Elsie's Children by Martha Finley
"'Tis a goodly scene-- Yon river, like a silvery snake, lays out His coil i' the sunshine lovingly." --HUNT.
The family at Ion presently fell into the old routine of study, work and play, Elsie resuming the duties of governess; but as the heated term drew on, she and the little ones, especially the babe, began to droop.
"You must go north for the summer," said Dr. Barton, "start as soon as possible and don't return till October."
"Would you recommend the seashore?" asked Mr. Travilla.
"H'm! that might answer very well, but mountain air would, I think, be better."
"Oh then, mamma!" cried Vi, who was present and had been an eager but hitherto silent listener, "won't you accept Aunt Lucy's invitation?"
"Perhaps, daughter," Elsie said smiling indulgently into the bright little face, "but we will take time to consider what will be best."
"Where is that?" asked the doctor, "Lucy Ross, I suppose, but I've forgotten where they live."
"On the banks of the Hudson a few miles south of Newburgh. The Crags they call their place, and a beautiful one it is. 'Twas only yesterday I received a letter from Lucy, urging us to come and spend the summer with her."
"I should say go by all means," said the doctor, taking leave.
There were reasons for hesitation on the part of the careful parents of which the physician knew nothing. The young Rosses, all unused to control, were a willful set not likely to exert a beneficial influence over other children; that was the demur.
However the final decision was in favor of the visit, and a few days later they set out upon their journey; Mr. Horace Dinsmore taking charge of them, as business made it inconvenient for Mr. Travilla to leave just at that time.
From New York they passed up the Hudson in a steamboat; the carriage from the Crags was found in waiting at the landing, and a short drive brought them to the house, which stood high up above the river, in the midst of magnificent mountain scenery.
The Ion children, taught from early infancy to notice the beauties of nature, were in ecstasies of delight, exclaiming anew at every turn in the road, calling each other's, mamma's or grandpa's attention to the sparkling river, the changing shadows on the mountainsides, here a beetling crag, there a waterfall or secluded glen. Having rested the previous night, sleeping soundly at a hotel, they were not wearied with travel but seemed fresher now than when they left their home.
Lucy and her little flock, gathered on the front porch to receive their guests, gave them a warm welcome. The two ladies had lost none of the affection for each other which had been one of the happinesses of their childhood and early youth, and each loved the children of the other for the mother's sake if not for their own. They numbered the same, but Sophie, Lucy's youngest, was now in her fifth year, and Baby Lily was greeted with many expressions and demonstrations of delight.
Lucy excused her husband's absence: he was away on business, she said, but would be at home before night.
"Where's Phil?" asked Eddie, turning to Gertrude.
"Oh, he's at boarding-school, don't you know?" she answered. "He'll be home in vacation; but that doesn't begin for two weeks yet."
Mr. Dinsmore tarried for a few days, then returned to the neighborhood of Philadelphia, where he had left his wife and Rosie, who were visiting their northern relatives.
Miss Fisk was still governess at the Crags, and when the children had had a week of play together, it was thought best by the mammas, that two hours of each morning should be devoted to lessons.
Knowing Miss Fisk to be not only well educated and refined, but also a conscientious and good woman, Elsie was willing to entrust her children to her care; the more so, because Lily in her feeble state, required much of her own time and attention.
In the midst of a beautiful grove of oaks and maples, on the side of a hill, scarce more than a stone's throw from the mansion, and within full view of its windows, stood a small brick building owned by Mr. Ross, and used as a summer schoolroom for the children.
It was a cool shady spot, enlivened by the songs of the wild birds who built their nests in the trees, and the musical tinkle of a little waterfall that came tumbling down from the heights above not half-a-dozen yards from the door.
Mr. Ross had furnished the room with comfortable and convenient chairs and desks, and Lucy had made it pretty and tasteful with white muslin curtains and neatly papered walls of a soft neutral tint, enlivened by a few gayly colored pictures. Woodwork and floor were stained a rich dark brown, bright soft rugs were scattered here and there; and altogether the place was as inviting as a lady's parlor.
The Ion children were well content to spend here two or three hours of that part of the day when the sun was too hot for them to be exposed to his rays with safety and comfort: the others found lessons made much more agreeable by the companionship of their young guests, and Miss Fisk was glad to take them under her charge, because by their intelligence they added greatly to the interest of her work, while their respectful obedient behavior exerted an excellent influence upon her other pupils.
Before leaving home, Elsie, after careful and prayerful consideration, thought it best to have a plain talk with her older children about the temptations that were likely to assail them during their visit to the Crags.
They had had some past experience of the ways of Lucy's children, and she knew they had not forgotten it; and reminding them of the Bible declaration, that "evil communications corrupt good manners," she bade them, while refraining as far as possible from judging their little friends, at the same time to carefully avoid following their example in anything they knew to be wrong.
"Mamma," said Vi, "perhaps sometimes we mightn't know if it was wrong!"
"I think you will, daughter, if you take a moment to think; and if you are doubtful, you may be pretty sure it is wrong."
"Mamma, we mustn't tell tales to you?"
"No, dear; but perhaps you can consult me without that; and do not forget that you can always lift up your heart to God for help to know and do the right."
"Yes, mamma," returned the little girl thoughtfully, "and I do believe Elsie will 'most always be there and know what's right."
"I'm not sure," said her sister, with a grave shake of the head, "I wish we could always have mamma by to tell us."
"But mamma cannot be with you always, darlings," Elsie said, regarding them with yearning tenderness, "and so, as your papa and I have often told you, you must learn to think and decide for yourselves; about some things now, and about others as you grow older and wiser. Some things the Bible tells us plainly, and in regard to those we have nothing to do but obey."