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´╗┐Title: Elsie Dinsmore
Author: Finley, Martha, 1828-1909
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Elsie Dinsmore" ***

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ELSIE DINSMORE

BY

MARTHA FINLEY



CHAPTER FIRST


   "I never saw an eye so bright,
     And yet so soft as hers;
   It sometimes swam in liquid light,
     And sometimes swam in tears;
   It seemed a beauty set apart
     For softness and for sighs."
                                 --MRS. WELBY.


The school-room at Roselands was a very pleasant apartment; the
ceiling, it is true, was somewhat lower than in the more modern portion
of the building, for the wing in which it was situated dated back to
the old-fashioned days prior to the Revolution, while the larger part
of the mansion had not stood more than twenty or thirty years; but the
effect was relieved by windows reaching from floor to ceiling, and
opening on a veranda which overlooked a lovely flower-garden, beyond
which were fields and woods and hills. The view from the veranda was
very beautiful, and the room itself looked most inviting, with its neat
matting, its windows draped with snow-white muslin, its comfortable
chairs, and pretty rosewood desks.

Within this pleasant apartment sat Miss Day with her pupils, six in
number. She was giving a lesson to Enna, the youngest, the spoiled
darling of the family, the pet and plaything of both father and mother.
It was always a trying task to both teacher and scholar, for Enna was
very wilful, and her teacher's patience by no means inexhaustible.

"There!" exclaimed Miss Day, shutting the book and giving it an
impatient toss on to the desk; "go, for I might as well try to teach
old Bruno. I presume he would learn about as fast."

And Enna walked away with a pout on her pretty face, muttering that she
would "tell mamma."

"Young ladies and gentlemen," said Miss Day, looking at her watch, "I
shall leave you to your studies for an hour; at the end of which time I
shall return to hear your recitations, when those who have attended
properly to their duties will be permitted to ride out with me to visit
the fair."

"Oh! that will be jolly!" exclaimed Arthur, a bright-eyed,
mischief-loving boy of ten.

"Hush!" said Miss Day sternly; "let me hear no more such exclamations;
and remember that you will not go unless your lessons are thoroughly
learned. Louise and Lora," addressing two young girls of the respective
ages of twelve and fourteen, "that French exercise must be perfect, and
your English lessons as well. Elsie," to a little girl of eight,
sitting alone at a desk near one of the windows, and bending over a
slate with an appearance of great industry, "every figure of that
example must be correct, your geography lesson recited perfectly, and a
page in your copybook written without a blot."

"Yes, ma'am," said the child meekly, raising a pair of large soft eyes
of the darkest hazel for an instant to her teacher's face, and then
dropping them again upon her slate.

"And see that none of you leave the room until I return," continued the
governess. "Walter, if you miss one word of that spelling, you will
have to stay at home and learn it over."

"Unless mamma interferes, as she will be pretty sure to do," muttered
Arthur, as the door closed on Miss Day, and her retreating footsteps
were heard passing down the hall.

For about ten minutes after her departure, all was quiet in the
school-room, each seemingly completely absorbed in study. But at the
end of that time Arthur sprang up, and flinging his book across the
room, exclaimed, "There! I know my lesson; and if I didn't, I shouldn't
study another bit for old Day, or Night either."

"Do be quiet, Arthur," said his sister Louise; "I can't study in such a
racket."

Arthur stole on tiptoe across the room, and coming up behind Elsie,
tickled the back of her neck with a feather.

She started, saying in a pleading tone, "Please, Arthur, don't."

"It pleases me to do," he said, repeating the experiment.

Elsie changed her position, saying in the same gentle, persuasive tone,
"O Arthur! _please_ let me alone, or I never shall be able to do this
example."

"What! all this time on one example! you ought to be ashamed. Why, I
could have done it half a dozen times over."

"I have been over and over it," replied the little girl in a tone of
despondency, "and still there are two figures that will not come right."

"How do you know they are not right, little puss?" shaking her curls as
he spoke.

"Oh! please, Arthur, don't pull my hair. I have the answer--that's the
way I know."

"Well, then, why don't you just set the figures down. I would."

"Oh! no, indeed; that would not be honest."

"Pooh! nonsense! nobody would be the wiser, nor the poorer."

"No, but it would be just like telling a lie. But I can never get it
right while you are bothering me so," said Elsie, laying her slate
aside in despair. Then taking out her geography, she began studying
most diligently. But Arthur continued his persecutions--tickling her,
pulling her hair, twitching the book out of her hand, and talking
almost incessantly, making remarks, and asking questions; till at last
Elsie said, as if just ready to cry, "Indeed, Arthur, if you don't let
me alone, I shall never be able to get my lessons."

"Go away then; take your book out on the veranda, and learn your
lessons there," said Louise. "I'll call you when Miss Day comes."

"Oh! no, Louise, I cannot do that, because it would be disobedience,"
replied Elsie, taking out her writing materials.

Arthur stood over her criticising every letter she made, and finally
jogged her elbow in such a way as to cause her to drop all the ink in
her pen upon the paper, making quite a large blot.

"Oh!" cried the little girl, bursting into tears, "now I shall lose my
ride, for Miss Day will not let me go; and I was so anxious to see all
those beautiful flowers."

Arthur, who was really not very vicious, felt some compunction when he
saw the mischief he had done. "Never mind, Elsie," said he. "I can fix
it yet. Just let me tear out this page, and you can begin again on the
next, and I'll not bother you. I'll make these two figures come right
too," he added, taking up her slate.

"Thank you, Arthur," said the little girl, smiling through her tears;
"you are very kind, but it would not be honest to do either, and I had
rather stay at home than be deceitful."

"Very well, miss," said he, tossing his head, and walking away, "since
you won't let me help you, it is all your own fault if you have to stay
at home."

"Elsie," exclaimed Louise, "I have no patience with you! such
ridiculous scruples as you are always raising. I shall not pity you one
bit, if you are obliged to stay at home."

Elsie made no reply, but, brushing away a tear, bent over her writing,
taking great pains with every letter, though saying sadly to herself
all the time, "It's of no use, for that great ugly blot will spoil it
all."

She finished her page, and, excepting the unfortunate blot, it all
looked very neat indeed, showing plainly that it had been written with
great care. She then took up her slate and patiently went over and over
every figure of the troublesome example, trying to discover where her
mistake had been. But much time had been lost through Arthur's teasing,
and her mind was so disturbed by the accident to her writing that she
tried in vain to fix it upon the business in hand; and before the two
troublesome figures had been made right, the hour was past and Miss Day
returned.

"Oh!" thought Elsie, "if she will only hear the others first, I may be
able to get this and the geography ready yet; and perhaps, if Arthur
will be generous enough to tell her about the blot, she may excuse me
for it."

But it was a vain hope. Miss Day had no sooner seated herself at her
desk, than she called, "Elsie, come here and say that lesson; and bring
your copybook and slate, that I may examine your work."

Elsie tremblingly obeyed.

The lesson, though a difficult one, was very tolerably recited; for
Elsie, knowing Arthur's propensity for teasing, had studied it in her
own room before school hours. But Miss Day handed back the book with a
frown, saying, "I told you the recitation must be perfect, and it was
not."

She was always more severe with Elsie than with any other of her
pupils. The reason the reader will probably be able to divine ere long.

"There are two incorrect figures in this example," said she, laying
down the slate, after glancing over its contents. Then taking up the
copy-book, she exclaimed, "Careless, disobedient child! did I not
caution you to be careful not to blot your book! There will be no ride
for you this morning. You have failed in everything. Go to your seat.
Make that example right, and do the next; learn your geography lesson
over, and write another page in your copy-book; and, mind, if there is
a blot on it, you will get no dinner."

Weeping and sobbing, Elsie took up her books and obeyed.

During this scene Arthur stood at his desk pretending to study, but
glancing every now and then at Elsie, with a conscience evidently ill
at ease. She cast an imploring glance at him, as she returned to her
seat; but he turned away his head, muttering, "It's all her own fault,
for she wouldn't let me help her."

As he looked up again, he caught his sister Lora's eyes fixed on him
with an expression of scorn and contempt. He colored violently, and
dropped his eyes upon his book.

"Miss Day," said Lora, indignantly, "I see Arthur does not mean to
speak, and as I cannot bear to see such injustice, I must tell you that
it is all his fault that Elsie has failed in her lessons; for she tried
her very best, but he teased her incessantly, and also jogged her elbow
and made her spill the ink on her book; and to her credit she was too
honorable to tear out the leaf from her copy-book, or to let him make
her example right; both which he very generously proposed doing after
causing all the mischief."

"Is this so, Arthur?" asked Miss Day, angrily.

The boy hung his head, but made no reply.

"Very well, then," said Miss Day, "you too must stay at home."

"Surely," said Lora, in surprise, "you will not keep Elsie, since I
have shown you that she was not to blame."

"Miss Lora," replied her teacher, haughtily, "I wish you to understand
that I am not to be dictated to by my pupils."

Lora bit her lip, but said nothing, and Miss Day went on hearing the
lessons without further remark.

In the meantime the little Elsie sat at her desk, striving to conquer
the feelings of anger and indignation that were swelling in her breast;
for Elsie, though she possessed much of "the ornament of a meek and
quiet spirit," was not yet perfect, and often had a fierce contest with
her naturally quick temper. Yet it was seldom, very seldom that word or
tone or look betrayed the existence of such feelings; and it was a
common remark in the family that Elsie had no spirit.

The recitations were scarcely finished when the door opened and a lady
entered dressed for a ride.

"Not through yet, Miss Day?" she asked.

"Yes, madam, we are just done," replied the teacher, closing the French
grammar and handing it to Louise.

"Well, I hope your pupils have all done their duty this morning, and
are ready to accompany us to the fair," said Mrs. Dinsmore. "But what
is the matter with Elsie?"

"She has failed in all her exercises, and therefore has been told that
she must remain at home," replied Miss Day with heightened color and in
a tone of anger; "and as Miss Lora tells me that Master Arthur was
partly the cause, I have forbidden him also to accompany us."

"Excuse me, Miss Day, for correcting you," said Lora, a little
indignantly; "but I did not say _partly,_ for I am sure it was
_entirely_ his fault."

"Hush, hush, Lora," said her mother, a little impatiently; "how can you
be sure of any such thing; Miss Day, I must beg of you to excuse Arthur
this once, for I have quite set my heart on taking him along. He is
fond of mischief, I know, but he is only a child, and you must not be
too hard upon him."

"Very well, madam," replied the governess stiffly, "you have of course
the best right to control your own children."

Mrs. Dinsmore turned to leave the room.

"Mamma," asked Lora, "is not Elsie to be allowed to go too?"

"Elsie is not my child, and I have nothing to say about it. Miss Day,
who knows all the circumstances, is much better able than I to judge
whether or no she is deserving of punishment," replied Mrs. Dinsmore,
sailing out of the room.

"You will let her go, Miss Day?" said Lora, inquiringly.

"Miss Lora," replied Miss Day, angrily, "I have already told you I was
not to be dictated to. I have said Elsie must remain at home, and I
shall not break my word."

"Such injustice!" muttered Lora, turning away.

"Lora," said Louise, impatiently, "why need you concern yourself with
Elsie's affairs? for my part, I have no pity for her, so full as she is
of nonsensical scruples."

Miss Day crossed the room to where Elsie was sitting leaning her head
upon the desk, struggling hard to keep down the feelings of anger and
indignation aroused by the unjust treatment she had received.

"Did I not order you to learn that lesson over?" said the governess,
"and why are you sitting here idling?"

Elsie dared not speak lest her anger should show itself in words; so
merely raised her head, and hastily brushing away her tears, opened the
book. But Miss Day, who was irritated by Mrs. Dinsmore's interference,
and also by the consciousness that she was acting unjustly, seemed
determined to vent her displeasure upon her innocent victim.

"Why do you not speak?" she exclaimed, seizing Elsie by the arm and
shaking her violently. "Answer me this instant. Why have you been
idling all the morning?"

"I have _not_," replied the child hastily, stung to the quick by her
unjust violence. "I have tried hard to do my duty, and you are
punishing me when I don't deserve it at all."

"How dare you? there! take that for your impertinence," said Miss Day,
giving her a box on the ear.

Elsie was about to make a still more angry reply; but she restrained
herself, and turning to her book, tried to study, though the hot,
blinding tears came so thick and fast that she could not see a letter.

"De carriage am waiting, ladies, an' missus in a hurry," said a
servant, opening the door; and Miss Day hastily quitted the room,
followed by Louise and Lora; and Elsie was left alone.

She laid down the geography, and opening her desk, took out a small
pocket Bible, which bore the marks of frequent use. She turned over the
leaves as though seeking for some particular passage; at length she
found it, and wiping away the blinding tears, she read these words in a
low, murmuring tone:

"For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure
grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it if, when ye be
buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if when ye do
well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with
God. For even hereunto were ye called; because Christ also suffered for
us, leaving us an example that ye should follow His steps."

"Oh! I have not done it. I did not take it patiently. I am afraid I am
not following in His steps," she cried, bursting into an agony of tears
and sobs.

"My dear little girl, what is the matter?" asked a kind voice, and a
soft hand was gently laid on her shoulder.

The child looked up hastily. "O Miss Allison!" she said, "is it you? I
thought I was quite alone."

"And so you were, my dear, until this moment" replied the lady, drawing
up a chair, and sitting down close beside her. "I was on the veranda,
and hearing sobs, came in to see if I could be of any assistance. You
look very much distressed; will you not tell me the cause of your
sorrow?"

Elsie answered only by a fresh burst of tears.

"They have all gone to the fair and left you at home alone; perhaps to
learn a lesson you have failed in reciting?" said the lady, inquiringly.

"Yes, ma'am," said the child; "but that is not the worst;" and her
tears fell faster, as she laid the little Bible on the desk, and
pointed with her finger to the words she had been reading. "Oh!" she
sobbed, "I--I did not do it; I did not bear it patiently. I was treated
unjustly, and punished when I was not to blame, and I grew angry. Oh!
I'm afraid I shall never be like Jesus! never, never."

The child's distress seemed very great, and Miss Allison was extremely
surprised. She was a visitor who had been in the house only a few days,
and, herself a devoted Christian, had been greatly pained by the utter
disregard of the family in which she was sojourning for the teachings
of God's word. Rose Allison was from the North, and Mr. Dinsmore, the
proprietor of Roselands, was an old friend of her father, to whom he
had been paying a visit, and finding Rose in delicate health, he had
prevailed upon her parents to allow her to spend the winter months with
his family in the more congenial clime of their Southern home.

"My poor child," she said, passing her arm around the little one's
waist, "my poor little Elsie! that is your name, is it not?"

"Yes, ma'am; Elsie Dinsmore," replied the little girl.

"Well, Elsie, let me read you another verse from this blessed book.
Here it is: 'The blood of Jesus Christ his Son, cleanseth us from _all_
sin.' And here again: 'If any man sin, we have an advocate with the
Father Jesus Christ the righteous.' Dear Elsie, 'if we confess our
sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.'"

"Yes, ma'am," said the child; "I have asked Him to forgive me, and I
know He has; but I am so sorry, oh! _so_ sorry that I have grieved and
displeased Him; for, O Miss Allison! I _do_ love Jesus, and want to be
like Him always."

"Yes, dear child, we must grieve for our sins when we remember that
they helped to slay the Lord. But I am very, very glad to learn that
you love Jesus, and are striving to do His will. I love Him too, and we
will love one another; for you know He says, 'By this shall men know
that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another,'" said Miss
Allison, stroking the little girl's hair, and kissing her tenderly.

"Will you love me? Oh! how glad I am," exclaimed the child joyfully; "I
have nobody to love me but poor old mammy."

"And who is mammy?" asked the lady.

"My dear old nurse, who has always taken care of me. Have you not seen
her, ma'am?"

"Perhaps I may. I have seen a number of nice old colored women about
here since I came. But, Elsie, will you tell me who taught you about
Jesus, and how long you have loved Him?"

"Ever since I can remember," replied the little girl earnestly; "and it
was dear old mammy who first told me how He suffered and died on the
cross for us." Her eyes filled with tears and her voice quivered with
emotion. "She used to talk to me about it just as soon as I could
understand anything," she continued; "and then she would tell me that
my own dear mamma loved Jesus, and had gone to be with Him in heaven;
and how, when she was dying, she put me--a little, wee baby, I was then
not quite a week old--into her arms, and said, 'Mammy, take my dear
little baby and love her, and take care of her just as you did of me;
and O mammy! be sure that you teach her to love God.' Would you like to
see my mamma, Miss Allison?"

And as she spoke she drew from her bosom a miniature set in gold and
diamonds, which she wore suspended by a gold chain around her neck, and
put it in Rose's hand.

It was the likeness of a young and blooming girl, not more than fifteen
or sixteen years of age. She was very beautiful, with a sweet, gentle,
winning countenance, the same soft hazel eyes and golden brown curls
that the little Elsie possessed; the same regular features, pure
complexion, and sweet smile.

Miss Allison gazed at it a moment in silent admiration; then turning
from it to the child with a puzzled expression, she said, "But, Elsie,
I do not understand; are you not sister to Enna and the rest, and is
not Mrs. Dinsmore own mother to them all?"

"Yes, ma'am, to all of them, but not to me nor my papa. Their brother
Horace is my papa, and so they are all my aunts and uncles."

"Indeed," said the lady, musingly; "I thought you looked very unlike
the rest. And your papa is away, is he not, Elsie?"

"Yes, ma'am; he is in Europe. He has been away almost ever since I was
born, and I have never seen him. Oh! how I do wish he would come home!
how I long to see him! Do you think he would love me, Miss Allison? Do
you think he would take me on his knee and pet me, as grandpa does
Enna?"

"I should think he would, dear; I don't know how he could help loving
his own dear little girl," said the lady, again kissing the little rosy
cheek. "But now," she added, rising, "I must go away and let you learn
your lesson."

Then taking up the little Bible, and turning over the leaves, she
asked, "Would you like to come to my room sometimes in the mornings and
evenings, and read this book with me, Elsie?"

"Oh! yes, ma'am, dearly!" exclaimed the child, her eyes sparkling with
pleasure.

"Come then this evening, if you like; and now goodbye for the present."
And pressing another kiss on the child's cheek, she left her and went
back to her own room, where she found her friend Adelaide Dinsmore, a
young lady near her own age, and the eldest daughter of the family.
Adelaide was seated on a sofa, busily employed with some fancy work.

"You see I am making myself quite at home," she said, looking up as
Rose entered. "I cannot imagine where you have been all this time."

"Can you not? In the school-room, talking with little Elsie. Do you
know, Adelaide, I thought she was your sister; but she tells me not."

"No, she is Horace's child. I supposed you knew; but if you do not, I
may just as well tell you the whole story. Horace was a very wild boy,
petted and spoiled, and always used to having his own way; and when he
was about seventeen--quite a forward youth he was too--he must needs go
to New Orleans to spend some months with a schoolmate; and there he
met, and fell desperately in love with, a very beautiful girl a year or
two younger than himself, an orphan and very wealthy. Fearing that
objections would be made on the score of their youth, etc., etc., he
persuaded her to consent to a private marriage, and they had been man
and wife for some months before either her friends or his suspected it.

"Well, when it came at last to papa's ears, he was very angry, both on
account of their extreme youth, and because, as Elsie Grayson's father
had made all his money by trade, he did not consider her quite my
brother's equal; so he called Horace home and sent him North to
college. Then he studied law, and since that he has been traveling in
foreign lands. But to return to his wife; it seems that her guardian
was quite as much opposed to the match as papa; and the poor girl was
made to believe that she should never see her husband again. All their
letters were intercepted, and finally she was told that he was dead;
so, as Aunt Chloe says, 'she grew thin and pale, and weak and
melancholy,' and while the little Elsie was yet not quite a week old,
she died. We never saw her; she died in her guardian's house, and there
the little Elsie stayed in charge of Aunt Chloe, who was an old servant
in the family, and had nursed her mother before her, and of the
housekeeper, Mrs. Murray, a pious old Scotch woman, until about four
years ago, when her guardian's death broke up the family, and then they
came to us. Horace never comes home, and does not seem to care for his
child, for he never mentions her in his letters, except when it is
necessary in the way of business."

"She is a dear little thing," said Rose. "I am sure he could not help
loving her, if he could only see her."

"Oh! yes, she is well enough, and I often feel sorry for the lonely
little thing, but the truth is, I believe we are a little jealous of
her; she is so extremely beautiful, and heiress to such an immense
fortune. Mamma often frets, and says that one of these days she will
quite eclipse her younger daughters."

"But then," said Rose, "she is almost as near; her own grand-daughter."

"No, she is not so very near," replied Adelaide, "for Horace is not
mamma's son. He was seven or eight years old when she married papa, and
I think she was never particularly fond of him."

"Ah! yes," thought Rose, "that explains it. Poor little Elsie! No
wonder you pine for your father's love, and grieve over the loss of the
mother you never knew!"

"She is an odd child," said Adelaide; "I don't understand her; she is
so meek and patient she will fairly let you trample upon her. It
provokes papa. He says she is no Dinsmore, or she would know how to
stand up for her own rights; and yet she has a temper, I know, for once
in a great while it shows itself for an instant--only an instant,
though, and at very long intervals--and then she grieves over it for
days, as though she had committed some great crime; while the rest of
us think nothing of getting angry half a dozen times in a day. And then
she is forever poring over that little Bible of hers; what she sees so
attractive in it I'm sure I cannot tell, for I must say I find it the
dullest of dull books."

"Do you," said Rose; "how strange! I had rather give up all other books
than that one. 'Thy testimonies have I taken as a heritage forever, for
they are the rejoicing of my heart,' 'How sweet are thy words unto my
taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth.'"

"Do you _really_ love it so, Rose?" asked Adelaide, lifting her eyes to
her friend's face with an expression of astonishment; "do tell me why?"

"For its exceeding great and precious promises Adelaide; for its holy
teachings; for its offers of peace and pardon and eternal life. I am a
sinner, Adelaide, lost, ruined, helpless, hopeless, and the Bible
brings me the glad news of salvation offered as a free, unmerited gift;
it tells me that Jesus died to save sinners--just such sinners as I. I
find that I have a heart deceitful above all things and desperately
wicked, and the blessed Bible tells me how that heart can be renewed,
and where I can obtain that holiness without which no man shall see the
Lord. I find myself utterly unable to keep God's holy law, and it tells
me of One who has kept it for me. I find that I deserve the wrath and
curse of a justly offended God, and it tells me of Him who was made a
curse for me. I find that all my righteousnesses are as filthy rags,
and it offers me the beautiful, spotless robe of Christ's perfect
righteousness. Yes, it tells me that God can be just, and the justifier
of him who believes in Jesus."

Rose spoke these words with deep emotion, then suddenly clasping her
hands and raising her eyes, she exclaimed, "'Thanks be unto God for His
unspeakable gift!'"

For a moment there was silence. Then Adelaide spoke:

"Rose," said she, "you talk as if you were a great sinner; but I don't
believe it; it is only your humility that makes you think so. Why, what
have you ever done? Had you been a thief, a murderer, or guilty of any
other great crime, I could see the propriety of your using such
language with regard to yourself; but for a refined, intelligent,
amiable young lady, excuse me for saying it, dear Rose, but such
language seems to me simply absurd."

"Man looketh upon the outward appearance, but the Lord pondereth the
heart," said Rose, gently. "No, dear Adelaide, you are mistaken; for I
can truly say 'mine iniquities have gone over my head as a cloud, and
my transgressions as a thick cloud.' Every duty has been stained with
sin, every motive impure, every thought unholy. From my earliest
existence, God has required the undivided love of my whole heart, soul,
strength, and mind; and so far from yielding it, I live at enmity with
Him, and rebellion against His government, until within the last two
years. For seventeen years He has showered blessings upon me, giving me
life, health, strength, friends, and all that was necessary for
happiness; and for fifteen of those years I returned Him nothing but
ingratitude and rebellion. For fifteen years I rejected His offers of
pardon and reconciliation, turned my back upon the Saviour of sinners,
and resisted all the strivings of God's Holy Spirit, and will you say
that I am not a great sinner?" Her voice quivered, and her eyes were
full of tears.

"Dear Rose," said Adelaide, putting her arm around her friend and
kissing her cheek affectionately, "don't think of these things;
religion is too gloomy for one so young as you."

"Gloomy, dear Adelaide!" replied Rose, returning the embrace; "I never
knew what true happiness was until I found Jesus. My sins often make me
sad, but religion, never.

   "'Oft I walk beneath the cloud,
    Dark as midnight's gloomy shroud;
    But when fear is at the height,
    Jesus comes, and all is light.'"



CHAPTER SECOND


   "Thy injuries would teach patience to blaspheme,
    Yet still thou art a dove."
                             --BEAUMONT'S _Double Marriage._


   "When forced to part from those we love,
      Though sure to meet to-morrow;
    We yet a kind of anguish prove
      And feel a touch of sorrow.
    But oh! what words can paint the fears
      When from these friends we sever,
    Perhaps to part for months--for years--
      Perhaps to part forever."
                                 --ANON.


When Miss Allison had gone, and Elsie found herself once more quite
alone, she rose from her chair, and kneeling down with the open Bible
before her, she poured out her story of sins and sorrows, in simple,
child-like words, into the ears of the dear Saviour whom she loved so
well; confessing that when she had done well and suffered for it, she
had not taken it patiently, and earnestly pleading that she might be
made like unto the meek and lowly Jesus. Low sobs burst from her
burdened heart, and the tears of penitence fell upon the pages of the
holy book. But when she rose from her knees, her load of sin and sorrow
was all gone, and her heart made light and happy with a sweet sense of
peace and pardon. Once again, as often before, the little Elsie was
made to experience the blessedness of "the man whose transgression is
forgiven, whose sin is covered."

She now set to work diligently at her studies, and ere the party
returned was quite prepared to meet Miss Day, having attended
faithfully to all she had required of her. The lesson was recited
without the smallest mistake, every figure of the examples worked out
correctly, and the page of the copy-book neatly and carefully written.

Miss Day had been in a very captious mood all day, and seemed really
provoked that Elsie had not given her the smallest excuse for
fault-finding. Handing the book back to her, she said, very coldly, "I
see you can do your duties well enough when you choose."

Elsie felt keenly the injustice of the remark, and longed to say that
she had tried quite as earnestly in the morning; but she resolutely
crushed down the indignant feeling, and calling to mind the rash words
that had cost her so many repentant tears, she replied meekly, "I am
sorry I did not succeed better this morning, Miss Day, though I did
really try; and I am still more sorry for the saucy answer I gave you;
and I ask your pardon for it."

"You _ought_ to be sorry," replied Miss Day, severely, "and I hope you
are; for it was a very impertinent speech indeed, and deserving of a
much more severe punishment than you received. Now go, and never let me
hear anything of the kind from you again."

Poor little Elsie's eyes filled with tears at these ungracious words,
accompanied by a still more ungracious manner; but she turned away
without a word, and placing her books and slate carefully in her desk,
left the room.

Rose Allison was sitting alone in her room that evening, thinking of
her far-distant home, when hearing a gentle rap at her door, she rose
and opened it to find Elsie standing there with her little Bible in her
hand.

"Come in, darling," she said, stooping to give the little one a kiss;
"I am very glad to see you."

"I may stay with you for half an hour, Miss Allison, if you like," said
the child, seating herself on the low ottoman pointed out by Rose, "and
then mammy is coming to put me to bed."

"It will be a very pleasant half-hour to both of us, I hope," replied
Rose, opening her Bible.

They read a chapter together--Rose now and then pausing to make a few
explanations--and then kneeling down, she offered up a prayer for the
teachings of the Spirit, and for God's blessing on themselves and all
their dear ones.

"Dear little Elsie," she said, folding the child in her arms, when they
had risen from their knees, "how I love you already, and how very glad
I am to find that there is one in this house beside myself who loves
Jesus, and loves to study His word, and to call upon His name."

"Yes, dear Miss Allison; and there is _more_ than one, for mammy loves
Him, too, very dearly," replied the little girl, earnestly.

"Does she, darling? Then I must love her, too, for I cannot help loving
all who love my Saviour."

Then Rose sat down, and drawing the little girl to a seat on her knee,
they talked sweetly together of the race they were running, and the
prize they hoped to obtain at the end of it; of the battle they were
fighting, and the invisible foes with whom they were called to
struggle--the armor that had been provided, and of Him who had promised
to be the Captain of their salvation, and to bring them off more than
conquerors. They were pilgrims in the same straight and narrow way, and
it was very pleasant thus to walk a little while together. "Then they
that feared the Lord spake often one to another; and the Lord hearkened
and heard it; and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them
that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name. And they shall be
mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels;
and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him."

"That is mammy coming for me," said Elsie, as a low knock was heard at
the door.

"Come in," said Rose, and the door opened, and a very nice colored
woman of middle age, looking beautifully neat in her snow-white apron
and turban, entered with a low courtesy, asking, "Is my little missus
ready for bed now?"

"Yes," said Elsie, jumping off Rose's lap; "but come here, mammy; I
want to introduce you to Miss Allison."

"How do you do, Aunt Chloe? I am very glad to know you, since Elsie
tells me you are a servant of the same blessed Master whom I love and
try to serve," said Rose, putting her small white hand cordially into
Chloe's dusky one.

"'Deed I hope I is, missus," replied Chloe, pressing it fervently in
both of hers. "I's only a poor old black sinner, but de good Lord
Jesus, He loves me jes de same as if I was white, an' I love Him an'
all His chillen with all my heart."

"Yes, Aunt Chloe," said Rose, "He is our peace, and hath made both one,
and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; so that
we are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the
saints and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation
of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief
corner-stone."

"Yes, missus, dat's it for sure; ole Chloe knows dat's in de Bible; an'
if we be built on dat bressed corner-stone, we's safe ebery one; I'se
heard it many's de time, an' it fills dis ole heart with joy an' peace
in believing," she exclaimed, raising her tearful eyes and clasping her
hands. "But good night, missus; I must put my chile to bed," she added,
taking Elsie's hand.

"Good-night, Aunt Chloe; come in again," said Rose. "And good-night to
you, too, dear little Elsie," folding the little girl again in her arms.

"Ain't dat a bressed young lady, darlin'!" exclaimed Chloe, earnestly,
as she began the business of preparing her young charge for bed.

"O mammy, I love her so much! she's so good and kind," replied the
child, "and she loves Jesus, and loves to talk about Him."

"She reminds me of your dear mamma, Miss Elsie, but she's not so
handsome," replied the nurse, with a tear in her eye; "ole Chloe tinks
dere's nebber any lady so beautiful as her dear young missus was."

Elsie drew out the miniature and kissed it, murmuring, "Dear, darling
mamma," then put it back in her bosom again, for she always wore it day
and night. She was standing in her white night-dress, the tiny white
feet just peeping from under it, while Chloe brushed back her curls and
put on her night-cap.

"Dere now, darlin', you's ready for bed," she exclaimed, giving the
child a hug and a kiss.

"No, mammy, not quite," replied the little girl, and gliding away to
the side of the bed, she knelt down and offered up her evening prayer.
Then, coming back to the toilet table, she opened her little Bible,
saying, "Now, mammy, I will read you a chapter while you are getting
ready for bed."

The room was large and airy, and Aunt Chloe, who was never willing to
leave her nursling, but watched over her night and day with the most
devoted affection, slept in a cot bed in one corner.

"Tank you, my dear young missus, you's berry good," she said, beginning
the preparations for the night by taking off her turban and replacing
it by a thick night-cap.

When the chapter was finished Elsie got into bed, saying, "Now, mammy,
you may put out the light as soon as you please; and be sure to call me
early in the morning, for I have a lesson to learn before breakfast."

"That I will, darlin'," replied the old woman, spreading the cover
carefully over her. "Good-night, my pet, your ole mammy hopes her chile
will have pleasant dreams."

Rose Allison was an early riser, and as the breakfast hour at Roselands
was eight o'clock, she always had an hour or two for reading before it
was time to join the family circle. She had asked Elsie to come to her
at half-past seven, and punctually at the hour the little girl's gentle
rap was heard at her door.

"Come in," said Rose, and Elsie entered, looking as bright and fresh
and rosy as the morning. She had her little Bible under her arm, and a
bouquet of fresh flowers in her hand. "Good-morning, dear Miss
Allison," she said, dropping a graceful courtesy as she presented it.
"I have come to read, and I have just been out to gather these for you,
because I know you love flowers."

"Thank you, darling, they are very lovely," said Rose, accepting the
gift and bestowing a caress upon the giver. "You are quite punctual,"
she added, "and now we can have our half-hour together before
breakfast."

The time was spent profitably and pleasantly, and passed so quickly
that both were surprised when the breakfast bell rang.

Miss Allison spent the whole fall and winter at Roselands; and it was
very seldom during all that time that she and Elsie failed to have
their morning and evening reading and prayer together. Rose was often
made to wonder at the depth of the little girl's piety and the
knowledge of divine things she possessed. But Elsie had had the best of
teaching. Chloe, though entirely uneducated, was a simple-minded,
earnest Christian, and with a heart full of love to Jesus, had, as we
have seen, early endeavored to lead the little one to Him, and Mrs.
Murray--the housekeeper whom Adelaide had mentioned, and who had
assisted Chloe in the care of the child from the time of her birth
until a few months before Rose's coming, when she had suddenly been
summoned home to Scotland--had proved a very faithful friend. She was
an intelligent woman and devotedly pious, and had carefully instructed
this lonely little one, for whom she felt almost a parent's affection,
and her efforts to bring her to a saving knowledge of Christ had been
signally owned and blessed of God; and in answer to her earnest
prayers, the Holy Spirit had vouchsafed His teachings, without which
all human instruction must ever be in vain. And young as Elsie was, she
had already a very lovely and well-developed Christian character.
Though not a remarkably precocious child in other respects, she seemed
to have very clear and correct views on almost every subject connected
with her duty to God and her neighbor; was very truthful both in word
and deed, very strict in her observance of the Sabbath--though the rest
of the family were by no means particular in that respect--very
diligent in her studies, respectful to superiors, and kind to inferiors
and equals; and she was gentle, sweet-tempered, patient, and forgiving
to a remarkable degree. Rose became strongly attached to her, and the
little girl fully returned her affection.

Elsie was very sensitive and affectionate, and felt keenly the want of
sympathy and love, for which, at the time of Rose's coming, she had no
one to look to but poor old Chloe, who loved her with all her heart.

It is true, Adelaide sometimes treated her almost affectionately, and
Lora, who had a very strong sense of justice, occasionally interfered
and took her part when she was very unjustly accused, but no one seemed
really to care for her, and she often felt sad and lonely. Mr.
Dinsmore, though her own grandfather, treated her with entire neglect,
seemed to have not the slightest affection for her, and usually spoke
of her as "old Crayson's grandchild." Mrs. Dinsmore really disliked
her, because she looked upon her as the child of a stepson for whom she
had never felt any affection, and also as the future rival of her own
children; while the governess and the younger members of the family,
following the example of their elders, treated her with neglect, and
occasionally even with abuse. Miss Day, knowing that she was in no
danger of incurring the displeasure of her superiors by so doing,
vented upon her all the spite she dared not show to her other pupils;
and continually she was made to give up her toys and pleasures to Enna,
and even sometimes to Arthur and Walter. It often cost her a struggle,
and had she possessed less of the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit,
her life had been wretched indeed.

But in spite of all her trials and vexations, little Elsie was the
happiest person in the family; for she had in her heart that peace
which the world can neither give nor take away; that joy which the
Saviour gives to His own, and no man taketh from them. She constantly
carried all her sorrows and troubles to Him, and the coldness and
neglect of others seemed but to drive her nearer to that Heavenly
Friend, until she felt that while possessed of His love, she could not
be unhappy, though treated with scorn and abuse by all the world.

   "The good are better made by ill,
    As odors crushed are sweeter still;"

And even so it seemed to be with little Elsie; her trials seemed to
have only the effect of purifying and making more lovely her naturally
amiable character.

Elsie talked much and thought more of her absent and unknown father,
and longed with an intensity of desire for his return home. It was her
dream, by day and by night, that he had come, that he had taken her to
his heart, calling her "his own darling child, his precious little
Elsie;" for such were the loving epithets she often heard lavished upon
Enna, and which she longed to hear addressed to herself. But from month
to month, and year to year, that longed-for return had been delayed
until the little heart had grown sick with hope deferred, and was often
weary with its almost hopeless waiting. But to return.

"Elsie," said Adelaide, as Miss Allison and the little girl entered the
breakfast-room on the morning after Elsie's disappointment, "the fair
is not over yet, and Miss Allison and I are going to ride out there
this afternoon; so, if you are a good girl in school, you may go with
us."

"Oh! thank you, dear Aunt Adelaide," exclaimed the little girl,
clapping her hands with delight; "how kind you are! and I shall be so
glad."

Miss Day frowned, and looked as if she wanted to reprove her for her
noisy demonstrations of delight, but, standing somewhat in awe of
Adelaide, said nothing.

But Elsie suddenly relapsed into silence, for at that moment Mrs.
Dinsmore entered the room, and it was seldom that she could utter a
word in her presence without being reproved and told that "children
should be seen and not heard," though her own were allowed to talk as
much as they pleased.

Miss Day seemed cross, Mrs. Dinsmore was moody and taciturn,
complaining of headache, and Mr. Dinsmore occupied with the morning
paper; and so the meal passed off in almost unbroken silence. Elsie was
glad when it was over, and hastening to the school-room, she began her
tasks without waiting for the arrival of the regular hour for study.

She had the room entirely to herself, and had been busily engaged for
half an hour in working out her examples, when the opening of the door
caused her to look up, and, to her dismay, Arthur entered. He did not,
however, as she feared, begin his customary course of teasing and
tormenting, but seated himself at his desk, leaning his head upon his
hand in an attitude of dejection.

Elsie wondered what ailed him, his conduct was so unusual, and she
could not help every now and then sending an inquiring glance toward
him, and at length she asked, "What is the matter, Arthur?"

"Nothing much," said he, gruffly, turning his back to her.

Thus repulsed, she said no more, but gave her undivided attention to
her employment; and so diligent was she, that Miss Day had no excuse
whatever for fault-finding this morning. Her tasks were all completed
within the required time, and she enjoyed her promised ride with her
aunt and Miss Allison, and her visit to the fair, very much indeed.

It was still early when they returned; and finding that she had nearly
an hour to dispose of before tea-time, Elsie thought she would finish a
drawing which she had left in her desk in the school-room. While
searching for it and her pencil, she heard Lora's and Arthur's voices
on the veranda.

She did not notice what they were saying, until her own name struck her
ear.

"Elsie is the only person," Lora was saying, "who can, and probably
will, help you; for she has plenty of money, and she is so kind and
generous; but, if I were you, I should be ashamed to ask her, after the
way you acted toward her."

"I wish I hadn't teased her so yesterday," replied Arthur,
disconsolately, "but it's such fun, I can't help it sometimes."

"Well, I know I wouldn't ask a favor of anybody I had treated so," said
Lora, walking away.

Elsie sat still a few moments, working at her drawing and wondering all
the time what it was Arthur wanted, and thinking how glad she would be
of an opportunity of returning him good for evil. She did not like,
though, to seek his confidence, but presently hearing him heave a deep
sigh, she rose and went out on the veranda.

He was leaning on the railing in an attitude of dejection, his head
bent down and his eyes fixed on the floor. She went up to him, and
laying her hand softly on his shoulder, said, in the sweet, gentle
tones natural to her. "What ails you, Arthur? Can I do anything for
you? I will be very glad if I can."

"No--yes--" he answered hesitatingly; "I wouldn't like to ask you
after--after--"

"Oh! never mind," said Elsie, quickly; "I do not care anything about
that now. I had the ride to-day, and that was better still, because I
went with Aunt Adelaide and Miss Allison. Tell me what you want."

Thus encouraged, Arthur replied, "I saw a beautiful little ship
yesterday when I was in the city; it was only five dollars, and I've
set my heart on having it, but my pocket money's all gone, and papa
won't give me a cent until next month's allowance is due; and by that
time the ship will be gone, for it's such a beauty somebody'll be sure
to buy it."

"Won't your mamma buy it for you?" asked Elsie.

"No, she says she hasn't the money to spare just now. You know it's
near the end of the month, and they've all spent their allowances
except Louise, and she says she'll not lend her money to such a
spendthrift as I am."

Elsie drew out her purse, and seemed just about to put it into his
hand; but, apparently changing her mind, she hesitated a moment, and
then returning it to her pocket, said, with a half smile, "I don't
know, Arthur; five dollars is a good deal for a little girl like me to
lay out at once. I must think about it a little."

"I don't ask you to _give_ it," he replied scornfully; "I'll pay it
back in two weeks."

"Well, I will see by to-morrow morning," she said, darting away, while
he sent an angry glance after her, muttering the word "stingy" between
his teeth.

Elsie ran down to the kitchen, asking of one and another of the
servants as she passed, "Where's Pompey?" The last time she put the
question to Phoebe, the cook, but was answered by Pompey himself. "Here
am Pomp, Miss Elsie; what does little missy want wid dis chile?"

"Are you going to the city to-night, Pompey?"

"Yes, Miss Elsie, I'se got some arrants to do for missus an' de family
in ginral, an' I ben gwine start in 'bout ten minutes. Little missy
wants sumpin', eh?"

Elsie motioned to him to come close to her, and then putting her purse
into his hands, she told him in a whisper of Arthur's wish, and
directed him to purchase the coveted toy, and bring it to her, if
possible, without letting any one else know anything about it. "And
keep half a dollar for yourself, Pompey, to pay you for your trouble,"
she added in conclusion.

"Tank you, little missy," he replied, with a broad grin of
satisfaction; "dat be berry good pay, and Pomp am de man to do dis
business up for you 'bout right."

The tea-bell rang, and Elsie hastened away to answer the summons. She
looked across the table at Arthur with a pleasant smile on her
countenance, but he averted his eyes with an angry scowl; and with a
slight sigh she turned away her head, and did not look at him again
during the meal.

Pompey executed his commission faithfully; and when Elsie returned to
her own room after her evening hour with Miss Rose, Chloe pointed out
the little ship standing on the mantel.

"Oh! it's a little beauty," cried Elsie, clapping her hands and dancing
up and down with delight; "how Arthur will be pleased! Now, mammy, can
you take it to the school-room, and put it on Master Arthur's desk,
without anybody seeing you?"

"Ole Chloe'll try, darlin," she said, taking it in her hands.

"Oh! wait one moment," exclaimed Elsie, and taking a card, she wrote on
it, "A present to Arthur, from his niece Elsie." Then laying it on the
deck of the little vessel. "There, mammy," she said, "I think that will
do; but please look out first to see whether any one is in the hall."

"Coast all clear, darlin'," replied Chloe, after a careful survey; "all
de chillens am in bed before dis time, I spec." And taking a candle in
one hand and the little ship in the other, she started for the
school-room. She soon returned with a broad grin of satisfaction on her
black face, saying, "All right, darlin', I put him on Massa Arthur's
desk, an' nobody de wiser."

So Elsie went to bed very happy in the thought of the pleasure Arthur
would have in receiving her present.

She was hurrying down to the breakfast-room the next morning, a little
in advance of Miss Rose, who had stopped to speak to Adelaide, when
Arthur came running up behind her, having just come in by a side door
from the garden, and seizing her round the waist, he said, "Thank you,
Elsie; you're a real good girl! She sails beautifully. I've been trying
her on the pond. But it mustn't be a _present;_ you must let me pay you
back when I get my allowance."

"Oh! no, Arthur, that would spoil it all," she answered quickly; "you
are entirely welcome, and you know my allowance is so large that half
the time I have more money than I know how to spend."

"I should like to see the time that would be the case with me," said
he, laughing. Then in a lower tone, "Elsie, I'm sorry I teased you so.
I'll not do it again soon."

Elsie answered him with a grateful look, as she stepped past him and
quietly took her place at the table.

Arthur kept his word, and for many weeks entirely refrained from
teasing Elsie, and while freed from that annoyance she was always able
to have her tasks thoroughly prepared; and though her governess was
often unreasonable and exacting, and there was scarcely a day in which
she was not called upon to yield her own wishes or pleasures, or in
some way to inconvenience herself to please Walter or Enna, or
occasionally the older members of the family, yet it was an unusually
happy winter to her, for Rose Allison's love and uniform kindness shed
sunshine on her path. She had learned to yield readily to others, and
when fretted or saddened by unjust or unkind treatment, a few moments
alone with her precious Bible and her loved Saviour made all right
again, and she would come from those sweet communings looking as
serenely happy as if she had never known an annoyance. She was a wonder
to all the family. Her grandfather would sometimes look at her as,
without a frown or a pout, she would give up her own wishes to Enna,
and shaking his head, say, "She's no Dinsmore, or she would know how to
stand up for her own rights better than that. _I_ don't like such
tame-spirited people. She's not Horace's child; it never was an easy
matter to impose upon or conquer him. He was a boy of spirit."

"What a strange child Elsie is?" Adelaide remarked to her friend one
day. "I am often surprised to see how sweetly she gives up to all of
us; really she has a lovely temper. I quite envy her; it was always
hard for me to give up my own way."

"I do not believe it was easy for her at first," said Rose. "I think
her sweet disposition is the fruit of a work of grace in her heart. It
is the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which God alone can bestow."

"I wish I had it, then," said Adelaide, sighing.

"You have only to go to the right source to obtain it, dear Adelaide,"
replied her friend, gently.

"And yet," said Adelaide, "I must say I sometimes think that, as papa
says, there is something mean-spirited and cowardly in always giving up
to other people."

"It would indeed be cowardly and wrong to give up _principle_," replied
Rose, "but surely it is noble and generous to give up our own wishes to
another, where no principle is involved."

"Certainly, you are right," said Adelaide, musingly. "And now I
recollect that, readily as Elsie gives up her own wishes to others on
ordinary occasions, I have never known her to sacrifice principle; but,
on the contrary, she has several times made mamma excessively angry by
refusing to romp and play with Enna on the Sabbath, or to deceive papa
when questioned with regard to some of Arthur's misdeeds; yet she has
often borne the blame of his faults, when she might have escaped by
telling of him. Elsie is certainly very different from any of the rest
of us, and if it is piety that makes her what she is, I think piety is
a very lovely thing."

Elsie's mornings were spent in the school-room; in the afternoon she
walked, or rode out, sometimes in company with her young uncles and
aunts, and sometimes alone, a negro boy following at a respectful
distance, as a protector. In the evening there was almost always
company in the parlor, and she found it pleasanter to sit beside the
bright wood-fire in her own room, with her fond old nurse for a
companion, than to stay there, or with the younger ones in the
sitting-room or nursery. If she had no lesson to learn, she usually
read aloud to Chloe, as she sat knitting by the fire, and the Bible was
the book generally preferred by both; and then when she grew weary of
reading, she would often take a stool, and sitting down close to Chloe,
put her head in her lap, saying, "Now, mammy, tell me about mamma."

And then for the hundredth time or more the old woman would go over the
story of the life and death of her "dear young missus," as she always
called her; telling of her beauty, her goodness, and of her sorrows and
sufferings during the last year of her short life.

It was a story which never lost its charm for Elsie; a story which the
one never wearied of telling, nor the other of hearing. Elsie would sit
listening, with her mother's miniature in her hand, gazing at it with
tearful eyes, then press it to her lips, murmuring, "My own mamma;
poor, dear mamma." And when Chloe had finished that story she would
usually say, "Now, mammy, tell me all about papa."

But upon this subject Chloe had very little information to give. She
knew him only as a gay, handsome young stranger, whom she had seen
occasionally during a few months, and who had stolen all the sunshine
from her beloved young mistress' life, and left her to die alone; yet
she did not blame him when speaking to his child, for the young wife
had told her that he had not forsaken her of his own free choice; and
though she could not quite banish from her own mind the idea that he
had not been altogether innocent in the matter, she breathed no hint of
it to Elsie; for Chloe was a sensible woman, and knew that to lead the
little one to think ill of her only remaining parent would but tend to
make her unhappy.

Sometimes Elsie would ask very earnestly, "Do you thing papa loves
Jesus, mammy?" And Chloe would reply with a doubtful shake of the head,
"Dunno, darlin'; but ole Chloe prays for him ebery day."

"And so do I," Elsie would answer; "dear, dear papa, how I wish he
would come home!"

And so the winter glided away, and spring came, and Miss Allison must
soon return home. It was now the last day of March, and her departure
had been fixed for the second of April. For a number of weeks Elsie had
been engaged, during all her spare moments, in knitting a purse for
Rose, wishing to give her something which was the work of her own
hands, knowing that as such it would be more prized by her friend than
a costlier gift. She had just returned from her afternoon ride, and
taking out her work she sat down to finish it. She was in her own room,
with no companion but Chloe, who sat beside her knitting as usual.

Elsie worked on silently for some time, then suddenly holding up her
purse, she exclaimed, "See, mammy, it is all done but putting on the
tassel! Isn't it pretty? and won't dear Miss Allison be pleased with
it?"

It really was very pretty indeed, of crimson and gold, and beautifully
knit, and Chloe, looking at it with admiring eyes, said, "I spec she
will, darlin'. I tink it's berry handsome."

At this moment Enna opened the door and came in.

Elsie hastily attempted to conceal the purse by thrusting it into her
pocket, but it was too late, for Enna had seen it, and running toward
her, cried out, "Now, Elsie, just give that to me!"

"No, Enna," replied Elsie, mildly, "I cannot let you have it, because
it is for Miss Rose."

"I will have it," exclaimed the child, resolutely, "and if you don't
give it to me at once I shall just go and tell mamma."

"I will let you take it in your hand a few moments to look at it, if
you will be careful not to soil it, Enna," said Elsie, in the same
gentle tone; "and if you wish, I will get some more silk and beads, and
make you one just like it; but I cannot give you this, because I would
not have time to make another for Miss Rose."

"No, I shall just have that one; and I shall have it to keep," said
Enna, attempting to snatch it out of Elsie's hand.

But Elsie held it up out of her reach, and after trying several times
in vain to get it, Enna left the room, crying and screaming with
passion.

Chloe locked the door, saying, "Great pity, darlin', we forgot to do
dat 'fore Miss Enna came. I'se 'fraid she gwine bring missus for make
you gib um up."

Elsie sat down to her work again, but she was very pale, and her little
hands trembled with agitation, and her soft eyes were full of tears.

Chloe's fears were but too well founded; for the next moment hasty
steps were heard in the passage, and the handle of the door was laid
hold of with no very gentle grasp; and then, as it refused to yield to
her touch, Mrs. Dinsmore's voice was heard in an angry tone giving the
command, "Open this door instantly."

Chloe looked at her young mistress.

"You will have to," said Elsie, tearfully, slipping her work into her
pocket again, and lifting up her heart in prayer for patience and
meekness, for she well knew she would have need of both.

Mrs. Dinsmore entered, leading the sobbing Enna by the hand; her face
was flushed with passion, and addressing Elsie in tones of violent
anger, she asked, "What is the meaning of all this, you
good-for-nothing hussy? Why are you always tormenting this poor child?
Where is that paltry trifle that all this fuss is about? let me see it
this instant."

Elsie drew the purse from her pocket, saying in tearful, trembling
tones, "It is a purse I was making for Miss Rose, ma'am; and I offered
to make another just like it for Enna; but I cannot give her this one,
because there would not be time to make another before Miss Rose goes
away."

"You _can_ not give it to her, indeed! You _will_ not, you mean; but I
say you _shall;_ and I'll see if I'm not mistress in my own house. Give
it to the child this instant; I'll not have her crying her eyes out
that you may be humored in all your whims. There are plenty of
handsomer ones to be had in the city, and if you are too mean to make
her a present of it, I'll buy you another to-morrow."

"But that would not be my work, and this is," replied Elsie, still
retaining the purse, loath to let it go.

"Nonsense! what difference will that make to Miss Rose?" said Mrs.
Dinsmore; and snatching it out of her hand, she gave it to Enna,
saying, "There, my pet, you shall have it. Elsie is a naughty, mean,
stingy girl, but she shan't plague you while your mamma's about."

Enna cast a look of triumph at Elsie, and ran off with her prize,
followed by her mother, while poor Elsie hid her face in Chloe's lap
and cried bitterly.

It required all Chloe's religion to keep down her anger and indignation
at this unjust and cruel treatment of her darling, and for a few
moments she allowed her to sob and cry without a word, only soothing
her with mute caresses, not daring to trust her voice, lest her anger
should find vent in words. But at length, when her feelings had grown
somewhat calmer, she said soothingly, "Nebber mind it, my poor darlin'
chile. Just go to de city and buy de prettiest purse you can find, for
Miss Rose."

But Elsie shook her head sadly. "I wanted it to be my own work," she
sobbed, "and now there is no time."

"Oh! I'll tell you what, my pet," exclaimed Chloe suddenly, "dere's de
purse you was aknittin' for your papa, an' dey wouldn't send it for
you; you can get dat done for de lady, and knit another for your papa,
'fore he comes home."

Elsie raised her head with a look of relief, but her face clouded
again, as she replied, "But it is not quite done, and I haven't the
beads to finish it with, and Miss Rose goes day after to-morrow."

"Nebber mind dat, darlin'," said Chloe, jumping up; "Pomp he been gwine
to de city dis berry afternoon, an' we'll tell him to buy de beads, an'
den you can get de purse finished 'fore to-morrow night, an' de lady
don't go till de next day, an' so it gwine all come right yet."

"Oh! yes, that will do; dear old mammy, I'm so glad you thought of it,"
said Elsie, joyfully. And rising, she went to her bureau, and unlocking
a drawer, took from it a bead purse of blue and gold, quite as handsome
as the one of which she had been so ruthlessly despoiled, and rolling
it up in a piece of paper, she handed it to Chloe, saying: "There,
mammy, please give it to Pomp, and tell him to match the beads and the
silk exactly."

Chloe hastened in search of Pomp, but when she found him, he insisted
that he should not have time to attend to Miss Elsie's commission and
do his other errands; and Chloe, knowing that he, in common with all
the other servants, was very fond of the little girl, felt satisfied
that it was not merely an excuse, therefore did not urge her request.
She stood a moment in great perplexity, then suddenly exclaimed, "I'll
go myself. Miss Elsie will spare me, an' I'll go right long wid you,
Pomp."

Chloe was entirely Elsie's servant, having no other business than to
wait upon her and take care of her clothing and her room; and the
little girl, of course, readily gave her permission to accompany Pomp
and do the errand.

But it was quite late ere Chloe returned, and the little girl spent the
evening alone in her own room. She was sadly disappointed that she
could not even have her hour with Miss Rose, who was detained in the
parlor with company whom she could not leave, and so the evening seemed
very long and wore away very slowly.

But at last Chloe came, and in answer to her eager inquiries displayed
her purchases with great satisfaction, saying, "Yes, darlin', I'se got
de berry t'ings you wanted."

"Oh! yes," said Elsie, examining them with delight; "they are just
right; and now I can finish it in a couple of hours."

"Time to get ready for bed now, ain't it, pet?" asked Chloe; but before
the little girl had time to answer, a servant knocked at the door, and
handed in a note for her. It was from Miss Allison, and, hastily
tearing it open, she read:

"DEAR ELSIE--I am very sorry that we cannot have our reading together
this evening; but be sure, darling, to come to me early in the morning;
it will be our last opportunity, for, dear child, I have another
disappointment for you. I had not expected to leave before day after
to-morrow, but I have learned this evening that the vessel sails a day
sooner than I had supposed, and therefore I shall be obliged to start
on my journey to-morrow.

"Your friend,                                              ROSE."

Elsie dropped the note on the floor and burst into tears.

"What de matter, darlin'?" asked Chloe, anxiously.

"Oh! Miss Rose, dear, _dear_ Miss Rose is going tomorrow," she sobbed.
Then hastily drying her eyes, she said: "But I have no time for crying.
I must sit up and finish the purse to-night, because there will not be
time to-morrow."

It was long past her usual hour for retiring when at last her task, or
rather her labor of love, was completed. Yet she was up betimes, and at
the usual hour her gentle rap was heard at Miss Allison's door.

Rose clasped her in her arms and kissed her tenderly.

"O Miss Rose! _dear, dear_ Miss Rose, what shall I do without you?"
sobbed the little girl. "I shall have nobody to love me now but mammy."

"You have another and a better friend, dear Elsie, who has said, 'I
will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,'" whispered Rose, with another
tender caress.

"Yes," said Elsie, wiping away her tears; "and He is your Friend, too;
and don't you think, Miss Rose, He will bring us together again some
day?"

"I hope so indeed, darling. We must keep very close to Him, dear Elsie;
we must often commune with Him in secret; often study His word, and try
always to do His will. Ah! dear child, if we can only have the
assurance that that dear Friend is with us--that we have His presence
and His love, we shall be supremely happy, though separated from all
earthly friends. I know, dear little one, that you have peculiar
trials, and that you often feel the want of sympathy and love; but you
may always find them in Jesus. And now we will have our reading and
prayer as usual."

She took the little girl in her lap, and opening the Bible, read aloud
the fourteenth chapter of John, a part of that touching farewell of our
Saviour to His sorrowing disciples; and then they knelt to pray. Elsie
was only a listener, for her little heart was too full to allow her to
be anything more.

"My poor darling!" Rose said, again taking her in her arms, "we will
hope to meet again before very long. Who knows but your papa may come
home, and some day bring you to see me. It seems not unlikely, as he is
so fond of traveling."

Elsie looked up, smiling through her tears, "Oh! how delightful that
would be," she said. "But it seems as though my papa would never come,"
she added, with a deep-drawn sigh.

"Well, darling, we can hope," Rose answered cheerfully. "And, dear
child, though we must be separated in body for a time, we can still
meet in spirit at the mercy-seat. Shall we not do so at this hour every
morning?"

Elsie gave a joyful assent.

"And I shall write to you, darling," Rose said; "I will write on my
journey, if I can, so that you will get the letter in a week from the
time I leave; and then you must write to me; will you?"

"If you won't care for the mistakes, Miss Rose. But you know I am a
very little girl, and I wouldn't like to let Miss Day read my letter to
you, to correct it. But I shall be so very glad to get yours. I never
had a letter in my life."

"I sha'n't care for mistakes at all, dear, and no one shall see your
letters but myself," said Rose, kissing her. "I should be as sorry as
you to have Miss Day look at them."

Elsie drew out the purse and put it in her friend's hand, saying: "It
is all my own work, dear Miss Rose; I thought you would value it more
for that."

"And indeed I shall, darling," replied Rose, with tears of pleasure in
her eyes. "It is beautiful in itself, but I shall value it ten times
more because it is your gift, and the work of your own dear little
hands."

But the breakfast-bell now summoned them to join the rest of the
family, and, in a few moments after they left the table, the carriage
which was to take Rose to the city was at the door. Rose had endeared
herself to all, old and young, and they were loath to part with her.
One after another bade her an affectionate farewell. Elsie was the
last. Rose pressed her tenderly to her bosom, and kissed her again and
again, saying, in a voice half choked with grief, "God bless and keep
you, my poor little darling; my dear, dear little Elsie!"

Elsie could not speak; and the moment the carriage had rolled away with
her friend, she went to her own room, and locking herself in, cried
long and bitterly. She had learned to love Rose very dearly, and to
lean upon her very much; and now the parting from her, with no
certainty of ever meeting her again in this world, was the severest
trial the poor child had ever known.



CHAPTER THIRD


   "The morning blush was lighted up by hope--
    The hope of meeting him."
                                 --Miss LANDON.

   "Unkindness, do thy office; poor heart, break."


A week had now passed away since Miss Allison's departure, and Elsie,
to whom it had been a sad and lonely one, was beginning to look eagerly
for her first letter.

"It is just a week to-day since Rose left," remarked Adelaide at the
breakfast table, "and I think we ought to hear from her soon. She
promised to write on her journey. Ah! here comes Pomp with the letters
now," she added, as the servant man entered the room bearing in his
hand the bag in which he always brought the letters of the family from
the office in the neighboring city, whither he was sent every morning.

"Pomp, you are late this morning," said Mrs. Dinsmore.

"Yes, missus," replied the negro, scratching his head, "de horses am
berry lazy; spec dey's got de spring fever."

"Do make haste, papa, and see if there is not one from Rose," said
Adelaide coaxingly, as her father took the bag, and very deliberately
adjusted his spectacles before opening it.

"Have patience, young lady," said he. "Yes, here is a letter for you,
and one for Elsie," tossing them across the table as he spoke.

Elsie eagerly seized hers and ran away to her own room to read it. It
was a feast to her, this first letter, and from such a dear friend,
too. It gave her almost as much pleasure for the moment as Miss Rose's
presence could have afforded.

She had just finished its perusal and was beginning it again, when she
heard Adelaide's voice calling her by name, and the next moment she
entered the room, saying: "Well, Elsie, I suppose you have read your
letter; and now I have another piece of news for you. Can you guess
what it is?" she asked, looking at her with a strange smile.

"Oh! no, Aunt Adelaide; please tell me. Is dear Miss Rose coming back?"

"O! nonsense; what a guess!" said Adelaide. "No, stranger than that. My
brother Horace--your papa--has actually sailed for America, and is
coming directly home."

Elsie sprang up, her cheeks flushed, and her little heart beating
wildly.

"O Aunt Adelaide!" she cried, "is it really true? is he coming? and
will he be here soon?"

"He has really started at last; but how soon he will be here I don't
know," replied her aunt, turning to leave the room. "I have told you
all I know about it."

Elsie clasped her hands together, and sank down upon a sofa, Miss
Rose's letter, prized so highly a moment before, lying unheeded at her
feet; for her thoughts were far away, following that unknown parent as
he crossed the ocean; trying to imagine how he would look, how he would
speak, what would be his feelings toward her.

"Oh!" she asked, with a beating heart, "_will_ he _love_ me? My own
papa! will he let me love him? will he take me in his arms and call me
his own darling child?"

But who could answer the anxious inquiry? She must just wait until the
slow wheels of time should bring the much longed-for, yet sometimes
half-dreaded arrival.

Elsie's lessons were but indifferently recited that morning, and Miss
Day frowned, and said in a tone of severity that it did not agree with
her to receive letters; and that, unless she wished her papa to be much
displeased with her on his expected arrival, she must do a great deal
better than that.

She had touched the right chord then; for Elsie, intensely anxious to
please that unknown father, and, if possible, gain his approbation and
affection, gave her whole mind to her studies with such a determined
purpose that the governess could find no more cause for complaint.

But while the child is looking forward to the expected meeting with
such longing affection for him, how is it with the father?

Horace Dinsmore was, like his father, an upright, moral man, who paid
an outward respect to the forms of religion, but cared nothing for the
vital power of godliness; trusted entirely to his morality, and looked
upon Christians as hypocrites and deceivers. He had been told that his
little Elsie was one of these, and, though he would not have
acknowledged it even to himself, it had prejudiced him against her.
Then, too, in common with all the Dinsmores, he had a great deal of
family pride; and, though old Mr. Grayson had been a man of sterling
worth, intelligent, honest, and pious, and had died very wealthy, yet
because he was known to have begun life as a poor boy, the whole family
were accustomed to speak as though Horace had stooped very much in
marrying his heiress.

And Horace himself had come to look upon his early marriage as a piece
of boyish folly, of which he was rather ashamed; and so constantly had
Mr. Dinsmore spoken in his letters of Elsie as "old Grayson's
grandchild," that he had got into the habit of looking upon her as a
kind of disgrace to him; especially as she had always been described to
him as a disagreeable, troublesome child.

He had loved his wife with all the warmth of his passionate nature, and
had mourned bitterly over her untimely death; but years of study,
travel and worldly pleasures had almost banished her image from his
mind, and he seldom thought of her except in connection with the child
for whom he felt a secret dislike.

Scarcely anything but the expected arrival was now spoken or thought of
at Roselands, and Elsie was not the only one to whom old Time seemed to
move with an unusually laggard pace.

But at length a letter came telling them that they might look upon it
as being but one day in advance of its writer; and now all was bustle
and preparation.

"O mammy, mammy!" exclaimed Elsie, jumping up and down, and clapping
her hands for joy, as she came in from her afternoon ride, "just think!
papa, dear papa, will be here to-morrow morning."

She seemed wild with delight; but suddenly sobered down, and a look of
care stole over the little face, as the torturing question recurred to
her mind, "_Will he love me?_"

She stood quite still, with her eyes fixed thoughtfully, and almost
sadly, upon the floor, while Chloe took off her riding dress and cap
and smoothed her hair. As she finished arranging her dress she clasped
the little form in her arms, and pressed a fond kiss on the fair brow,
thinking to herself that was the sweetest and loveliest little face she
had ever looked upon.

Just at that moment an unusual bustle was heard in the house.

Elsie started, changed color, and stood listening with a throbbing
heart.

Presently little feet were heard running rapidly down the hall, and
Walter, throwing open the door, called out, "Elsie, he's come!" and
catching her hand, hurried her along to the parlor door.

"Stop, stop, Walter," she gasped as they reached it; and she leaned
against the wall, her heart throbbing so wildly she could scarcely
breathe.

"What is the matter?" said he, "are you ill? come along;" and pushing
the door open, he rushed in, dragging her after him.

So over-wrought were the child's feelings that she nearly fainted;
everything in the room seemed to be turning round, and for an instant
she scarcely knew where she was.

But a strange voice asked, "And who is this?" and looking up as her
grandfather pronounced her name, she saw a stranger standing before
her--very handsome, and very youthful-looking, in spite of a heavy dark
beard and mustache--who exclaimed hastily, "What! this great girl _my_
child? really it is enough to make a man feel old."

Then, taking her hand, he stooped and coldly kissed her lips.

She was trembling violently, and the very depth of her feelings kept
her silent and still; her hand lay still in his, cold and clammy.

He held it an instant, at the same time gazing searchingly into her
face; then dropped it, saying in a tone of displeasure, "I am not an
ogre, that you need be so afraid of me; but there, you may go; I will
not keep you in terror any longer."

She rushed away to her own room, and there, throwing herself upon the
bed, wept long and wildly. It was the disappointment of a lifelong
hope. Since her earliest recollection she had looked and longed for
this hour; and it seemed as though the little heart would break with
its weight of bitter anguish.

She was all alone, for Chloe had gone down to the kitchen to talk over
the arrival, not doubting that her darling was supremely happy in the
possession of her long looked-for parent.

And so the little girl lay there with her crushed and bleeding heart,
sobbing, mourning, weeping as though she would weep her very life away,
without an earthly friend to speak one word of comfort.

"O papa, papa!" she sobbed, "my own papa, you do not love me; me, your
own little girl. Oh! my heart will break. O mamma, mamma! if I could
only go to you; for there is no one here to love me, and I am so
lonely, oh! _so_ lonely and desolate."

And thus Chloe found her, when she came in an hour later, weeping and
sobbing out such broken exclamations of grief and anguish.

She was much surprised, but comprehending at once how her child was
suffering, she raised her up in her strong arms, and laying the little
head lovingly against her bosom, she smoothed the tangled hair, kissed
the tear-swollen eyes, and bathed the throbbing temples, saying, "My
precious pet, my darlin' chile, your ole mammy loves you better dan
life; an' did my darlin' forget de almighty Friend dat says, _I_ have
loved thee with an everlasting love,' an' 'I will never leave thee, nor
forsake thee'? He sticks closer dan a brudder, precious chile, and
says,'though a woman forget her sucking child, He will not forget _His_
chillen.' Mothers love dere chillens better dan fathers, darlin', and
so you see Jesus' love is better dan all other love; and I _knows_ you
hes got dat."

"O mammy! ask Him to take me to Himself, and to mamma--for oh! I am
very lonely, and I want to die!"

"Hush, hush, darlin'; old Chloe nebber could ask dat; dis ole heart
would break for sure. Yous all de world to your old mammy, darlin'; and
you know we must all wait de Lord's time."

"Then ask Him to help me to be patient," she said, in a weary tone.
"And O mammy!" she added, with a burst of bitter tears, "ask Him to
make my father love me."

"I will, darlin', I will," sobbed Chloe, pressing the little form
closer to her heart; "an' don't you go for to be discouraged right
away; for I'se sure Massa Horace must love you, fore long."

The tea-bell rang, and the family gathered about the table; but one
chair remained unoccupied.

"Where is Miss Elsie?" asked Adelaide of one of the servants.

"Dunno, missus," was the reply.

"Well, then, go and see," said Adelaide; "perhaps she did not hear the
bell."

The servant returned in a moment, saying that Miss Elsie had a bad
headache and did not want any supper. Mr. Horace Dinsmore paused in the
conversation he was carrying on with his father, to listen to the
servant's announcement. "I hope she is not a sickly child," said he,
addressing Adelaide; "is she subject to such attacks?"

"Not very," replied his sister dryly, for she had seen the meeting, and
felt really sorry for Elsie's evident disappointment; "I imagine crying
has brought this on."

He colored violently, and said in a tone of great displeasure, "Truly,
the return of a parent _is_ a cause for grief; yet I hardly expected my
presence to be quite so distressing to my only child. I had no idea
that she had already learned to dislike me so thoroughly."

"She doesn't," said Adelaide, "she has been looking and longing for
your return ever since I have known her."

"Then she has certainly been disappointed in me; her grief is not at
all complimentary, explain it as you will."

Adelaide made no reply, for she saw that he was determined to put an
unfavorable construction upon Elsie's conduct, and feared that any
defence she could offer would only increase his displeasure.

It was a weary, aching head the little girl laid upon her pillow that
night, and the little heart was sad and sore; yet she was not
altogether comfortless, for she had turned in her sorrow to Him who has
said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them
not," and she had the sweet assurance of _His_ love and favor.

It was with a trembling heart, hoping yet fearing, longing and yet
dreading to see her father, that Elsie descended to the breakfast-room
the next morning. She glanced timidly around, but he was not there.

"Where is papa, Aunt Adelaide?" she asked.

"He is not coming down to breakfast, as he feels quite fatigued with
his journey," replied her aunt; "so you will not see him this morning,
and perhaps not at all to-day, for there will be a good deal of company
here this afternoon and evening."

Elsie sighed, and looked sadly disappointed. She found it very
difficult to attend to her lessons that morning, and every time the
door opened she started and looked up, half hoping it might be her papa.

But he did not come; and when the dinner hour arrived, the children
were told that they were to dine in the nursery, on account of the
large number of guests to be entertained in the dining-room. The
company remained until bedtime; she was not called down to the parlor;
and so saw nothing of her father that day.

But the next morning Chloe told her the children were to breakfast with
the family, as all the visitors had left excepting one or two
gentlemen. So Elsie went down to the breakfast-room, where, to her
surprise, she found her papa sitting alone, reading the morning paper.

He looked up as she entered.

"Good-morning, papa," she said, in half-trembling tones.

He started a little--for it was the first time he had ever been
addressed by that title, and it sounded strange to his ears--gave her a
glance of mingled curiosity and interest, half held out his hand, but
drawing it back again, simply said, "Good-morning, Elsie," and returned
to his paper.

Elsie stood irresolutely in the middle of the floor, wanting, yet not
daring to go to him.

But just at that instant the door opened, and Enna, looking rosy and
happy, came running in, and rushing up to her brother, climbed upon his
knee, and put her arms around his neck, saying, "Good-morning, brother
Horace. I want a kiss."

"You shall have it, little pet," said he, throwing down his paper.

Then, kissing her several times and hugging her in his arms, he said,
"_You_ are not afraid of me, are you? nor sorry that I have come home?"

"No, indeed," said Enna.

He glanced at Elsie as she stood looking at them, her large soft eyes
full of tears. She could not help feeling that Enna had her place, and
was receiving the caresses that should have been lavished upon herself.

"Jealous," thought her father; "I cannot bear jealous people;" and he
gave her a look of displeasure that cut her to the heart, and she
turned quickly away and left the room to hide the tears she could no
longer keep back.

"I am envious," she thought, "jealous of Enna. Oh! how wicked!" And she
prayed silently, "Dear Saviour, help me! take away these sinful
feelings."

Young as she was, she was learning to have some control over her
feelings, and in a few moments she had so far recovered her composure
as to be able to return to the breakfast-room and take her place at the
table, where the rest were already seated, her sweet little face sad
indeed and bearing the traces of tears, but quite calm and peaceful.

Her father took no further notice of her, and she did not dare trust
herself to look at him. The servants filled her plate, and she ate in
silence, feeling it a great relief that all were too busily engaged in
talking and eating to pay any attention to her. She scarcely raised her
eyes from her plate, and did not know how often a strange gentleman,
who sat nearly opposite, fixed his upon her.

As she left the room at the conclusion of the meal, he asked, while
following her with his eyes, "Is that one of your sisters, Dinsmore?"

"No," said he, coloring slightly; "she is my daughter."

"Ah, indeed!" said his friend. "I remember to have heard that you had a
child, but had forgotten it. Well, you have no reason to be ashamed of
her; she is lovely, perfectly lovely! has the sweetest little face I
ever saw."

"Will you ride, Travilla?" asked Mr. Dinsmore hastily, as though
anxious to change the subject.

"I don't care if I do," was the reply, and they went out together.

Some hours later in the day Elsie was at the piano in the music-room
practising, when a sudden feeling that some one was in the room caused
her to turn and look behind her.

Mr. Travilla was standing there.

"Excuse me," said he, bowing politely, "but I heard the sound of the
instrument, and, being very fond of music, I ventured to walk in."

Elsie was very modest, and rather timid, too, but also very polite; so
she said, "No excuse is necessary; but will you not take a seat, sir?
though I fear my music will not afford you any pleasure, for you know I
am only a little girl, and cannot play very well yet."

"Thank you," said he, taking a seat by her side. "And now will you do
me the favor to repeat the song I heard you singing a few moments
since?"

Elsie immediately complied, though her cheeks burned, and her voice
trembled at first from embarrassment; but it grew stronger as she
proceeded and in the last verse was quite steady and full. She had a
very fine voice for a child of her age; its sweetness was remarkable
both in singing and speaking; and she had also a good deal of musical
talent, which had been well cultivated, for she had had good teachers,
and had practised with great patience and perseverance. Her music was
simple, as suited her years, but her performance of it was very good
indeed.

Mr. Travilla thanked her very heartily, and complimented her singing;
then asked for another and another song, another and another piece,
chatting with her about each, until they grew quite familiar, and Elsie
lost all feeling of embarrassment.

"Elsie, I think, is your name, is it not?" he asked after a little.

"Yes, sir," said she, "Elsie Dinsmore."

"And you are the daughter of my friend, Mr. Horace Dinsmore?"

"Yes, sir."

"Your papa has been absent a long time, and I suppose you must have
quite forgotten him."

"No, sir, not _forgotten_, for I never had seen him."

"Indeed!" said he, in a tone of surprise; "then, since he is an entire
stranger to you, I suppose you cannot have much affection for him?"

Elsie raised her large, dark eyes to his face, with an expression of
astonishment. "Not love papa, my own dear papa, who has no child but
me? Oh! sir, how could you think that?"

"Ah! I see I was mistaken," said he, smiling; "I thought you could
hardly care for him at all; but do you think that he loves you?"

Elsie dropped her face into her hands, and burst into an agony of tears.

The young gentleman looked extremely vexed with himself.

"My poor little girl, my poor, dear little girl," he said, stroking her
hair, "forgive me. I am very, _very_ sorry for my thoughtless question.
Do be comforted, my poor child, for whether your papa loves you now or
not, I am quite sure he soon will."

Elsie now dried her tears, rose and closed the instrument. He assisted
her, and then asked if she would not take a little walk with him in the
garden. She complied, and, feeling really very sorry for the wound he
had so thoughtlessly inflicted, as well as interested in his little
companion, he exerted all his powers to entertain her--talked with her
about the plants and flowers, described those he had seen in foreign
lands, and related incidents of travel, usually choosing those in which
her father had borne a part, because he perceived that they were doubly
interesting to her.

Elsie, having been thrown very much upon her own resources for
amusement, and having a natural love for books, and constant access to
her grandfather's well-stocked library, had read many more, and with
much more thought, than most children of her age, so that Mr. Travilla
found her a not uninteresting companion, and was often surprised at the
intelligence shown by her questions and replies.

When the dinner-bell rang he led her in, and seated her by himself, and
never was any lady more carefully waited upon than little Elsie at this
meal. Two or three other gentlemen guests were present, giving their
attention to the older ladies of the company, and thus Mr. Travilla
seemed to feel quite at liberty to devote himself entirely to her,
attending to all her wants, talking with her, and making her talk.

Elsie now and then stole a glance at Mrs. Dinsmore, fearing her
displeasure; but to her great relief, the lady seemed too much occupied
to notice her. Once she looked timidly at her father, and her eyes met
his. He was looking at her with an expression half curious, half
amused. She was at a loss to understand the look, but, satisfied that
there was no displeasure in it, her heart grew light, and her cheeks
flushed with happiness.

"Really, Dinsmore," said Mr. Travilla, as they stood together near one
of the windows of the drawing-room soon after dinner, "your little girl
is remarkably intelligent, as well as remarkably pretty; and I have
discovered that she has quite a good deal of musical talent."

"Indeed! I think it is quite a pity that she does not belong to you,
Travilla, instead of me, since you seem to appreciate her so much more
highly," replied the father, laughing.

"I wish she did," said his friend. "But, seriously, Dinsmore, you ought
to love that child, for she certainly loves you devotedly."

He looked surprised. "How do you know?" he asked.

"It was evident enough from what I saw and heard this morning.
Dinsmore, she would value a caress from you more than the richest
jewel."

"Doubtful," replied Horace, hastily quitting the room, for Elsie had
come out on to the portico in her riding suit, and Jim, her usual
attendant, was bringing up her horse.

"Are you going to ride, Elsie?" asked her father, coming up to her.

"Yes, papa," she said, raising her eyes to his face.

He lifted her in his arms and placed her on the horse, saying to the
servant as he did so, "Now, Jim, you must take good care of my little
girl."

Tears of happiness rose in Elsie's eyes as she turned her horse's head
and rode down the avenue. "He called me _his_ little girl," she
murmured to herself, "and bade Jim take good care of me. Oh! he _will_
love me soon, as good, kind Mr. Travilla said he would."

Her father was still standing on the portico, looking after her.

"How well she sits her horse!" remarked Travilla, who had stepped out
and stood close by his side.

"Yes, I think she does," was the reply, in an absent tone. He was
thinking of a time, some eight or nine years before, when he had
assisted another Elsie to mount her horse, and had ridden for hours at
her side.

All the afternoon memories of the past came crowding thickly on his
mind, and an emotion of tenderness began to spring up in his heart
toward the child of her who had once been so dear to him; and as he saw
the little girl ride up to the house on her return, he again went out,
and lifting her from her horse, asked kindly, "Had you a pleasant ride,
my dear?"

"Oh! yes, papa, very pleasant," she said, looking up at him with a face
beaming with delight. He stooped and kissed her, saying, "I think I
shall ride with you one of these days; should you like it?"

"Oh! so very, _very_ much, papa," she answered, eagerly.

He smiled at her earnestness, and she hastened away to her room to
change her dress and tell Chloe of her happiness.

Alas! it was but a transient gleam of sunshine that darted across her
path, to be lost again almost instantly behind the gathering clouds.

More company came, so that the drawing-room was quite full in the
evening; and, though Elsie was there, her father seemed too much
occupied with the guests to give her even a glance. She sat alone and
unnoticed in a corner, her eyes following him wherever he moved, and
her ear strained to catch every tone of his voice; until Mr. Travilla,
disengaging himself from a group of ladies and gentlemen on the
opposite side of the room, came up to her, and taking her by the hand,
led her to a pleasant-looking elderly lady, who sat at a centre-table
examining some choice engravings which Mr. Dinsmore had brought with
him from Europe.

"Mother," said Mr. Travilla, "This is my little friend Elsie."

"Ah!" said she, giving the little girl a kiss, "I am glad to see you,
my dear."

Mr. Travilla set a chair for her close to his mother and then sat down
on her other side, and taking up the engravings one after another, he
explained them to her in a most entertaining manner, generally having
some anecdote to tell in connection with each.

Elsie was so much amused and delighted with what he was saying that she
at last quite forgot her father, and did not notice where he was.

Suddenly Mr. Travilla laid down the engraving he had in his hand,
saying: "Come, Miss Elsie, I want my mother to hear you play and sing;
will you not do me the favor to repeat that song I admired so much this
morning?"

"Oh! Mr. Travilla!" exclaimed the little girl, blushing and trembling,
"I could not play or sing before so many people. Please excuse me."

"Elsie," said her father's voice just at her side, "go _immediately,_
and do as the gentleman requests."

His tone was very stern, and as she lifted her eyes to his face, she
saw that his look was still more so; and tremblingly and tearfully she
rose to obey.

"Stay," said Mr. Travilla kindly, pitying her distress, "I withdraw my
request."

"But I do _not_ withdraw my command," said her father in the same stern
tone; "go at once, Elsie, and do as I bid you."

She obeyed instantly, struggling hard to overcome her emotion.

Mr. Travilla, scolding himself inwardly all the time for having brought
her into such trouble, selected her music, and placing it before her as
she took her seat at the instrument, whispered encouragingly, "Now,
Miss Elsie, only have confidence in yourself; that is all that is
necessary to your success."

But Elsie was not only embarrassed, but her heart was well-nigh broken
by her father's sternness, and the tears _would_ fill her eyes so that
she could see neither notes nor words. She attempted to play the
prelude, but blundered sadly, her embarrassment increasing every moment.

"Never mind," said Mr. Travilla, "never mind the prelude, but just
begin the song."

She made the attempt, but fairly broke down, and burst into tears
before she had got through the first verse. Her father had come up
behind her, and was standing there, looking much mortified.

"Elsie," he said, leaning down and speaking in a low, stern tone, close
to her ear, "I am ashamed of you; go to your room and to your bed
immediately."

With a heart almost bursting with grief and mortification she obeyed
him, and her pillow was wet with many bitter tears ere the weary eyes
closed in slumber.

When she came down the next morning she learned to her great grief that
Mr. Travilla and his mother had returned to their own home; she was
very sorry she had not been permitted to say good-bye to her friend,
and for several days she felt very sad and lonely, for all her father's
coldness of manner had returned, and he scarcely ever spoke to her;
while the younger members of the family ridiculed her for her failure
in attempting to play for company; and Miss Day, who seemed unusually
cross and exacting, often taunted her with it also.

These were sad, dark days for the little girl; she tried most earnestly
to attend to all her duties, but so depressed were her spirits, so
troubled was her mind, that she failed repeatedly in her lessons, and
so was in continual disgrace with Miss Day, who threatened more than
once to tell her papa.

It was a threat which Elsie dreaded extremely to have put in execution,
and Miss Day, seeing that it distressed her, used it the more
frequently, and thus kept the poor child in constant terror.

How to gain her father's love was the constant subject of her thoughts,
and she tried in many ways to win his affection. She always yielded a
ready and cheerful obedience to his commands, and strove to anticipate
and fulfil all his wishes. But he seldom noticed her, unless to give a
command or administer a rebuke, while he lavished many a caress upon
his little sister, Enna. Often Elsie would watch him fondling her,
until, unable any longer to control her feelings, she would rush away
to her own room to weep and mourn in secret, and pray that her father
might some day learn to love her. She never complained even to poor old
Aunt Chloe, but the anxious nurse watched all these things with the
jealous eye of affection; she saw that her child--as she delighted to
call her--was very unhappy, and was growing pale and melancholy; and
her heart ached for her, and many were the tears she shed in secret
over the sorrows of her nursling.

"Don't 'pear so sorrowful, darlin'," she sometimes said to her; "try to
be merry, like Miss Enna, and run and jump on Massa Horace's knee, and
den I tink he will like you better."

"O mammy! I _can't_," Elsie would say; "I don't dare to do it."

And Chloe would sigh and shake her head sorrowfully.



CHAPTER FOURTH


   "With more capacity for love than earth
    Bestows on most of mortal mould and birth."
                                 --BYRON.


                          "What are our hopes?
   Like garlands, on afflictions's forehead worn,
   Kissed in the morning, and at evening torn."
                   --DAVENPORT'S _King John and Matilda._


Such had been the state of affairs for about a week, when one morning
Elsie and her father met at the breakfast-room door.

"Good morning, papa," she said timidly.

"Good morning, Elsie," he replied in an unusually pleasant tone.

Then, taking her by the hand, he led her in and seated her beside
himself at the table.

Elsie's cheek glowed and her eyes sparkled with pleasure.

There were several guests present, and she waited patiently while they
and the older members of the family were being helped. At length it was
her turn.

"Elsie, will you have some meat?" asked her grandfather.

"No," said her father, answering for her; "once a day is as often as a
child of her age ought to eat meat; she may have it at dinner, but
never for breakfast or tea."

The elder Mr. Dinsmore laughed, saying, "Really, Horace, I had no idea
you were so notionate. I always allowed you to eat whatever you
pleased, and I never saw that it hurt you. But, of course, you must
manage your own child in your own way."

"If you please, papa, I had rather have some of those hot cakes," said
Elsie, timidly, as her father laid a slice of bread upon her plate.

"No," said he decidedly; "I don't approve of hot bread for children;
you must eat the cold." Then to a servant who was setting down a cup of
coffee beside the little girl's plate, "Take that away, Pomp, and bring
Miss Elsie a tumbler of milk. Or would you prefer water, Elsie?"

"Milk, if you please, papa," she replied with a little sigh; for she
was extremely fond of coffee, and it was something of a trial to give
it up.

Her father put a spoonful of stewed fruit upon her plate, and as Pompey
set down a tumbler of rich milk beside it, said, "Now you have your
breakfast before you, Elsie. Children in England are not allowed to eat
butter until they are ten or eleven years of age, and I think it an
excellent plan, to make them grow up rosy and healthy. I have neglected
my little girl too long, but I intend to begin to take good care of her
now," he added, with a smile, and laying his hand for an instant upon
her head.

The slight caress and the few kind words were quite enough to reconcile
Elsie to the rather meagre fare, and she ate it with a happy heart. But
the meagre fare became a constant thing, while the caresses and kind
words were not; and though she submitted without a murmur, she could
not help sometimes looking with longing eyes at the coffee and hot
buttered rolls, of which she was very fond. But she tried to be
contented, saying to herself, "Papa knows best, and I ought to be
satisfied with whatever he gives me."

"Isn't it delightful to have your papa at home, Elsie?" Mr. Dinsmore
one morning overheard Arthur saying to his little girl in a mocking
tone. "It's very pleasant to live on bread and water, isn't it, eh?"

"I _don't_ live on bread and water," Elsie replied, a little
indignantly. "Papa always allows me to have as much good, rich milk,
and cream, and fruit as I want, or I can have eggs, or cheese, or
honey, or anything else, except meat and hot cakes, and butter, and
coffee; and who wouldn't rather do without such things all their lives
than not have a papa to love them? And besides, you know, Arthur, that
I can have all the meat I want at dinner."

"Pooh! that's nothing; and _I_ wouldn't give much for all the love
_you_ get from him," said Arthur, scornfully.

There was something like a sob from Elsie; and as her father rose and
went to the window, he just caught a glimpse of her white dress
disappearing down the garden walk.

"What do you mean, sir, by teasing Elsie in that manner?" he exclaimed
angrily to Arthur, who still stood where the little girl had left him,
leaning against one of the pillars of the portico.

"I only wanted to have a little fun," returned the boy doggedly.

"Well, sir, I don't approve of such fun, and you will please to let the
child alone in future," replied his brother as he returned to his
newspaper again.

But somehow the paper had lost its interest. He seemed constantly to
hear that little sob, and to see a little face all wet with tears of
wounded feeling.

Just then the school-bell rang, and suddenly throwing down his paper,
he took a card from his pocket, wrote a few words upon it, and calling
a servant, said, "Take this to Miss Day."

Elsie was seated at her desk, beginning her morning's work, when the
servant entered and handed the card to the governess.

Miss Day glanced at it and said:

"Elsie, your father wants you. You may go."

Elsie rose in some trepidation and left the room, wondering what her
papa could want with her.

"Where is papa, Fanny?" she asked of the servant.

"In de drawin'-room, Miss Elsie," was the reply; and she hastened to
seek him there.

He held out his hand as she entered, saying with a smile, "Come here,
daughter."

It was the first time he had called her that, and it sent a thrill of
joy to her heart.

She sprang to his side, and, taking her hand in one of his, and laying
the other gently on her head, and bending it back a little, he looked
keenly into her face. It was bright enough now, yet the traces of tears
were very evident.

"You have been crying," he said, in a slightly reproving tone. "I am
afraid you do a great deal more of that than is good for you. It is a
very babyish habit, and you must try to break yourself of it."

The little face flushed painfully, and the eyes filled again.

"There," he said, stroking her hair, "don't begin it again. I am going
to drive over to Ion, where your friend Mr. Travilla lives, to spend
the day; would my little daughter like to go with me?"

"Oh! so _very_ much, papa!" she answered eagerly.

"There are no little folks there," he said smiling, "nobody to see but
Mr. Travilla and his mother. But I see you want to go; so run and ask
Aunt Chloe to get you ready. Tell her I want you nicely dressed, and
the carriage will be at the door in half an hour."

Elsie bounded away to do his bidding, her face radiant with happiness;
and at the specified time came down again, looking so very lovely that
her father gazed at her with proud delight, and could not refrain from
giving her a kiss as he lifted her up to place her in the carriage.

Then, seating himself beside her, he took her hand in his; and, closing
the door with the other, bade the coachman drive on.

"I suppose you have never been to Ion, Elsie?" he said, inquiringly.

"No, sir; but I have heard Aunt Adelaide say she thought it a very
pretty place," replied the little girl.

"So it is--almost as pretty as Roselands," said her father. "Travilla
and I have known each other from boyhood, and I spent many a happy day
at Ion, and we had many a boyish frolic together, before I ever thought
of you."

He smiled, and patted her cheek as he spoke.

Elsie's eyes sparkled. "O papa!" she said eagerly; "won't you tell me
about those times? It seems so strange that you were ever a little boy
and I was nowhere."

He laughed. Then said, musingly, "It seems but a very little while to
me, Elsie, since I was no older than you are now."

He heaved a sigh, and relapsed into silence.

Elsie wished very much that he would grant her request, but did not
dare to disturb him by speaking a word; and they rode on quietly for
some time, until a squirrel darting up a tree caught her eye, and she
uttered an exclamation. "O papa! did you see that squirrel? look at him
now, perched up on that branch. There, we have passed the tree, and now
he is out of sight."

This reminded Mr. Dinsmore of a day he had spent in those woods hunting
squirrels, when quite a boy, and he gave Elsie an animated account of
it. One of the incidents of the day had been the accidental discharge
of the fowling-piece of one of his young companions, close at Horace
Dinsmore's side, missing him by but a hair's breadth.

"I felt faint and sick when I knew how near I had been to death," he
said, as he finished his narrative.

Elsie had been listening with breathless interest.

"Dear papa," she murmured, laying her little cheek against his hand,
"how good God was to spare your life! If you had been killed I could
never have had you for my papa."

"Perhaps you might have had a much better one, Elsie," he said gravely.

"Oh! no, papa, I wouldn't want any other," she replied earnestly,
pressing his hand to her lips.

"Ah! here we are," exclaimed her father, as at that instant the
carriage turned into a broad avenue, up which they drove quite rapidly,
and the next moment they had stopped, the coachman had thrown open the
carriage door, and Mr. Dinsmore, springing out, lifted his little girl
in his arms and set her down on the steps of the veranda.

"Ah! Dinsmore, how do you do? Glad to see you, and my little friend
Elsie, too. Why this is really kind," cried Mr. Travilla, in his
cheerful, hearty way, as, hurrying out to welcome them, he shook Mr.
Dinsmore cordially by the hand, and kissed Elsie's cheek.

"Walk in, walk in," he continued, leading the way into the house, "my
mother will be delighted to see you both; Miss Elsie especially, for
she seems to have taken a very great fancy to her."

If Mrs. Travilla's greeting was less boisterous, it certainly was not
lacking in cordiality, and she made Elsie feel at home at once; taking
off her bonnet, smoothing her hair, and kissing her affectionately.

The gentlemen soon went out together, and Elsie spent the morning in
Mrs. Travilla's room, chatting with her and assisting her with some
coarse garments she was making for her servants.

Mrs. Travilla was an earnest Christian, and the lady and the little
girl were not long in discovering the tie which existed between them.

Mrs. Travilla, being also a woman of great discernment, and having
known Horace Dinsmore nearly all his life, had conceived a very correct
idea of the trials and difficulties of Elsie's situation, and without
alluding to them at all, gave her some most excellent advice, which the
little girl received very thankfully.

They were still chatting together when Mr. Travilla came in, saying,
"Come, Elsie, I want to take you out to see my garden, hot-house, etc.
We will just have time before dinner. Will you go along, mother?"

"No; I have some little matters to attend to before dinner, and will
leave you to do the honors," replied the lady; and taking the little
girl's hand he led her out.

"Where is papa?" asked Elsie.

"Oh! he's in the library, looking over some new books," replied Mr.
Travilla. "He always cared more for books than anything else. But what
do you think of my flowers?"

"Oh! they are lovely! What a variety you have! what a splendid
cape-jessamine that is, and there is a variety of cactus I never saw
before! Oh! you have a great many more, and handsomer, I think, than we
have at Roselands," exclaimed Elsie, as she passed admiringly from one
to another.

Mr. Travilla was much pleased with the admiration she expressed, for he
was very fond of his flowers, and took great pride in showing them.

But they were soon called in to dinner, where Elsie was seated by her
father.

"I hope this little girl has not given you any trouble, Mrs. Travilla,"
said he, looking gravely at her.

"Oh! no," the lady hastened to say, "I have enjoyed her company very
much indeed, and hope you will bring her to see me again very soon."

After dinner, as the day was very warm, they adjourned to the veranda,
which was the coolest place to be found; it being on the shady side of
the house, and also protected by thick trees, underneath which a
beautiful fountain was playing.

But the conversation was upon some subject which did not interest
Elsie, and she presently stole away to the library, and seating herself
in a corner of the sofa, was soon lost to everything around her in the
intense interest with which she was reading a book she had taken from
the table.

"Ah! that is what you are about, Miss Elsie! a bookworm, just like your
father, I see. I had been wondering what had become of you for the last
two hours," exclaimed Mr. Travilla's pleasant voice; and sitting down
beside her, he took the book from her hand, and putting it behind him,
said, "Put it away now; you will have time enough to finish it, and I
want you to talk to me."

"Oh! please let me have it," she pleaded. "I shall not have much time,
for papa will soon be calling me to go home."

"No, no, he is not to take you away; I have made a bargain with him to
let me keep you," said Mr. Travilla, very gravely. "We both think that
there are children enough at Roselands without you; and so your papa
has given you to me; and you are to be _my_ little girl, and call _me_
papa in future."

Elsie gazed earnestly in his face for an instant, saying in a
half-frightened tone, "You are only joking, Mr. Travilla."

"Not a bit of it," said he; "can't you see that I'm in earnest?"

His tone and look were both so serious that for an instant Elsie
believed he meant all that he was saying, and springing to her feet
with a little cry of alarm, she hastily withdrew her hand which he had
taken, and rushing out to the veranda, where her father still sat
conversing with Mrs. Travilla, she flung herself into his arms, and
clinging to him, hid her face on his breast, sobbing, "O papa, _dear_
papa! _don't_ give me away; please don't--I will be so good--I will do
everything you bid me--I--"

"Why, Elsie, what does all this mean!" exclaimed Mr. Dinsmore in great
surprise and perplexity; while Mr. Travilla stood in the doorway
looking half amused, half sorry for what he had done.

"O papa!" sobbed the little girl, still clinging to him as though
fearing she should be torn from his arms, "Mr. Travilla says you have
given me to him. O papa! _don't_ give me away."

"Pooh! nonsense, Elsie! I am ashamed of you! how can you be so very
silly as to believe for one moment anything so perfectly absurd as that
I should think of giving you away? Why, I would as soon think of
parting with my eyes."

Elsie raised her head and gazed searchingly into his face; then with a
deep-drawn sigh of relief, dropped it again, saying, "Oh! I am _so_
glad."

"Really, Miss Elsie," said Travilla, coming up and patting her on the
shoulder, "I can't say that I feel much complimented; and, indeed, I
don't see why you need have been so very much distressed at the
prospect before you; for I must say I have vanity enough to imagine
that I should make the better--or at least the more indulgent--father
of the two. Come, now, wouldn't you be willing to try me for a month,
if your papa will give consent?"

Elsie shook her head.

"I will let you have your own way in everything," urged Travilla,
coaxingly; "and I know that is more than he does."

"I don't want my own way, Mr. Travilla; I know it wouldn't always be a
good way," replied Elsie, decidedly.

Her father laughed and passed his hand caressingly over her curls.

"I thought you liked me, little Elsie," said Travilla, in a tone of
disappointment.

"So I do, Mr. Travilla; I like you very much," she replied.

"Well, don't you think I would make a good father?"

"I am sure you would be very kind, and that I should love you very
much; but not so much as I love my own papa; because, you know, you are
_not_ my papa, and never can be, even if he _should_ give me to you."

Mr. Dinsmore laughed heartily, saying, "I think you may as well give it
up, Travilla; it seems I'll have to keep her whether or no, for she
clings to me like a leech."

"Well, Elsie, you will at least come to the piano and play a little for
me, will you not?" asked Travilla, smiling.

But Elsie still clung to her father, seeming loath to leave him, until
he said, in his grave, decided way, "Go, Elsie; go at once, and do as
you are requested."

Then she rose instantly to obey.

Travilla looked somewhat vexed. "I wish," he afterward remarked to his
mother, "that Dinsmore was not quite so ready to second my requests
with his commands. I want Elsie's compliance to be voluntary; else I
think it worth very little."

Elsie played and sang until they were called to tea; after which she
sat quietly by her father's side, listening to the conversation of her
elders until the carriage was announced.

"Well, my daughter," said Mr. Dinsmore, when they were fairly upon
their way to Roselands, "have you had a pleasant day?"

"Oh! _very pleasant_, papa, excepting--" She paused, looking a little
embarrassed.

"Well, excepting what?" he asked, smiling down at her.

"Excepting when Mr. Travilla frightened me so, papa," she replied,
moving closer to his side, blushing and casting down her eyes.

"And you do love your own papa best, and don't want to exchange him for
another?" he said, inquiringly, as he passed his arm affectionately
around her waist.

"Oh! no, dear papa, not for anybody else in all the world," she said
earnestly.

He made no reply in words, but, looking highly gratified, bent down and
kissed her cheek.

He did not speak again during their ride, but when the carriage stopped
he lifted her out, and setting her gently down, bade her a kind
good-night, saying it was time for mammy to put her to bed.

She ran lightly up-stairs, and springing into her nurse's arms,
exclaimed, "O mammy, mammy! what a pleasant, _pleasant_ day I have had!
Papa has been so kind, and so were Mr. Travilla and his mother."

"I'se _berry_ glad, darlin', an' I hope you gwine hab many more such
days," replied Chloe, embracing her fondly and then proceeding to take
off her bonnet and prepare her for bed, while Elsie gave her a minute
account of all the occurrences of the day, not omitting the fright Mr.
Travilla had given her, and how happily her fears had been relieved.

"You look berry happy, my darlin' pet," said Chloe, clasping her
nursling again in her arms when her task was finished.

"Yes, mammy, I am happy, oh! _so_ happy, because I do believe that papa
is beginning to love me a little, and I hope that perhaps, after a
while, he will love me very much."

The tears gathered in her eyes as she spoke.

The next afternoon, as Elsie was returning from her walk, she met her
father.

"Elsie," said he, in a reproving tone, "I have forbidden you to walk
out alone; are you disobeying me?"

"No, papa," she replied meekly, raising her eyes to his face, "I was
not alone until about five minutes ago, when Aunt Adelaide and Louise
left me. They said it did not matter, as I was so near home; and they
were going to make a call, and did not want me along."

"Very well," he said, taking hold of her hand and making her walk by
his side. "How far have you been?"

"We went down the river bank to the big spring, papa. I believe it is a
little more than a mile that way; but when we came home, we made it
shorter by coming across some of the fields and through the meadow."

"Through the meadow?" said Mr. Dinsmore; "don't you go there again,
Elsie, unless I give you express permission."

"Why, papa?" she asked, looking up at him in some surprise.

"Because I forbid it," he replied sternly; "that is quite enough for
you to know; all you have to do is to obey, and you need never ask me
why, when I give you an order."

Elsie's eyes filled, and a big tear rolled quickly down her cheek.

"I did not mean to be naughty, papa," she said, struggling to keep down
a sob, "and I will try never to ask why again."

"There is another thing," said he. "You cry quite too easily; it is
entirely too babyish for a girl of your age; you must quit it."

"I will try, papa," said the little girl, wiping her eyes, and making a
great effort to control her feelings.

They had entered the avenue while this conversation was going on, and
were now drawing near the house; and just at this moment a little girl
about Elsie's age came running to meet them, exclaiming, "O Elsie! I'm
glad you've come at last. We've been here a whole hour--mamma, and
Herbert, and I--and I've been looking for you all this time."

"How do you do, Miss Lucy Carrington? I see you can talk as fast as
ever," said Mr. Dinsmore, laughing, and holding out his hand.

Lucy took it, saying with a little pout, "To be sure, Mr. Dinsmore, it
isn't more than two or three weeks since you were at our house, and I
wouldn't forget how to talk in that time." Then, looking at Elsie, she
went on, "We've come to stay a week; won't we have a fine time?" and,
catching her friend round the waist, she gave her a hearty squeeze.

"I hope so," said Elsie, returning the embrace. "I am glad you have
come."

"Is your papa here, Miss Lucy?" asked Mr. Dinsmore.

"Yes, sir; but he's going home again to-night, and then he'll come back
for us next week."

"I must go in and speak to him," said Mr. Dinsmore. "Elsie, do you
entertain Lucy."

"Yes, sir, I will," said Elsie. "Come with me to my room, won't you,
Lucy?"

"Yes; but won't you speak to mamma first? and Herbert, too; you are
such a favorite with both of them; and they still are in the
dressing-room, for mamma is not very well, and was quite fatigued with
her ride."

Lucy led the way to her mamma's room, as she spoke, Elsie following.

"Ah! Elsie dear, how do you do? I'm delighted to see you," said Mrs.
Carrington, rising from the sofa as they entered.

Then, drawing the little girl closer to her, she passed her arm
affectionately around her waist, and kissed her several times.

"I suppose you are very happy now that your papa has come home at
last?" she said, looking searchingly into Elsie's face. "I remember you
used to be looking forward so to his return; constantly talking of it
and longing for it."

Poor Elsie, conscious that her father's presence had not brought with
it the happiness she had anticipated, and yet unwilling either to
acknowledge that fact or tell an untruth, was at a loss what to say.

But she was relieved from the necessity of replying by Herbert, Lucy's
twin brother, a pale, sickly-looking boy, who had for several years
been a sufferer from hip complaint.

"O Elsie!" he exclaimed, catching hold of her hand and squeezing it
between both of his, "I'm ever so glad to see you again."

"Yes," said Mrs. Carrington, "Herbert always says nobody can tell him
such beautiful stories as Elsie; and nobody but his mother and his old
mammy was half so kind to run and wait on him when he was laid on his
back for so many weeks. He missed you very much when we went home, and
often wished he was at Roselands again."

"How is your hip now, Herbert?" asked Elsie, looking pityingly at the
boy's pale face.

"Oh! a great deal better, thank you. I can take quite long walks
sometimes now, though I still limp, and cannot run and leap like other
boys."

They chatted a few moments longer, and then Elsie went to her room to
have her hat taken off, and her hair made smooth before the tea-bell
should ring.

The two little girls were seated together at the table, Elsie's papa
being on her other side.

"How nice these muffins are! Don't you like them, Elsie?" asked Lucy,
as she helped herself to a third or fourth.

"Yes, very much," said Elsie, cheerfully.

"Then what are you eating that cold bread for? and you haven't got any
butter, either. Pompey, why don't hand Miss Elsie the butter?"

"No, Lucy, I mustn't have it. Papa does not allow me to eat hot cakes
or butter," said Elsie, in the same cheerful tone in which she had
spoken before.

Lucy opened her eyes very wide, and drew in her breath.

"Well," she exclaimed, "I guess if _my_ papa should try that on me, I'd
make such a fuss he'd _have_ to let me eat just whatever I wanted."

"Elsie knows better than to do that," said Mr. Dinsmore, who had
overheard the conversation; "she would only get sent away from the
table and punished for her naughtiness."

"I wouldn't do it anyhow, papa," said Elsie, raising her eyes
beseechingly to his face.

"No, daughter, I don't believe you would," he replied in an unusually
kind tone, and Elsie's face flushed with pleasure.

Several days passed away very pleasantly, Lucy sharing Elsie's studies
in the mornings, while Herbert remained with his mamma; and then in the
afternoon all walking or riding out together, unless the weather was
too warm, when they spent the afternoon playing in the veranda, on the
shady side of the house, and took their ride or walk after the sun was
down.

Arthur and Walter paid but little attention to Herbert, as his lameness
prevented him from sharing in the active sports which they preferred;
for they had never been taught to yield their wishes to others, and
were consequently extremely selfish and overbearing; but Elsie was very
kind, and did all in her power to interest and amuse him.

One afternoon they all walked out together, attended by Jim; but Arthur
and Walter, unwilling to accommodate their pace to Herbert's slow
movements, were soon far in advance, Jim following close at their heels.

"They're quite out of sight," said Herbert presently, "and I'm very
tired. Let's sit down on this bank, girls; I want to try my new bow,
and you may run and pick up my arrows for me."

"Thank you, sir," said Lucy, laughing; "Elsie may do it if she likes,
but as for me, _I_ mean to take a nap; this nice, soft grass will make
an elegant couch;" and throwing herself down, she soon was, or
pretended to be, in a sound slumber; while Herbert, seating himself
with his back against a tree, amused himself with shooting his arrows
here and there, Elsie running for them and bringing them to him, until
she was quite heated and out of breath.

"Now I must rest a little, Herbert," she said at length, sitting down
beside him. "Shall I tell you a story?"

"Oh! yes, do; I like your stories, and I don't mind leaving off
shooting till you're done," said he, laying down his bow.

Elsie's story lasted about ten minutes, and when she had finished,
Herbert took up his bow again, saying, "I guess you're rested now,
Elsie," and sent an arrow over into the meadow.

"There! just see how far I sent that! do run and bring it to me,
Elsie!" he cried, "and let me see if I can't hit that tree next time;
I've but just missed it."

"I'm tired, Herbert; but I'll run and bring it to you this once,"
replied Elsie, forgetting entirely her father's prohibition; "but then
you must try to wait until Jim comes back before you shoot any more."

So saying, she darted away, and came back in a moment with the arrow in
her hand. But a sudden recollection had come over her just as she left
the meadow, and throwing down the arrow at the boy's feet, she
exclaimed in an agitated tone, "O Herbert! I must go home just as
quickly as I can; I had forgotten--oh! how _could_ I forget! oh! what
will papa say!"

"Why, what's the matter?" asked Herbert in alarm.

"Never mind," said Elsie, sobbing. "There are the boys coming; they
will take care of you, and I must go home. Good-bye."

And she ran quickly up the road, Herbert following her retreating form
with wondering eyes.

Elsie sped onward, crying bitterly as she went.

"Where is papa!" she inquired of a servant whom she met in the avenue.

"Dunno, Miss Elsie, but I reckon Massa Horace am in de house, kase his
horse am in de stable."

Elsie hardly waited for the answer, but hurrying into the house, went
from room to room, looking and asking in vain for her father. He was
not in the drawing-room, or the library, or his own apartments. She had
just come out of this, and meeting a chamber-maid in the hall, she
exclaimed, "O Fanny! where _is_ papa? can't you tell me? for I must see
him."

"Here I am, Elsie; what do you want with me?" called out her father's
voice from the veranda, where she had neglected to look.

"What do you want?" he repeated, as his little girl appeared before him
with her flushed and tearful face. Elsie moved slowly toward him, with
a timid air and downcast eyes.

"I wanted to tell you something, papa," she said in a low, tremulous
tone.

"Well, I am listening," said he, taking hold of her hand and drawing
her to his side. "What is it? are you sick or hurt?"

"No, papa, not either; but--but, O papa! I have been a very naughty
girl," she exclaimed, bursting into tears, and sobbing violently. "I
disobeyed you, papa. I--I have been in the meadow."

"Is it possible! Would you _dare_ to do so when I so positively forbade
it only the other day?" he said in his sternest tone, while a dark
frown gathered on his brow. "Elsie, I shall have to punish you."

"I did not intend to disobey you, papa," she sobbed; "I quite forgot
that you had forbidden me to go there."

"That is no excuse, no excuse at all," said he severely; "You must
_remember_ my commands; and if your memory is so poor I shall find
means to strengthen it."

He paused a moment, still looking sternly at the little, trembling,
sobbing girl at his side; then asked, "What were you doing in the
meadow? tell me the whole story, that I may understand just how
severely I ought to punish you."

Elsie gave him all the particulars; and when, upon questioning her
closely, he perceived how entirely voluntary her confession had been,
his tone and manner became less stern, and he said quite mildly, "Well,
Elsie, I shall not be very severe with you this time, as you seem to be
very penitent, and have made so full and frank a confession; but beware
how you disobey me again, for you will not escape so easily another
time; and remember I will not take forgetfulness as any excuse. Go now
to Aunt Chloe, and tell her from me that she is to put you immediately
to bed."

"It is only the middle of the afternoon, papa," said Elsie,
deprecatingly.

"If it were much _earlier_, Elsie, it would make no difference; you
must go at once to your bed, and stay there until to-morrow morning."

"What will Lucy and Herbert think when they come in and can't find me,
papa?" she said, weeping afresh.

"You should have thought of that before you disobeyed me," he answered
very gravely. "If you are hungry," he added, "you may ask Chloe to get
you a slice of bread or a cracker for your supper, but you can have
nothing else."

Elsie lingered, looking timidly up into his face as though wanting to
say something, but afraid to venture.

"Speak, Elsie, if you have anything more to say," he said encouragingly.

"Dear papa, I am _so_ sorry I have been so naughty," she murmured,
leaning her head against the arm of his chair, while the tears rolled
fast down her cheeks; "won't you please forgive me, papa? it seems to
me I can't go to sleep to-night if you are angry with me."

He seemed quite touched by her penitence. "Yes, Elsie," he said, "I do
forgive you. I am not at all angry with you now, and you may go to
sleep in peace. Good night, my little daughter," and he bent down and
pressed his lips to her brow.

Elsie held up her face for another, and he kissed her lips.

"Good night, dear papa," she said, "I hope I shall never be such a
naughty girl again." And she went to her room, made almost happy by
that kiss of forgiveness.

Elsie was up quite early the next morning and had learned all her
lessons before breakfast. As she came down the stairs she saw, through
the open door, her papa standing with some of the men-servants,
apparently gazing at some object lying on the ground. She ran out and
stood on the steps of the portico, looking at them and wondering what
they were doing.

Presently her father turned round, and seeing her, held out his hand,
calling, "Come here, Elsie."

She sprang quickly down the steps, and running to him, put her hand in
his, saying, "Good morning, papa."

"Good morning, daughter," said he, "I have something to show you."

And leading her forward a few paces, he pointed to a large rattlesnake
lying there.

"O papa!" she cried, starting back and clinging to him.

"It will not hurt you _now_" he said; "it is dead; the men killed it
this morning _in the meadow_. Do you see _now_ why I forbade you to go
there?"

"O papa!" she murmured, in a low tone of deep feeling, laying her cheek
affectionately against his hand, "I might have lost my life by my
disobedience. How good God was to take care of me! Oh! I hope I shall
never be so naughty again."

"I hope not," said he gravely, but not unkindly; "and I hope that you
will always, after this, believe that your father has some good reason
for his commands, even although he may not choose to explain it to you."

"Yes, papa, I think I will," she answered, humbly.

The breakfast-bell had rung, and he now led her in and seated her at
the table.

Lucy Carrington looked curiously at her, and soon took an opportunity
to whisper, "Where were you last night, Elsie? I couldn't find you, and
your papa wouldn't say what had become of you, though I am quite sure
he knew."

"I'll tell you after breakfast," replied Elsie, blushing deeply.

Lucy waited rather impatiently until all had risen from the table, and
then, putting her arm round Elsie's waist, she drew her out on to the
veranda, saying, "now, Elsie, tell me; you know you promised."

"I was in bed," replied Elsie, dropping her eyes, while the color
mounted to her very hair.

"In bed! before five o'clock!" exclaimed Lucy in a tone of
astonishment. "Why, what was that for?"

"Papa sent me," replied Elsie, with an effort. "I had been naughty, and
disobeyed him."

"Why, how strange! Do tell me what you had done!" exclaimed Lucy, with
a face full of curiosity.

"Papa had forbidden me to go into the meadow, I forgot all about it,
and ran in there to get Herbert's arrow for him," replied Elsie,
looking very much ashamed.

"Was _that all?_ why _my_ papa wouldn't have punished me for that,"
said Lucy. "He might have scolded me a little if I had done it on
purpose, but if I had told him I had forgotten, he would only have
said, 'You must remember better next time.'"

"Papa says that forgetfulness is no excuse; that I am to remember his
commands, and if I forget, he will have to punish me, to make me
remember better next time," said Elsie.

"He must be very strict indeed; I'm glad he is not _my_ papa," replied
Lucy, in a tone of great satisfaction.

"Come, little girls, make haste and get ready; we are to start in half
an hour," said Adelaide Dinsmore, calling to them from the hall door.

The whole family, old and young, including visitors, were on that day
to go on a picnic up the river, taking their dinner along, and spending
the day in the woods. They had been planning this excursion for several
days, and the children especially had been looking forward to it with a
great deal of pleasure.

"Am I to go, Aunt Adelaide? did papa say so?" asked Elsie anxiously, as
she and Lucy hastened to obey the summons.

"I presume you are to go of course, Elsie; we have been discussing the
matter for the last three days, always taking it for granted that you
were to make one of the party, and he has never said you should not,"
replied Adelaide, good-naturedly; "so make haste, or you will be too
late. But here comes your papa now." she added, as the library door
opened, and Mr. Dinsmore stepped out into the hall where they were
standing.

"Horace, Elsie is to go of course?"

"I do not see the _of course_, Adelaide," said he dryly. "No; Elsie is
_not_ to go; she must stay at home and attend to her lessons as usual."

A look of keen disappointment came over Elsie's face, but she turned
away without a word and went upstairs; while Lucy, casting a look of
wrathful indignation at Mr. Dinsmore, ran after her, and following her
into her room, she put her arm round her neck, saying, "Never mind,
Elsie; it's too bad, and I wouldn't bear it. I'd go in spite of him."

"No, no, Lucy, I must obey my father; God says so; and besides, I
couldn't do that if I wanted to, for papa is stronger than I am, and
would punish me severely if I were to attempt such a thing," replied
Elsie hastily, brushing away a tear that _would_ come into her eye.

"Then I'd coax him," said Lucy. "Come, I'll go with you, and we will
both try."

"No," replied Elsie, with a hopeless shake of the head, "I have found
out already that my papa never breaks his word; and nothing could
induce him to let me go, now that he has once said I should not. But
you will have to leave me, Lucy, or you will be too late."

"Good-bye, then," said Lucy, turning to go; "but I think it is a great
shame, and I shan't half enjoy myself without you."

"Well now, Horace, I think you might let the child go," was Adelaide's
somewhat indignant rejoinder to her brother, as the two little girls
disappeared; "I can't conceive what reason you can have for keeping her
at home, and she looks so terribly disappointed. Indeed, Horace, I am
sometimes half inclined to think you take pleasure in thwarting that
child."

"You had better call me a tyrant at once, Adelaide," said he angrily,
and turning very red; "but I must beg to be permitted to manage my own
child in my own way; and I cannot see that I am under any obligation to
give my reasons either to you or to any one else."

"Well, if you did not intend to let her go, I think you might have said
so at first, and not left the poor child to build her hopes upon it,
only to be disappointed. I must say I think it was cruel."

"Until this morning, Adelaide," he replied, "I did intend to let her
go, for I expected to go myself; but I find I shall not be able to do
so, as I must meet a gentleman on business; and as I know that
accidents frequently occur to such pleasure parties, I don't feel
willing to let Elsie go, unless I could be there myself to take care of
her. Whether you believe it or not, it is really regard for my child's
safety, and _not_ cruelty, that leads me to refuse her this
gratification."

"You are full of notions about that child, Horace," said Adelaide, a
little impatiently. "I'm sure some of the rest of us could take care of
her."

"No; in case of accident you would all have enough to do to take care
of yourselves, and I shall not think of trusting Elsie in the company,
since I cannot be there myself," he answered decidedly; and Adelaide,
seeing he was not to be moved from his determination, gave up the
attempt, and left the room to prepare for her ride.

It was a great disappointment to Elsie, and for a few moments her heart
rose up in rebellion against her father. She tried to put away the
feeling, but it would come back; for she could not imagine any reason
for his refusal to let her go, excepting the disobedience of the day
before, and it seemed hard and unjust to punish her twice for the same
fault, especially as he would have known nothing about it but for her
own frank and voluntary confession. It was a great pity she had not
heard the reasons he gave her Aunt Adelaide, for then she would have
been quite submissive and content. It is indeed true that she ought to
have been as it was; but our little Elsie, though sincerely desirous to
do right, was not yet perfect, and had already strangely forgotten the
lesson of the morning.

She watched from the veranda the departure of the pleasure-seekers, all
apparently in the gayest spirits. She was surprised to see that her
father was not with them, and it half reconciled her to staying at
home, although she hardly expected to see much of him; but there was
something pleasant in the thought that he wanted her at home because he
was to be there himself; it looked as though he really had some
affection for her, and even a selfish love was better than none. I do
not mean that these were Elsie's thoughts; no, she never would have
dreamed of calling her father selfish; but the undefined feeling was
there, as she watched him hand the ladies into the carriage, and then
turn and reenter the house as they drove off.

But Miss Day's bell rang, and Elsie gathered up her books and hastened
to the school-room. Her patience and endurance were sorely tried that
morning, for Miss Day was in an exceedingly bad humor, being greatly
mortified and also highly indignant that she had not been invited to
make one of the picnic party; and Elsie had never found her more
unreasonable and difficult to please; and her incessant fault-finding
and scolding were almost more than the little girl could bear in
addition to her own sad disappointment. But at last the morning, which
had seldom seemed so long, was over, and Elsie dismissed from the
school-room for the day.

At dinner, instead of the usual large party, there were only her father
and the gentleman with whom he was transacting business, Miss Day, and
herself.

The gentleman was not one of those who care to notice children, but
continued to discuss business and politics with Mr. Dinsmore, without
seeming to be in the least aware of the presence of the little girl,
who sat in perfect silence, eating whatever her father saw fit to put
upon her plate; and Elsie was very glad indeed when at length Miss Day
rose to leave the table, and her papa told her she might go too.

He called her back though, before she had gone across the room, to say
that he had intended to ride with her that afternoon, but found he
should not be able to do so, and she must take Jim for a protector, as
he did not wish her either to miss her ride or to go entirely alone.

He spoke very kindly; Elsie thought with remorse of the rebellious
feelings of the morning, and, had she been alone with her father, would
certainly have confessed them, expressing her sorrow and asking
forgiveness; but she could not do so before a third person, more
especially a stranger; and merely saying, "Yes, papa, I will," she
turned away and left the room. Jim was bringing up her horse as she
passed the open door; and she hastened up-stairs to prepare for her
ride.

"O mammy!" she suddenly exclaimed, as Chloe was trying on her hat, "is
Pomp going to the city to-day?"

"Yes, darlin', he gwine start directly," said Chloe, arranging her
nursling's curls to better advantage, and finishing her work with a
fond caress.

"Oh! then, mammy, take some money out of my purse, and tell him to buy
me a pound of the very nicest candy he can find," said the little girl,
eagerly. "I haven't had any for a long time, and I feel hungry for it
to-day. What they had bought for the picnic looked so good, but you
know I didn't get any of it."

The picnic party returned just before tea-time, and Lucy Carrington
rushed into Elsie's room eager to tell her what a delightful day they
had had. She gave a very glowing account of their sports and
entertainment, interrupting herself every now and then to lament over
Elsie's absence, assuring her again and again that it had been the only
drawback upon her own pleasure, and that she thought that Elsie's papa
was very unkind indeed to refuse her permission to go. As Elsie
listened the morning's feelings of vexation and disappointment returned
in full force; and though she said nothing, she allowed her friend to
accuse her father of cruelty and injustice without offering any
remonstrance.

In the midst of their talk the tea-bell rang, and they hurried down to
take their places at the table, where Lucy went on with her narrative,
though in a rather subdued tone, Elsie now and then asking a question,
until Mr. Dinsmore turned to his daughter, saying, in his stern way,
"Be quiet, Elsie; you are talking entirely too much for a child of your
age; don't let me hear you speak again until you have left the table."

Elsie's face flushed, and her eyes fell, under the rebuke; and during
the rest of the meal not a sound escaped her lips.

"Come, Elsie, let us go into the garden and finish our talk," said
Lucy, putting her arm affectionately around her friend's waist as they
left the table; "your papa can't hear us there, and we'll have a good
time."

"Papa only stopped us because we were talking too much at the table,"
said Elsie, apologetically; "I'm sure he is willing you should tell me
all about what a nice time you all had. But, Lucy," she added, lowering
her voice, "please don't say again that you think papa was unkind to
keep me at home to-day. I'm sure he knows best, and I ought not to have
listened to a word of that kind about him."

"O! well, never mind, I won't talk so any more," said Lucy,
good-naturedly, as they skipped down the walk together; "but I do think
he's cross, and I wish you were my sister, that you might have my kind,
good papa for yours too," she added, drawing her arm more closely about
her friend's waist.

"Thank you, Lucy," said Elsie, with a little sigh, "I would like to be
your sister, but indeed I would not like to give up my own dear papa,
for I love him, oh! _so_ much."

"Why, how funny, when he's so cross to you!" exclaimed Lucy, laughing.

Elsie put her hand over her friend's mouth, and Lucy pushed it away,
saying, "Excuse me; I forgot; but I'll try not to say it again."

While the little girls were enjoying their talk in the garden, a
servant with a small bundle in her hand came out on the veranda, where
Mr. Horace Dinsmore was sitting smoking a cigar, and, casting an
inquiring glance around, asked if he knew where Miss Elsie was?

"What do you want with her?" he asked.

"Only to give her dis bundle, massa, dat Pomp jus brought from de city."

"Give it to me," he said, extending his hand to receive it.

A few moments afterward Elsie and her friend returned to the house, and
meeting Pomp, she asked him if he had brought her candy.

He replied that he had got some that was very nice indeed, and he
thought that Fanny had carried it to her; and seeing Fanny near, he
called to her to know what she had done with it.

"Why, Pomp, Massa Horace he told me to give it to him," said the girl.

Elsie turned away with a very disappointed look.

"You'll go and ask him for it, won't you?" asked Lucy, who was anxious
to enjoy a share of the candy as well as to see Elsie gratified.

"No," said Elsie, sighing, "I had rather do without it."

Lucy coaxed for a little while, but finding it impossible to persuade
Elsie to approach her father on the subject, finally volunteered to do
the errand herself.

Elsie readily consented, and Lucy, trembling a little in spite of her
boast that she was not afraid of him, walked out on to the veranda
where Mr. Dinsmore was still sitting, and putting on an air of great
confidence, said:

"Mr. Dinsmore, will you please to give me Elsie's candy? she wants it."

"Did Elsie send you?" he asked in a cold, grave tone.

"Yes, sir," replied Lucy, somewhat frightened.

"Then, if you please, Miss Lucy, you may tell Elsie to come directly to
me."

Lucy ran back to her friend, and Elsie received the message in some
trepidation, but as no choice was now left her, she went immediately to
her father.

"Did you want me, papa?" she asked timidly.

"Yes, Elsie; I wish to know why you send another person to me for what
you want, instead of coming yourself. It displeases me very much, and
you may rest assured that you will never get anything that you ask for
in that way."

Elsie hung her head in silence.

"Are you going to answer me?" he asked, in his severe tone. "Why did
you send Lucy instead of coming yourself?"

"I was afraid, papa," she whispered, almost under her breath.

"Afraid! afraid of what?" he asked, with increasing displeasure.

"Of you, papa," she replied, in a tone so low that he could scarcely
catch the words, although he bent down his ear to receive her reply.

"If I were a drunken brute, in the habit of knocking you about, beating
and abusing you, there might be some reason for your fear, Elsie," he
said, coloring with anger; "but, as it is, I see no excuse for it at
all and I am both hurt and displeased by it."

"I am very sorry, papa; I won't do so again," she said, tremblingly.

There was a moment's pause, and then she asked in a timid hesitating
way, "Papa, may I have my candy, if you please?"

"No, you may not," he said decidedly; "and understand and remember that
I positively forbid you either to buy or eat anything of the kind again
without my express permission."

Elsie's eyes filled, and she had a hard struggle to keep down a rising
sob as she turned away and went slowly back to the place where she had
left her friend.

"Have you got it?" asked Lucy, eagerly.

Elsie shook her head.

"What a shame!" exclaimed Lucy, indignantly. "He's just as cross as he
can be. He's a tyrant, so he is! just a hateful old tyrant, and I
wouldn't care a cent for him, if I were you, Elsie. I'm glad he is not
my father, so I am."

"I'm afraid he doesn't love me much," sighed Elsie in low, tearful
tones, "for he hardly ever lets me have anything, or go anywhere that I
want to."

"Well, never mind, _I'll_ send and buy a good lot tomorrow, and we'll
have a regular feast," said Lucy, soothingly, as she passed her arm
around her friend's waist and drew her down to a seat on the portico
step.

"Thank you, Lucy; you can buy for yourself if you like, but not for me,
for papa has forbidden me to eat anything of the sort."

"Oh! of course we'll not let him know anything about it," said Lucy.

But Elsie shook her head sadly, saying with a little sigh, "No, Lucy,
you are very kind, but I cannot disobey papa, even if he should never
know it, because that would be disobeying God, and He would know it."

"Dear me, how particular you are!" exclaimed Lucy a little pettishly.

"Elsie," said Mr. Dinsmore, speaking from the door, "what are you doing
there? Did I not forbid you to be out in the evening air?"

"I did not know you meant the doorstep, papa. I thought I was only not
to go down into the garden," replied the little girl, rising to go in.

"I see you intend to make as near an approach to disobedience as you
dare," said her father. "Go immediately to your room, and tell mammy to
put you to bed."

Elsie silently obeyed, and Lucy, casting an indignant glance at Mr.
Dinsmore, was about to follow her, when he said, "I wish her to go
alone, if you please, Miss Lucy;" and with a frown and a pout the
little girl walked into the drawing-room and seated herself on the sofa
beside her mamma.

Mr. Dinsmore walked out on to the portico, and stood there watching the
moon which was just rising over the treetops.

"Horace," said Arthur, emerging from the shadow of a tree near by and
approaching his brother, "Elsie thinks you're a tyrant. She says you
never let her have anything, or go anywhere, and you're always
punishing her. She and Lucy have had a fine time out here talking over
your bad treatment of her, and planning to have some candy in spite of
you."

"Arthur, I do not believe that Elsie would deliberately plan to disobey
me; and whatever faults she may have, I am very sure she is above the
meanness of telling tales," replied Mr. Dinsmore, in a tone of
severity, as he turned and went into the house, while Arthur, looking
sadly crestfallen, crept away out of sight.

When Elsie reached her room, she found that Chloe was not there; for,
not expecting that her services would be required at so early an hour,
she had gone down to the kitchen to have a little chat with her
fellow-servants. Elsie rang for her, and then walking to the window,
stood looking down into the garden in an attitude of thoughtfulness and
dejection. She was mentally taking a review of the manner in which she
had spent the day, as was her custom before retiring. The retrospect
had seldom been so painful to the little girl. She had a very tender
conscience, and it told her now that she had more than once during the
day indulged in wrong feelings toward her father; that she had also
allowed another to speak disrespectfully of him, giving by her silence
a tacit approval of the sentiments uttered, and, more than that, had
spoken complainingly of him herself.

"Oh!" she murmured half aloud as she covered her face with her hands,
and the tears trickled through her fingers, "how soon I have forgotten
the lesson papa taught me this morning, and my promise to trust him
without knowing his reasons. I don't deserve that he should love me or
be kind and indulgent, when I am so rebellious."

"What's de matter, darlin'?" asked Chloe's voice in pitiful tones, as
she took her nursling in her arms and laid her little head against her
bosom, passing her hand caressingly over the soft bright curls; "your
ole mammy can't bear to see her pet cryin' like dat."

"O mammy, mammy! I've been such a wicked girl to-day! Oh! I'm afraid I
shall never be good, never be like Jesus. I'm afraid He is angry with
me, for I have disobeyed Him to-day," sobbed the child.

"Darlin'," said Chloe, earnestly, "didn't you read to your ole mammy
dis very morning dese bressed words: 'If any man sin, we have an
advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous,' an' de other:
'If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our
sins.' Go to de dear, bressed Lord Jesus, darlin', an' ax Him to
forgive you, an' I _knows_ He will."

"Yes, He will," replied the little girl, raising her head and dashing
away her tears, "He will forgive my sins, and take away my wicked
heart, and give me right thoughts and feelings. How glad I am you
remembered those sweet texts, you dear old mammy," she added, twining
her arms lovingly around her nurse's neck. And then she delivered her
papa's message, and Chloe began at once to prepare her for bed.

Elsie's tears had ceased to flow, but they were still trembling in her
eyes, and the little face wore a very sad and troubled expression as
she stood patiently passive in her nurse's hands. Chloe had soon
finished her labors, and then the little girl opened her Bible, and, as
usual, read a few verses aloud, though her voice trembled, and once or
twice a tear fell on the page; then closing the book she stole away to
the side of the bed and knelt down.

She was a good while on her knees, and several times, as the sound of a
low sob fell upon Chloe's ear, she sighed and murmured to herself:
"Poor, darlin'! dear, bressed lamb, your ole mammy don't like to hear
dat."

Then as the child rose from her kneeling posture she went to her, and
taking her in her arms, folded her in a fond embrace, calling her by
the most tender and endearing epithets, and telling her that her old
mammy loved her better than life--better than anything in the wide
world.

Elsie flung her arms around her nurse's neck, and laid her head upon
her bosom, saying, "Yes, my dear old mammy, I know you love me, and I
love you, too. But put me in bed now, or papa will be displeased."

"What makes you so onrestless, darlin'?" asked Chloe, half an hour
afterward; "can't you go to sleep no how?"

"O mammy! if I could only see papa just for one moment to tell him
something. Do you think he would come to me?" sighed the little girl.
"Please, mammy, go down and see if he is busy. Don't say a word if he
is; but if not, ask him to come to me for just one minute."

Chloe left the room immediately, but returned the next moment, saying,
"I jes looked into de parlor, darlin', an' Mass Horace he mighty busy
playin' chess wid Miss Lucy's mamma, an' I didn't say nuffin' to him.
Jes you go sleep, my pet, an' tell Mass Horace all 'bout it in de
mornin'."

Elsie sighed deeply, and turning over on her pillow, cried herself to
sleep.

Chloe was just putting the finishing touches to the little girl's dress
the next morning, when Lucy Carrington rapped at the door.

"Good morning, Elsie," she said; "I was in a hurry to come to you,
because it is my last day, you know. Wasn't it too bad of your father
to send you off to bed so early last night?"

"No, Lucy, papa has a right to send me to bed whenever he pleases; and
besides, I was naughty and deserved to be punished; and it was not much
more than half an hour earlier than my usual bedtime."

"You naughty!" exclaimed Lucy, opening her eyes very wide. "Mamma often
says she wishes I was half as good."

Elsie sighed, but made no answer. Her thoughts seemed far away. She was
thinking of what she had been so anxious, the night before, to say to
her father, and trying to gain courage to do it this morning. "If I
could only get close to him when nobody was by, and he would look and
speak kindly to me, I could do it then," she murmured to herself.

"Come, Aunt Chloe, aren't you done? I want to have a run in the garden
before breakfast," said Lucy, somewhat impatiently, as Chloe tied and
untied Elsie's sash several times.

"Well, Miss Lucy, I'se done now," she answered, passing her hand once
more over her nursling's curls: "but Mass Horace he mighty pertickler
'bout Miss Elsie."

"Yes," said Elsie, "papa wants me always to look very nice and neat;
and when I go down in the morning he just gives me one glance from head
to foot, and if anything is wrong he is sure to see it and send me back
immediately to have it made right. Now, mammy, please give me my hat
and let us go."

"You's got plenty ob time, chillens; de bell won't go for to ring dis
hour," remarked the old nurse, tying on Elsie's hat.

"My chile looks sweet an' fresh as a moss rosebud dis mornin'," she
added, talking to herself, as she watched the two little girls tripping
down-stairs hand in hand.

They skipped up and down the avenue several times, and ran all round
the garden before it was time to go in. Then Elsie went up to Chloe to
have her hair made smooth again. She was just descending for the second
time to the hall, where she had left Lucy, when they saw a carriage
drive up to the front door.

"There's papa!" cried Lucy, joyfully, as it stopped and a gentleman
sprang out and came up the steps into the portico; and in an instant
she was in his arms, receiving such kisses and caresses as Elsie had
vainly longed for all her life.

Lucy had several brothers, but was an only daughter, and a very great
pet, especially with her father.

Elsie watched them with a wistful look and a strange aching at her
heart.

But presently Mr. Carrington set Lucy down and turning to her, gave her
a shake of the hand, and then a kiss, saying, "How do you do this
morning, my dear? I'm afraid you are hardly glad to see me, as I come
to take Lucy away, for I suppose you have been having fine times
together."

"Yes, sir, indeed we have; and I hope you will let her come again."

"Oh! yes, certainly; but the visits must not be all on one side. I
shall talk to your papa about it, and perhaps persuade him to let us
take you along this afternoon to spend a week at Ashlands."

"Oh! how delightful!" cried Lucy, clapping her hands. "Elsie, do you
think he will let you go?"

"I don't know, I'm afraid not," replied the little girl doubtfully.

"You must coax him, as I do my papa," said Lucy.

But at this Elsie only shook her head, and just then the breakfast-bell
rang.

Mr. Dinsmore was already in the breakfast-room, and Elsie, going up to
him, said, "Good morning, papa."

"Good morning, Elsie," he replied, but his tone was so cold that even
if no one else had been by, she could not have said another word.

He had not intended to be influenced by the information Arthur had so
maliciously given him the night before; yet unconsciously he was, and
his manner to his little daughter was many degrees colder than it had
been for some time.

After breakfast Lucy reminded Elsie of a promise she had made to show
her some beautiful shells which her father had collected in his
travels, and Elsie led the way to the cabinet, a small room opening
into the library, and filled with curiosities.

They had gone in alone, but were soon followed by Arthur, Walter and
Enna.

Almost everything in the room belonged to Mr. Horace Dinsmore; and
Elsie, knowing that many of the articles were rare and costly, and that
he was very careful of them, begged Enna and the boys to go out, lest
they should accidentally do some mischief.

"I won't," replied Arthur. "I've just as good a right to be here as
you."

As he spoke he gave her a push, which almost knocked her over, and in
catching at a table to save herself from falling, she threw down a
beautiful vase of rare old china, which Mr. Dinsmore prized very
highly. It fell with a loud crash, and lay scattered in fragments at
their feet.

"There, see what you've done!" exclaimed Arthur, as the little group
stood aghast at the mischief.

It happened that Mr. Dinsmore was just then in the library, and the
noise soon brought him upon the scene of action.

"Who did this?" he asked, in a wrathful tone, looking from one to the
other.

"Elsie," said Arthur; "she threw it down and broke it."

"Troublesome, careless child! I would not have taken a hundred dollars
for that vase," he exclaimed. "Go to your room! go this instant, and
stay there until I send for you; and remember, if you ever come in here
again without permission I shall punish you."

He opened the door as he spoke, and Elsie flew across the hall, up the
stairs, and into her own room, without once pausing or looking back.

"Now go out, every one of you, and don't come in here again; this is no
place for children," said Mr. Dinsmore, turning the others into the
hall, and shutting and locking the door upon them.

"You ought to be ashamed, Arthur Dinsmore," exclaimed Lucy indignantly;
"it was all your own fault, and Elsie was not to blame at all, and you
know it."

"I didn't touch the old vase, and I'm not going to take the blame of
it, either, I can tell you, miss," replied Arthur, moving off, followed
by Walter and Enna, while Lucy walked to the other end of the hall, and
stood looking out of the window, debating in her own mind whether she
had sufficient courage to face Mr. Dinsmore, and make him understand
where the blame of the accident ought to lie.

At length she seemed to have solved the question; for turning about and
moving noiselessly down the passage to the library door, she gave a
timid little rap, which was immediately answered by Mr. Dinsmore's
voice saying, "Come in."

Lucy opened the door and walked in, closing it after her.

Mr. Dinsmore sat at a table writing, and he looked up with an
expression of mingled surprise and impatience.

"What do you want, Miss Lucy?" he said, "speak quickly, for I am very
busy."

"I just wanted to tell you, sir," replied Lucy, speaking up quite
boldly, "that Elsie was not at all to blame about the vase; for it was
Arthur who pushed her and made her fall against the table, and that was
the way the vase came to fall and break."

"What made him push her?" he asked.

"Just because Elsie asked him, and Walter, and Enna to go out, for fear
they might do some mischief."

Mr. Dinsmore's pen was suspended over the paper for a moment, while he
sat thinking with a somewhat clouded brow; but presently turning to the
little girl, he said quite pleasantly, "Very well, Miss Lucy, I am much
obliged to you for your information, for I should be very sorry to
punish Elsie unjustly. And now will you do me the favor to go to her
and tell her that her papa says she need not stay in her room any
longer?"

"Yes, sir, I will," replied Lucy, her face sparkling with delight as
she hurried off with great alacrity to do his bidding.

She found Elsie in her room crying violently, and throwing her arms
around her neck she delivered Mr. Dinsmore's message, concluding with,
"So now, Elsie, you see you needn't cry, nor feel sorry any more; but
just dry your eyes and let us go down into the garden and have a good
time."

Elsie was very thankful to Lucy, and very glad that her papa now knew
that she was not to blame; but she was still sorry for his loss, and
his words had wounded her too deeply to be immediately forgotten;
indeed it was some time before the sore spot they had made in her heart
was entirely healed. But she tried to forget it all and enter heartily
into the sports proposed by Lucy.

The Carringtons were not to leave until the afternoon, and the little
girls spent nearly the whole morning in the garden, coming into the
drawing-room a few moments before the dinner-bell rang.

Mrs. Carrington sat on a sofa engaged with some fancy work, while
Herbert, who had not felt well enough to join the other children, had
stretched himself out beside her, putting his head in her lap.

Mr. Carrington and Mr. Horace Dinsmore were conversing near by.

Lucy ran up to her papa and seated herself upon his knee with her arm
around his neck; while Elsie stopped a moment to speak to Herbert, and
then timidly approaching her father, with her eyes upon the floor, said
in a low, half-frightened tone, that reached no ear but his, "I am very
sorry about the vase, papa."

He took her hand, and drawing her close to him, pushed back the hair
from her forehead with his other hand, and bending down to her, said
almost in a whisper, "Never mind, daughter, we will forget all about
it. I am sorry I spoke so harshly to you, since Lucy tells me you were
not so much to blame."

Elsie's face flushed with pleasure, and she looked up gratefully; but
before she had time to reply, Mrs. Carrington said, "Elsie, we want to
take you home with us to spend a week; will you go?"

"I should like to, very much, indeed, ma'am, if papa will let me,"
replied the little girl, looking wistfully up into his face.

"Well, Mr. Dinsmore, what do you say? I hope you can have no
objection," said Mrs. Carrington, looking inquiringly at him; while her
husband added, "Oh! yes, Dinsmore, you must let her go by all means;
you can certainly spare her for a week, and it need be no interruption
to her lessons, as she can share with Lucy in the instructions of our
governess, who is really a superior teacher."

Mr. Dinsmore was looking very grave, and Elsie knew from the expression
of his countenance what his answer would be, before he spoke. He had
noticed the indignant glance Lucy had once or twice bestowed upon him,
and remembering Arthur's report of the conversation between the two
little girls the night before, had decided in his own mind that the
less Elsie saw of Lucy the better.

"I thank you both for your kind attention to my little girl," he
replied courteously, "but while fully appreciating your kindness in
extending the invitation, I must beg leave to decline it, as I am
satisfied that home is the best place for her at present."

"Ah! no, I suppose we ought hardly to have expected you to spare her so
soon after your return," said Mrs. Carrington; "but, really, I am very
sorry to be refused, for Elsie is such a good child that I am always
delighted to have Lucy and Herbert with her."

"Perhaps you think better of her than she deserves, Mrs. Carrington. I
find that Elsie is sometimes naughty and in need of correction, as well
as other children, and therefore, I think it best to keep her as much
as possible under my own eye," replied Mr. Dinsmore, looking very
gravely at his little daughter as he spoke.

Elsie's face flushed painfully, and she had hard work to keep from
bursting into tears. It was a great relief to her that just at that
moment the dinner-bell rang, and there was a general movement in the
direction of the dining-room. Her look was touchingly humble as her
father led her in and seated her at the table.

She was thinking, "Papa says I am naughty sometimes, but oh! how _very_
naughty he would think me if he knew all the wicked feelings I had
yesterday."

As soon as they had risen from the table, Mrs. Carrington bade Lucy go
up to her maid to have her bonnet put on, as the carriage was already
at the door.

Elsie would have gone with her, but her father had taken her hand
again, and he held it fast.

She looked up inquiringly into his face.

"Stay here," he said. "Lucy will be down again in a moment."

And Elsie stood quietly at his side until Lucy returned.

But even then her father did not relinquish his hold of her hand, and
all the talking the little girls could do must be done close at his
side.

Yet, as he was engaged in earnest conversation with Mr. Carrington, and
did not seem to be listening to them, Lucy ventured to whisper to
Elsie, "I think it's real mean of him; he might let you go."

"No," replied Elsie, in the same low tone, "I'm sure papa knows best;
and besides, I _have_ been naughty, and don't deserve to go, though I
should like to, dearly."

"Well, good-bye," said Lucy, giving her a kiss.

It was not until Mr. Carrington's carriage was fairly on its way down
the avenue, that Mr. Dinsmore dropped his little girl's hand; and then
he said, "I want you in the library, Elsie; come to me in half an hour."

"Yes, papa, I will," she replied, looking a little frightened.

"You need not be afraid," he said, in a tone of displeasure; "I am not
going to hurt you."

Elsie blushed and hung her head, but made no reply, and he turned away
and left her. She could not help wondering what he wanted with her, and
though she tried not to feel afraid, it was impossible to keep from
trembling a little as she knocked at the library door.

Her father's voice said, "Come in," and entering, she found him alone,
seated at a table covered with papers and writing materials, while
beside the account book in which he was writing lay a pile of money, in
bank notes, and gold and silver.

"Here, Elsie," he said, laying down his pen, "I want to give you your
month's allowance. Your grandfather has paid it to you heretofore, but
of course, now that I am at home, I attend to everything that concerns
you. You have been receiving eight dollars--I shall give you ten," and
he counted out the money and laid it before her as he spoke; "but I
shall require a strict account of all that you spend. I want you to
learn to keep accounts, for if you live, you will some day have a great
deal of money to take care of; and here is a blank book that I have
prepared, so that you can do so very easily. Every time that you lay
out or give away any money, you must set it down here as soon as you
come home; be particular about that, lest you should forget something,
because you must bring your book to me at the end of every month, and
let me see how much you have spent, and what is the balance in hand;
and if you are not able to make it come out square, and tell me what
you have done with every penny, you will lose either the whole or a
part of your allowance for the next month, according to the extent of
your delinquency. Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir."

"Very well. Let me see now how much you can remember of your last
month's expenditures. Take the book and set down everything you can
think of."

Elsie had a good memory, and was able to remember how she had spent
almost every cent during the time specified; and she set down one item
after another, and then added up the column without any mistake.

"That was very well done," said her father approvingly. And then
running over the items half aloud, "Candy, half a dollar; remember,
Elsie, there is to be no more money disposed of in that way; not as a
matter of economy, by any means, but because I consider is very
injurious. I am very anxious that you should grow up strong and
healthy. I would not for anything have you a miserable dyspeptic."

Then suddenly closing the book and handing it to her, he said,
inquiringly, "You were very anxious to go to Ashlands?"

"I would have liked to go, papa, if you had been willing," she replied
meekly.

"I am afraid Lucy is not a suitable companion for you, Elsie. I think
she puts bad notions into your head," he said very gravely.

Elsie flushed and trembled, and was just opening her lips to make her
confession, when the door opened and her grandfather entered. She could
not speak before him, and so remained silent.

"Does she not sometimes say naughty things to you?" asked her father,
speaking so low that her grandfather could not have heard.

"Yes, sir," replied the little girl, almost under her breath.

"I thought so," said he, "and therefore I shall keep you apart as
entirely as possible; and I hope there will be no murmuring on your
part."

"No, papa, you know best," she answered, very humbly.

Then, putting the money into her hands, he dismissed her. When she had
gone out he sat for a moment in deep thought. Elsie's list of articles
bought with her last month's allowance consisted almost entirely of
gifts for others, generally the servants. There were some beads and
sewing-silk for making a purse, and a few drawing materials; but with
the exception of the candy, she had bought nothing else for herself.
This was what her father was thinking of.

"She is a dear, unselfish, generous little thing," he said to himself.
"However, I may be mistaken; I must not allow myself to judge from only
one month. She seems submissive, too,"--he had overheard what passed
between her and Lucy at parting--"but perhaps that was for effect; she
probably suspected I could hear her--and she thinks me a tyrant, and
obeys from fear, not love."

This thought drove away all the tender feeling that had been creeping
into his heart; and when he next met his little daughter, his manner
was as cold and distant as ever, and Elsie found it impossible to
approach him with sufficient freedom to tell him what was in her heart.



CHAPTER FIFTH


   "Man is unjust, but God is just; and finally justice
    Triumphs."
                                 --LONGFELLOW'S _Evangeline_.

                      "How disappointment tracks
    The steps of hope!"
                                 --MISS LANDON.


One afternoon, the next week after the Carringtons had left, the
younger members of the family, Arthur, Elsie, Walter and Enna, were
setting out to take a walk, when Elsie, seeing a gold chain depending
from the pocket of Arthur's jacket, exclaimed:

"O Arthur! how _could_ you take grandpa's watch? _Do_ put it away, for
you will be almost sure to injure it."

"Hold your tongue, Elsie; I'll do as I please," was the polite
rejoinder.

"But, Arthur, you _know_ that grandpa would never let you take it. I
have often heard him say that it was very valuable, for it was seldom
that so good a one could be had at any price; and I know that he paid a
great deal for it."

"Well, if he prizes it so, he needn't have left it lying on his table,
and so I'll just teach him a lesson; it's about time he learnt to be
careful."

"O Arthur! do put it away," pleaded Elsie, "if anything should happen
to it, what will grandpa say? I know he will be very angry, and ask us
all who did it; and you know I cannot tell a lie, and if he asks me if
it was you, I cannot say no."

"Yes, I'll trust you for telling tales," replied Arthur, sneeringly;
"but if you do, I'll pay you for it."

He ran down the avenue as he spoke, Walter and Enna following, and
Elsie slowly bringing up the rear, looking the picture of distress, for
she knew not what to do, seeing that Arthur would not listen to her
remonstrances, and, as often happened, all the older members of the
family were out, and thus there was no authority that could be appealed
to in time to prevent the mischief which she had every reason to fear
would be done. Once she thought of turning back, that she might escape
the necessity of being a witness in the case; but, remembering that her
father told her she must walk with the others that afternoon, and also
that, as she had already seen the watch in Arthur's possession, her
testimony would be sufficient to convict him even if she saw no more,
she gave up the idea, and hurried on, with the faint hope that she
might be able to induce Arthur to refrain from indulging in such sports
as would be likely to endanger the watch; or else to give it into her
charge. At any other time she would have trembled at the thought of
touching it; but now she felt so sure it would be safer with her than
with him, that she would gladly have taken the responsibility.

The walk was far from being a pleasure that afternoon; the boys ran so
fast that it quite put her out of breath to keep up with them; and then
every little while Arthur would cut some caper that made her tremble
for the watch; answering her entreaties that he would either give it
into her care or walk along quietly, with sneers and taunts, and
declarations of his determination to do just exactly as he pleased, and
not be ruled by her.

But at length, while he was in the act of climbing a tree, the watch
dropped from his pocket and fell to the ground, striking with
considerable force.

Elsie uttered a scream, and Arthur, now thoroughly frightened himself,
jumped down and picked it up.

The crystal was broken, the back dented, and how much the works were
injured they could not tell; but it had ceased to run.

"O Arthur! see what you've done!" exclaimed Walter.

"What will papa say?" said Enna; while Elsie stood pale and trembling,
not speaking a word.

"You hush!" exclaimed Arthur fiercely. "I'll tell you what, if any of
you dare to tell of me, I'll make you sorry for it to the last day of
your life. Do you hear?"

The question was addressed to Elsie in a tone of defiance.

"Arthur," said she, "grandpa will know that _somebody_ did it, and
surely you would not wish an innocent person to be punished for _your_
fault."

"I don't care _who_ gets punished, so that papa does not find out that
I did it," said he furiously; "and if you dare to tell of me, I'll pay
you for it."

"I shall say nothing, unless it becomes necessary to save the innocent,
or I am forced to speak; but in that case I shall tell the truth,"
replied Elsie, firmly.

Arthur doubled up his fist, and made a plunge at her as if he meant to
knock her down; but Elsie sprang behind the tree, and then ran so
fleetly toward the house that he was not able to overtake her until his
passion had had time to cool.

When they reached the house, Arthur replaced the watch on his father's
table, whence he had taken it, and then they all awaited his return
with what courage they might.

"I say, Wally," said Arthur, drawing his little brother aside and
speaking in a low tone, having first sent a cautious glance around to
assure himself that no one else was within hearing; "I say, what would
you give me for that new riding whip of mine?"

"O Arthur! anything I've got," exclaimed the little boy eagerly. "But
you wouldn't give it up, I know, and you're only trying to tease me."

"No, indeed, Wal; I mean to _give_ it to you if you'll only be a good
fellow and do as I tell you."

"What?" he asked, with intense interest.

"Tell papa that Jim broke the watch."

"But he _didn't_" replied the child, opening his eyes wide with
astonishment.

"Well, what of that, you little goose?" exclaimed Arthur impatiently;
"papa doesn't know that."

"But Jim will get punished," said Walter, "and I don't want to tell
such a big story either."

"Very well, sir, then you'll not get the whip; and, besides, if you
don't do as I wish, I'm certain you'll see a ghost one of these nights;
for there's one comes to see me sometimes, and I'll send him right off
to you."

"Oh! _don't_, Arthur, don't; I'd die of fright," cried the little boy,
who was very timid, glancing nervously around, as if he expected the
ghost to appear immediately.

"I tell you I will, though, if you don't do as I say; he'll come this
very night and carry you off, and never bring you back."

"O Arthur! don't let him come, and I'll say anything you want me to,"
cried the little fellow in great terror.

"That's a good boy; I knew you would," said Arthur, smiling
triumphantly. And turning away from Walter, he next sought out Enna,
and tried his threats and persuasions upon her with even better success.

Elsie had gone directly to her own room, where she sat trembling every
time a footstep approached her door, lest it should be a messenger from
her grandfather. No one came, however, and at last the tea-bell rang,
and on going down she found to her relief that her grandfather and his
wife had not yet returned.

"You look pale, Elsie," said her father, giving her a scrutinizing
glance as she took her seat by his side. "Are you well?"

"Yes, papa, quite well," she replied.

He looked at her again a little anxiously, but said no more; and as
soon as the meal was concluded, Elsie hastened away to her own room
again.

It was still early in the evening when Mr. and Mrs. Dinsmore
returned--for once, bringing no company with them; and he had not been
many minutes in the house ere he took up his watch, and of course
instantly discovered the injury it had sustained.

His suspicions at once fell upon Arthur, whose character for mischief
was well established; and burning with rage, watch in hand, he repaired
to the drawing-room, which he entered, asking, in tones tremulous with
passion, "Where is Arthur! Young rascal! this is some of _his_ work,"
he added, holding up the injured article.

"My dear, how can you say so? have you any proof?" asked his wife,
deprecatingly adding in her softest tones, "my poor boy seems to get
the blame of everything that goes wrong."

"He gets no more than he deserves," replied her husband angrily.
"Arthur! Arthur, I say, where are you?"

"He is in the garden, sir, I think. I saw him walking in the shrubbery
a moment since," said Mr. Horace Dinsmore.

The father instantly despatched a servant to bring him in; sending a
second in search of the overseer; while a third was ordered to assemble
all the house-servants. "I will sift this matter to the bottom, and
child or servant, the guilty one shall suffer for it," exclaimed the
old gentleman, pacing angrily up and down the room. "Arthur," said he
sternly, as the boy made his appearance, looking somewhat pale and
alarmed, "how dared you meddle with my watch?"

"I didn't, sir; I never touched it," he replied boldly, yet avoiding
his father's eye as he uttered the deliberate falsehood.

"There, my dear, I told you so," exclaimed his mother, triumphantly.

"I don't believe you," said his father; "and if you are guilty, as I
strongly suspect, you had better confess it at once, before I find it
out in some other way."

"I didn't do it, sir. It was Jim, and I can prove it by Walter and
Enna; we all saw it fall from his pocket when he was up in a tree; and
he cried like anything when he found it was broken, and said he didn't
mean to do it any harm; he was only going to wear it a little while,
and then put it back all safe; but now master would be dreadfully
angry, and have him flogged."

"That I will, if it is true," exclaimed the old gentleman,
passionately; "he shall be well whipped and sent out to work on the
plantation. I'll keep no such meddlers about my house."

He looked at Enna. "What do you know of this?" he asked.

"It is true, papa, I saw him do it," she replied, with a slight blush,
and sending an uneasy glance around the room.

"Did you see it, too, Walter?" asked his father.

"Yes, sir," replied the little fellow, in a low, reluctant tone; "but
please, papa, don't punish him. I'm sure he didn't mean to break it."

"Hold your tongue! he _shall_ be punished as he deserves," cried the
old gentleman, furiously. "Here, sir," turning to the overseer, and
pointing to Jim, "take the fellow out, and give him such a flogging as
he will remember."

Elsie was sitting in her own room, trying to learn a lesson for the
next day, but finding great difficulty in fixing her thoughts upon it,
when she was startled by the sudden entrance of Aunt Chloe, who, with
her apron to her eyes, was sobbing violently.

"O mammy, mammy! what's the matter? has anything happened to you?"
inquired the little girl, in a tone of great alarm, starting to her
feet, and dropping her book in her haste and fright.

"Why," sobbed Chloe, "Jim, he's been an' gone an' broke ole master's
watch, an' he's gwine be whipped, an' old Aunt Phoebe she's cryin' fit
to break her ole heart 'bout her boy, kase--"

Elsie waited to hear no more, but darting out into the hall, and
encountering her father on his way to his room, she rushed up to him,
pale and agitated, and seizing his hand, looked up eagerly into his
face, exclaiming with a burst of tears and sobs, "O papa, papa! don't,
oh! _don't_ let them whip poor Jim."

Mr. Dinsmore's countenance was very grave, almost distressed.

"I am sorry it is necessary, daughter," he said, "but Jim has done very
wrong, and deserves his punishment, and I cannot interfere."

"Oh! no, papa, he did not, _indeed_ he did not break the watch. I
_know_ he didn't, for I was by and saw it all."

"Is it _possible?_" said he, in a tone of surprise; "then tell me who
did do it. It could not have been you, Elsie?" and he looked
searchingly into her face.

"Oh! no, papa, I would never have dared to touch it. But please don't
make me tell tales; but I know it wasn't Jim. Oh! _do_ stop them
quickly, before they begin to whip him."

"Aunt Chloe," said Mr. Dinsmore, "go down to my father, and tell him it
is my request that the punishment should be delayed a few moments until
I come down."

Then taking Elsie's hand, he led her into her room again, and seating
himself, drew her to his side, saying, with grave decision, "Now, my
daughter, if you want to save Jim, it will be necessary for you to tell
_all_ you know about this affair."

"I don't like to tell tales, papa," pleaded the little girl; "I think
it so very mean. Is it not enough for me to tell that I know Jim didn't
do it?"

"No, Elsie; I have already said that it is _quite necessary_ for you to
tell _all you know_."

"O papa! don't make me; I don't like to do it," she urged, with tears
in her eyes.

"I should be very much ashamed of you, and quite unwilling to own you
as my child, if under any other circumstances you were willing to tell
tales," he replied, in a tone of kindness that quite surprised Elsie,
who always trembled at the very thought of opposing the slightest
resistance to his will; "but," he added, firmly, "it is the only way to
save Jim; if you do not now make a full disclosure of all you know, he
will be severely whipped and sent away to work on the plantation, which
will distress his poor old mother exceedingly. Elsie, I think you would
be doing very wickedly to allow an innocent person to suffer when you
can prevent it; and besides, I will add the weight of my authority, and
say you _must do it at once_; and you well know, my daughter, that
there can be no question as to the duty of obedience to your father."

He paused, gazing earnestly down into the little tearful, downcast,
blushing face at his side.

"Have I not said enough to convince you of your duty?" he asked.

"Yes, papa; I will tell you all about it," she answered in a tremulous
tone.

Her story was told with evident reluctance, but in a simple,
straightforward manner, that attested its truthfulness.

Mr. Dinsmore listened in silence, but with an expression of indignation
on his handsome features; and the moment she had finished he rose, and
again taking her hand, led her from the room, saying, as he did so:

"You must repeat this story to your grandfather."

"O papa! must I? Won't you tell him? please don't make me do it," she
pleaded tremblingly, and hanging back.

"My daughter, you _must_," he replied, so sternly that she dared not
make any further resistance, but quietly submitted to be led into her
grandfather's presence.

He was still in the drawing-room, walking about in a disturbed and
angry manner, and now and then casting a suspicious glance upon Arthur,
who sat pale and trembling in a corner, looking the picture of guilt
and misery; for he had heard Chloe deliver his brother's message, and
feared that exposure awaited him.

Walter had stolen away to cry over Jim's punishment, and wish that he
had had the courage to tell the truth at first; but saying to himself
that it was too late now, his father wouldn't believe him, and he would
make it up to Jim somehow, even if it took all his pocket-money for a
month.

None of the other members of the family had left the room, and all wore
an anxious, expectant look, as Mr. Dinsmore entered, leading Elsie by
the hand.

"I have brought you another witness, sir," he said, "for it seems Elsie
was present when the mischief was done."

"Ah!" exclaimed the old gentlemen; "then I may hope to get at the
truth. Elsie, who broke my watch?"

"It was not Jim, grandpa, indeed, _indeed_, it was not; but oh!
_please_ don't make me say who it was," replied the little girl,
beseechingly.

"Elsie!" exclaimed her father, in a tone of stern reproof.

"O papa! how can I?" she sobbed, trembling and clinging to his hand as
she caught a threatening look from Arthur.

"Come, come, child, you must tell us all you know about it," said her
grandfather, "or else I can't let Jim off."

Mr. Dinsmore was looking down at his little girl, and, following the
direction of her glance, perceived the cause of her terror. "Don't be
afraid to speak out and tell all you know, daughter, for I will protect
you," he said, pressing the little trembling hand in his, and at the
same time giving Arthur a meaning look.

"Yes, yes, speak out, child; speak out at once; no one shall hurt you
for telling the truth," exclaimed her grandfather, impatiently.

"I will, grandpa," she said, trembling and weeping; "but please don't
be very angry with Arthur; if you will forgive him this time, I think
he will never meddle any more; and I am quite sure he did not mean to
break it."

"So it _was you_, after all, you young rascal! I knew it from the
first!" cried the old gentleman, striding across the room, seizing the
boy by the shoulder and shaking him roughly.

"But go on, Elsie, let us have the whole story," he added, turning to
her again, but still keeping his hold upon Arthur. "You young dog!" he
added, when she had finished. "Yes, I'll forgive you when you've had a
good, sound flogging, and a week's solitary confinement on bread and
water, but not before."

So saying, he was about to lead him from the room, when Elsie suddenly
sprang forward, and with clasped hands, and flushed, eager face, she
pleaded earnestly, beseechingly, "O grandpa! don't whip him, don't
punish him! He will never be so naughty again. Will you, Arthur? Let
_me pay_ for the watch, grandpa, and don't punish him. I would so like
to do it."

"It isn't the moneyed value of the watch I care for, child," replied
the old gentleman, contemptuously; "and besides, where would you get so
much money?"

"I am rich, grandpa, am I not? Didn't my mamma leave me a great deal of
money?" asked the little girl, casting down her eyes and blushing
painfully.

"No, Elsie," said her father, very gently, as he took her hand and led
her back to the side of his chair again, "you have nothing but what I
choose to give you, until you come of age, which will not be for a
great many years yet."

"But you _will_ give me the money to pay for the watch papa, _won't_
you?" she asked, pleadingly.

"No, I certainly shall not, for I think Arthur should be left to suffer
the penalty of his own misdeeds," he replied in a very decided tone;
"and, besides," he added, "your grandfather has already told you that
it is not the pecuniary loss he cares for."

"No; but I will teach this young rascal to let my property alone," said
the elder gentleman with almost fierce determination, as he tightened
his grasp upon the boy's arm and dragged him from the room.

Arthur cast a look of hatred and defiance at Elsie as he went out, that
made her grow pale with fear and tremble so that she could scarcely
stand.

Her father saw both the look and its effect, and drawing the little
trembler closer to him, he put his arm around her, and stroking her
hair, said in a low, soothing tone: "Don't be frightened, daughter; I
will protect you."

She answered him with a grateful look and a long sigh of relief, and he
was just about to take her on his knee when visitors were announced,
and, changing his mind, he dismissed her to her room, and she saw no
more of him that evening.

"Oh! if they only _hadn't_ come just now," thought the sorely
disappointed child, as she went out with slow, reluctant steps. "I'm
sure they wouldn't, if they had only known. I'm sure, quite sure papa
was going to take me on his knee, and they prevented him. Oh! will be
ever think of doing it again! Dear, dear papa, if you could only know
how I long to sit there!" But Mrs. Dinsmore, who had hastily retired on
the exit of Arthur and his father from the drawing-room, was now
sailing majestically down the hall, on her return thither; and Elsie,
catching sight of her, and being naturally anxious to avoid a meeting
just then, at once quickened her pace very considerably, almost running
up the stairs to her own room, where she found old Aunt Phoebe, Jim's
mother, waiting to speak with her.

The poor old creature was overflowing with gratitude, and her fervent
outpouring of thanks and blessings almost made Elsie forget her
disappointment for the time.

Then Jim came to the door, asking to see Miss Elsie, and poured out his
thanks amid many sobs and tears; for the poor fellow had been terribly
frightened--indeed, so astounded by the unexpected charge, that he had
not had a word to say in his own defence, beyond an earnest and
reiterated assertion of his entire innocence; to which, however, his
angry master had paid no attention.

But at length Phoebe remembered that she had some baking to do, and
calling on Jim to come right along and split up some dry wood to heat
her oven, she went down to the kitchen followed by her son, and Elsie
was left alone with her nurse.

Chloe sat silently knitting, and the little girl, with her head leaning
upon her hand and her eyes fixed thoughtfully upon the floor, was
rehearsing again and again in her own mind all that had just passed
between her papa and herself; dwelling with lingering delight upon
everything approaching to a caress, every kind word, every soothing
tone of his voice; and then picturing to herself all that he might have
done and said if those unwelcome visitors had not come in and put an
end to the interview; and half hoping that he would send for her when
they had gone, she watched the clock and listened intently for every
sound.

But her bedtime came and she dared not stay up any longer; for his
orders had been peremptory that she should always retire precisely at
that hour, unless she had his express permission to remain up longer.

She lay awake for some time, thinking of his unwonted kindness, and
indulging fond hopes for the future, then fell asleep to dream that she
was on her father's knee, and felt his arms folded lovingly about her,
and his kisses warm upon her cheek.

Her heart beat quickly as she entered the breakfast-room the next
morning.

The family were just taking their places at the table, and her
half-eager, half-timid "Good morning, papa," was answered by a grave,
absent "Good morning, Elsie," and turning to his father and entering
into a conversation with him on some business matter, he took no
further notice of his little daughter, excepting to see that her plate
was well supplied with such articles of food as he allowed her to eat.

Elsie was sadly disappointed, and lingered about the room in the vain
hope of obtaining a smile or caress; but presently her father went out,
saying to the elder Mr. Dinsmore that he was going to ride over to Ion,
and would probably not return before night; then, with a sigh, the
little girl went back to her own room to prepare her morning lessons.

Elsie was now happily free from Arthur's persecutions for a time; for
even after his release, he was too much afraid of his brother openly to
offer her any very serious annoyance, though he plotted revenge in
secret; yet the little girl's situation was far from comfortable, and
her patience often severely tried, for Mrs. Dinsmore was excessively
angry with her on Arthur's account, and whenever her father was not
present, treated her in the most unkind manner; and from the same cause
the rest of the family, with the exception of her grandpa and Aunt
Adelaide, were unusually cold and distant; while her father, although
careful to see that all her wants were attended to, seldom took any
further notice of her; unless to reprove her for some childish fault
which, however trifling, never escaped his eye.

"You seem," said Adelaide to him one day, as he sent Elsie from the
room for some very slight fault, "to expect that child to be a great
deal more perfect than any grown person I ever saw, and to understand
all about the rules of etiquette."

"If you please, Adelaide," said he haughtily, "I should like to be
allowed to manage my own child as I see proper, without any
interference from others."

"Excuse me," replied his sister; "I had no intention of interfering;
but really, Horace, I do think you have no idea how eagle-eyed you are
for faults in her, nor how _very_ stern is the tone in which you always
reprove her. I have known Elsie a great deal longer than you have, and
I feel very certain that a gentle reproof would do her quite as much
good, and not wound her half so much."

"Enough, Adelaide!" exclaimed her brother, impatiently. "If I were ten
years _younger_ than yourself, instead of that much older, there might
be some propriety in your advising and directing me thus; as it is, I
must say I consider it simply impertinent." And he left the room with
an angry stride, while Adelaide looked after him with the thought, "I
am glad you have no authority over me."

All that Adelaide had said was true; yet Elsie never complained, never
blamed her father, even in her heart; but, in her deep humility,
thought it was all because she was "so very naughty or careless;" and
she was continually making resolutions to be "oh! _so_ careful always
to do just right, and please dear papa, so that some day he might learn
to love her."

But, alas! that hope was daily growing fainter and fainter; his cold
and distant manner to her and his often repeated reproofs had so
increased her natural timidity and sensitiveness that she was now very
constrained in her approaches to him, and seldom ventured to move or
speak in his presence; and he would not see that this timidity and
embarrassment were the natural results of his treatment, but attributed
it all to want of affection. He saw that she feared him, and to that
feeling alone he gave credit for her uniform obedience to his commands,
while he had no conception of the intense, but now almost despairing
love for him that burned in that little heart, and made the young life
one longing, earnest desire and effort to gain his affection.



CHAPTER SIXTH

   "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of
    death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and
    thy staff, they comfort me."
                                 --_Psalm_ xxiii. 4.

   "'Tis but the cruel artifice of fate,
    Thus to refine and vary on our woes,
    To raise us from despair and give us hopes,
    Only to plunge us in the gulf again,
    And make us doubly wretched."
                                 --TRAP's _Abramuh_.


It was Sabbath morning, and Elsie, ready dressed for church, stood in
the portico waiting for her father to come down and lift her into the
carriage, in which Adelaide, Louisa, and Enna were already seated.

The coachman was in his seat, and the horses, a pair of young and fiery
steeds purchased by Mr. Dinsmore only a few days before, were
impatiently stamping and tossing their heads, requiring quite an
exertion of strength to hold them in.

"I don't exactly like the actions of those horses, Ajax," remarked Mr.
Dinsmore, as he came out putting on his gloves; "I did not intend to
have them put in harness to-day. Why did you not give us the old bays?"

"Kase, Marster Horace, ole Kate she's got a lame foot, an' ole marster
he says dese youngsters is got to be used some time or nuther, an' I
reckoned I mout jis as well use 'em to-day."

"Do you feel quite sure of being able to hold them in?" asked his
master, glancing uneasily first at the horses and then at Elsie.

"Ki! marster, dis here chile ben able to hold in a'most anything,"
exclaimed the negro, exhibiting a double row of dazzlingly white teeth;
"an' besides, I'se drove dese here hosses twice 'fore now, an' dey went
splendid. Hold 'em in! Yes, sah, easy as nuffin."

"Elsie," said her father, still looking a little uneasy, in spite of
Ajax's boasting, "I think it would be just as well for you to stay at
home."

Elsie made no reply in words, but her answering look spoke such intense
disappointment, such earnest entreaty, that, saying, "Ah! well, I
suppose there is no real danger; and since you seem so anxious to go, I
will not compel you to stay at home," he lifted her into the carriage,
and seating himself beside her, ordered the coachman to drive on as
carefully as he could.

"Elsie, change seats with me," said Enna; "I want to sit beside Brother
Horace."

"No," replied Mr. Dinsmore, laying his hand on his little daughter's
shoulder, "Elsie's place is by me, and she shall sit nowhere else."

"Do you think we are in any danger of being run away with?" asked
Adelaide, a little anxiously as she observed him glancing once or twice
out of the window, and was at the same time sensible that their motion
was unusually rapid.

"The horses are young and fiery, but Ajax is an excellent driver," he
replied, evasively; adding, "You may be sure that if I had thought the
danger very great I would have left Elsie at home."

They reached the church without accident, but on their return the
horses took fright while going down a hill, and rushed along at a
furious rate, which threatened every instant to upset the carriage.

Elsie thought they were going very fast, but did not know that there
was real danger until her father suddenly lifted her from her seat, and
placing her between his knees, held her tightly, as though he feared
she would be snatched from his grasp.

Elsie looked up into his face. It was deadly pale, and his eyes were
fixed upon her with an expression of anguish.

"Dear papa," she whispered, "God will take care of us."

"I would give all I am worth to have you safe at home," he answered
hoarsely, pressing her closer and closer to him.

O! even in that moment of fearful peril, when death seemed just at
hand, those words, and the affectionate clasp of her father's arm, sent
a thrill of intense joy to the love-famished heart of the little girl.

But destruction seemed inevitable. Lora was leaning back, half fainting
with terror; Adelaide scarcely less alarmed, while Enna clung to her,
sobbing most bitterly.

Elsie alone preserved a cheerful serenity. She had built her house upon
the rock, and knew that it would stand. Her destiny was in her Heavenly
Father's hands, and she was content to leave it there. Even death had
no terrors to the simple, unquestioning faith of the little child who
had put her trust in Jesus.

But they were not to perish thus; for at that moment a powerful negro,
who was walking along the road, hearing an unusual sound, turned about,
caught sight of the vehicle coming toward him at such a rapid rate, and
instantly comprehending the peril of the travellers, planted himself in
the middle of the road, and, at the risk of life and limb, caught the
horses by the bridle--the sudden and unexpected check throwing them
upon their haunches, and bringing the carriage to an instant
stand-still.

"Thank God, we are saved! That fellow shall be well rewarded for his
brave deed," exclaimed Mr. Dinsmore, throwing open the carriage door.

Then, leaping to the ground, he lifted Elsie out, set her down, and
gave his hand to his sisters one after the other.

They were almost at the entrance of the avenue, and all preferred to
walk the short distance to the house rather than again trust themselves
to the horses.

Mr. Dinsmore lingered a moment to speak to the man who had done them
such good service, and to give some directions to the coachman; and
then, taking the hand of his little girl, who had been waiting for him,
he walked slowly on, neither of them speaking a word until they reached
the house, when he stooped and kissed her cheek, asking very kindly if
she had recovered from her fright.

"Yes, papa," she answered, in a quiet tone, "I knew that God would take
care of us. Oh! wasn't He good to keep us all from being killed?"

"Yes," he said, very gravely. "Go now and let mammy get you ready for
dinner."

As Elsie was sitting alone in her room that afternoon she was surprised
by a visit from Lora; it being very seldom that the elder girls cared
to enter her apartment.

Lora looked a little pale, and more grave and thoughtful than Elsie had
ever seen her. For a while she sat in silence, then suddenly burst out,
"Oh, Elsie! I can't help thinking all the time, what if we had been
killed! where would we all be now? where would _I_ have been? I believe
_you_ would have gone straight to heaven, Elsie; but _I_--oh! I should
have been with the rich man the minister read about this morning,
lifting up my eyes in torment."

And Lora covered her face with her hands and shuddered.

Presently she went on again. "I was terribly frightened, and so were
the rest--all but you, Elsie; tell me, _do_--what kept _you_ from being
afraid?"

"I was thinking," said Elsie gently, turning over the leaves of her
little Bible as she spoke, "of this sweet verse: 'Yea, though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for
thou art with me;' and oh, Lora! it made me so happy to think that
Jesus was there with me, and that if I were killed, I should only fall
asleep, to wake up again in His arms; then how could I be afraid?"

"Ah! I would give anything to feel as you do," said Lora, sighing. "But
tell me, Elsie, did you not feel afraid for the rest of us? I'm sure
you must know that _we_ are not Christians; we don't even pretend to
be."

Elsie blushed and looked down.

"It all passed so quickly, you know, Lora, almost in a moment," she
said, "so that I only had time to think of papa and myself; and I have
prayed so much for him that I felt quite sure God would spare him until
he should be prepared to die. It was very selfish, I know," she added
with deep humility; "but it was only for a moment, and I can't tell you
how thankful I was for _all_ our spared lives."

"Don't look so--as if you had done something very wicked, Elsie,"
replied Lora, sighing again. "I'm sure we have given you little enough
reason to care whatever becomes of us; but oh! Elsie, if you can only
tell me how to be a Christian, I mean now to try very hard; indeed, I
am determined never to rest until I am one."

"Oh, Lora, how glad I am!" cried Elsie, joyfully, "for I know that if
you are really in earnest, you will succeed; for no one ever yet failed
who tried aright. Jesus said, '_Every one_ that asketh, receiveth; and
he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it _shall_ be
opened.' Is not _that_ encouraging? And listen to what God says here in
_this_ verse: 'Ye shall seek me and _find_ me, when ye shall search for
me with _all your heart_.' So you see, dear Lora, if you will only seek
the Lord with your _whole heart_, you may be _sure_, _quite_ sure of
finding Him."

"Yes," said Lora, "but you have not answered my question; _how_ am I to
seek? that is, what means am I to use to get rid of my sins, and get a
new heart? how make myself pleasing in the sight of God? what must I
_do_ to be saved?"

"That is the very question the jailer put to Paul, and he answered,
'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,'" replied
Elsie, quickly turning to the chapter and pointing out the text with
her finger, that Lora might see that she had quoted it correctly. "And
in answer to your other question, 'How shall I get rid of my sins?' see
here: 'In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of
David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for
uncleanliness.' That is in Zechariah; then John tells us what that
fountain is when he says, 'The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth
us from all sin;' and again, 'Unto Him that loved us, and washed us
from our sins in His own blood.'"

"Yes, Elsie, but what must I _do_?" asked Lora, eagerly.

"Do, Lora? only _believe_" replied Elsie, in the same earnest tone.
"Jesus has done and suffered all that is necessary; and now we have
nothing at all to do but go to Him and be washed in that fountain;
believe Him when He says, 'I _give_ unto them eternal life;' just
accept the gift, and trust and love Him; that is the whole of it, and
it is so simple that even such a little girl as I can understand it."

"But surely, Elsie, I _can_, I _must do something_."

"Yes, God tells us to repent; and He says, 'Give me thine heart;' you
can do that; you can love Jesus; at least He will enable you to, if you
ask Him, and He will teach you to be sorry for your sins; the Bible
says, 'He is exalted to give repentance and remission of sins;' and if
you ask Him He will give them to you. It is true we cannot do anything
good of ourselves; without the help of the Holy Spirit we can do
nothing right, because we are so very wicked; but then we can always
get that help if we ask for it. Jesus said, 'Your Heavenly Father is
more willing to give His Holy Spirit to them that ask Him, than parents
are to give good gifts unto their children. Oh, Lora! don't be afraid
to ask for it; don't be afraid to come to Jesus, for He says, 'Him that
cometh unto Me, I will in nowise cast out;' and He is such a precious
Saviour, so kind and loving. But remember that you must come very
humbly; feeling that you are a great sinner, and not worthy to be
heard, and only hoping to be forgiven, because Jesus died. The Bible
says, 'God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.'"

Lora lingered the greater part of the afternoon in Elsie's room, asking
her questions, or listening to her while she read the Scriptures, or
repeated some beautiful hymn, or spoke in her sweet, childish way, of
her own peace and joy in believing in Jesus.

But at last Lora went to her own room, and Elsie had another quiet
half-hour to herself before the tea-bell again called the family
together.

Elsie answered the summons with a light heart--a heart that thrilled
with a new and strange sense of happiness as she remembered her
father's evident anxiety for her safety during their perilous ride,
recalling each word and look, and feeling again, in imagination, the
clasp of his arm about her waist.

"Ah! surely papa does love me," she murmured to herself over and over
again; and when he met her at the table with a kind smile, and laying
his hand caressingly on her head, asked in an affectionate tone, "How
does my little daughter do this evening?" her cheeks flushed, and her
eyes grew bright with happiness, and she longed to throw her arms
around his neck, and tell him how very, very much she loved him.

But that was quite impossible at the table, and before all the family;
so she merely raised her glad eyes to his face and answered, "I am very
well, thank you, papa."

But, after all, this occurrence produced but little change in Elsie's
condition; her father treated her a little more affectionately for a
day or two, and then gradually returned to his ordinary stern, cold
manner; indeed, before the week was out, she was again in sad disgrace.

She was walking alone in the garden one afternoon, when her attention
was attracted by a slight fluttering noise which seemed to proceed from
an arbor near by, and on hastily turning in to ascertain the cause, she
found a tiny and beautiful humming-bird confined under a glass vase; in
its struggles to escape it was fluttering and beating against the walls
of its prison, thus producing the sound the little girl had heard in
passing.

Elsie was very tender-hearted, and could never see any living creature
in distress without feeling a strong desire to relieve its sufferings.
She knew that Arthur was in the habit of torturing every little insect
and bird that came in his way, and had often drawn his persecutions
upon herself by interfering in behalf of the poor victim; and now the
thought instantly flashed upon her that _this_ was some of his work,
and that he would return ere long to carry out his cruel purposes. Then
at once arose the desire to release the little prisoner and save it
further suffering, and without waiting to reflect a moment she raised
the glass, and the bird was gone.

Then she began to think with a little tremor, how angry Arthur would
be; but it was too late to think of that now, and, after all, she did
not stand in very great dread of the consequences, especially as she
felt nearly sure of her father's approval of what she had done, having
several times heard him reprove Arthur for his cruel practices.

Not caring to meet Arthur then, however, she hastily retreated to the
house, where she seated herself in the veranda with a book. It was a
very warm afternoon, and that, being on the east side of the house and
well protected by trees, shrubbery, and vines, was as cool a spot as
could be found on the place.

Arthur, Walter and Enna sat on the floor playing jack-stones--a
favorite game with them--and Louise was stretched full length on a
settee, buried in the latest novel.

"Hush!" she said, as Walter gave a sudden shout at a successful toss
Enna had just made; "can't you be quiet? Mamma is taking her afternoon
nap, and you will disturb her; and, besides, I cannot read in such a
noise."

Elsie wondered why Arthur did not go to see after his bird, but soon
forgot all about it in the interest with which she was poring over the
story of the "Swiss Family Robinson."

The jack-stone players were just finishing their game when they were
all startled by the sudden appearance of Mr. Horace Dinsmore upon the
scene, asking in a tone of great wrath who had been down in the garden
and liberated the humming-bird he had been at such pains to catch,
because it was one of a rare species, and he was anxious to add it to
his collection of curiosities.

Elsie was terribly frightened, and would have been glad at that moment
to sink through the floor; she dropped her book in her lap, and
clasping her hands over her beating heart, grew pale and red by turns,
while she seemed choking with the vain effort to speak and acknowledge
herself the culprit, as conscience told her she ought.

But her father was not looking at her; his eye was fixed on Arthur.

"I presume it was you, sir," he said very angrily, "and if so, you may
prepare yourself for either a flogging or a return to your prison, for
one or the other I am determined you shall have."

"I didn't _do_ it, any such thing," replied the boy, fiercely.

"Of course you will deny it," said his brother, "but we all know that
your word is good for nothing."

"Papa," said a trembling little voice, "Arthur did not do it; it was I."

"You," exclaimed her father, in a tone of mingled anger and
astonishment, as he turned his flashing eye upon her, "_you_, Elsie!
can it be _possible_ that this is _your_ doing?"

Elsie's book fell on the floor, and, covering her face with both hands,
she burst into sobs and tears.

"Come here to me this instant," he said, seating himself on the settee,
from which Louise had risen on his entrance. "Come here and tell me
what you mean by meddling with my affairs in this way."

"Please, papa, _please_ don't be so very angry with me," sobbed the
little girl, as she rose and came forward in obedience to his command;
"I didn't know it was your bird, and I didn't mean to be naughty."

"No, you _never mean_ to be naughty, according to your own account," he
said; "your badness is all accident; but nevertheless, I find you a
very troublesome, mischievous child; it was only the other day you
broke a valuable vase" (he forgot in his anger how little she had
really been to blame for that), "and now you have caused me the loss of
a rare specimen which I had spent a great deal of time and effort in
procuring. Really, Elsie, I am sorely tempted to administer a very
severe punishment."

Elsie caught at the arm of the settee for support.

"Tell me what you did it for; was it pure love of mischief?" asked her
father, sternly, taking hold of her arm and holding her up by it.

"No, papa," she answered almost under her breath. "I was sorry for the
little bird. I thought Arthur had put it there to torture it, and so I
let it go. I did not mean to do wrong, papa, indeed I did not," and the
tears fell faster and faster.

"Indeed," said he, "you had no business to meddle with it, let who
would have put it there. Which hand did it?"

"This one, papa," sobbed the child, indicating her right hand.

He took it in his and held it a moment, while the little girl stood
tremblingly awaiting what was to come next. He looked at the downcast,
tearful face, the bosom heaving with sobs, and then at the little
trembling hand he held, so soft, and white, and tender, and the
sternness of his countenance relaxed somewhat; it seemed next to
impossible to inflict pain upon anything so tender and helpless; and
for a moment he was half inclined to kiss and forgive her. But no, he
had been very much irritated at his loss, and the remembrance of it
again aroused his anger, and well-nigh extinguished the little spark of
love and compassion that had burned for a moment in his heart. She
should be punished, though he would not inflict physical pain.

"See, Elsie," laughed Louise, maliciously, "he is feeling in his pocket
for his knife. I suspect he intends to cut your hand off."

Elsie started, and the tearful eyes were raised to her father's face
with a look half of terrified entreaty, half of confidence that such
_could not_ be his intention.

"Hush, Louise!" exclaimed her brother, sternly; "you _know_ you are not
speaking truly, and that I would as soon think of cutting off my own
hand as my child's. You should never speak anything but truth,
especially to children."

"I think it is well enough to frighten them a little sometimes, and I
thought that was what you were going to do," replied Louise, looking
somewhat mortified at the rebuke.

"No," said her brother, "that is a very bad plan, and one which I shall
never adopt. Elsie will learn in time, if she does not know it now,
that I never utter a threat which I do not intend to carry out, and
never break my word."

He had drawn a handkerchief from his pocket while speaking.

"I shall tie this hand up, Elsie," he said, proceeding to do so; "those
who do not use their hands aright must be deprived of the use of them.
There! let me see if that will keep it out of mischief. I shall tie you
up hand and foot before long, if you continue such mischievous pranks.
Now go to your room, and stay there until tea-time."

Elsie felt deeply, bitterly disgraced and humiliated as she turned to
obey; and it needed not Arthur's triumphant chuckle nor the smirk of
satisfaction on Enna's face to add to the keen suffering of her wounded
spirit; this slight punishment was more to her than a severe
chastisement would have been to many another child; for the very
knowledge of her father's displeasure was enough at any time to cause
great pain to her sensitive spirit and gentle, loving heart.

Walter, who was far more tender-hearted than either his brother or
sister, felt touched by the sight of her distress, and ran after her to
say, "Never mind, Elsie; I am ever so sorry for you, and I don't think
you were the least bit naughty."

She thanked him with a grateful look, and a faint attempt to smile
through her tears; then hurried on to her room, where she seated
herself in a chair by the window, and laying her arms upon the sill,
rested her head upon them, and while the bitter tears fell fast from
her eyes she murmured half aloud, "Oh! why am I always so naughty?
always doing something to displease my dear papa? how I wish I could be
good, and make him love me! I am afraid he never will if I vex him so
often."

Then an earnest, importunate prayer for help to do right, and wisdom to
understand how to gain her father's love, went up from the almost
despairing little heart to Him whose ear is ever open unto the cry of
His suffering children. And thus between weeping, mourning, and
praying, an hour passed slowly away, and the tea-bell rang.

Elsie started up, but sat down again, feeling that she would much
rather do without her supper than show her tear-swollen eyes and
tied-up hand at the table.

But she was not to be left to her choice in the matter, for presently
there came a messenger bringing a peremptory command from her father
"to come down _immediately_ to her supper."

"Did you not hear the bell?" he asked, in his sternest tone, as she
tremblingly took her seat at his side.

"Yes, sir," she answered, in a low, tremulous tone.

"Very well, then; remember that you are always to come down the moment
the bell rings, unless you are directed otherwise, or are sick; and the
next time you are so late, I shall send you away without your meal."

"I don't want any supper, papa," she said, humbly.

"Hush," he replied, severely; "I will have no pouting or sulking; you
must just eat your supper and behave yourself. Stop this crying at
once," he added, in an undertone, as he spread some preserves on a
piece of bread and laid it on her plate, "or I shall take you away from
the table, and if I do, you will be very sorry."

He watched her a moment while she made a violent effort to choke back
her tears.

"What is your hand tied up for, Elsie?" asked her grandfather; "have
you been hurt?"

Elsie's face flushed painfully, but she made no reply.

"You must speak when you are spoken to," said her father; "answer your
grandfather's question at once."

"Papa tied it up, because I was naughty," replied the little girl,
vainly striving to suppress a sob.

Her father made a movement as if about to lead her from the table.

"O papa! _don't_" she cried, in terror; "I will be good."

"Let me have no more crying, then," said he; "this is shameful behavior
for a girl eight years old; it would be bad enough in a child of Enna's
age." He took out his handkerchief and wiped her eyes. "Now," said he,
"begin to eat your supper at once, and don't let me have to reprove you
again."

Elsie tried to obey, but it seemed very difficult, indeed almost
impossible, while she knew that her father was watching her closely,
and _felt_ that everybody else was looking at her and thinking, "What a
naughty little girl you are!"

"Oh!" thought the poor child, "if papa would only quit looking at me,
and the rest would forget all about me and eat their suppers, maybe I
could keep from crying." Then she sent up a silent prayer for help,
struggling hard to keep back the tears and sobs that were almost
suffocating her, and taking up her slice of bread, tried to eat.

She was very thankful to her Aunt Adelaide for addressing a question to
her papa just at that moment, thus taking his attention from her, and
then adroitly setting them all to talking until the little girl had had
time to recover her composure, at least in a measure.

"May I go to my room now, papa?" asked the timid little voice as they
rose from the table.

"No," he said, taking her hand and leading her out to the veranda,
where he settled himself in an easy-chair and lighted a cigar.

"Bring me that book that lies yonder on the settee," he commanded.

She brought it.

"Now," said he, "bring that stool and set yourself down here close at
my knee, and let me see if I can keep you out of mischief for an hour
or two."

"May I get a book to read, papa?" she asked timidly.

"No," said he shortly. "You may just do what I bid you, and nothing
more nor less."

She sat down as he directed, with her face turned toward him, and tried
to amuse herself with her own thoughts, and watching the expression of
his countenance as he read on and on, turning leaf after leaf, too much
interested in his book to take any further notice of her.

"How handsome my papa is!" thought the little girl, gazing with
affectionate admiration into his face. And then she sighed, and tears
trembled in her eyes again. She admired her father, and loved him, "oh!
_so_ dearly," as she often whispered to herself; but would she ever
meet with anything like a return of her  fond affection? There was an
aching void in her heart which nothing else could fill; must it always
be thus? was her craving for affection never to be satisfied? "O, papa!
my own papa, will you never love me?" mourned the sad little heart.
"Ah! if I could only be good always, perhaps he would; but I am so
often naughty;--whenever he begins to be kind I am sure to do something
to vex him, and then it is all over. Oh! I _wish_ I _could_ be good! I
will try very, _very_ hard. Ah! if I might climb on his knee now, and
lay my head on his breast, and put my arms round his neck, and tell him
how sorry I am that I have been naughty, and made him lose his bird;
and how much--oh! _how_ much I love him! But I know I never could tell
him _that_--I don't know how to express it; no _words could_, I am
sure. And if he would forgive me, and kiss me, and call me his dear
little daughter. Oh! will he _ever_ call me _that?_ Or if I, might only
stand beside him and lay my head on his shoulder, and he would put his
arm around me, it would make me _so_ happy."

An exclamation from Enna caused Elsie to turn her head, and suddenly
springing to her feet, she exclaimed in an eager, excited way, "Papa,
there is a carriage coming up the avenue--it must be visitors; please,
_please_, papa, let me go to my room."

"Why?" he asked coolly, looking up from his book, "why do you wish to
go?"

"Because I don't want to see them, papa," she said, hanging her head
and blushing deeply; "I don't want them to see me."

"You are not usually afraid of visitors," he replied in the same cool
tone.

"But they will see that my hand is tied up, and they will ask what is
the matter. O papa! do, _please_ do let me go quickly, before they get
here," she pleaded in an agony of shame and haste.

"No," said he, "I shall not let you go, if it were only to punish you
for getting off the seat where I bade you stay, without permission. You
will have to learn that I am to be obeyed at all times, and under all
circumstances. Sit down, and don't dare to move again until I give you
leave."

Elsie sat down without another word, but two bitter, scalding tears
rolled quickly down her burning cheeks.

"You needn't cry, Elsie," said her father; "it is only an old gentleman
who comes to see your grandfather on business, and who, as he never
notices children, will not be at all likely to ask any questions. I
hope you will learn some day, Elsie, to save your tears until there is
really some occasion for them."

The old gentleman had alighted while Mr. Dinsmore was speaking; Elsie
saw that he was alone, and the relief was so great that for once she
scarcely heeded her father's rebuke.

Another half-hour passed, and Mr. Dinsmore still sat reading, taking no
notice of Elsie, who, afraid to speak or move, was growing very weary
and sleepy. She longed to lay her head on her father's knee, but dared
not venture to take such a liberty; but at length she was so completely
overpowered by sleep as to do so unconsciously.

The sound of his voice pronouncing her name aroused her.

"You are tired and sleepy," said he; "if you would like to go to bed
you may do so."

"Thank you, papa," she replied, rising to her feet.

"Well," he said, seeing her hesitate, "speak, if you have anything to
say."

"I am very sorry I was naughty, papa. Will you please forgive me?" The
words were spoken very low, and almost with a sob.

"Will you try not to meddle in future, and not to cry at the table, or
pout and sulk when you are punished?" he asked in a cold, grave tone.

"Yes, sir, I will try to be a good girl always," said the humble little
voice.

"Then I will forgive you," he replied, taking the handkerchief off her
hand.

Still Elsie lingered. She felt as if she could not go without some
little token of forgiveness and love, some slight caress.

He looked at her with an impatient "Well?" Then, in answer to her mute
request, "No," he said, "I will not kiss you to-night; you have been
entirely too naughty. Go to your room at once."

Aunt Chloe was absolutely frightened by the violence of her child's
grief, as she rushed into the room and flung herself into her arms
weeping and sobbing most vehemently.

"What's de matter, darlin'?" she asked in great alarm.

"O mammy, mammy!" sobbed the child, "papa wouldn't kiss me! he said I
was too naughty. O mammy! will he ever love me now?"



CHAPTER SEVENTH


   "The smallest worm will turn, being trodden on."
                               --SHAKESPEARE, _Richard III_.

   "A blossom full of promise is life's joy,
    That never comes to fruit. Hope, for a time,
    Suns the young flow'ret in its gladsome light,
    And it looks flourishing--a little while--
    'Tis pass'd, we know not whither, but 'tis gone."
                                 --MISS LANDON.


It was Miss Day's custom to present to the parents of her pupils a
monthly report of their conduct and recitations. The regular time for
this had occurred once since Mr. Horace Dinsmore's return, when she, of
course, handed Elsie's to him.

It was very satisfactory, for Elsie was a most diligent scholar,
carrying her religious principles into that as well as everything else;
and disposed as Miss Day was to find fault with her, she could seldom
see any excuse for so doing, in either her conduct or recitations.

Mr. Dinsmore glanced over the report and handed it back, saying, "It is
all very good; very satisfactory indeed. I am glad to see that she is
industrious and well behaved, for I wish her to grow up an intelligent
and amiable woman."

Elsie, who was standing near, heard the words, and they sent a glow of
pleasure to her cheeks. She looked up eagerly; but her father turned
and walked away without taking any notice of her, and the glow of
happiness faded, and the soft eyes filled with tears of wounded feeling.

It was now time for a second report; but alas! the past month had been
a most unfortunate one for the little girl; the weather was very warm,
and she had felt languid and weak, and so much were her thoughts
occupied with the longing desire to gain her father's love, so
depressed were her spirits by her constant failure to do so, that she
often found it impossible to give her mind to her lessons.

Arthur, too, during much of the time before and since the week of his
imprisonment, had been more than usually annoying, shaking her chair
and jogging her elbow so frequently when she was writing, that her
copy-book presented by no means so good an appearance as usual; and
never had Miss Day made out so poor a report for her. She carried it
with much secret satisfaction to the little girl's father, and entered
a long complaint of the child's idleness and inattention.

"Send her to me," he said, angrily. "She will find me in my own room."

Miss Day had left Elsie in the school-room putting her desk in order
after the day's work, and she found her still there on her return.

"Elsie," said she, with a malicious smile, "your father wishes to see
you immediately. He is in his room."

The child turned red and pale by turns, and trembled so violently that
for a moment she was quite unable to move; for she guessed from Miss
Day's countenance what was probably in store for her.

"I advise you to go at once," said that lady, "for no doubt the longer
you wait the worse it will be for you."

At the same moment Mr. Dinsmore's voice was heard calling in a stern,
angry tone, "Elsie!"

Making a violent effort to control her feelings, she started up and
hastened to obey.

The door of his room stood open, and she walked in, asking in a
trembling voice, "Did you call me, papa?"

"Yes," said he, "I did. Come here to me."

He was sitting with the copy-book and report in his hand, and there was
much severity in both tone and look as he addressed her.

She obeyed instantly, but trembling violently, and with a face pale as
death, and eyes filled with tears. She lifted them pleadingly to his
face; and, touched by her evident terror and distress, he said in a
tone somewhat less stern, "Can you tell me, Elsie, how it happens that
your teacher brings me so bad a report of your conduct and lessons
during the past month? She says you have been very idle; and the report
tells the same story; and this copy-book presents a shameful
appearance."

The child answered only by tears and sobs.

They seemed to irritate him.

"Elsie," he said, sternly, "when I ask a question, I require an answer,
and that instantly."

"O papa!" she answered, pleadingly, "I couldn't study. I'm very
sorry--I'll try to do better--only don't be very angry with me, dear
papa."

"I am angry with you; very angry, indeed," said he in the same severe
tone, "and very strongly inclined to punish you. You _couldn't_ study,
eh? What reason can you assign, pray? Were you not well?"

"I don't know, sir," sobbed the little girl.

"You don't _know_? Very well, then, I think you could not be very ill
without knowing it, and so you seem to have no excuse at all to offer?
However, I will not inflict any punishment upon you _this_ time, as you
seem to be really sorry, and have promised to do better; but beware how
you let me see such a report as this, or hear such complaints of
idleness again, unless you wish to be _severely punished_; and I warn
you that unless your next copy-book presents a better appearance  than
this, I certainly shall punish you.

"There are a number of pages here that look quite well," he continued,
turning over the leaves; "that shows what you _can_ do, if you choose;
now there is an old saying, 'A bird that _can_ sing, and _won't_ sing,
must be _made_ to sing.' Hush!" as Elsie seemed about to speak; "not a
word. You may go now." And throwing himself back in his easy-chair, he
took up a newspaper and began to read.

Yet Elsie lingered; her heart so yearned for one word or look of
sympathy and love; she so longed to throw herself into his arms and
tell him how dearly, how _very_ dearly she loved him; she did so hunger
and thirst for one fond caress--ah! how could she go away without it
now, when for the very first time she found herself alone with him in
his own room, where she had never ventured before, but where she had
often been in her brightest dreams.

And so she lingered, trembling, hoping, fearing; but presently he
looked up with a cold "Why do you stand there? I gave you permission to
go; go at once." And with a sinking heart she turned away and sought
the solitude of her own room, there to weep, and mourn, and pray that
she might one day possess the love she so pined for, and bitterly to
reproach herself for having by the failures of the past month put it
farther from her.

And soon a thought came to her which added greatly to her distress. If
Arthur continued his persecutions, how could she make the next
copy-book more presentable? and in case it were not, her father had
said positively that he would punish her; and oh! how could she bear
punishment from him, when a word or look of displeasure almost broke
her heart?

Miss Day seldom remained in the school-room during the whole of the
writing hour, and sometimes the older girls were also absent, so that
Arthur had ample opportunity to indulge his mischievous propensities;
for Elsie was above the meanness of telling tales, and had she not
been, Arthur was so great a favorite with his mother that she would
have brought a great deal of trouble upon herself by so doing.

She therefore saw no escape from the dreaded punishment, unless she
could persuade the perverse boy to cease his annoyances; and of that
there was little hope.

But she carried her trouble to her Heavenly Father, and asked Him to
help her. She was still on her knees, pouring out her sobs and prayers,
when some one knocked at the door.

She rose and opened it to find her Aunt Adelaide standing there.

"Elsie," she said, "I am writing to Miss Rose; have you any word to
send? You may write a little note, if you choose, and I will enclose it
in my letter. But what is the matter, child?" she suddenly exclaimed,
kindly taking the little girl's hand in hers.

With many tears and sobs Elsie told her the whole story, not omitting
her papa's threat, and her fear that she could not, on account of
Arthur's persecutions, avoid incurring the punishment.

Adelaide's sympathies were enlisted, and she drew the sobbing child to
her side, saying, as she pressed a kiss on her cheek, "Never mind,
Elsie, I will take my book or needle-work to the school-room every day,
and sit there during the writing hour. But why don't you tell your papa
about it?"

"Because I don't like to tell tales, Aunt Adelaide, and it would make
your mamma so angry with me; and besides, I can't tell papa anything."

"Ah, I understand! and no wonder; he is strangely stern to the poor
child. I mean to give him a good talking to," murmured Adelaide, more
as if thinking aloud than talking to Elsie.

Then, kissing the little girl again, she rose hastily and left the
room, with the intention of seeking her brother; but he had gone out;
and when he returned he brought several gentlemen with him, and she had
no opportunity until the desire to interfere in the matter had passed
from her mind.

"And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer, and
while they are yet speaking, I will hear." The promise had been
fulfilled to Elsie, and help had been sent her in her trouble.

When her Aunt Adelaide left her, Elsie--first carefully locking the
door to guard against a surprise visit from Enna--went to her bureau,
and unlocking a drawer, took out a purse she was knitting for her
father, to replace the one she had given to Miss Allison.

She had commenced it before his return, and having spent upon it nearly
every spare moment since, when she could feel secure from intrusion,
she now had it nearly completed. Ah! many a silent tear had fallen as
she worked, and many a sigh over disappointed hopes had been woven into
its bright meshes of gold and blue.

But now she had been much comforted and encouraged by her aunt's
sympathy and kind promise of assistance, and, though there were still
traces of tears upon it, the little face looked quite bright and
cheerful again as she settled herself in her little sewing chair, and
began her work.

The small white fingers moved right briskly, the bright shining needles
glancing in and out, while the thoughts, quite as busy, ran on
something in this fashion: "Ah! I am so sorry I have done so badly the
past month; no wonder papa was vexed with me. I don't believe I ever
had such a bad report before. What has come over me? It seems as if I
_can't_ study, and must have a holiday. I wonder if it is all laziness?
I'm afraid it is, and that I ought to be punished. I wish I could shake
it off, and feel industrious as I used to. I will try _very_ hard to do
better this month, and perhaps I can. It is only one month, and then
June will be over, and Miss Day is going North to spend July and
August, and maybe September, and so we shall have a long holiday.
Surely I can stand it one month more; it will soon be over, though it
does seem a long time, and besides, this month we are not to study so
many hours, because it is so warm; and there's to be no school on
Saturdays; none to-morrow, so that I can finish this. Ah! I wonder if
papa will be pleased?" and she sighed deeply. "I'm afraid it will be a
long, long time before he will be pleased with me again. I have
displeased him twice this week--first about the bird, and now this bad
report, and that shameful copy-book. But oh! I will try _so_ hard next
month, and dear Aunt Adelaide will keep Arthur from troubling me, and
I'm determined my copy-book shall look neat, and not have a single blot
in it.

"I wonder how I shall spend the vacation? Last summer I had such a
delightful visit at Ashlands; and then they were here all the rest of
the time. It was then poor Herbert had such a dreadful time with his
hip. Ah! how thankful I ought to be that I am not lame, and have always
been so healthy. But I'm afraid papa won't let me go there this summer,
nor ask them to visit me, because he said he thought Lucy was not a
suitable companion for me. I _was_ very naughty when she was here, and
I've been naughty a great many times since. Oh! dear, shall I never,
never learn to be good? It seems to me I am naughty now much oftener
than I used to be before papa came home. I'm afraid he will soon begin
to punish me severely, as he threatened to-day. I wonder what he means?"

A crimson tide suddenly swept over the fair face and neck, and dropping
her work, she covered her face with her hands. "Oh! he couldn't,
_couldn't_ mean that! how could I ever bear it! and yet if it would
make me really good, I think I wouldn't mind the pain--but the shame
and disgrace! oh! it would break my heart. I could never hold up my
head again! Oh! _can_ he mean that? But I must just try to be so very
good that I will never deserve punishment, and then it will make no
difference to me what he means." And with this consolatory reflection
she took up her work again.

"Mammy, is papa in his room?" asked Elsie, the next afternoon, as she
put the finishing touches to her work.

"No, darlin', Marster Horace he rode out wid de strange gentlemen more
than an hour ago."

Elsie laid her needles away in her work-basket, and opening her
writing-desk, selected a bit of note-paper, on which she wrote in her
very best hand, "A present for my dear papa, from his little daughter
Elsie!" This she carefully pinned to the purse, and then carried it to
her papa's room, intending to leave it on his toilet-table.

Fearing that he might possibly have returned, she knocked gently at the
door, but receiving no answer, opened it, and went in; but she had not
gone more than half way across the room when she heard his voice behind
her, asking, in a tone of mingled surprise and displeasure, "What are
you doing here in my room, in my absence, Elsie?"

She started, and turned round, pale and trembling, and lifting her eyes
pleadingly to his face, silently placed the purse in his hand.

He looked first at it, and then at her.

"I made it for you, dear papa," she said, in a low, tremulous tone; "do
please take it."

"It is really very pretty," he said, examining it; "is it possible it
is your work? I had no idea you had so much taste and skill. Thank you,
daughter; I shall take it, and use it with a great deal of pleasure."

He took her hand as he spoke, and sitting down, lifted her to his knee,
saying, "Elsie, my child, why do you always seem so afraid of me? I
don't like it."

With a sudden impulse she threw her arms round his neck, and pressed
her lips to his cheek; then dropping her head on his breast, she
sobbed: "O papa! _dear_ papa, I _do love_ you so _very_ dearly! will
you not love me? O papa! love me a _little_. I know I've been naughty
very often, but I will _try_ to be good."

Then for the first time he folded her in his arms and kissed her
tenderly, saying, in a moved tone, "I _do_ love you, my darling, my own
little daughter."

Oh! the words were sweeter to Elsie's ear than the most delicious
music! her joy was too great for words, for anything but tears.

"Why do you cry so, my darling?" he asked, soothingly, stroking her
hair, and kissing her again and again.

"O papa! because I am so happy, so _very_ happy," she sobbed.

"Do you indeed care so very much for my love?" he asked; "then, my
daughter, you must not tremble and turn pale whenever I speak to you,
as though I were a cruel tyrant."

"O papa! I cannot help it, when you look and speak so sternly. I love
you so dearly I cannot bear to have you angry with me; but I am not
afraid of you now."

"That is right," he said, caressing her again. "But there is the
tea-bell," he added, setting her down. "Go into the dressing-room
there, and bathe your eyes, and then come to me."

She hastened to do his bidding, and then taking her hand he led her
down and seated her in her usual place by his side.

There were visitors, and all his conversation was addressed to them and
the older members of the family, but he now and then bestowed a kind
look upon his little girl, and attended carefully to all her wants; and
Elsie was very happy.

Everything now went on very pleasantly with our little friend for some
days; she did not see a great deal of her father, as he was frequently
away from home for a day or two, and, when he returned, generally
brought a number of visitors with him; but whenever he did notice her
it was very kindly, and she was gradually overcoming her fear of him,
and constantly hoping that the time would soon come when he would have
more leisure to bestow upon her. She was happy now, and with a mind at
ease, was able to learn her lessons well; and as her Aunt Adelaide
faithfully kept her promise, and thus freed her from Arthur's
annoyances, she was enabled to do justice to her writing. She took
great pains, her copy-book showed a marked improvement in her
penmanship, and its pages had not yet been defaced by a single blot, so
that she was looking forward with pleasing anticipations to the time
when her report should again be presented to her father.

But, alas! one unfortunate morning it happened that Miss Day was in a
very bad humor indeed--peevish, fretful, irritable, and unreasonable to
the last degree; and, as usual, Elsie was the principal sufferer from
her ill-humor. She found fault with everything the little girl did;
scolded her, shook her, refused to explain the manner of working out a
very difficult example, or to permit her to apply to any one else for
assistance, and then punished her because it was done wrong; and when
the child could no longer keep back her tears, called her a baby for
crying, and a dunce for not understanding her arithmetic better.

All this Elsie bore meekly and patiently, not answering a word; but her
meekness seemed only to provoke the governess the more; and finally,
when Elsie came to recite her last lesson, she took pains to put her
questions in the most perplexing form, and scarcely allowing the child
an instant to begin her reply, answered them herself; then, throwing
down the book, scolded her vehemently for her bad lesson, and marked it
in her report as a complete failure.

Poor Elsie could bear no more, but bursting into tears and sobs, said:
"Miss Day, I _did_ know my lesson, every word of it, if you had asked
the questions as usual, or had given me time to answer."

"_I_ say that you did _not_ know it; that it was a complete failure,"
replied Miss Day, angrily; "and you shall just sit down and learn it,
every word, over."

"I _do_ know it, if you will hear me right," said Elsie, indignantly,
"and it is very unjust in you to mark it a failure."

"Impudence!" exclaimed Miss Day, furiously; "how _dare_ you contradict
me? I shall take you to your father."

And seizing her by the arm, she dragged her across the room, and
opening the door, pushed her into the passage.

"Oh! don't, Miss Day," pleaded the little girl, turning toward her,
pale and tearful, "don't tell papa."

"I will! so just walk along with you," was the angry rejoinder, as she
pushed her before her to Mr. Dinsmore's door. It stood open, and he sat
at his desk, writing.

"What is the matter?" he asked, looking up as they appeared before the
door.

"Elsie has been very impertinent, sir," said Miss Day; "she not only
accused me of injustice, but contradicted me flatly."

"Is it _possible!_" said he, frowning angrily. "Come here to me, Elsie,
and tell me, is it _true_ that you contradicted your teacher?"

"Yes, papa," sobbed the child.

"Very well, then, I shall certainly punish you, for I will never allow
anything of the kind."

As he spoke he picked up a small ruler that lay before him, at the same
time taking Elsie's hand as though he meant to use it on her.

"O papa!" she cried, in a tone of agonized entreaty.

But he laid it down again, saying: "No, I shall punish you by depriving
you of your play this afternoon, and giving you only bread and water
for your dinner. Sit down there," he added, pointing to a stool. Then,
with a wave of his hand to the governess, "I think she will not be
guilty of the like again, Miss Day."

The governess left the room, and Elsie sat down on her stool, crying
and sobbing violently, while her father went on with his writing.

"Elsie," he said, presently, "cease that noise; I have had quite enough
of it."

She struggled to suppress her sobs, but it was almost impossible, and
she felt it a great relief when a moment later the dinner-bell rang,
and her father left the room.

In a few moments a servant came in, carrying on a small waiter a
tumbler of water, and a plate with a slice of bread on it.

"Dis am _drefful_ poor fare, Miss Elsie," he said, setting it down
beside her, "but Massa Horace he say it all you can hab; but if you say
so, dis chile tell ole Phoebe to send up somethin' better fore Massa
Horace gits through his dinner."

"Oh! no, thank you, Pompey; you're very kind, but I would not disobey
or deceive papa," replied the little girl, earnestly; "and I am not at
all hungry."

He lingered a moment, seeming loath to leave her to dine upon such fare.

"You had better go now, Pompey," she said gently; "I am afraid you will
be wanted."

He turned and left the room, muttering something about "disagreeable,
good-for-nothing Miss Day!"

Elsie felt no disposition to eat; and when her father returned, half an
hour afterward, the bread and water were still untouched.

"What is the meaning of this?" he asked in a stern, angry tone; "why
have you not eaten what I sent you?"

"I am not hungry, papa," she said humbly.

"Don't tell me that," he replied, "it is nothing but stubbornness; and
I shall not allow you to show such a temper. Take up that bread this
moment and eat it. You shall eat every crumb of the bread and drink
every drop of the water."

She obeyed him instantly, breaking off a bit of bread and putting it in
her mouth, while he stood watching her with an air of stern, cold
determination; but when she attempted to swallow, it seemed utterly
impossible.

"I cannot, papa," she said, "it chokes me."

"You _must_," he replied; "I am going to be obeyed. Take a drink of
water, and that will wash it down."

It was a hard task, but seeing that there was no escape, she struggled
to obey, and at length every crumb of bread and drop of water had
disappeared.

"Now, Elsie," said her father, in a tone of great severity, "never
_dare_ to show me such a temper as this again; you will not escape so
easily next time; remember I am to be obeyed _always_; and when I send
you anything to eat, _you are to eat it_."

It had not been temper at all, and his unjust severity almost broke her
heart; but she could not say one word in her own defence.

He looked at her a moment as she sat there trembling and weeping; then
saying, "I forbid you to leave this room without my permission; don't
venture to disobey me, Elsie; sit where you are until I return," he
turned to go.

"Papa," she asked, pleadingly, "may I have my books, to learn my
lessons for to-morrow."

"Certainly," he said; "I will send a servant with them."

"And my Bible too, please, papa."

"Yes, yes," he answered impatiently, as he went out and shut the door.

Jim was just bringing up Elsie's horse, as Mr. Dinsmore passed through
the hall, and he stepped out to order it back to the stable, saying
that Miss Elsie was not going to ride.

"What is the trouble with Elsie?" asked his sister Adelaide, as he
returned to the drawing-room and seated himself beside her.

"She has been impertinent to her governess, and I have confined her to
my room for the rest of the day," he replied, rather shortly.

"Are you _sure_, Horace, that Elsie was so much to blame?" asked his
sister, speaking in a tone too low to reach any ear but his. "I am
certain, from what Lora tells me, that Miss Day is often cruelly unjust
to her; more so than to any other of her pupils."

He looked at her with a good deal of surprise.

"Are you not mistaken?" he asked.

"No! it is a positive fact that she does at times _really abuse_ her."

"Indeed! I shall certainly not allow _that_" he said, coloring with
anger.

"But in this instance, Adelaide," he added thoughtfully, "I think you
must be mistaken, for Elsie _acknowledged_ that she had been
impertinent. I did not condemn her unheard, stern and severe as you
think me."

"If she _was_, Horace, believe me it must have been only after great
provocation, and her acknowledgment of it is no proof at all, to my
mind; for Elsie is so humble, she would think she _must_ have been
guilty of impertinence if Miss Day accused her of it."

"Surely not, Adelaide; she is by no means wanting in sense," he
replied, in a tone of incredulity, not unmixed with annoyance.

Then he sat thinking a moment, half inclined to go to his child and
inquire more particularly into the circumstances, but soon relinquished
the idea, saying to himself, "No; if she does not choose to be frank
with me, and say what she can in her own defence, she _deserves_ to
suffer; and besides, she showed such stubbornness about eating that
bread."

He was very proud, and did not like to acknowledge even to _himself_
that he had punished his child unjustly--much less to _her_; and it was
not until near tea-time that he returned to his room, entering so
softly that Elsie did not hear him.

She was sitting just where he had left her, bending over her Bible, an
expression of sadness and deep humility on the sweet little face, so
young and fair and innocent. She did not seem aware of his presence
until he was close beside her, when, looking up with a start, she said
in a voice full of tears, "Dear papa, I am very sorry for all my
naughtiness; will you please forgive me?"

"Yes," he said, "certainly I will, if you are really sorry;" and
stooping, he kissed her coldly, saying, "Now go to your room, and let
Chloe dress you for tea."

She rose at once, gathered up her books, and went out.

The little heart was very sad; for her father's manner was so cold she
feared he would never love her again. And she was particularly
distressed by the bad mark given her for recitation that day, because
she knew the time was now drawing very near when her report must be
handed in to her papa; and the delight with which she had hitherto
looked forward to receiving his well-merited approbation, was now
changed to fear, and dread of his displeasure;  yet she knew she had
not deserved the bad mark, and again and again she  determined that she
would tell her father all about it; but his manner had  now become so
cold and stern that she could not summon up courage to do  so, but put
it off from day to day, until it was too late.



CHAPTER EIGHTH.


   "He that pursues an act that is attended
    With doubtful issues, for the means, had need
    Of policy and force to make it speed."
                            --T. NABB's _Unfortunate Mother._

              "Joy never feasts so high,
    As when the first course is of misery."
                                 --SUCKLING's _Aglaura._


It was Friday, and the next morning was the when the reports were to be
presented. School had closed, and all but Elsie had already left the
room; but she was carefully arranging the books, writing and drawing
materials, etc., in her desk, for she was very neat and orderly in her
habits.

When she had quite finished her work she took up her report-book, and
glanced over it. As her eye rested for an instant upon the one bad
mark, she sighed a little, and murmured to herself, "I am _so_ sorry; I
wish papa knew how little I really deserved it. I don't know why I
never can get the courage to tell him."

Then, laying it aside, she opened her copy-book and turned over the
leaves with unalloyed pleasure, for not one of its pages was defaced by
a single blot, and from beginning to end it gave evidence of
painstaking carefulness and decided improvement.

"Ah! surely _this_ will please dear papa!" she exclaimed, half aloud.
"How good Aunt Adelaide was to sit here with me!"

Then, putting it carefully in its place, she closed and locked the
desk, and carrying the key to her room, laid it on the mantel, where
she was in the habit of keeping it.

Now it so happened that afternoon that Arthur, who had made himself
sick by over-indulgence in sweetmeats, and had in consequence been
lounging about the house doing nothing for the last day or two,
remained at home while all the rest of the family were out, walking,
riding, or visiting.

He was not usually very fond of reading, but while lying on the lounge
in the nursery, very much in want of some amusement, it suddenly
occurred to him that he would like to look at a book he had seen Elsie
reading that morning.

To be sure the book belonged to her, and she was not there to be
consulted as to her willingness to lend it; but that made no difference
to Arthur, who had very little respect for the rights of property,
excepting where his own were concerned.

Elsie, he knew, was out, and Chloe in the kitchen; so, feeling certain
there would be no one to interfere with him, he went directly to the
little girl's room to look for the book. He soon found it lying on the
mantel; but the desk-key lay right beside it, and as he caught sight of
that he gave a half scream of delight, for he guessed at once to what
lock it belonged, and felt that he now could accomplish the revenge he
had plotted ever since the affair of the watch.

He put out his hand to take it, but drew it back again, and stood for a
moment balancing in his mind the chances of detection.

He could deface Elsie's copy-book, but Adelaide could testify to the
little girl's carefulness and the neatness of her work up to that very
day, for she had been in the school-room that morning during the
writing hour. But then Adelaide had just left home to pay a visit to a
friend living at some distance, and would not return for several weeks,
so there was little danger from that quarter. Miss Day, to be sure,
knew the appearance of Elsie's book quite as well, but there was still
less danger of her interference, and he was pretty certain no one else
knew.

So he decided to run the risk, and laying down the book he took the
key, went to the door, looked carefully up and down the hall to make
sure of not being seen by any of the servants, and having satisfied
himself on that point, hurried to the school-room, unlocked Elsie's
desk, took out her copy-book, and dipping a pen in the ink, proceeded
deliberately to blot nearly every page in it; on some he made a large
blot, on others a small one, and on some two or three; and also
scribbled between the lines and on the margin, so as completely to
deface poor Elsie's work.

But to do Arthur justice, though he knew his brother would be pretty
sure to be very angry with Elsie, he did not know of the threatened
punishment. He stopped once or twice as he thought he heard a footstep,
and shut down the lid until it had passed, when he raised it again and
went on with his wicked work. It did not take long, however, and he
soon replaced the copy-book in the precise spot in which he had found
it, wiped the pen, and put it carefully back in its place, relocked the
desk, hurried back to Elsie's room, put the key just where he had found
it, and taking the book, returned to the nursery without having met any
one.

He threw himself down on a couch and tried to read, but in vain; he
could not fix his attention upon the page--could think of nothing but
the mischief he had done, and its probable consequences; and now, when
it was too late, he more than half repented; yet as to confessing and
thus saving Elsie from unmerited blame, he did not for a single moment
entertain the thought. But at length it suddenly occurred to him that
if it became known that he had been into Elsie's room to get the book
he might be suspected; and he started up with the intention of
replacing it. But he found that it was too late; she had already
returned, for he heard her voice in the hall; so he lay down again, and
kept the book until she came in search of it.

He looked very guilty as the little girl came in, but not seeming to
notice it, she merely said, "I am looking for my book. I thought
perhaps some one might have brought it in here. Oh! _you_ have it,
Arthur! well, keep it, if you wish; I can read it just as well another
time."

"Here, take it," said he roughly, pushing it toward her; "I don't want
it; 'tisn't a bit pretty."

"I think it is very interesting, and you are quite welcome to read it
if you wish," she answered mildly; "but if you don't care to, I will
take it."

"Young ladies and gentlemen," said the governess, as they were about
closing their exercises the next morning, "this is the regular day for
the reports, and they are all made out. Miss Elsie, here is yours;
bring your copy-book, and carry both to your papa."

Elsie obeyed, not without some trembling, yet hoping, as there was but
_one_ bad mark in the report and the copy-book showed such evident
marks of care and painstaking, her papa would not be very seriously
displeased.

It being the last day of the term, the exercises of the morning had
varied somewhat from the usual routine, and the writing hour had been
entirely omitted; thus it happened that Elsie had not opened her
copy-book, and was in consequence still in ignorance of its sadly
altered appearance.

She found her father in his room. He took the report first from her
hand, and glancing over it, said with a slight frown, "I see you have
one _very_ bad mark for recitation; but as there is only one, and the
others are remarkably good, I will excuse it."

Then taking the copy-book and opening it, much to Elsie's surprise and
alarm he gave her a glance of great displeasure, turned rapidly over
the leaves, then laying it down, said in his sternest tones, "I see I
shall have to keep my promise, Elsie."

"What, papa?" she asked, turning pale with terror.

"_What!_" said he! "do you ask me what? Did I not tell you _positively_
that I would _punish_ you if your copy-book this month did not present
a better appearance than it did last?"

"O papa! does it not? I tried so very hard; and there are no blots in
it."

"No blots?" said he; "what do you call these?" and he turned over the
leaves again, holding the book so that she could see them, and showing
that almost every one was blotted in several places.

Elsie gazed at them in unfeigned astonishment; then looking up into his
face, she said earnestly but fearfully, "Papa, I did not do it."

"Who did, then?" he asked.

"Indeed, papa, I do not know," she replied.

"I must inquire into this business," he said, rising, "and if it is not
your fault you shall not be punished; but if I find you have been
telling me a falsehood, Elsie, I shall punish you much more severely
than if you had not denied your fault."

And taking her by the hand as he spoke, he led her back to the
school-room.

"Miss Day," said he, showing the book, "Elsie says these blots are not
her work; can you tell me whose they are?"

"Miss Elsie _generally_ tells the truth, sir," replied Miss Day,
sarcastically, "but I must say that in this instance I think she has
failed, as her desk has a good lock, and she herself keeps the key."

"Elsie," he asked, turning to her, "is this so?"

"Yes, papa."

"And have you ever left your desk unlocked, or the key lying about?"

"No, papa. I am quite certain I have not," she answered unhesitatingly,
though her voice trembled, and she grey very pale.

"Very well, then, _I_ am quite certain you have told me a falsehood,
since it is evident this _must_ have been your work. Elsie, I can
forgive anything but falsehood, but that I _never will_ forgive. Come
with me. I shall teach you to speak the truth to _me_ at least, if to
no one else," and taking her hand again, he led, or rather dragged, her
from the room, for he was terribly angry, his face fairly pale with
passion.

Lora came in while he was speaking and, certain that _Elsie_ would
never be caught in a falsehood, her eye quickly sought Arthur's desk.

He was sitting there with a very guilty countenance.

She hastily crossed the room, and speaking in a low tone, said,
"Arthur, _you_ have had a hand in this business I very well know; now
confess it quickly, or Horace will half kill Elsie."

"You don't know anything about it," said he doggedly.

"Yes, I do," she answered; "and if you do not speak out at once, _I_
shall save Elsie, and find means to prove your guilt afterwards; so you
had much better confess."

"Go away," he exclaimed angrily, "I have nothing to confess."

Seeing it was useless to try to move him, Lora turned away and hurried
to Horace's room, which, in her haste, she entered without knocking, he
having fortunately neglected to fasten the door. She was just in time;
he had a small riding whip in his hand, and Elsie stood beside him pale
as death, too much frightened even to cry, and trembling so that she
could scarcely stand.

He turned an angry glance on his sister as she entered; but taking no
notice of it, she exclaimed eagerly, "Horace, don't punish Elsie, for I
am certain she is innocent."

He laid down the whip asking, "_How_ do you know it? what _proof_ have
you? I shall be very glad to be convinced," he added, his countenance
relaxing somewhat in its stern and angry expression.

"In the first place," replied his sister, "there is Elsie's established
character for truthfulness--in all the time she has been with us, we
have ever found her perfectly truthful in word and deed. And then,
Horace, what motive could she have had for spoiling her book, knowing
as she did that certain punishment would follow? Besides, I am sure
Arthur is at the bottom of this, for though he will not acknowledge, he
does not deny it. Ah! yes, and now I recollect, I saw and examined
Elsie's book only yesterday, and it was then quite free from blots."

A great change had come over her brother's countenance while she was
speaking.

"Thank you, Lora," he said, cordially, as soon as she had done, "you
have quite convinced me, and saved me from punishing Elsie as unjustly
as severely. That last assurance I consider quite sufficient of itself
to establish her innocence."

Lora turned and went out feeling very happy, and as she closed the
door, Elsie's papa took her in his arms, saying in loving, tender
tones, "My poor little daughter! my own darling child! I have been
cruelly unjust to you, have I not?"

"Dear papa, you thought I deserved it," she said, with a burst of tears
and sobs, throwing her arms around his neck, and laying her head on his
breast.

"Do you love me, Elsie, dearest?" he asked, folding her closer to his
heart.

"Ah! so very, _very_ much! better than all the world beside. O papa! if
you would only love me." The last word was almost a sob.

"I do, my darling, my own precious child," he said, caressing her again
and again. "I do love my little girl, although I may at times seem cold
and stern; and I am more thankful than words can express that I have
been saved from punishing her unjustly. I could never forgive myself if
I had done it. I would rather have lost half I am worth; ah! I fear it
would have turned all her love for me into hatred; and justly, too."

"No, papa, oh! no, _no; nothing_ could ever do that!" and the little
arms were clasped closer and closer about his neck, and the tears again
fell like rain, as she timidly pressed her quivering lips to his cheek.

"There, there daughter! don't cry any more; we will try to forget all
about it, and talk of something else," he said soothingly. "Elsie,
dear, your Aunt Adelaide thinks perhaps you were not so very much to
blame the other day; and now I want you to tell me all the
circumstances; for though I should be very sorry to encourage you to
find fault with your teacher, I am by no means willing to have you
abused."

"Please, papa, don't ask me," she begged. "Aunt Lora was there, and she
will tell you about it."

"No, Elsie," he said, very decidedly; "I want the story from _you_; and
remember, I want _every word_ that passed between you and Miss Day, as
far as you can possibly recall it."

Seeing that he was determined, Elsie obeyed him, though with evident
reluctance, and striving to put Miss Day's conduct in as favorable a
light as consistent with truth, while she by no means extenuated her
own; yet her father listened with feelings of strong indignation.

"Elsie," he said when she had done, "if I had known all this at the
time, I should not have punished you at all. Why did you not tell me,
my daughter, how you have been ill treated and provoked?"

"O papa! I could not; you know you did not ask me."

"I did ask you if it was true that you contradicted her, did I not?"

"Yes, papa, and it was true."

"You ought to have told me the whole story though; but I see how it
was--I frightened you by my sternness. Well, daughter," he added,
kissing her tenderly, "I shall endeavor to be less stern in future, and
you must try to be less timid and more at your ease with me."

"I will, papa," she replied meekly; "but indeed I cannot help feeling
frightened when you are angry with me."

Mr. Dinsmore sat there a long time with his little daughter on his
knee, caressing her more tenderly than ever before; and Elsie was very
happy, and talked more freely to him than she had ever done, telling
him of her joys and her sorrows; how dearly she had loved Miss
Allison--what happy hours they had spent together in studying the Bible
and in prayer--how grieved she was when her friend went away--and how
intensely she enjoyed the little letter now and then received from her;
and he listened to it all, apparently both pleased and interested,
encouraging her to go on by an occasional question or a word of assent
or approval.

"What is this, Elsie?" he asked, taking hold of the chain she always
wore around her neck, and drawing the miniature from her bosom.

But as he touched the spring the case flew open, revealing the sweet,
girlish face, it needed not Elsie's low murmured "Mamma" to tell him
who that lovely lady was.

He gazed upon it with emotion, carried back in memory to the time when
for a few short months she had been his own most cherished treasure.
Then, looking from it to his child, he murmured, "Yes, she is very
like--the same features, the same expression, complexion, hair and
all--will be the very counterpart of her if she lives."

"Dear papa, am I like mamma?" asked Elsie, who had caught a part of his
words.

"Yes, darling, very much indeed, and I hope you will grow more so."

"You loved mamma?" she said inquiringly.

"Dearly, _very_ dearly."

"O papa! _tell_ me about her! _do_, dear papa," she pleaded eagerly.

"I have not much to tell," he said, sighing. "I knew her only for a few
short months ere we were torn asunder, never to meet again on earth."

"But we may hope to meet her in heaven, dear papa," said Elsie softly,
"for she loved Jesus, and if we love Him we shall go there too when we
die. Do you love Jesus, papa?" she timidly inquired, for she had seen
him do a number of things which she knew to be wrong--such as riding
out for pleasure on the Sabbath, reading secular newspapers, and
engaging in worldly conversation--and she greatly feared he did not.

But instead of answering her question, he asked, "Do you, Elsie?"

"Oh! yes, sir; very _very_ much; even better than I love you, my own
dear papa."

"How do you know?" he asked, looking keenly into her face.

"Just as I know that I love you, papa, or any one else," she replied,
lifting her eyes to his face in evident surprise at the strangeness of
the question.

"Ah, papa," she added in her own sweet, simple way, "I do so love to
talk of Jesus; to tell Him all my troubles, and ask Him to forgive my
sins and make me holy; and then it is so sweet to know that He loves
me, and will _always_ love me, even if no one else does."

He kissed her very gravely, and set her down, saying, "Go now, my
daughter, and prepare for dinner; it is almost time for the bell."

"You are not displeased, papa?" she inquired, looking up anxiously into
his face.

"No, darling, not at all," he replied, stroking her hair. "Shall I ride
with my little girl this afternoon?"

"Oh papa! do you really mean it? I shall be so glad!" she exclaimed
joyfully.

"Very well, then," he said, "it is settled. But go now; there is the
bell. No, stay!" he added quickly, as she turned to obey; "think a
moment and tell me where you put the key of your desk yesterday, for it
must have been then the mischief was done. Had you it with you when you
rode out?"

Suddenly Elsie's face flushed, and she exclaimed Eagerly, "Ah! I
remember now! I left it on the mantelpiece, papa, and--"

But here she paused, as if sorry she had said so much.

"And what?" he asked.

"I think I had better not say it, papa! I'm afraid I _ought_ not, for I
don't really _know_ anything, and it seems so wrong to suspect people."

"You need not express any suspicions," said her father; "I do not wish
you to do so; but I must insist upon having all the facts you can
furnish me with. Was Aunt Chloe in your room all the time you were
away?"

"No, sir; she told me she went down to the kitchen directly after I
left, and did not come up again until after I returned."

"Very well; do you know whether any one else entered the room during
your absence?"

"I do not _know_, papa, but I _think_ Arthur must have been in, because
when I came home I found him reading a book which I had left lying on
the mantel-piece," she answered in a low, reluctant tone.

"Ah, ha! that is just it! I see it all now," he exclaimed, with a
satisfied nod. "There, that will do, Elsie; go now and make haste down
to your dinner."

But Elsie lingered, and, in answer to a look of kind inquiry from her
father, said coaxingly, "Please, papa, don't be very angry with him. I
think he did not know how much I cared about my book."

"You are very forgiving, Elsie; but go, child, I shall not abuse him,"
Mr. Dinsmore answered, with an imperative gesture, and the little girl
hurried from the room.

It happened that just at this time the elder Mr. Dinsmore and his wife
were paying a visit to some friends in the city, and thus Elsie's papa
had been left head of the house for the time. Arthur, knowing this to
be the state of affairs, and that though his father was expected to
return that evening, his mother would be absent for some days, was
beginning to be a good deal fearful of the consequences of his
misconduct, and not without reason, for his brother's wrath was now
fully aroused, and he was determined that the boy should not on this
occasion escape the penalty of his misdeeds.

Arthur was already in the dining-room when Mr. Dinsmore came down.

"Arthur," said he, "I wish you to step into the library a moment; I
have something to say to you."

"I don't want to hear it," muttered the boy, with a dogged look, and
standing perfectly still.

"I dare say not, sir; but that makes no difference," replied his
brother. "Walk into the library at once."

Arthur returned a scowl of defiance, muttering almost under his breath,
"I'll do as I please about that;" but cowed by his brother's determined
look and manner, he slowly and reluctantly obeyed.

"Now, sir," said Mr. Dinsmore, when he had him fairly in the room, and
had closed the door behind them, "I wish to know how you came to meddle
with Elsie's copy-book."

"I didn't," was the angry rejoinder.

"Take care, sir; I know all about it," said Mr. Dinsmore, in a warning
tone; "it is useless for you to deny it. Yesterday, while Elsie was out
and Aunt Chloe in the kitchen, you went to her room, took the key of
her desk from the mantel-piece where she had left it, went to the
school-room and did the mischief, hoping to get her into trouble
thereby, and then relocking the desk and returning the key to its
proper place, thought you had escaped detection; and I was very near
giving my poor, innocent little girl the whipping you so richly
deserve."

Arthur looked up in astonishment.

"Who told you?" he asked; "nobody saw me;" then, catching himself, said
hastily, "I tell you I didn't do it. I don't know anything about it."

"Will you dare to tell me such a falsehood as that again?" exclaimed
Mr. Dinsmore, angrily, taking him by the collar and shaking him roughly.

"Let me alone now," whined the culprit. "I want my dinner, I say."

"You'll get no dinner to-day, I can tell you," replied his brother. "I
am going to lock you into your bedroom, and keep you there until your
father comes home; and then if _he_ doesn't give you the flogging you
deserve, _I_ will; for I intend you shall have your deserts for once in
your life. I know that all this is in revenge for Elsie's forced
testimony in the affair of the watch, and I gave you fair warning then
that I would see to it that any attempt to abuse my child should
receive its just reward."

He took the boy by the arm as he spoke, to lead him from the room.

At first Arthur seemed disposed to resist; but soon, seeing how useless
it was to contend against such odds, he resigned himself to his fate,
saying sullenly, "You wouldn't treat me this way if mamma was at home."

"She is not, however, as it happens, though I can tell you that even
_she_ could not save you now," replied his brother, as he opened the
bedroom door, and pushing him in, locked it upon him, and put the key
in his pocket.

Mr. Horace Dinsmore had almost unbounded influence over his father, who
was very proud of him; the old gentleman also utterly despised
everything mean and underhanded, and upon being made acquainted by
Horace with Arthur's misdemeanors he inflicted upon him as severe a
punishment as any one could have desired.



CHAPTER NINTH


   "Keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God
    hath commanded thee."
                                 --_Deut._ v. 12.

                         "She is mine own;
    And I as rich in having such a jewel
    As twenty seas, if all their sand were pearl,
    The water nectar, and the rocks pure gold."
                    --SHAKESPEARE, _Two Gentlemen of Verona._


And now happy days had come to the little Elsie. Her father treated her
with the tenderest affection, and kept her with him almost constantly,
seeming scarcely willing to have her out of his sight for an hour. He
took her with him wherever he went in his rides and walks and visits to
the neighboring planters.

She was much admired for her beauty and sweetness of disposition, much
caressed and flattered, but, through it all, lost none of her native
modesty, but was ever the same meek, gentle little girl. She felt
grateful for all the kindness she received, and liked to visit with her
papa; but her happiest days were spent at home on those rare occasions
when they were free from visitors, and she could sit for hours on his
knee, or by his side, talking or reading to him, or working at her
embroidery, or knitting and listening while he read. He helped her with
all her studies, taught her something of botany and geology in their
walks, helped her to see and correct the faults of her drawings, sang
with her when she played, bought her quantities of new music, and
engaged the best masters to instruct her--in short, took a lively
interest in all her pursuits and pleasures, gave her every indulgence,
and lavished upon her the tenderest caresses. He was very proud of her
beauty, her sweetness, her intelligence, and talent; and nothing
pleased him better than to hear them spoken of by others in terms of
praise.

And Elsie was very happy; the soft eyes grew bright with happiness, and
the little face lost its pensive expression, and became as round, rosy
and merry as Enna's.

Miss Day went North, expecting to be absent several months, and Elsie's
papa took her traveling, spending some time at different
watering-places. It was her first journey since she had been old enough
to care for such things, and she enjoyed it exceedingly. They left home
in July, and did not return until September, so that the little girl
had time to rest and recruit, both mentally and physically, and was
ready to begin her studies again with zeal and energy; yet it was so
pleasant to be her papa's constant companion, and she had so enjoyed
her freedom from the restraints of the school-room, that she was not at
all sorry to learn, on their arrival at Roselands, that the governess
would still be absent for some weeks.

"How bright and happy the child looks!" was Adelaide's remark on the
day of their return, as, from the opposite side of the room, she
watched the speaking countenance of the little girl, who was giving
Enna and the boys an animated description of her journey.

"Yes," said Lora, "and how entirely she seems to have overcome her fear
of her father!" for at that instant Elsie suddenly left the little
group, and running to him, leaned confidingly on his knee, while
apparently urging some request, which he answered with a smile and a
nod of acquiescence; when she left the room, and presently returned
carrying a richly bound book of engravings.

Yes, Elsie had lost her fear of her father, and could now talk to him,
and tell him her feelings and wishes, as freely as ever Enna did; and
no wonder, for in all these weeks he had never given her one harsh word
or look; but indeed he had had no occasion to do so, for she was always
docile and obedient.

It was Sabbath afternoon--the first Sabbath after their return--and
Elsie was in her own room alone with the books she loved best--her
Bible, hymnbook, and "Pilgrim's Progress."

She had spent a very happy hour in self-examination, reading and
prayer, and was singing to herself in a low tone her favorite hymn,

    "I lay my sins on Jesus,"

while turning over the leaves of her Bible to find the story of Elijah,
which she had promised to read to Chloe that afternoon, when a child's
footsteps were heard coming down the hall, the handle of the door was
turned hastily, and then, as it refused to yield, Enna's voice called
out in a fretful, imperious tone, "Open this door, Elsie Dinsmore. I
want in, I say."

Elsie sighed, as she thought, "There is an end to my nice afternoon,"
but she rose at once, and quickly crossing the room, opened the door,
asking pleasantly, "What do you want, Enna?"

"I _told_ you I wanted to come _in_," replied Enna, saucily, "and now
you've got to tell me a story to amuse me; mamma says so, because you
know I've got a cold, and she won't let me go out."

"Well, Enna," said Elsie, patiently, "I am going to read a very
beautiful story to mammy, and you are quite welcome to sit here and
listen."

"I sha'n't have it read! I said you were to _tell_ it. I don't like to
hear reading," replied Enna in her imperious way, at the same time
taking quiet possession of Elsie's little rosewood rocking-chair--a
late present from her papa, and highly prized by the little girl on
that account--and beginning to scratch with her thumb nail upon the arm.

"Oh! don't scratch my pretty new chair, Enna!" Elsie entreated; "it is
papa's present, and I wouldn't have it spoiled for a great deal."

"I will; who cares for your old chair?" was the reply in a scornful
tone, as she gave another and harder dig with her nail. "You're a
little old maid--so particular with all your things--that's what mamma
says you are. Now tell me that story."

"I will tell you a story if you will stop scratching my chair, Enna,"
said Elsie, almost with tears in her eyes, "I will tell you about
Elijah on Mount Carmel or Beishazzar's feast, or the children in the
fiery furnace, or----"

"I sha'n't hear any of those! I don't want any of your old Bible
stories," interrupted Enna, insolently, "You must tell me that pretty
fairy tale Herbert Carrington is so fond of."

"No, Enna; I cannot tell you that _to-day_," replied Elsie, speaking
gently, but very firmly.

"I say you _shall!_" screamed Enna, springing to her feet. "I'll just
go and tell mamma, and she'll make you do it."

"Stay, Enna," said Elsie, catching her hand to detain her; "I will tell
you any story I know that is suitable for the Sabbath; but I cannot
tell the fairy tale to-day, because you know it would be wrong. I will
tell it to you to-morrow, though, if you will wait."

"You're a _bad_ girl, and I'll just tell mamma of you," exclaimed Enna,
passionately, jerking her hand away and darting from the room.

"Oh! if papa was only at home," sighed Elsie, sinking into her
rocking-chair, pale and trembling; but she knew that he had gone out
riding, and would probably not return for some time; he had invited her
to accompany him, but she had begged to be allowed to stay at home, and
he had let her have her wish.

As she feared, she was immediately summoned to Mrs. Dinsmore's presence.

"Elsie," said that lady, severely, "are you not ashamed of yourself, to
refuse Enna such a small favor especially when the poor child is not
well. I must say you are the most selfish, disobliging child I ever
saw."

"I offered to tell her a Bible story, or anything suitable for the
Sabbath day," replied Elsie, meekly, "but I cannot tell the fairy tale,
because it would be wrong."

"Nonsense! there's no harm at all in telling fairy tales to-day, any
more than any other day; that is just an excuse, Elsie," said Mrs.
Dinsmore, angrily.

"I don't want her old Bible stories. I won't have them. I want that
pretty fairy tale," sobbed Enna passionately; "_make_ her tell it,
mamma."

"Come, come, what is all this fuss about?" asked the elder Mr.
Dinsmore, coming in from an adjoining room.

"Nothing," said his wife, "except that Enna is not well enough to go
out, and wants a fairy story to pass away the time, which Elsie alone
is acquainted with, but is too lazy or too self-willed to relate."

He turned angrily to his little granddaughter.

"Ah! indeed, is that it? Well, there is an old saying. 'A bird that
_can_ sing, and _won't_ sing, must be _made_ to sing.'"

Elsie was opening her lips to speak, but Mrs. Dinsmore bade her be
silent, and then went on. "She pretends it is all on account of
conscientious scruples. 'It isn't fit for the Sabbath,' she says. Now
_I_ say it is a great piece of impertinence for a child of her years to
set up her opinion against yours and mine; and I know very well it is
nothing but an excuse, because she doesn't choose to be obliging."

"Of _course_ it is; nothing in the _world_ but an excuse," responded
Mr. Dinsmore, hotly.

Elsie's face flushed, and she answered a little indignantly,

"No, grandpa, indeed it is _not_ merely an excuse, but--"

"Do you _dare_ to contradict me, you impertinent little hussy?" cried
the old gentleman, interrupting her in the middle of her sentence; and
catching her by the arm, he shook her violently; then picking her up
and setting her down hard upon a chair, he said, "Now, miss, sit you
there until your father comes home, then we will see what _he_ thinks
of such impertinence; and if he doesn't give you the complete whipping
you deserve, I miss my guess."

"Please, grandpa, I--"

"Hold your tongue! don't dare to speak another word until your father
comes home," said he, threateningly. "If you don't choose to say what
you're wanted to, you shall not talk at all."

Then, going to the door, he called a servant and bade him tell "Mr.
Horace," as soon as he returned, that he wished to see him.

For the next half-hour--and a very long one it seemed to her--Elsie sat
there wishing for, and yet dreading her father's coming. Would he
inflict upon her the punishment which her grandfather evidently wished
her to receive, without pausing to inquire into the merits of the case?
or would he listen patiently to _her_ story? And even if he did, might
he not still think her deserving of punishment? She could not answer
these questions to her own satisfaction. A few months ago she would
have been certain of a very severe chastisement, and even now she
trembled with fear; for though she knew beyond a doubt that he loved
her dearly, she knew also that he was a strict and severe
disciplinarian, and never excused her faults.

At last her ear caught the sound of his step in the hall, and her heart
beat fast and faster as it drew nearer, until he entered, and
addressing his father, asked, "Did you wish to see me, sir?"

"Yes, Horace, I want you to attend to this girl," replied the old
gentleman, with a motion of the head toward Elsie. "She has been very
impertinent to me."

"What! _Elsie_ impertinent! is it possible? I certainly expected better
things of her."

His tone expressed great surprise, and turning to his little daughter,
he regarded her with a grave, sad look that brought the tears to her
eyes; dearly as she loved him, it seemed almost harder to bear than the
old expression of stern severity.

"It is hard to believe," he said, "that my little Elsie would be guilty
of such conduct; but if she has been, of course she must be punished,
for I cannot allow anything of the kind. Go. Elsie, to my dressing-room
and remain there until I come to you."

"Papa--" she began, bursting into tears.

"Hush!" he said, with something of the old sternness; "not a word; but
obey me instantly."

Then, as Elsie went sobbing from the room, he seated himself, and
turning to his father, said, "Now, sir, if you please, I should like to
hear the whole story; precisely what Elsie has done and said, and what
was the provocation; for _that_ must also be taken into the account, in
order that I may be able to do her justice."

"If you do her _justice_, you will whip her well," remarked his father
in a tone of asperity.

Horace colored violently, for nothing aroused his ire sooner than any
interference between him and his child; but controlling himself, he
replied quite calmly, "If I find her deserving of punishment, I will
not spare her; but I should be sorry indeed to punish her unjustly.
Will you be so good as to tell me what she has done?"

Mr. Dinsmore referred him to his wife for the commencement of the
trouble, and she made out as bad a case against Elsie as possible; but
even then there seemed to her father to be very little to condemn; and
when Mrs. Dinsmore was obliged to acknowledge that it was Elsie's
refusal to humor Enna in her desire for a particular story which Elsie
thought it not best to relate on the Sabbath, he bit his lip with
vexation, and told her in a haughty tone, that though he did not
approve of Elsie's strict notions regarding such matters, yet he wished
her to understand that _his_ daughter was not to be made a slave to
Enna's whims. If she _chose_ to tell her a story, or to do anything
else for her amusement, he had no objection, but she was never to be
_forced_ to do it against her inclination, and Enna must understand
that it was done as a favor, and not at all as her right.

"You are right enough there, Horace," remarked his father, "but that
does not excuse Elsie for her impertinence to me. In the first place, I
must say I agree with my wife in thinking it quite a piece of
impertinence for a child of her years to set up her opinion against
mine; and besides, she contradicted me flatly."

He then went on to repeat what he had said, and Elsie's denial of the
charge, using her exact words, but quite a different tone, and
suppressing the fact that he had interrupted her before she had
finished her sentence.

Elsie's tone, though slightly indignant, had still been respectful, but
from her grandfather's rehearsal of the scene her father received the
impression that she had been exceedingly saucy, and he left the room
with the intention of giving her almost as severe a punishment as her
grandfather would have prescribed.

On the way up to his room, however, his anger had a little time to
cool, and it occurred to him that it would be no more than just to hear
_her_ side of the story ere he condemned her.

Elsie was seated on a couch at the far side of the room, and as he
entered she turned on him a tearful, pleading look, that went straight
to his heart.

His face was grave and sad, but there was very little sternness in it,
as he sat down and took her in his arms.

For a moment he held her without speaking, while she lifted her eyes
timidly to his face. Then he said, as he gently stroked the hair back
from her forehead, "I am very sorry, _very sorry indeed_, to hear so
bad an account of my little daughter. I am afraid I shall have to
punish her, and I don't like to do it."

She answered not a word, but burst into tears, and hiding her face on
his breast, sobbed aloud.

"I will not condemn you unheard, Elsie," he said after a moment's
pause; "tell me how you came to be so impertinent to your grandfather."

"I did not mean to be saucy, papa, indeed I did not," she sobbed.

"Stop crying then, daughter," he said kindly, "and tell me all about
it. I know there was some trouble between you and Enna, and I want you
to tell me all that occurred, and every word spoken by either of you,
as well as all that passed between Mrs. Dinsmore, your grandfather, and
yourself. I am very glad that I can trust my little girl to speak the
truth. I am quite sure she would not tell a falsehood even to save
herself from punishment," he added tenderly.

"Thank you, dear papa, for saying that," said Elsie, raising her head
and almost smiling through her tears. "I will _try_ to tell it just as
it happened."

She then told her story simply and truthfully, repeating, as he bade
her, every word that had passed between Enna and herself, and between
her and her grandparents. Her words to her grandfather sounded very
different, repeated in her quiet, respectful tones; and when she added
that if he would have allowed her, she was going on to explain that it
was not any unwillingness to oblige Enna, but the fear of doing wrong,
that led her to refuse her request, her father thought that after all
she deserved very little blame.

"Do you think I was very saucy, papa?" she asked anxiously, when she
had finished her story.

"So much depends upon the tone, Elsie," he said, "that I can hardly
tell; if you used the same tone in speaking to your grandpa that you
did in repeating your words to me just now, I don't think it was _very_
impertinent; though the words themselves were not as respectful as they
ought to have been. You must always treat my father quite as
respectfully as you do me; and I think with him, too, that there is
something quite impertinent in a little girl like you setting up her
opinion against that of her elders. You must never try it with me, my
daughter."

Elsie hung down her head in silence for a moment, then asked in a
tremulous tone, "Are you going to punish me, papa?"

"Yes," he said, "but first I am going to take you down-stairs and make
you beg your grandfather's pardon. I see you don't want to do it," he
added, looking keenly into her face, "but you _must_, and I hope I
shall not be obliged to _enforce_ obedience to my commands."

"I will do whatever you bid me, papa," she sobbed, "but I did not mean
to be saucy. Please, papa, tell me what to say."

"You must say, Grandpa, I did not intend to be impertinent to you, and
I am very sorry for whatever may have seemed saucy in my words or
tones; will you please to forgive me, and I will try always to be
perfectly respectful in future. You can say all that with truth, I
think?"

"Yes, papa, I _am_ sorry, and I _do_ intend to be respectful to grandpa
always," she answered, brushing away her tears, and putting her hand in
his.

He then led her into her grandfather's presence, saying: "Elsie has
come to beg your pardon, sir."

"That is as it should be," replied the old gentleman, glancing
triumphantly at his wife; "I told her you would not uphold her in any
such impertinence."

"No," said his son, with some displeasure in his tone; "I will neither
uphold her in wrongdoing, nor suffer her to be imposed upon. Speak, my
daughter, and say what I bade you."

Elsie sobbed out the required words.

"Yes, I must forgive you, of course," replied her grandfather, coldly,
"but I hope your father is not going to let you off without proper
punishment."

"I will attend to that; I certainly intend to punish her _as she
deserves_" said his son, laying a marked emphasis upon the concluding
words of his sentence.

Elsie wholly misunderstood him, and so trembled with fear as he led her
from the room, that she could scarcely walk; seeing which, he took her
in his arms and carried her up-stairs, she sobbing on his shoulder.

He did not speak until he had locked the door, carried her across the
room, and seated himself upon the couch again, with her upon his knee.

Then he said, in a soothing tone, as he wiped away her tears and kissed
her kindly, "You need not tremble so, my daughter; I am not going to be
severe with you."

She looked up in glad surprise.

"I said I would punish you as you _deserve_," he said, with a smile,
"and I intend to keep you shut up here with me until bed-time, I shall
not allow you to go down-stairs to tea, and besides, I am going to give
you a long lesson to learn, which I shall require you to recite to me
quite perfectly before you can go to bed."

Elsie grew frightened again at the mention of the lesson, for she
feared it might be something which she could not conscientiously study
on the Sabbath; but all her fear and trouble vanished as she saw her
father take up a Bible that lay on the table, and turn over the leaves
as though selecting a passage.

Presently he put it into her hands, and pointing to the thirteenth and
fourteenth chapters of John's Gospel, bade her carry the book to a low
seat by the window, and sit there until she had learned them perfectly.

"O papa! what a nice lesson!" she exclaimed, looking up delightedly
into his face; "but it won't be any punishment, because I love these
chapters dearly, and have read them so often that I almost know every
word already."

"Hush, hush!" he said, pretending to be very stern; "don't tell me that
my punishments are _no_ punishments, I don't allow you to talk so; just
take the book and learn what I bid you; and if you know those two
already, you may learn the next."

Elsie laughed, kissed his hand, and tripped away to her window, while
he threw himself down on the couch and took up a newspaper, more as a
screen to his face, however, than for the purpose of reading; for he
lay there closely watching his little daughter, as she sat in the rich
glow of the sunset, with her sweet, grave little face bending over the
holy book.

"The darling!" he murmured to himself; "she is lovely as an angel, and
she is _mine_, mine only, mine own precious one; and loves me with her
whole soul. Ah! how can I ever find it in my heart to be stern to her?
Ah! if _I_ were but _half_ as good and pure as she is, I should be a
better man than I am." And he heaved a deep sigh.

Half an hour had passed, and still Elsie bent over her book. The
tea-bell rang, and Mr. Dinsmore started up, and crossing the room, bent
down and stroked her hair.

"Do you know it, darling?" he asked.

"Almost, papa," and she looked up into his face with a bright, sweet
smile, full of affection.

With a sudden impulse he caught her in his arms, and kissing her again
and again, said with emotion, "Elsie, my darling, I love you _too_
well; I could never bear to lose you."

"You must love Jesus better, my own precious papa," she replied,
clasping her little arms around his neck, and returning his caresses.

He held her a moment, and then putting her down, said, "I shall send
you up some supper, and I want you to eat it; don't behave as you did
about the bread and water once, a good while ago."

"Will it be bread and water this time, papa?" she asked, with a smile.

"You will see," he said, laughingly, and quitted the room.

Elsie turned to her book again, but in a few moments was interrupted by
the entrance of a servant carrying on a silver waiter a plate of hot,
buttered muffins, a cup of jelly, another of hot coffee, and a piece of
broiled chicken. Elsie was all astonishment.

"Why, Pomp," she asked, "did papa send it?"

"Yes, Miss Elsie, 'deed he did," replied the servant, with a grin of
satisfaction, as he set down his burden. "I reckon you been berry nice
gal dis day; or else Marster Horace tink you little bit sick."

"Papa is very good; and I am much obliged to you too, Pomp," said the
little girl, laying aside her book, and seating herself before the
waiter.

"Jes ring de bell, Miss Elsie, ef you want more, and dis chile fotch
'em up; Marster Horace say so hisself." And the grinning negro bowed
himself out, chuckling with delight, for Elsie had always been a great
favorite with him.

"Dear papa," Elsie said, when he came in again and smilingly asked if
she had eaten her prison fare, "what a good supper you sent me! But I
thought you didn't allow me such things!"

"Don't you know," said he playfully, laying his hand upon her head,
"that I am absolute monarch of this small kingdom, and you are not to
question my doings or decrees?"

Then in a more serious tone, "No, daughter, I do not allow it as a
regular thing, because I do not think it for your good; but for once, I
thought it would not hurt you. I know you are not one to presume upon
favors, and I wanted to indulge you a little, because I fear my little
girl has been made to suffer perhaps more than she quite deserved this
afternoon."

His voice had a very tender tone as he uttered the concluding words,
and stooping, he pressed his lips to her forehead.

"Don't think, though," he added the next moment, "that I am excusing
you for impertinence, not at all; but it was what you have had to
suffer from Enna's insolence. I shall put a stop to that, for I will
not have it."

"I don't mind it much, papa," said Elsie gently, "I am quite used to
it, for Enna has always treated me so."

"And why did _I_ never hear of it before?" he asked, half angrily. "It
is abominable! not to be endured!" he exclaimed, "and I shall see that
Miss Enna is made to understand that _my_ daughter is fully her equal
in every respect, and always to be treated as such."

He paused; but, Elsie, half frightened at his vehemence, made no reply;
and he went on: "I have no  doubt your grandfather and his wife would
have been better pleased had I forced you to yield to Enna's whim; but
I had no idea of such a thing; you shall use your own pleasure whenever
she is concerned; but: if _I_ had bidden you to  tell her that story it
would have been a very different matter; you need  never set up your
will, or your opinion of right and wrong, against mine, Elsie, for I
shall not allow it. I don't altogether like some of those strict
notions you have got into your head, and I give you fair warning, that
should  they ever come into collision with _my_ wishes and commands,
they will have to be given up. But don't look so alarmed, daughter; I
hope it may never happen; and we will say no more about it to-night,"
he added, kindly, for she had grown very pale and trembled visibly.

"O papa, dear papa! don't ever bid me do anything wrong; it would break
my heart," she said, laying her head on his shoulder as he sat down and
drew her to his side.

"I never intend to bid you do wrong, but, on the contrary, wish you
always to do right. But then, daughter, _I_ must be the judge of what
is wrong or right for you; you must remember that you are only a very
little girl, and not yet capable of judging for yourself, and all you
have to do is to obey your father without murmuring or hesitation, and
then there will be no trouble."

His tone, though mild, and not unkind, was very firm and decided, and
Elsie's heart sank; she seemed to feel herself in the shadow of some
great trouble laid up in store for her in the future. But she strove,
and ere long with success, to banish the foreboding of evil which
oppressed her, and give herself up to the enjoyment of present
blessings. Her father loved her dearly--she knew that--and he was not
_now_ requiring her to do aught against her conscience, and perhaps he
never might; he had said so himself, and God could incline his heart to
respect her scruples; or if, in His infinite wisdom, He saw that the
dreaded trial was needed, He would give her strength to bear it; for
had He not promised, "As thy day, so shall thy strength be"?

Her father's arm was around her, and she had been standing silently,
with her face hidden on his shoulder, while these thoughts were passing
through her mind, and the little heart going up in prayer to God for
him and for herself.

"What is my little girl thinking of?" he asked presently.

"A good many things, papa," she said, raising her face, now quite
peaceful and happy again. "I was thinking of what you had just been
saying to me, and that I am so glad I know that you love me dearly; and
I was asking God to help us both to do His will, and that I might
always be able to do what you bid me, without disobeying Him," she
added simply; and then asked, "May I say my lesson now, papa? I think I
know it quite perfectly."

"Yes," he said, in an absent way; "bring me the book."

Elsie brought it, and putting it into his hands, drew up a stool and
sat down at his feet, resting her arm on his knee, and looking up into
his face; then in her sweet, low voice, she repeated slowly and
feelingly, with true and beautiful emphasis, the chapters he had given
her to learn; that most touching description of the Last Supper, and
our Saviour's farewell address to His sorrowing disciples.

"Ah! papa, is it not beautiful?" she exclaimed, laying her head upon
his knee, while the tears trembled in her eyes. "Is not that a sweet
verse, 'Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them
unto the end'? It seems so strange that He could be so thoughtful for
them, so kind and loving, when all the time He knew what a dreadful
death He was just going to die; and knew besides that they were all
going to run away and leave Him alone with His cruel enemies. Oh! it is
so sweet to know that Jesus is so loving, and that He loves me, and
will always love me, even to the end, _forever_."

"How do you know that, Elsie?" he asked.

"I know that He loves me, papa, because I love Him, and He has said, 'I
love them that love me;' and I know that He will love me always,
because He has said, 'I have loved thee with an _everlasting_ love,'
and in another place, 'I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.'"

"But do you think you are good enough, daughter, for Jesus to love you?"

"Ah! papa, I know I am not at all good. I have a very wicked heart, and
often my thoughts and feelings are all wrong, and Jesus knows all about
it, but it does not keep Him from loving me, for you know it was
_sinners_ He died to save. Ah! papa, how _good_ and _kind_ He was! Who
could help loving Him? I used to feel _so_ lonely and sad sometimes,
papa, that I think my heart would have broken quite, and I should have
died, if I had not had Jesus to love me."

"When were you so sad and lonely, darling?" he asked in a moved tone,
as he laid his hand gently on her head, and stroked her hair
caressingly.

"Sometimes when you were away, papa, and I had never seen you; but then
I used to think of you, and my heart would long and _ache_ so to see
you, and hear you call me daughter, and to lay my head against your
breast and feel your arms folding me close to your heart, as you do so
often now."

She paused a moment, and struggled hard to keep down the rising sobs,
as she added, "But when you came, papa, and I saw you did not love me,
oh! papa, that was the worst. I thought I could never, _never_ bear it.
I thought my heart would break, and I wanted to die and go to Jesus,
and to mamma."

The little frame shook with sobs.

"My poor darling! my poor little pet!" he said, taking her in his arms
again, and caressing her with the greatest tenderness, "it was very
hard, very cruel. I don't know how I could steel my heart so against my
own little child; but I had been very much prejudiced, and led to
suppose that you looked upon me with fear and dislike, as a hated
tyrant."

Elsie lifted her eyes to his face with a look of extreme surprise.

"O papa!" she exclaimed, "how _could_ you think that? I have always
loved you, ever since I can remember."

When Elsie went to her room that evening she thought very seriously of
all that had occurred during the afternoon, and all that her papa had
said to her; and to her usual petitions was added a very fervent one
that he might never bid her break any command of God; or if he did,
that she might have strength given her according to her day.

A shadow had fallen on her pathway, faint, but perceptible; a light,
fleecy cloud obscured the brightness of her sun; yet it was not for
some weeks that even the most distant mutterings of the coming storm
could be heard.



CHAPTER TENTH


    "If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing
    thy pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a Delight,
    the Holy of the Lord, Honorable, and shalt honor him, not
    doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor
    speaking thine own words."
                                 --_Isaiah_ Iviii. 13.

    "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto
    you, more than unto God, judge ye."
                                 --_Acts_ iv. 19.


Quite a number of guests had dined at Roselands. They were nearly all
gentlemen, and were now collected in the drawing-room, laughing,
jesting, talking politics, and conversing with each other and the
ladies upon various worldly topics, apparently quite forgetful that it
was the Lord's day, which He has commanded to be kept holy in thought
and word, as well as deed.

"May I ask what you are in search of, Mr. Eversham?" inquired Adelaide,
as she noticed one of the guests glance around the room with a rather
disappointed air.

"Yes, Miss Adelaide; I was looking for little Miss Elsie. Travilla has
given me so very glowing an account of her precocious musical talent,
that I have conceived a great desire to hear her play and sing."

"Do you hear that, Horace?" asked Adelaide, turning to her brother.

"Yes, and I shall be most happy to gratify you, Eversham," replied the
young father, with a proud smile.

He crossed the room to summon a servant, but as he placed his hand upon
the bell-rope, Mrs. Dinsmore arrested his movement.

"Stay, Horace," she said; "you had better not send for her."

"May I be permitted to ask _why_, madam?" he inquired in a tone of
mingled surprise and annoyance.

"Because she will not sing," answered the lady, coolly.

"Pardon me, madam, but I think she will, if _I bid_ her to do it," he
said with flashing eyes.

"No, she will not," persisted Mrs. Dinsmore, in the same cold, quiet
tone; "she will tell you she is wiser than her father, and that it
would be a sin to obey him in this. Believe me, she will most assuredly
defy your authority; so you had better take my advice and let her
alone--thus sparing yourself the mortification of exhibiting before
your guests your inability to govern your child."

Mr. Dinsmore bit his lip with vexation.

"Thank you," he said, haughtily, "but I prefer convincing you that that
inability lies wholly in your own imagination; and I am quite at a loss
to understand upon what you found your opinion, as Elsie has never yet
made the very slightest resistance to my authority."

He had given the bell-rope a vigorous pull while speaking, and a
servant now appearing in answer to the summons, he sent him with a
message to Elsie, requiring her presence in the drawing-room.

Then turning away from his step-mother, who looked after him with a
gleam of triumph in her eye, he joined the group of gentlemen already
gathered about the piano, where Adelaide had just taken her seat and
begun a brilliant overture.

Yet, outwardly calm and self-satisfied as his demeanor may have been,
Horace Dinsmore was even now regretting the step he had just taken; for
remembering Elsie's conscientious scruples regarding the observance of
the Sabbath--which he had for the moment forgotten--he foresaw that
there would be a struggle, probably a severe one; and though, having
always found her docile and yielding, he felt no doubt of the final
result, he would willingly have avoided the contest, could he have done
so without a sacrifice of pride; but, as he said to himself, with a
slight sigh, he had now gone too far to retreat; and then he had all
along felt that this struggle must come _some_ time, and perhaps it was
as well now as at any other.

Elsie was alone in her own room, spending the Sabbath afternoon in her
usual manner, when the servant came to say that her papa wished to see
her in the drawing-room. The little girl was a good deal alarmed at the
summons, for the thought instantly flashed upon her, "He is going to
bid me play and sing, or do something else which it is not right to do
on the Sabbath day."

But remembering that he never had done so, she hoped he might not now;
yet ere she obeyed the call she knelt down for a moment, and prayed
earnestly for strength to do right, however difficult it might be.

"Come here, daughter," her father said as she entered the room. He
spoke in his usual pleasant, affectionate tone, yet Elsie started,
trembled, and turned pale; for catching sight of the group at the
piano, and her Aunt Adelaide just vacating the music-stool, she at once
perceived what was in store for her.

"Here, Elsie," said her father, selecting a song which she had learned
during their absence, and sang remarkably well, "I wish you to sing
this for my friends; they are anxious to hear it."

"Will not to-morrow do, papa?" she asked in a low, tremulous tone.

Mrs. Dinsmore, who had drawn near to listen, now looked at Horace with
a meaning smile, which he affected not to see.

"Certainly not, Elsie," he said; "we want it now. You know it quite
well enough without any more practice."

"I did not want to wait for _that_ reason, papa," she replied in the
same low, trembling tones, "but you know this is the holy Sabbath day."

"Well, my daughter, and what of that? _I_ consider this song perfectly
proper to be sung to-day, and that ought to satisfy you that you will
not be doing wrong to sing it; remember what I said to you some weeks
ago; and now sit down and sing it at once, without any more ado."

"O papa! I _cannot_ sing it to-day; _please_ let me wait until
to-morrow."

"Elsie," he said in his sternest tones, "sit down to the piano
instantly, and do as I bid you, and let me hear no more of this
nonsense."

She sat down, but raising her pleading eyes, brimful of tears to his
face, she repeated her refusal. "Dear papa, I _cannot_ sing it to-day.
I _cannot_ break the Sabbath."

"Elsie, you _must_ sing it," said he, placing the music before her. "I
have told you that it will not be breaking the Sabbath, and that is
sufficient; you must let me judge for you in these matters."

"Let her wait until to-morrow, Dinsmore; tomorrow will suit us quite as
well," urged several of the gentlemen, while Adelaide good-naturedly
said, "Let me play it, Horace; I have no such scruples, and presume I
can do it nearly as well as Elsie."

"No," he replied, "when I give my child a command, it is to be obeyed;
I have _said_ she should play it, and play it she _must_; she is not to
suppose that she may set up her opinion of right and wrong against
mine."

Elsie sat with her little hands folded in her lap, the tears streaming
from her downcast eyes over her pale cheeks. She was trembling, but
though there was no stubbornness in her countenance, the expression
meek and humble, she made no movement toward obeying her father's order.

There was a moment of silent waiting; then he said in his severest
tone, "Elsie, you shall sit there till you obey me, though it should be
until to-morrow morning."

"Yes, papa," she replied in a scarcely audible voice, and they all
turned away and left her.

"You see now that you had better have taken my advice, Horace,"
remarked Mrs. Dinsmore, in a triumphant aside; "I knew very well how it
would end."

"Excuse me," said he, "but it has _not_ ended; and ere it does, I think
she will learn that she has a stronger will than her own to deal with."

Elsie's position was a most uncomfortable one; her seat high and
uneasy, and seeming to grow more and more so as the weary moments
passed slowly away. No one came near her or seemed to notice her, yet
she could hear them conversing in other parts of the room, and knew
that they were sometimes looking at her, and, timid and bashful as she
was, it seemed hard to bear. Then, too, her little heart was very sad
as she thought of her father's displeasure, and feared that he would
withdraw from her the affection which had been for the last few months
the very sunshine of her life. Besides all this, the excitement of her
feelings, and the close and sultry air--for it was a very warm day--had
brought on a nervous headache. She leaned forward and rested her head
against the instrument, feeling in momentary danger of falling from her
seat.

Thus two long hours had passed when Mr. Travilla came to her side, and
said in a compassionate tone, "I am really very sorry for you, my
little friend; but I advise you to submit to your papa. I see you are
getting very weary sitting there, and I warn you not to hope to conquer
him. I have known him for years, and a more determined person I never
saw. Had you not better sing the song? it will not take five minutes,
and then your trouble will be all over."

Elsie raised her head, and answered gently, "Thank you for your
sympathy, Mr. Travilla, you are very kind; but I could not do it,
because Jesus says, 'He that loveth father or mother more than me, is
not worthy of me;' and I cannot disobey Him, even to please my own dear
papa."

"But, Miss Elsie, why do you think it would be disobeying Him? Is there
any verse in the Bible which says you must not sing songs on Sunday?"

"Mr. Travilla, it says the Sabbath is to be kept holy unto the Lord;
that we are not to think our own thoughts, nor speak our own words, nor
do our own actions; but all the day must be spent in studying God's
word, or worshipping and praising Him; and there is no praise in that
song; not one word about God or heaven."

"That is very true, Elsie, but still it is such a _very little_ thing,
that I cannot think there would be much harm in it, or that God would
be very angry with you for doing it."

"O Mr. Travilla!" she said, looking up at him in great surprise,
"surely you know that there is no such thing as a _little sin_; and
don't you remember about the man who picked up sticks on the Sabbath
day?"

"No; what was it?"

"God commanded that he should be stoned to death, and it was done.
Would you not have thought _that_ a very little thing, Mr. Travilla?"

"Yes, I believe I should," said he, turning away with a very grave face.

"Dinsmore," he said, going up to his friend; "I am sure that child is
conscientious; had you not better give up to her in this instance?"

"_Never_, Travilla," he answered, with stern decision. "This is the
first time she has rebelled against my authority, and if I let her
conquer now, she will think she is always to have her own way. No; cost
what it may, I _must_ subdue her; she will have to learn that my will
is law."

"Right, Horace," said the elder Mr. Dinsmore, approvingly, "let her
understand from the first that you are to be master; it is always the
best plan."

"Excuse me, Dinsmore," said Travilla; "but I must say that I think a
parent has no right to coerce a child into doing violence to its
conscience."

"Nonsense!" replied his friend, a little angrily. "Elsie is entirely
too young to set up her opinion against mine; she must allow me to
judge for her in these matters for some years to come."

Eversham, who had been casting uneasy glances at Elsie all the
afternoon, now drawing his chair near to Adelaide, said to her in an
undertone, "Miss Adelaide, I am deeply sorry for the mischief I have
unwittingly caused, and if you can tell me how to repair it you will
lay me under lasting obligations."

Adelaide shook her head. "There is no moving Horace when he has once
set his foot down," she said; "and as to Elsie, I doubt whether any
power on earth can make her do what she considers wrong."

"Poor little thing!" said Eversham, sighing; "where in the world did
she get such odd notions?"

"Partly from a pious Scotch woman, who had a good deal to do with her
in her infancy, and partly from studying the Bible, I believe. She is
always at it."

"Indeed!" and he relapsed into thoughtful silence.

Another hour passed slowly away, and then the tea-bell rang.

"Elsie," asked her father, coming to her side, "are you ready to obey
me now? if so, we will wait a moment to hear the song, and then you can
go to your tea with us."

"Dear papa, I cannot break the Sabbath," she replied, in a low, gentle
tone, without lifting her head.

"Very well then, I cannot break my word; you must sit there until you
will submit; and until then you must fast. You are not only making
yourself miserable by your disobedience and obstinacy, Elsie, but are
mortifying and grieving _me_ very much," he added in a subdued tone,
that sent a sharp pang to the loving little heart, and caused some very
bitter tears to fall, as he turned away and left her.

The evening passed wearily away to the little girl; the drawing-room
was but dimly lighted, for the company had all deserted it to wander
about the grounds, or sit in the portico enjoying the moonlight and the
pleasant evening breeze, and the air indoors seemed insupportably close
and sultry. At times Elsie could scarcely breathe, and she longed
intensely to get out into the open air; every moment her seat grew more
uncomfortable and the pain in her head more severe: her thoughts began
to wander, she forgot where she was, everything became confused, and at
length she lost all consciousness.

Several gentlemen, among whom were Mr. Horace Dinsmore and Mr.
Travilla, were conversing together on the portico, when they were
suddenly startled by a sound as of something falling.

Travilla, who was nearest the door, rushed into the drawing-room,
followed by the others.

"A light! quick, quick, a light!" he cried, raising Elsie's insensible
form in his arms; "the child has fainted."

One of the others, instantly snatching a lamp from a distant table,
brought it near, and the increased light showed Elsie's little face,
ghastly as that of a corpse, while a stream of blood was flowing from a
wound in the temple, made by striking against some sharp corner of the
furniture as she fell.

She was a pitiable sight indeed, with her fair face, her curls, and her
white dress all dabbled in blood.

"Dinsmore, you're a brute!" exclaimed Travilla indignantly, as he
placed her gently on a sofa.

Horace made no reply, but, with a face almost as pale as her own, bent
over his little daughter in speechless alarm, while one of the guests,
who happened to be a physician, hastily dressed the wound, and then
applied restoratives.

It was some time ere consciousness returned, and the father trembled
with the agonizing fear that the gentle spirit had taken its flight.

But at length the soft eyes unclosed, and gazing with a troubled look
into his face, bent so anxiously over her, she asked, "Dear papa, are
you angry with me?"

"No, darling," he replied in tones made tremulous with emotion, "not at
all."

"What was it?" she asked in a bewildered way; "what did I do? what has
happened?"

"Never mind, daughter," he said, "you have been ill; but you are better
now, so don't think any more about it."

"She had better be put to bed at once," said the physician.

"There is blood on my dress," cried Elsie, in a startled tone; "where
did it come from?"

"You fell and hurt your head," replied her father, raising her gently
in his arms; "but don't talk any more now."

"Oh! I remember," she moaned, an expression of keen distress coming
over her face; "papa--"

"Hush! hush! not a word more; we will let the past go," he said,
kissing her lips. "I shall carry you to your room now, and see you put
to bed."

He held her on his knee, her head resting on his shoulder, while Chloe
prepared her for rest.

"Are you hungry, daughter?" he asked.

"No, papa; I only want to go to sleep."

"There, Aunt Chloe, that will do," he said, as the old nurse tied on
the child's night-cap; and raising her again in his arms, he carried
her to the bed and was about to place her on it.

"Oh papa! my prayers first, you know," she cried eagerly.

"Never mind them to-night," said he, "you are not able."

"Please let me, dear papa," she pleaded; "I cannot go to sleep without."

Yielding to her entreaties, he placed her on her knees, and stood
beside her, listening to her murmured petitions, in which he more than
once heard his own name coupled with a request that he might be made to
love Jesus.

When she had finished, he again raised her in his arms, kissed her
tenderly several times, and then laid her carefully on the bed, saying,
as he did so, "Why did you ask, Elsie, that I might love Jesus?"

"Because, papa, I do so want you to love Him; it would make you so
happy; and besides, you cannot go to heaven without it; the Bible says
so."

"Does it? and what makes you think I don't love Him?"

"Dear papa, please don't be angry," she pleaded, tearfully, "but you
know Jesus says, 'He that keepeth my commandments, he it is that loveth
me.'"

He stooped over her. "Good night, daughter," he said.

"Dear, _dear_ papa," she cried, throwing her arm round his neck, and
drawing down his face close to hers, "I do love you so very, _very_
much!"

"Better than anybody else?" he asked

"No, papa, I love Jesus best; you next."

He kissed her again, and with a half sigh turned away and left the
room. He was not entirely pleased; not quite willing that she should
love even her Saviour better than himself.

Elsie was very weary, and was soon asleep. She waked the next morning
feeling nearly as well as usual, and after she had had her bath and
been dressed by Chloe's careful hands, the curls being arranged to
conceal the plaster that covered the wound on her temple, there was
nothing in her appearance, except a slight paleness, to remind her
friends of the last night's accident.

She was sitting reading her morning chapter when her father came in,
and taking a seat by her side, lifted her to his knee, saying, as he
caressed her tenderly, "My little daughter is looking pretty well this
morning; how does she feel?"

"Quite well, thank you, papa," she replied, looking up into his face
with a sweet, loving smile.

He raised the curls to look at the wounded temple; then, as he dropped
them again, he said, with a shudder, "Elsie, do you know that you were
very near being killed last night?"

"No, papa, was I?" she asked with an awe-struck countenance.

"Yes, the doctor says if that wound had been made half an inch nearer
your eye--I should have been childless."

His voice trembled almost too much for utterance as he finished his
sentence, and he strained her to his heart with a deep sigh of
thankfulness for her escape.

Elsie was very quiet for some moments, and the little face was almost
sad in its deep thoughtfulness.

"What are you thinking of, darling?" he asked.

She raised her eyes to his face and he saw that they were brimful of
tears.

"O papa!" she said, dropping her head on his breast while the bright
drops fell like rain down her cheeks, "would you have been so very
sorry?"

"Sorry, darling! do you not know that you are more precious to me than
all my wealth, all my friends and relatives put together? Yes, I would
rather part with everything else than lose this one little girl," he
said, kissing her again and again.

"Dear, _dear_ papa! how glad I am that you love me so much!" she
replied; and then relapsed into silence.

He watched her changing countenance for some time, then asked, "What is
it, darling?"

"I was just thinking," she said, "whether I was ready to go to heaven,
and I believe I was; for I know that I love Jesus; and then I was
thinking how glad mamma would have been to see me; don't you think she
would, papa?"

"I can't spare you to her yet," he replied with emotion, "and I think
she loves me too well to wish it."

As Miss Day had not yet returned, Elsie's time was still pretty much at
her own disposal, excepting when her papa gave her something to do; so,
after breakfast, finding that he was engaged with some one in the
library, she took her Bible, and seeking out a shady retreat in the
garden, sat down to read.

The Bible was ever the book of books to her, and this morning the
solemn, tender feelings naturally caused by the discovery of her recent
narrow escape from sudden death made it even more than usually touching
and beautiful in her eyes. She had been alone in the arbor for some
time, when, hearing a step at her side, she looked up, showing a face
all wet with tears.

It was Mr. Travilla who stood beside her.

"In tears, little Elsie! Pray, what may the book be that effects you
so?" he asked, sitting down by her side and taking it from her hand.
"The Bible, I declare!" he exclaimed in surprise. "What can there be in
it that you find so affecting?"

"O Mr. Travilla!" said the little girl, "does it not make your heart
ache to read how the Jews abused our dear, dear Saviour? and then to
think that it was all because of our sins," she sobbed.

He looked half distressed, half puzzled; it seemed a new idea to him.

"Really, my little Elsie," he said, "you are quite original in your
ideas, I suppose I _ought_ to feel unhappy about these things, but
indeed the truth is, I have never thought much about them."

"Then you don't love Jesus," she answered, mournfully. "Ah! Mr.
Travilla, how sorry I am."

"Why, Elsie, what difference can it make to you whether I love Him or
not?"

"Because, Mr. Travilla, the Bible says, 'If any man love not the Lord
Jesus Christ, let him be anathema, maranatha,' accursed from God. Oh!
sir, think how dreadful! You cannot be _saved_ unless you love Jesus,
and believe on Him. 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt
be saved.' That is what God says in his word."

She spoke with deep solemnity, the tears trembling in her eyes. He was
touched, but for a while sat perfectly silent.

Then he said, with an effort to speak lightly. "Ah, well, my little
friend, I certainly intend to repent and believe before I die, but
there is time enough yet."

"Mr. Travilla," she said, laying her hand on his arm and looking
earnestly into his face, "how do you know that there is time enough
yet? _don't_ put it off, I beg of you."

She paused a moment; then asked, "Do you know, Mr. Travilla, how near I
came to being killed last night?"

He nodded.

"Well, suppose I had been killed, and had not loved Jesus; where would
I be now?"

He put his arm round her, and giving her a kiss, said, "I don't think
you would have been in any very bad place, Elsie; a sweet, amiable
little girl, who has never harmed any one, would surely not fare very
badly in another world."

She shook her head very gravely.

"Ah! Mr. Travilla, you forget the anathema, maranatha; if I had not
loved Jesus, and had my sins washed away in His blood, I could not have
been saved."

Just at this moment a servant came to tell Elsie that her papa wanted
her in the drawing-room, and Mr. Travilla, taking her hand, led her
into the house.

They found the company again grouped about the piano, listening to
Adelaide's music.

Elsie went directly to her father and stood by his side, putting her
hand in his with a gesture of confiding affection.

He smiled down at her, and kept fast hold of it until his sister had
risen from the instrument, when putting Elsie in her place, he said,
"Now, my daughter, let us have that song."

"Yes, papa," she replied, beginning the prelude at once, "I will do my
very best."

And so she did. The song was both well played and well sung, and her
father looked proud and happy as the gentlemen expressed their pleasure
and asked for another and another.

Thus the clouds which had so suddenly obscured little Elsie's sky,
seemed to have vanished as speedily as they had arisen.

Her father again treated her with all his wonted affection, and there
even seemed to be a depth of tenderness in his love which it had not
known before, for he could not forget how nearly he had lost her.



CHAPTER ELEVENTH


   "In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank
    thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid
    these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed
    them unto babes; even so, Father; for so it seemed good in
    thy sight."
                                 --_Luke_ x. 21.


Says the Apostle Paul, "I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my
conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great
heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart, for I could wish that
myself were accursed from Christ, for my brethren, my kinsmen according
to the flesh.... Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for
Israel is, that they might be saved."

And such, dear reader, is, in greater or less degree, the feeling of
every renewed heart; loving Jesus, it would fain have others love Him
too; it desires the salvation of all; but for that of its own dear ones
it longs and labors and prays; it is like Jacob wrestling with the
angel, when he said, "I will not let thee go except thou bless me."

And thus it was with Elsie. She knew now that her father was not a
Christian; that he had no real love for Jesus, none of the true fear of
God before his eyes. She saw that if he permitted her to read to him
from God's word, as he sometimes did, it was not that he felt any
pleasure in listening, but only to please her; she had no reason to
suppose he ever prayed, and though he went regularly to church, it was
because he considered it proper and respectable to do so, and not that
he cared to worship God, or to learn His will.

This conviction, which had gradually dawned upon Elsie, until now it
amounted to certainty, caused her great grief; she shed many tears over
it in secret, and very many and very earnest were the prayers she
offered up for her dear father's conversion.

She was sitting on his knee one evening in the drawing-room, while he
and several other gentlemen were conversing on the subject of religion.
They were discussing the question whether or no a change of heart were
necessary to salvation.

The general opinion seemed to be that it was not, and Elsie listened
with pain while her father expressed his decided conviction that all
who led an honest, upright, moral life, and attended to the outward
observances of religion, were quite safe.

"He could see no necessity for a change of heart; he did not believe in
the doctrine of total depravity, not he; no indeed, he thought the
world much better than many people would have us believe."

Elsie fixed her eyes on his face with a very mournful gaze while he was
speaking, but he was busy with his argument and did not notice her.

But one of the guests was just expressing his approval of Mr.
Dinsmore's sentiments, when catching sight of Elsie's face, he stopped,
remarking, "Your little girl looks as if she had something to say on
the subject; what is it, my dear?"

Elsie blushed, hesitated, and looked at her father.

"Yes, speak, my daughter, if you have anything to say," he said
encouragingly.

Elsie lifted her eyes timidly to the gentleman's face as she replied,
"I was just thinking, sir, of what our Saviour said to Nicodemus:
'Verily, verily I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot
see the kingdom of God.' 'Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be
born again.'"

She repeated these words of inspiration with a deep, earnest solemnity
that seemed to impress every hearer.

For a moment there was a deep hush in the room.

Then the gentleman asked, "Well, my little lady, and what is meant by
being born again?"

"O sir!" she replied, "surely you know that it means to have the image
of God, lost in Adam's fall, restored to us; it means what David asked
for when he prayed, 'Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a
right spirit within me.'"

"Where did you learn all this?" he asked, looking at her with mingled
surprise and admiration.

"In the Bible, sir," she modestly replied.

"You seem to have read it to some purpose," said he; "and now since you
consider that change so necessary, can you tell me how it is to be
brought about?"

"God's Holy Spirit, alone, can change a sinner's heart, sir."

"And how am I to secure His aid?" he asked.

Elsie answered with a text: "God is more willing to give His Holy
Spirit to them that ask Him, than parents are to give good gifts unto
their children."

He paused a moment; then asked, "Have you obtained this new heart, Miss
Elsie?"

"I hope I have, sir," she replied, the sweet little face all suffused
with blushes, and the soft, downcast eyes filling with tears.

"Why do you think so?" he asked again, "I think there is a text that
says you must be able always to give a reason for the hope that is in
you, or something to that effect, is there not?"

"Yes, sir: 'Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh
you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.'" Then
raising her eyes to his face with a touching mixture of deep humility
and holy boldness, she continued, "And this, sir is my answer: Jesus
says, 'Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out;' and I
believe Him. I did go to Him, and He did not cast me out, but forgave
my sins, and taught me to love Him and desire to serve Him all my life."

This conversation between the gentleman and the little girl had drawn
the attention of all present; and now Mrs. Dinsmore, who had more than
once shown signs of impatience, said, "Well, Elsie, I think you have
now talked quite enough for a child of your age." Then, pulling out her
watch, "It is high time for little folks to be in bed."

Elsie, blushing deeply, would have retired immediately, but her father
held her fast, saying, as he gave his stepmother an angry glance, "You
need not go, Elsie, unless you choose; I am quite capable of judging
when it is time to send you to bed."

"I would rather go, if you please, papa," whispered Elsie, who had a
great dread of Mrs. Dinsmore's anger.

"Very well, then, you may do as you like," he replied, giving her a
good-night kiss. And with a graceful good-night to the company, the
little girl left the room.

Her questioner followed her with an admiring glance, then turning to
her father, exclaimed warmly, "She is a _remarkably_ intelligent child,
Dinsmore! one that any father might be proud of. I was astonished at
her answers."

"Yes," remarked Travilla, "a text has been running in my head ever
since you commenced your conversation; something about these things
being hid from the wise and prudent, and revealed unto babes. And," he
added, "I am sure if ever I saw one who possessed that new nature of
which she spoke, it is she herself. Has she any faults, Dinsmore?"

"Very few, _I_ think; though she would tell you a different story,"
replied her father with a gratified smile.

The next morning Elsie was sitting reading her Bible, when she suddenly
felt a hand laid on her head, and her father's voice said, "Good
morning, little daughter."

"Ah! papa, is that you?" she asked, raising her head to give him a
smile of joyful welcome. "I did not know you were there."

"Ah! I have been watching you for several minutes," he said; "always
poring over the same book, Elsie; do you never tire of it?"

"No, indeed, papa; it is always new, and I do love it so; it is so very
sweet. May I read a little to you?" she added coaxingly.

"Yes, I love to listen to anything read by my darling," he said,
sitting down and taking her on his knee.

She opened at the third chapter of John's Gospel and read it through.
At the sixteenth verse, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His
only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish,
but have everlasting life," she paused, and asked, "Was not that a
wonderful gift, papa? and wonderful love that prompted it?"

"Yes," he said, absently stroking her hair.

She finished the chapter, and closing the book, laid her head on his
breast, asking, "Dear papa, don't you believe the Bible?"

"Certainly, daughter; I am not an infidel," he replied in a careless
tone.

"Well, then, papa," she continued, half hesitatingly, "does not this
chapter teach very plainly that we must love Jesus, and have new
hearts, if we want to go to heaven?"

"Yes," he said, "I dare say it does."

Then taking the book from her, he laid it aside, and giving her a kiss,
said, "I was much pleased with your intelligent answers to Mr. Lee,
last evening."

Elsie sighed, and her eyes filled with tears. It was not what she
wanted.

"What an odd child you are!" he said, laughing. "You really look as
though I had been scolding, instead of praising you."

She dropped her head on his breast, and burst into tears and sobs.

"Why, Elsie, my own darling, what ails you?" he asked in great surprise.

"O papa!" she sobbed, "I want you to love Jesus."

"Oh! is _that_ all?" he said.

And setting her on her feet, he took her by the hand and led her out
into the garden, where they met Mr. Travilla and another gentleman, who
immediately entered into conversation with Mr. Dinsmore, while Elsie
wandered about amongst the flowers and shrubs, gathering a nosegay for
her Aunt Adelaide.



CHAPTER TWELFTH


   "She had waited for their coming,
      She had kiss'd them o'er and o'er--
    And they were so fondly treasured
      For the words of love they bore,
    Words that whispered in the silence,
      She had listened till his tone
    Seemed to linger in the echo
      'Darling, thou art all mine own!'"
                                 --MRS. J. C. NEAL.


"Pray, what weighty matter is troubling your young brain, birdie?"
asked Adelaide, laughingly laying her hand on Elsie's shoulder.
"Judging from the exceeding gravity of your countenance, one might
imagine that the affairs of the nation had been committed to your care."

"O auntie! can't you help me? won't you?" answered the little girl,
looking up coaxingly into the bright, cheerful face bent over her.

"Help you in what? reading with your book upside down, eh?" asked
Adelaide, pointing with a quizzical look at the volume of fairy tales
in her little niece's lap.

"Oh!" cried Elsie, coloring and laughing in her turn, "I was not
reading, and did not know that my book was wrong side up. But, Aunt
Adelaide, you know Christmas is coming soon, and I want to give papa
something, and I am quite puzzled about it. I thought of slippers, but
he has a very handsome pair, and besides there would hardly be time to
work them, as I have so many lessons; a purse won't do either, because
I have given him one already, and I would like it to be something worth
more than either slippers or purse. But you are so much wiser than I,
can't you help me think?"

"So _this_ is what has kept you so quiet and demure all day that I have
scarcely once heard you laugh or sing; quite an unusual state of things
of late," and Adelaide playfully pinched the round, rosy cheek. "Ahem!
let me put on my thinking cap," assuming an air of comic gravity. "Ah!
yes, I have it! your miniature, little one, of course; what could
please him better?"

"Oh! yes," cried Elsie, clapping her hands, "that will do nicely; why
didn't I think of it? Thank you, auntie. But then," she added, her
countenance falling, "how can I get it taken without his knowledge? you
know the surprise is half the fun."

"Never mind, my dear, I'll find a way to manage that," replied
Adelaide, confidently; "so just run away with you now, and see how much
money you can scrape together to spend on it."

"It won't take long to count it," Elsie said with a merry laugh. "But
here is papa just coming in at the door; I hope he won't suspect what
we have been talking about," and she bounded away to meet him and claim
the kiss he never refused her now.

Once Adelaide would not have been surprised at Elsie's quietness.
Patient and sweet tempered the little girl had always been, but more
especially after her father's return from Europe--very quiet and timid,
seeming to shrink from observation, with a constant dread of incurring
reproof or punishment; but the last few happy months, during which her
father had continued to lavish upon her every proof of the tenderest
affection, had wrought a great change in her; her manner had lost its
timidity, she moved about the house with a light and joyous step, and
it was no unusual thing to hear her merry, silvery laugh ring out, or
her sweet voice carolling like some wild bird of the wood--the natural
outgushings of her joy and thankfulness; for the little heart that had
so long been famishing for love, that had often grown so weary and sick
in its hungering and thirsting for it, was now fully satisfied, and
revelled in its new-found happiness.

"I have got it all arranged nicely, Elsie," Adelaide said, coming into
the room with a very pleased face as the little girl was preparing for
bed that evening. "Your papa is going away in a day or two to attend to
some business matters connected with your property, and will be absent
at least two weeks; so, unless he should take it into his head to carry
you along, we can easily manage about the picture."

Elsie looked up with a countenance of blank dismay.

"Why," said Adelaide, laughing, "I thought you'd be delighted with my
news, and instead of that, you look as if I had read you your
death-warrant."

"O Aunt Adelaide! two whole weeks without seeing papa! just think how
long."

"Pooh! nonsense, child! it will be gone before you know it. But now
tell me, how much money have you?"

"I have saved my allowance for two months; that makes twenty dollars,
you know, auntie, and I have a little change besides; do you think it
will be enough?"

"Hardly, I'm afraid; but I can lend you some, if necessary."

"Thank you, auntie," Elsie answered gratefully, "you are very kind; but
I couldn't take it, because papa has told me expressly that I must
never borrow money, nor run into debt in any way."

"Dear me!" exclaimed Adelaide, a little impatiently; "Horace certainly
is the most absurdly strict person I ever met with. But never mind, I
think we can manage it somehow," she added, in a livelier tone, as she
stooped to kiss her little niece good-night.

Elsie's gentle rap was heard very early at her papa's door the next
morning.

He opened it immediately, and springing into his arms, she asked,
almost tearfully, "Are you going away, papa?"

"Yes, darling," he said, caressing her fondly. "I must leave home for a
few weeks; and though I at first thought of taking you with me, upon
further consideration I have decided that it will be better to leave
you here; yet, if you desire it very much, my pet, I will take you
along. Shall I?"

"You know I would always rather be with you than anywhere else, papa,"
she answered, laying her head on his shoulder; "but you know best, and
I am quite willing to do whatever you say."

"That is right, daughter; my little Elsie is a good, obedient child,"
he said, pressing her closer to him.

"When are you going papa?" she asked, her voice trembling a little.

"To-morrow, directly after dinner, daughter."

"So soon," she sighed.

"The sooner I leave you the sooner I shall return, you know, darling,"
he said, patting her cheek, and smiling kindly on her.

"Yes, papa; but two weeks seems such a long, long time."

He smiled. "At your age I suppose it does, but when you are as old as I
am, you will think it very short. But to make it pass more quickly, you
may write me a little letter every day, and I will send you one just as
often."

"Oh! thank you, papa; that will be so pleasant," she answered, with a
brightening countenance. "I do so love to get letters, and I would
rather have one from you than from anybody else."

"Ah? then I think you ought to be willing to spare me for two weeks. I
have been thinking my little girl might perhaps be glad of a little
extra pocket-money for buying Christmas gifts," he said, taking out his
purse. "Would you?"

"Yes, papa; oh! _very_ much, indeed."

He laughed at her eager tone, and putting a fifty-dollar note into her
hand, asked, "Will that be enough?"

Elsie's eyes opened wide with astonishment.

"I never before had half so much as this," she exclaimed. "May I spend
it _all_, papa?"

"Provided you don't throw it away," he answered gravely; "but don't
forget that I require a strict account of all your expenditure."

"Must I tell you _every_ thing I buy?" she asked, her countenance
falling considerably.

"Yes, my child, you must; not until after Christmas, however, if you
would rather not."

"I will not mind it so much then," she answered, looking quite
relieved; "but indeed, papa, it is a great deal of trouble."

"Ah! my little girl must not be lazy," he said, shaking his head
gravely.

This was Elsie's first parting from her father since they had learned
to know and love each other; and when the time came to say good-by, she
clung to him, and seemed so loath to let him go, that he quite repented
of his determination to leave her at home.

"O papa, papa! I cannot bear to have you go, and leave me behind," she
sobbed. "I feel as if you were never coming back."

"Why, my own darling," he said, kissing her again and again, "why do
you talk so? I shall certainly be at home again in a fortnight; but if
I had thought you would feel so badly, I would have made arrangements
to take you with me. It is too late now, however, and you must let me
go, dearest. Be a good girl while I am gone, and when I return I will
bring you some handsome presents."

So saying, he embraced her once more, then putting her gently from him,
sprang into the carriage and was driven rapidly away.

Elsie stood watching until it was out of sight, and then ran away to
her own room to put her arms round her nurse's neck and hide her tears
on her bosom.

"Dere, dere, darlin'! dat will do now. Massa Horace he be back 'fore
long, and ole Chloe don' like for to see her chile 'stressin' herself
so," and the large, dusky hand was passed lovingly over the bright
curls, and tenderly wiped away the falling tears.

"But, O mammy! I'm afraid he will never come back. I'm afraid the
steamboat boiler will burst, or the cars will run off the track, or----"

"Hush, hush, darlin'! dat's wicked; you must jes' trust de Lord to take
care of Massa Horace; He's jes' as able to do it one place as in
tudder; an ef you an' your ole mammy keep prayin' for Massa, I'se
_sure_ he'll come back safe, kase don't you remember what de good book
says, 'If any two of you agree----'"

"Oh! yes, dear mammy, thank you for remembering it," exclaimed the
little girl, lifting her head and smiling through her tears. "I won't
cry any more now, but will just try to keep thinking how glad I will be
when papa comes home again."

"A very sensible resolution, my dear," said Adelaide, putting her head
in at the door; "so come, dry your eyes, and let mammy put on your
bonnet and cloak as fast as possible, for I have begged a holiday for
you, and am going to carry you off to the city to do some shopping, et
cetera."

"Ah! I think I know what that et cetera means, auntie, don't I?"
laughed Elsie, as she hastened to obey.

"Dear me! how very wise some people are," said her aunt, smiling and
nodding good-naturedly. "But make haste, my dear, for the carriage is
at the door."

When Elsie laid her head upon her pillow that night she acknowledged to
herself, that in spite of her father's absence--and she had, at times,
missed him sadly--the day had been a very short and pleasant one to
her, owing to her Aunt Adelaide's thoughtful kindness in taking her out
into new scenes, and giving agreeable occupation to her thoughts.

She rose at her usual early hour the next morning, and though feeling
lonely, comforted herself with the hope of receiving the promised
letter; and her face was full of eager expectation, as her grandfather,
in his usual leisurely manner, opened the bag and distributed its
contents.

"Two letters for Elsie!" he said, in a tone of surprise, just as she
was beginning to despair of her turn coming at all. "Ah; one is from
Horace, I see; and the other from Miss Allison, no doubt."

Elsie could hardly restrain her eagerness while he held them in his
hand, examining and commenting upon the address, postmark, etc.

But at length he tossed them to her, remarking, "There! if you are done
your breakfast, you had better run away and read them."

"Oh! thank you, grandpa," she said, gladly availing herself of his
permission.

"Elsie is fortunate to-day," observed Lora looking after her. "I wonder
which she will read first."

"Her father's, of course," replied Adelaide. "He is more to her than
all the rest of the world put together."

"A matter of small concern to the rest of the world, I opine," remarked
Mrs. Dinsmore, dryly.

"Perhaps so, mamma," said Adelaide, quietly; "yet I think there are
_some_ who prize Elsie's affection."

Yes, Adelaide was right. Miss Rose's letter was neglected and almost
forgotten, while Elsie read and reread her papa's with the greatest
delight.

It gave an amusing account of the day's journey; but what constituted
its chief charm for the little girl was that it was filled with
expressions of the tenderest affection for her.

Then came the pleasant task of answering, which occupied almost all her
spare time, for letter-writing was still, to her, a rather new and
difficult business, Miss Allison having hitherto been her only
correspondent. And this was a pleasure which was renewed every day, for
her papa faithfully kept his promise, each morning bringing her a
letter, until at length one came announcing the speedy return of the
writer.

Elsie was almost wild with delight.

"Aunt Adelaide," she cried, running to her to communicate the glad
tidings, "papa says he will be here this very afternoon."

"Well, my dear, as we have already attended to all the business that
needed to be kept secret from him, I am very glad to hear it,
especially for _your_ sake," replied Adelaide, looking up for a moment
from the book she was reading, and then returning to it again, while
her little niece danced out of the room, with her papa's letter still
in her hand, and a face beaming with happiness.

She met Mrs. Dinsmore in the hall.

"Why are you skipping about in that mad fashion, Elsie?" she asked,
severely; "I believe you will never learn to move and act like a lady."

"I will try, madam, indeed," Elsie answered, subsiding into a slow and
steady gait which would not have disgraced a woman of any age; "but I
was so glad that papa is coming home to-day, that I could not help
skipping."

"Indeed!" and with a scornful toss of the head, Mrs. Dinsmore sailed
past her and entered the drawing-room.

Elsie had once, on her first arrival at Roselands, addressed Mrs.
Dinsmore, in the innocence of her heart, as "grandma," but that lady's
horrified look, and indignant repudiation of the ancient title, had
made a deep impression on the little girl's memory, and effectually
prevented any repetition of the offence.

As the hour drew near when her father might reasonably be expected,
Elsie took her station at one of the drawing-room windows overlooking
the avenue, and the moment the carriage appeared in sight, she ran out
and stood waiting for him on the steps of the portico.

Mr. Dinsmore put out his head as they drove up the avenue, and the
first object that caught his eye was the fairy-like form of his little
daughter, in her blue merino dress, and the golden brown curls waving
in the wind. He sprang out and caught her in his arms the instant the
carriage stopped.

"My darling, darling child," he cried, kissing her over and over again,
and pressing her fondly to his heart, "how glad I am to have you in my
arms again!"

"Papa, papa, my own dear, dear papa!" she exclaimed, throwing her arms
around his neck, "I'm _so_ happy, now that you have come home safe and
well."

"Are you, darling? but I must not keep you out in this wind, for it is
quite chilly."

He set her down, and leaving the servant to attend lo his baggage, led
her into the hall.

"Will you come into the drawing-room, papa?" she said; "there is a
bright, warm fire there."

"Is there not one in my dressing-room?" he asked.

"Yes, papa, a very good one."

"Then we will go there. I dare say the rest of the family are in no
great hurry to see me, and I want my little girl to myself for half an
hour," he said, leading the way up-stairs as he spoke.

They found, as Elsie had reported, a very bright fire in the
dressing-room. A large easy chair was drawn up near it, and a handsome
dressing-gown and slippers were placed ready for use; all the work of
Elsie's loving little hands.

He saw it all at a glance, and with a pleased smile, stooped and kissed
her again, saying, "My dear little daughter is very thoughtful for her
papa's comfort."

Then exchanging his warm out-door apparel and heavy boots for the
dressing-gown and slippers, he seated himself in the chair and took her
on his knee.

"Well, daughter," he said, passing his hand caressingly over her curls,
"papa has brought you a present; will you have it now, or shall it be
kept for Christmas?"

"Keep it for Christmas, papa," she answered gayly. "Christmas is almost
here, and besides, I don't want to look at anything but you to-night."

"Very well, look at me as much as you like," was his laughing
rejoinder. "And now tell me, have you been a good girl in my absence?"

"As good as I ever am, I believe, papa. I tried very hard; but you can
ask Miss Day."

"No, I am entirely satisfied with your report, for I know my little
daughter is quite truthful."

Elsie colored with pleasure, then calling to mind the time when he had
for a moment suspected her of falsehood, she heaved a deep sigh,
dropping her head upon his breast.

He seemed to understand her thoughts, for, pressing his lips to her
forehead, he said gently and kindly, "I think I shall never again doubt
my little daughter's truth."

She looked up with a grateful smile.

"Miss Day has gone away to stay until after New Year's day, papa," she
said, "and so our holidays have begun."

"Ah! I am very well satisfied," said he. "I think you have earned a
holiday, and I hope you will enjoy it. But I don't know that I shall
let _you_ play _all_ the time," he added with a smile; "I have some
notion of giving you a lesson now and then, myself."

"Dear papa, how pleasant!" she exclaimed delightedly; "I do so love to
say lessons to you."

"Well, then, we will spend an hour together every morning. But are you
not to have some company?"

"Oh! yes, papa, quite a house full," she said with a slight sigh. "The
Percys, and the Howards, and all the Carringtons, and some others too,
I believe."

"Why do you sigh, daughter?" he asked; "do you not expect to enjoy
their company?"

"Yes, sir, I hope so," she answered, rather dubiously; "but when there
are so many, and they stay so long, they are apt to disagree, and that,
you know, is not pleasant. I am sure I shall enjoy the hour with you
better than anything else; it is so sweet to be quite alone with my own
darling papa," and the little arm stole softly round his neck again,
and the rosy lips touched his cheek.

"Well, when are the little plagues coming?" he asked, returning her
caress.

"Some of them to-morrow, papa; no, Monday--to-morrow is Sabbath day."

"Shall I bring in de trunks now, massa?" asked Mr. Dinsmore's servant,
putting his head in at the door.

"Yes, John, certainly."

"Why, you brought back a new one, papa, didn't you?" asked Elsie, as
John carried in one she was sure she had never seen before, and in
obedience to a motion of her father's hand, set it down quite near them.

"Yes, my dear, it is yours. There, John, unlock it," tossing him the
key. "And now, daughter, get down and see what you can find in it worth
having."

Elsie needed no second bidding, but in an instant was on her knees
beside the trunk, eager to examine its contents.

"Take the lid off the band-box first, and see what is there," said her
father.

"O papa, how _very_ pretty!" she cried, as she lifted out a beautiful
little velvet hat adorned with a couple of ostrich feathers.

"I am very glad it pleases you, my darling," he said, putting it on her
head, and gazing at her with proud delight in her rare beauty. "There!
it fits exactly, and is very becoming."

Then taking it off, he returned it to the box, and bade her look
further.

"I am reserving the present for Christmas," he said, in answer to her
inquiring look.

Elsie turned to the trunk again.

"Dear papa, how good you are to me!" she said, looking up at him almost
with tears of pleasure in her eyes, as she lifted out, one after
another, a number of costly toys, which she examined with exclamations
of delight, and then several handsome dresses, some of the finest,
softest merino, and others of thick rich silk, all ready made in
fashionable style, and doing credit to his taste and judgment; and
lastly a beautiful velvet pelisse, trimmed with costly fur, just the
thing to wear with her pretty new hat.

He laughed and patted her cheek.

"We must have these dresses tried on," he said, "at least one of them;
for as they were all cut by the same pattern--one of your old dresses
which I took with me--I presume they will all fit alike. There, take
this one to mammy, and tell her to put it on you, and then come back to
me."

"Oh! I wondered how you could get them the right size, papa," Elsie
answered, as she skipped gayly out of the room.

She was back again in a very few moments, arrayed in the pretty silk he
had selected.

"Ah! it seems to be a perfect fit," said he, turning her round and
round, with a very gratified look.

"Mammy must dress you to-morrow in one of these new frocks, and your
pretty hat and pelisse."

Elsie looked troubled.

"Well, what is it?" he asked.

"I am afraid I shall be thinking of them in church, papa, if I wear
them then for the first time."

"Pooh! nonsense! what harm if you do? This squeamishness, Elsie, is the
one thing about you that displeases me very much. But there! don't look
so distressed, my pet. I dare say you will get over it by-and-by, and
be all I wish; indeed I sometimes think you have improved a little
already, in that respect."

Oh! what a pang these words sent to her heart! was it indeed true that
she was losing her tenderness of conscience? that she was becoming less
afraid of displeasing and dishonoring her Saviour than in former days?
The very thought was anguish.

Her head drooped upon her bosom, and the small white hands were clasped
convulsively together, while a bitter, repenting cry, a silent earnest
prayer for pardon and help went up to Him whose ear is ever open to the
cry of His children.

Her father looked at her in astonishment.

"What is it, darling?" he asked, drawing her tenderly toward him, and
pushing back the curls from her face; "why do you look so pained? what
did I say that could have hurt you so? I did not mean to be harsh and
severe, for it was a very trifling fault."

She hid her face on his shoulder and burst into an agony of tears.

"It was not that, papa, but--but----"

"But what, my darling? don't be afraid to tell me," he answered,
soothingly.

"O papa! I--I am afraid I don't--love Jesus--as much as I did," she
faltered out between her sobs.

"Ah! _that_ is it, eh? Well, well, you needn't cry any more. _I_ think
you are a very good little girl, though rather a silly one, I am
afraid, and quite too morbidly conscientious."

He took her on his knee as he spoke, wiped away her tears, and then
began talking in a lively strain of something else.

Elsie listened, and answered him cheerfully, but all the evening he
noticed that whenever she was quiet, an unusual expression of sadness
would steal over her face.

"What a strange child she is!" he said to himself, as he sat musing
over the fire, after sending her to bed. "I cannot understand her; it
is very odd how often I wound, when I intend to please her."

As for Elsie, she scarcely thought of her new finery, so troubled was
her tender conscience, so pained her little heart to think that she had
been wandering from her dear Saviour.

But Elsie had learned that "if any man sin, we have an advocate with
the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous," and to Him she went with her
sin and sorrow; she applied anew to the pardoning, peace-speaking blood
of Christ--that "blood of sprinkling that speaketh better things than
that of Abel;" and thus the sting of conscience was taken away and her
peace restored, and she was soon resting quietly on her pillow, for,
"so He giveth His beloved sleep."

Even her father's keen, searching glance, when she came to him in the
morning, could discover no trace of sadness in her face; very quiet and
sober it was, but entirely peaceful and happy, and so it remained all
through the day. Her new clothes did not trouble her; she was hardly
conscious of wearing them, and quite able to give her usual solemn and
fixed attention to the services of the sanctuary.

"Where are you going, daughter?" Mr. Dinsmore asked, as Elsie gently
withdrew her hand from his on leaving the dining-room.

"To my room, papa," she replied.

"Come with me," he said; "I want you."

"What do you want me for, papa?" she asked, as he sat down and took her
on his knee.

"What for? why to keep, to love, and to look at," he said laughing. "I
have been away from my little girl so long, that now I want her close
by my side, or on my knee, all the time. Do you not like to be with me?"

"_Dearly_ well, my own darling papa," she answered, flinging her little
arms around his neck, and laying her head on his breast.

He fondled her, and chatted with her for some time, then, still keeping
her on his knee, took up a book and began to read.

Elsie saw with pain that it was a novel and longed to beg him to put it
away, and spend the precious hours of the holy Sabbath in the study of
God's word, or some of the lesser helps to Zion's pilgrims which the
saints of our own or other ages have prepared. But she knew that it
would be quite out of place for a little child like her to attempt to
counsel or reprove her father; and that, tenderly as he loved and
cherished her, he would never for one moment allow her to forget their
relative positions.

At length she ventured to ask softly, "Papa, may I go to my own room
now?"

"What for?" he asked; "are you tired of my company?"

"No, sir, _oh! no;_ but I want--" she hesitated and hung her head for
an instant, while the rich color mounted to cheek and brow; then
raising it again, she said fearlessly, "I always want to spend a little
while with my best Friend on Sabbath afternoon, papa."

He looked puzzled, and also somewhat displeased.

"I don't understand you, Elsie," he said; "you surely can have no
better friend than your own father; and can it be _possible_ that you
love any one else better than you love me?"

Again the little arms were round his neck, and hugging him close and
closer, she whispered, "It was Jesus I meant, papa; you know He loves
me even better than you do, and I must love Him best of all; but there
is no one else that I love half so much as I love you, my own dear,
dear precious father."

"Well, you may go; but only for a little while, mind," he answered,
giving her a kiss, and setting her down. "Nay," he added hastily, "stay
as long as you like; if you feel it a punishment to be kept here with
me, I would rather do without you."

"Oh! no, no, papa," she said beseechingly, and with tears in her eyes;
"I do so love to be with you. Please don't be angry; please let me come
back soon."

"No, darling, I am not angry," he answered, smoothing her hair and
smiling kindly on her; "come back just when you like, and the sooner
the better."

Elsie did not stay away very long; in less than an hour she returned,
bringing her Bible and "Pilgrim's Progress" with her.

Her father welcomed her with a smile, and then turned to his novel
again, while she drew a stool to his side, and, sitting down, leaned
her head against his knee, and read until the short winter day began to
close in, and Mr. Dinsmore, whose hand had been every now and then laid
caressingly upon her curls, said, "Put away your book now, daughter; it
is growing too dark for you to read without straining your eyes."

"Please, papa, let me finish the paragraph first; may I?" she asked.

"No; you must always obey the instant I speak to you."

Elsie rose at once, and without another word laid her books upon the
table; then coming back, claimed her accustomed place upon his knee,
with her head resting on his shoulder.

He put his arm around her, and they sat silently thus for some moments.
At length Elsie asked, "Papa, did you ever read 'Pilgrim's Progress!'"

"Yes; a good while ago, when I was quite a boy."

"And you did not like it, papa?"

"Yes, very much, though I have nearly forgotten the story now. Do _you_
like it?"

"Very much, indeed, papa; I think it comes next to the Bible."

"Next to the Bible, eh? well, I believe you are the only little girl of
my acquaintance who thinks _that_ the most beautiful and interesting
book in the world. But, let me see, what is this 'Pilgrim's Progress'
about? some foolish story of a man with a great load on his back; is it
not?"

"Foolish! papa; oh! I am sure you don't mean it; you couldn't think it
foolish. Ah! I know by your smile that you are only saying it to tease
me. It is a beautiful story, papa, about Christian: how he lived in the
City of Destruction, and had a great burden on his back, which he tried
in every way to get rid of, but all in vain, until he came to the
Cross; but then it seemed suddenly to loosen of itself, and dropped
from his back, and rolled away, and fell into the sepulchre, where it
could not be seen any more."

"Well, and is not _that_ a foolish story? can you see any sense or
meaning in it?" he asked, with a slight smile, and a keen glance into
the eager little face upturned to his.

"Ah! papa, I know what it means," she answered, in a half-sorrowful
tone. "Christian, with the load on his back, is a person who has been
convinced of sin by God's Holy Spirit, and feels his sins a heavy
burden--too heavy for him to bear; and then he tries to get rid of them
by leaving off his wicked ways, and by doing good deeds; but he soon
finds he can't get rid of his load that way, for it only grows heavier
and heavier, until at last he gives up trying to save himself, and just
goes to the cross of Jesus Christ; and the moment he looks to Jesus and
trusts in Him, his load of sin is all gone."

Mr. Dinsmore was surprised; as indeed he had often been at Elsie's
knowledge of spiritual things.

"Who told you all that?" he asked.

"I read it in the Bible, papa; and besides, I know, because I have felt
it."

He did not speak again for some moments; and then he said very gravely,
"I am afraid you read too many of those dull books. I don't want you to
read things that fill you with sad and gloomy thoughts, and make you
unhappy. I want my little girl to be merry and happy as the day is
long."

"Please don't forbid me to read them, papa," she pleaded with a look of
apprehension, "for indeed they don't make me unhappy, and I love them
so dearly."

"You need not be alarmed. I shall not do so unless I see that they do
affect your spirits," he answered in a reassuring tone, and she thanked
him with her own bright, sweet smile.

She was silent for a moment, then asked suddenly, "Papa, may I say some
verses to you?"

"Some time," he said, "but not now, for there is the tea-bell;" and
taking her hand, he led her down to the dining-room.

They went to the drawing-room after tea, but did not stay long. There
were no visitors, and it was very dull and quiet there, no one seeming
inclined for conversation. Old Mr. Dinsmore sat nodding in his chair,
Louise was drumming on the piano, and the rest were reading or sitting
listlessly, saying nothing, and Elsie and her papa soon slipped away to
their old seat by his dressing-room fire.

"Sing something for me, my pet, some of those little hymns I often hear
you singing to yourself," he said, as he took her on his knee; and
Elsie gladly obeyed.

Some of the pieces she sang alone, but in others which were familiar to
him, her father joined his deep bass notes to her sweet treble, at
which she was greatly delighted. Then they read several chapters of the
Bible together, and thus the evening passed so quickly and pleasantly
that she was very much surprised when her papa, taking out his watch,
told her it was her bed-time.

"O papa! it has been such a nice, _nice_ evening!" she said, as she
bade him good-night; "so like the dear old times I used to have with
Miss Rose, only--"

She paused and colored deeply.

"Only what, darling?" he asked, drawing her caressingly to him.

"Only, papa, if you would pray with me, like she did," she whispered,
winding her arms about his neck, and hiding her face on his shoulder.

"That I cannot do, my pet, I have never learned how; and so I fear you
will have to do all the praying for yourself and me too," he said, with
a vain effort to speak lightly, for both heart and conscience were
touched.

The only reply was a tightening of the clasp of the little arms about
his neck, and a half-suppressed sob; then two trembling lips touched
his, a warm tear fell on his cheek, and she turned away and ran quickly
from the room.

Oh! how earnest and importunate were Elsie's pleadings at a throne of
grace that night, that her "dear, _dear_ papa might soon be taught to
love Jesus, and how to pray to Him." Tears fell fast while she prayed,
but she rose from her knees feeling a joyful assurance that her
petitions had been heard, and would be granted in God's own good time.

She had hardly laid her head upon her pillow, when her father came in,
and saying, "I have come to sit beside my little girl till she falls
asleep," placed himself in a chair close by her side, taking her hand
in his and holding it, as she loved so to have him do.

"I am _so_ glad you have come, papa," she said, her whole face lighting
up with pleased surprise.

"Are you?" he answered with a smile. "I'm afraid I am spoiling you; but
I can't help it to-night. I think you forget your wish to repeat some
verses to me?"

"Oh! yes, papa!" she said, "but may I say them now?"

He nodded assent, and she went on. "They are some Miss Rose sent me in
one of her letters. She cut them out of a newspaper, she said, and sent
them to me because she liked them so much; and I too think they are
very sweet. The piece is headed:

             "'THE PILGRIM'S WANTS.'

    "'I want a sweet sense of Thy pardoning love,
      That my manifold sins are forgiven;
    That Christ, as my Advocate, pleadeth above,
      That my name is recorded in heaven.

    "'I want every moment to feel
      That thy Spirit resides in my heart--
    That his power is present to cleanse and to heal,
      And newness of life to impart.

    "'I want--oh! I want to attain
       Some likeness, my Saviour, to thee!
    That longed for resemblance once more to regain,
      Thy comeliness put upon me.

    "'I want to be marked for thine own--
      Thy seal on my forehead to wear;
    To receive that new name on the mystic white stone
      Which none but thyself can declare.

    "'I want so in thee to abide
      As to bring forth some fruit to thy praise;
    The branch which thou prunest, though feeble and dried,
      May languish, but never decays.

    "'I want thine own hand to unbind
      Each tie to terrestrial things,
    Too tenderly cherished, too closely entwined,
      Where my heart so tenaciously clings.

    "'I want, by my aspect serene,
      My actions and words, to declare
    That my treasure is placed in a country unseen,
      That my heart's best affections are there.

    "'I want as a trav'ller to haste
      Straight onward, nor pause on my way;
    Nor forethought in anxious contrivance to waste
      On the tent only pitched for a day.

    "'I want--and this sums up my prayer--
      To glorify thee till I die;
    Then calmly to yield up my soul to thy care,
      And breathe out in faith my last sigh.'"

[Footnote: These beautiful words are not mine, nor do I know either the
name of the author or where they were originally published.]

He was silent for a moment after she had repeated the last verse, then
laying his hand softly on her head, and looking searchingly into her
eyes, he asked, "And does my little one really wish all that those
words express?"

"Yes, papa, for myself and for you too," she answered. "O papa! I do
want to be all that Jesus would have me! just like Him; so like Him
that everybody who knows me will see the likeness and know that I
belong to Him."

"Nay, you belong to me," he said, leaning over her and patting her
cheek. "Hush! not a syllable from your lips. I will have no gainsaying
of my words," he added, with a mixture of authority and playfulness, as
she seemed about to reply. "Now shut your eyes and go to sleep; I will
have no more talking to-night."

She obeyed at once; the white lids gently closed over the sweet eyes,
the long, dark lashes rested quietly on the fair, round cheek, and soon
her soft regular breathing told that she had passed into the land of
dreams.

Her father sat, still holding the little hand, and still gazing
tenderly upon the sweet young face, till, something in its expression
reminding him of words she had just repeated,

    "I want to be marked for thine own--
     Thy seal on my forehead to wear,"

he laid it gently down, rose, and bent over her with a troubled look.

"Ah, my darling, _that_ prayer is granted already!" he murmured; "for,
ah me! you seem almost too good and pure for earth. But oh, God forbid
that you should be taken from me to that place where I can see that
your heart is even now. How desolate should I be!" and he turned away
with a shiver and a heavy sigh, and hastily quitted the room.



CHAPTER THIRTEENTH


   "An angel face! its sunny wealth of hair,
    In radiant ripples bathed the graceful throat
    And dimpled shoulders."
                                 --MRS. OSGOOD.


The cold gray light of a winter morning was stealing in through the
half-closed blinds as Elsie awoke, and started up in bed, with the
thought that this was the day on which several of her young guests were
expected, and that her papa had promised her a walk with him before
breakfast, if she were ready in time.

Aunt Chloe had already risen, and a bright fire was blazing and
crackling on the hearth, which she was carefully sweeping up.

"Good morning, mammy," said the little girl. "Are you ready to dress me
now?"

"What, you 'wake, darlin'?" cried the fond old creature, turning
quickly round at the sound of her nursling's voice. "Better lie still,
honey, till de room gets warm."

"I'll wait a little while, mammy," Elsie said, lying down again, "but I
must get up soon; for I wouldn't miss my walk with papa for a great
deal. Please throw the shutters wide open, and let the daylight in. I'm
so glad it has come."

"Why, my bressed lamb, you didn't lie awake lookin' for de mornin', did
you? You ain't sick, nor sufferin' any way?" exclaimed Chloe, in a tone
of mingled concern and inquiry, as she hastily set down her broom, and
came toward the bed, with a look of loving anxiety on her dark face.

"Oh, no, mammy! I slept nicely, and feel as well as can be," replied
the little girl; "but I am glad to see this new day, because I hope it
is going to be a very happy one. Carry Howard, and a good many of my
little friends are coming, you know, and I think we will have a very
pleasant time together."

"Your ole mammy hopes you will, darlin'," replied Chloe, heartily; "an'
I'se glad 'nough to see you lookin' so bright an' well; but jes you lie
still till it gets warm here. I'll open de shutters, an' fotch some
more wood for de fire, an' clar up de room, an' by dat time I reckon
you can get up."

Elsie waited patiently till Chloe pronounced the room warm enough, then
sprang up with an eager haste, asking to be dressed as quickly as
possible, that she might go to her papa.

"Don't you go for to worry yourself, darlin'; dere's plenty ob time,"
said Chloe, beginning her work with all speed, however; "de mistress
had ordered de breakfast at nine, dese holiday times, to let de ladies
an' gen'lemen take a mornin' nap if dey likes it."

"Oh, yes, mammy! and that reminds me that papa said I must eat a
cracker or something before I take my walk, because he thinks it isn't
good for people to exercise much on an entirely empty stomach," said
Elsie. "Will you get me one when you have done my curls?"

"Yes, honey, dere's a paper full in de drawer yonder," replied Chloe,
"an' I reckon you better eat two or three, or you'll be mighty hungry
'fore you gits your breakfast."

It still wanted a few minutes of eight o'clock when Elsie's gentle rap
was heard at her papa's dressing-room door. He opened it, and stooping
to give her a good-morning kiss, said, with a pleased smile, "How
bright and well my darling looks! Had you a good night's rest?"

"Oh, yes, papa! I never waked once till it began to be light," she
replied; "and now I'm all ready for our walk."

"In good season, too," he said. "Well, we will start presently; but
take off your hat and come and sit on my knee a little while first;
breakfast will be late this morning, and we need not hurry. Did you get
something to eat?" he asked, as he seated himself by the fire and drew
her to his side.

"Yes, papa, I ate a cracker, and I think I will not get very hungry
before nine o'clock; and I'm very glad we have so much time for our
walk," she replied, as she took her place on his knee. "Shall we not
start soon?"

"Presently," he said, stroking her hair; "but it will not hurt you to
get well warmed first, for it is a sharp morning."

"You are very careful of me, dear papa," she said, laying her head on
his breast, "and oh! it is so nice to have a papa to love me and take
care of me."

"And it is so nice to have a dear little daughter to love and to take
care of," he answered, pressing her closer to him.

The house was still very quiet, no one seeming to be astir but the
servants, as Mr. Dinsmore and Elsie went down the stairs and passed out
through the hall.

"O papa! it is going to be such a nice day, and I feel so happy!" Elsie
gayly exclaimed, as they started down the avenue.

"Do you, daughter?" he said, regarding her with an expression of
intense yearning affection; "I wish I could make you always as gay and
happy as you are at this moment. But alas! it cannot be, my darling,"
he added with a sigh.

"I know that, papa," she said with sudden gravity, "'for man that is
born of woman is of few days, and full of trouble,' the Bible says; but
I don't feel frightened at that, because it tells me, besides, that
Jesus loves me, _oh, so dearly!_ and will never leave nor forsake me;
and that He has all power in heaven and in earth, and will _never_ let
anything happen to me but what shall do me good. O papa, it is such a
_happy_ thing to have the dear Lord Jesus for your friend!"

"It is strange how everything seems to lead your thoughts to Him," he
said, giving her a wondering look.

"Yes, papa, it is because I love Him so," she answered, simply; and the
father sighed as the thought arose, "Better than she loves me, even as
she told me herself. Ah! I would I could be _all_--_everything_ to her,
as she is fast becoming to me. I cannot feel satisfied, and yet I
believe few daughters love their fathers as well as she loves me;" and
fondly pressing the little hand he held, he looked down upon her with
beaming eyes.

She raised hers to his face with an expression of confiding affection;
and, as though she had read his thoughts: "Yes, papa," she said, "I
love _you_ dearly, dearly, too; better than all the world besides."

Breakfast--always a plentiful and inviting meal at Roselands--was
already upon the table when they returned, and they brought to it
appetites sufficiently keen to make it very enjoyable.

Elsie spent the first hour after breakfast at the piano, practising,
and the second in her papa's dressing-room, studying and reciting to
him; then they took a long ride on horseback, and when they returned
she found that quite a number of the expected guests had already
arrived.

Among them was Caroline Howard, a favorite friend of Elsie's; a pretty,
sweet-tempered little girl, about a year older than herself.

Caroline had been away paying a long visit to some friends in the
North, and so the two little girls had not met for nearly a year, and
of course they had a great deal to say to each other.

They chatted a few moments in the drawing-room, and then Elsie carried
her friend off with her to her own room, that they might go on with
their talk while she was getting dressed for dinner. Caroline had much
to tell of her Northern relatives, and of all she had seen and heard,
and Elsie of her new-found parent, and her happiness in being so loved
and cared for; and so the little tongues ran very fast, neither of them
feeling Chloe's presence any restraint. But she soon completed her
task, and went out, leaving the two sitting on the sofa together,
laughing and talking merrily while awaiting the summons to dinner,
which they were to take that day along with their elders.

"How pretty your hair is, Elsie," said Caroline, winding the glossy
ringlets around her finger. "I wish you'd give me one of these curls. I
want to get a bracelet made for mamma, and she thinks so much of you,
and your hair is such a lovely color, that I am sure she would be
delighted with one made of it."

"A Christmas gift is it to be?" asked Elsie; "but how will you get it
done in time? for you know day after to-morrow is Christmas."

"Yes, I know; but if I could get into the city this afternoon, I think
I might get them to promise it by to-morrow night."

"Well, you shall have the curl, at any rate, if you will just take the
scissors and help yourself, and poor mammy will have the fewer to curl
the next time," Elsie answered, laughingly. "But mind," she added, as
Caroline prepared to avail herself of the permission, "that you take it
where it will not be missed."

"Of course I will; I don't want to spoil your beauty, though you are so
much prettier than I," was Caroline's laughing rejoinder. "There," she
cried, holding up the severed ringlet, "isn't it a beauty? but don't
look scared, it will never be missed among so many; I don't even miss
it myself, although I know it is gone."

"Well," Elsie said, shaking back her curls, "suppose we go down to the
drawing-room now, and I will ask papa to take us to the city this
afternoon; or, if he is too busy to go himself, to let Pomp or Ajax
drive us in."

"I think it would be better fun to go alone, Elsie--don't you?" asked
Caroline, with some hesitation; adding quickly: "Don't be vexed, but I
must confess I am more than half afraid of your father."

"Oh! you wouldn't be, Carry, if you knew him," Elsie answered, in her
eager way; "I was a little myself, at first, but now I love him so
dearly, I never want to go anywhere without him."

They found Mr. Dinsmore in the drawing-room, where most of the guests
and the older members of the family were assembled. He was conversing
with a strange gentleman, and his little girl stood quietly at his
side, patiently waiting until he should be ready to give her his
attention. She had to wait some moments, for the gentlemen were
discussing some political question, and were too much engaged to notice
her.

But at length her father put his arm around her, and with a kind smile
asked, "What is it, daughter?"

"Carry and I want to go to the city, this afternoon; won't you take us,
papa?"

"I wish I could, my dear, but I have an engagement, which makes it
quite impossible."

"Ah, I'm so sorry! but then, papa, we may have one of the carriages,
and Pomp or Ajax to drive us, may we not?"

"No, daughter; I am sorry to disappoint you, but I am afraid you are
too young to be trusted on such an expedition with only a servant. You
must wait until to-morrow, when I can take you myself."

"But, papa, we want to go to-day. Oh! please do say yes; we want to go
so very much, and I'm sure we could do very nicely by ourselves."

Her arm was around his neck, and both tone and look were very coaxing.

"My little daughter forgets that when papa says no, she is never to ask
again."

Elsie blushed and hung her head. His manner was quite too grave and
decided for her to venture another word.

"What is the matter? what does Elsie want?" asked Adelaide, who was
standing near, and had overheard enough to have some idea of the
trouble.

Mr. Dinsmore explained, and Adelaide at once offered to take charge of
the little girls, saying that she intended shopping a little in the
city herself that very afternoon.

"Thank you," said her brother, looking very much pleased; "that
obviates the difficulty entirely. Elsie, you may go, if Mrs. Howard
gives Caroline permission."

"Thank you, dear papa, thank you so very much," she answered
gratefully, and then ran away to tell Carry of her success, and secure
Mrs. Howard's permission, which was easily obtained.

Elsie had intended buying some little present for each of the
house-servants, and had taken a great deal of pleasure in making out a
list of such articles as she thought would be suitable; but, on
examining her purse, she found to her dismay that she had already spent
so much on the miniature, and various gifts intended for other members
of the family, that there was very little left; and it was with a very
sober, almost sorrowful face, that she came down to take her place in
the carriage; it brightened instantly, though, as she caught sight of
her father waiting to see her off.

"All ready, my darling?" he said, holding out his hand; "I think you
will have a pleasant ride."

"Ah! yes, if you were only going too, papa," she answered regretfully.

"Quite impossible, my pet; but here is something to help you in your
shopping; use it wisely;" and he put a twenty-dollar gold piece in her
hand.

"Oh, thank you, papa! how good and kind you are to me!" she exclaimed,
her whole face lighting up with pleasure; "now I can buy some things I
wanted to get for mammy and the rest. But how could you know I wanted
more money?"

He only smiled, lifted her up in his arms, and kissed her fondly; then,
placing her in the carriage, said to the coachman, "Drive carefully,
Ajax; you are carrying my greatest treasure."

"Nebber fear, marster; dese ole horses nebber tink ob running away,"
replied the negro, with a bow and a grin, as he touched his horses with
the whip, and drove off.

It was growing quite dark when the carriage again drove up the avenue;
and Mr. Horace Dinsmore, who was beginning to feel a little anxious,
came out to receive them, and ask what had detained them so long.

"Long!" said Adelaide, in a tone of surprise, "you gentlemen really
have no idea what an undertaking it is to shop. Why, I thought we got
through in a wonderfully short time."

"O papa, I have bought such quantities of nice things," cried Elsie,
springing into his arms.

"Such as tobacco pipes, red flannel, et cetera," remarked Adelaide,
laughing.

"Indeed, Miss Adelaide!" exclaimed Carry, somewhat indignantly, "you
forget the----"

But Elsie's little hand was suddenly placed over her mouth, and Carry
laughed pleasantly, saying, "Ah! I forgot, I mustn't tell."

"Papa, papa," cried Elsie, catching hold of his hand, "do come with me
to my room, and let me show you my purchases."

"I will, darling," he answered, pinching her cheek, "Here, Bill"--to a
servant--"carry these bundles to Miss Elsie's room."

Then, picking her up, he tossed her over his shoulder, and carried her
up-stairs as easily as though she had been a baby, she clinging to him
and laughing merrily.

"Why, papa, how strong you are," she said, as he set her down. "I
believe you can carry me as easily as I can my doll."

"To be sure; you are my doll," said he, "and a very light burden for a
man of my size and strength. But here come the bundles! what a number!
no wonder you were late in getting home."

"Oh! yes, papa see! I want to show you!" and catching up one of them,
she hastily tore it open, displaying a very gay handkerchief. "This is
a turban for Aunt Phillis; and this is a pound of tobacco for old Uncle
Jack, and a nice pipe, too. Look, mammy! won't he be pleased? And
here's some flannel for poor old Aunt Dinah, who has the rheumatism;
and that--oh! no, no, mammy! don't you open that! It's a nice shawl for
her, papa," she whispered in his ear.

"Ah!" he said, smiling; "and which is my present? You had better point
it out, lest I should stumble upon it and learn the secret too soon."

"There is none here for you, sir," she replied, looking up into his
face with an arch smile. "I would give you the bundle you carried
up-stairs, just now, but I'm afraid you would say that was not mine to
give, because it belongs to you already."

"Indeed it does, and I feel richer in that possession than all the gold
of California could make me," he said, pressing her to his heart.

She looked surpassingly lovely at that moment, her cheeks burning, and
her eyes sparkling with excitement; the dark, fur-trimmed pelisse, and
the velvet hat and plumes, setting off to advantage the whiteness of
her pure complexion and the glossy ringlets falling in rich masses on
her shoulders.

"My own papa! I'm so glad I do belong to you," she said, throwing her
arms around his neck, and laying her cheek to his for an instant. Then
springing away, she added: "But I must show you the rest of the things;
there are a good many more."

And she went on opening bundle after bundle, displaying their contents,
and telling him for whom she intended them, until at last they had all
been examined, and then she said, a little wearily, "Now, mammy, please
put them all away until to-morrow. But first take off my things and get
me ready to go downstairs."

"No, daughter," Mr. Dinsmore said in a gentle but firm tone; "you are
not ready to have them put away until the price of each has been set
down in your book."

"Oh! papa," she pleaded, "won't to-morrow do? I'm tired now, and isn't
it almost tea-time?"

"No; never put off till to-morrow what may as well be done to-day.
There is nearly an hour yet before tea, and I do not think it need
fatigue you much."

Elsie's face clouded, and the slightest approach to a pout might have
been perceived.

"I hope my little girl is not going to be naughty," he said, very
gravely.

Her face brightened in an instant. "No, papa," she answered cheerfully,
"I will be good, and do whatever you bid me."

"That is my own darling," said he, "and I will help you, and it will
not take long."

He opened her writing-desk as he spoke, and took out her account-book.

"Oh! papa," she cried in a startled tone, springing forward and taking
hold of his hand, "please, please don't look! you know you said I need
not show you until after Christmas."

"No, I will not," he replied, smiling at her eagerness; "you shall put
down the items in the book, while I write the labels, and Aunt Chloe
pins them on. Will that do?"

"Oh! that's a nice plan, papa," she said gayly, as she threw off her
hat and pelisse, and seating herself before the desk, took out her pen
and ink.

Chloe put the hat and pelisse carefully away, brought a comb and brush,
and smoothed her nursling's hair, and then began her share of the
business on hand.

Half an hour's work finished it all, and Elsie wiped her pen, and laid
it away, saying joyously, "Oh! I'm so glad it is all done."

"Papa knew best, after all, did he not?" asked her father, drawing her
to him, and patting her cheek.

"Yes, papa," she said softly; "you always know best, and I am very
sorry I was naughty."

He answered with a kiss, and, taking her hand, led her down to the
drawing-room.

After tea the young people adjourned to the nursery, where they amused
themselves with a variety of innocent games. Quite early in the
evening, and greatly to Elsie's delight, her father joined them; and,
though some of the young strangers were at first rather shy of him,
they soon found that he could enter heartily into their sports, and
before the time came to separate for the night, he had made himself
very popular with nearly all.

Time flew fast, and Elsie was very much surprised when the clock struck
eight. Half-past was her bedtime; and, as she now and then glanced up
at the dial-plate, she thought the hands had never moved so fast. As it
struck the half hour she drew near her father's side.

"Papa," she asked, "is the clock right?"

"Yes, my dear, it is," he replied, comparing it with his watch.

"And must I go to bed now?" she asked, half hoping for permission to
stay up a little longer.

"Yes, daughter; keep to rules."

Elsie looked disappointed, and several little voices urged, "Oh, do let
her stay up another hour, or at least till nine o'clock."

"No; I cannot often allow a departure from rules," he said kindly, but
firmly; "and to-morrow night Elsie will find it harder to go to bed in
season than to-night. Bid your little friends good-night, my dear, and
go at once."

Elsie obeyed, readily and cheerfully. "You, too, papa," she said,
coming to him last.

"No, darling," he answered, laying his hand caressingly on her head,
and smiling approvingly on her; "I will come for my good-night kiss
before you are asleep."

Elsie looked very glad, and went away feeling herself the happiest
little girl in the land, in spite of the annoyance of being forced to
leave the merry group in the nursery. She was just ready for bed when
her papa came in, and, taking her in his arms, folded her to his heart,
saying, "My own darling! my good, obedient little daughter!"

"Dear papa, I love you so much!" she replied, twining her arms around
his neck, "I love you all the better for never letting me have my own
way, but always making me obey and keep to rules."

"I don't doubt it, daughter," he said, "for I have often noticed that
spoiled, petted children, usually have very little love for their
parents, or indeed for any one but themselves. But I must put you in
your bed, or you will be in danger of taking cold."

He laid her down, tucked the clothes snugly about her, and pressing one
more kiss on the round, rosy cheek, left her to her slumbers.



CHAPTER FOURTEENTH


                  "You play the spaniel,
    And think with wagging of your tongue to win me."
                           --SHAKESPEARE's _Henry Eighth_.

   "These delights, if thou canst give,
    Mirth, with thee I mean to live."
                                 --MILTON's _L'Allegro_.


The young party at Roselands had now grown so large--several additions
having been made to it on Monday afternoon and evening--that a separate
table was ordered to be spread for them in the nursery, where they took
their meals together; Mrs. Brown, the housekeeper, taking the head of
the table, for the double purpose of keeping them in order, and seeing
that their wants were well supplied.

Elsie came in to breakfast, from a brisk walk with her papa, looking
fresh and rosy, and bright as the morning; quite different from some of
the little guests, who had been up far beyond their usual hours the
night before, and, having just left their beds, had come down pale and
languid in looks, and in some instances showing peevish and fretful
tempers, very trying to the patience of their attendants.

"O Elsie!" exclaimed Carry Howard, as the little girl took her place at
the table, "we were all so sorry that you had to leave us so soon last
night; we had lots of fun after you left. I think your papa might have
let you stay up a little longer; but he has promised that tonight--as
we are to have the Christmas-tree, and ever so much will be going
on--you shall stay up till half-past nine, if you like. Aren't you
glad? I'm sure I am."

"Yes, papa is very kind, and I know I feel much better for going to bed
early last night," said Elsie, cheerfully.

"Yes, indeed," remarked Mrs. Brown, "late hours and rich food are very
bad for little folks, and I notice that Miss Elsie has grown a deal
stronger and healthier-looking since her papa came home; he takes such
good care of her."

"Indeed he does," said Elsie heartily, thanking Mrs. Brown with one of
her sweetest smiles.

"What are we going to do to-day, Elsie?" asked Caroline.

"Whatever you all prefer," said Elsie. "If you like I will practice
that duet with you the first hour after breakfast, or do anything else
you wish; but the second hour I must spend with papa, and after that I
have nothing to do but entertain my company all day."

"Do you do lessons in holidays?" asked Mary Leslie, a merry, fun-loving
child, about Elsie's own age, who considered lessons an intolerable
bore, and had some vague idea that they must have been invented for the
sole purpose of tormenting children. Her blue eyes opened wide with
astonishment when Elsie quietly replied that her papa had kindly
arranged to give her an hour every morning, because he knew it would be
so much pleasanter for her than spending the whole day in play.

Elsie did keenly enjoy that quiet hour spent in studying and reciting
to her father, sitting on a low stool at his feet, or perhaps oftener
on his knee, with his arm around her waist.

She had an eager and growing thirst for knowledge, and was an apt
scholar, whom any one with the least love for the profession might have
delighted in teaching; and Mr. Dinsmore, a thorough scholar himself,
and loving knowledge for its own sake--loving also his little pupil
with all a father's fond, yearning affection--delighted in his task.

When Elsie left her father she found that the Carringtons had just
arrived. She and Lucy had not seen each other since the week the latter
had spent at Roselands early in the summer, and both felt pleased to
meet.

Mrs. Carrington gave Elsie a warm embrace, remarking that she had
grown, and was looking extremely well; better than she had ever seen
her. But no one was more delighted to meet Elsie than Herbert, and she
was very glad to learn that his health was gradually improving. He was
not, however, at all strong, even yet, and his mother thought it best
for him to lie down and rest a little after his ride. She promised to
sit by him, and the two little girls went in search of the rest of the
young folks.

Several of the older boys had gone out walking or riding, but the
younger ones, and all the little girls, were gathered in a little back
parlor, where, by Adelaide's care and forethought, a variety of
story-books, toys, and games, had been provided for their amusement.
Elsie's entrance was hailed with delight, for she was a general
favorite.

"Oh! Elsie, can't you tell us what to play?" cried Mary Leslie; "I'm so
tired," and she yawned wearily.

"Here are some dissected maps, Mary," replied Elsie, opening a drawer;
"would you not like them?"

"No, indeed, thank you; they are too much like lessons."

"Here are blocks; will you build houses?"

"Oh! I am too big for that; they are very nice for little children."

"Will you play jack-stones? here are some smooth pebbles."

"Yes, if you and Carry, and Lucy, will play with me."

"Agreed!" said the others, "let's have a game."

So, Elsie having first set the little ones to building block-houses,
supplied Harry Carrington--an older brother of Lucy's--with a book, and
two younger boys with dissected maps to arrange, the four girls sat
down in a circle on the carpet and began their game.

For a few moments all went on smoothly; but soon angry and complaining
words were heard coming from the corner where the house-building was
going on. Elsie left her game to try to make peace.

"What is the matter, Flora, dear?" she asked soothingly of a little
curly-headed girl, who was sobbing, and wiping her eyes with the corner
of her apron.

"Enna took my blocks," sobbed the child.

"Oh! Enna, won't you give them back?" said Elsie, coaxingly; "you know
Flora is a visitor, and we must be very polite to her."

"No, I won't," returned Enna, flatly; "she's got enough now."

"No, I haven't; I can't build a house with those," Flora said, with
another sob.

Elsie stood a moment looking much perplexed; then, with a brightening
face, exclaimed in her cheerful, pleasant way, "Well, never mind,
Flora, dear, I will get you my doll. Will not that do quite as
well?"--"Oh! yes, I'd rather have the doll, Elsie," the little weeper
answered eagerly, smiling through her tears.

Elsie ran out of the room and was back again almost in a moment, with
the doll in her arms.

"There, dear little Flora," she said, laying it gently on the child's
lap, "please be careful of it for I have had it a long while, and prize
it very much, because my guardian gave it to me when I was a very
little girl, and he is dead now."

"I won't break it, Elsie, indeed I won't," replied Flora, confidently;
and Elsie sat down to her game again.

A few moments afterward Mr. Horace Dinsmore passed through the room.

"Elsie," he said, as he caught sight of his little daughter, "go up to
my dressing-room."

There was evidently displeasure and reproof in his tone, and, entirely
unconscious of wrongdoing, Elsie looked up in surprise, asking, "Why,
papa?"

"Because _I bid_ you," he replied; and she silently obeyed, wondering
greatly what she had done to displease her father.

Mr. Dinsmore passed out of one door while Elsie left by the other.

The three little girls looked inquiringly into each other's faces.

"What is the matter? what has Elsie done?" asked Carry in a whisper.

"I don't know; nothing I guess," replied Lucy, indignantly. "I do
believe he's just the crossest man alive! When I was here last summer
he was all the time scolding and punishing poor Elsie for just nothing
at all."

"I think he must be very strict," said Carry; "but Elsie seems to love
him very much."

"Strict! I guess he is!" exclaimed Mary; "why, only think, girls, he
makes her do her lessons in the holidays!"

"I suspect she did not know her lesson, and has to learn it over," said
Carry, shaking her head wisely; and that was the conclusion they all
came to.

In the meantime, Elsie sat down alone in her banishment, and tried to
think what she could have done to deserve it.

It was some time before she could form any idea of its cause; but at
length it suddenly came to her recollection that once, several months
before this, her father had found her sitting on the carpet, and had
bade her get up immediately and sit on a chair or stool, saying, "Never
let me see you sitting on the floor, Elsie, when there are plenty of
seats at hand. I consider it a very unladylike and slovenly trick."

She covered her face with her hands, and sat thus for some moments,
feeling very sorry for her forgetfulness and disobedience; very
penitent on account of it; and then, kneeling down, she asked
forgiveness of God.

A full hour she had been there alone, and the time had seemed very
long, when at last the door opened and her father came in.

Elsie rose and came forward to meet him with the air of one who had
offended and knew she was in disgrace; but putting one of her little
hands in his, she looked up pleadingly into his face, asking, in a
slightly tremulous tone, "Dear papa, are you angry with me?"

"I am always displeased when you disobey me, Elsie," he replied, very
gravely, laying his other hand on her head.

"I am very sorry I was naughty, papa," she said, humbly, and casting
down her eyes, "but I had quite forgotten that you had told me not to
sit on the floor, and I could not think for a good while what it was
that I had done wrong."

"Is _that_ an excuse for disobedience, Elsie?" he asked in a tone of
grave displeasure.

"No, sir; I did not mean it so, and I am very, very sorry; dear papa,
please forgive me, and I will try never to forget again."

"I think you disobeyed in another matter," he said.

"Yes, sir, I know it was very naughty to ask why, but I think I will
remember not to do it again. Dear papa, won't you forgive me?"

He sat down and took her on his knee.

"Yes, daughter, I will," he said, in his usual kind, affectionate tone;
"I am always ready to forgive my little girl when I see that she is
sorry for a fault."

She held up her face for a kiss, which he gave.

"I wish I could always be good, papa," she said, "but I am naughty so
often."

"No," said he, "I think you have been a very good girl for quite a long
time. If you were as naughty as Arthur and Enna, I don't know what I
should do with you; whip you every day, I suspect, until I made a
better girl of you. Now you may go down to your mates; but _remember_,
you are not to play jack-stones again."

It was now lunch-time, and Elsie found the children in the nursery
engaged in eating.

Flora turned to her as she entered.

"Please, Elsie, don't be cross," she said coaxingly: "I am real sorry
your doll's broken, but it wasn't my fault Enna would try to snatch it,
and that made it fall and break its head."

Poor Elsie! this was quite a trial, and she could scarcely keep back
the tears as, following Flora's glance, she saw her valued doll lying
on the window-seat with its head broken entirely off. She said not a
word, but, hastily crossing the room, took it up and gazed mournfully
at it.

Kind Mrs. Brown, who had just finished helping her young charge all
round, followed her to the window, "Never mind, dear," she said in her
pleasant, cheery tone, patting Elsie's cheek and smoothing her hair
"I've got some excellent glue, and I think I can stick it on again and
make it almost as good as ever. So come, sit down and eat your lunch,
and don't fret any more."

"Thank you, ma'am, you are very kind," Elsie said, trying to smile, as
the kind-hearted old lady led her to the table and filled her plate
with fruit and cakes.

"These cakes are very simple, not at all rich, my dear, but quite what
your papa would approve of," she said, seeing the little girl look
doubtfully at them.

"Doesn't your papa let you eat anything good, Elsie?" asked Mary Leslie
across the table. "He must be cross."

"No, indeed, he is not, Mary, and he lets me eat everything that he
thinks is good for me," Elsie answered with some warmth.

She was seated between Caroline Howard and Lucy Carrington.

"What _did_ your papa send you away for, Elsie?" whispered the latter.

"Please don't ask me, Lucy," replied the little girl, blushing deeply.
"Papa always has a good reason for what he does, and he is just the
dearest, kindest, and best father that ever anybody had."

Elsie spoke in an eager, excited, almost angry manner, quite unusual
with her, while the hot tears came into her eyes, for she knew very
well what was Lucy's opinion of her father, and more than half
suspected that she had been making some unkind remark about him to the
others, and she was eager to remove any unfavorable impression they
might have received.

"I am sure he must love you very dearly, Elsie," remarked Caroline,
soothingly; "no one could help seeing that just by the way he looks at
you."

Elsie answered her with a pleased and grateful look; and then changed
the subject by proposing that they should all take a walk as soon as
they had finished eating, as the day was fine, and there would be
plenty of time before dinner.

The motion was carried without a dissenting voice, and in a few moments
they all set out, a very merry party, full of fun and frolic. They had
a very pleasant time, and returned barely in season to be dressed for
dinner.

They dined by themselves in the nursery, but were afterward taken down
to the drawing-room. Here Elsie found herself immediately seized upon
by a young lady, dressed in very gay and fashionable style, whom she
did not remember ever to have seen before, but who insisted on seating
the little girl on the sofa by her side, and keeping her there a long
while, loading her with caresses and flattery.

"My dear child," she said, "what lovely hair you have! so fine, and
soft, and glossy; such a beautiful color, too, and curls so
_splendidly! Natural_ ringlets, I'm sure, are they not?"

"Yes, ma'am," Elsie answered, simply, wishing from the bottom of her
heart that the lady would release her, and talk to some one else.

But the lady had no such intention.

"You are a very sweet little girl, I am sure, and I shall love you
dearly," she said, kissing her several times. "Ah! I would give
_anything_ if I had such a clear fair complexion and such rosy cheeks.
That makes you blush. Well, I like to see it; blushes are very
becoming. Oh! you needn't pretend you don't know you're handsome;
you're a perfect little beauty. Do tell me, where did you get such
splendid eyes! But I needn't ask, for I have only to look at your
father to see where they came from. Mr. Dinsmore"--to Elsie's papa, who
just then came toward them--"you ought to be very proud of this child;
she is the very image of yourself, and a perfect little beauty, too."

"Miss Stevens is pleased to flatter me," he said, bowing low; "but
flattery is not good for either grown-up children or younger ones, and
I must beg leave to decline the compliment, as I cannot see that Elsie
bears the slightest resemblance to me or any of my family. She is very
like her mother, though," he added, with a half sigh and a tender,
loving glance at his little girl, "and that is just what I would have
her. But I am forgetting my errand, Miss Stevens; I came to ask if you
will ride this afternoon, as we are getting up a small party."

"Yes, thank you, I should like it dearly, it is such a lovely day. But
how soon do you start?"

"As soon as the ladies can be ready. The horses will be at the door in
a very few moments."

"Ah! then I must go and prepare," she said, rising and sailing out of
the room.

Mr. Dinsmore took the seat she had vacated, and, passing his arm round
his little girl, said to her in an undertone, "My little daughter must
not be so foolish as to believe that people mean all they say to her;
for some persons talk in a very thoughtless way, and, without perhaps
intending to be exactly untruthful, say a great deal that they really
do not mean. And I should be sorry, indeed, to see my little girl so
spoiled by all this silly flattery as to grow up conceited and vain."

She looked at him with her own sweet innocent smile, free from the
slightest touch of vanity.

"No, papa," she said, "I do not mind, when people say such things,
because I know the Bible says, 'Favor is deceitful, and beauty is
vain;' and in another place, 'He that flattereth his neighbor spreadeth
a net for his feet.' So I will try to keep away from that lady; shall I
not, papa?"

"Whenever you can do so without rudeness, daughter;" and he moved away,
thinking to himself, "How strangely the teachings of that book seem to
preserve my child from every evil influence."

A sigh escaped him. There was lurking within his breast a vague
consciousness that her father needed such a safeguard, but had it not.

Lucy, who was standing at the window, turned quickly round.

"Come, girls," she said, "let us run out and see them off; they're
bringing up the horses. And see, there's Miss Adelaide in her
riding-dress and cap; how pretty she looks! And there's that Miss
Stevens coming out now; hateful thing! I can't bear her! Come, Elsie
and Carry!"

And she ran out, Caroline and Elsie following. Elsie, however, went no
further than the hall, where she stood still at the foot of the stairs.

"Come, Elsie," called the other two from the portico, "come out here."

"No," replied the little girl, "I cannot come without something round
me. Papa says it is too cold for me to be out in the wind to-day with
my neck and arms bare."

"Pooh! nonsense!" said Lucy, "'tain't a bit cold; _do_ come now."

"No, Lucy, I must obey my father," Elsie answered in a very pleasant
but no less decided tone.

Some one caught her round the waist and lifted her up.

"Oh! papa," she exclaimed, "I did not know you were there! I wish I was
going too; I don't like to have _you_ go without me."

"I wish you were, my pet; I always love to have you with me; but you
know it wouldn't do; you have your little guests to entertain. Good-by,
darling. Don't go out in the cold."

He kissed her, as he always did now, when leaving her even for an hour
or two, and set her down.

The little girls watched until the last of the party had disappeared
down the avenue, and then ran gayly up-stairs to Elsie's room, where
they busied themselves until tea-time in various little preparations
for the evening, such as dressing dolls, and tying up bundles of
confectionery, etc., to be hung upon the Christmas-tree.

The children had all noticed that the doors of a parlor opening into
the drawing-room had been closed since morning to all but a favored
few, who passed in and out, with an air of mystery and importance, and
generally laden with some odd-looking bundle when going in, which they
invariably left behind on coming out again, and many a whispered
consultation had been held as to what was probably going on in there.
Elsie and Carry seemed to be in the secret, but only smiled and shook
their heads wisely when questioned.

But at length tea being over, and all, both old and young, assembled as
if by common consent in the drawing-room, it began to be whispered
about that their curiosity was now on the point of being gratified.

All were immediately on the _qui vive_, and every face brightened with
mirth and expectation; and when, a moment after, the doors were thrown
open, there was a universal burst of applause.

A large Christmas-tree had been set up at the further end of the room,
and, with its myriad of lighted tapers, and its load of toys and
bonbons, interspersed with many a richer and more costly gift, made
quite a display.

"Beautiful! beautiful!" cried the children, clapping their hands and
dancing about with delight, while their elders, perhaps equally
pleased, expressed their admiration after a more staid and sober
fashion. When they thought their handiwork had been sufficiently
admired, Mrs. Dinsmore and Adelaide approached the tree and began the
pleasant task of distributing the gifts.

Everything was labelled, and each, as his or her name was called out,
stepped forward to receive the present.

No one had been forgotten; each had something, and almost every one had
several pretty presents. Mary Leslie and little Flora Arnott were made
perfectly happy with wax dolls that could open and shut their eyes;
Caroline Howard received a gold chain from her mamma, and a pretty pin
from Elsie; Lucy, a set of coral ornaments, besides several smaller
presents; and others were equally fortunate. All was mirth and
hilarity; only one clouded face to be seen, and that belonged to Enna,
who was pouting in a corner because Mary Leslie's doll was a little
larger than hers.

Elsie had already received a pretty bracelet from her Aunt Adelaide, a
needle-case from Lora, and several little gifts from her young guests,
and was just beginning to wonder what had become of her papa's promised
present, when she heard her name again, and Adelaide, turning to her
with a pleased look, slipped a most beautiful diamond ring on her
finger.

"From your papa," she said. "Go and thank him: it is well worth it."

Elsie sought him out where he stood alone in a corner, an amused
spectator of the merry scene.

"See, papa," she said, holding up her hand. "I think it very beautiful;
thank you, dear papa, thank you very much."

"Does it please you, my darling?" he asked, stooping to press a kiss on
the little upturned face, so bright and happy.

"Yes, papa, I think it is lovely! the very prettiest ring I ever saw."

"Yet I think there is something else you would have liked better; is
there not?" he asked, looking searchingly into her face.

"Dear papa, I like it _very_ much; I would rather have it than anything
else on the tree."

"Still you have not answered my question," he said, with a smile, as he
sat down and drew her to his side, adding in a playful tone, "Come, I
am not going to put up with any evasion; tell me truly if you would
have preferred something else, and if so, what it is."

Elsie blushed and looked down; then raising her eyes, and seeing with
what a tender, loving glance he was regarding her, she took courage to
say, "Yes papa, there is _one_ thing I would have liked better, and
that is your miniature."

To her surprise he looked highly pleased at her reply, and giving her
another kiss, said, "Well, darling, some day you shall have it."

"Mr. Horace Dinsmore," called Adelaide, taking some small, glittering
object from the tree.

"Another present for me?" he asked, as Walter came running with it.

He had already received several, from his father and sisters, but none
had seemed to give him half the pleasure that this did when he saw that
it was labelled, "From his little daughter."

It was only a gold pencil. The miniature--with which the artist had
succeeded so well that nothing could have been prettier except the
original herself--she had reserved to be given in another way.

"Do you like it, papa?" she asked, her face glowing with delight to see
how pleased he was.

"Yes, darling, very much; and I shall always think of my little girl
when I use it."

"Keep it in your pocket, and use it every day, won't you, papa?"

"Yes, my pet, I will; but I thought you said you had no present for me?"

"Oh! no, no, papa; I said there was none for you amongst those bundles.
I had bought this, but had given it to Aunt Adelaide to take care of,
for fear you might happen to see it."

"Ah! that was it, eh?" and he laughed and stroked her hair.

"Here, Elsie, here is your bundle of candy," said Walter, running up to
them again. "Everybody has one, and that is yours, Adelaide says."

He put it in her hand, and ran away again. Elsie looked up in her
father's face inquiringly.

"No, darling," he said, taking the paper from her hand and examining
its contents, "not to-night; to-morrow, after breakfast, you may eat
the cream-candy and the rock, but none of the others; they are colored,
and very unwholesome."

"Won't _you_ eat some, papa?" she asked with winning sweetness.

"No, dearest," he said; "for though I, too, am fond of sweet things, I
will not eat them while I refuse them to you."

"Do, papa," she urged, "it would give me pleasure to see you enjoying
it."

"No, darling, _I_ will wait until to-morrow, too."

"Then please keep it for me until to-morrow, papa, will you?"

"Yes," he said, putting it in his pocket; and then, as the gifts had
all been distributed, and the little folks were in high glee, a variety
of sports were commenced by them, in which some of their elders also
took a part; and thus the hours sped away so rapidly that Elsie was
very much surprised when her father called her to go to bed.

"Is it half-past nine already, papa?" she asked.

"It is ten, my dear child, and high time you were in bed," he said,
smiling at her look of astonishment. "I hope you have enjoyed yourself."

"Oh! _so_ much, papa. Good-night, and thank you for letting me stay up
so long."



CHAPTER FIFTEENTH


   "Ask me not why I should love her;--
      Look upon those soulful eyes!
    Look while mirth or feeling move her,
      And see there how sweetly rise
    Thoughts gay and gentle from a breast
    Which is of innocence the nest--
    Which, though each joy were from it shred,
    By truth would still be tenanted!"
                                 --HOFFMAN'S _Poems_.


It was yet dark when Elsie awoke, but, hearing the clock strike five,
she knew it was morning. She lay still a little while, and then,
slipping softly out of bed, put her feet into her slippers, threw her
warm dressing-gown around her, and feeling for a little package she had
left on her toilet-table, she secured it and stole noiselessly from the
room.

All was darkness and silence in the house, but she had no thought of
fear; and, gliding gently down the hall to her papa's door, she turned
the handle very cautiously, when, to her great delight, she found it
had been left unfastened, and yielded readily to her touch.

She entered as quietly as a little mouse, listened a moment until
satisfied from his breathing that her father was still sound asleep,
then, stepping softly across the room, she laid her package down where
he could not fail to see it as soon as daylight came and his eyes were
opened. This accomplished, she stole back again as noiselessly as she
had come.

"Who dat?" demanded Chloe, starting up in bed as Elsie reentered her
own apartment.

"It is only I; did I frighten you, mammy?" answered the little girl
with a merry laugh.

"Ki? chile, dat _you?_ what you doin' runnin' 'bout de house all in de
dark, cold night?"

"It isn't night, mammy; I heard it strike five some time ago."

"Well, den, dis chile gwine get right up an' make de fire. But jes you
creep back into de bed, darlin', 'fore you cotch your death ob cold."

"I will, mammy," Elsie said, doing as she was desired; "but please
dress me as soon as the room is warm enough, won't you?"

"Yes, darlin', kase ob course I knows you want to be up early o'
Christmas mornin'. Ki! Miss Elsie, dat's a beautiful shawl you gave
your ole mammy. I sha'n't feel de cold at all dis winter."

"I hope not, mammy; and were Aunt Phillis, and Uncle Jack, and all the
rest pleased with their presents?"

"I reckon dey was, darlin', mos' ready to go off de handle, 'tirely."

Chloe had soon built up her fire and coaxed it into a bright blaze, and
in a few moments more she pronounced the room sufficiently warm for her
nursling to get up and be dressed.

Elsie was impatient to go to her father; but, even after she had been
carefully dressed and all her morning duties attended to, it was still
so early that Chloe advised her to wait a little longer, assuring her
that it was only a very short time since John had gone in to make his
master's fire and supply him with hot water for shaving.

So the little girl sat down and tried to drown her impatience in the
pages of a new book--one of her Christmas presents. But Chloe presently
stole softly behind her chair, and, holding up high above her head some
glittering object attached to a pretty gold chain, let it gradually
descend until it rested upon the open book.

Elsie started and jumped up with an exclamation of surprise.

"Wonder if you knows dat gen'leman, darlin'?" laughed Chloe.

"Oh! it is papa," cried the little girl, catching it in her hand, "my
own dear, darling papa! oh! how good of him to give it to me!" and she
danced about the room in her delight. "It is just himself, so exactly
like him! _Isn't_ it a good likeness, mammy?" she asked, drawing near
the light to examine it more closely. "Dear, dear, _darling_ papa!" and
she kissed it again and again.

Then gently drawing her mother's miniature from her bosom, she laid
them side by side.

"My papa and mamma; are they not beautiful, mammy? both of them?" she
asked, raising her swimming eyes to the dusky face leaning over her,
and gazing with such mournful fondness at the sweet girlish
countenance, so life-like and beautiful, yet calling up thoughts of
sorrow and bereavement.

"My darling young missus!" murmured the old nurse, "my own precious
chile dat dese arms hab carried so many years, dis ole heart like to
break when-eber I tinks ob you, an' 'members how your bright young face
done gone away foreber."

The big tears were rolling fast down the sable cheeks, and dropping
like rain on Elsie's curls, while the broad bosom heaved with sobs.
"But your ole mammy's been good to your little chile dat you lef'
behind, darlin','deed she has," she went on.

"Yes, mammy, indeed, indeed you have," Elsie said, twining her arms
lovingly around her. "But don't let us cry any more, for we know that
dear mamma is very happy in heaven, and does not wish us to grieve for
her now. I shall not show you the picture any more if it makes you cry
like that," she added half playfully.

"Not always, chile," Chloe said, wiping away her tears, "but jes dis
here mornin'--Christmas mornin', when she was always so bright and
merry. It seems only yesterday she went dancin' about jes like you."

"Yes, mammy dear, but she is with the angels now--my sweet, pretty
mamma!" Elsie whispered softly, with another tender, loving look at the
picture ere she returned it to its accustomed resting-place in her
bosom.

"And now I must go to papa," she said more cheerfully, "for it is
almost breakfast time."

"Is my darling satisfied _now?_" he asked, as she ran into his arms and
was folded in a close embrace.

"Yes, papa, indeed I am; thank you a thousand times; it is all I
wanted."

"And you have given me the most acceptable present you could have
found. It is a most excellent likeness, and I am delighted with it."

"I am so glad, papa, but it was Aunt Adelaide who thought of it."

"Ah! that was very kind of her. But how does my little girl feel this
morning, after all her dissipation?"

"Oh! very well, thank you, papa."

"You will not want to say any lesson to-day, I suppose?"

"Oh! yes, if you please, papa, and it does not give you too much
trouble," she said. "It is the very pleasantest hour in the day,
except--"

"Well, except what? Ah, yes, I understand. Well, my pet, it shall be as
you wish; but come to me directly after breakfast, as I am going out
early."

Elsie had had her hour with her father, but, though he had left her and
gone out, she still lingered in his dressing-room, looking over the
next day's lesson. At length, however, she closed the book and left the
room, intending to seek her young guests, who were in the lower part of
the house.

Miss Stevens' door was open as she passed, and that lady called to her,
"Elsie, dear, you sweet little creature, come here, and see what I have
for you."

Elsie obeyed, though rather reluctantly, and Miss Stevens bidding her
sit down, went to a drawer, and took out a large paper of mixed candy,
all of the best and most expensive kinds, which she put into the little
girl's hands with one of her sweetest smiles.

It was a strong temptation to a child who had a great fondness for such
things, but Elsie had prayed from her heart that morning for strength
to resist temptation, and it was given her.

"Thank you, ma'am, you are very kind," she said gratefully, "but I
cannot take it, because papa does not approve of my eating such things.
He gave me a little this morning, but said I must not have any more for
a long time."

"Now, that is quite too bad," exclaimed Miss Stevens, "but at least
take one or two, child; that much couldn't possibly hurt you, and your
papa need never know."

Elsie gave her a look of grieved surprise.

"Oh! could you think I would do that?" she said. "But _God_ would know,
Miss Stevens; and I should know it myself, and how could I ever look my
papa in the face again after deceiving him so?"

"Really, my dear, you are making a very serious matter of a mere
trifle," laughed the lady; "why, I have deceived my father more than
fifty times, and never thought it any harm. But here is something I am
sure you can take, and indeed you must, for I bought both it and the
candy expressly for you."

She replaced the candy in the drawer as she spoke, and took from
another a splendidly-bound book which she laid in Elsie's lap, saying,
with a triumphant air, "There, my dear, what do you think of that? is
it not handsome?"

Elsie's eyes sparkled; books were her greatest treasures; but feeling
an instinctive repugnance to taking a gift from one whom she could
neither respect nor love, she made an effort to decline it, though at
the same time thanking the lady warmly for her kind intentions.

But Miss Stevens would hear of no refusal, and fairly forced it upon
her acceptance, declaring that, as she had bought it expressly for her,
she should feel extremely hurt if she did not take it.

"Then I will, Miss Stevens," said the little girl, "and I am sure you
are very kind. I love books and pictures, too, and these are lovely
engravings," she added turning over the leaves with undisguised
pleasure.

"Yes, and the stories are right pretty, too," remarked Miss Stevens.

"Yes, ma'am, they look as if they were, and I should like dearly to
read them."

"Well, dear, just sit down and read; there's nothing to hinder. I'm
sure your little friends can do without you for an hour or two. Or, if
you prefer it, take the book and enjoy it with them; it is your own,
you know, to use as you like."

"Thank you, ma'am; but, though I can look at the pictures, I must not
read the stories until I have asked papa, because he does not allow me
to read anything now without first showing it to him."

"Dear me! how very strict he is!" exclaimed Miss Stevens.

"I wonder," she thought to herself, "if he would expect to domineer
over his wife in that style?"

Elsie was slowly turning over the leaves of the book, enjoying the
pictures very much, studying them intently, but resolutely refraining
from even glancing over the printed pages. But at length she closed it,
and, looking out of the window, said, with a slight sigh, "Oh! I wish
papa would come; but I'm afraid he won't for a long while, and I do so
want to read these stories."

"Suppose you let me read one to you," suggested Miss Stevens; "that
would not be _your_ reading it, you know."

Elsie looked shocked at the proposal. "Oh! no, ma'am, thank you, I know
you mean to be kind; but I could not do it; it would be so very wrong;
quite the same, I am sure, as if I read it with my own eyes," she
answered hurriedly; and then, fearing to be tempted further, she
excused herself and went in search of her young companions.

She found them in the drawing-room.

"Wasn't it too provoking, Elsie, that those people didn't send home my
bracelet last night?" exclaimed Caroline Howard. "I have just been
telling Lucy about it. I think that it was such a shame for them to
disappoint me, for I wanted to have it on the tree."

"I am sorry you were disappointed, Carry, but perhaps it will come
to-day," Elsie answered in a sympathizing tone. And then she showed the
new book, which she still held in her hand.

They spent some time in examining it, talking about and admiring the
pictures, and then went out for a walk.

"Has papa come in yet, mammy?" was Elsie's first question on returning.

"Yes, darlin', I tink he's in the drawin'-room dis berry minute," Chloe
answered, as she took off the little girl's hat, and carefully smoothed
her hair.

"There, there! mammy, won't that do now? I'm in a little bit of a
hurry," Elsie said with a merry little laugh, as she slipped playfully
from under her nurse's hand, and ran down-stairs.

But she was doomed to disappointment for the present, for her papa was
seated on the sofa, beside Miss Stevens, talking to her; and so she
must wait a little longer. At last, however, he rose, went to the other
side of the room, and stood a moment looking out of the window.

Then Elsie hastened to take her book from a table, where she had laid
it, and going up to him, said, "Papa!"

He turned round instantly, asking in a pleasant tone, "Well, daughter,
what is it?"

She put the book into his hand, saying eagerly, "It is a Christmas gift
from Miss Stevens, papa; will you let me read it?"

He did not answer immediately, but turned over the leaves, glancing
rapidly over page after page, but not too rapidly to be able to form a
pretty correct idea of the contents.

"No, daughter," he said, handing it back to her, "you must content
yourself with looking at the pictures; they are by far the best part;
the stories are very unsuitable for a little girl of your age, and
would, indeed, be unprofitable reading for any one."

She looked a little disappointed.

"I am glad I can _trust_ my little daughter, and feel certain that she
will not disobey me," he said, smiling kindly on her, and patting her
cheek.

She answered him with a bright, happy look, full of confiding
affection, laid the book await without a murmur, and left the room--her
father's eyes following her with a fond, loving glance.

Miss Stevens, who had watched them both closely during this little
scene, bit her lips with vexation at the result of her manoeuvre.

She had come to Roselands with the fixed determination to lay siege to
Mr. Horace Dinsmore's heart, and flattering and petting his little
daughter was one of her modes of attack; but his decided disapproval of
her present, she perceived, did not augur well for the success of her
schemes. She was by no means in despair, however, for she had great
confidence in the power of her own personal attractions, being really
tolerably pretty, and considering herself a great beauty, as well as
very highly accomplished.

As Elsie ran out into the hall, she found herself suddenly caught in
Mr. Travilla's arms.

"'A merry Christmas and a happy New Year!' little Elsie," he said,
kissing her on both cheeks. "Now I have caught you figuratively and
literally, my little lady, so what are you going to give me, eh?"

"Indeed, sir, I think you've helped yourself to the only thing I have
to give at present," she answered with a merry silvery laugh.

"Nay, _give_ me one, little lady," said he, "one such hug and kiss as I
dare say your father gets half-a-dozen times in a day."

She gave it very heartily.

"Ah! I wish you were ten years older," he said as he set her down.

"If I had been, you wouldn't have got the kiss," she replied, smiling
archly.

"Now, it's my turn," he said, taking something from his pocket.

"I expected you'd catch _me_, and so thought it best to come prepared."

He took her hand, as he spoke, and placed a beautiful little gold
thimble on her finger. "There, that's to encourage you in industry."

"Thank you, sir; oh! it's a little beauty! I must run and show it to
papa. But I must not forget my politeness," she added, hastily throwing
open the drawing-room door. "Come in, Mr. Travilla."

She waited quietly until the usual greetings were exchanged, then went
up to her father and showed her new gift.

He quite entered into her pleasure, and remarked, with a glance at Miss
Stevens, "that her friends were very kind."

The lady's hopes rose. He was then pleased with her attention to his
child, even though he did not altogether approve her choice of a gift.

There was a large party to dinner that day, and the children came down
to the dessert. Miss Stevens, who had contrived to be seated next to
Mr. Dinsmore, made an effort, on the entrance of the juveniles, to have
Elsie placed on her other side; but Mr. Travilla was too quick for her,
and had his young favorite on his knee before she could gain her
attention.

The lady was disappointed, and Elsie herself only half satisfied; but
the two gentlemen, who thoroughly understood Miss Stevens and saw
through all her manoeuvres, exchanged glances of amusement and
satisfaction.

After dinner Mr. Travilla invited Elsie, Carry, Lucy, and Mary, to take
a ride in his carriage, which invitation was joyfully accepted by
all--Mr. Dinsmore giving a ready consent to Elsie's request to be
permitted to go.

They had a very merry time, for Mr. Travilla quite laid himself out for
their entertainment, and no one knew better than he how to amuse ladies
of their age.

It was nearly dark when they returned, and Elsie went at once to her
room to be dressed for the evening. But she found it unoccupied--Aunt
Chloe, as it afterward appeared, having gone down to the quarter to
carry some of the little girl's gifts to one or two who were too old
and feeble to come up to the house to receive them.

Elsie rang the bell, waited a little, and then, feeling impatient to be
dressed, ran down to the kitchen to see what had become of her nurse.

A very animated discussion was going on there, just at that moment,
between the cook and two or three of her sable companions, and the
first words that reached the child's ears, as she stood on the
threshold, were, "I tell you, you ole darkie, you dunno nuffin' 'bout
it! Massa Horace gwine marry _dat_ bit ob paint an' finery! no such
ting! Massa's got more sense."

The words were spoken in a most scornful tone, and Elsie, into whose
childish mind the possibility of her father's marrying again had never
entered, stood spellbound with astonishment.

But the conversation went on, the speakers quite unconscious of her
vicinity.

It was Pompey's voice that replied.

"Ef Marse Horace don't like her, what for they been gwine ridin' ebery
afternoon? will you tell me dat, darkies? an' don't dis niggah see him
sit beside her mornin', noon, an' night, laughin' an' talkin' at de
table an' in de parlor? an' don't she keep a kissin' little Miss Elsie,
an' callin' her pretty critter, sweet critter, an' de like?"

"_She_ ma to our sweet little Miss Elsie! Bah! I tell you, Pomp, Marse
Horace got more sense," returned the cook, indignantly.

"Aunt Chloe don't b'lieve no such stuff," put in another voice; "she
says Marse Horace _couldn't_ put such trash in her sweet young mistis's
place."

"Aunt Chloe's a berry fine woman, no doubt," observed Pomp
disdainfully, "but I reckon Marse Horace ain't gwine to infide his
matermonical intentions to her; and I consider it quite consequential
on Marster's being young and handsome that he will take another wife."

The next speaker said something about his having lived a good while
without, and though Miss Stevens _was_ setting her cap, maybe he
wouldn't be caught. But Elsie only gathered the sense of it, hardly
heard the words, and, bounding away like a frightened deer to her own
room, her little heart beating wildly with a confused sense of
suffering, she threw herself on the bed. She shed no tears, but there
was, oh! such a weight on her heart, such a terrible though vague sense
of the instability of all earthly happiness.

There Chloe found her, and wondered much what ailed her darling, what
made her so silent, and yet so restless, and caused such a deep flush
on her cheek. She feared she was feverish, her little hand was so hot
and dry; but Elsie insisted that she was quite well, and so Chloe tried
to think it was only fatigue.

She would fain have persuaded the little girl to lie still upon her bed
and rest, and let her tea be brought to her there; but Elsie answered
that she would much rather be dressed, and join her young companions in
the nursery. They, too, wondered what ailed her, she was so very quiet
and ate almost nothing at all. They asked if she was sick. She only
shook her head. "Was she tired, then?" "Yes, she believed she was," and
she leaned her head wearily on her hand.

But, indeed, most of the party seemed dull; they had gone through such
a round of pleasure and excitement, for the last two or three days,
that now a reaction was beginning, and they wanted rest, especially the
very little ones, who all retired quite early, when Elsie and her mates
joined their parents in the drawing-room.

Elsie looked eagerly around for her father, the moment she entered the
room. He was beside Miss Stevens, who was at the piano, performing a
very difficult piece of music. He was leaning over her, turning the
leaves, and apparently listening with a great deal of pleasure, for she
was really a fine musician.

Elsie felt sick at heart at the sight--although a few hours before it
would have given her no concern--and found it very difficult to listen
to and answer the remarks Mrs. Carrington was making to her about her
Christmas presents, and the nice ride they had had that afternoon.

Mr. Travilla was watching her; he had noticed, as soon as she came in,
the sad and troubled look which had come over her face, and, following
the glance of her eyes, he guessed at the cause.

He knew there was no danger of the trial that she feared, and would
have been glad to tell her so; but he felt that it was too delicate a
subject for him to venture on; it might seem too much like meddling in
Mr. Dinsmore's affairs. But he did the next best thing--got the four
little girls into a corner, and tried to entertain them with stories
and charades.

Elsie seemed interested for a time, but every now and then her eyes
would wander to the other side of the room, where her father still
stood listening to Miss Stevens' music.

At length Mr. Travilla was called away to give his opinion about some
tableaux the young ladies were arranging; and Elsie, knowing it was her
usual time for retiring, and not caring to avail herself of her
father's permission to stay up until nine o'clock, stole quietly away
to her room unobserved by any one, and feeling as if Miss Stevens had
already robbed her of her father.

She wiped away a few quiet tears, as she went, and was very silent and
sad, while her mammy was preparing her for bed. She hardly knew how to
do without her good-night kiss, but feeling as she did, it had seemed
quite impossible to ask for it while Miss Stevens was so near him.

When she knelt down to pray, she became painfully conscious that a
feeling of positive dislike to that lady had been creeping into her
heart, and she asked earnestly to be enabled to put it away. But she
prayed, also, that she might be spared the trial that she feared, if
God's will were so; and she thought surely it was because she had found
out that Miss Stevens was not good, not truthful, or sincere.

"Perhaps dear papa will come to say good-night before I am asleep," she
murmured to herself as, calmed and soothed by thus casting her burden
on the Lord, she laid her head upon her pillow.

He, however, had become interested in the subject of the tableaux, and
did not miss his little girl until the sound of the clock striking ten
reminded him of her, and he looked around expecting to see her still in
the room; but, not seeing her, he asked Lucy Carrington where she was.

"Oh!" said Lucy, "she's been gone these two hours, I should think! I
guess she must have gone to bed."

"Strange that she did not come to bid me goodnight," he exclaimed in a
low tone, more as if thinking aloud than speaking to Lucy.

He hastily left the room.

Mr. Travilla followed.

"Dinsmore," said he.

Mr. Dinsmore stopped, and Travilla, drawing him to one side, said in an
undertone, "I think my little friend is in trouble to-night."

"Ah!" he exclaimed, with a startled look, "what can it be? I did not
hear of any accident--she has not been hurt? is not sick? tell me,
Travilla, quickly, if anything ails my child."

"Nothing, nothing, Dinsmore, only you know servants will talk, and
children have ears, and eyes, too, sometimes, and I saw her watching
you to-night with a very sad expression."

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Mr. Dinsmore, growing very red and looking
extremely vexed; "I wouldn't have had such thoughts put into the
child's head for any money. Are you sure of it, Travilla?"

"I am sure she was watching you very closely tonight, and looking very
miserable."

"Poor darling!" murmured the father. "Thank you, Travilla," shaking his
friend heartily by the hand. "Good-night; I shall not be down again if
you will be so good as to excuse me to the others."

And he went up the stairs almost at a bound, and the next moment was
standing beside his sleeping child, looking anxiously down at the
little flushed cheeks and tear-swollen eyes, for, disappointed that he
did not come to bid her good-night, she had cried herself to sleep.

"Poor darling!" he murmured again, as he stooped over her and kissed
away a tear that still trembled on her eyelash.

He longed to tell her that all her fears were groundless, that none
other could ever fill her place in his heart, but he did not like to
wake her, and so, pressing another light kiss on her cheek, he left her
to dream on unconscious of his visit.





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