Elsie's Womanhood by Martha Finley
"O what passions then What melting sentiments of kindly care, On the new parents seize." --THOMPSON'S AGAMEMNON. "There is none In all this cold and hollow world, no fount Of deep, strong, deathless love, save that within A mother's heart!" --MRS. HEMANS.
Finding it so evidently the wish of both her husband and his mother, Elsie quietly and at once assumed the reins of government.
But with that mother to go to for advice in every doubt and perplexity, and with a dozen or more of well-trained servants at her command, her post, though no sinecure, did not burden her with its duties; she still could find time for the cultivation of mind and heart, for daily walks and rides, and the enjoyment of society both at home and abroad.
Shortly after the return of the newly married pair, there was a grand party given in their honor at Roselands; another at Ashlands, one at Pinegrove, at the Oaks, and several other places; then a return was made by a brilliant affair of the kind at Ion.
But when at last this rather wearying round was over, they settled down to the quiet home life much more congenial to both; always ready to entertain with unbounded hospitality, and ignoring none of the legitimate claims of the outside world, they were yet far more interested in the affairs of their own little one, made up of those nearest and dearest.
They were an eminently Christian household, carefully instructing their dependents in the things pertaining to godliness, urging them to faith in Jesus evidenced by good works; trying to make the way of salvation very clear to their often dull apprehension, and to recommend it by their own pure, consistent lives.
Night and morning all were called together--family and house servants--and Mr. Travilla read aloud a portion of Scripture, and led them in prayer and praise. Nor was a meal ever eaten without God's blessing having first been asked upon it.
There was but one drawback to Elsie's felicity--that she no longer dwelt under the same roof with her father; yet that was not so great, as a day seldom passed in which they did not meet once or oftener. It must be very urgent business, or a severe storm, that kept him from riding or driving over to Ion, unless his darling first appeared at the Oaks.
Aunt Wealthy and Lottie came to Ion within a fortnight after the return from Viamede; and while the former divided the rest of her stay at the South between Ion and the Oaks, Lottie spent nearly the whole of hers with Elsie.
In May, Harry Duncan came for his aunt, and Miss King returned with them to her paternal home. Our friends at Ion and the Oaks decided to spend their summer at home this year.
"We have traveled so much of late years," said Rose, "that I am really tired of it."
"And home is so dear and sweet," added Elsie. "I mean both Ion and the Oaks, Edward and papa; for somehow they seem to me to be both included in that one dear word."
"That is right," responded her father.
"Yes; we seem to be all one family," said Mr. Travilla, contentedly, fondling Rosebud, whom he had coaxed to a seat upon his knee; "and like a good spouse, I vote on the same side with my wife."
"I too," said his mother, looking affectionately upon them both. "I have no inclination to travel, and shall be much happier for having you all about me."
The summer glided rapidly by, and vanished, leaving at Ion a priceless treasure.
It was a soft, hazy, delicious September morning; Elsie sat in her pretty boudoir, half-reclining in the depths of a large velvet-cushioned easy chair. Her husband had left her a minute before, and she was--no, not quite alone, for her eyes were turning with a sweet, new light in them, upon a beautiful rosewood crib where, underneath the silken covers and resting on pillows of eider-down, lay a tiny form, only a glimpse of the pink face and one wee doubled-up fist to be caught through the lace curtains so carefully drawn about the little sleeper.
A familiar step was heard in the outer room. The door opened quietly, and Elsie looking up cried, "Papa," in a delighted yet subdued tone.
"My darling," he said, coming to her and taking her in his arms. "How nice to see you up again; but you must be careful, very, very careful, not to overexert yourself."
"I am, my dear father, for Edward insists on it, and watches over me, and baby too, as if really afraid we might somehow slip away from him."
"He is quite right. There, you must not stand, recline in your chair again, while I help myself to a seat by your side. How are you to-day?"
"I think I never felt better in my life, papa; so strong and well that it seems absurd to be taking such care of myself."
"Not at all; you must do it. You seem to be alone with your babe. I hope you never lift her?"
"No, sir, not yet. That I shall not has been my husband's second order. Mammy is within easy call, just in the next room, and will come the instant she is wanted."
"Let me look at her; unless you think it will disturb her rest."
"Oh, no, sir." And the young mother gently drew aside the curtain of the crib.
The two bent over the sleeping babe, listening to its gentle breathing.
"Ah, papa, I feel so rich! you don't know how I love her!" whispered Elsie.
"Don't I, my daughter? don't I know how I love you?" And his eyes turned with yearning affection upon her face, then back to that of the little one. "Six weeks old to-day, and a very cherub for beauty. Aunt Chloe tells me she is precisely my daughter over again, and I feel as if I had now an opportunity to recover what I lost in not having my first-born with me from her birth. Little Elsie, grandpa feels that you are his; his precious treasure."
The young mother's eyes grew misty with a strange mixture of emotion, in which love and joy were the deepest and strongest. Her arm stole round her father's neck.
"Dear papa, how nice of you to love her so; my precious darling. She is yours, too, almost as much as Edward's and mine. And I am sure if we should be taken away and you and she be left, you would be the the same good father to her you have been to me."
"Much better, I hope. My dear daughter, I was far too hard with you at times. But I know you have forgiven it all long ago."
"Papa, dear papa, please don't ever again talk of--of forgiveness from me; I was your own, and I believe you always did what you thought was for my good; and oh, what you have been, and are to me, no tongue can tell."
"Or you to me, my own beloved child," he answered with emotion.
The babe stirred, and opened its eyes with a little, "Coo, coo."
"Let me take her," said Mr. Dinsmore, turning back the cover and gently lifting her from her cozy nest.
Elsie lay back among her cushions again, watching with delighted eyes as her father held and handled the wee body as deftly as the most competent child's nurse.
It was a very beautiful babe; the complexion soft, smooth, and very fair, with a faint pink tinge; the little, finely formed head covered with rings of golden hair that would some day change to the darker shade of her mother's, whose regular features and large, soft brown eyes she inherited also.
"Sweet little flower blossomed into this world of sin and sorrow! Elsie, dearest, remember that she is not absolutely yours, her father's, or mine; but only lent you a little while to be trained up for the Lord."
"Yes, papa, I know," she answered with emotion, "and I gave her to Him even before her birth."
"I hope she will prove as like you in temper and disposition as she bids fair to be in looks."
"Papa, I should like her to be much better than I was."
He shook his head with a half-incredulous smile. "That could hardly be, if she has any human nature at all."
"Ah, papa, you forget how often I used to be naughty and disobedient; how often you had to punish me; particularly in that first year after you returned from Europe."
A look of pain crossed his features. "Daughter, dear, I am full of remorse when I think of that time. I fully deserved the epithet Travilla once bestowed upon me in his righteous indignation at my cruelty to my gentle, sensitive little girl."
"What was that, papa?" she asked, with a look of wonder and surprise.
"Dinsmore, you're a brute!"
"Papa, how could he say that!" and the fair face flushed with momentary excitement and anger towards the father of her child, whom she so thoroughly respected ind so dearly loved.
"Ah, don't be angry with him," said Mr. Dinsmore; "I was the culprit. You cannot have forgotten your fall from the piano-stool which came so near making me childless? It was he who ran in first, lifted you, and laid you on the sofa with the blood streaming from the wounded temple over your curls and your white dress. Ah, I can never forget the sad sight, or the pang that shot through my heart with the thought that you were dead. It was as he laid you down that Travilla turned to me with those indignant words, and I felt that I fully deserved them. And yet I was even more cruel afterwards, when next you refused to obey when I bade you offend against your conscience."
"Don't let us think or talk of it any more, dear father; I love far better to dwell upon the long years that followed, full of the tenderest care and kindness. You certainly can find nothing to blame yourself with in them."
"Yes; I governed you too much. It would probably have ruined a less amiable temper, a less loving heart, than yours. It is well for parents to be sometimes a little blind to trivial faults. And I was so strict, so stern, so arbitrary, so severe. My dear, be more lenient to your child. But of course she will never find sternness in either you or her father."
"I think not, papa; unless she proves very head-strong; but you surely cannot mean to advise us not to require the prompt, cheerful, implicit obedience you have always exacted from all your children?"
"No, daughter; though you might sometimes excuse or pardon a little forgetfulness when the order has not been of vital importance," he answered, with a smile.
There was a moment's silence: then looking affectionately into her father's face, Elsie said, "I am so glad, papa, that we have had this talk. Edward and I have had several on the same subject (for we are very, very anxious to train our little one aright); and I find that we all agree. But you must be tired acting the part of nurse. Please lay her in my arms."
"I am not tired, but I see you want her," he answered with a smile, doing as she requested.
"Ah, you precious wee pet! you lovely, lovely little darling!" the young mother said, clasping her child to her bosom, and softly kissing the velvet cheek. "Papa, is she really beautiful? or is it only the mother love that makes her so in my eyes?"
"No; she is really a remarkably beautiful babe. Strangers pronounce her so as well as ourselves. Do you feel quite strong enough to hold her?"
"Oh, yes, sir; yes, indeed! The doctor says he thinks there would now be no danger in my lifting her, but----" laughingly, and with a fond look up into her husband's eyes, as at that moment he entered the room, "that old tyrant is so fearful of an injury to this piece of his personal property, that he won't let me."
"That old tyrant, eh?" he repeated, stooping to take a kiss from the sweet lips, and to bestow one on the wee face resting on her bosom.
"Yes, you know you are," she answered, her eyes contradicting her words; "the idea of you forbidding me to lift my own baby!"
"My baby, my little friend," he said gayly.
Elsie laughed a low, silvery, happy laugh, musical as a chime of bells. "Our baby," she corrected. "But you have not spoken to papa."
"Ah, we said good-morning out in the avenue. Dinsmore, since we are all three here together now, suppose we get Elsie's decision in regard to that matter we were consulting about."
"What matter?" she asked, looking a little curious.
"A business affair," replied her husband, taking a seat by her side.
"I have a very good offer for your New Orleans property, daughter," said Mr. Dinsmore; "shall I accept it?"
"Do you think it advisable, papa? and you, Edward? I have great confidence in your judgments."
"We do; we think the money could be better and more safely invested in foreign stock; but it is for you to decide, as the property is yours."
"More safely invested? I thought I had heard you both say real estate was the safest of all investments."
"Usually," replied her father, "but we fear property there is likely to depreciate in value."
"Well, papa, please do just as you and my husband think best. You both know far more about these things than I do, and so I should rather trust your judgment than my own."
"Then I shall make the sale; and I think the time will come when you will be very glad that I did."
Mr. Dinsmore presently said good-bye and went away, leaving them alone.
"Are not your arms tired, little wife?" asked Mr. Travilla.
"No, dear; ah, it is so sweet to have her little head lying here; to feel her little form, and know that she is my own, own precious treasure."
He rose, gently lifted her in his arms, put himself in the easy chair and placed her on his knee.
"Now I have you both. Darling, do you know that I love you better to-day than I ever did before?"
"Ah, but you have said that many times," she answered, with an arch, yet tender smile.
"And it is always true. Each day I think my love as great as it can be, but the next I find it still greater."
"And I have felt angry with you to-day, for the first time since you told me of your love." Her tone was remorseful and pleading, as though she would crave forgiveness.
"Angry with me, my dearest? In what can I have offended?" he asked in sorrowful surprise.
"Papa was saying that he had sometimes been too hard with me, and had fully deserved the epithet you once bestowed upon him in your righteous indignation. It was when I fell from the piano-stool; do you remember?"
"Ah, yes, I can never forget it. And I called him a brute. But you will forgive what occurred so long ago? and in a moment of anger aroused by my great love for you?"
"Forgive you, my husband? ah, it is I who should crave forgiveness, and I do, though it was a momentary feeling; and now I love you all the better for the great loving heart that prompted the exclamation."
"We will exchange forgiveness," he whispered, folding her closer to his heart.