The Two Elsies - Martha Finley - ebook
Opis

The Two ElsiesA Sequel to Elsie at Nantucket, Book 10ByMartha Finley

Ebooka przeczytasz w aplikacjach Legimi na:

Androidzie
iOS
czytnikach certyfikowanych
przez Legimi
Windows
10
Windows
Phone

Liczba stron: 318

Odsłuch ebooka (TTS) dostepny w abonamencie „ebooki+audiobooki bez limitu” w aplikacjach Legimi na:

Androidzie
iOS

The Two Elsies

A Sequel to Elsie at Nantucket, Book 10

By

Martha Finley

Table of Contents

CHAPTER I.

CHAPTER II.

CHAPTER III.

CHAPTER IV.

CHAPTER V.

CHAPTER VI.

CHAPTER VII.

CHAPTER VIII.

CHAPTER IX.

CHAPTER X.

CHAPTER XI.

CHAPTER XII.

CHAPTER XIII.

CHAPTER XIV.

CHAPTER XV.

CHAPTER XVI.

CHAPTER XVII.

CHAPTER XVIII.

CHAPTER XIX.

CHAPTER XX.

CHAPTER XXI.

CHPTER XXII.

CHAPTER I.

"Art is long, and Time is fleeting,   And our hearts, though stout and brave, Still, like muffled drums, are beating   Funeral marches to the grave."

LONGFELLOW.

It was a lovely summer morning, glorious with sunlight, sweet with the fragrance of flowers and the songs of birds.

The view from the bay-window of the library of Crag Cottage, the residence of Mr. George Leland, architect and artist, was very fine, embracing, as it did, some of the most magnificent scenery on the banks of the Hudson.

The house stood very high, and from that window one might look north and south over wooded mountain, hill and valley, or east upon the majestic river and its farther shore.

The nearer view was of well-kept, though not extensive, grounds; a flower-garden and lawn with a winding carriage-way leading up the hill by a gradual ascent.

It was a pleasant place to sit even on a sunny summer morning, for a tall tree partially shaded the window without greatly obstructing the view, and it was there the master of the house was usually to be found, at this time of day, with Evelyn, his only child, close at his side.

They were there now, seated at a table covered with books and papers, he busied in drawing plans for a building, she equally so with her lessons.

But presently, at the sound of a deep sigh from her father, she glanced hastily up at him.

He had dropped his pencil and was leaning back against the cushions of his easy-chair, with a face so wan and weary that she started up in alarm, and springing to his side, exclaimed, "Dear papa, I am sure you are not well! Do stop working, and lie down on the sofa. And won't you let me tell Patrick to go for the doctor when he has taken mamma to Riverside?"

"Yes, Evelyn, I think you may," he answered in low feeble tones, and with a sad sort of smile, gently pressing the hand she had laid in his, as he spoke. "It will do no harm for me to see Dr. Taylor, even should it do no good."

"What is that? Send for the doctor? Are you ill, Eric?" asked a lady who had entered the room just in time to catch his last sentence.

"I am feeling unusually languid, Laura," he replied; "yet not much more so than I did yesterday. Perhaps it is only the heat."

"The heat!" she echoed; "why, it is a delightful day! Warm, to be sure, but not oppressively so."

"Not to you or me, perhaps, mamma," remarked Evelyn, "but we are well and strong, and poor papa is not."

"A holiday would do you good, Eric," the lady said, addressing her husband; "come, change your mind and go with me to Riverside."

"My dear," he said, "I should like to go to gratify you, but really I feel quite unequal to the exertion."

"You need make none," she said; "you need only to sit quietly under the trees on the lawn; and I think you will find amusement in watching the crowd, while the fresh air, change of scene, and rest from the work you will not let alone when at home, will certainly be of great benefit to you."

He shook his head in dissent. "I should have to talk and to listen; in short, to make myself agreeable. I have no right to inflict my companionship on Mrs. Ross's guests on any other condition; and all that would be a greater exertion than I feel fit to undertake."

"There was a time when you were willing to make a little exertion for my sake," she returned in a piqued tone, "but wives are not to expect the attention freely bestowed upon a sweetheart, and so I must go alone as usual."

"Mamma, what a shame for you to talk so to poor papa!" exclaimed Evelyn indignantly. "You know—"

"Hush, hush, Evelyn," said her father in a gently reproving tone, "be respectful to your mother, always."

"Yes, sir," returned the child, with a loving look into his eyes. Then to her mother, "I beg your pardon, mamma, I did not mean to be rude; but—" with a scrutinizing glance at the richly attired figure before her.

"Well?" laughingly interrogated the lady, as the child paused with a slight look of embarrassment and a heightened color.

"Nothing, mamma, only—"

"Something your correct taste disapproves about my attire?"

"Yes, mamma; your dress is very handsome; quite rich and gay enough for a ball-room; but—wouldn't a simpler, plainer one be more suitable for a lawn-party?"

"Well, really!" was the laughing rejoinder; "the idea of such a chit as you venturing to criticise her mother's taste in dress! You spoil her, Eric; making so much of her and allowing her to have and express an opinion on any and every subject. There, I must be going; I see Patrick is at the door with the carriage. So good-by, and don't overwork yourself, Eric."

"Mamma," Evelyn called after her, "Patrick is to go for the doctor, you know."

"Oh, yes; I'll tell him," Mrs. Leland answered, and the next moment the carriage was whirling away down the drive.

"There, she is gone!" said Evelyn. "Oh, papa, when I am a woman I shall not marry unless I feel that I can always be content to stay with my husband when he is not able to go with me."

"But business may prevent him very often when sickness does not, and you may grow very weary of staying always at home," he said, softly smoothing her hair, then bending to touch his lips to her smooth white forehead and smile into the large dark eyes lifted to his as she knelt at the side of his chair.

"No, no! Not if he is as dear and kind as you are, papa. But no other man is, I think."

"Quite a mistake, my pet; the world surely contains many better men than your father."

"I should be exceedingly angry if any one else said that to me," she returned indignantly.

At that he drew her closer to him with a little pleased laugh. "We love each other very dearly, do we not, my darling?" he said; then sighed deeply.

"Indeed we do!" she answered, gazing anxiously up into his face. "How pale and ill you look, papa! Do lie down and rest."

"Presently, when my work has progressed a little farther," he said, putting her gently aside, straightening himself and resuming his pencil.

Evelyn was beginning a remonstrance, but at the sound of wheels upon the drive sprang to the window, exclaiming, "Can mamma be coming back already? She has perhaps changed her mind about attending the party. No," as she caught sight of the vehicle, "it is the doctor. I'm glad."

"Go, receive him at the door, daughter, and show him in here," said Mr. Leland; "and as I desire a private interview, you may amuse yourself in the grounds while he stays."

"Yes, sir; and oh, I do hope he will be able to give you something that will make you well directly," the little girl replied, bestowing a look of loving anxiety upon her father, then hastening to obey his order.

She received the physician at the front entrance, with all the graceful courtesy of a refined lady, ushered him into the library, then putting on a garden-hat, wandered out into the grounds.

It was the month of roses, and they were to be found here in great variety and profusion; they bordered the walks, climbed the walls, and wreathed themselves about the pillars of the porches, filling the air with their rich fragrance, mingled with that of the honeysuckle, lilac, heliotrope, and mignonette.

Evelyn sauntered through the garden, pausing here and there to gather one and another of the most beautiful and sweet-scented of its floral treasures, arranging them in a bouquet for her father; then crossed the lawn to an artistic little summer-house built on the edge of the cliff, where it almost overhung the river.

The view from this spot was magnificent, extending for many miles and embracing some of the grandest scenery of that region; and to Evelyn and her father, both dear lovers of the beauties of nature, it was a favorite resort.

Seating herself upon a rustic bench, she passed some moments in absorbed, delighted contemplation of the scene so familiar, yet ever new.

The thought that anything worse than a passing illness threatened her beloved father had not yet entered her youthful mind, and she was serenely happy as she sat there waiting for the departure of the physician as the signal that she might return to him.

From her earliest recollection he had been father and mother both to her, Mrs. Leland's time being too fully occupied with her onerous duties to society to allow her to bestow much attention upon her child.

Had the husband and father taken a like view of his responsibilities, Evelyn would have been left almost entirely to the care of the servants; but to him the formation of his child's character, the cultivation of her mind and heart, was a duty that outweighed all social claims, and to which even business might to some extent be sacrificed.

Nor was it a duty only, but also a delight. And so well was she rewarding his efforts that he found her, at thirteen, more companionable than her mother had ever been; taking an enthusiastic interest in his professional work, and sharing his aspirations after perfection therein and recognition as one of the foremost architects of his day.

In her esteem he had already distanced all competitors; no one else could plan a house so well for comfort, convenience, and beauty combined. Also he was to her the very embodiment of all that was unselfish, good, and noble.

She thought, and truly, that her mother failed to appreciate him.

While Evelyn waited the doctor subjected his patient to a thorough examination, not only feeling his pulse, listening to the beating of his heart, sounding his lungs and looking at his tongue, but cross-questioning him closely, his face growing graver with every reply elicited.

"You have told me everything?" he inquired at length.

"Yes, I think so; every symptom that I can recall at this moment. And now, doctor, I want you to be equally frank with me; tell me exactly what you think of my case."

"I cannot hold out any hope of recovery," was the unwilling reply; "but there is little, if any, immediate danger."

"You but confirm my own impressions," said Mr. Leland quietly. "But I would have a clearer understanding of your verdict; do you mean that I may have years of invalidism before me, or that a few weeks or months must bring the end?"

"You really desire to know the worst, my dear sir?" returned the physician inquiringly, a look of deep sympathy on his kindly face.

"I do," was the calmly resolute reply; "let me know the worst and face it in the strength God gives to His children according to their day."

"Then, my dear sir, I will be plain with you; but bear in mind that I lay no claim to infallibility; I may err in judgment, but I see no reason to hope that your life on earth will be prolonged for more than three months at the farthest, and I much fear the end may come in less than half that time."

The doctor could not at first judge of the full effect of his words, for Mr. Leland sat with his face half hidden in his hand.

For a moment a deathlike stillness reigned in the room; then Dr. Taylor said, low and feelingly, "You are a Christian, my dear sir, and for you dying will be but going home to a brighter and better world."

"Yes," was the reply, "and your tidings would have no terrors for me were it not—for those who must be left behind; but oh, the parting from helpless dear ones for whom my care and protection seems so necessary!—that is the bitterness of death!"

"'Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let thy widows trust in Me,'" quoted the physician in sympathizing tones.

"Yes, yes; thank God for that precious promise!" exclaimed Mr. Leland. "And you, doctor, for reminding me of it," he added, stretching out a hand to his kind comforter.

It was taken in a warm grasp and held for a moment while other of the many sweet and comforting promises of God's Word were recalled to the mind of the sufferer, to his great consolation.

"I would it were in my power," the doctor said at length, "to hold out to you any hope of restoration to health. I cannot do that, but will write you a prescription which will, I trust, by God's blessing, give relief to some of the most distressing symptoms."

"Even partial relief will be most welcome," sighed the patient. "Ah, if I can but find strength for promised work!"

"Better let it alone and take what rest and ease you can," was the parting advice of the physician.

"What a long, long visit the doctor is paying!" Evelyn had said to herself several times before her eyes were gladdened with the sight of his carriage rolling away down the drive.

"At last!" she cried, springing to her feet and hurrying back to the house.

She found her father lying on a sofa, his face very pale, his eyes closed.

She drew near on tiptoe, thinking he might have fallen asleep; but as she reached the side of his couch he opened his eyes, and taking her hand drew her down to his breast.

"My darling, my beloved child!" he whispered, putting his arm about her and holding her fast with tender caresses.

"What did the doctor say, papa?" she asked, nestling closer to him and laying her cheek to his. "Does he hope to make you well very soon?"

For a moment there was no reply, and Evelyn, startled at her father's silence, suddenly raised her head and gazed earnestly, inquiringly into his face.

He smiled, a little sadly, and gently smoothing her hair back from her forehead, "I was thinking," he said, "of a text in the psalm we read together this morning—'My soul, wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is from him.' He and He only can make me well, daughter."

"Then why send for the doctor, papa?"

"Because God works by means; it pleases Him so to do, though it would be no more difficult to Him to accomplish His designs without. He has provided remedies, and I think it is His will that we should use them, at the same time asking His blessing upon them, feeling that without it they will be of no avail."

"Then you are to have some medicine, I suppose?"

"Yes; and to be out a good deal in the open air."

"Oh, then, won't you come out to the summer-house and lie in the hammock there, with me close beside you to wait on you?"

"Presently; but I must write a letter first," he said, putting her gently aside and resuming his seat at the writing-table.

"Can't it wait till to-morrow, papa?" she asked. "You may feel stronger by then."

"It is to be only a few lines, to your Uncle Lester; and I want it to go by this afternoon's mail, that, if possible, it may reach Fairview before they have arranged their plans for the summer. I want them to come here to spend the hot months. Should you like it?"

"Yes, indeed, papa! I've always been fond of Uncle Lester, as you know, and I quite fell in love with Aunt Elsie and the baby when he brought them to see us on their return from Europe."

CHAPTER II.

"How sudden do our prospects vary here!"

It was the breakfast-hour at Fairview. The young husband and wife chatted pleasantly over their coffee, omelet and rolls, strawberries and cream, the principal subject of discourse being the expected trip to Nantucket in company with her mother, grandparents, and the rest of the family at Ion.

Lester and his Elsie had been there the previous evening, helping to celebrate the first anniversary of the marriage of Edward and Zoe, and had readily fallen in with the plans for the summer outing proposed by Captain Raymond.

"You will go with us, of course, Elsie?" their mother had said, several of the others eagerly echoing her words, and they had answered that they knew of nothing to hinder, and should be delighted to do so.

So that question seemed fully settled, and now their talk was of needful preparations and arrangements for so long an absence from home; of the anticipated pleasures of the voyage and the proposed lengthened sojourn upon Nantucket Island, including the sketching of the most attractive features of its scenery.

Young, healthy, in easy circumstances, entirely congenial in opinions and tastes, they were a very happy couple.

Lester was meeting with marked success in his chosen profession—had received only yesterday a large price for one of his paintings; and as Elsie and he were essentially one in all their interests, her joy was fully equal to his, if not greater.

In consequence they were unusually gay this morning, and life seemed very bright and beautiful before them.

They lingered over their meal, and were just leaving the table when a servant came in with the morning's mail.

There were several newspapers and magazines; only one letter.

"From Eric, dear old boy! I was intending to write to him to-day," remarked Lester, as he examined the superscription.

"How nice, then, that his came just in time for you to answer it in yours," said Elsie. "I'll leave you to the enjoyment of it while I give my orders for the day," she added, turning from him toward the rear of the house, as they left the breakfast-room together.

"Yes, my dear, and when you have a spare moment to bestow upon your unworthy husband, you will find him on the veranda," he answered lightly, bending his steps in that direction.

Only a few minutes had passed when she sought him there; but what a change had come over him! All his gayety had forsaken him, his face was pale, and his eyes, as he turned them upon her, were full of anguish.

"Oh Lester, my dear, dear husband! What is it?" she cried, hastening to him and laying a hand tenderly upon his shoulder.

"Read," he said hoarsely, holding out the open letter to her,—Eric's letter, whose sad tidings seemed for the time to have driven away all the joy and brightness of life.

Glancing down the page, Elsie read:

"My dear brother, will you come to me? I have sore need of you. For a year past I have felt my strength failing; for the last few months matters have grown worse, till my days and nights are filled with pain and unrest; and today I have learned that the time has come for me to set my house in order, for I am to 'die, and not live.' Nay, not so: I am to pass from the land of the dying to that blest world where death can never enter.

"My physician tells me it may possibly be three months ere I reach 'that bourne whence no traveller returns,' but that in all probability I shall arrive there in less than half that time.

"And there is much I would say to you, my brother; much in which I need your kind help. You will be coming North for the hot season; I would gladly have you, your sweet wife and baby-boy spend it here with us; and to me it seems that there are few pleasanter places than this little home-nest of ours high up on the rocky banks of the grand old Hudson River. We have pure air and magnificent scenery, and it will be most comforting to me to have your loved companionship as I go down into the valley of the shadow of death.

"Thank God, it is only the shadow, and I shall go down into it leaning on the strong arm of my beloved. Jesus will be with me to the very end.

"But I may be asking too much of my sweet sister Elsie; you and she have, perchance, formed other plans more congenial to your tastes and wishes. If so, let me not interfere with them; consider my request withdrawn. Yet, shall I not have at least a sight of your loved faces ere I go hence to return no more?

"Lovingly, ERIC."

Elsie could scarce see the signature from the fast-falling tears.

"The dear brother!" she sobbed. "But, oh, Lester, be comforted! His troubles and trials are almost over, the battle nearly ended, the victory well-nigh won; and we know he will come off more than conqueror through Him that loved him!"

"Yes, I know, I know it; but he has been a dear brother to me, and, oh, how can I learn to live without him!" he answered, in tones quivering with emotion.

"'Twill only be for a time, love, and then you will be restored to each other, never to part any more forever," Elsie said softly, with her arm about her husband's neck, while her tears mingled with his, and her sweet lips were pressed again and again to his cheek.

He folded her in a close embrace.

"My dear, sweet, precious comforter," he said, "I can never be unhappy while God spares me my wife."

"Nor I, while I have you, dearest," she responded, with an added caress. "And we will go to poor Eric instead of with mamma and the rest to Nantucket."

"My sweet one, I could not ask so great a sacrifice from you," he said.

"I can hardly feel it to be such when I think of your poor brother—our brother; for is he not mine also? We will go to him instead, and I know it will be with mamma's approval, grandpa's also. Ah, here they both come!" she exclaimed, in a tone of satisfaction, as the Ion family carriage was seen approaching through the avenue.

In another moment it had drawn up before the entrance, and Mr. Dinsmore and his daughter alighted. With the quick eye of affection the mother at once noted the sadness of her daughter's countenance, of Lester's also, and scarcely had she exchanged the morning greetings with them ere she inquired the cause.

Lester silently handed her Eric's open letter.

Tears trembled in the soft brown eyes as she read.

In compliance with a mute request from Lester, she passed it on to her father.

There was a moment of silence after Mr. Dinsmore had finished reading, then the elder Elsie said in low, sympathizing tones,

"My dears, you will go to him? Delightful as it would be to have you with us, I could not wish you to refuse such a request from one so near and dear."

"No, mamma dear, nor could we think of refusing," answered her daughter, quickly, glancing tenderly at her husband as she spoke, and receiving a grateful, loving look in return.

"Certainly not," said Mr. Dinsmore; "but I see no reason why you should not accompany us on our voyage, spend a few days at Nantucket, and then go on to New York. Do you, Lester?"

"No, sir; and if my little wife approves of that plan, we will adopt it,"

He turned inquiringly to her.

"I should like it very much," she said. "If you are quite sure it will not delay us too long," she added as an after-thought.

"No, scarcely at all, I think," returned Lester; "so we will consider that settled."

"Ah, I am glad that we shall not lose your company altogether," Mrs. Travilla said. "And do not despair for your brother, Lester, for many very sick people have recovered, even after being given up by the doctors. We know, too, that with God nothing is impossible, and that He is the hearer and answerer of prayer. We will unite our petitions in behalf of Eric, and if it shall be for God's glory and his good, he will be restored to health."

"Yes, mother; I have not a doubt of that," returned Mr. Leland, "nor of my dear brother's safety in any case. He is one who has lived the life of a Christian for years, and I am sure dying grace will be given him for dying time—whenever that shall come."

"And well may you be," said Mrs. Travilla, "for not one of all God's promises ever fails, and to each of His children He has said, 'As thy days, so shall thy strength be.'"

"If you want to answer your letter by return of mail, Lester, do not let us hinder you," said Mr. Dinsmore. "We are going to the village presently, and will mail it for you, if you like."

"Thank you; then I shall write at once," Lester replied, as he rose and left them.

"This change of plan will involve some change in your intended preparations, will it not, Elsie?" asked Mrs. Travilla.

"Not very much, mamma, as we are not likely to take part in any gayeties. I shall not need to have any new dresses made; indeed, I think I have already a full supply of everything necessary or desirable, in the way of dress, for both baby and myself."

"Then you will be ready for the trip as soon as any of us?" her grandfather said inquiringly.

"Yes, sir; I could pack to-day and start this evening if desired to do so," she answered with a smile.

"We will not put you to the test," he said, "but we hope to sail next Tuesday."

CHAPTER III.

"We all do fade as a leaf." (Is. lxiv. 6.)

A fortnight had passed since the day of the reader's introduction to the dwellers in Crag Cottage; the June roses were blooming about it in even richer profusion than before; tree, and shrub and vine were laden with denser foliage; the place looked a very bower of beauty to the eyes of Lester and his Elsie as the hack which had brought them from the nearest steamboat-landing slowly wound its way up the hill on which the cottage stood.

On the vine-covered porch Eric lay in a hammock, his little daughter, as usual, by his side.

Though losing flesh and strength day by day, he still persevered with his work; had spent some hours over it this morning, but was resting now, his cheek fanned by the pure, sweet air from the mountain and river, his eyes now feasting upon the beauties of the surrounding scenery, and anon turning with fond, fatherly affection upon the face of the child he loved so well.

She was proving herself an excellent nurse for one of her age; never weary of waiting upon her loved patient, always striving to anticipate his every want, and doing her best to entertain him and make him forget his pain.

She was talking of their expected guests.

"I am so glad they are coming, papa," she said, "for I hope it will cheer you and do you much good to see your brother."

"And sister," he added with a faint smile; "your Aunt Elsie is a very lovely and interesting woman."

"Yes, but I hope they will let me have my father to myself sometimes," she said, laying her cheek lovingly against the hand that was clasping hers. "I'm hardly willing to share you even with Uncle Lester."

"No, not all the time," he responded; "we must have an hour alone together now and then. I should not like to be deprived of it any more than you."

She had lifted her head, and was gazing toward the river. "Papa, I think they are here!" she exclaimed. "There is a carriage coming up the drive."

"Ah, I hope so," he said, his pale cheek flushing with pleasure; and excitement lending him momentary strength, he hastily stepped from the hammock, and with Evelyn went forward to greet and welcome the travellers as they alighted, the hack having now drawn up before the entrance.

Both Lester and Elsie were much moved at sight of their brother—so sadly changed from the vigorous man from whom they parted less than a year before.

Elsie had much ado to hide her emotion, and even Lester's voice was husky and tremulous as he returned Eric's greeting and made inquiries regarding his health.

"It is much the same as when I wrote you," Eric answered, holding fast to his brother's hand, and gazing with a look of strong affection into his face. "And you are quite well?"

"Quite, thank you; but about yourself, Eric? Would it not be well to have other advice?"

"I believe there is none better than I have had, brother," Eric said. Then turning to caress the little one in its nurse's arms, "What a fine little fellow! a truly beautiful child, Sister Elsie. Ah, Lester I rejoice that you have a son to keep up the family name. May he live to be a great blessing to you both!"

"How sweet and pretty he is!" Evelyn said, caressing him in her turn. "Aunt Elsie, shall I show you to your room?"

"If you please, dear." And they passed on into the house together, while Eric dropped exhausted into an easy-chair, and Lester took possession of another close at his side.

"You are very weak, Eric," he remarked, in a tone of mingled affection and concern; "and I fear suffer a great deal of pain."

"Yes, a good deal at times; but," he added with a joyous smile, "I shall soon be in that land where there shall be no more pain, and the inhabitants shall not say 'I am sick.'"

"Don't speak of it," said Lester hoarsely; "I must hope there are yet years of life in this world before you."

"What a very pleasant room; what a delightful prospect from that window looking toward the river!" Elsie exclaimed, as Evelyn led the way into the spacious, airy apartment set apart for the occupation of herself and husband during their stay.

"I think it is," Evelyn returned in a quiet tone; "that was the reason papa and I selected it for you. We have two other spare rooms, but this is the largest and has the loveliest views from its windows."

"Thank you, dear. Is your mamma well?"

"I suppose so; she was when we heard last, a day or two ago. She is at Newport, Aunt Elsie; she found herself so worn out, she said, with attending to the claims of society, that a trip to the seashore was quite a necessity. Do you put the claims of society before everything else, Aunt Elsie?"

"Indeed no," returned Elsie, with a happy laugh. "I'm afraid I put them last on my list: husband, baby, mother, grandpa, brothers and sisters, all come before society with me."

"So they shall with me when I'm a woman," said Evelyn with decision; "and papa shall always, always be first. I don't know how mamma can bear to be away from him so much; especially now when he is so weak and ailing. And I am quite mortified that she is not here to welcome you. She said she would be back in time, but now writes that she finds Newport so delightful, and the sea-breezes doing her so much good, that she can't tear herself away just yet."

"Well, dear, as she is your mother and my sister, we will try not to criticise or find fault with her," responded Elsie, in a gently soothing tone.

"No; I ought not," acknowledged Evelyn; "papa never does; at least not to me. Mamma said she thought we could entertain you for a short time, and we mean to do our best."

"Yes, dear child; but we must not allow your father to exert himself to that end; we did not come to be entertained, but to try to be of use to him."

"It was very kind," said Evelyn, gratefully; "it must have been quite a sacrifice, for you to leave that beautiful Nantucket so soon after arriving there; I know about it, because we were there two summers ago, and I could hardly bear to come away."

"It is very pleasant there, but so it is here also," responded Elsie.

Evelyn looked much pleased. "I am glad you like it, Aunt Elsie," she said. "I think it the dearest spot on earth; but then it has always been my home."

"You are justly partial to it, Evelyn," Elsie said, "for it is a sweet spot."

"Thank you. Our dinner will be ready in about an hour from now; but don't take the trouble to dress, there will be no one but ourselves," Evelyn said, retiring.

Elsie was not sorry to learn that her sister-in-law was absent from home; for though neither really disliked the other, they were not congenial; their opinions, their tastes, their views of life, its pleasures and its duties, were so widely different that they could have but little in common.

A proud, self-important woman would have taken offence at the lack of hospitality and consideration shown her in the failure of the mistress of the house to be present with a welcome on her arrival, but such was not Elsie's character. She had but a humble opinion of her own importance and her own deserts, so very readily excused and overlooked the neglect.

But his wife's conduct was very mortifying to Eric, as he showed in his apology for her, on Elsie's rejoining him and Lester on the porch.

Elsie accepted his excuses very sweetly, assuring him that she expected to find much enjoyment in his society, her husband's, and Evelyn's, and would have been very sorry had Laura returned home for her sake before her visit to Newport was completed.

Evelyn, too, felt much chagrin on account of the lack of courtesy and hospitality in her mother's behavior toward these relatives, esteemed by herself and her father as worthy of all honor. She made no remark about it to either of them, but tried very earnestly to fill her mother's place as hostess during her absence.

She was a very womanly little girl, with a quaint, old-fashioned manner which Elsie thought quite charming. It was touching to see the devoted affection with which she hovered over and waited upon her sick father. She was seldom absent from his side for more than a few minutes at a time, except when he sent her out for air and exercise.

Elsie usually accompanied her on her walks and drives, while Lester remained with his brother.

Eric seized these opportunities to open his heart to Lester in regard to the future of his only and beloved child, his one great anxiety in the prospect of death.

"I cannot leave her to her mother's care," he said, with a sigh and a look of anguish. "It is a sad, a humiliating thing to say in regard to one's wife, but I have been sorely disappointed in my choice of a partner for life.

"We married for love, and she is very dear to me still, but our tastes and views are widely dissimilar. She has no relish for the quiet pleasures of home, finds the duties of a wife and mother extremely irksome, and is not content unless living in a constant whirl of excitement, a never-ending round of pleasure-parties, balls, concerts, and other fashionable amusements.

"I cannot join her in it; and so, for years past, we have gone our separate ways.

"Evelyn, her mother having no time to bestow upon her, has been left almost entirely to me, and I have earnestly striven to train her up to a noble Christian womanhood; to cultivate her mind and heart, and give her a taste for far higher pleasures than those to be found in the giddy whirl of fashionable follies.

"I think I have already succeeded to some extent; but she is so young that, of course, much of the work yet remains to be done; and Laura is not the person to carry it on; also, I think, would not covet the task.

"Lester, if you will undertake her guardianship and receive her into your family, to be brought up under the influence of your lovely wife and mother-in-law, I shall die happy. Would it be asking too much, my dear brother?"

"You could not ask too much of me, Eric," Lester said with emotion; "and if my Elsie is willing, it shall be as you wish."

Eric expressed his thanks, and his hope that Elsie would not object.

"My darling will not be a troublesome charge," he said; "she has her faults, of course, but they are not of a kind to make her a disagreeable inmate of your family; and her admiration for her Aunt Elsie is so great that, doubtless, she will yield readily to her wishes and study to be like her in her loveliness of character and manners."

"Yes; Evelyn is a child any father might be proud of," assented Lester. "Surely her mother cannot help being fond of her, and you would not separate them, Eric?"