Elsie's Motherhood by Martha Finley
"It gives me wonder, great is my content, To see you here before me." --SHAKESPEARE'S OTHELLO. "Sir, you are very welcome to our house." --SHAKESPEARE
Day had fully dawned when Mr. Travilla re-entered his sleeping apartment to find Elsie in bed again, but lying there with wide open eyes.
"How very quietly you came in; careful not to disturb me I suppose, my good, kind husband," she said greeting him with a loving look and smile, as he drew near her couch.
"Yes," he answered, bending over her and fondly stroking her hair. "I hoped you were taking another nap."
"No, I feel as if I should never be sleepy again. I'm thinking of poor Mrs. Leland. How troubled, anxious and distressed she must feel."
"Yes; I shall ride over there directly."
"And take me with you?"
"Gladly, if you like to go. You will do her more good than I."
"I doubt it; but perhaps both together may be better than either one alone. Didn't she act bravely?"
"Yes; she's a noble woman."
They spent some moments in consulting together how to make their guest comfortable and at the same time effectually conceal his presence in the house.
They rejoiced in the fact that no one but themselves--his own son excepted--had been cognizant of his arrival, and Elsie agreed with her husband that it should be kept secret from the children; servants also save Aunt Chloe and Uncle Joe, whose services would be needed, and who could be trusted not to divulge the matter.
"Mammy will manage about his meals, I know," said Elsie, "and Dr. Barton's visits may be supposed to be paid to Violet. The darling! how glad and thankful I am that she seems to be losing her inclination to sleep-walking."
"And I," said her husband; "thankful to God for his blessing on the means used, and to Barton, who is certainly an excellent physician."
Their talk ended, husband and wife separated to their different dressing-rooms.
Elsie rang for her maid and Aunt Chloe appeared in answer to the summons.
Aunt Chloe was no longer young, or even elderly, but had attained to a healthy and vigorous old age and still so delighted in her old pleasant task of busying herself about the person of her young mistress, that she would only occasionally resign it to other hands. She was a household dignitary, head tire-woman, and head nurse, and much looked up to by the younger servants.
She came in quietly and dropping a courtesy said, "Good mornin', Miss Elsie, I hope you's well, honey, but you's up so mighty early."
"Ah, mammy, I'm glad it is you, for I have something to tell you. Yes, I'm quite well, thank you," Elsie answered, then while making a rapid toilet, went on to relate the occurrences of the last few hours, winding up by putting the wounded guest in charge of Aunt Chloe and her husband.
The faithful old creature accepted the trust with evident pride in the confidence reposed in her.
"Dis chile an' Uncle Joe'll take care of him, honey, neber fear," she said, carefully adjusting the folds of her mistress's riding habit. "I'll nuss him to de best ob my disability, an' de good Lord'll soon make um well, I hope."
"And you and Uncle Joe will be careful not to let any of the other servants know that he's here?"
"Dat we will, darlin', for shuah."
The sun was just peeping above the horizon, as Mr. and Mrs. Travilla drew rein before the main entrance to the Fairview mansion.
Mrs. Leland came out to welcome them. She was looking pale and worn, yet met them with a smile, and words of grateful appreciation of all their kindness, then, with the quick tears springing to her eyes, asked anxiously after her husband's welfare.
"I think he is safe and will do well," Mr. Travilla said. "It seems to be only a flesh wound, and will soon heal with proper treatment and good nursing. I shall go from here to Dr. Barton's; calling for my wife on my return. But first what can I do for you? Ah, I see your door is quite demolished. We must have it replaced with a new and stronger one before night."
"Yes, that is the most pressing need just now," said Mrs. Leland. "Come in and look; there is really no other damage except a few bullet holes in the walls, and these blood-stains on the matting," she said with a slight shudder; "and I am truly thankful to have escaped so well."
They stepped into the hall, (their talk so far had been on the veranda,) and gazed with interest upon the marks of the night's conflict, Mrs. Leland meanwhile giving a graphic account of it.
A servant was diligently at work cleaning the matting, and had nearly obliterated the stains left by the wounded Ku Klux.
"And you shot him, Mrs. Leland?" Elsie said inquiringly.
"Archie or I, or perhaps both of us," Mrs. Leland answered, leading the way to the parlor.
They sat there a few moments, conversing still upon the same theme.
"You will hardly dare stay here at night now?" Elsie remarked.
"Yes; where else? I should feel very little safer from the Ku Klux in the woods, and the malaria might rob us all of health and even life."
"Come to Ion," said both her visitors in a breath, "you will be most welcome."
"A thousand thanks," she answered with emotion. "I do not doubt my welcome; yet fear to give a clue to my husband's hiding place."
"There might be danger of that," Mr. Travilla said thoughtfully, "but what better, my dear madam, can you do?"
"Stay here and put my trust in the Lord. He will take care of me and my helpless little ones.
"I have been thinking of one of our noble pioneer women of the West, whose husband was killed by the Indians, leaving her alone in the wilderness with six small children, no white person within several miles.
"Her friends urged her to leave the dangerous spot, but she said, 'No, this farm is all I have for my own and my children's support, and I must stay here. God will protect and help us.' And he did; the Indians, though they knew she was alone, never attacked her. She lay sometimes all night with a broadax in her hands, ready to defend her babes; but though she could see the savages come into her yard and light their pipes at her brushwood fire, they never approached the house?"
Elsie's eyes kindled with enthusiastic admiration, then filled with tears. "Dear, brave Christian woman! and you will emulate her courage and faith."
"I shall try; the hearts of the Ku Klux of to-day are no less in His hands than those of the Indians of that day or this."
"That is certainly true and he never fails those who put their trust in him," Mr. Travilla said, rising. "Now, wife, I will leave you here while I go for Barton."
"Oh stay a moment, Edward," she exclaimed, "a thought has struck me: it is not usual for you to go for the doctor yourself: might it not excite suspicion? And can you not trust Uncle Joe as your messenger?"
"Your plan is best," he said with a pleased smile. "Let us then hasten home and dispatch him on the errand at once."
Dr. Barton found the wound not dangerous, extracted the ball with little difficulty, and left the patient doing well.
The attack on Fairview and the disappearance of its owner, caused considerable excitement in the neighborhood; there was a good deal of speculation as to what had become of him: some thought it probable that he had hidden in the woods and died there of his wounds; others that he had gone North to stay until the reign of terror should be over.
No one, perhaps, suspected the truth, yet the wrath of the Ku Klux was excited against the Travillas, and the Dinsmores of the Oaks, by the kindness they showed to Leland's wife and children; and threatening notices were sent ordering them to desist from giving aid and comfort to "the carpet-bagger's family."
They however paid no heed to the insolent demand, but exerted themselves to discover who were the men wounded in the raid; for that more than one had been hurt, was evidenced by the bloody tracks in and around the house at Fairview.
In this they were not successful; doubtless because the men were from a distance, it being the custom for the organization so to arrange matters that thus they might the more readily escape recognition.
The Ion children were at play in the front veranda one morning shortly after breakfast, when a strange gentleman came riding leisurely up the avenue.
Harold was the first to notice his approach. "Mammy, mammy! see who's tumin! dat one de Kluxes?" he asked, running in affright to Aunt Chloe, who sat in their midst with the babe on her lap.
"Spect not, honey; don't be 'fraid," she said soothingly, putting her arm about the little trembler.
The little girls were dressing their dolls, Eddie and Bruno racing back and forth, in and out, having a grand romp: but at Harold's question, Eddie suddenly stood still, with an imperative, "Down, Bruno! down sir! be quiet now!" and turned to look at the stranger.
The gentleman, now close at hand, reined in his horse, lifted his hat, and with a winning smile, said "Good morning, my little lads and lasses. Is your mother in?"
"No, sir, she and papa have gone out riding," replied Eddie, returning the bow and smile.
Elsie laid aside her doll and stepping forward, said with a graceful little courtesy, "Good morning, sir, will you dismount and come in? Papa and mamma will probably be here in a few minutes."
"Ah, ha! um h'm; ah ha! Yes, my little lady, I will do so, thank you," returned the gentleman, giving his horse into the care of a servant, summoned by Eddie.
"Will you walk into the drawing-room sir?" Elsie asked.
"No, thank you," he replied seating himself among them, and sending a glance of keen interest from one to another.
One look into the pleasant, genial face, banished Harold's fears, and when the stranger held out his hand, saying, "I am your mamma's cousin, won't you come and sit on my knee?" the child went to him at once; while the others gathered eagerly about.
"Mamma's cousin! then she will be very glad to see you," said Elsie.
"But she never told us about you," observed Eddie.
"Ah ha, ah ha! um h'm! ah ha! But did she ever tell you about any of her mother's kin?"
"No, sir," said Elsie, "I asked her once, and she said she didn't know anything about them; she wished she did."
"Ah ha! ah ha, um h'm! ah ha! Well, she soon will. Child, you look very like a picture of your great-grandmother that hangs in my house in Edinburgh. A bonny lassie she must have been when it was taken."
"Yes, sir; and she's the picture of mamma;" remarked Eddie; "everybody says so."
"Ah ha, ah ha! um h'm, ah ha!"
"Has you dot any 'ittle boys and dirls at your house?" asked Harold.
"Yes, my man, a quiver full of them."
"Are they good? do they love Jesus?" asked Vi. "Please tell us about them."
"If you like to, sir," said Elsie, with a sweet and gentle gravity. "Vi, dear, you know we mustn't tease."
"No, I didn't mean to tease," Vi answered, blushing. "Please excuse me, sir, and don't tell it 'less you want to."
"No, no; it will give me pleasure, my dear. I enjoy talking of my darlings; especially now when they are so far away."
He seemed about to begin, when Elsie, blushing deeply, said, "Excuse me, sir, I have been very remiss in my hospitalities. It is early, and perhaps you have not breakfasted."
"Yes, thank you my dear, I took breakfast at the village hotel, where I arrived last night."
"But you will take a cup of coffee and some fruit--"
Her sentence was broken off; for at that instant a lady and gentleman came galloping up the avenue and the little ones hailed them with a joyous shout, "Papa and mamma!"
Another moment and Mr. Travilla had dismounted, gallantly assisted his wife to do the same and together they stepped into the veranda. Both bowed politely to the stranger, and the children running to them cried, "Mamma, mamma, it is your cousin from Scotland."
She turned inquiringly to him, a flush of pleasure on her face.
He had risen from his seat, and was coming toward her with outstretched hand and earnest, admiring gaze. "My name is Ronald Lilburn; your maternal grandmother and mine were sisters," he said, "your grandmother's marriage was displeasing to her father and all intercourse between her and the rest of the family was broken off in obedience to his stern command; and thus they lost sight of each other. I have brought proofs of--"
But Elsie's hand was already laid in his, while glad tears sprang to her eyes.
"You shall show us them at another time if you will; but I could never doubt such a face as yours, and can not tell you how glad I am to have at last found a relative on my mother's side of the house. Cousin, you are welcome, welcome to Ion!" And she turned to her husband.
"Yes," he said, offering his hand with the greatest cordiality, "welcome indeed, and not more so to my little wife than to myself."
"Thanks to you both," he said with a bow and smile. "Cousin," with an earnest look at his hostess, "you are very like a picture I have of your grandmother. But," with a glance at the wide-eyed little ones, looking on and listening in wonder and surprise, "can it be that you are the mother of all these? yourself scarce more than a bairn in appearance."
Elsie laughed lightly. "Ah, cousin, you have not examined me closely yet I have not been a bairn for many years. How glad papa will be, Edward, to see a relative of my mother's!"
"No doubt of it, wife, and we must send him word immediately."
Mr. Lilburn had no reason to complain of his reception: he was treated with the utmost hospitality, and his coming made the occasion of general rejoicing in the household. Refreshments were promptly set before him, a handsome suite of apartments appropriated to his use, and a man-servant directed to attend upon his person.
A note was sent to the Oaks inviting the whole family to Ion; the children were given a holiday, and Elsie, her husband, and father, spent the morning in conversation with their guest, and in examining family records, miniatures and photographs which he had brought with him.
The day passed most agreeably to all; the new found relatives were mutually pleased and interested in each other.
Mr. Lilburn was evidently a gentleman of intelligence, polish and refinement; seemed to be an earnest Christian, too, and in easy circumstances.
The little folks made friends with him at once, and as children are apt to be quick at reading character, the older ones felt this to be a confirmation of the good opinion he had already won from them.