Elsie's Motherhood by Martha Finley
"If hearty sorrow Be a sufficient ransom for offence, I tender it here; I do as truly suffer, As e'er I did commit." --SHAKESPEARE.
"O Eddie, dear, do get up and come into the house!" entreated his sister. "I must leave you if you don't, for Prilla said mamma had sent for us; and you know we must obey."
"Oh I can't, I can't go in! I can't see mamma! she will never, never love me any more!"
"Yes, she will, Eddie; nothing will ever make her stop loving us; and if you're really sorry for having disobeyed poor, dear papa, you'll not go on and disobey her now."
"But oh I've been such a wicked, wicked boy. O Elsie, what shall I do? Jesus won't love me now, nor mamma nor anybody."
"O Eddie," sobbed his sister, "don't talk so. Jesus does love you and will forgive you, if you ask him; and so will mamma and papa; for they both love you and I love you dearly, dearly."
The two were alone, Archie having gone home with his father.
A step drew near, and Mr. Dinsmore's voice spoke close at hand in tones sterner and more peremptory than he really meant them to be.
"Edward, get up from that damp grass and come into the house immediately. Do you intend to add to your poor mother's troubles by your disobedience, and by making yourself sick?"
The child arose instantly. He was accustomed to yield to his grandfather's authority quite as readily as to that of his parents.
"O grandpa, please don't be hard to him! His heart's almost broken, and he wouldn't have hurt papa on purpose for all the world," pleaded little Elsie, hastening to Mr. Dinsmore's side, taking his hand in both hers, and lifting her tear-dimmed eyes beseechingly to his face.
"Yes, grandpa ought," sobbed Eddie, "I've been such a wicked, wicked boy, I deserve the dreadfulest whipping that ever was. And papa can't do it now!" he cried with a fresh burst of grief and remorse, "and mamma won't like to. Grandpa, it'll have to be you. Please do it quick, 'cause I want it over."
"And has all this distress been for fear of punishment?" asked Mr. Dinsmore, taking the child's hand, and bending down to look searchingly into his face.
"Oh no, no, no, grandpa! I'd rather be whipped any day than to know I've hurt my dear papa so. Grandpa, won't you do it quick?"
"No, my son, I am not fond of such business and shall not punish you unless requested to do so by your father or mother. The doctor hopes your father will be about again in a week or two, and he can then attend to your case himself."
"Oh then he won't die! he won't die, our dear, dear papa!" cried both children in a breath.
"No; God has been very good to us all in causing the ball to strike where it could do but little injury. And Edward, I hope this will be such a lesson to you all your life as will keep you from ever disobeying again."
They were passing up the avenue, Eddie moving submissively along by his grandfather's side, but with tottering steps; for the dreadful excitement of the last hour had exhausted him greatly. Perceiving this Mr. Dinsmore presently took him in his arms and carried him to the house.
Low pitiful sobs and sighs were the only sounds the little fellow made till set down in the veranda; but then clinging to his grandfather's hand, he burst out afresh, "O grandpa, I can't go in! I can't, I can't see mamma, for she can't love me any more."
The mother heard and came quickly out. The tears were coursing down her cheeks, her mother heart yearned over her guilty, miserable child: stooping down and stretching out her arms, "Eddie, my little son," she said in tender tremulous accents, "come to mother. If my boy is truly sorry for his sin, mamma has no reproaches for him: nothing but forgiveness and love."
He threw himself upon her bosom, "Mamma, mamma, I am sorry, oh, so sorry! I will never, never disobey papa or you again."
"God helping you, my son; if you trust in your own strength you will be sure to fall."
"Yes mamma; oh, mamma, I've been the wickedest boy! I disobeyed my father and shooted him; and oughtn't I to have a dreadful whipping? Shall grandpa do it?"
Mrs. Travilla lifted her full eyes inquiringly to her father's face.
"It is all his own idea," said Mr. Dinsmore with emotion, "I think he has already had a worse punishment by far in his grief and remorse."
Elsie heaved a sigh of relief. "I think his father would say so too; it shall be decided by him when he is able. Eddie, my son, papa is too ill now to say what shall be done with you. I think he does not even know of your disobedience. You will have to wait some days. The suspense will be hard to bear, I know, but my little boy must try to be patient, remembering that he has brought all this suffering on himself. And in the meantime he has mamma's forgiveness and love," she added folding him to her heart with a tender caress.
Sorely the children missed their precious half hour with mamma that night, and every night and morning of their papa's illness; she could leave him only long enough each time to give them a few loving words and a kiss all round, and they scarcely saw her through the day--were not admitted to their father's room at all.
But they were very good; lessons went on nearly as usual, little Elsie keeping order in the school-room, even wilful Eddie quietly submitting to her gentle sway, and grandpa kindly attending to the recitations. He rode out with them too, and he, Aunt Rosie or their mammies, took them for a pleasant walk every fine day.
Friends and neighbors were very kind and attentive, none more so than the Lelands. Archie told his father how, and by whom, poor Eddie had been teased, provoked and dared into firing the pistol; Mr. Leland told Mr. Dinsmore the story, and he repeated it to his father and sisters.
The old gentleman was sufficiently incensed against the two culprits to administer a severe castigation to each, while Elsie was thankful to learn that her son had not yielded readily to the temptation to disobedience. She pitied him deeply, as she noted how weary to him were these days of waiting, how his gay spirits had forsaken him, how anxious he was for his father's recovery; how he longed for the time when he should be permitted to go to him with his confession and petition for pardon.
At length that time came. Mr. Travilla was so much better that Dr. Burton said it would do him no harm to see his children, and to hear all the details of his accident.
The others were brought in first and allowed to spend a few minutes in giving and receiving caresses, their little tongues running very fast in their exuberant joy over their restored father.
"Elsie, Vi, Harold, baby--but where is Eddie?" he asked, looking a little anxiously at his wife; "not sick, I hope?"
"No, my dear, he will be in presently," she answered, the tears starting to her eyes, "no one of them all has found it harder to be kept away from you than he. But there is something he has begged me to tell you before he comes."
"Ah!" he said with a troubled look in his eyes, a suspicion of the truth dawning upon him. "Well, darlings, you may go now, and mamma will let you come in again before your bedtime."
They withdrew and Elsie told her story, dwelling more particularly upon the strength of the temptation and the child's agony of grief and remorse.
"Bring him here, wife," Mr. Travilla said, his eyes full, his voice husky with emotion.
There was a sound of sobs in the hall without as she opened the door. "Come, son," she said, taking his hand in hers, "papa knows it all now."
Half eagerly, half tremblingly he suffered her to lead him in.
"Papa," he burst out sobbingly, scarcely daring to lift his eyes from the floor, "I've been a very wicked, bad boy; I disobeyed you and--and--"
"Come here to me, my little son." How gentle and tender were the tones.
Eddie lifted his head and with one joyous bound was in his fathers arms, clinging about his neck and sobbing out upon his breast his grief, his joy, his penitence. "Papa, papa, can you forgive such a naughty disobedient boy? I'm so sorry I did it! I'm so glad you didn't die, dear, dear papa! so glad you love me yet."
"Love you, son? I think if you knew how much, you would never want to disobey again."
"I don't, papa, oh, I don't! I ask God earnestly every day to give me a new heart, and help me always to be good. But mustn't I be punished? mamma said it was for you to say, and grandpa didn't whip me and he won't 'less you ask him."
"And I shall not ask him, my son. I fully and freely forgive you, because I am sure you are very sorry and do not mean to disobey again."
How happy the child was that at last his father knew and had forgiven all.
Mr. Travilla improved the occasion for a short but very serious talk with him on the sin and danger of disobedience, and his words, so tenderly spoken, made a deep and lasting impression.
But Eddie was not yet done with the pain and mortification consequent upon his wrong doing. That afternoon the Ashland ladies called bringing with them the elder children of both families. While their mammas conversed in the drawing-room the little people gathered in the veranda.
All was harmony and good-will among them till Philip Ross, fixing his eyes on Eddie, said with a sneer, "So, Master Ed, though you told me one day you'd never talk to your mamma as I did to mine, you've done a good deal worse. I don't set up for a pattern good boy, but I'd die before I'd shoot my father."
Eddie's eyes sought the floor while his lips trembled and two great tears rolled down his burning cheeks.
"Phil Ross," cried Gertrude, "I'm ashamed of you! of course he didn't do it a-purpose."
"May be not; he didn't disobey on purpose? hadn't his father--"
But catching a reproachful, entreating look from Elsie's soft, brown eyes, he stopped short and turning away, began to whistle carelessly, while Vi, putting her small arms about Eddie's neck, said, "Phil Ross, you shouldn't 'sult my brother so, 'cause he wouldn't 'tend to hurt papa; no, not for all the world;" Harold chiming in, "'Course my Eddie wouldn't!" and Bruno, whom he was petting and stroking with his chubby hands, giving a short, sharp bark, as if he too had a word to say in defence of his young master.
"Is that your welcome to visitors, Bruno?" queried a young man of eighteen or twenty, alighting from his horse and coming up the steps into the veranda.
"You must please excuse him for being so ill-mannered, Cousin Cal," little Elsie said, coming forward and offering her hand with a graceful courtesy very like her mamma's. "Will you walk into the drawing-room? our mammas are all there."
"Presently, thank you," he said, bending down to snatch a kiss from the sweet lips.
She shrank from the caress almost with aversion.
"What's the use of being so shy with a cousin?" he asked, laughing, "why Molly Percival likes to kiss me."
"I think Molly would not be pleased if she knew you said that," remarked the little girl, in a quiet tone, and moving farther from him as she spoke.
"Holding a levee, eh?" he said, glancing about upon the group. "How d'ye, young ladies and gentlemen? Holloa, Ed! so you're the brave fellow that shot his father? Hope your grandfather dealt out justice to you in the same fashion that Wal and Dick's did to them."
Eddie could bear no more, but burst into an agony of tears and sobs.
"Calhoun Conly, do you think it very manly for a big fellow like you to torment such a little one as our Eddie?" queried Elsie, with rising indignation.
"No, I don't," he said frankly. "Never mind, Eddie, I take it all back, and own that the other two deserve the lion's share of the blame, and punishment too. Come, shake hands and let's make up."
Eddie gave his hand, saying in broken tones, "I was a naughty boy, but papa has forgiven me, and I don't mean ever to disobey him any more."