"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.'"
"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.
"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 disapponted. 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?"
"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."