Poems & Short Stories: 4,271
Forum Members: 70,634
Forum Posts: 1,033,546
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
"They are going to have a Christmas tree at Ion, one at Fairview, one at Roselands, and I suppose one at the Oaks," remarked Ned Raymond one morning at the breakfast table. "But I guess folks think Elsie and I have grown too old for such things," he added in a tone of melancholy resignation and with a slight sigh.
"A very sensible conclusion, my son," said the captain cheerfully, with a twinkle of amusement in his eye. "But now that you have grown so manly you can enjoy more than ever giving to others. The presents you have bought for your little cousins can be sent to be put on their trees, those for the poor to the schoolhouses; and if you choose you can be there to see the pleasure with which they are received. Remember what the Bible says: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"
"Oh, yes, so it is!" cried the little fellow, his face brightening very much. "I do like to give presents and see how pleased folks look that get them."
"And as papa is so liberal to all of us in the matter of pocket money, we can every one of us have that pleasure," said Grace.
"Yes; and I know we're going to," laughed Ned. "We didn't go so many times to the city and stay so long there for nothing. And I don't believe grandma and papa and mamma did either."
"No," said his mother; "and I don't believe anybody—children, friend, relative, servant, or poor neighbor—will find himself neglected. And I am inclined to think the gifts will be enjoyed even if we have no tree."
"Oh, yes, mamma! and I'm glad to be the big fellow that I am, even if it does make me have to give up some of the fun I had when I was small," Ned remarked with an air of satisfaction.
"And to-night will be Christmas Eve, won't it, papa?" asked Elsie.
"Yes, daughter; and some of us will be going this afternoon to trim the tree in the schoolhouse. Do you, Elsie and Ned, want to be of the party?"
"Oh, yes, sir! yes, indeed!" was the joyous answering exclamation of both. Then Elsie asked: "Are you going too, mamma? Sisters Lu and Gracie too?" glancing inquiringly at them.
All three replied that they would like to go, but had some work to finish at home.
A part of that work was the trimming of the tree, which was brought in and set up after the departure of the captain, Elsie, and Ned for the schoolhouse.
Violet's brothers, Harold and Herbert, came in and gave their assistance as they had done some years before when Max, Lucilla, and Grace had been the helpers of their father at the schoolhouse. The young girls had enjoyed that, but this was even better, as those for whom its fruits were intended were nearer and dearer. They had a merry, happy time embellishing the tree with many ornaments, and hanging here and there mysterious packages, each carefully wrapped and labelled with the name of its intended recipient.
"There!" said Violet at length, stepping back a little and taking a satisfied survey, "I think we have finished."
"Not quite," said Harold. "But you and the girls may please retire while Herbert and I attend to some small commissions of our good brother—the captain."
"Ah! I was not aware that he had given you any," laughed Violet. "But come, girls, we will slip away and leave them to their own devices."
"I am entirely willing to do so," returned Lucilla gayly, following in her wake as she left the room.
"I, too," said Grace, hastening after them, "for one never loses by falling in with papa's plans."
"What is it, Harold?" asked Herbert. "The captain has not let me into his secret."
"Only that his gifts to them—his wife and daughters—are in this closet and to be taken out now and added to the fruits of this wondrous tree," replied Harold, taking a key from his pocket and unlocking a closet door.
"Ah! something sizable, I should say," laughed Herbert, as four large pasteboard boxes came into view.
"Yes; what do you suppose they contain?" returned his brother, as they drew them out. "Ah, this top one—somewhat smaller than the others—bears little Elsie's name, I see, and the other three must be for Vi, Lu, and Grace. Probably they are new cloaks or some sort of wraps."
"Altogether likely," assented Herbert. "Well, when they are opened in
the course of the evening, we shall see how good a guess we have made.
And here," taking a little package from his pocket, "is something
Chester committed to my care as his Christmas gift to his betrothed."
"Ah! do you know what it is?"
"Not I," laughed Herbert, "but though a great deal smaller than her father's present, it may be worth more as regards moneyed value."
"Yes; and possibly more as regards the giver; though Lu is evidently exceedingly fond of her father."
"Yes, indeed! as all his children are and have abundant reason to be."
Herbert hung the small package on a high branch, then said: "These large boxes we will pile at the foot of the tree; Vi's at the bottom, Elsie's at the top, the other two in between."
"A very good arrangement," assented Herbert, assisting him.
"There, we have quite finished and I feel pretty well satisfied with the result of our labors," said Harold, stepping a little away from the tree and scanning it critically from top to bottom.
"Yes," assented Herbert, "it is about as attractive a Christmas tree as I ever saw. It is nearing tea time now and the captain and the children will doubtless soon return. I think I shall accept his and Vi's invitation to stay to that meal; as you will, will you not?"
"Yes; if no call comes for my services elsewhere." And with that they went out, Harold locking the door and putting the key into his pocket.
They found the ladies in one of the parlors and chatted there with them until the Woodburn carriage was seen coming up the drive. It drew up before the door and presently Elsie and Ned came bounding in, merry and full of talk about all they had done and seen at the schoolhouse.
"We had just got all the things on the tree when the folks began to come," Elsie said: "and oh, Mamma, it was nice to see how glad they were to get their presents! I heard one little girl say to another, 'this is the purtiest bag, with the purtiest candy and the biggest orange ever I seed.' And the one she was talking to said, 'Yes, and so's mine. And aint these just the goodest cakes!' After that they each—each of the girls in the school I mean—had two pair of warm stockings and a woollen dress given them, and they went wild with delight."
"Yes; and the boys were just as pleased with their coats and shoes," said Ned. "And the old folks too with what they got, I guess. I heard some of them thank papa and say he was a very good, kind gentleman."
"As we all think," said Violet, with a pleased smile. "But come upstairs with me now; for it is almost tea time and you need to be made neat for your appearance at the table."
They were a merry party at the tea table and enjoyed their fare, but did not linger long over it. On leaving the table, Violet led the way to the room where she, her brothers, and Lucilla and Grace had been so busy; Harold produced the key and threw the door open, giving all a view of the Christmas tree with its tempting fruits and glittering ornaments.
Ned, giving a shout of delight, rushed in to take a nearer view, Elsie following close in his wake, the older ones not far behind her. Christine, having another key to the door, had been there before them and lighted up the room and the tree so that it could be seen to the very best advantage.
"Oh, what a pile of big, big boxes!" exclaimed Elsie. "And there's my name on the top one! Oh, papa, may I open it?"
His only reply was a smile as he threw off the lid and lifted out a very handsome baby astrakhan fur coat.
"Oh! oh!" she cried, "is it for me, papa?"
"If it fits you," he replied. "Let me help you to try it on." He suited the action to the word, while Harold lifted the box and pointing to the next one, said, "This seems to be yours, Gracie. Shall I lift the lid for you?"
"Oh, yes, if you please," she cried. "Oh! oh! one for me too! Oh, how lovely!" as another baby astrakhan fur coat came to light.
He put it about her shoulders while Harold lifted away that box and, pointing to the address on the next, asked Lucilla if he should open that for her.
"Yes, indeed! if you please," she answered, her eyes shining with pleasure.
He did so at once, bringing to light a very handsome sealskin coat.
"Oh, how lovely! how lovely!" she exclaimed, examining it critically.
"Papa, thank you ever so much!"
"You are heartily welcome, daughters, both of you," he said; for Grace too was pouring out her thanks, her lovely blue eyes sparkling with delight.
And now Violet's box yielded up its treasure—a mate to Lu's—and she joined the young girls in their thanks to the giver and expressions of appreciation of the gift.
"Here, Lu, I see this bears your name," said Harold, taking a small package from the tree and handing it to her. She took it, opened it, and held up to view a beautiful gold chain and locket. As she opened the latter, "From Chester," she said with a blush and a smile, "and oh, what a good likeness!"
"His own?" asked Violet. "Ah, yes! and a most excellent one," she added, as Lucilla held it out for her inspection.
All, as they crowded around to look, expressed the same opinion.
"Oh, here's another big bundle!" exclaimed Ned; "and with your name, mamma, on it! And it's from grandma. See!" pointing to the label.
"Let me open it for you, my dear," said the captain, and doing so brought to light a tablecloth and dozen napkins of finest damask, with Violet's initials beautifully embroidered in the corner of each.
"Oh, they are lovely!" she said with a look of delight, "and worth twice as much for having such specimens of mamma's work upon them. I know of nothing she could have given me which I would have prized more highly."
There was still more—a great deal more fruit upon that wonderful tree; various games, books, and toys for the children of the family and the servants; suitable gifts for the parents of the latter, useful and handsome articles for Christine and Alma, and small remembrances for different members of the family from relatives and friends.
Chester joined them before the distribution was quite over and was highly pleased with his share, especially the handkerchiefs embroidered by the deft fingers of his betrothed.
The captain too seemed greatly pleased with his as well as with various other gifts from his wife, children, and friends.
The distribution over, Violet's brothers hastened to Ion to go through a similar scene there. And much the same thing was in progress at the home of each of the other families of the connection.
Grandma Elsie's gift to each daughter, including Zoe, was similar to that given to Violet, tablecloth and napkins of the finest damask, embroidered by her own hands with the initials of the recipient—a most acceptable present to each.
Ned had received a number of very gratifying presents and considered himself as having fared well; but Christmas morning brought him a glad surprise. When breakfast and family worship were over his father called him to the outer door and pointing to a handsome pony grazing near at hand, said in his pleasant tones, "There is a Christmas gift from Captain Raymond to his youngest son. What do you think of it, my boy?"
"Oh, papa," cried the little fellow, clapping his hands joyously, "thank you, thank you! It's just the very best present you could have thought of for me! He's a little beauty and I'll be just as good to him as I know how to be."
"I hope so indeed," said his father; "and if you wish you may ride him over to Ion this morning."
"Oh, yes, papa! but mayn't I ride him about here a while just now, so as to be sure I'll know how to manage him on the road?"
"Why, yes; I think that's a good idea; but first put on your overcoat and cap. The air is too cool for a ride without them."
"Oh, mamma and sisters!" cried Ned, turning about to find them standing near as most interested spectators, "haven't I got just the finest of all the Christmas gifts from papa?"
"The very best for you, I think, sonny boy," returned his mother, giving him a hug and a kiss.
"And we are all very glad for you," said Grace.
"I as well as the rest, dear Ned," added Elsie, her eyes shining with pleasure.
"And we expect you to prove yourself a brave and gallant horseman, very kind and affectionate to your small steed," added Lucilla, looking with loving appreciation into the glad young face.
"Yes, indeed, I do mean to be ever so good to him," rejoined the little lad, rushing to the hat-stand and, with his mother's help, hastily assuming his overcoat and cap. "I'm all ready, papa," he shouted the next moment, racing out to the veranda where the captain was giving directions to a servant.
"Yes, my son, and so shall I be when I have slipped on my coat and cap," returned his father, taking them, with a smile of approval, from Lucilla, who had just brought them.
The next half hour passed very delightfully to little Ned, learning under his father's instruction to manage skilfully his small steed. Having had some lessons before in the riding and management of a pony, he succeeded so well that, to his extreme satisfaction, he was allowed to ride it to Ion and exhibit it there, where its beauty and his horsemanship were commented upon and admired to his heart's content.
The entire connection was invited to take Christmas dinner at Ion, and when they gathered about the table not one was missing. Everybody seemed in excellent spirits and all were well excepting Chester, who had a troublesome cough.
"I don't quite like that cough, Chester," said Dr. Conly at length, "and if you ask me for a prescription it will be a trip to Florida."
"Thank you, Cousin Art," returned Chester with a smile. "That would be a most agreeable medicine if I could spare the time and take with me the present company, or even a part of it."
"Meaning Lu, I presume, Ches," laughed Zoe.
"Among the rest; she is one of the present company," he returned pleasantly.
"What do you say, captain, to taking your family down there for a few weeks?" asked Dr. Conly, adding, "I don't think it would be a bad thing for Grace."
"I should have no objection if any of my family need it, or if they all wish to go," said the captain, looking at his wife and older daughters as he spoke.
"A visit to Florida would be something new and very pleasant, I think," said Violet.
"As I do, papa," said Grace. "Thank you for recommending it for me,
Cousin Arthur," she added, giving him a pleased smile.
"Being very healthy I do not believe I need it, but I should greatly enjoy going with those who do," said Lucilla, adding in an aside to Chester, who sat next her, "I do hope you can go and get rid of that trying cough."
"Perhaps after a while; not just yet," was his low-toned reply. "I hardly know what I should like better."
"Well, don't let business hinder; your life and health are of far more importance than that, or anything else."
His only answer to that was a smile which spoke appreciation of her solicitude for him.
No more was said on the subject just then, but it was talked over later in the evening and quite a number of those present seemed taken with a desire to spend a part of the winter in Florida. Chester admitted that by the last of January he could probably go without sacrificing the interests of his clients, and the captain remarked that by that time Max would be at home and could go with them.
Grandma Elsie, her father and his wife, also Cousin Ronald and his Annis, pledged themselves to be of the party, and so many of the younger people hoped they might be able to join that it bade fair to be a large one.
"Are we going in our yacht, papa?" asked Ned Raymond.
"Some of us, perhaps, but it is unfortunately not large enough to hold us all comfortably," was the amused reply.
"Not by any means," said Dr. Conly, "but the journey can be taken more quickly by rail, and probably more safely at this time of the year."
Their plans were not matured before separating for the night, but it seemed altogether probable that quite a large company from that connection would visit Florida before the winter was over; and at the Woodburn breakfast the next morning the captain, in reply to some questions in regard to the history of that State, suggested that they, the family, should take up that study as a preparation for their expected visit there.
"I will procure the needed books," he said, "and distribute them among you older ones to be read at convenient times during the day and reported upon when we are all together in the evenings."
"An excellent idea, my dear," said Violet. "I think we will all enjoy it, for I know that Florida's history is an interesting one."
"Were you ever there, papa?" asked Elsie.
"Yes; and I found it a lovely place to visit at the right time of the year."
"That means the winter time, I suppose?"
"Yes; we should find it unpleasantly warm in the summer."
"How soon are we going, papa?" asked Ned.
"Probably about the 1st of February."
"To stay long?"
"That will depend largely upon how we enjoy ourselves."
"The study of the history of Florida will be very interesting, I am sure, father," said Lucilla; "but we will hardly find time for it until next week."
"No," he replied, "I suppose not until after New Year's—as we are to go through quite a round of family reunions. But in the meantime I will, as I said, procure the needed books."
"And shall we learn lessons in them in school time, papa?" asked Ned.
"No, son; when we are alone together in the evenings—or have with us only those who care to have a share in learning all they can about Florida. Our readers may then take turns in telling the interesting facts they have learned from the books. Do you all like the plan?"
All thought they should like it; so it was decided to carry it out.
That week except Sunday was filled with a round of most enjoyable family festivities, now at the home of one part of the connection, now at another, and wound up with a New Year's dinner at Woodburn. There was a good deal of talk among them about Florida and the pleasure probably to be found in visiting it that winter, to say nothing of the benefit to the health of several of their company—Chester especially, as he still had a troublesome cough.
"You should go by all means, Chester," said Dr. Conly, "and the sooner the better."
"I think I can arrange to go by the 1st of February," replied Chester, "and shall be glad to do so if I can secure the good company of the rest of you, or even some of you."
"Of one in particular, I presume," laughed his brother.
"Will you take us in the yacht, my dear?" asked Violet, addressing her husband.
"If the weather proves suitable we can go in that way—as many as the Dolphin can accommodate comfortably. Though probably some of the company would prefer travelling by rail, as the speedier and, at this season, the safer mode," replied Captain Raymond.
"If we take the yacht you, mamma, will go with us in it, of course," observed Violet. "Grandpa and Grandma, too."
"Thank you, daughter, the yacht always seems very pleasant and homelike to me, and I have great confidence in my honored son-in-law as her commander," returned Mrs. Travilla, with a smiling look at the captain.
He bowed his acknowledgments, saying, "Thank you, mother, I fully appreciate the kindness of that remark." Then turning to his wife's grandfather, "And you, sir, and your good wife, I hope may feel willing to be of our company should we decide to take the yacht?"
"Thank you, captain; I think it probable we will," Mr. Dinsmore said in reply.
"I wish my three brothers may be able to accompany us also," said
Neither one of them felt certain of his ability to do so, but all thought it would be a pleasure indeed to visit Florida in such company. No one seemed ready yet for definite arrangements, but as the trip was not to be taken for a month prompt decision was not esteemed necessary, and shortly after tea most of them bade good-night and left for their homes.
Chester was one of the last to go, but it was not yet very late when Lucilla and Grace sought their own little sitting-room and lingered there for a bit of chat together.
Their father had said they need not hasten with their preparations for bed, as he was coming in presently for a few moments. They had hardly finished their talk when he came in.
"Well, daughters," he said, taking a seat between them on the sofa and putting an arm about the waist of each, "I hope you have enjoyed this first day of a new year?"
"Yes, indeed, papa," both replied. "And we hope you have also," added
"I have," he said. "I think we may well be called a happy and favored family. But I wonder," he added with a smiling glance from one to the other, "if my older daughters have not been a trifle disappointed that their father has made them no New Year's gift of any account."
"Why, papa!" they both exclaimed, "you gave us such elegant and costly Christmas gifts and each several valuable books to-day. We should be very ungrateful if we did not think that quite enough."
"I am well satisfied that you should think it enough," he returned laughingly, "but I do not. Here is something more." As he spoke he took from his pocket two sealed envelopes and put one into the hand of each.
They took them with a pleased, "Oh, thank you, papa!" and hastened to open them and examine the contents.
"What is it, papa?" asked Grace with a slightly puzzled look at a folded paper found in hers.
"A certificate of stock which will increase your allowance of pocket money to about ten dollars a week."
"Oh, how nice! how kind and generous you are, papa!" she exclaimed, putting an arm about his neck and showering kisses on his lips and cheek.
"And mine is just the same, is it not, papa?" asked Lucilla, taking her turn in bestowing upon him the same sort of thanks. "But oh, I am afraid you are giving us more than you can well spare!"
"No, daughter dear," he said, "you need trouble yourselves with no fears on that score. Our kind heavenly Father has so prospered me that I can well afford it; and I have confidence in my dear girls that they will not waste it, but will use it wisely and well."
"I hope so, papa," said Grace. "You have taught us that our money is a talent for which we will have to give an account."
"Yes, daughter, I hope you will always keep that in mind, and be neither selfish nor wasteful in the use you put it to."
"I do not mean to be either, papa," she returned; "and I may always consult you about it, may I not?"
"Whenever it pleases you to do so I shall be happy to listen and advise you to the best of my ability," he answered with an affectionate look and smile.
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.