Elsie's Motherhood by Martha Finley
"Though fools spurn Hymen's gentle powers, We, who improve his golden hours, By sweet experience know That marriage, rightly understood, Gives to the tender and the good A paradise below." --Cotton
Mr. Allison had fully kept his promise to Sophie, and Ashlands was again the fine old place it had been prior to the war. The family, consisting of the elder Mrs. Carrington, a young man, named George Boyd, a nephew of hers who had taken charge of the plantation, Sophie and her four children, had now been in possession for over a year.
Sophie, still an almost inconsolable mourner for the husband of her youth, lived a very retired life, devoting herself to his mother and his orphaned little ones.
Mrs. Ross, expecting to spend the fall and winter with them, had brought all her children and a governess, Miss Fisk, who undertook the tuition of the little Carringtons also during her stay at Ashlands, thus leaving the mothers more at liberty for the enjoyment of each other's society.
It was in the midst of school-hours that the Ion carriage came driving up the avenue, and Philip Ross, lifting his head from the slate over which he had been bending for the last half hour, rose hastily, threw down his pencil and hurried from the room, paying no attention to Miss Fisk's query, "Where are you going, Philip?" or her command, "Come back instantly: it is quite contrary to rules for pupils to leave the school-room during the hours of recitation, without permission." Indeed he had reached the foot of the staircase before the last word had left her lips; she being very slow and precise in speech and action, while his movements were of the quickest.
"What now is to be done in this emergency?" soliloquized the governess, unconsciously thinking aloud. "Miss Gertrude Ross," turning to a girl of nine whose merry blue eyes were twinkling with fun, "follow your brother at once and inform him that I cannot permit any such act of insubordination; and he must return instantly to the performance of his duties."
"Yes ma'am," and Gertrude vanished; glad enough of the opportunity to see for herself who were the new arrivals. "Phil," she said, entering the drawing-room where the guests were already seated, "Miss Fisk says you're an insubordination and must come back instantly."
"Gertude," said her mother, laughing "come and speak to Mr. Travilla and your little friends. Why yes, Phil, to be sure; how came you here when you ought to be at your lessons?"
"Because I wanted to see Elsie Travilla," he answered nonchalantly.
"Yes, but you should have asked for permission. I ought to send you back."
"But you won't, ma, you know that as well as I do. I'll not go back a step while Elsie stays."
"Well, well, it seems you are bound to have your own way, as usual," Lucy answered, half laughing, half sighing, then resumed her talk with Mr. Travilla.
Seeing that the little Travillas had listened to this colloquy in blank amazement, she felt much mortified at Phil's behavior, and on receiving the invitation threatened to leave him at home as a punishment. But this only made matters worse: he insisted that go he would, and if she refused permission he should never, never love her again as long as he lived. And she weakly yielded.
"Lucy," said her mother, when the guests were gone, and the children had left the room, "you are ruining that boy."
"Well, I don't see how I can help it, mamma how could I bear to lose his affection?"
"You are taking the very course to bring that about; it is the weakly indulged, not the wisely controlled, children who lose, first respect, and then affection for their parents. Look at Elsie's little family for instance; where can you find children ruled with a firmer hand, or more devotedly attached to their parents?"
Eddie was at that moment saying to his father, "Papa, isn't Phil Ross a very, very naughty boy, to be so saucy and disobedient to his mamma?"
"My son," answered Mr. Travilla with gentle gravity, "when you have corrected all Eddie Travilla's faults it will be time enough to attend to those of others." And the child hung his head and blushed for shame.
It was Mr. and Mrs. Horace Dinsmore who did the honors at Ion early in the evening, receiving and welcoming each bevy of guests, and replying to the oft repeated inquiry for the master and mistress of the establishment, that they would make their appearance shortly.
Elsie's children, most sweetly and becomingly dressed, had gathered about "Aunt Rosie," in a corner of the drawing-room, and seemed to be waiting with a sort of intense but quiet eagerness for the coming of some expected event.
At length every invited guest had arrived. All being so thoroughly acquainted, nearly all related, there was an entire absence of stiffness and constraint, and much lively chat had been carried on; but a sudden hush fell upon them, and every eye turned toward the doors opening into the hall, expecting--they knew not what.
There were soft foot-falls, a slight rustle of silk, and Adelaide entered followed by Mr. Travilla with Elsie on his arm, in bridal attire. The shimmering satin, rich, soft lace and orange blossoms became her well; and never, even on that memorable night ten years ago, had she looked lovelier or more bride-like; never had her husband bent a prouder, fonder look upon her fair face than now as he led her to the centre of the room, where they paused in front of their pastor.
A low murmur of surprise and delight ran round the room, but was suddenly stilled, as the venerable man rose and began to speak.
"Ten years ago to-night, dear friends, I united you in marriage. Edward Travilla, you then vowed to love, honor and cherish till life's end the woman whom you now hold by the hand. Have you repented of that vow? and would you be released?"
"Not for worlds: there has been no repentance, but my love has grown deeper and stronger day by day."
"And you, Elsie Dinsmore Travilla, also vowed to love, honor and obey the man you hold by the hand. Have you repented?"
"Never, sir; never for one moment." The accents were low, sweet, clear, and full of pleasure.
"I pronounce you a faithful man and wife: and may God, in his good providence, grant you many returns of this happy anniversary."
Old Mr. Dinsmore stepped up, kissed the bride and shook hands with the groom. "Blessings on you for making her so happy," he said in quivering tones.
His son followed, then the others in their turn, and a merry scene ensued.
"Mamma, it was so pretty, so pretty," little Elsie said, clasping her arms about her mother's neck, "and now I just feel as if I'd been to your wedding. Thank you, dear mamma and papa."
"Mamma, you are so beautiful, I'll just marry you myself, when I'm a man," remarked Eddie, giving her a hearty kiss, then gazing into her face with his great dark eyes full of love and admiration.
"I too," chimed in Violet. "No, no, I forget, I shall be a lady myself: so I'll have to marry papa."
"No, Vi, oo tan't have my papa; he's dus' my papa always," objected Harold, climbing his father's knee.
"What a splendid idea, Elsie," Lucy Ross was saying to her friend, "you have made me regret, for the first time, not having kept my wedding dress; for I believe my Phil and I could go through that catechism quite as well as you and Mr. Travilla. The whole thing, I suppose, was quite original?"
"Among us: my namesake daughter proposed the wearing of the dress: and the ceremony," turning to the minister, "was your idea, Mr. Wood, was it not?"
"Partly, Mrs. Travilla; your father, Mrs. Dinsmore, and I planned it together."
"Your dress is as perfect a fit as when made, but I presume you had it altered," observed Lucy, making a critical examination of her friend's toilet.
"No, not in the least," answered Elsie, smiling.
The banquet to which the guests were presently summoned, though gotten up so hastily, more than fulfilled the expectation of the Misses Conly, who as well as their mother and Aunt Enna did it ample justice; there was a good deal of gormandizing done by the spoiled children present, spite of feeble protests from their parents; but Elsie's well trained little ones ate contentedly what was given them, nor even asked for the rich dainties on which others were feasting; knowing that papa and mamma loved them too dearly to deny them any real good.
"Holloa, Neddie and Vi, why you've been overlooked!" said Philip Ross, coming toward the two little ones with a plate heaped up with rich viands, "you've nothing but ice cream and plain sugar biscuit; here, take some of this pound cake and these bonbons. They're delicious, I tell you!"
"No, no, thank you: mamma says pound cake is much too rich for us, and would make us sick," said Eddie.
"'Specially at night," added Vi, "and we're to have some bonbons to-morrow."
"Goodest little tots ever I saw," returned Philip laughing. "Ma wanted me to let 'em alone, but I told her I'd risk the getting sick," he added with a pompous grown-up air.
"Phil, you certainly are an insubordination, as Miss Fisk said," remarked his sister Gertrude, standing near, "I believe you think you're 'most a man, but it's a great mistake."
"Pooh, Ger! people that live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. I heard you telling ma you wouldn't wear the dress she'd laid out for you. Elsie Travilla, allow me the pleasure of refilling your saucer."
"No, thank you, Phil, I've had all mamma thinks good for me."
"Time to go to bed, chillens," said mammy, approaching the little group, "de clock jes gwine strike nine. Here, Uncle Joe, take dese empty saucers."
Promptly and without a murmur the four little folks prepared to obey the summons, but cast wistful longing glances toward mamma, who was gayly chatting with her guests on the other side of the room. Just then the clock on the mantel struck, and excusing herself she came quickly toward them. "That is right, dears; come and say good-night to papa and our friends; then go with mammy and mamma will follow in a few moments."
"What dear sweet creatures they are! perfect little ladies and gentlemen," remarked Mrs. Wood, as, after a courteous good-night to all, they went cheerfully away with their mammy.
"I wish mine were half as good," said Mrs. Ross.
"Now ma, don't expose us," cried Phil. "I've often heard you say Mrs. Travilla was a far better little girl than you; so of course her children ought to be better than yours."
"Some children keep their good behavior for company," sneered Enna, "and I've no doubt these little paragons have their naughty fits as well as ours."
"It is quite true that they are not always good," Elsie said with patient sweetness. "And now I beg you will all excuse me for a few moments, as they never feel quite comfortable going to bed without a last word or two with mamma."
"Before I'd make myself such a slave to my children!" muttered Enna, looking after her as she glided from the room. "If they couldn't be content to be put to bed by their mammies, they might stay up all night."
"I think Mrs. Travilla is right," observed the pastor; "the responsibilities of parents are very great. God says to each one, 'Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages.'"