Elsie's New Relations by Martha Finley
"For wild, or calm, or far or near, I love thee still, thou glorious sea." --Mrs. Hemans. "I bless thee for kind looks and words Shower'd on my path like dew, For all the love in those deep eyes, A gladness ever new." --Mrs. Hemans.
It is late in the afternoon of a delicious October day; the woods back of the two cottages where the Dinsmores, Travillas and Raymonds have spent the last three or four months are gorgeous with scarlet, crimson and gold; the air from the sea is more delightful than ever, but the summer visitors to the neighboring cottages and hotels have fled, and the beach is almost deserted, as Edward and his child-wife wander slowly along it, hand in hand, their attention divided between the splendors of a magnificent sunset and the changing beauty of the sea; yonder away in the distance it is pale gray; near at hand delicate green slowly changing to pink, each wave crested with snowy foam, and anon they all turn to burnished gold.
"Oh, how very beautiful!" cries Zoe, in an ecstasy of delight. "Edward, did you ever see anything finer?"
"Never! Let us go down this flight of steps and seat ourselves on the next to the lowest. We will then be quite near the waves and yet out of danger of being wet by them."
He led her down as he spoke, seated her comfortably and himself by her side with his arm around her.
"I've grown very fond of the sea," she remarked. "I shall be sorry to leave it. Will not you?"
"Yes and no," he answered, doubtfully. "I, too, am fond of old ocean, but eager to get to Ion and begin life in earnest. Isn't it time, seeing I have been a married man for nearly five months? But why that sigh, love?"
"O Edward, are you not sorry you are married? Are you not sometimes very much ashamed of me?" she asked, her cheek burning hotly and the downcast eyes filling with tears.
"Ashamed of you, Zoe? Why, darling, you are my heart's best treasure," he said, drawing her closer to his side, and touching his lips to her forehead. "What has put so absurd an idea into your head?"
"I know so little, so very little compared with your mother and sisters," she sighed. "I'm finding it out more and more every day, as I hear them talk among themselves and to other people."
"But you are younger than any of them, a very great deal younger than mamma, and will have time to catch up to them."
"But I'm a married woman and so can't go to school any more. Ah," with another and very heavy sigh, "I wish papa hadn't been quite so indulgent, or that I'd had sense enough not to take advantage of it to the neglect of my studies!"
"No, I suppose it would hardly do to send you to school, even if I could spare you--which I can't," he returned laughingly, "but there is a possibility of studying at home, under a governess or tutor. What do you say to offering yourself as a pupil to grandpa?"
"Oh, no, no! I'm sure he can be very stern upon occasion. I've seen it in his eyes when I've made a foolish remark that he didn't approve, and I should be too frightened to learn if he were my teacher."
"Then some one else must be thought of," Edward said, with a look of amusement. "How would I answer?"
"You? Oh, splendidly!"
"You are not afraid of me?"
"No, indeed!" she cried, with a merry laugh and a saucy look up into his face.
"And yet I'm the only person who has authority over you."
"Authority, indeed!" with a little contemptuous sniff.
"You promised to obey, you know."
"Did I? Well, maybe so, but that's just a form that doesn't really mean anything. Most any married woman will tell you that."
"Do you consider the whole of your marriage vow an unmeaning form, Zoe?" he asked, with sudden gravity and a look of doubt and pain in his eyes that she could not bear to see.
"No, no! I was only in jest," she said, dropping her eyes and blushing deeply. "But really, Edward, you don't think, do you, that wives are to obey like children?"
"No, love, I don't; and I think in a true marriage the two are so entirely one--so unselfishly desirous each to please the other--that there is little or no clashing of wills. Thus far ours has seemed such to me. How is it, do you think, little wife?"
"I hope so, Edward," she said, laying her head on his shoulder, "I know one thing--that there is nothing in this world I care so much for as to please you and be all and everything to you."
"And I can echo your words from my very heart, dearest," he said, caressing her. "I hope you are at home and happy among your new relatives."
"Yes, indeed, Edward, especially with mamma. She is the dearest, kindest mother in the world; to me as much as to her own children, and oh, so wise and good!"
"You are not sorry now that you and I are not to live alone?" he queried, with a pleased smile.
"No, oh, no! I'm ever so glad that she is to keep house at Ion and all of us to live together as one family."
"Except Lester and Elsie," he corrected; "they will be with us for a short time, then go to Fairview for the winter. And it will probably become their home after that, as mamma will buy it, if Mr. Leland--Lester's uncle, who owns the place--carries out his intention of removing to California. His children have settled there, and, of course, the father and mother want to be with them."
The sun had set, and all the bright hues had faded from the sea, leaving it a dull gray.
"What a deserted spot this seems!" remarked Zoe, "and only the other day it was gay with crowds of people. Nobody to be seen now but ourselves," glancing up and down the coast as she spoke. "Ah, yes! yonder is someone sitting on that piece of wreck."
"It is Lulu Raymond," Edward said, following the direction of her glance. "It is late for the child to be out so far from home; a full mile I should say. I'll go and invite her to walk back with us."
"No, you needn't," said Zoe, "for see, there is her father going to her. But let us go home, for I must change my dress before tea."
"And we want time to walk leisurely along," returned Edward, rising and giving her his hand to help her up the steps.
Lulu was reading, so absorbed in the story that she did not perceive her father's approach, and as he accosted her with, "It is late for you to be here alone, my child, you should have come in an hour ago," she gave a great start, and involuntarily tried to hide her book.
"What have you there? Evidently something you do not wish your father to see," he said, bending down and taking it from her unwilling hand.
"Ah, I don't wonder!" as he hurriedly turned over a few pages. "A dime novel! Where did you get this, Lulu?"
"It's Max's, papa, he lent it to me. O papa, what made you do that?" as with an energetic fling the captain suddenly sent it far out into the sea. "Max made me promise to take care of it and give it back to him, and besides I wanted to finish the story."
"Neither you nor Max shall ever read such poisonous stuff as that with my knowledge and consent," replied the captain in stern accents.
"Papa, I didn't think you'd be so unkind," grumbled Lulu, her face expressing extreme vexation and disappointment, "or that you would throw away other people's things."
"Unkind, my child?" he said, sitting down beside her and taking her hand in his. "Suppose you had gathered a quantity of beautiful, sweet-tasted berries that I knew to be poisonous, and were about to eat them; would it be unkind in me to snatch them out of your hand and throw them into the sea?"
"No, sir; because it would kill me to eat them, but that book couldn't kill me, or even make me sick."
"No, not your body, but it would injure your soul, which is worth far more. I'm afraid I have been too negligent in regard to the mental food of my children," he went on after a slight pause, rather as if thinking aloud than talking to Lulu, "and unfortunately I cannot take the oversight of it constantly in the future. But remember, Lulu," he added firmly, "I wholly forbid dime novels, and you are not to read anything without first obtaining the approval of your father or one of those under whose authority he has placed you."
Lulu's face was full of sullen discontent and anger. "Papa," she said, "I don't like to obey those people."
"If you are wise, you will try to like what has to be," he said.
"It wouldn't have to be if you would only say I needn't, papa."
"I shall not say that, Lucilla," he answered with grave displeasure. "You need guidance and control even more than most children of your age, and I should not be doing my duty if I left you without them."
"I don't like to obey people that are no relation to me!" she cried, viciously kicking away a little heap of sand.
"No, you don't even like to obey your father," he said with a sigh. "Max and Gracie together do not give me half the anxiety that you do by your wilful temper."
"Why, can't I do as I please as well as grown people?" she asked in a more subdued tone.
"Even grown people have to obey," said her father. "I am now expecting orders from the government, and must obey them when they come. I must obey my superior officers, and the officers and men under me must obey me. So must my children. God gave you to me and requires me to train you up in His fear and service to the best of my ability. I should not be doing that if I allowed you to read such hurtful trash as that I just took from you."
"It was Max's, papa, and I promised to give it back. What shall I say when he asks me for it?"
"Tell him to come to me about it."
"Well, what is it?" he asked, as she paused and hesitated.
"Please, papa, don't punish him. You never told him not to buy or read such things, did you?"
"No; and I think he would not have done so in defiance of a prohibition from me. So I shall not punish him. But I am pleased that you should plead for him. I am very glad that my children all love one another."
"Yes, indeed we do, papa!" she said, "And we all love you, and you love Max and Gracie very much, and----"
"And Lulu also," he said, putting his arm about her and drawing her closer to his side, as she paused with quivering lip and downcast eyes.
"As much as you do Max and Gracie?" she asked brokenly, hiding her face on his shoulder. "You said just now I was naughtier than both of them put together."
"Yet you are my own dear child, and it is precisely because I love you so dearly that I am so distressed over your quick temper and wilfulness. I fear that if not conquered they will cause great unhappiness to yourself as well as to your friends. I want you to promise me, daughter, that you will try to conquer them, asking God to help you."
"I will, papa," she said, with unwonted humility; "but, oh, I wish you were going to stay with us! It's easier to be good with you than with anybody else."
"I am sorry, indeed, that I cannot," he said, rising and taking her hand. "Come, we must go back to the house now."
They moved along in silence for a little, then Lulu said, with an affectionate look up into her father's face, "Papa, I do so like to walk this way!"
"How do you mean?" he asked, smiling kindly upon her.
"With my hand in yours, papa. You know I haven't often had the chance."
"No, my poor child," he sighed, "that is one of the deprivations to which a seaman and his family have to submit."
"Well," said the little girl, lifting his hand to her lips, "I'd rather have you for my father than anybody else, for all that."
At that he bent down and kissed her with a smile full of pleasure and fatherly affection.