nearer, till it reached the quarter and broke into fragments.
"We will go down now," Elsie said, rising and taking Harold's hand, "papa, grandpa and Uncle Horace will be here in a moment."
"Mamma," whispered her namesake daughter, "how good God was to keep them safe from the Ku Klux!"
"Yes, dearest, let us thank him with all our hearts."