Chapter Twenty-first.
 
"Kindness has resistless charms."
--Rochester.

Through all the trying scenes that followed, Elsie was with the Fosters, giving aid and comfort such as the tenderest sympathy and most delicate kindness could give. She and her husband and father took upon themselves all the care and trouble of the arrangements for the funeral, quietly settled the bills, and afterward sent them, receipted, to Mrs. Foster.

Wilkins had been the chief support of the family, the ladies earning a mere pittance by the use of the needle and sewing-machine. Nothing had been laid by for a rainy day, and the expenses of his illness had to be met by the sale of the few articles of value left from the wreck of their fortunes. And now, but for the timely aid of these kind friends, absolute want had stared them in the face.

They made neither complaint nor parade of their poverty, but it was unavoidable that Elsie should learn much of it at this time, and her heart ached for them in this accumulation of trials.

The girls were educated and accomplished, but shrank with timidity and sensitive pride from exerting themselves to push their way in the world.

"I think they could teach," Mrs. Poster said to Elsie, who, calling the day after the funeral, had with delicate tact made known her desire to assist them in obtaining some employment more lucrative and better adapted to their tastes and social position; "I think they have the necessary education and ability, and I know the will to earn an honest livelihood is not lacking; but where are pupils to be found?"

"Are you willing to leave that to Mr. Travilla and me?" asked Elsie, with gentle kindliness.

"Ah, you are too good, too kind," said Mrs. Foster, weeping.

"No, no, my dear friend," returned Elsie; "does not the Master say, 'This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you?' Now tell me, please, what sort of situations they would like, and what branches they feel competent to teach."

"Annie is a good musician and draws well. She would be glad indeed to get a class of pupils in the neighborhood to whom she might give lessons, here or at their own homes, in drawing and on the piano and harp. Lucinda thinks she could teach the English branches, the higher mathematics, and French.

"But, indeed, my dear Mrs. Travilla, they will be thankful for anything: especially if it does not take them away from me."

"We will see what can be done,--my husband, papa, and I," Elsie said, rising to take leave. "And do not be anxious; remember those precious words, 'Casting all your care on Him for He careth for you.'"

"Do not go yet!" entreated Mrs. Foster, taking and holding fast the hand held out to her, "if you only knew what a comfort your presence is--Ah, dear, kind friend, God has made you a daughter of consolation to his bereaved, afflicted ones!"

Elsie's eyes filled. "It is what I have prayed that he would do for me," she whispered. "But I think I must go now: my husband was to call for me, and I see him at the gate."

Elsie repeated the conversation to her husband as they rode homeward, and consulted him in regard to a plan which had occurred to her.

He approved, and instead of stopping at Ion they rode on to Roselands.

Arrived there, Mr. Travilla joined the gentlemen in the library, while Elsie sought her aunts in the pretty parlor usually occupied by them when not entertaining company.

After a little desultory chat on ordinary topics, she spoke of the Fosters, their indigent circumstances, and her desire to find employment for the girls in teaching.

"Always concerning yourself in other people's business;" remarked Enna. "Why don't you do like the rest of us, and leave them to mind their own affairs?"

"Because I see that they need help, and we are told, 'Look not every man on his own things but every man also on the things of others.' And again, 'As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.'

"I heard you, not long since, Aunt Louise, wishing you could afford a day governess and knew of a suitable person. Would you--would you be willing to employ one at my expense, and give the situation to Lucinda Foster?"

"And let her give it out among our acquaintance that you were paying for the education of my children!" exclaimed Louise, coloring angrily. "No, I thank you."

"Not at all; she need know nothing of the arrangement except that you employ her to instruct your children, and pay her for it. You and Enna, if she will accept the same from me, for herself."

"Dear me," exclaimed Enna, "how you're always spending money on strangers, when your own relations could find plenty of use for it!"

Elsie smiled slightly at this peculiar view taken of her generous offer, but only added, "I would, if you would accept--"

"I'm no object of charity," interrupted Louise, coldly.

"Certainly not," Elsie said, coloring, "yet why should you object to giving so near a relative the pleasure of--But in this instance 'tis I who am asking a favor of you. I want to help the Fosters and cannot do so directly, without wounding their honest pride of independence."

"You will of course employ Lucinda to teach your own?"

"No, I am not in want of a governess. Would you like to have Anna give lessons to your girls in music and drawing?"

"Is she to teach yours?" asked Enna.

"No; M. Reboul has them under his instruction, and as he gives entire satisfaction, I could not feel it right to turn him away."

"H'm! teachers that are not good enough for your children, are not good enough for ours."

"If I were in want of teachers, I should employ the Misses Foster," was Elsie's quiet reply.

Nothing more was said for a moment, then rising to go, "I am then to consider my proposition declined?" she remarked, inquiringly.

"Well no, since you put it on the ground of a favor to yourself, I should be sorry to refuse to gratify you," said Louise.

"Thank you. And you, Enna?"

"She can teach mine if she wants to, and if I could afford it, Annie should give music lessons to Molly; drawing too; but if I can't, I can't."

"It need be no expense to you," said Elsie.

"Very well then, you can engage her and fix the terms to suit yourself."

"Thank you; I shall enjoy their pleasure in hearing that they have so many pupils already secured."

Elsie's benevolent kindness did not stop here; she called on a number of families in the vicinity, and succeeded in obtaining almost as many pupils for the girls as they could well attend to.

Then another difficulty arose:--the distances were too great for the young ladies to traverse on foot, and they had no means of conveyance.

But this was obviated for the present by giving them the use of Prince and Princess, either with or without the phaeton, during the hours of the day that such help was needed.

The ponies were sent over to the cottage every morning, after the children had had their ride, by an Ion servant, who returned for them in the afternoon.

Mrs. Leland heard of her friend's efforts, and going over to Ion, asked, "Why did you not call on me? my children need instruction."

"I hardly liked to ask it of you."

"And I feel a delicacy about proposing the thing to the Fosters, but--I would be very glad to help them; and if you can learn that they would not mind coming to Fairview for the sake of several more scholars, I authorize you to make the engagement for me."

Elsie undertook the errand and did it so well that the Fosters were deeply touched by this kindness on the part of one whom they had formerly hated and reviled, and whose husband their brother had tried to kill.

The offer was gratefully accepted, the young Lelands became the pupils of these former foes, little courtesies and kind offices were exchanged, and in the end warm friendship took the place of enmity.