Christmas with grandma e.., p.1
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       Christmas with Grandma Elsie, p.1

           Martha Finley
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Christmas with Grandma Elsie




  Author of _Elsie Dinsmore_, _Elsie at Nantucket_, _Mildred and Elsie_,_Our Fred_, _Wanted, a Pedigree_, etc.



  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 alandscape sheeted with ice: walks and roads were slippery with it, everytree and shrub was encased in it, and glittering and sparkling as ifloaded with diamonds, as its branches swayed and tossed in the wind. AtIon Mrs. Elsie Travilla stood at the window of her dressing-room gazingwith 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. Hecasteth forth his ice like morsels.'

  "Ah, good morning, my dears," as the door opened and Rosie and Waltercame in together.

  "Good morning, dearest mamma," they returned, hastening to her to giveand receive the affectionate kiss with which they were accustomed tomeet at the beginning of a new day.

  "I'm so glad the long storm is over at last," said Rosie; "it is reallydelightful to see the sunshine once more."

  "And the beautiful work of the Frost king reflecting his rays," addedher mother, calling their attention to the new beauties of the everattractive landscape spread out before them.

  Both exclaimed in delight "How beautiful, mamma!" Rosie adding, "It mustbe that the roads are in fine condition for sleighing. I hope we cango."

  "O mamma, can't we?" cried Walter. "Won't you give us a holiday?"

  "I shall take the question into consideration," she answered with anindulgent smile; "we will perhaps discuss it at the breakfast table: butnow 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 ofdispensing with school duties for the day that all the family mightenjoy 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 yourconvictions in regard to what is right and wise."

  "We will go," he said, smiling fondly upon her, "I can not bear to haveyou miss the pleasure; nor the children either for that matter, though Iam a little afraid I might justly be deemed weakly indulgent inaccording them a holiday again so soon: it is against my principles toallow lessons to be set aside for other than very weighty reasons; it isa matter of so great importance that they be trained to put dutiesfirst, giving pleasure a secondary place."

  "But they are so good and industrious," said Violet, "and the sleighingis not likely to last long. It seldom does with us."

  "And they have been so closely confined to the house of late, by theinclemency of the weather," he added. "Yes: they shall go; for it willdo them a great deal of good physically, I think, and health is, afterall, of more consequence for them than rapid advancement in theirstudies."

  "I should think so indeed," said Violet. "Now the next question is whereshall we go?"

  "That is a question for my wife to settle," returned the captaingallantly. "I shall be most happy to accompany her wherever she decidesthat 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 motherto join us in a longer ride."

  "Oh couldn't we hire an omnibus sleigh and ask them all to join us? Itwould just about hold the two families."

  "It is a trifle odd that the same idea had just occurred to me," heremarked pleasantly. "I will telephone at once to the town, and if I canengage a suitable sleigh, will call to Ion and give our invitation."

  The reply from the village was satisfactory; also that from Ion, givenby Grandpa Dinsmore, who said he would venture to accept the invitationfor all the family without waiting to consult them.

  The captain reported to Violet, then passed on into the apartments ofhis little daughters. He found them up and dressed, standing at thewindow 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 hisoutstretched 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 youto-day?" she asked, looking coaxingly up into his face.

  "Why, my child, the walks and roads are sheeted with ice; you could notstand, much less walk on them."

  "I think I could, papa, if--if you'd only let me try. But oh don't looktroubled, 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 ridingin the close carriage to church yesterday."

  "Yes; and I know it has been hard for you," he said, smoothing her hairwith 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 andgiven, 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 lastweek," added Lulu, in a remorseful tone. "Papa, I really think Ioughtn't to be let go."

  "And I really think I should not be deprived of the pleasure of havingmy dear eldest daughter with me on this first sleigh-ride of theseason," 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 verypleasant time," the captain said, rising and taking a hand of each tolead them down to the breakfast-room, for the bell was ringing.

  At Ion the family were gathering about the table to partake of theirmorning meal. Walter waited rather impatiently till the blessing hadbeen 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 hassomething to say."

  "Something that Walter will be glad to hear, I make no doubt," remarkedMr. Dinsmore, giving the child a kindly look and smile. "Capt. Raymondand I have had a little chat through the telephone this morning. Heinvites us all to join the Woodburn family in a sleigh-ride, he iscoming for us in an omnibus sleigh; and I accepted for each and everyone 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.

  "About ten."

  "And where does he propose to take us?" inquired Zoe.

  "I presume wherever the ladies of the party decide that they would liketo go."

  "Surely, papa, the gentlemen also should have a voice in that," hisdaughter said, sending him a bright, affectionate look from behind thecoffee-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 haveno doubt we would all enjoy the ride in any direction where thesleighing is good."

  "I think it will prove fine on all the roads," remarked Edward, "and Ipresume everybody, would enjoy driving over to Fairview, the
Laurels andthe Oaks to call on our nearest relatives; perhaps to the Pines andRoselands also, to see the cousins there."

  "That would be nice," said Zoe, "but don't you suppose they may beimproving the sleighing opportunity as well as ourselves? may be drivingover here to call on us?"

  "Then, when we meet, the question will be who shall turn round and goback, and who keep on," laughed Rosie.

  "But to avoid such an unpleasant state of affairs we have only to askand, answer a few questions through the telephone," said Edward.

  "Certainly," said his grandfather, "and we'll attend to it the firstthing on leaving the table."

  Everybody was interested, and presently all were gathered about thetelephone, while Edward, acting as spokesman of the party, called tofirst one and then another of the households nearly related tothemselves.

  The answers came promptly, and it was soon evident that all wereintending to avail themselves of the somewhat rare opportunity offeredby the snow and ice covered roads, none planning to stay at home toreceive calls. They would all visit Ion if the ladies there were likelyto 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 andevening here. I shall be much pleased to have them all do so."

  The message went the rounds, everybody accepted the invitation, andElsie's orders for the day to cook and housekeeper, were givenaccordingly.

  The Woodburn party arrived in high spirits, a sleigh, containing theFairview family, driving up at the same time. They had room for one moreand wanted "mamma" to occupy it; but the captain and Violet would notresign their claim, and Evelyn and Lulu showed a strong desire to betogether; so the former was transferred to the Woodburn sleigh, and Zoeand Edward took the vacant seats in that from Fairview.

  The two vehicles kept near together, their occupants, the childrenespecially, were very gay and lively. They talked of last year's holidaysports, and indulged in pleasing anticipations in regard to what mightbe in store for them in those now drawing near.

  "We had a fine time at the Oaks, hadn't we, girls?" said Max, addressingEvelyn 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 andWalter's and mine. I want all the young people of the connection--and asmany of the older ones as we can make room for--to come to Ion for theChristmas holidays, or at least the greater part of them; we will settleparticulars as to the time of coming and going, later on. Captain, Iwant 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 inthe way of our acceptance of your invitation," he said; but added with aplayful look at Violet, "unless my wife should object."

  "If I should, mamma, you will receive my regrets in due season," laughedViolet.

  The faces of the children were beaming with delight, and their youngvoices united in a chorus of expressions of pleasure and thanks toGrandma Elsie.

  "I am glad you are all pleased with the idea," she said. "We will try toprovide as great a variety of amusements as possible, and shall be gladof any hints or suggestions from old or young in regard to anything newin that line."

  "We will all try to help you, mamma," Violet said, "and not be jealousor envious if your party should far outshine ours of last year."

  "And we have more than a month to get ready in," remarked Rosie withsatisfaction. "Oh I'm so glad mamma has decided on it in such goodseason!"

  "Hello!" cried Max, glancing back toward an intersecting road which theyhad just crossed, "Here they come!"

  "Who?" asked several voices, while all turned their heads to see forthemselves.

  "The Oaks, and the Roselands folks," answered Max, and as he spoke twolarge sleighs came swiftly up in the rear of their own, their occupantscalling out merry greetings, and receiving a return in kind.

  The wind had fallen, the cold was not intense, and they were so wellprotected against it by coats and robes of fur, that they scarcely feltit, and found the ride so thoroughly enjoyable that they kept it upthrough the whole morning, managing their return so that Ion was reachedonly a few minutes before the dinner hour.

  Ion was a sort of headquarters for the entire connection, and everybodyseemed to feel perfectly at home. Grandma Elsie was a most hospitablehostess, and it was a very cheerful, jovial party that surrounded herwell-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 suchmatters as particularly interested them--their studies, sports, plansfor the purchase or making of Christmas gifts, and what they hoped ordesired to receive. "I want jewelry," said Sidney Dinsmore. "I'd ratherhave that than anything else. But it must be handsome: a diamond pin orring, 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 forChristmas."

  "I'd rather have diamonds anyhow," persisted Sydney. "See Maud's newring, just sent her by a rich old aunt of ours. I'm sure it looks lovelyon her finger and shows off the beauty of her hand."

  "Yes, I've been admiring it," said Lulu, "and I thought I'd never seenit before."

  Maud held out her hand with, evident pride and satisfaction, while theothers 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 beworth a good deal; that centre stone is quite large, you see, and thereare six others in a circle around it."

  "I should think you'd feel very rich," remarked Lulu; "I'd go fairlywild with delight if I had such an one given me."

  "Well then, why not give your father a hint that you'd like such aChristmas gift from him?" asked Sydney.

  "I'm afraid it would cost too much," said Lulu, "and I wouldn't wantpapa to spend more on me than he could well afford."

  "Why, he could afford it well enough!" exclaimed Maud. "Your father isvery 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 uscomfortable; but millions means a great deal doesn't it?"

  "I should say so indeed! more than your mind or mine can grasp the ideaof."

  Lulu's eyes sparkled. "I'm ever so glad for papa!" she said; "he's justthe right person to have a great deal of money, for he will be sure tomake the very best use of it."

  "And for a part of it, that will be diamonds for you, won't it?" laughedMaud.

  "I hope the captain will think so by the time she's grown up," remarkedRosie, with a pleasant look at Lulu; "or sooner if they come to bethought suitable for girls of her age."

  "That's nice in you Rosie," Lulu said, flushing with pleasure, "and Ihope you will get your pearls this Christmas."

  "I join in both wishes," said Evelyn Leland, "and hope everyone of youwill receive a Christmas gift quite to her mind: but, oh girls, don'tyou think it would be nice to give a good time to the poor people aboutus?"

  "What poor people?" asked Sydney.

  "I mean both the whites and the blacks," explained Evelyn. "There arethose 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 goodtime!--nice th
ings to eat and to wear, and toys too. I'll talk to papaabout 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 probablyquite as poor and forlorn," said Lora Howard. "Oh I think it would bedelightful to get them all together somewhere and surprise them with aChristmas tree loaded with nice things! Lets do it, girls. We all havesome pocket money, and we can get our fathers and mothers to tell us howto 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 Iwish to give my own particular friends," objected Sydney.

  "It's nice, and right too, I think, to give tokens of love to our dearones," Evelyn said, "but we need not make them very expensive in orderto give pleasure;--often they would prefer some simple little thing thatis the work of our own hands--and so we would have something left forthe poor and needy, whom the Bible teaches us we should care for andrelieve to the best of our ability."

  "Yes, I daresay you are right," returned Sydney, "but I sha'n't make anyrash promises in regard to the matter."

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