Elsie's Children by Martha Finley
"She fed me first to God; Her words and prayers were my young spirit's dew." --PIERPONT.
"Hallo! this looks like welcome; every one of you been crying!" Mr. Ross said, catching up Sophie in his arms, and glancing about upon his group of children, after an affectionate greeting to his wife, and a cordially kind one to their guest.
"What's the trouble? so sorry papa was coming home, eh?"
"No, no, that wasn't it, papa," they cried, crowding around him, each eager to claim the first caress, "it wasn't that, but we wanted to go for you, and mamma wouldn't let us."
"Yes," said Lucy, "they all wanted to go and as that couldn't be, and no one would give up to the others, I kept them all at home."
"Quite right," he said, gravely, "I'm afraid you hardly deserve the pretty gifts I have brought."
"Oh, yes, yes, papa, we'll be good next time! Indeed we will! Mamma, coax him!"
"Yes, do let them have them, Phil," urged his wife, "where would be the use of keeping the things back after spending your money for them?"
"To teach them a good lesson. I'm afraid both you and I are foolishly indulgent, Lucy."
"Oh, they'll be good next time."
"This once then, but only this once, unless they keep their word," he said, producing his gifts--a book or toy for each of his own children, and a package of sweetmeats which he divided among all present.
He had brought a new dog home with him, but no one but Eddie had noticed it yet. He was stroking and patting it, saying, "Poor fellow, what kind of a dog are you?"
"A French poodle," said Mr. Ross, coming up to them, "A good watch dog, and excellent for scaring up the wild ducks for the sportsmen. Do you and papa keep up the shooting lessons, master Eddie?"
"Yes, sir; papa has always said he meant to make me as good a shot as himself, and mamma says it was never his way to give up till a thing's thoroughly done," returned the boy, proudly.
"And you don't equal him as a shot yet, eh?"
"No, sir! no, indeed! Why, even cousin Cal Conly--a big man--can't shoot as well as papa."
"What an ugly dog!" exclaimed the other children, gathering round.
"What did you buy it for, papa?" asked Gertrude.
"Not for beauty, certainly," laughed Mr. Ross, stroking and patting the shaggy head of the dog, who was covered with curly hair of a dirty white, mottled with dull brown, "but for worth which is far better. Isn't it, Ranger?"
A wag of his bushy tail, was Ranger's only reply.
"Will he bite?" asked little Herbert, shrinking back as the newcomer turned toward him.
"Tramps and burglars; but not good children," replied Mr. Ross. "You needn't be afraid of him, my little man."
Through the evening there was a great deal of romping between the children and the new dog, but little Elsie seemed unusually quiet, scarcely stirring from her mother's side. She was suffering with toothache, but kept her trouble to herself; principally, because she had a great dread of the dentist's instruments.
But in the night the pain grew so severe that she could not keep from crying and groaning. She did not want to wake any one, so buried her face in the pillow to smother the sound of her sobs; but presently a gentle hand touched her caressingly, and mamma's sweet voice asked, "What ails my little daughter?"
"O mamma I did not mean to wake you!" cried the little girl sitting up with her hand pressed to her cheek, "but the pain was so bad I couldn't help making a noise."
"My poor dear little girl! did you think your mother would want to sleep when her child was in pain?" Elsie said, clasping her in her arms. "No, indeed! so do not try to bear any pain alone another time."
Mamma's loving sympathy was very sweet; the pain was soon relieved, too, by some medicine she put into the tooth, and presently all was forgotten in sound refreshing sleep.
Elsie came into her mamma's dressing-room the next morning, along with the others, looking as bright and well as was her wont, yet with the boding fear that something would be said to her about having the troublesome tooth extracted.
However to her relief the subject was not broached at all; they had their usual reading and prayer, recitation of texts and talk with mamma about the lessons contained in them, and then the breakfast bell summoned them to their morning meal.
The tooth was quiet for a few days, then ached again for several hours harder than ever.
"O mamma, mamma, what shall I do?" sobbed the child in the midst of her pain.
"Couldn't my little girl pluck up courage enough to have it out?" asked the mother tenderly.
"O mamma, don't say I must! please don't; I'm so frightened at the very thought!"
"Ah, if I could only bear it for you, my darling! but you know I cannot."
"No, dear mamma, and I couldn't be so selfish as to let you, if you could. But must I have it out?"
"I have not said so; I should far rather my dear daughter would say must to herself."
"Ought I, mamma?"
"Ought you not? The tooth has become only a source of pain and trouble to you; if left it will cause the others to decay, and decayed teeth injure the health. Health is one of God's best gifts and it is our duty to use every means in our power to preserve it."
"Yes, mamma, but oh, I'm so afraid!" cried the child, trembling and weeping.
"My darling, resolve to do your duty with God's help, and he will fulfill his promise to you. 'As thy days so shall thy strength be.'"
Little Elsie had long ago given her heart to Jesus; love to him was the ruling motive of her life, and to please and honor him she was ready to do or endure anything. "I will try, mamma," she said, "and you too will ask God to help me?"
Mamma gave the promise, sealing it with a very tender kiss.
Mr. Ross was going down to New York the next morning, and it was soon arranged that his wife, Mrs. Travilla and little Elsie, should accompany him.
Mrs. Ross had some shopping to do, but would first take the two Elsies to her dentist, so that the little girl's trial might be over as soon as possible and she able to enjoy some sight-seeing afterward. Baby Lily was better and could be safely entrusted for the day to Aunt Chloe's faithful care.
The plan was concealed from the Ross children because, as their mother said, "it was the only way to have any peace." So they were allowed to sleep until the travelers had taken an early breakfast and gone.
The little Travillas, however, were up and saw the departure, bidding a cheerful good-bye to "mamma and sister Elsie," sending wistful, longing looks after the carriage as it rolled away, but making no complaint that they were left behind.
"Poor dear Elsie!" Vi said with tears in her eyes, "it's just dreadful that she must have that tooth extricated."
"Extracted," corrected Eddie. "Vi, you seem to forget what mamma says:--that you should never use a big word unless you are sure you have it right; or when a little one would do as well."
"What little one?"
"Couldn't it be pulled and not come out?"
"Well then you might say pulled out."
"I like the other word best," persisted Vi. "But we needn't be particular about words when Elsie's going to be so dreadfully hurt."
Herbert burst out crying at that.
"Why Herbie what ails you?" asked Vi, putting her arms round his neck and giving him a kiss.
"I don't want the mans to hurt my Elsie," sobbed the little fellow, "maybe dey'll kill her."
"Oh, no, they won't! mamma will never let them do that. They'll only take away the naughty tooth that hurts her so."
"Come let's go and walk round the garden," said Eddie, taking Herbie's hand, "mamma said we might."
The breakfast bell called them in to find the Rosses making a perfect bedlam in their anger and disappointment at being left behind by their parents. Sophie was screaming and stamping with rage, the boys and Kate were whimpering and scolding, and Gertrude walking about with flashing eyes, was saying "I'll never forgive mamma for this, no I never will; for she'd promised to take me along next time she went to the city."
Violet, Eddie, and Harold hearing these words, looked at each other in horrified silence. "How could she speak so of her own mother?"
Miss Fisk came in, in her quiet, deliberate way and stood looking for a moment from one to another of her pupils in a sort of amazed, reproving silence that presently had the effect of quieting them down a little. Then she spoke.
"Young ladies and young gentlemen, I am astonished! especially at your expressions and behavior, Miss Gertrude Ross. How you can permit yourself to indulge in such invectives against parents so extremely indulgent as Mr. and Mrs. Ross, I cannot conceive."
Sophie whose screams had sunk to sobs, now permitted the servant to lift her to her high chair, Kate and the boys slunk shamefacedly into their seats at the table, and Gertrude, muttering something about "people not keeping their promises," followed their example.
"Come, sit down, my dears," Miss Fisk said, turning to Violet and her brothers; "the tempest seems to have nearly subsided and I hope will not resume its violence."
Herbie was clinging to Vi in a frightened way, sobbing "I want mamma!" and Harold's eyes too were full of tears. It took coaxing and soothing to restore their equanimity and then the breakfast proceeded, everybody seeming to grow brighter and more good humored with the satisfying of the appetite for food.
Vi was a merry little creature, a veritable bit of sunshine wherever she went, and under the influence of her bright looks and ways, sweet rippling laughter and amusing speeches, the whole party at length grew quite merry: especially after Miss Fisk had announced that there were to be no lessons that day but instead a picnic in the woods.