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Elsie's Womanhood (Chapter28)

2006-09-07 20:29

  Chapter Twenty-Eighth.

  “She led me first to God;Her words and prayers were my young spirit's dew.”——JOHN PIERPONT.

  Elmgrove, the country-seat of the elder Mr. Allison, had never looked lovelier than on a beautiful June morning in the year 1865.

  The place had been greatly improved since Elsie's first sight of it, while it was still Rose's girlhood's home where Mr. Dinsmore and his little daughter were so hospitably entertained for many weeks.

  There was now a second dwelling-house on the estate, but a few hundred yards distant from the first, owned by Edward Allison, and occupied by himself, wife, and children, of whom there were several.

  Our friends from Naples had arrived the night before. The Dinsmores were domiciled at the paternal mansion, the Travillas with Edward and Adelaide.

  The sun was not yet an hour high as Elsie stood at the open window of her dressing-room, looking out over the beautiful grounds to the brook beyond, on whose grassy banks, years ago, she and Harold and Sophie had spent so many happy hours. How vividly those scenes of her childhood rose up before her!

  “Dear Harold!” she murmured, with a slight sigh, “how kind he always was to me.”

  She could not think of him without pain, remembering their last interview and his present suffering. She had not seen him yet, but had learned from others that those months at Andersonville had injured his health so seriously that it was not likely ever to be restored.

  “What happy children we were in those days,” her thoughts ran on; “and I am even happier now, my treasures have so increased with the rolling years; but they! what bitter trials they are enduring; though not less deserving of prosperity than I, who am but a miserable sinner. But it is whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth.”

  At that moment the sound of little hurrying feet, entering the room, and glad young voices crying, “Good-morning, dear mamma!” broke in upon the current of her thoughts.

  “Good-morning, my darlings,” she said, turning from the window to embrace them. “All well and bright! Ah, how good our heavenly Father is to us!”

  “Yes, mamma, it is like my text,” said wee Elsie, “We have each a short one this morning. Mine is, 'God is love.'”

  Mamma had sat down and taken Violet on her lap, while Elsie and Eddie stood one on each side.

  Three lovelier children fond mother never looked upon. Elsie, now seven years old, was her mother's miniature. Eddie, a bright manly boy of five, had Mr. Dinsmore's dark eyes and hair, firm mouth and chin; but the rest of his features, and the expression of countenance, were those of his own father. Violet resembled both her mother and the grandmother whose name she bore; she was a blonde, with exquisitely fair complexion, large deep blue eyes, heavily fringed with curling lashes several shades darker than the ringlets of pale gold that adorned the pretty head.

  “True, beautiful words,” the mother said, in reply to her little daughter; “'God is love!' Never forget it, my darlings; never forget to thank Him for His love and goodness to you; never fear to trust His love and care. Can you tell me, dear, of some of His good gifts to you?”

  “Our dear, kind mamma and papa,” answered Eddie quickly, leaning affectionately against her, his dark eyes lifted to her face, full of almost passionate affection.

  “Mammy too,” added Violet.

  “And dear, dear grandpa and grandma; and oh, so many more,” said Elsie.

  Rose was called grandma now, by her own request.

  “Yes, dear grandpa and grandma, and so many more,” echoed the other two.

  “But Jesus the best gift of all, mamma,” continued little Elsie.

  “Yes, my precious ones,” returned the mother, in moved tones, “Jesus the best of all; for He loves you better than even papa and mamma do, and though they should be far away, He is ever near, ready and able to help you. Now, Eddie, what is your verse?”

  “A little prayer, mamma, 'Lord help me.'”

  “A prayer that I hope will always be in my children's hearts when trouble comes, or they are tempted to any sin. The dear Saviour loves to have you cry to Him for help, and He will give it.”

  “Now Vi's tex', mamma,” lisped the little one on her knee. “'Jesus wept.'”

  “Why did Jesus weep, little daughter?”

  “'Cause He so tired? so sick? naughty mans so cross to Him?”

  “No, dear; it was not for any sorrow or trouble of His own that Jesus shed those tears. Can you tell us why it was, Elsie?”

  “Yes, mamma; He was so sorry for poor Martha and Mary, 'cause their brother Lazarus was dead.”

  “Yes, and for all the dreadful sufferings and sorrows that sin has brought into the world. We are not told that Jesus wept for His own trials and pains; but He wept for others. We must try to be like Him; to bear our own troubles patiently, and to feel for the grief and pain of other people.

  “We must try to keep these thoughts in our hearts all the day long: that God is love; that Jesus is our help in every trouble and temptation, that He feels for us, and we must feel for others, and do what we can to make them happy. Now we will kneel down and ask the dear Saviour to help us to do this.”

  The prayer was very short and simple; so that even Baby Vi could understand every word.

  There was a moment's quiet after they had risen from their knees; then the children went to the window to look out upon the grounds, which they had hardly seen last night.

  “Mamma!” said Elsie. “I see a brook away over yonder; and there are big trees there, and nice green grass. Mamma, is that where you and Aunt Sophie and Uncle Harold used to play when you were a little girl?”

  “Yes, daughter.”

  “Oh, mamma, please tell us again about the time when you waded in the brook, and thought you'd lost your rings; and dear grandpa was so kind and didn't scold or punish you at all.”

  “Yes, mamma, do tell it.”

  “Please mamma, do,” joined in the other little voices; and mamma kindly complied.

  That story finished, it was, “Now, mamma, please tell another; please tell about the time when you wanted to go with the school children to pick strawberries, and grandpa said 'No.'”

  “Ah, I was rather a naughty little girl that time, and cried because I couldn't have my own way,” answered the mother musingly, with a dreamy look in her eyes and a tender smile playing about her lips as she almost seemed to hear again the loved tones of her father's voice, and to feel the clasp of his arm as he drew her to his knee and laid her head against his breast, asking, “Which was my little daughter doubting, this afternoon——papa's wisdom, or his love?”

  But her own little Elsie's arm had stolen about her neck, the cherry lips were pressed again and again to her cheek, and the sweet child voice repelled the charge with indignation.

  “Mamma, you couldn't help the tears coming when you were so disappointed; and that was all. You didn't say one naughty word. And grandpa says you were the best little girl he ever saw.”

  “And papa says just the same,” added a pleasant, manly voice from the door, as Mr. Travilla came in, closing it after him.

  Then the three young voices joined in a glad chorus, “Papa! papa! good-morning, dear papa.”

  “Good-morning, papa's dear pets,” he said, putting his arms round all three at once, as they clustered about him, and returning with interest their affectionate caresses.

  “And so you have already been teasing poor mamma for stories?”

  “Did we tease and trouble you, mamma?” asked Elsie, a little remorsefully, going back to her mother's side.

  “No, darling; it always gives me pleasure to gratify my dear children. And, papa, they have been very good.”

  “I am glad to hear it.”

  “Mamma and papa, may we go down and play by that brook after breakfast?” asked Elsie.

  “And wade in the water like mamma did when she was a little girl?” added Eddie.

  “Yes, with Uncle Joe and Aunt Chloe to take care of you; if mamma is willing,” answered their father.

  Mamma said yes, too, and made the little hearts quite happy.

  They returned to the window, and presently sent up a joyous shout. “Grandpa, our dear grandpa, is coming!”

  “Shall I go down and bring him up here, mamma?” asked Elsie.

  “No, dear, we will go down to grandpa, and not trouble him to come up. Besides, Aunt Adelaide wants to see him as well as we.”

  “Yes, mamma's plan is the best,” said Mr. Travilla, giving Elsie one hand and Eddie the other, while his wife led the way with little Violet.

  They found Mr. Dinsmore in the lower hall, with Adelaide weeping almost hysterically in his arms.

  “You are the only brother I have left,” she sobbed. “Poor, poor dear Walter and Arthur! Oh, that dreadful, dreadful war!”

  He caressed and soothed her with tender words. “Dear sister, I will do all I can to make up their loss to you. And our father is left us; your husband spared, too. And let us not forget that almighty Friend, that Elder Brother on the throne, who will never leave or forsake the feeblest one who trusts in Him.”

  “Oh, yes, I know, I know! He has been very good to me; but I must weep for the dear ones gone——”

  “And He will not chide you——He who wept with Martha and Mary over their dead brother.”

  The children were awed into silence and stillness by the scene; but as Adelaide withdrew herself from her brother's arms, while he and her husband grasped each other by the hand in a cordial greeting, little Elsie drew near her, and taking gently hold of her hand, dropped upon it a kiss and a sympathizing tear.

  “Darling!” said Adelaide, stooping to fold the child in her arms; then looking up at her niece, “What a wonderful likeness, Elsie! I can hardly believe it is not yourself, restored to us as you were at her age.”

  The morning greetings were soon exchanged, and Adelaide led the way to her pleasant sitting-room.

  “What is the latest news from home, Adelaide?” asked Mr. Dinsmore, with evident anxiety. “I have not heard a word for months past.”

  “I had a long letter from Lora yesterday;” she answered; “the first since the close of the war. Her eldest son, Ned, and Enna's second husband, were killed in the battle of Bentonville, last March. Lora's husband has lost an arm, one of his brothers a leg; the others are all killed, and the family utterly ruined.

  “The Carringtons——father and sons——have all fallen, Sophie is here, with her orphan children; her mother-in-law, with her own daughter, Lucy Ross. Philip has escaped unhurt. They will all be here next week to attend May's wedding.

  “Papa, Louise——you know that she too has lost her husband——and Enna are all at the Oaks; for Roselands is a ruin, Ion not very much better, Lora says.”

  “And the Oaks has escaped?”

  “Yes, almost entirely; not being visible from the road. Papa sends a message to you. He is too heart-broken to write. He knows he is welcome in your house; he is longing to see you, now his only son——” Adelaide's voice faltered, and it was a moment ere she could go on——“but he would have you stay away till September, not risking a return during the hottest season; and, if you wish, he will attend to the plantation, hiring blacks to work it.”

  “My poor, poor old father!” Mr. Dinsmore exclaimed, with emotion. “Welcome in my house? If I had but a dollar, I would share it with him.”

  “He shall never want a home, while any of us live!” sprang simultaneously from the lips of Mr. Allison and Mr. Travilla.

  Adelaide and Elsie were too much moved to speak, but each gave her husband a look of grateful affection.

  “Thank you both,” Mr. Dinsmore said. “Adelaide, I shall write my father to-day. Does Lora say that he is well?”

  Mrs. Allison could hardly speak for tears, as she answered, “He is not ill, but sadly aged by grief and care. But you shall read the letter for yourself. Stay to breakfast with us (there's the bell), and I'll give it to you afterwards.”

  “Thanks; but I fear they may wait breakfast for me at the other house.”

  “No; I will send them word at once that we have kept you.”

  There was an effort after cheerfulness as they gathered about the plentiful board; but too many sad thoughts and memories had been called up in the hearts of the elders of the party: and only the children were really gay.

  Edward Allison was pale and thin, his health having suffered from the hardships incident to his army life.

  Elsie remarked it, in a tone of grief and concern; but he answered with a smile, “I have escaped so much better than many others, that I have more reason for thankfulness than complaint. I am hearty and robust compared to poor Harold.”

  A look of deep sadness stole over his face as he thus named his younger brother.

  Elsie understood it when, an hour later, the elder Mr. Allison entered the parlor, where she and Adelaide were chatting together, with Harold leaning on his arm.

  They both shook hands with her, the old gentleman saying, “My dear, I am rejoiced to have you among us again;” Harold silently, but with a sad, wistful, yearning look out of his large bright eyes, that filled hers with tears.

  His father and Adelaide helped him to an easy chair, and as he sank back pantingly upon its cushions, Elsie——completely overcome at sight of the feeble, wasted frame, and wan, sunken features——stole quickly from the room.

  Adelaide followed, to find her in the sitting-room on the opposite side of the hall, weeping bitterly.

  “Oh, Aunt Adie,” she sobbed; “he's dying!”

  “Yes,” Adelaide answered, with the tears coursing down her own cheeks, “we all know it now; all but father and mother, who will not give up hope. Poor May! hers will be but a sad wedding. She would have put it off, but he begged her not, saying he wanted to be present and to greet Duncan as his brother——Duncan, to whom he owed so much. But for him, you know, Harold would have perished at Andersonville; where, indeed, he got his death.”

  “No, I have heard very little about it.”

  “Then Harold will tell you the story of their escape. Oh! Rose dear,” turning quickly, as Mrs. Dinsmore and Mrs. Carrington entered, “how kind! I was coming to see you directly, but it was so good of you not to wait.”

  Elsie was saying, “Good-morning, mamma,” when her eye fell upon the other figures. Could it be Sophie with that thin, pale face and large, sad eyes? Sophie arrayed in widow's weeds. All the pretty golden curls hidden beneath the widow's cap? It was indeed, and the next instant the two were weeping in each other's arms.

  “You poor, poor dear girl! God comfort you!” Elsie whispered.

  “He does, He has helped me to live for my children, my poor fatherless little ones,” Sophie said, amid her choking sobs.

  “We must go back to father and Harold,” Adelaide said presently. “They are in the parlor, where we left them very unceremoniously.”

  “And Harold, I know, is longing for a chat with Elsie,” Sophie said.

  They found the gentlemen patiently awaiting their return. Elsie seated herself near Harold, who, somewhat recovered from his fatigue, was now able to take part in the conversation.

  “You were shocked by my changed appearance?” he said, in an undertone, as their eyes met and hers filled again. “Don't mind it, I was never before so happy as now; my peace is like a river——calm, deep, and ever increasing as it nears the ocean of eternity. I'm going home!” And his smile was both bright and sweet.

  “Oh, would you not live——for your mother's sake? and to work for your Master?”

  “Gladly, if it were His will; but I hear Him saying to me, 'Come up hither'; and it is a joyful summons.”

  “Harold, when——” her voice faltered, but with an effort she completed her sentence——“when did this begin?”

  “At Andersonville; I was in perfect health when I entered the army,” he answered quickly, divining the fear that prompted the question; “but bad air, foul water, wretched and insufficient food, rapidly and completely undermined my constitution. Yet it is sweet to die for one's country! I do not grudge the price I pay to secure her liberties.”

  Elsie's eyes sparkled through her tears. “True patriotism still lives!” she said. “Harold, I am proud of you and your brothers. Of dear Walter, too; for his heart was right, however mistaken his head may have been.”

  “Walter? oh, yes, and I——”

  But the sentence was interrupted by the entrance of his mother and sisters, May and Daisy, Mr. Dinsmore, and his son and daughter. Fresh greetings, of course, had to be exchanged all round, and were scarcely finished when Mr. Travilla came in with his three children.

  Elsie called them to her, and presented them to Harold with all a mother's fond pride in her darlings.

  “I have taught them to call you Uncle Harold. Do you object?”

  “Object? far from it; I am proud to claim them as my nephew and nieces.”

  He gazed with tender admiration upon each dear little face; then, drawing the eldest to him and putting an arm about her, said, “She is just what you must have been at her age, Elsie; a little younger than when you first came to Elmgrove. And she bears your name?”

  “Yes; her papa and mine would hear of no other for her.”

  “I like to have mamma's name,” said the child, in a pretty, modest way, looking up into his face. “Grandpa and papa call mamma Elsie, and me wee Elsie and little Elsie, and sometimes daughter. Grandpa calls mamma daughter too, but papa calls her wife. Mamma, has Uncle Harold seen baby?”

  “My namesake! ah, I should like to see him.”

  “There is mammy on the porch now, with him in her arms,” cried the child.

  “Go, and tell her to bring him here, daughter,” Elsie said; and the little girl hastened to obey.

  It was a very fine babe, and Harold looked at it with interest.

  “I am proud of my name-child,” he said, turning to the mother with a gratified smile. “You and Mr. Travilla were very kind to remember me.”

  The latter, who had been engaged in the exchange of salutations with the others, hearing his name, now came up and took the hand of the invalid in his. He was much moved by the sad alteration in the young man, who, when last seen by him, was in high health and spirits——the full flush of early manhood's prime.

  Taking a seat by his side, he inquired with kindly interest how he was, who was his physician, and if there had been any improvement in the case of late.

  “Thank you, no; rather the reverse,” Harold said, in answer to the last inquiry. “I am weaker than when I left the hospital.”

  “Ah, that is discouraging; still, we will hope the disease may yet take a favorable turn.”

  “That is what my parents say,” he answered, with a grave, sweet smile; “and though I have little hope, I know that nothing is too hard for the Lord, and am more than willing to leave it in His hands.”

  “Uncle Harold,” said Elsie, coming to the side of his chair and looking up into his face with eyes full of tender sympathy, “I'm so, so sorry for you. I'll ask Jesus to please make you well, or else take you soon to the happy land where you'll never have any more pain.”

  “Thank you, darling,” he said, bending down to kiss the sweet lips. “I know the dear Saviour will listen to your prayer.”

  “You used to play with my mamma when you were a little boy like me; didn't you, uncle Harold?” queried Eddie, coming up close on the other side.

  “Not quite so small, my man,” Harold answered, laying his hand gently on the child's head. “Your mamma was about the size of your Aunt Rosie, yonder, and I some three or four years older.”

  “We've been down to the brook where you played together——you and mamma and Aunt Sophie,” said Elsie. “Papa took us, and I think it's a lovely place to play.”

  “Sophie and I have talked over those dear old times more than once, of late,” Harold remarked, turning to Mrs. Travilla. “It does not seem so very long ago, and yet——how many changes! how we are changed! Well, Rosie, what is it?” for she was standing by his chair, waiting with eager face till he should be ready to attend to her.

  “Uncle Harold, do you feel able to tell us the story about your being a prisoner, and how you got free, and back to the Union army?” she asked, with persuasive look and tone. “Papa and mamma, and all of us that haven't heard it, would like so much to hear it, if it won't tire you to talk so long.”

  “It is not a long story; and as my lungs are sound, I do not think it will fatigue me, if you will all come near enough to hear me in my ordinary tone of voice.”

  They drew around him, protesting against his making the effort, unless fully equal to it; as another time would do quite as well.

  “Thank you all,” he said; “but I feel able for the task, and shall enjoy gratifying my nieces and nephews, as well as the older people.”

  He then proceeded with his narrative; all listening with deep interest.

  Among other incidents connected with his prison life, he told of his interview with Jackson, and the poor wretch's death that same night.

  Elsie shuddered and turned pale, yet breathed a sigh of relief as she laid her hand in that of her husband, and turned a loving, grateful look upon her father, to meet his eyes fixed upon her with an expression of deep thankfulness, mingled with the sadness and awe inspired by the news of the miscreant's terrible end.

  Harold spent the day at his brother's, and availed himself of an opportunity, which offered that afternoon, to have a little private talk with Elsie, in which he delivered Walter's packet, telling her how it came into his hands.

  “Dear, dear Walter,” she said, weeping, “I have so wanted to know the particulars of his death, and am so thankful to hear that he was a Christian.”

  “His friend told me he was instantly killed, so was spared much suffering.”

  “I am thankful for that. I will open this now; you will like to see the contents.”

  They were a letter from Walter to her, and two photographs——both excellent and striking likenesses; one of her in her bridal robes, the other of himself in his military dress.

  The first Elsie threw carelessly aside, as of little worth; the other she held long in her hands; gazing intently upon it, again and again wiping away the fast-falling tears.

  “It is his own noble, handsome face,” she murmured. “Oh, to think I shall not see it again in this world! How good of him to hive it taken for me!” and again she gazed and wept.

  Turning to her companion she was startled by the expression of mingled love and anguish in his eyes, which were intently fixed upon the other photograph; he having taken it up as she threw it aside.

  “Oh Harold!” she moaned, in low, agitated tones.

  He sighed deeply, but his brow cleared, and a look of peace and resignation stole over his face as he turned his eyes on her.

  “I think there is no sin in the love I bear you now, Elsie,” he said; “I rejoice in your happiness and am willing to see you in the possession of another; more than willing, since I must so soon pass away. But it was not always so; my love and grief were hard to conquer, and this——bringing you before me just as you were that night that gave you to another and made my love a sin——brought back for a moment the anguish that wrung my heart at the sight.”

  “You were there, then?”

  “Yes; just for a few moments. I found I must look upon the scene, though it broke my heart. I arrived at the last minute, stood in the shadow of the doorway during the ceremony, saw you look up towards me at its conclusion, then turned and fled from the house; fearful of being recognized and forced to betray my secret which I felt I could not hide.

  “But don't weep for me, dear friend, my sorrow and disappointment proved blessings in disguise, for through them I was brought to a saving knowledge of Him

  “'whom my soul desires above All earthly joy or earthly love.'”

  “And oh, Harold, how infinitely more is His love worth than mine!”

  But her eye fell upon Walter's letter lying forgotten in her lap. She took it up, glanced over it, then read it more carefully, pausing often to wipe away the blinding tears. As she finished, Mr. Travilla came in.

  “Here is a letter from Walter, Edward,” she said, in tremulous tones, as she handed it to him.

  “Then the report of his death was untrue?” he exclaimed inquiringly, a glad look coming into his face.

  “Only too true,” she answered, with a fresh burst of tears; and Harold briefly explained.

  “Shall I read it aloud, wife?” Mr. Travilla asked.

  “If Harold cares to hear. There is no secret.”

  “I should like it greatly,” Harold said; and Mr. Travilla read it to him, while Elsie moved away to the farther side of the room, her heart filled with a strange mixture of emotions, in which grief was uppermost.

  The letter was filled chiefly with an account of the writer's religious experience. Since his last visit to the Oaks he had been constantly rejoicing in the love of Christ, and now, expecting, as he did, to fall in the coming battle, death had no terrors for him. And he owed this, he said, in great measure to the influence of his brother Horace and Elsie, especially to the beautiful consistency of her Christian life through all the years he had known her.

  Through all her grief and sadness, what joy and thankfulness stirred in her breast at that thought. Very humble and unworthy she felt; but oh, what gladness to learn that her Master had thus honored her as an instrument in His hands.

  The door opened softly, and her three little ones came quietly in and gathered about her. They had been taught thoughtfulness for others: Uncle Harold was ill, and they would not disturb him.

  Leaning confidingly on her lap, lifting loving, trustful eyes to her face, “Mamma,” they said, low and softly, “we have had our supper; will you come with us now?”

  “Yes, dear, presently.”

  “Mamma,” whispered little Elsie, with a wistful, tender gaze into the soft sweet eyes still swimming in tears, “dear mamma, something has made you sorry. What can I do to comfort you?”

  “Love me, darling, and be good; you are mamma's precious little comforter. See dears,” and she held the photograph so that all could have a view, “it is dear Uncle Walter in his soldier dress.” A big tear rolled down her cheek.

  “Mamma,” Elsie said quickly, “how good he looks! and he is so happy where Jesus is.”

  “Yes, daughter, we need shed no tears for him.”

  “Dear Uncle Walter,” “Poor Uncle Walter!” the other two were saying.

  “There, papa has finished reading; go now and bid good-night to him and Uncle Harold,” their mother said; and they hastened to obey.

  They climbed their father's knees and hung about his neck with the most confiding affection, while he caressed them over and over again, Harold looking on with glistening eyes.

  “Now some dood fun, papa: toss Vi up in oo arms,” said the little one, expecting the usual game of romps.

  “Not to-night, pet; some other time. Another sweet kiss for papa, and now one for Uncle Harold.”

  “After four years of camp, prison, and hospital life, it is a very pleasant change to be among the children,” Harold said, as the door closed upon Elsie and her little flock.

  “I feared their noise and perpetual motion might disturb you,” Mr. Travilla answered.

  “Not at all; yours are not boisterous, and their pretty ways are very winning.”

  Aunt Chloe and Dinah were in waiting, and soon had the three small figures robed each in its white night-dress.

  Then mamma——seated upon a sofa with little Violet on her lap, the other two, one on each side——was quite at their disposal for the next half hour or so; ready to listen or to talk; her sweet sympathy and tender love encouraging them to open all their young hearts to her, telling her of any little joy or sorrow, trouble, vexation, or perplexity.

  “Well, darlings, have you remembered your verses and our little talk about them this morning?” the mother asked. “Elsie may speak first, because she is the eldest.”

  “Mamma, I have thought of them many times,” answered the sweet child voice; “we had a nice, nice walk with papa this morning, and the little birds, the brook, and the trees, and the pretty flowers and the beautiful blue sky all seemed to say to me, 'God is love.' Then mamma, once I was tempted to be naughty, and I said in my heart, 'Lord, help me,' and Jesus heard me.”

  “What was it, dear?”

  “We had a little tea party, mamma, with our cousins, out under the trees, and there was pie and very rich cake——”

  “And 'serves,” put in Eddie.

  “Yes, mamma, and preserves too, and they looked so good, and I wanted some, but I remembered that you and papa don't let us eat those things because they would make us sick. So I said, 'Lord, help me'; and then I felt so glad and happy, thinking how Jesus loves me.”

  “My darling! He does, indeed,” the mother said, with a gentle kiss.

  “And Eddie was good, and said, 'No, thank you; mamma and papa don't let us eat 'serves and pie.'”

  “Mamma's dear boy,” and her hand passed softly over the curly head resting on her shoulder.

  “Mamma, I love you; I love you so much,” he said, hugging her tight; “and dear papa, too; and Jesus. Mamma, I wanted to be naughty once to-day when one o' zese cousins took away my own new whip that papa buyed for me; but I remembered I mustn't be selfish and cross, and I said my little prayers jus' in my heart, mamma——and Jesus did help me to be good.”

  “Yes, my dear son, and He will always help you when you ask Him. And now, what has Vi to tell mamma?”

  “Vi naughty girl one time, mamma: ky 'cause she didn't want mammy wash face and brush curls. Vi solly now;” and the golden head dropped upon mamma's breast.

  “Mamma's dear baby must try and be patient; mamma is sure she will, and Jesus will help her if she asks Him, and forgive her, if she is sorry for being naughty,” the mother said, with a tender caress. “Now let us sing, 'Jesus loves me.'”

  The child voices blended very sweetly with the mother's as they sang in concert; then she told them a Bible story, heard each little prayer, saw them laid in their beds, gave each a tender good-night kiss, and left them to their rest.

  Passing into her dressing-room, she found her husband there, pacing thoughtfully to and fro. At sight of her a smile irradiated his whole countenance, while his arms opened wide to receive her.

  “My dear, dear husband!” she said, laying her head on his shoulder, while he folded her to his heart, “how bravely you bear trials; how patient and cheerful you always are under all circumstances.”

  “Not more so than my little wife; we have heard much saddening news to-day, love; but most of it such as to make us weep for our friends and neighbors rather than for ourselves.”

  “That is true; our losses are slight, very slight, compared with those of multitudes of others; and yet it must sadden your heart to know that your dear old home is in ruins.”

  “Yes, wife, it does; but I were an ungrateful wretch to murmur and repine, had I lost everything but you and our four treasures in yonder room: but you are all spared to me, and I am by no means penniless yet.”

  “Very far from it, my own noble husband,” she answered, with a look of proud, loving admiration; “for all I have is yours as much as mine.”

  “Thanks, dearest; I am not too proud to accept your assistance, and we will build up the old home and make it lovelier than ever, for ourselves and for our children; what a pleasant work it will be to make it as nearly as possible an earthly paradise for them.”

  “Yes,” she said, smiling brightly; “the cloud has a silver lining.”

  “As all our clouds have, dearest.”

  “Yes; for 'we know that all things work together for good to them that love God!' But oh, Edward, what an awful end was Jackson's. I shudder to think of it? and yet——oh, I fear it is not right——but I cannot help feeling it a relief to know that he is dead. Even in Europe, I could not divest myself of the fear that he might turn up unexpectedly, and attempt the lives of my dear ones.”

  “It is a relief to me also, and not wrong, I think, to feel it so; for we do not rejoice in his destruction, but would have saved him, if we could. Has not the news of Walter comforted you in some measure?”

  “Yes, oh yes; the dear, dear fellow! You have not seen this,” she added, taking the photograph from her pocket.

  “No; it is a striking likeness, and you will value it highly.”

  “Indeed I shall. Ah, how strange it will be to go home and not find him there.”

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