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   Chapter 14 No.14

Elsie at Home By Martha Finley Characters: 15098

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

The wedding had been on Wednesday. On Thursday all gathered, by invitation, at the Oaks, where Mr. and Mrs. Dinsmore gave them a royal entertainment. On Friday the same thing was repeated at The Laurels, on Saturday at Fairview, and on the following Monday all were to assemble at Woodburn.

Being a Christian, Sabbath keeping connection, no one thought for a moment of profaning the Lord's day by frivolity and merry making. Those who were able attended church in the morning; in the afternoon the Ion and Woodburn people taught their Sunday-school classes as usual, and afterward held a Bible class among themselves at Woodburn, that being the point nearest to the schoolhouse on the Woodburn place, at which they had just concluded the exercises for the day.

Dr. and Mrs. Landreth and her brother, the Rev. Cyril Keith were, just at that time, among the guests of Captain and Mrs. Raymond, and, by the request of the little company, the minister led the exercises.

Turning over the leaves of his Bible, "The thought strikes me," he said, "that perhaps godliness would be as good a subject for to-day's consideration as we could find. 'Godliness with contentment is great gain,' the apostle tells us. It is a duty and the part of wisdom to be contented with what God our heavenly Father has seen fit to give us of the good things of this life; for there is no happiness to be found in discontent, murmuring, and repining; envying those who seem to us to have a larger share than ours of the riches and pleasures of earth. 'We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And, having food and raiment, let us be therewith content.' Happiness does not depend upon the amount of our earthly possessions. 'Trust in the Lord and do good, so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.' That promise alone should be enough to make one contented and happy, even though possessed of but very little of this world's goods. Indeed, why should we care to have much of that which may at any moment fall from our grasp? Let us rather seek the true riches which endure unto eternal life. Let us follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. May ours be 'the path of the just which is as the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.'

"But I consented, not to the preaching of a sermon, but only to the leading of the exercises in which all are privileged and desired to take a part. Let us have the reading or quoting of texts bearing upon the subject of godliness."

Then, from their open Bibles they read in turn, the older people selecting for themselves, the younger searching out references given them by their leader.

"Papa," asked Neddie, when there was a pause in the reading, "what is godliness? Does it mean the same as being a Christian?"

"Yes, my son."

"And to be a Christian is to love Jesus and try to be like him and serve him everywhere and all the time?"

"Yes; a real, true Christian is one who follows Christ, striving to be like him in every way and to keep all his commands."

"I think I do want to, papa. Please tell me more about it."

"We must study the Bible to learn all about Christ Jesus-how he lived in this world, what he did, and what he did not do, what sort of spirit he showed-and strive to have the same spirit ourselves; for the Bible tells us 'If any man have not the spirit of Christ he is none of his.' Jesus said, 'I must be about my Father's business,' and if God is our Father we too will be about his business."

"But how, papa? I don't understand it."

"Jesus came to save souls; and we must try to save them by leading them to him; first by serving him ourselves, then by persuading others to do the same-telling them of all his great goodness and mercy, his loving kindness, and how he suffered and bled and died that sinners might be saved-even those who hated and persecuted him. How strange it is that we do not love him more and serve him better!"

"And how enduring is that love-the love of Christ," added Grandma Elsie. "His own word is, 'Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.'"

"And he laid down his life for us," said Mrs. Landreth. "And he himself said, 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you.'"

"Yes, that is the test," said Mr. Dinsmore; "we have no right to consider ourselves his disciples unless we are striving earnestly to keep all his commandments. He himself said, 'Either make the tree good and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for a tree is known by his fruit.'"

"Yes; if we love our Father we will strive earnestly to keep his commandments and not feel them to be grievous. A loving child is an obedient one," said Mr. Keith. "'For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.'"

"'God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,'" quoted his son Donald. "In his love and in his pity he redeemed us."

Then there was a moment's pause, presently broken by Mr. Dinsmore starting the hymn "Love divine, all love excelling," in which the other voices promptly joined.

That closed the exercises for that time, and those who had come merely to take part in them bade good-bye for that day with the expectation of returning on the following one. And those who remained behind scattered to their rooms until the summons of the tea bell brought them together again about the table, to partake of their evening meal; after which they repaired to the veranda and spent in conversation and music, suited to its sacredness, the closing hours of that Lord's day.

Captain Raymond and his wife lingered for a little upon the veranda after their guests had gone to their rooms. They sat side by side-he with his arm about her waist, her hand fast clasped in his, while her head rested upon his shoulder and her eyes looked up lovingly into his face.

"My dear," she said softly and with a beautiful smile, "I am so happy. I love you so, so devotedly, and am so sure that your love for me is equally strong."

"I think it is, my darling-light of my eyes and core of my heart," he responded low and feelingly. "You are to me the dearest, sweetest, loveliest of earthly creatures. I can never cease wondering at my great good fortune in securing such a treasure for my own. I am rich, rich in love. My children are all very near and dear to me, and I know and feel that I am to them, but you-ah, I think you are dearer than all five of them put together!"

"Ah," she said with a joyous smile, "those are sweet, sweet words to me! And yet they make me feel almost as if I had robbed them-your children. They all love you so dearly, as you have said, and set so high a value upon your love to them."

"And it is very great: none the less because my love for you is still greater. You, my dear wife, are my second self-'bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.' It is right that our mutual love should exceed all other earthly loves."

"Yes; and yet I fear it would make Lu-perhaps Gracie also-unhappy to know that you have greater love for anyone else than for them."

"I think they do know it, and also that it is right that it should be so. And I presume they will both some day love someone else better than their father. I cannot blame them if they do."

"Perhaps t

he love differs more in kind than degree," Violet said presently.

"Yes; there is something in that," he returned; "yet it is not altogether that which satisfies me. We are all bidden to love one another. 'Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it.... So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.... Let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself.'"

He paused and Violet finished the quotation.

"'And the wife see that she reverence her husband.' Ah, it is easy for me to do that with such a husband as mine," she added. "Also, I remember that in Paul's epistle to Titus there is a passage, where the aged women are bidden to teach the younger ones to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children. And in the next verse to be obedient to their husbands. I think I have kept that command as far as I could without getting any orders from mine," she concluded, smiling up into his eyes.

"Yes, indeed, dearest," he said, returning the smile and drawing her closer to his side with a fond gesture, "where one's slightest wish is promptly and eagerly complied with a command would be altogether superfluous. And though I consider it wise and right-yes, an unquestionable duty to exact prompt, cheerful obedience from my children, I do not think I should ask it of my wife. The women of the apostle's day were not the educated, self-reliant ones of the present time; therefore our wives are hardly to be expected to conform themselves strictly to the rules he lays down for them. But if husband and wife love each other as they ought,-as you and I do, for instance,-any friction between them will be a thing of rare occurrence."

"And when, if ever, there is any," said Violet, "I think the wife should be the one to give way-unless she feels that to yield to the wishes of her husband would be a breach of the moral law; but in that case she must remember the answer of Peter to the high priest, 'We ought to obey God rather than men.'"

"Yes," he said; "and when a parent commands something which is plainly contrary to God's command,-lying or stealing for instance,-it is the child's duty to refuse to obey. There are parents, alas! who do train their children to vice and crime, and when that is the case they, the children, must remember and act upon the teaching of the apostle, 'We ought to obey God rather than men.'"

"How I pity children who are placed in such circumstances," sighed Violet. "Oh, I often think what a cause for gratitude I have in the fact that my parents were earnest Christians, and brought me and all their children up in the fear of God; also that my children have an earnest, devoted Christian for their father."

"And for their mother, my sweet wife," he added with emotion.

Neither spoke again for some moments. It was Violet who broke the silence.

"My dear," she said, "I wonder if you have noticed, as I have, that my cousin Donald greatly admires our Lu."

"Ah! has he told you so, my love?" queried the captain, a touch of regret and anxiety in his tone.

"Oh, no!" laughed Violet; "but he looks at her with evidently admiring eyes, listens eagerly to anything and everything she says, and especially to her playing and singing; which are certainly worth hearing. He greatly admires her drawings and paintings, too, some of which I was showing him the other day; also her evident devotion to her father, and readiness to assist and make herself useful to him in every possible way."

"Yes," sighed the captain, "her father would hardly know what to do without her. Yet, of course, I should be far from willing to stand in the way of my child's happiness. However, I hope and believe that her father is still nearer and dearer to her than any other human creature. She has often assured me that such was the fact; not waiting to be questioned, but telling the story of her love as something in which we could both rejoice, and which she was sure was reciprocal. As it certainly is. I love her very dearly; though not more than I do each of the others. Indeed, it gives me a heartache to think I shall ever be called to part with any one of them."

"Not very soon, I hope," said Violet. "You have frequently told me you did not intend to let either of your daughters marry for years to come."

"No, I do not; and as I dread the pain, for both them and myself, which would be caused by the necessity for refusing to let them follow their inclinations in such a matter, I sincerely hope no one will succeed in winning their affections for years to come."

"Then if I am right about Donald and he asks your permission to make an offer to Lu, you will forbid him to do so?"

At first the captain's only reply was an amused sort of smile. Then he said: "I must tell you of a talk Donald and I had, some years ago, at West Point. You perhaps remember that I took Max and Lulu there, and found Donald already at the hotel, and we spent a few days together, the children with us nearly all the time. One night I sent them early to bed, and, afterward, spent an hour or more talking with my friend alone on the piazza. In that talk he expressed a great admiration for my little girl, and-half in jest, half in earnest-asked leave to try to win her when she should reach a proper age. I told him certainly not for at least six years. It is five now."

"Then he ought to wait at least another year," remarked Violet, who had listened with keen interest to her husband's little story.

"Yes; and I hope he will feel that obligation and refrain, for the present at least, from courting her. And, though I should be sorry for my friend's disappointment, I cannot help hoping that he has not won, and will not win, my daughter's heart. I want to become neither his father, nor my daughter's cousin," he added with a slight laugh.

"Why, yes, to be sure! I had not thought about those relationships," exclaimed Violet, joining in his mirth. "But," she added, "Donald is so distant a relative of mine that, if that were the only objection, it need not, I think, stand in the way."

"No, perhaps not. A greater objection to me, so far as I am concerned, would be the fact that, if married to an army officer, my daughter would be kept at a distance from me nearly all the time."

"And to me, as well as to you, that would be an almost insurmountable objection; for Lu and I are now the closest and dearest of friends-bosom companions. I should hardly know what to do without her-the dear, sweet girl!"

"Ah! it makes me very happy to hear and know that," he said with a glad smile, adding, "it is hardly news; for I have seen for a good while that you were very fond of each other."

"Yes; we are like sisters. I should miss Lu almost more than I shall Rosie, as we are together so much more constantly. Oh, I don't like to think of it! and I sincerely hope it may be years before she learns to love any other man well enough to be willing to leave her sweet home under her father's roof."

"A hope in which I join with all my heart," said her husband; "and one that I trust Donald is not going to ask me to resign."

"If he does, just remind him of the exact terms of the answer you gave him at West Point," returned Violet in playful tones. "But now I think it is time for us to retire; do not you?" releasing herself from his embrace and rising to her feet as she spoke.

"Yes," he said, "I would not have my wife miss her beauty sleep."

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