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The various " sisters, cousins, and aunts " composing the year by year increasing Elsie's relatives gather from the Oaks, the Laurels, the Pines, Woodburn, Fairview, and Roselands to spend their Christmas at Ion with the original Elsie, now a delightful old grandmother. They eat, drink, and are merry for a week, talk over the best way to spend $10,000 a year in charities, and finally have a little adventure with burglars.
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Christmas With Grandma Elsie
Christmas With Grandma Elsie
Cover Design: @mei - Fotolia.com
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
It was about the middle of November. There had been a long rain storm, ending in sleet and snow, and now the sun was shining brightly on a landscape sheeted with ice: walks and roads were slippery with it, every tree and shrub was encased in it, and glittering and sparkling as if loaded with diamonds, as its branches swayed and tossed in the wind. At Ion Mrs. Elsie Travilla stood at the window of her dressing-room gazing with delighted eyes upon the lovely scene.
"How beautiful!" she said softly to herself; "and my Father made it all. 'He gives snow like wool: he scattereth the hoar frost like ashes. He casteth forth his ice like morsels.'
"Ah, good morning, my dears," as the door opened and Rosie and Walter came in together.
"Good morning, dearest mamma," they returned, hastening to her to give and receive the affectionate kiss with which they were accustomed to meet at the beginning of a new day.
"I'm so glad the long storm is over at last," said Rosie; "it is really delightful to see the sunshine once more."
"And the beautiful work of the Frost king reflecting his rays," added her mother, calling their attention to the new beauties of the ever attractive landscape spread out before them.
Both exclaimed in delight "How beautiful, mamma!" Rosie adding, "It must be that the roads are in fine condition for sleighing. I hope we can go."
"O mamma, can't we?" cried Walter. "Won't you give us a holiday?"
"I shall take the question into consideration," she answered with an indulgent smile; "we will perhaps discuss it at the breakfast table: but now we will have our reading together."
At that very time Capt. Raymond and Violet in her boudoir at Woodburn, were also discussing the state of the roads and the advisability of dispensing with school duties for the day that all the family might enjoy the rather rare treat of a sleigh-ride.
"You would enjoy it, my love?" he said inquiringly.
"Very much—in company with my husband and the children," she returned; "yet I would not wish to influence you to decide against your convictions in regard to what is right and wise."
"We will go," he said, smiling fondly upon her, "I can not bear to have you miss the pleasure; nor the children either for that matter, though I am a little afraid I might justly be deemed weakly indulgent in according them a holiday again so soon: it is against my principles to allow lessons to be set aside for other than very weighty reasons; it is a matter of so great importance that they be trained to put duties first, giving pleasure a secondary place."
"But they are so good and industrious," said Violet, "and the sleighing is not likely to last long. It seldom does with us."
"And they have been so closely confined to the house of late, by the inclemency of the weather," he added. "Yes: they shall go; for it will do them a great deal of good physically, I think, and health is, after all, of more consequence for them than rapid advancement in their studies."
"I should think so indeed," said Violet. "Now the next question is where shall we go?"
"That is a question for my wife to settle," returned the captain gallantly. "I shall be most happy to accompany her wherever she decides that she wishes to be taken."
"Thank you, sir. I want to see mamma, of course."
"Then we will call at Ion, and perhaps may be able to persuade mother to join us in a longer ride."
"Oh couldn't we hire an omnibus sleigh and ask them all to join us? It would just about hold the two families."
"It is a trifle odd that the same idea had just occurred to me," he remarked pleasantly. "I will telephone at once to the town, and if I can engage a suitable sleigh, will call to Ion and give our invitation."
The reply from the village was satisfactory; also that from Ion, given by Grandpa Dinsmore, who said he would venture to accept the invitation for all the family without waiting to consult them.
The captain reported to Violet, then passed on into the apartments of his little daughters. He found them up and dressed, standing at the window of their sitting-room gazing out into the grounds.
"Good morning, my darlings," he said.
"Oh good morning, papa," they cried, turning and running into his outstretched arms to give and receive tenderest caresses.
"What were you looking at?" he asked presently.
"Oh! oh! the loveliest sight!" cried Lulu. "Do, papa, come and look," taking his hand and drawing him toward the window. "There, isn't it?"
"Yes; I have seldom seen a finer," he assented.
"And the sun is shining so brightly; can't I take a walk with you to-day?" she asked, looking coaxingly up into his face.
"Why, my child, the walks and roads are sheeted with ice; you could not stand, much less walk on them."
"I think I could, papa, if—if you'd only let me try. But oh don't look troubled, for indeed, indeed, I'm not going to be naughty about it, though I have been shut up in the house for so long, except just riding in the close carriage to church yesterday."
"Yes; and I know it has been hard for you," he said, smoothing her hair with caressing hand.
Then sitting down he drew her to one knee, Gracie to the other.
"How would my little girls like to be excused from lessons to-day and given, instead, a sleigh-ride with papa, mamma, Max and little Elsie?"
"Oh ever so much, papa!" they cried, clapping their hands in delight. "How good in you to think of it!"
"'Specially for me, considering how very, very naughty I was only last week," added Lulu, in a remorseful tone. "Papa, I really think I oughtn't to be let go."
"And I really think I should not be deprived of the pleasure of having my dear eldest daughter with me on this first sleigh-ride of the season," returned her father, drawing her into a closer embrace.
"And it would spoil all the fun for me to have you left at home, Lu," said Grace.
"And that must not be; we will all go, and I trust will have a very pleasant time," the captain said, rising and taking a hand of each to lead them down to the breakfast-room, for the bell was ringing.
At Ion the family were gathering about the table to partake of their morning meal. Walter waited rather impatiently till the blessing had been asked, then, with an entreating look at his mother, said, "Mamma, you know what you promised?"
"Yes, my son; but be patient a little longer. I see your grandpa has something to say."
"Something that Walter will be glad to hear, I make no doubt," remarked Mr. Dinsmore, giving the child a kindly look and smile. "Capt. Raymond and I have had a little chat through the telephone this morning. He invites us all to join the Woodburn family in a sleigh-ride, he is coming for us in an omnibus sleigh; and I accepted for each and every one of you."
Zoe, Rosie and Walter uttered a simultaneous exclamation of delight, while the others looked well pleased with the arrangement.
"At what hour are we to expect the captain?" asked Mrs. Dinsmore.
"And where does he propose to take us?" inquired Zoe.
"I presume wherever the ladies of the party decide that they would like to go."
"Surely, papa, the gentlemen also should have a voice in that," his daughter said, sending him a bright, affectionate look from behind the coffee-urn, "you at least, in case the question is put to vote."
"Not I more than the rest of you," he returned pleasantly. "But I have no doubt we would all enjoy the ride in any direction where the sleighing is good."
"I think it will prove fine on all the roads," remarked Edward, "and I presume everybody, would enjoy driving over to Fairview, the Laurels and the Oaks to call on our nearest relatives; perhaps to the Pines and Roselands also, to see the cousins there."
"That would be nice," said Zoe, "but don't you suppose they may be improving the sleighing opportunity as well as ourselves? may be driving over here to call on us?"
"Then, when we meet, the question will be who shall turn round and go back, and who keep on," laughed Rosie.
"But to avoid such an unpleasant state of affairs we have only to ask and, answer a few questions through the telephone," said Edward.
"Certainly," said his grandfather, "and we'll attend to it the first thing on leaving the table."
Everybody was interested, and presently all were gathered about the telephone, while Edward, acting as spokesman of the party, called to first one and then another of the households nearly related to themselves.
The answers came promptly, and it was soon evident that all were intending to avail themselves of the somewhat rare opportunity offered by the snow and ice covered roads, none planning to stay at home to receive calls. They would all visit Ion if the ladies there were likely to be in.
"Tell them," said Grandma Elsie, "to take their drives this morning, come to Ion in time for dinner, and spend the rest of the day and evening here. I shall be much pleased to have them all do so."
The message went the rounds, everybody accepted the invitation, and Elsie's orders for the day to cook and housekeeper, were given accordingly.
The Woodburn party arrived in high spirits, a sleigh, containing the Fairview family, driving up at the same time. They had room for one more and wanted "mamma" to occupy it; but the captain and Violet would not resign their claim, and Evelyn and Lulu showed a strong desire to be together; so the former was transferred to the Woodburn sleigh, and Zoe and Edward took the vacant seats in that from Fairview.
The two vehicles kept near together, their occupants, the children especially, were very gay and lively. They talked of last year's holiday sports, and indulged in pleasing anticipations in regard to what might be in store for them in those now drawing near.
"We had a fine time at the Oaks, hadn't we, girls?" said Max, addressing Evelyn and Rosie.
"Yes," they replied, "but a still better one at Woodburn."
"When are you and Lu going to invite us again?" asked Rosie.
"When papa gives permission," answered Max, sending a smiling, persuasive glance in his father's direction.
"It is quite possible you may not have very long to wait for that, Max," was the kindly indulgent rejoinder from the captain.
"It is Rosie's turn this year," remarked Grandma Elsie; "Rosie's and Walter's and mine. I want all the young people of the connection—and as many of the older ones as we can make room for—to come to Ion for the Christmas holidays, or at least the greater part of them; we will settle particulars as to the time of coming and going, later on. Captain, I want you and Violet and all your children for the whole time."
"Thank you, mother; you are most kind, and I do not now see anything in the way of our acceptance of your invitation," he said; but added with a playful look at Violet, "unless my wife should object."
"If I should, mamma, you will receive my regrets in due season," laughed Violet.
The faces of the children were beaming with delight, and their young voices united in a chorus of expressions of pleasure and thanks to Grandma Elsie.
"I am glad you are all pleased with the idea," she said. "We will try to provide as great a variety of amusements as possible, and shall be glad of any hints or suggestions from old or young in regard to anything new in that line."
"We will all try to help you, mamma," Violet said, "and not be jealous or envious if your party should far outshine ours of last year."
"And we have more than a month to get ready in," remarked Rosie with satisfaction. "Oh I'm so glad mamma has decided on it in such good season!"
"Hello!" cried Max, glancing back toward an intersecting road which they had just crossed, "Here they come!"
"Who?" asked several voices, while all turned their heads to see for themselves.
"The Oaks, and the Roselands folks," answered Max, and as he spoke two large sleighs came swiftly up in the rear of their own, their occupants calling out merry greetings, and receiving a return in kind.
The wind had fallen, the cold was not intense, and they were so well protected against it by coats and robes of fur, that they scarcely felt it, and found the ride so thoroughly enjoyable that they kept it up through the whole morning, managing their return so that Ion was reached only a few minutes before the dinner hour.
Ion was a sort of headquarters for the entire connection, and everybody seemed to feel perfectly at home. Grandma Elsie was a most hospitable hostess, and it was a very cheerful, jovial party that surrounded her well-spread table that day.
After dinner, while the older people conversed together in the parlors, the younger ones wandered at will through the house.
The girls were together in a small reception-room, chatting about such matters as particularly interested them—their studies, sports, plans for the purchase or making of Christmas gifts, and what they hoped or desired to receive. "I want jewelry," said Sidney Dinsmore. "I'd rather have that than anything else. But it must be handsome: a diamond pin or ring, or ear-rings."
"Mamma says diamonds are quite unsuitable for young girls," said Rosie. "So I prefer pearls: and I'm rather in hopes she may give me some for Christmas."
"I'd rather have diamonds anyhow," persisted Sydney. "See Maud's new ring, just sent her by a rich old aunt of ours. I'm sure it looks lovely on her finger and shows off the beauty of her hand."
"Yes, I've been admiring it," said Lulu, "and I thought I'd never seen it before."
Maud held out her hand with, evident pride and satisfaction, while the others gathered round her eager for a close inspection of the ring.
They all admired it greatly and Maud seemed gratified.
"Yes," she said, "it certainly is a beauty, and Chess says it must be worth a good deal; that centre stone is quite large, you see, and there are six others in a circle around it."
"I should think you'd feel very rich," remarked Lulu; "I'd go fairly wild with delight if I had such an one given me."
"Well then, why not give your father a hint that you'd like such a Christmas gift from him?" asked Sydney.
"I'm afraid it would cost too much," said Lulu, "and I wouldn't want papa to spend more on me than he could well afford."
"Why, he could afford it well enough!" exclaimed Maud. "Your father is very rich—worth his millions, I heard Cousin Horace say not long ago; and he knows of course."
Lulu looked much surprised. "Papa never talks of how much money he has," she said, "and I never supposed it was more than about enough to keep us comfortable; but millions means a great deal doesn't it?"
"I should say so indeed! more than your mind or mine can grasp the idea of."
Lulu's eyes sparkled. "I'm ever so glad for papa!" she said; "he's just the right person to have a great deal of money, for he will be sure to make the very best use of it."
"And for a part of it, that will be diamonds for you, won't it?" laughed Maud.
"I hope the captain will think so by the time she's grown up," remarked Rosie, with a pleasant look at Lulu; "or sooner if they come to be thought suitable for girls of her age."
"That's nice in you Rosie," Lulu said, flushing with pleasure, "and I hope you will get your pearls this Christmas."
"I join in both wishes," said Evelyn Leland, "and hope everyone of you will receive a Christmas gift quite to her mind: but, oh girls, don't you think it would be nice to give a good time to the poor people about us?"
"What poor people?" asked Sydney.
"I mean both the whites and the blacks," explained Evelyn. "There are those Jones children that live not far from Woodburn, for instance: their mother's dead and the father gets drunk and beats and abuses them, and altogether I'm sure they are very, very forlorn."
"Oh yes," cried Lulu, "it would be just splendid to give them a good time!—nice things to eat and to wear, and toys too. I'll talk to papa about it, and he'll tell us what to give them and how to give it."
"And there are a number of other families in the neighborhood probably quite as poor and forlorn," said Lora Howard. "Oh I think it would be delightful to get them all together somewhere and surprise them with a Christmas tree loaded with nice things! Lets do it, girls. We all have some pocket money, and we can get our fathers and mothers to tell us how to use it to the best advantage, and how to manage the giving."
"I haven't a bit more pocket money than I need to buy the presents I wish to give my own particular friends," objected Sydney.
"It's nice, and right too, I think, to give tokens of love to our dear ones," Evelyn said, "but we need not make them very expensive in order to give pleasure;—often they would prefer some simple little thing that is the work of our own hands—and so we would have something left for the poor and needy, whom the Bible teaches us we should care for and relieve to the best of our ability."
"Yes, I daresay you are right," returned Sydney, "but I sha'n't make any rash promises in regard to the matter."
In the parlor the older people were conversing on somewhat similar topics: first discussing plans for the entertainment and gratification of their children and other young relatives, during the approaching holidays, then of the needs of the poor of the neighborhood, and how to supply them; after that they talked of the claims of Home and Foreign Missions; the perils threatening their country from illiteracy, anarchy, heathenism, Mormonism, Popery, Infidelity, etc., not omitting the danger from vast wealth accumulating in the hands of individuals and corporations; also they spoke of the heavy responsibility entailed by its possession.
They were patriots and Christians; anxious first of all for the advancement of Christ's kingdom upon earth, secondly for the welfare and prosperity of the dear land of their birth—the glorious old Union transmitted to us by our revolutionary fathers.
It was a personal question with each one, "How can I best use for the salvation of my country and the world, the time, talents, influence and money God has entrusted to my keeping."
They acknowledged themselves stewards of God's bounty, and as such desired to be found faithful; neglecting neither the work nearest at hand nor that in far distant lands where the people sit in great darkness and the region and shadow of death, that on them the "Sun of righteousness might arise with healing in his wings."
It had been expected that the guests would stay at Ion till bedtime, but a thaw had set in and ice and snow were fast disappearing from the roads; therefore all departed for their homes directly after an early tea.
Lulu was very quiet during the homeward drive; her thoughts were full of Maud's surprising assertion in regard to her father's wealth.
"I wonder if it is really so," she said to herself. "I'm tempted to ask papa; but he might not like it, and I wouldn't want to do anything to vex or trouble him,—my dear, dear kind father!"
An excellent opportunity for a private chat with him was afforded her shortly after their arrival at home. The little ones were fretful and Violet went to the nursery with them; Max hastened to his own room to finish a composition he was expected to hand to his father the next morning, Gracie, weary with the excitement of the day, and the long morning drive, went directly to her bed, and having seen her in it, and left her there with a loving good night, the captain and Lulu presently found themselves the only occupants of the library.
Taking possession of a large easy chair, "Come and sit on my knee and tell me how you have enjoyed your day," he said, giving her a fond fatherly smile.
"Very much indeed, papa," she answered, accepting his invitation, putting her arm round his neck and laying her cheek to his.
His arm was around her waist. He drew her closer, saying softly, "My dear, dear little daughter! I thought you were unusually quiet coming home: is anything amiss with you?"
"Oh, no, papa! I've had a lovely time all day long. How kind you were to give us all a holiday and let me go along with the rest of you."
"Good to myself as well as to you, my darlings; I could have had very little enjoyment leaving you behind."
"Papa, it's so nice to have you love me so!" she said, kissing him with ardent affection. "Oh, I do hope I'll never, never be very naughty again!"
"I hope not, dear child," he responded, returning her caresses. "I hope you feel ready to resume your studies to-morrow, with diligence and painstaking?"
"Yes, papa, I think I do. It's almost a week since you have heard me recite; except the Sunday lesson yesterday."
"Yes," he said gravely, "it has been something of a loss to you in one way, but I trust a decided gain in another. Well to change the subject, are you pleased with the prospect of spending the holidays at Ion?"
"Yes, papa; I think it will be lovely; almost as nice as having a party of our own, as we did last year."
"Possibly we may add that—a party here for a day or two—if Grandma Elsie does not use up all the holidays with hers," he said in a half jesting tone and with a pleasant laugh.
"O papa, do you really think we may?" she cried in delight. "Oh you are just the kindest father!" giving him a hug.
He laughed at that, returning the hug with interest.
"I suppose you and Eva and the rest were laying out plans for Christmas doings this afternoon?" he said inquiringly.
"Yes, papa, we were talking a good deal about games and tableaux, and about the things we could buy or make for gifts to our friends, and what we would like to have given us."
She paused, half hoping he would ask what she wanted from him, but he did not. He sat silently caressing her hair and cheek with his hand, and seemingly lost in thought.
At length, "Papa," she asked half hesitatingly, "are you very rich?"
"Rich?" he repeated, coming suddenly out of his reverie and looking smilingly down into her eyes, "yes; I have a sound constitution, excellent health, a delightful home, a wife and five children, each one of whom I esteem worth at least a million to me; I live in a Christian land," he went on in a graver tone, "I have the Bible with all its great and precious promises, the hope of a blessed eternity at God's right hand, and that all my dear ones are traveling heavenward with me; yes, I am a very rich man!"
"Yes, sir; but—I meant have you a great deal of money."
"Enough to provide all that is necessary for the comfort of my family, and to gratify any reasonable desire on the part of my little girl. What is it you want, my darling?"
"Papa, I'm almost ashamed to tell you," she said, blushing and hanging her head; "but if I do, and you can't afford it, won't you please say so and not feel sorry about it? because I wouldn't ever want you to spend money on me that you need for yourself or some of the others."
"I am glad you are thoughtful for others as well as yourself, daughter," he said kindly; "but don't hesitate to tell me all that is in your heart. Nothing pleases me better than to have you, and all my dear children do so."
"Thank you, my dear, dear papa. I don't mean ever to hide anything from you," she returned, giving him another hug and kiss, while her eyes sparkled and her cheek flushed with pleasure. "It's a diamond ring I'd like to have."
"A diamond ring?" he repeated in surprise. "What would my little girl do with such a thing as that?"
"Wear it, papa. Maud Dinsmore has such beautiful one, that a rich aunt sent her the other day," she went on eagerly; "there's a large diamond in the middle and little ones all round it, and it sparkles so, and looks just lovely on her hand! We all admired it ever so much, and I said I'd be wild with delight if I had such an one; then Sydney said, 'Why not give your father a hint that you'd like one for Christmas?' and I said I was afraid you couldn't afford to give me anything that would cost so much; but Maud said I needn't be, for you were worth millions of money. Can you really afford to give it to me, papa? I'd like it better than anything else if you can, but if you can't I don't want it," she concluded with a sigh, and creeping closer into his embrace.
He did not speak for a moment, but though grave and thoughtful his countenance was quite free from displeasure,—and when, at length, he spoke, his tones were very kind and affectionate.
"If I thought it would really be for my little girl's welfare and happiness in the end," he said, "I should not hesitate for a moment to gratify her in this wish of hers, but, daughter, the ornament you covet would be extremely unsuitable for one of your years, and I fear its possession would foster a love of finery that I do not wish to cultivate in you, because it is not right, and would hinder you in the race I trust you are running for the prize of eternal life.
"The Bible tells us we can not serve both God and Mammon; can not love him and the world too.
"'If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.' God has entrusted me with a good deal of money, but I hold it as his steward, and 'it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.'"
"I don't know what you mean, papa," she said, with look and tone of keen disappointment.
"That I must use the Lord's money to do his work, daughter; a great deal of money is needed to help on the advancement of his cause and kingdom in the hearts of individuals, and in the world at large. There are millions of poor creatures in heathen lands who have never so much as heard of Jesus and his dying love; and even in our own favored country there are thousands who are sunk in poverty, ignorance and wretchedness. Money is needed to feed and clothe them, to send them teachers and preachers, and to build churches, schools, and colleges, where they can be educated and fitted for happiness and usefulness.
"Suppose I had a thousand, or five thousand dollars, to spare after supplying my family with all that is necessary for health, comfort and happiness; could my dear eldest daughter be so selfish as to wish me to put it into a diamond ring for her at the expense of leaving some poor creature in want and misery? some poor heathen to die without the knowledge of Christ? some soul to be lost that Jesus died to save?"
"Oh no, no, papa!" she exclaimed, tears starting to her eyes, "I couldn't be so hard hearted. I couldn't bear to look at my ring if it had cost so much to other people."
"No, I am sure you could not; and I believe you would find far more enjoyment, a far sweeter pleasure, in selecting objects for me to benefit by the money the ring might cost."
"O papa, how nice, how delightful that would be if you would let me!" she cried joyously.
"I will," he said; "I have some thousands to divide among the various religious and benevolent objects, and shall give a certain sum—perhaps as much as a thousand dollars—in the name of each of my three children who are old enough to understand these things, letting each of you select the cause, or causes, to which his or her share is to go."
"Which are the causes, papa?" she asked, her eyes sparkling with pleasure.
"There are Home and Foreign Missions, the work among the freedmen, and for the destitute in our own neighborhood, beside very many others. We will read about these various objects and talk the matter over together, and finally decide how many we can help, and how much shall be given to each. Perhaps you may choose to support a little Indian girl in one of the Mission schools, or some child in heathen lands; or a missionary who will go and teach them the way to heaven."
"Oh I should love to do that!" she exclaimed, "it will be better than having a ring. Papa, how good you are to me! I am so glad God gave me such a father; one who tries always to teach me how to serve Him and to help me to be the right kind of a Christian."
"I want to help you in that, my darling," he said; "I think I could do you no greater kindness."
Just then Max came into the room, and his father called him to take a seat by his side, saying, "I am glad you have come, my son, for I was about to speak to Lulu on a subject that concerns you quite as nearly."
"Yes, sir; I'll be glad to listen," replied Max, doing as directed.
The captain went on. "The Bible tells us, 'If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.' If we are like Jesus in spirit, we will love others and be ready to deny ourselves to do them good; especially to save their souls; for to that end he denied himself even to the shameful and painful death of the cross.
"He says, 'If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me…. Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.'
"That is we cannot be his disciples without doing something to bring sinners to him that they may be saved; something that will cost us self-denial; it may be of our own ease, or of something we would like to do or have.
"And it must be done willingly, cheerfully, from love to the dear Master and the souls he died to save, and not as the way to earn heaven for ourselves.
"We can not merit salvation, do what we will; we must take it as God's free, undeserved gift."
There was a moment of thoughtful silence; then Max said, "Papa, I think I am willing if I knew just what to do and how to do it. Can you tell me?"
"You have some money of your own every week; you can give what you will of that to held spread abroad the glad tidings of salvation; you can pray for others, and when a favorable opportunity offers, speak a word to lead them to Christ. Ask God to show you opportunities and give you grace and wisdom to use them. Try also, so to live, and act, and speak, that all who see and know you will, take knowledge of you that you have been with Jesus and learned of him."
"Papa," said Lulu, "won't you tell Max about the money you are going to give in our names?"
"No, I will let you have that pleasure," the captain answered with a kindly look and tone, and she eagerly availed herself of the permission.
Max was greatly pleased, and Violet, who joined them just in time to hear what Lulu was saying, highly approved.
"But you will understand, children," the captain said, "that this involves your gaining a great deal of information on the subject of missions, and other schemes of benevolence, and in order to help you in that, we will spend a short time each evening, when not prevented by company or some more important engagement, in reading and conversing on this topic."
"I wish I could earn some money to give," said Lulu. "I'd like to carve pretty things to sell; but who would buy them?"
"Possibly papa might become an occasional purchaser," her father said, stroking her hair and smiling kindly upon her.
"Or Mamma Vi," added her young step-mother.
"And I have another offer to make you both," said the captain; "for every day that I find you obedient, pleasant-tempered and industrious I will give each of you twenty-five cents for benevolent purposes."
"Thank you, papa," they both said, their eyes sparkling with pleasure; Max adding, "That will be a dollar and seventy-five cents a week."
"Yes; and for every week that either one of you earns the quarter every day, I will add another to bring it up to two dollars."
"O papa, how nice!" exclaimed Lulu. "I mean to try very hard, so that I may have enough to support a little Indian girl. And is Gracie to have the same?"
"Certainly; and I shall not be greatly surprised if Gracie's missionary box fills faster than either of the others."
"I am almost sure it will," said Lulu, sobering down a good deal; "and Max's will be next. But I do mean to try ever so hard to be good."
"I am quite sure you do, dear child," her father responded in tender tones. "I know my little girl wants to improve, and I shall do all I can to help her."
"Papa, is that quarter a day for good conduct, to be in addition to our usual pocket money?" asked Max.
"Certainly, my son; your pocket money is your own, to use for your pleasure or profit, except what you feel that you ought, or desire to give of it; but the quarter is expressly, and only for benevolent purposes."
"When may we begin to earn it, papa?"
"I'm glad of that," said Lulu with satisfaction, "because I want to earn a good deal before Christmas."
Then she told of Evelyn's suggestions in regard to gifts for the poor in their immediate neighborhood.
"A very good idea," her father said, "and I think it may be carried out in a way to yield enjoyment to both givers and receivers."
"I hope it will be cold enough at Christmas time to make ice and snow for sleighing and sledding," Max remarked; "for we boys have planned to have a good deal of fun for ourselves and the girls too, if it is."
"You mean if there is sleighing and sledding," his father said with an amused look. "It might be cold enough, yet the needed snow or ice be lacking."
"Why, yes, sir, to be sure, so it might!" Max returned, laughing good humoredly.
"What kind of fun is it you boys have planned for us girls?" asked Lulu.
"Never you mind," said Max; "you'll see when the time comes; the surprise will be half of it you know."
"My dear, you seem to me a very wise and kind father," Violet remarked to her husband when they found themselves alone together, after Max and Lulu had gone to their beds. "I very highly approve of the plans you have just proposed for them. Though, of course the approval of a silly young thing, such as I, must be a matter of small consequence," she added, with a merry, laughing look up into his face.
"Young, but not silly," he returned, with a very lover-like look and smile. "I consider my wife's judgment worth a great deal, and am highly gratified with her approval. I am extremely desirous," he went on more gravely, "to train my darlings to systematic benevolence, a willingness to deny themselves for the cause of Christ, and to take an interest in every branch of the work of the church."
Lulu's first thought on awaking the next morning, was of the talk of the previous evening, with her father. He had said she might have the pleasure of telling Gracie the good news in regard to the money to be earned by good conduct, and that which was to be given by him in the name of each of his older children; also the privilege he would accord them of selecting the particular cause, or causes, to which the money should go.
Eager to avail herself of the permission, and see Gracie's delight, she sprang from her bed, ran to the door of communication between their sleeping rooms, which generally stood open—always at night—and peeped cautiously in.
Gracie's head was still on her pillow, but at that instant she stirred, opened her eyes, and called out in a pleased tone, "O Lu, so you are up first!" speaking softly though, for fear of disturbing their father and Violet, in the room beyond, the door there being open also.
Lulu hurried to it and closed it gently, then turning toward her sister, "Yes," she said, "but it's early, and you needn't get up just yet. I'm coming to creep in with you for a few minutes while I tell you something that I'm sure will please you."
She crept into Grace's bed as she spoke, and they lay for a while clasped in each other's arms, Lulu talking very fast, Grace listening and now and then putting in a word or two. She was quite as much pleased with what Lulu had to tell, as the latter had anticipated.
"Oh won't it be just lovely to have so much money to do good with!" she exclaimed when all had been told. "Haven't we got the very best and dearest father in the world? I don't believe, Lu, there's another one half so dear and kind and nice. We ought to be ever such good children!"
"Yes, but I'm not," sighed Lulu. "O Gracie, I'd give anything to be as good as you are!"
"Now don't talk so, Lu; you make me feel like a hypocrite; because I'm not good," said Grace.
"You are; at any rate you're a great deal better than I am," asserted Lulu with warmth. "You never disobey papa, or get into a passion; and I don't think you love finery as I do. Gracie, I want that ring yet; oh I should like to have it ever so much! and I oughtn't to want it; it's very selfish, because to buy it would use up money that ought to go to send missionaries to the heathen, or do good to some poor miserable creature; and it's wrong for me to want it, because papa says it wouldn't be good for me; and if I were as good as I ought to be I'd never want anything he doesn't think best for me to have. But, oh dear, how can I help it when I'm so fond of pretty things!"
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