Chapter Twenty-sixth.
 
"Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old,
he will not depart from it."
--PROVERBS, xxii: 6.

As naturally as the helianthus to the sun, did the faces of Elsie's little ones turn to her when in her loved presence. At the table, at their sports, their lessons, everywhere and however employed, it was always the same, the young eyes turning ever and anon to catch the tender, sympathetic glance of mamma's.

But at dinner to-day, Vi's great blue orbs met hers but once and instantly dropped upon her plate again, while a vivid blush suffused the fair face and neck.

And when the meal was ended and all gathered in the drawing-room, Vi still seemed to be unlike her usual gay, sunny self, the merriest prattler of all the little crowd of children, the one whose sweet silvery laugh rang out the oftenest. She stood alone at a side table turning over some engravings, but evidently with very little interest. The mother, engaged in conversation with the other ladies, watched her furtively, a little troubled and anxious, yet deeming it best to wait for a voluntary confidence on the part of her child.

Longing, yet dreading to make it, Vi was again puzzling her young brain with the question whether Meta was right in saying it would be selfish to do so. Ah, if she could only ask mamma which was the right way to do! This was the first perplexity she had not been able to carry to her for disentanglement.

Remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth," Elsie had been careful to store her children's minds with the blessed teachings and precious promises of God's holy Book. She had also taught them to go to God their heavenly Father, with every care, sorrow, doubt and difficulty.

"I'll ask Jesus," thought Vi; "he'll help me to know, because the Bible says, 'If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.'"

She slipped into an adjoining room, where she was quite alone, and kneeling down, whispered softly, with low sobs and many tears, "Dear Father in heaven, I've been a very, very naughty girl; I disobeyed my dear mamma; please forgive me for Jesus' sake and make me good. Please Lord Jesus, help me to know if I ought to tell mamma."

A text--one of the many she had learned to recite to her mother in that precious morning half hour--came to her mind as she rose from her knees. "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy."

"I didn't cover them;" she said to herself, "I told God: but then God knew all about it before; he sees and knows everything; but mamma doesn't know. Perhaps it means I musn't cover them from her. I think Jesus did tell me."

Wiping away her tears she went back into the drawing-room. The gentlemen were just leaving it, her father among the rest. A sudden resolution seized her and she ran after them.

"Papa!"

He turned at the sound of her voice. "Well daughter?"

"I--I just want to ask you something."

"Another time then, pet, papa's in a hurry now."

But seeing the distress in the dear little face he came to her and laying his hand on her head in tender fatherly fashion, said, "Tell papa what it is that troubles you. I will wait to hear it now."

"Papa," she said, choking down a sob, "I--I don't know what to do."

"About what, daughter?"

"Papa, s'pose--s'pose I'd done something naughty, and--and it would grieve dear mamma to hear it; ought I to tell her and--and make her sorry?"

"My dear little daughter," he said bending down to look with grave, tender eyes into the troubled face, "never, never conceal anything from your mother; it is not safe for you, pet; and she would far rather bear the pain of knowing. If our children knew how much, how very much we both love them, they would never want to hide anything from us."

"Papa, I don't; but--somebody says it would be selfish to hurt mamma so."

"The selfishness was in doing the naughty thing, not in confessing it. Go, my child, and tell mamma all about it."

He hastened away, and Violet crept back to the drawing-room.

The other children were leaving it. "Come, Vi," they said, "we're going for a walk."

"Thank you, I don't wish to go this time," she answered with gravity. "I've something to attend to."

"What a grown up way of talking you have, you little midget," laughed Meta. Then putting her lips close to Vi's ear, "Violet Travilla," she whispered, "don't you tell tales, or I'll never, never play with you again as long as I live."

"My mamma says it's wicked to say that;" returned Vi, "and I don't tell tales."

Then as Meta ran away, Violet drew near her mother's chair.

Mamma was talking, and she must not interrupt, so she waited, longing to have the confession over, yet feeling her courage almost fail with the delay.

Elsie saw it all, and at length seized an opportunity while the rest were conversing among themselves, to take Vi's hand and draw her to her side.

"I think my little girl has something to say to mother," she whispered softly, smoothing back the clustering curls, and looking tenderly into the tear-stained face.

Violet nodded assent; her heart was so full she could not have spoken a word without bursting into tears and sobs.

Mamma understood, rose and led her from the room; led her to her own dressing-room where they could be quite secure from intrusion. Then seating herself and taking the child on her lap, "What is wrong with my dear little daughter?" she asked.

"O, mamma, mamma, I'm so sorry, so sorry!" cried the child, bursting into a passion of tears and sobs, putting her arms about her mother's neck and hiding her face on her breast.

"Mamma is sorry, too, dear, sorry for anything that makes her Vi unhappy. What is it? what can mother do to comfort you."

"Mamma I don't deserve for you to be so kind, and you'll have to punish, 'stead of comforting. But I just want to tell about my own self; you know I can't tell tales, mamma."

"No, daughter, I do not ask, or wish it; but tell me about yourself."

"Mamma, it will make you sorry, ever so sorry."

"Yes, dear, but I must bear it for your sake."

"O mamma, I don't like to make you sorry I--I wish I hadn't, hadn't been naughty, oh so naughty, mamma! for I played with some of your mamma's things that you forbade us to touch, and--and one lovely plate got broken all up."

"I am very sorry to hear that," returned the mother, "yet far more grieved by my child's sin. But how did you get the door open and the plates off the shelf?"

"I didn't, mamma: they were out."

"Some one else did it?"

"Yes, mamma; but you know I can't tell tales. It wasn't any of our children, though, none of them were naughty but just me."

"Were you playing with the plate? did you break it?"

"No mamma, I didn't touch the plates, but I was dressing one of the dollies. They are all locked up again now, mamma, and I don't think anybody will touch them any more."

A little tender, serious talk on the sin and danger of disobedience to parents, and the mother knelt with her child, and in a few simple words asked God's forgiveness for her. Then telling Vi she must remain alone in that room till bedtime, she left her.

Not one harsh or angry word had been spoken, and the young heart was full of a passionate love to her mother that made the thought of having grieved her a far bitterer punishment than the enforced solitude, though that was at any time irksome enough to one of Vi's social, fun-loving temperament.

It cost the mother a pang to inflict the punishment and leave the darling alone in her trouble; but Elsie was not one to weakly yield to inclination when it came in conflict with duty. Hers was not a selfish love; she would bear any present pain to secure the future welfare of her children.

She rejoined her friends in the drawing-room apparently as serenely happy as her wont, but through all the afternoon and evening her heart was with her little one in her banishment and grief, yearning over her with tenderest mother love.

Little Elsie, too, missed her sister, and returning from her walk, went in search of her. She found her at last in their mamma's dressing-room seated at the window, her cheek resting on her hand, the tears coursing slowly down, while her eyes gazed longingly out over the beautiful fields and lovely orange groves.

"Oh my own Vi, my darling little sister! what's the matter?" asked Elsie, clasping her in her arms, and kissing the wet cheek.

A burst of bitter sobs, while the small arms clung about the sister's neck, and the golden head rested for an instant on her shoulder, then the words, "Ah I'd tell you, but I can't now, for you must run right away, because mamma said I must stay here all alone till bedtime."

"Then I must go, pet; but don't cry so: if you've been naughty and are sorry, Jesus, and mamma too, will forgive you and love you just the same," Elsie said, kissing her again, then releasing her, hurried from the room, crying heartily in sympathy.

On the upper veranda, whither she went to recover her composure, before rejoining her mates, she found her mother pacing slowly to and fro.

"Is my Elsie in trouble, too?" Mrs. Travilla asked, pausing in her walk and holding out her hand.

"For my Vi, mamma," sobbed Elsie, taking the hand and pressing it to her lips.

"Yes, poor little pet! mother's heart aches for her too," Mrs. Travilla answered, her own eyes filling. "I am glad my little daughters love and sympathize with each other."

"Mamma, I would rather stay with Vi, than be with the others. May I?"

"No, daughter, I have told her she must spend the rest of the day alone."

"Yes, mamma, she told me so and wouldn't let me stay even one minute to hear about her trouble."

"That was right."

Time crept by very slowly to Violet. She thought that afternoon the longest she had ever known. After a while she heard a familiar step, and almost before she knew it papa had her in his arms.

With a little cry of joy she put hers around his neck and returned the kiss he had just given her.

"Oh I'm so glad!" she said, "but, papa, you'll have to go away, because nobody must stay with me; I'm--"

"Papa may," he said, sitting down with her on his knee. "So you told mamma about the naughtiness?"

"Yes, sir."

"I am glad you did. Always tell mamma everything. If you have disobeyed her never delay a moment to go and confess it."

"Yes, papa: but if it's you?"

"Then come to me in the same way. If you want to be a happy child have no concealment from father or mother."

"Shall I tell you about it now, papa?"

"You may do as you like about that since your mother knows it all."

"Papa, I'm afraid you wouldn't love such a naughty girl any more."

"Mamma loves you quite as well, and so shall I; because you are our own, own little daughter. There were tears in mamma's eyes when she told me that she had had to punish our little Vi."

"Oh I'm so sorry to have made mamma cry," sobbed the child.

"Sin always brings sorrow and suffering sooner or later, my little girl; remember that; and that it is because Jesus loves us that he would save us from our sins."

After a little more talk, in which Violet repeated to him the same story of her wrong doing that she had already told her mother, her papa left her and she was again alone till mammy came with her supper--a bowl of rich sweet milk and bread from the unbolted flour, that might have tempted the appetite of an epicure.

"Come, honey, dry dose wet eyes an' eat yo' supper," said mammy, setting it out daintily on a little table which she placed before the child and covered with a fine damask cloth fresh from the iron. "De milk's mos' all cream, an' de bread good as kin be: an' you kin hab much as eber you want ob both ob dem."

"Did mamma say so, mammy?"

"Yes, chile; an' don't shed no mo' dose tears now; ole mammy lubs you like her life."

"But I've been very naughty, mammy," sobbed the little girl.

"Yes, Miss Wi'let, honey: an' we's all been naughty, but de good Lord forgib us for Jesus' sake if we's sorry an' don't 'tend neber to do so no mo'."

"Yes, mammy, Oh I wish you could stay with me I but you musn't: for mamma said I must be all alone."

"Yes, darlin'; an' if you wants mo' supper, jes ring dis, an' mammy'll come."

She placed a small silver bell on the table beside Vi, and with a tender, compassionate look at the tear-swollen face, went away.

The young Travillas were sometimes denied dainties because of misconduct, but always allowed to satisfy their youthful appetites with an abundance of wholesome, nourishing food.

Vi ate her supper with a keen relish, and found herself greatly comforted by it. How much one's views of life are brightened by a good comfortable meal that does not overtax the digestive organs. Vi suddenly remembered with a feeling of relief that the worst of her trouble--the confession--was over, and the punishment nearly so.

It was only a little while till mamma came, took her on her lap, kissed and forgave her.

"Mamma, I'm so, so sorry for having disobeyed and grieved you!" whispered the child, weeping afresh: "for I do love you very, very much, my own mamma."

"I know it, dearest; but I want you to be far more sorry for having disobeyed God, who loves you more, a great deal, than your parents do, and has given you every good thing you have."

"Yes, mamma, I've asked God many times to forgive me for Jesus's sake, and I think he has."

"Yes, if you asked with your heart, I am sure he has; for Jesus said, 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.'"

There was a little pause, Vi nestling close in her mother's arms; then with a quiver in her voice, "Mamma," she sighed, "will you ever trust me again?"

"Just the same as before, my child; because I believe you are truly sorry for your sin against God and against me."

"Thank you, dear, dear mamma! oh I hope God will help me to keep from ever being naughty any more."